If Chapo’s escape suggested that the Mexican political system had been corroded by drug money, his subsequent years as a fugitive did not diminish this impression. He retreated to Sinaloa and expanded his operations, launching violent turf wars with rival cartels over control of prized entry points along the U.S. border. The sociologist Diego Gambetta, in his 1993 book “The Sicilian Mafia”, observes that durable criminal enterprises are often woven into the social and political fabric, and part of their “intrinsic tenacity” is their ability to offer certain services that the state does not. Today on the streets of Culiacán you see night clubs, fortified villas, and an occasional Lamborghini. Chapo and other drug lords have invested and laundered their proceeds by buying hundreds of legitimate businesses: restaurants, soccer stadiums, day-care centers, ostrich farms. Juan Millán, the former state governor of Sinaloa, once estimated that sixty-two per cent of the state’s economy is tied up with drug money. Sinaloa remains poor, however, and Badiraguato, the municipality containing Guzmán’s home village, is one of the most desperate areas in the state. There had always been some sympathy for the drug trade in Sinaloa, but nothing deepens sympathy like charity and bribes. Eduardo Medina Mora, Mexico’s Ambassador in Washington, described Guzmán’s largesse in the state:Patrick Radden KeefeYou are financing everything. Baptisms. Infrastructure. If someone gets sick, you provide a little plane. So you have lots of local support, because you are Santa Claus. And everybody likes Santa Claus.
If the government is unable to provide safety and services for the citizens, somebody else will – at a higher price. While this underground economy does redistribute some wealth to the poor, it’s just enough for survival; it’s not in the best interest of the criminal group in control to let the poor masses grow richer, more educated, and eventually become independent of the drug money.
Amusing side-note: how the drug lords use Twitter and Instagram to issue threats to their enemies and boast their rich lifestyle.