When Mr. Guzmán had been evading the combined pursuit of United States intelligence agencies and the Mexican military, he maintained the myth of a benevolent outlaw who used his ill-gotten riches for the good of his community.
“Yes, he was the most wanted narcotrafficker, but I also think he gave support to the most humble people, to low-income families,” said Gisel Chavarría, 23, a flower seller in a street market in an affluent neighborhood of central Mexico City.
His mistake, even before his capture, was to court more fame, said Adrián López, the publisher of Noroeste, a leading newspaper in Culiacán, the state capital in Sinaloa. Mr. Guzmán gave an interview to the actor Sean Penn and the Mexican actress Kate del Castillo that appeared in Rolling Stone magazine, along with a short video. “He broke the basic rule of all Mafiosi, which is discretion,” Mr. López said.
The sordid details of his crimes revealed during the trial damaged his image as a charitable folk hero even more. “In the public imagination, he stopped being a benefactor and he was portrayed as he was, a capo who spied on his lovers and associates, who killed, who corrupted officials,” Mr. López said.
Mr. Guzmán’s latest arrest in 2016 prompted a battle for control of the Sinaloa cartel, but the split seems to have been resolved, Mr. López said. The Sinaloa organization remains the most important cartel in Mexico, he said.
“The fact that Chapo will spend the rest of his life in a prison simply does not mean that the criminal groups and drug gangs will be taken down or dismantled,” said Anabel Hernández, a journalist who has been covering drug crime for more than two decades.
“Mexicans are deeply aware of that and it doesn’t mean they are indifferent to it,” she added. “It is they who are being murdered and made to disappear in the thousands, with or without El Chapo.”