Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán was naked and asleep with his mistress, Lucero Sanchez, when Mexican marines battered down his front door in 2014, according to Vice’s reportage of Sanchez’s witness testimony. Without time to put on clothes, the lovers ran to the bathroom, and plugged in a cord: causing hydraulics to lift up an unassuming bathtub. Concealed below was a web of secret tunnels leading to other hideouts through the town’s sewage system. With little time to spare, Guzmán and his lover escaped. Eventually caught for the last time in 2016, Guzmán is serving a life sentence in Colorado.
Now the two-bedroom house in northwestern Mexico could be yours for the cost of lottery ticket.
The Mexican government is raffling off the site of Guzmán’s dramatic escape, along with seven other houses, seven apartments, five lots, a ranch, and a 20-seat viewing box at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City. The prizes — confiscated assets from various criminal operations and now owned by the government — are valued at a total of $12.5 million. Lottery tickets cost 250 pesos ($12.50). Winning tickets will be drawn on Sept. 15, the day before Mexico’s Independence Day.
The lottery is run by the government branch INDEP, the “Institute to Give Back to the People the Stolen.” Prizes were seized from drug traffickers, corrupt government officials and other criminals. INDEP runs public auctions to sell luxury items including sports cars, homes and jewelry.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador unveiled the lottery prizes at a June 16 event at the National Palace, saying that the $25 million expected to be raised by the drawing will go to medicine, vaccines, scholarships and road construction in marginalized communities.
“It is about returning to the people, the town, what was confiscated … all that we can raffle off so that what is obtained is destined for the development of the nation and welfare of the people,” he said.
Flashing photos of the properties on the screen, director of the National Lottery Margarita González Saravia ran through the prizes. The president touted their features: An Acapulco apartment with “panoramic views” of the Pacific Coast. A three-bedroom in Tlaquepaque, in central Mexico, with a hot tub. A Mexico City apartment with three parking spaces. A Culiacán house in northwestern Mexico with a black fence seven minutes from the park.
The top prize, López Obrador said, is a four-bedroom villa in the upscale Mexico City neighborhood of Jardines del Pedregal worth $3.88 million. The president didn’t mention it, but the residence was owned by late Juárez drug cartel kingpin Amado Carrillo Fuentes, better known by the name “Lord of The Skies” for his use of private planes to fly cocaine worldwide. He died in 1997 after a botched plastic surgery attempt to drastically alter his face. The villa — one of dozens of sites Carrillo owned in the United States and Mexico — has an indoor pool with a skylight, a child’s playhouse in the garden and wine cellars.
The houses will be given in the condition in which they were left — which, in some cases, is not pretty.
A corporate box at the Azteca Stadium — home to the Mexican national soccer team — worth $1 million is also up for grabs. The government of former president Miguel de la Madrid bought the suite for personal use, but it was acquired by INDEP in accordance with the austerity and anti-corruption policies.
The government is selling a total of 2 million tickets. But not everybody is racing to buy tickets.
Carolina Mendoza, a primary schoolteacher in Tijuana, will not be buying a ticket. “The chances of winning are minimal,” she wrote to The Washington Post in Spanish. She would have preferred that the assets be used as clinics, museums, gyms, or other spaces for public good.
Olidio Aaron, a 51-year-old small business owner in Tijuana might try his chances. “It’s good since the proceeds will be used for a good cause such as medicine while at the same time removing the expense of maintaining the properties,” he wrote in Spanish to The Post.
Last year, Mexico tried to raffle off a 187-foot-long presidential plane — a symbol of excess of previous administrations that contrasts with austerity policies dictating the current president only flies commercial. Annual maintenance costs of over $1 million were too steep for even the government.
But the public ridiculed the raffle concept. (What would a normal civilian do with a plane?) #MejorRifaLaPresidencia — or “Let’s raffle off the presidency” — trended that week of the plane raffle fiasco.
Martha Sucar, a 40-year lottery ticket vendor who inherited the trade from her mother, told Mexican media Imagen Radio that it’s certain luck with smile on someone. The “Casa Sucar” booth owner once sold a winning ticket. So she is telling interested buyers to come to her for an added dose of good fortune.
She follows a saying: “He who is not grateful is not blessed. What you give comes back to you seven times.”