Now that El Chapo is convicted and put behind bars for life plus 30 years, in this article we will take a look at the DEA's 8 most wanted targets. Click to skip ahead and see the 3 most wanted drug lords by the DEA.
Netflix has done its part in romanticizing drug lords. It started by creating the TV show Narcos, which was a runaway success and led to many people actually empathizing or worse, sympathizing with Pablo Escobar, a man who was responsible for around 5,000 deaths. He was one of the first true drug lords and cemented a legacy which had people fear him and revere him in equal measures, no mean feat. But to boil it down, Escobar, or any other drug lord for that matter, is a plain criminal. He may be a high ranking criminal with a criminal empire to boot, wealth one can only dream of and power one can't even imagine, but he is a criminal nonetheless. Citing stories about how Escobar burnt millions of dollars of cash to feed the fire and keep his daughter warm aim to lend a human touch and credibility that does a disservice to the thousands of victims who met their untimely demise to the lust of power and wealth of one individual.
Drug lords are not a historic commodity. Go back a century and you won't find any drug lords at all. Sure, people have been dealing drugs illegally as long as drugs have existed, but the idea of one person controlling a vast empire is a recent construct, with many claiming Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, better known as El Padrino or Godfather, to be one of the first drug lords in the world. Primarily involved in the transportation of drugs from Columbia to the US, he controlled nearly the entire illegal drug trade in Mexico, and earned billions in revenue in the 1970s. Of course, like most of the major drug lords, he was eventually caught, arrested and convicted, where he is still present.
One of the more recent sensations in the drug lord occupation was Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman, a major Mexican drug lord who terrorized the country until a few years ago, and was considered to be the biggest drug trafficker in the world, having led the Sinaloa Cartel, which is said to be the biggest and most vicious drug cartel in history. Even though he was first arrested in 1993, he broke out in 2001, and escaped the law till 2014, after which he was arrested again, only to escape again in 2015 making him a minor celebrity. He was finally arrested in 2016, and as of now, is still in prison. However, he showed just how far his power and the power of the Sinaloa cartel extends, when his son was arrested by the Mexican forces in 2019, only for the cartel to show up in such force and wreak such havoc, that the Mexican government had to bow down and accept that they could not fight the cartel, releasing the son.
Like I mentioned earlier, being a drug lord is a very lucrative business, provided you stay alive. Escobar was said to have spent $2,500 every month on just rubber bands for his cash. Rats were said to eat over a billion dollars worth of bills, an acceptable expense in a cash only industry. El Chapo was in 2009, ranked by Forbes as a billionaire, and is said to have been the most influential drug lord in history, surpassing even Escobar. To learn more about the wealth and finances of a drug lord, you can also head on over to El Chapo and the 12 richest drug lords of all time.
While aware of the might of the US, these cartel leaders don't directly operate in the country, but the end consumers are generally people in the US, which is why even if the drug lords themselves don't enter the country, their operation has a significant presence regardless. They use US cities as hubs from which they distribute their product. Anyone who has seen Breaking Bad knows what I am talking about. If you want to learn more about which cities act as hubs, you should consider taking a look at the 13 US cities that are crowded by Mexican drug cartels. Don't be surprised if you see Chicago in the list; after all, Chicago declared El Chapo as Public Enemy No. 1, even though the man had never set foot in the city, though his operations had a vast presence. These cities also often coincide with the 20 most drug infested cities in the US.
Of course, nothing is free from the Covid 19 pandemic which has engulfed the world, with the US being the worst hit country by far right now, which has stopped most international travel and curtailed many businesses. Even the drug industry has not been able to evade the consequences, as border patrols have become much more strict, because of which drug cartels have shifted to larger shipments. They are further currently stockpiling drugs at the Mexican border, waiting for the moment that restrictions ease and they can flood the US with drugs. Of course, the DEA has said they are ready for any such situation so it will be interesting to see how things pan out.
As time are changing however, so are our drug lords. They're starting to come around to the fact that having billions of dollars means nothing if your notoriety is so high, you can't escape your enemies or the police for too long. Now, smaller factions are emerging, though this can also mean more brutal war between the cartel. To find out the most wanted drug lords by DEA in 2020, we visited their website and the most wanted fugitives. The number 1 pick is in no doubt as the DEA has made clear who the new Public Enemy N0. 1 is. So let's take a look at some of the most feared criminals in the world, starting with number 10:
8. Kenny Jung Ang Chen
Google the name and you will barely find anything on the man. Google El Chapo and you will find millions of hits. Chen knows how to remain hidden and he's not going to give anyone a chance to capture him, unlike many other drug lords whom we've already talked about. He is wanted not just for the prolific distribution of heroin in the country but the despicable act of involving minors in his illegal enterprise as well. I for one, can't wait for the day when Kenny faces the music for his myriad crimes.
7. Rommel Pascua Cipriano
Even though Mexicans are associated with drug cartels and drug distribution in the US, just the top two in our list are Asians actually. Cipriano is only 23 years old, and his last known address was in California. He is said to be part of the Sinaloa cartel, which already means that he is an extremely dangerous man. If you remember, we mentioned earlier that the Sinaloa cartel is an extremely brutal drug cartel which has caused directly the deaths of thousands of people in Mexico.
Pixabay/ Public Domain
6. Ismael Zambada
One of the few old school drug lords still out there is Ismael Zambada, who is 72 years old and still heading the Sinaloa cartel. Better known as El Mayo, he was initially a farmer who slowly entered the illegal drug trade, starting with smuggling small amounts of drugs at a time, maxing out at a few kilos. Well, small is relative for drug lords I guess. We earlier talked about Gallardo as the first true drug lord; his death saw his faction split and led to El Mayo, along with a few others which they called the Sinaloa cartel. When Mexico launched the war on drugs in 2006, it hurt El Mayo's rivals, the Tijuana Cartel, faced the force of the Mexican government, allowing Zambada to grow significantly in this time, taking over rival turf. This led to a major Mexican drug war, which caused a lot of death and misery in Mexico.
Even though he has been wanted by Mexico since 1998, he has always managed to evade arrest. While heading the Sinaloa cartel with El Chapo, he took full control after El Chapo's arrest and was actually the force behind the release of El Chapo's son after arrest. If you want to learn more about how evil this man is and the destruction he's paved over the years and decades, you should consider taking a look at the Netflix show 'World's Most Wanted'.
Copyright: nilswey / 123RF Stock Photo
5. Rafael Quintero
Rafael Quintero is one of the most notorious drug lords in the world, and even though he was captured and eventually released, he is now once again one of the most sought after criminals in the world, as old habits die hard. Quintero formed the notorious Guadalajara Cartel way back in the 1970s, whose primary purpose for existence was to provide marijuana to the United States. He became one of the most wanted criminals in the world after he murdered a DEA agent, even though cartels generally do not attack the federal forces of the United States. He was also wanted for other murders, including that of an American writer, and was eventually captured in Costa Rica and sent back to Mexico to stand trial for what he had done. He was then sentenced to 40 years in prison, and that seemed like the end of this sordid story. However, Quintero was released after just 28 years (apparently 28 years is enough for a few murders) and he could live life like a free man. The United States did not have the same thinking as the Mexican government did though, and pressured Mexico into once again issuing a warrant for the man, who eluded authorities this time, and has managed to remain in hiding since. He is also on the FBI's Most Wanted list and has a bounty of $20 million, which is the highest for anyone currently. Let's see if he gets his comeuppance or dies from natural causes, showing that there is no justice in this world.
4. Dario Antonio Úsuga
If you have your own page on the US State Department website, that means you have either done something really right or really wrong. Úsuga falls in the latter category. He is from Columbia, home to some of the biggest drug cartels in the world, and heads an organization which has a presence in at least 13 of Columbia's 32 departments. After his brother was killed in 2012, he became the head of the Clan del Golfo Organized Armed Group, a criminal organization which spends as much time in torture, intimidation and drug supply as it does in deciding its name. There is currently a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture.