Mexico’s notorious drug lord, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, was convicted Tuesday of running an industrial-scale smuggling operation that netted his operation billions, with a long history of violent crimes and political payoffs along the way.
Guzman was tried in New York, where the guilty verdicts poured in against the man known for daring prison escapes and a folk hero to some in Mexico. The convictions should place the 61-year-old in a maximum security facility for decades.
The capture, arrest and conviction of Guzman brings to surface many of the problems plaguing the failed war on drugs in the United States.
For years, Guzman’s Sinaloa drug cartel smuggled tons of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana into the U.S., where the demand was great and still is.
The aftermath of his criminal organization is many people died from the illegal drugs, sunk into addiction, and ruined their lives for drugs readily available across the nation. Americans are simply the world’s greatest consumers, including a tremendous appetite for drugs at any cost.
The rehabilitation community sees a link to mental health problems for many addicts. The need to blot out depression leads to meth, heroin and an assortment of pills.
But those self-prescribed treatments only make life worse. And others see the thrill of selling drugs for the sake of a high-rolling lifestyle, which sooner or later comes tumbling down.
At the root of much of the drug problem is that criminals such as Guzman become celebrities; the wealth and illusion of charmed lives works heavily on the minds of others with much less.
While some major drugs busts received publicity, those who peddle death and a false sense of wellbeing through drugs are destroying lives and families.
There is a drug epidemic across all lifestyles and it continues to grow, including in communities where treatment and rehabilitation have little funding or direction.
The Guzmans of the world, including those already living in the U.S., will continue to bring their addictive products into local communities, but ridding our society of these criminals is the best defense against drug lords who want to build kingdoms, large or small, at the expense of the innocent.
Destroying the allure of drug use and providing better rehabilitative services for addiction and mental health will also go a long way in stopping the spread of the poisons that wreck so many lives.