Money with a stamp with the initials of Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán appears in ATMs in the bastion of his poster and is accepted in local businesses
“From your friend JGL.” That is the inscription, made with an indelible stamp, with which Joaquín Guzmán Loera, El Chapo, has supposedly marked a series of 200 Mexican peso bills (about nine dollars), according to the local press. The so-called chapobilletes have been seen at ATMs and accepted in businesses in the state of Sinaloa, in the northwest of the country, where the homonymous cartel he ran until he was sentenced to life imprisonment by a New York court in July of the year has its stronghold. past.
Two months after the kingpin’s ruling in the United States, in early September 2019, the Bank of Mexico issued a series of 200-peso bills to commemorate the 25 years of its autonomy as a central bank. On the obverse are the portraits of Miguel Hidalgo and José María Morelos, two leaders of the independence of Mexico. On the reverse, there is an illustration of a golden eagle in the El Pinacate Biosphere Reserve and the great Altar desert, a protected area in the northern state of Sonora. What was not foreseen was the appearance of Guzmán Loera’s initials, especially after being confined in a maximum-security prison in Florence (Colorado), in the United States.
” Right off the bat [immediately] because I was from here, I identified the initials,” says Nicolás, 31, a resident of Culiacán, the capital of Sinaloa, who requests anonymity for fear of reprisals from drug trafficking. He says that more than a month ago he went to make a withdrawal to a bank that is on Avenida Prolongación Álvaro Obregón, one of the main streets of the city and that he found a 200-peso bill with the mark. “I jokingly told my wife: ‘Look, on behalf of the boss, ” he says, “the truth surprised me a lot, it’s not like someone had given it to my hand, I took it out of a bank.”
The inscription of the banknotes, on which the federal or state authorities have not ruled, has not been the only show of force that the cartel has made. In October 2019, chaos broke out in Culiacán, the capital of Sinaloa, after an operation by the Mexican Government to capture Ovidio Guzmán, el Ratón, son of El Chapo with Griselda López, his second wife, and in the crosshairs of justice. Since 2012. Police forces eventually decided to release the detainee after several shootings and blockades by drug traffickers.
“The capture of a criminal cannot be worth more than the lives of some people,” justified the president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, in an act that shocked and unleashed criticism in Mexican society, after an episode in which his Cabinet Security offered confusing and, to some extent, contradictory explanations. “Culiacán: you rule”, was the cover of the weekly Proceso, after the scenes of bullet fights and celebrations of the cartel after the withdrawal of the forces of order.
The “chapobilletes” chapobills, whose existence was first reported by the weekly Riódoce, have had no problems circulating and being used in bank branches and convenience stores in Sinaloa. The rules of the Bank of Mexico for banknotes with stamps or annotations, they establish that the currency is not valid if the marks have “the purpose of disseminating messages addressed to the public, of a political, religious or commercial nature.” It is also noted, however, that handwritten, stamped, or printed names do not affect the commercial value of the banknotes. Given the ambiguity, because it is a criminal group, a spokesman for the Central Bank told this newspaper that the issue is being followed up, but has limited itself to forwarding the guidelines without clarifying doubts about the validity of the ticket.
From Riódoce they explain that they found the story when a person photographed the bill after taking it out of an ATM in Culiacán on September 27 and that more people have told them that they have encountered the stamp in the money, but they comment that it is very difficult to determine how many chapobillets circulate inside and outside the state capital. Several people reacted to the publication of the weekly on Facebook with their own photos and anecdotes with the tickets, but most have preferred not to speak about the insecurity in Sinaloa. Between January and August 2020, the State has registered 487 intentional homicides, according to data from the Executive Secretariat of the National Public Security System. However, Sinaloa is not among the 10 entities in Mexico with the most murders, according to the latest cut.
While the images of the banknotes have gone viral and caused outrage in the country, the underlying issue continues to be the control and influence that Mexican cartels still exercise, in the midst of a war between the State and the criminal groups that have raged. prolonged for more than a decade. Although the United States has targeted the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel, El Chapo’s organization maintains the largest international network among the six major Mexican cartels, according to the latest DEA annual report, published in January.
“Officially there is no war, we want peace,” López Obrador said at a press conference on January 30, 2019. The president noted that, unlike his predecessors, his government no longer has a strategy to capture the heads of the cartels because the arrests have not stopped criminal violence. A year and a half later, the sudden appearance of the bills stamped in the name of El Chapo seems to have proved him right.