Looking at the latest public relations media blitz I am beginning to believe that Joaquín “Chapo” Guzmán has resigned himself to spending the rest of his life in prison. Whether it is a US or a Mexican jail is immaterial to him as long as the conditions are better than what he is currently under. But, more importantly, it seems to me that Chapo’s end game is to leave his family comfortable while he spends the rest of his life in jail.

A negotiated extradition to the US leaves options open for Chapo to negotiate what monies his family is allowed to keep. It is the ultimate money laundering scheme. By negotiating a settlement, both governments get to save face by arguing that a protracted legal battle will end up costing millions. Allowing Guzman’s family to keep some of the ill-gained funds ultimately sanctions their money as licit money by both governments ensuring that the family is well off, untouchable by the Mexican or the US governments. Obviously, Chapo gives up some of his ill-gotten money but his family gets to keep some of it as well.

As an added bonus, Chapo gets to negotiate his prison conditions.

Whatever you may think about Chapo Guzmán and those like him, for most of them, the drug trade is just a quick way to make money. For most of them, they understand that their retirement is death or a prison cell. Few, if any, are allowed to walk away from the drug trade to live in luxury. I believe that individuals like Chapo Guzmán understand this and thus you see the rise of the “narco juniors” that represent the new generations of narco-families that have revenue sources from respectable businesses.

To understand this, consider Chapo’s rise from a peasant family on an ejido up to the reviled person he is today. As a child, he and his family had little to no money. Today, his children and his family enjoys a life impossible without the drug money. No matter how much money he made, Chapo never strayed far from the rancho where his family originated from.

Organized crime syndicates always follow the pattern of familial connections to keep the peace with each new generations of the families expanding away from the illicit trades towards the more legal businesses. Like all crime families, each member has a duty to perform certain functions or to agree to certain conditions. Some of the family members are tasked with keeping the criminal empires together while others are tasked with building legitimate businesses. In other words, some will expose themselves to criminal liabilities while a select few will be insulated from the criminality.

Chapo’s imprisonment will not end the Sinaloa traffickers nor will it diminish the drug trade. Chapo’s imprisonment just puts a face for two governments to parade before the news media as a sign of success.

Chapo’s drug activities gave his family an out from poverty.

Now, Chapo is trying to negotiate a settlement to keep his family out of poverty as well as to make his prison life more bearable.

If we accept this premise then it makes sense that Chapo would go from being shy about the media to enlisting it for his latest deal, possibly his last.

Martin Paredes

Martín Paredes is a Mexican immigrant who built his business on the U.S.-Mexican border. As an immigrant, Martín brings the perspective of someone who sees México as a native through the experience...