Mexico City — Mexicans were none too pleased to read that their country’s most-wanted cocaine kingpin has been ranked by Forbes magazine as one of the most powerful people in the world.
Joaquin Guzman — alias El Chapo, Spanish for “Shorty” — was listed by Forbes this week as No. 41 in a collection of 67 (“one for every 100 million people on the planet”) movers, shakers, rulers and crooks judged as the people who really run the world.
A senior official with the Mexican attorney general’s office, Juan de Dios Castro, said the inclusion of Guzman was “frivolous,” and Mexican Ambassador to the United States Arturo Sarukhan used his debut on Twitter to denounce it.
“Sadly, Forbes insists in parading criminals and drug-traffickers,” he said, according to the Reforma newspaper.
Sarukhan went on to suggest it would take social networks, such as Twitter, to paint a more positive picture of Mexico than portrayed by “traditional media.”
Mexican officials have long been irked over newspaper reports, especially in the U.S., that emphasize the blood-soaked war the government is waging against heavily armed drug cartels like the one controlled by Guzman.
President Felipe Calderon lashed out when Forbes earlier this year named Guzman one of the world’s top billionaires. The question of “powerful” is more nuanced and subjective, however. Forbes says it wanted to start a “conversation” with its first such list and asked whether naming “despicable criminals” like Guzman was an accurate reflection of power.
Guzman is head of the Sinaloa cartel, Mexico’s oldest and largest drug-trafficking organization that is believed to have smuggled cocaine and other drugs worth billions of dollars into the U.S. in recent years.
The organization has extensive networks throughout the U.S. and is responsible for much of the recent drug-related killing.
Guzman has been on the lam since escaping in 2001 from a maximum-security prison days after a court ruled he could be extradited the U.S. He is said to have been helped by guards and wardens and by hiding in a laundry truck to escape.
“Surely … we have more than one screw loose,” columnist Francisco Rodriguez said on the Web site publication EjeCentral. The ranking by “Forbes magazine, that tool of capitalism … is enough to make us all ask if we didn’t choose the wrong profession.”
The other Mexican to make the list was Carlos Slim, a telecom tycoon considered by Forbes to be the third-richest man on Earth.
Slim, who has benefited wildly from monopolies, controls wealth that stands in glaring contrast to Mexico’s overall poverty — equaling 2 percent of the Mexican gross domestic product, according to Forbes. Slim was ranked No. 6 on the “powerful” list, ahead of Rupert Murdoch, Bill Gates and Pope Benedict XVI.
“For a U.S. publication to distinguish Slim and El Chapo, far from filling us with pride, should make us reflect,” wrote veteran journalist Miguel Angel Granados Chapa in his Reforma column Friday.
“The two figures embody our worst evils: Slim represents the extreme of deep, growing inequality, and Guzman embodies the prosperous (life of) crime and impunity.”