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Listen to Episode 3 of "Chapo: Kingpin on Trial"

We follow El Chapo’s rise from small-time trafficker to leader of the Sinaloa cartel.

Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán wasn’t always the most infamous drug lord in the world. He started out as a small-time trafficker and worked his way up to the top of the food chain, and that ascent would not have been possible without a series of very unlikely events. That story involves Pablo Escobar, Ronald Reagan, the assassination a top official in the Catholic church, and a brazen prison break.


In episode 3 of our podcast, we trace El Chapo’s rise to power. It starts with the formation of Mexico’s first drug cartel and takes a gruesome turn when a DEA agent in Mexico is kidnapped, tortured, and murdered. El Chapo then becomes a leader of “The Federation,” a new arrangement where multiple cartels control different territories across the country.

We speak with Gil Gonzalez, a retired DEA agent who worked undercover in Mexico during the time, and he shares his views on a pivotal moment for El Chapo: the 1993 assassination of Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo. El Chapo was blamed for the killing, but Gonzalez is one of many who believes the Mexican government may have been responsible.

We also hear about El Chapo’s lavish lifestyle in prison, and speak with investigative journalist Anabel Hernandez, who accuses the Mexican government of complicity in his first prison escape, which supposedly involves El Chapo being wheeled out the front door of a maximum-security facility while hiding in a laundry cart.

Cover: Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is escorted by soldiers during a presentation at the Navy's airstrip in Mexico City February 22, 2014. REUTERS/Henry Romero.