Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Mexican Drug Lord: El Chapo Joaquín Guzman's Trial

Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman being escorted to a helicopter by Mexican security forces at Mexico's International Airport in Mexico City, Mexico, on 22 Feb 2014. Mexico's apprehension of the world's most-wanted drug boss struck a blow to a cartel that local and U.S. authorities say swelled into a multinational empire, fueling drug war and killings around the world. Photo: Susana Gonzalez. 
Mexican drug kingpin Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán has been found guilty on all 10 counts at his drug-trafficking trial at a federal court in New York.

Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera, the infamous drug lord known as “El Chapo,” was found guilty on all counts against him and now faces a lifetime in prison, ending a remarkable fall for a kingpin who spent years evading law enforcement officials while they say he continued amassing power and wealth atop a sprawling empire. Guzmán gained worldwide notoriety for the reach of the Sinaloa cartel, which prosecutors have called “the world’s largest and most prolific drug trafficking organization,” and for his own audacious escapes from Mexican prisons. He spent years on the run, assembling what U.S. authorities have described as a private army. Following his most recent prison escape in 2015, using a tunnel dug to his cell, he was hunted, rearrested again and then extradited to the United States, where he faced federal charges in multiple locations.


Who is he? 

Joaquín Guzmán Loera “El Chapo,” was born in La Tuna , Badiraguato, Mexico in 1957, his father was a farmer who grows opium, the only product planted in Badiraguato. El Chapo Guzmán he got first exposure to drugs and hardcore while a teenage of 7 years working in the marijuana and opium poppy fields. After that, when he was 15 he served an apprenticeship of sorts under Miguel Angel Félix Gallardo (The Godfather) and the chief of the most powerful Guadalajara cartels, that spun the drug wars in Latin America. 

His rise was swift, setting up his own cartel, the Sinaloa, in north-west Mexico in the late 1980s. Over time, it became one of the biggest traffickers of drugs to the US. El Chapo narrowly escaped assassination from by a rival gang's shootout in 1993. The Mexican attorney general's office described him as "egocentric, narcissistic, shrewd, persistent, tenacious, meticulous, discriminating and secretive", According to New York Magazine

   El Chapo' Guzman escorted to a helicopter by Mexican security unit. Photo: Susana Gonzalez. 
He was arrested by Mexican authorities and sentenced to 20 years in jail, but escaped and eventually apprehended again. His verdict was unanimous read out by a jury in Brooklyn in a packed courtroom on Tuesday, following an 11-week trial that ended. Guzmán, was wearing a dark suit jacket and tie and showed no visible sign of emotion as the verdict was announced, CBS News reported. 

Guzmán’s conviction came after prosecutors assembled an extensive case that included cooperating witnesses and intercepted messages, which demonstrated a remarkable degree of penetration into most secretive and dangerous cartel’s circles. John A. Horn, a former U.S. attorney who prosecuted Mexican cartel cases, he said a conviction in a case like this also carries a deeper meaning. “There does need to be a conviction of somebody like Chapo Guzmán, both for the symbolism and the pure factor of justice being served,” Horn, who is now in private practice, said in an interview before the verdict. “It does show that . . . for somebody at his level, justice will be done, it will be served. It’s an incredibly powerful victory for DOJ, for law enforcement.”

Prosecutors were unsparing in depicting Guzmán as a purveyor of brutality and horror spanning borders. “Guzmán Loera’s bloody reign atop the Sinaloa Cartel has come to an end, and the myth that he could not be brought to justice has been laid to rest,” said Richard P. Donoghue, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, in a statement. “Today, Guzmán Loera has been held accountable for the tons of illegal narcotics he trafficked for more than two decades, the murders he ordered and committed, and the billions of dollars he reaped while causing incalculable pain and suffering to those devastated by his drugs.”

Acting attorney general Matthew G. Whitaker said in a statement: “This case, and more importantly, this conviction, serves as an irrefutable message to the kingpins that remain in Mexico, and those that aspire to be the next Chapo Guzmán, that eventually you will be apprehended and prosecuted.” But defense attorneys insisted that he has been made a scapegoat. Guzmán’s lawyers asked the jury to dismiss the testimony of the government’s cooperating witnesses, describing them as liars out to save themselves by seeking the best possible deals with authorities. 

Guzmán’s lawyer, A. Eduardo Balarezo, said in a statement that he is disappointed by the jury’s verdict and will consider all options, including a possible appeal. “We were faced with extraordinary and unprecedented obstacles in defending Joaquín,” Balarezo said, including Guzmán’s detention in solitary confinement, massive amounts of discovery that were difficult to review in a timely manner and the government’s reliance on cooperating witnesses, which he said “laid bare the corruption of the criminal justice system where freedom is traded by the government in exchange for testimony.”

For Guzmán, a conviction in a U.S. courtroom that guarantees life in prison cuts to the heart of his underworld myth, which only grew while he was a notorious fugitive and mysterious prison escapement. Federal prosecutors have described Guzmán’s rise in the 1980s as being fueled by his skill at funneling cocaine into the United States and then getting proceeds back to Colombian cartels. Guzman continued expanding his empire, prosecutors said, even after he was taken into custody in Guatemala in 1993 and in 2015 was placed in a maximum-security Altiplano prison, he managed to get away every time with insider assistance. 

His escape from prison in — infamously said to involve him slipping away in a laundry hamper — began what would be more than a decade evading capture. Those years were filled with financial successes, violence and efforts to corrupt Mexican government officials, prosecutors said in court filings. They also said Guzmán and his associates obtained drugs and supplies from other countries and sent cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines and marijuana into the United States. When his days getting closer in 2016, he was arrested once more and spent a year in custody before his extradition in 2017. 

The drug trade was a gold mine for Guzmán, enabling him to “exponentially increase his profits to staggering levels,” prosecutors said in one court filing. But a key part of that, prosecutors continued, was “thousands of acts of violence” — including murder, torture and kidnappings — committed by assassins and aimed at possible witnesses or people who sought to help law enforcement.


Prosecutors say Guzmán carried out some of the violence personally. During closing arguments in the trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea Goldbarg said Guzmán once cursed and shot two men, both of whom were already badly beaten, for working with a rival cartel. He then ordered their bodies thrown into a bonfire, Goldbarg said. An attorney for Guzmán said he denied the allegations. 

While Guzmán had sought to shield his communications from authorities, he also wiretapped people around him — including his family, mistresses and other associates — which Goldbarg said ultimately helped law enforcement officials. The IT technician who set up a system for Guzmán to surveil those around him gave it to the FBI. Goldbarg said Guzmán found out the technician was working with U.S. authorities and sought to have him killed, but no one could find him. The technician testified at trial.


Emma Coronel Aispuro, a wife of Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman surrounded by security personnel and members of the media taking coverage as she exits the U.S. District Court of Eastern New York City on 12 February 2019 in the Brooklyn.  (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images). 
El Chapo wife Emma Coronel
Emma Coronel Aispuro wife of 'El Chapo' speaks on 04 February 2019 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. During the deliberations in the trial of El Chapo, who is accused of trafficking over 440,000 pounds of cocaine, in addition to other drugs, and exerting power through murders and kidnappings as he led the Sinaloa Cartel.
 As he was escorted from the courtroom, Guzmán shook the hands of his lawyers before exchanging glances with his wife, Emma Coronel, a 29-year-old former beauty queen, and giving her the thumbs up. Judge Brian Cogan, who presided over the trial, thanked the jurors for their dedication at what he described as a complex trial, saying it was "remarkable and it made me very proud to be an American". Guzmán's lawyers said they planned to launch an appeal.

Another court papers accused him of having girls as young as 13 drugged before raping them. Guzmán "called the youngest of the girls his 'vitamins' because he believed that sexual activity with young girls gave him 'life'", a former associate, Colombian drug trafficker Alex Cifuentes, was quoted as saying. During the trial, Cifuentes also alleged that Guzmán gave a $100m (£77m) bribe to former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, who is said to have contacted him after taking office in 2012 and asked for $250m in return for ending a manhunt for him. Mr. Peña Nieto has not publicly commented. When asked by a former cartel lieutenant why he killed people, he is alleged to have said: "Either your mom's going to cry or their mom's going to cry."

How he escaped from prison? 

His sons bought a property near the prison and a GPS watch smuggled into the prison gave diggers his exact location. At one point Guzmán complained that he could hear the digging from his cell. He escaped by riding a specially adapted small motorcycle through the tunnel. He also used the software on his phone to spy on his wife and mistresses, which allowed the FBI to present his text messages in court. In one set of texts, he recounted to his wife how he had fled a villa during a raid by US and Mexican officials, before asking her to bring him new clothes, shoes and black moustache dye.

Among the drug cartel circles, he had the status of a folk hero, a popular subject of "narcocorridos" - there are musical tributes, Hollywood movies, and cigarette package portraying this drug baron. In 2009 Guzmán entered Forbes' list of the world's richest men at number 701, with an estimated worth of $1bn (£775m).




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