Last updateFri, 17 Jul 2015 4pm
CP Electronics

People had been gambling if Chapo could get out of prison; now that is clear, the betting is: ‘Can he stay out?’

President Enrique Peña Nieto is generously feeding a eager and hungry nationwide gambling market, even among near-empty-pocketed campesinos.  He’s stimulating a Niagara-sized, eager exchange of money among betting-inclined folks who find the antics  of Mexico’s chief executive an inexhaustible source of bizarre-loaded – and richly humor-wrapped – gambling game.  (“Chinga!  Not even he would be loco enough to believe something like that doesn’t stink,” said one Jocotepec friend, speaking of Mexico’s president, whom he judged recklessly wayward).    

For citizens with an ambitious gambling urge this seems a part of the endlessly rich – but not imaginative – source of laughter.   A source still blindly declaring that “the Mexican Moment” was not about to depend on its northern neighbor to sequester this country’s super bad-guy.  For Guzman, sporting a paltry three-year education, has a penchant of running rings around the Mexican government.  This and the news media, sporting a high-humored escapades, has set loose locally a re-fused gambling fever.  

Yet, this began some time ago when it became obvious that the man with the shinny black plaster-of-paris coiffure would become the presidential candidate for Mexico’s “perfect-dictatorship,” – the oxymoronically-tagged political regime, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI).  The regime he heads had used U.S. intelligence to bust El Chapo – already well-known as a wily break-out artist – in February 2014.  That unexpected feat set off a contagion of small-time wagering.  Will he try again?  Will he be successful?  Will he find a way out, but get busted again?  And lists of various nuances to such adventurous possibilities.  

This urge had a great deal to do with guessing how El Chapo would get completely free of government clutches.   And of course now his activities will probably kick back in with pent-up vigor.  Others speculate that he’ll lay low for a while.  (Doubtful.  While in the slammer, with plenty of time on his hands, he has been making and refining a plump list of plans, say security experts on both sides of the border.  His associates see him as pretty much a perfectionist.)

Word floating this direction from some Mexico City media folks early Wednesday were placing the plot to set the capo free at very high government altitudes.  But why would such people endanger their futures?  The answer was familiar and mundane: money.  Meaning a very hefty sum, if true.  The report – both verbal and electronic – was killed fairly early.  

But clearly, it seemed El Chapo was nowhere near the State of Mexico, the site of Altiplano Federal Social Readaptation Center No. 1, by Wednesday.  That was according to a reported “communiqué” declaring  El Chapo was “already in Jesus Maria with his wives (plural) and children in that town.”  There was, of course, no way to confirm that bold claim.  But it did seem, from government reports, that he was not anywhere that Mexican security forces might be probing.  

And then was the subject of Enrique Peña Nieto’s uninterrupted visit to France to join in the commemoration that nation’s Bastille Day.  Even Jalisco mountain campesinos found that odd, though most were uncertain what the words Bastille Day might mean.  “He’s out of the country.  That’s enough.”  But just that coincidence really isn’t “enough,” better informed folks noted.

But certainly the national implications of El Chapo’s escape wasn’t to be ignored. “The most wanted criminal of the last generation got out of a prison that is presumably the most secure in the country,”  Alexandro Hope, a Mexican security analyst, said.  “This is a severe blow to the government and to society.”  As for Mexico’s president, Hope said, the price could be steep.

“The escape is going to cost the president.  Pressure is going to mount on him personally, and on his government, to make changes,” he said.  But can he really do it?  Not even the mountainside gamblers think so. 

In the words of Alejandro Salas, Transparency International’s regional director for the Americas, Mexico is in a “horrible position” in the ranking.  The country came in 103rd place out of 175 nations – tied with Bolivia, Moldova and Nigera – in last year’s survey, with a score of 35 on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).  The least corrupt country, Denmark, scored 92; the United States came in 17th with 74.

“In Mexico corruption keeps being be a huge problem,” Salas said. Though it can be a touchy position to take before a Mexican audience, it’s hard to prove the situation clearly doesn’t seem to be getting better.

More than 1,000 Mexicans responded to a 2013 survey from Transparency International: 90 percent said police were corrupt or extremely corrupt, 80 percent said the same way about Mexico’s judiciary.

More than 60 percent said someone in their household had paid a bribe to police in the past year. More than half said someone in their household had used a bribe in court.

Those numbers will be worse next time the survey takes place.  And Guzman’s escape will be part of that message.

This sends a bad signal that the authorities actually aren’t in control.  This tells us that all too often the democratic institutions of this country are not at all working well.  So now who’s going to believe in the Mexican justice system, or the Mexican prison system, or in the political authorities who are responsible for this?  For many Mexicans Peña Nieto is returning from France to face a problem he will have a very tough time solving.  That is a dicey gamble.