Last year, one of the most wanted drug lords in the world, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was captured and prosecuted by Mexican and American authorities, locking away one of the most feared criminal figures. However, while imprisoning “the most powerful drug trafficker in the world”, as the United States Department of Treasury calls him, is a successful step towards winning the war on drugs, El Chapo isn’t the only enemy of the state.
Every continent has its all-mighty narcotics kingpins, and in some cases, the characters are so infamous that cinematographers have based their movies and documentaries on them. In fact, one of the 5 best documentaries on Netflix focuses on retired drug dealers and their journey through a life of crime and hustle. Nonetheless, for now let’s shift our vision towards the real-life runners of the narcotics game, as well as past legends: these are the most wanted drug lords.
5. Frank Lucas
One of the drug lords that will be forever remembered through film is Frank Lucas. In American Gangster, Denzel Washington portrays the story of the trafficker who cut out his middleman, in order to smuggle large quantities of heroin into the United States. Although he was clever enough to hide the stashes in coffins of dead American soldiers coming home from Vietnam, his boastful attitude played against him and Lucas was caught in 1976. In spite of being sentenced to 70 years in prison, he was released five years later and is now part of the witness protection programme.
4. Ismael Zambada-García
While Guzman’s run in the drug world is over for the time being, his partner in crime, nicknamed “El Mayo”, remains the active leader of the Mexican Sinaloa cartel. Although they are famous for their high-quality cocaine, the cartel has become increasingly involved with trafficking of other substances, including methamphetamines, marijuana, and heroin. However, what makes El Mayo so menacing is his quick hand when it comes to making and breaking alliances. The U.S. Department of State offers a reward of $5 million for any information leading to the drug lord’s arrest, making him one of the most wanted candidates today.
3. Pablo Escobar
When Medellin was the epicentre of all things drug related, Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria was the king, sitting on a golden throne at the city’s highest peak. As head of the Medellin drug cartel, which assassinated at least 5,000 people and was responsible for 80% of cocaine shipments in the U.S., Escobar enjoyed his role as one of the most wanted drug lords in the world. In fact, before his death in 1993, Colombia’s number one drug trafficker had become the seventh richest man in the world, allowing him to enjoy a certain level of immunity.
2. Ricky Donnell Ross
Better known as “Freeway” Rick Ross, this Los Angeles native made a fortune off of selling crack cocaine in the 80’s and 90’s, and is therefore seen as the man who spread the epidemic in the U.S. Since he lived next to the 110 and bought several properties alongside the LA Harbour Freeway in his twenties, clients and authorities gave him the nickname “Freeway” as a distinctive characteristic. At the height of his career, Ross was earning approximately $3 million in daily drug sales, and exporting several tons of cocaine to New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, amongst others. However, the bonanza ended when Ross fell into a sting operation, buying 100 kilograms of cocaine from a federal agent in 1996. He was convicted to a life sentence in jail, but was released in 2009 due to exemplary conduct.
1. Vicente Carrillo Fuentes
Amado Carrillo, the once infamous Juarez Cartel leader who died during plastic surgery in 1997, was known for working close to his family, and so when he passed away, his brother Vicente (or El Viceroy) took over the drug empire. However, apart from running the drug operations and money laundering of the Juarez Cartel, Vicente had a knack for murder: after his brother was killed on the orders of El Chapo, Carrillo retaliated by having El Chapo’s brother killed in prison. With $5 million bait on his head and a 46-count indictment trailing after him, El Viceroy is certainly one of the most drug lords in the world. In fact, he had plastic surgery to mask his appearance.