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Brisk business for drug baron T-shirts after escape

21 July 2015, 10:51

Mexico City -Ballads glorifying Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's daring jailbreak were composed shortly after his escape. Now T-shirts and hats featuring the Mexican drug kingpin's face are flying off the shelves.

The fashion line features a wanted poster with the multimillion dollar bounty, an image of Guzman escaping prison with a bag of cash, and his face with the words "Boss" in the same red and blue design as US President Barack Obama's famous campaign poster.

For prices ranging between $5 and $32, the T-shirts of the powerful Sinaloa drug cartel chief are available for sale in the streets of Mexico or on the Internet, with US websites among those seizing on the fugitive's notoriety.

Some feature a younger Guzman with a clean-shaven face, others with his famous, thick mustache, or the man whose nickname means "Shorty" carrying a weapon.

Some stores have already run out of stock, days after Guzman made his June 11 escape from a maximum-security prison via a tunnel dug under his cell in central Mexico.

The online store Kartel Kollection, based in Los Angeles, posted the words "sold out" for a T-shirt with an old picture of Guzman.

"We have always had a lot of sales, but of course we've had to increase production" in the past week," Gabriella Zarazoga, one of the company's managers, told AFP.

Clients of Kartel Kollection, whose brand has two AK-47s in the shape of the letter K, include people from Mexico, the United States and the Middle East, she said.

The store's collection includes a "Big Leagues" T-shirt with the face of Guzman's Sinaloa cartel partner, Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada, and other designs featuring the late Amado Carrillo Fuentes, alias "The Lord of the Skies."

For those who want a drug lord on their heads, Kartel Kollection sells a hat with the face of Rafael Caro Quintero, who is wanted by the United States for the murder of a US undercover agent in 1985.

An antihero

The Guzman fashion is part of the so-called "narco-cultura" that has spread across both sides of the US and Mexican borders.

Drug cartels have inspired low-budget films sold as DVDs in local markets and "narco-corridos," drug ballads to the polka-like beats.

Guzman has added another chapter to his legendary if violent life following his second escape in 14 years. In 2001, he fled another maximum-security prison by hiding inside a laundry cart.

His captured in February 2014 was a major victory in President Enrique Pena Nieto's drug war.

His escape is a major embarrassment for the government but a boon to those profiting from the Chapomania.

Support for Guzman is strong in his native northwestern state of Sinaloa, where many see him as a sort of Robin Hood-like figure.

"Curiously, the main reactions on social media following his shameful escape were neither fear nor outrage against El Chapo," said journalist Diego Enrique Osorno, author of "The Sinaloa Cartel."

"It gives the impression that his criminal charisma will continue to rise," Osorno said. "Mexico has a plutocrat antihero whose popularity competes with that of those in the governing class."

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