Call it “Extreme Makeover: The Cartel Edition”
The house former drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán fled in 2014 when Mexican marines had him surrounded underwent some changes recently as the Mexican government prepared to give it away in a national lottery. The surveillance cameras that covered every angle of the modest home’s exterior have been removed and the hole under a bathtub–the one Guzmán had infamously slipped through to reach a network of tunnels–was covered with a concrete slab.
Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has been talking up the lottery of seized properties but gave no mention to the history of this particular house. An expansive home in one of Mexico City’s swankiest neighborhoods and a private box at the famed Azteca Stadium have garnered more attention.
Mexico is raffling off the safe house that belonged to one of the country's most infamous drug lords, "El Chapo" pic.twitter.com/jKwi4COnAJ
— Bloomberg Quicktake (@Quicktake) September 15, 2021
The Associated Press was given access to the property in a quiet Culiacan neighborhood ahead of the lottery. In recent weeks, Mexico’s Institute to Return Stolen Goods to the People, known by its initials as INDEP, gave it a fresh coat of white paint inside and out and tiled over the spot in the bathroom where the tub and tunnel entry-point had been. INDEP’s website lists it only as “Casa en Culiacán.” It’s about 2,800 square feet and located, perhaps appropriately, in a neighborhood called Libertad, or “Freedom.” The government values the two-bedroom home at $183,000. The house had been abandoned for years and the marines did some “damage” when they searched it, so repairs were necessary. INDEP tried to auction off the home last year. It started the bidding at about $130,000.
There were no takers.
This morning hubby and I were discussing the Mexican lottery of El Chapo's properties. $12.50 a ticket and the drawing is today. Suddenly he said, "Whoops, we missed another one."
Yesterday was our 30th wedding anniversary lol
— RuralLiberal (@HiraethResists) September 15, 2021
Guzmán escaped that last time through the tunnels, but his freedom lasted only days. On Feb. 22, 2014, the marines descended again, this time in a condo on the coast in Mazatlan. By that time, Guzmán already had a reputation for daring escapes. He had slipped out of one of Mexico’s maximum-security prisons in 2001, allegedly in a laundry cart. In July 2015, less than a year and a half after his capture in Mazatlan, Guzmán slipped through a tunnel dug up to the drain in his cell’s shower and rode a motorcycle on tracks laid through a tunnel to escape another maximum-security Mexican prison.
Coming this Halloween 🎃 King as El Chapo 😄 pic.twitter.com/Xgz85uI98b
— Eller (@officialeller) September 7, 2021
The marines captured him again six months later in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, where he had been holed up in another unremarkable home. Guzmán was extradited to the United States, tried, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison in July 2019.