Ross Greenwood speaks to Author of The Last Narco, Malcolm Beith, as the world’s most infamous cartel boss Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman has been found guilty in a US court of drug trafficking.
Ross Greenwood: Welcome back to Money News right around Australia. In New York, overnight they’ve seen dramatic guilty verdict in the trial of Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman, the Mexican drug lord who’s escaped twice from maximum security prisons, now expected to spend the rest of his life in a US prison with no possibility of parole. Now, this is as much a business story. The business of narcotics, about massive markups. If you could get drugs from Columbia to Mexico, to the United States, and then even potentially five to 10 times more, if you could get that cocaine into a place such as Australia, where clearly the borders are more greatly protected.
It’s tougher to get to the main, and that’s a reason why the prices here are so much higher. There’s no doubt that the Sinaloa Cartel was certainly aggressive in trying to get the drugs into Australia. Joaquin Guzman now found guilty and this is over a range of federal crimes spanning nearly 30 years. Let’s just pick up here what the US Attorney General Richard Donoghue said in regards to this guilty verdict.
Richard Donoghue: This conviction is a victory for the American people who have suffered so long and so much while Guzman made billions pouring poison over our southern border. This conviction is a victory for the Mexican people who have lost more than a 100,000 lives in drug related violence. This conviction is a victory for every family who’s lost a loved one to the black hole of addiction.
Ross Greenwood: One man who knows perhaps more about this story and about El Chapo himself is the author of The Last Narco: Inside the Hunt for El Chapo, the World’s Most Wanted Drug Lord from the United States. Malcolm Beith has stayed up very late for us. I appreciate your time, Malcolm.
Interview with: Malcolm Beith, Authot, The Last Narco
Malcolm Beith: Thanks for having me.
Ross Greenwood: Richard Donoghue sums this up because this is as much about the billions. It’s a business story, but it’s a business story that has really presided over a wave of criminality, of violence, and then ultimately the death and the addiction that’s actually been caused by the product they’ve sold.
Malcolm Beith: Yes, absolutely. The trial of Chapo Guzman comes at a time when various elements are at play here. First of all, the United States has an opioid epidemic going on. Chapo Guzman did provide a fair amount of the heroin. That was the big part of the trial is more cocaine that was on trial, is cocaine trafficking. It comes from the same organization. At the same time, you have Donald Trump, the president attacking the court system in the United States.
One thing that hasn’t really been publicized is, I see the victory, sorry, the ruling today, the jurors decision on the verdict as a real victory for the court system. The war on drugs will continue, but the fact that you can bring a man like Chapo Guzman with all his crimes. He’s escaped prison twice; he’s been on the run for so long. The fact that you can bring him in front of a court, in front of a team of jurors, Mexico doesn’t even have jury trial yet basically. The United States funds judicial reforms in Mexico. I see it as a bit of a beacon of hope.
Ross Greenwood: The other thing also that gets me about the story is the jurors heard about the various ways the drugs were smuggled into the United States from Mexico. This is about border control. This is about the ability of say, the US Coast Guard in this situation to be able to try and, if you like, disrupt the business model of El Chapo and the flow of those drugs in. With the astonishing amount of wealth that he had, he could be incredibly innovative. Even as a business operative to try and evade the law, some of the methods used we’re just astonishingly innovative, weren’t they?
Malcolm Beith: Yes, absolutely. He has been innovating since the early 1990s, late 1980s. He was using Jalapeno pepper cans. He was using hidden compartments in cars and as we’ve heard he built tunnels under the borders, tunnels to escape prison. At the end of the day, look, there’s so much money in drug trafficking, that the cartels will almost always again, outsmart the authority.
The question is, with the intelligence we have now, with wire traffic, with national security apparatus throughout the world, how quickly can the authorities actually get someone like Guzman now? How long can a drug cartel, a great crafty smuggler, how long can he or she evade the law? That’s the question we should be asking going forward.
Ross Greenwood: The interesting aspect of this is not withstanding this guilty verdict, notwithstanding that he is likely to spend the rest of his life in prison. He was capable of running the Sinaloa Cartel from prison when he was incarcerated in Mexico. Of course, as you point out, the opioid addiction in the United States has not gone away. Somebody else will clearly look to fill that gap and already will have filled that gap.
Malcolm Beith: Yes, already, well, his sons are said to be in charge of the Sinaloa Cartel right now. I think that’s a bit exaggerated. I think they’re the heirs to the throne, but I think it’s in chaos right now judging from the reports that I’ve seen from that part of the world. Yes, someone else will step the New Generation Cartel from Jalisco is the new up and coming cartel which is believed to be more violent than all the previous one, and is jumping on the international route that Chapo Guzman had helped build, or had helped–
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