CULIACAN, SINALOA (September 16th, 2021)— A house that used to be owned by former drug kingpin Joaquín Guzmán, infamously known as “El Chapo,” is the latest prize in Mexico’s national lottery.
Renovators made some significant changes to the house, including removing the surveillance cameras that covered every angle of the exterior and filling in a hole under a bathtub that Guzmán used to reach a network of tunnels.
Reporters with the Associated Press took a tour of the house located in a quiet Culiacan neighborhood ahead of the lottery. The house is part of Mexico’s Institute to Return Stolen Goods to the People, known by its initials as INDEP.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has been talking up the lottery of seized properties but didn’t delve to the history of this particular house. An expensive home in one of Mexico City’s swankiest neighborhoods and a private box at the famed Azteca Stadium have garnered more attention.
INDEP’s website lists it only as “Casa en Culiacán.” It’s about 2,800 square feet and located, perhaps appropriately, in a neighborhood called Libertad, or “Freedom.” The government values the two-bedroom home at $183,000.
The house had been abandoned for years and the marines did some damage when they searched it, so repairs were necessary.
When Guzmán escaped that time through the tunnels, his freedom lasted only days. On Feb. 22, 2014, the marines descended again, this time in a condo on the coast in Mazatlan.
In July 2015, less than a year and a half after his capture in Mazatlan, Guzmán slipped through a tunnel dug up to the drain in his cell’s shower and rode a motorcycle on tracks laid through a tunnel to escape a maximum-security Mexican prison.
The marines captured him yet again six months later in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, where he had been holed up in another unremarkable home.
Guzmán was extradited to the United States, tried, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison in July 2019.
INDEP officials said they were surprised the house was getting attention. There is no swimming pool or any of the luxuries that usually are found at other narco properties.
The home went up for auction last year. It started the bidding at about $130,000. There were no takers.
Now, López Obrador is giving it away as part of the lottery, with the drawing scheduled for Wednesday, the day before Mexico celebrates its Independence Day. It’s the first time Mexico’s national lottery is giving away property. The proceeds are to go to Mexico’s Olympic athletes.
In downtown Mexico City, lottery ticket vendors said sales have been good. Jorge López said he’s been selling 100 to 120 of the $12 tickets daily since last week.
He said the value of the 22 prizes, many well above that of the Culiacan house, is drawing attention.