At 8:52pm on July 11, Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the drug kingpin known as El Chapo, sat on the bed of his cell in Altiplano, Mexico’s only super-maximum-security prison.
Surveillance footage appears to show a small screen glowing on a table nearby — inmates are not allowed cell phones, but this rule is not always enforced. Guzmán changed his shoes, walked to a shower area in the corner of the cell, and knelt behind a waist-high concrete partition, out of view of security cameras. Six seconds later, he was gone . . . .
Guzmán’s method of escape should have surprised no one. Last year, in Culiacán, he evaded Mexican marines by disappearing into a network of subterranean passageways connecting seven houses. He did not invent smuggling tunnels — bank robbers, rumrunners and guerrillas had used them for decades — but his criminal enterprise, the Sinaloa drug cartel, built the first cross-border narcotúnel, in 1989. Since then, Sinaloa has refined the art of underground construction and has used tunnels more effectively than any criminal group in history.