When Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán dropped into a tunnel under his cell to begin his sensational escape from Mexico’s most secure prison Saturday, the drug kingpin would’ve surely known this: his disappearance would trigger a massive manhunt, lead to a state of emergency in the region, and be a political slap in the face for President Enrique Peña Nieto.
What he could not have foreseen was that the news would be greeted with glee by one Donald Trump.
“Mexico’s biggest drug lord escapes from jail. Unbelievable corruption and USA is paying the price. I told you so!” Trump declared Sunday on Twitter, where he spent the day trashing his presidential rivals and treating the news as vindication of his controversial stance on immigration.
“Can you envision Jeb Bush or Hillary Clinton negotiating with ‘El Chapo’, the Mexican drug lord who escaped from prison?” Trump wrote, slipping into the third-person to add that “Trump, however, would kick his ass!”
During his presidential announcement last month, Trump made disparaging remarks about Mexican immigrants. “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people,” Trump said.
The remarks hurt his business: Both Univision and NBC cut ties with him, as did Macy’s and NASCAR. Even Mayor Bill de Blasio excoriated Trump for what he termed “disgusting and offensive” comments, and said that he would review the developer’s contracts with the city.
But Trump has since doubled down on his stance, insisting that he was the only candidate willing to say what needed to be said. He’s been milking the immigration issue, addressing a large crowd in Phoenix over the weekend. And his inflammatory tactics might just be paying off — a Reuters-Ipsos poll released Saturday shows Trump at the front of the Republican pack, along with Jeb Bush.
Despite the fact that both Trump and El Chapo once shared space on Forbes’ billionaires list, it’s unlikely the property tycoon feels any kinship with the drug lord. Rather, the fugitive gave Trump an opportunity to gloat- and that’s generally all the Donald needs. He even suggested that the U.S. would offer citizenship to El Chapo, “because our ‘leaders’ can’t say no!”
El Chapo serves as of-the-moment fuel for Trump’s fire, according to Warburg Realty’s Jason Haber, a veteran of several political campaigns. “When you’re running for office, it’s never a bad thing to have people talking about you,” Haber said. “He’s finding ways to stand out.”