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Navarrette: Skepticism fuels 'El Chapo' legend

U.S. officials want to extradite the notorious Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, who was captured last week by Mexican marines and U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents.

Sounds like a fine idea. The 56-year-old leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel was arrested before, in 1993, and sentenced to 20 years in a maximum security prison in the Mexican state of Jalisco. He escaped in 2001 by hiding in a laundry cart after bribing guards to look the other way. Perhaps that will happen again.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Before we talk of extradition, shouldn’t we make sure that the man in custody in Mexico is really Guzman? A lot of Mexicans don’t believe he is. Should they take the word of the Mexican government? After all, Mexico can be a house of mirrors. No one distrusts that government more than the governed, and with good cause. In the last 100 years, Mexico has deceived, abused, looted, oppressed and mistreated those who it is supposed to serve.

The only Mexicans whom the government does a good job of serving are the wealthy and powerful — people like Guzman, whose nickname means “the short one.” The man dubbed “the world’s most powerful drug trafficker” is 5-feet-6. But he has a big wallet; His net worth has been estimated by Forbes to be close to $1 billion.

In a country where people make $6 or $7 per day, that kind of money doesn’t just open doors. It knocks them down. No wonder the citizens of Mexico have so little trust in their government when it tries to take down such powerful and shadowy figures.

Now that distrust has taken a bizarre turn. Mexicans are taking their skepticism to social media, YouTube and underground drug culture websites. Once word got out about the arrest of El Chapo, Facebook and Twitter went loco. Mexicans are a social people, and they devour social media. This is their town square, where they have been gathering to express doubts that the man in custody is really Guzman.

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