A Robin Hood figure at home

Folk ballads have been written singing Guzman’s praises.
Folk ballads have been written singing Guzman’s praises.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MEXICO CITY • Folk bands sang his praises. When he was arrested, supporters protested in his home state.

Now that Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin Guzman Loera has escaped again, singers may add a new verse.

Guzman, 58, nurtured a Robin Hood image in his northwestern state of Sinaloa while running the most powerful, and one of the most ruthless, cartels in Mexico.

The cartel's legend grew after Guzman escaped for the first time in 2001, from another prison in western Jalisco state, by hiding in a laundry cart. He spent 13 years at large before his capture last year.

The mustachioed drug lord married 18-year-old beauty queen Emma Coronel in 2007 and is believed to have 10 children with various women.

He is said to have been brazen enough to walk into restaurants in Sinaloa, ask diners to hand their cellphones to his bodyguards, eat calmly and then pay everyone's bills.

Born to a family of farmers in Badiraguato, a Sinaloa town known as a cradle of drug traffickers, Guzman dropped out of primary school to work in marijuana and opium poppy fields. In 1989, his Sinaloa drug cartel began its rise as the biggest gang in the country.

He is Mexico's answer to Pablo Escobar, the Colombian drug lord who was popular in his native Medellin while terrorising his rivals and the authorities until police killed him in 1993.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 14, 2015, with the headline 'A Robin Hood figure at home'. Print Edition | Subscribe