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Closer look at 'El Chapo' Guzman's wild escapes, drug empire, latest arrest

Interactive timeline of 'El Chapo' Guzman's escapes, arrests

(AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)
(AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell) (Associated Press)

SAN ANTONIO – Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is the head of the Sinaloa Cartel and one of the most notorious drug lords in the world.

Stories about Guzman have become the stuff of legend and he has been immortalized in Mexico after building his billion drug empire and eluding authorities for years until his most recent arrest.

RELATED: New details on extreme measures to guard "El Chapo."

His elusiveness and influence throughout the country have been well chronicled. Here is a timeline based on various reports of El Chapo’s escapes and re-arrests as he once again sits in a jail cell.

Guzman began his criminal enterprise during the 1980s and was one of the most wanted drug lords in Mexico throughout the decade.

Authorities began an intense manhunt for Guzman in May 1993 after the Archbishop of Guadalajara was fatally shot in an attempt by a rival cartel to kill Guzman.

Guzman fled to Guatemala amid the confusion, but was captured near the Guatemala–Mexico border on June 9, 1993.

He was extradited to Mexico and sentenced to nearly 21 years in a maximum security jail on several charges.

In November 1995, he was transferred to the Puente Grande prison in Jalisco.  

RELATED: Rolling Stone releases 17-minute interview with "El Chapo."

El Chapo's first escape, take over of Ciudad Juarez corridor

Guzman’s first escape from prison took place on Jan. 19, 2001 when he was helped by a guard who opened Guzman's electronically operated cell door.

Guzman got inside a laundry cart that was rolled through several doors and eventually out the front door by a maintenance worker.

He was then transported in the trunk of a car out of the town. The escape allegedly cost Guzmán $2.5 million.

Another intense manhunt began for Guzman as he set out to take control of the lucrative Ciudad Juarez crossing points, which were controlled by the Juarez Cartel. 

During this time, Guzman became Mexico's top drug kingpin in 2003 and was considered to be the most powerful drug trafficker in the world by the U.S. Dept. of Treasury.

Guzman’s move to take over the Ciudad Juarez - El Paso corridor led to the assassination of one of the Juarez Cartel leaders, Rodolfo Carrillo Fuentes.

In September 2004, Fuentes, his wife and two young children were ambushed and killed by members of Los Negros, assassins for the Sinaloa Cartel while they were at a shopping mall in Culiacan. 

Control of the Ciudad Juarez - El Paso corridor was now at the forefront of the Mexican drug war and the border saw homicides skyrocket as cartels fought for control.

Guzman’s decision to break the pact between the cartels set in motion intense fighting between cartels that claimed more than 50,000 lives since December 2006, according to various reports.

According to Newsweek, Guzman gained the upper hand in the region by giving information to U.S. authorities and drug officials that led to the arrest of rivals and some top Sinaloa leaders as well.

RELATED: Video released of raid on "El Chapo" safe house

Guzman's break from the Beltran-Leyva brothers, son's murder 

Guzman’s old allies, the Beltrán Leyva brothers, declared war against El Chapo and ordered the assassination of Guzman’s son in May 8, 2008 in Culiacan.  

Violence and retaliation increased after the death of Guzman’s son and the wave of violence spread to Pacific coastal cities like Mazatlan. 

The Beltran Leyva brothers turned the tables on Guzman and agreed to meet and form an alliance with Los Zetas in Cuernavaca.

The alliance focused on southern states like Oaxaca, Yucatán, Quintana Roo and worked their way into the center of the country.

Guzman’s split from the Beltran-Leyva brothers was officially recognized by the U.S. government in May 30, 2008.  

El Chapo allegedly went into hiding, but authorities believed he was likely staying in the "Golden Triangle", an area that encompasses parts of Sinaloa, Durango, and Chihuahua in the Sierra Madre mountains.

In 2009, the Mexican federal government released a list of its 37 most-wanted drug lords and Guzman topped the list which included members of the Gulf Cartel, Los Zetas, Juárez Cartel, Beltrán Leyva Cartel, Tijuana Cartel and the Sinaloa Cartel.

El Chapo's second arrest, escape

After five reclusive years, Guzman’s second arrest came about as he began to venture from the mountains out to Culiacán and Mazatlan.

In early February 2014, authorities tracked Guzman to his ex-wife’s house, but were not able to ram a steel enforced front door and Guzman escaped through a tunnel system.

Mexican authorities stayed on Guzman’s path and arrested him for a second time on Feb. 22, 2014 at a hotel in a beachfront area in Mazatlan.

Guzman was presented to the media in Mexico City and transferred to a maximum-security prison in Almoloya de Juárez, but did not stay long.

He escaped prison again on July 11, 2015 through a small tunnel under his shower inside his jail cell.

The tunnel led to a house construction site in a Santa Juanita neighborhood.

The Mexican government placed a $3.8 million bounty for information that led to Guzman’s arrest and a number of Mexican officials were indicted after in connection with his escape.

El Chapo's secret meeting with Sean Penn, third capture 

According to reports, Guzman had a close call with authorities in October 2015 after he met with Mexican actress Kate del Castillo and actor Sean Penn. 

Guzman reportedly wanted del Castillo’s help to produce a film about his life. Penn interviewed Guzman for Rolling Stone magazine.

RELATED: Actress led Sean Penn to "El Chapo."

Mexican officials said the meeting helped authorities locate Guzman with cellphone interceptions directing Mexican Marines to a ranch near Tamazula, Durango. The raid on the ranch was met with heavy gunfire and Guzman fled.

Nearly two months later, El Chapo was arrested a third time on Jan. 8, 2016 after Mexican Marines and special forces descended upon a house in Los Mochis.

Marines captured Guzman along with a cartel lieutenant following a shootout. Guzman was transported to the same prison from which he escaped in July 2015.

The United States government formally launched a renewed process of extradition for Guzman.