El Chapo, Joaquín Guzmán. Everyone in law enforcement knows who he is. Once the biggest drug kingpin on the planet, he now sits in a federal supermax prison in the U S, awaiting trial on numerous charges. That is likely where he will die.

I write this short essay to remind us of one of the most corrosive, costly, and cruel consequences of our “war on drugs”: wasted police resources.

This guy, purchased with his billions of dollars of ill-gotten gains,  had every self-defense and self-preservation mechanism one could imagine. He had the latest high-tech security equipment. He had networks of tunnels to move from safe house to safe house. He had runners to get him anything he wanted, so he never had to go out. He had hideouts all over Columbia, Mexico, and Guatemala. He had a small army of bodyguards.  He had thousands of politicians and law enforcement officials in numerous countries on his payroll, “in his pocket”!


So how much police time and how much money did it take to get him? Nobody knows for sure, but I bet it was hundreds of thousands of hours of time spent by police and military agencies in Columbia, Mexico, Guatemala, and the United States, and far more than $100 million. Remember, he was captured twice before his final capture in 2017, and he twice escaped. Did all of this put a dent in the cocaine or marijuana supply? NO! Obviously not. Since the mid 1980s, you could out me in any city in America and I could get any drug I wanted within 15 minutes, maximum time!

Corrosive? The entire “fiasco” and “futile” aspect of the hunt for these criminals erodes trust and confidence in our government. The rampant bribery and the shady tactics of some law enforcement officers compound this profound problem.

Costly? The monetary cost is astronomical – the costs of arrests and apprehension, costs of courts, costs of imprisonment, costs of treatment for addicts, etc –  but the human toll is incalculable. Estimates are that the war on drugs has cost the U S alone more than three trillion dollars! Imagine what could be done with such sums! More hospitals, better schools, homeless shelters, food for the needy, research to cure cancer … we could go on for days listing better uses of such money. 

Cruel? Let us count the ways:

How many millions of people on both sides, criminals and law enforcement, and innocent bystanders, are killed or injured in the never-ending violence caused by prohibition? “Shots fired!” … protecting the dealers’ turf, deals gone bad (double crosses), shootouts with police, killing “snitches”, etc.

How many millions of addicts and their friends and families, suffer and die because the drugs just keep flooding into the hands of the populace? 

How many unsolved rapes, robberies, and murders could have been solved if the police had not been engaged in the futile war on drugs?! With the arrests of people responsible for the huge numbers of unsolved crimes due to the war on drugs and misguided resources, how much future crime – and all the loss and suffering accompanying it – could be prevented?



Wikipedia on El Chapo