‘We want Shorty freed’: Why Mexico’s most feared drug lord is still a hero back home

Michael O'Boyle reports from Culiacan on the disputed legacy of Joaquin Guzman

Culiacan

More than a thousand people marched through the streets of the capital of notorious captured Mexican drug lord Joaquin “Shorty” Guzman’s home state, calling for his freedom.

The largely young crowd, many dressed in white, bore signs that read “We want Shorty freed” and “We demand no extradition” as they filed across the centre of Culiacan, in the north-western state of Sinaloa, to a church on a palm tree-lined plaza.

Boys donned white T-shirts scrawled with messages written in marker pen in support for “El Chapo,” his nickname in Spanish. Teenage girls in school uniform chanted “Chapo, Chapo.”

The show of support for one of the most powerful drug lords in Mexico is a sign of how nefarious groups have sought to fill the gap left by the state in areas where cartels rule.

“The government doesn’t give any job opportunities,” said Daniel Garcia, an unemployed 20-year-old. “The situation is, honestly, really difficult and he helps out the young people, giving them jobs.”

Guzman, who rose from humble origins to become one of the most powerful drug barons in history, was captured on Saturday in a raid in the beachside resort and fishing centre of Mazatlan, 125 miles south-east of Culiacan.

President Enrique Pena Nieto said there would be no swift extradition to the United States for Guzman, citing the fact that he still faces an outstanding prison term after staging a prison break in 2001, reportedly in a laundry cart.

Protesters carry a sign reading, Protesters carry a sign reading, "Sinaloa wants Chapo Guzman free" during a march in Culiacan (Reuters)
Guzman and his Sinaloa cartel are suspected of shipping billions of dollars worth of cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana north across the border into the United States.

Some in the crowd credited Guzman and his gang for keeping the city free of the extortions and kidnappings that plague other parts of Mexico, where rival gangs reign. One printed sign said: “We respect El Chapo more than any elected official.”

Although security officials blamed the Sinaloa cartel for thousands of killings in the gang violence that has rocked Mexico over the past decade, Guzman’s outfit were seen by many as less of a threat to the public than their bloodiest rivals.

The march took on a festive mood as the demonstrators walked to the city’s central Cathedral. Brass bands played songs known to be favourites of Guzman, Mexico’s most wanted man and Chicago’s first public enemy No 1 since Al Capone. One woman carried a banner that read “Chapo, give me a child.”

It was unclear exactly who had organized the march. At the start, young men handed out the white T-shirts and professionally printed banners.

Police run to break up a protest in support of Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin Guzman Loera, aka Police run to break up a protest in support of Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin Guzman Loera, aka "el Chapo Guzman" in Culiacan, Sinaloa State, Mexico (Getty Images)
Other youths in pick-up trucks, their faces masked by bandanas, handed out water and cornmeal tamales once the crowd reached the end of their march route.

Flyers advertising the march had been distributed in the city earlier in the day and many residents thought it was a joke. Political marches are common in Mexico, but not demonstrations in favour of wanted drug kingpins.

“This is amazing,” said Rosa, 40, a lab analyst who declined to give her last name, as she watched from the side of the street amid the crowds of shoppers and people going to work. “It is true what they say, there is no violence and no extortion.”

But the festive scene began to sour after police began entering the crowd. Officers were surrounded by jeering demonstrators ?and many marchers ran away as police responded by using pepper spray.

Reuters

News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn