San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Mexico

'El Chapo' is Mexico's hit Halloween costume

If you’ve become a mass-marketed Halloween costume, then you’re probably really scary.

And you’re also probably really lucrative. The latter is what a company in Mexico hopes will become of its costume of the country’s most infamous drug lord: Joaquín Guzmán, known as “El Chapo.”

Grupo Rev plans to rake in the pesos this Halloween season with its newest ensemble of latex masks and prison attire that resembles the man who for years trafficked cocaine to the United States, shipped methamphetamines to Canada and distributed ecstasy to as far off as Europe.

Guzmán, considered by the U.S. Treasury Department as the world’s most powerful drug trafficker, embarrassed Mexican officials in July by pulling off a stunning escape from a maximum-security prison.

The incident boosted the legend of a criminal who is accused of killing thousands of people as head of the Sinaloa Cartel – a position that helped him accumulate wealth estimated at about $1 billion. And it may in turn boost profits for Grupo Rev, which is based near Mexico City and manufactures a variety of costumes that range from famous politicians to masks of spooky-looking pandas.

Speaking by telephone, the company’s chief executive, Diego Esponda, said manufacturing and selling the costume was as much about political satire as it was money. He said the government deserved to be mocked after the escape of such a high-value criminal from such a highly secured prison facility, where Guzmán was held in isolation and under 24-hour video surveillance. “It was funny in a way for us to show criticism of our government after it arrested El Chapo and then watched him escape only a few months later,” Esponda said.

Guzmán managed to slip through a secret, nearly mile-long tunnel that led to his prison cell, causing speculation that he had help from guards and officials working at the facility. The United States has a $5 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Guzmán, who is believed to be between the ages of 58 and 60.

The El Chapo attire, Esponda said, would certainly scare some. He also holds out hope that the costume – which includes a pin-stripe uniform labeled with the former inmate’s actual prison number (3578-AJ) – will bring in the cash.

So far, he said, about 4,000 of the costumes have been sold at about $39 each, with about 1,400 in the United States and most of the rest in Mexico. A few dozen orders also have been made in countries such as Denmark and France, he said.

Halloween traditionally has not been widely celebrated in Mexico, but its popularity has increased in recent years to rival the early November commemoration of “Día de los Muertos.”

If the El Chapo costume didn’t continue to sell, however, Esponda thinks his company still has a silver bullet of a product. It’s a mask that pokes fun of perhaps the most reviled man in Mexico at the moment: Donald Trump, the outspoken Republican presidential candidate who suggested earlier this year that immigrants coming over the border were “rapists” and drug dealers.

In less than a week since coming on the market, Esponda said, nearly 1,000 Trump masks have been sold.

“We think this will be a big one,” he said.

© 2015, The Washington Post

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