February 15, 2013

Drug kingpin is new Public Enemy No. 1

- The Associated Press

click image to enlarge

A poster at a Chicago Crime Commission conference in Chicago shows Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. It is the first time since Prohibition that anyone other than the infamous 1930s gangster Al Capone has been named Public Enemy No. 1.

The Associated Press

CHICAGO - A drug kingpin in Mexico who has never set foot in Chicago has been named the city's new Public Enemy No. 1 -- the same notorious label assigned to Al Capone at the height of the Prohibition-era gang wars.

The Chicago Crime Commission announced the move Thursday, saying it considers Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman even more menacing than Capone because he's the leader of the Sinaloa cartel, which supplies most of the narcotics sold in the city.

"What Al Capone was to beer and whiskey during Prohibition, Guzman is to narcotics," said Art Bilek, the commission's executive vice president. "Of the two, Guzman is by far the greater threat. ... And he has more power and financial capability than Capone ever dreamed of."

The commission -- a non-government body that tracks city crime trends -- designated Capone Public Enemy No. 1 in 1930. It has declared other outlaws public enemies, but Capone was the only one deemed No. 1.

Until now.

Guzman is thought to be holed up and guarded by a personal army in a Mexican mountain hideaway. And there's nothing to indicate he's ever been anywhere near Chicago, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, which joined the commission in affixing the title to Guzman.

Still, for all practical purposes, Guzman should be treated as a local Chicago crime boss for the havoc his cartel creates in the nation's third-largest city, said the head of the DEA's Chicago office, Jack Riley.

The point of singling out Guzman now, added Bilek, is to inspire more public support for going after him.

"Ninety-nine percent of the people in the United States have never heard of this man," he said. "Concerted action ... must be taken now against Guzman before he establishes a bigger network and a bigger empire in the United States."

Capone based his bootlegging and other criminal enterprises in Chicago during Prohibition, when it was illegal to sell alcohol in the U.S. He gained the greatest notoriety for the 1929 St. Valentine's Day Massacre when assassins wielding Thompson machine guns shot dead seven of his rivals in a downtown garage.

Yet Riley said the 5-foot-6-inch Guzman -- whose nickname means "shorty" in Spanish -- is more ruthless than Capone, whose nickname was "Scarface."

"If I was to put those two guys in a ring, El Chapo would eat that guy (Capone) alive," Riley said.

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