Emma Coronel Aispuro, the wife of Joaquin Guzman, looks on in this courtroom sketch during the Brooklyn federal court trial of accused Mexican durg lord Joaquin “El Chapo” in New York City, U.S., January 24, 2019. REUTERS/Jane Rosenberg
January 24, 2019
By Brendan Pierson and Daina Beth Solomon
(Reuters) – On a typical day, Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman would wake at noon and make calls while strolling under the trees in the mountains of his native Sinaloa state, where he was in hiding, a witness recently testified at the kingpin’s trial.
The infamous gangster’s personal life and business dealings have gone on public display since mid-November at a courthouse in New York, where Guzman faces 17 criminal counts and a possible life sentence.
U.S. prosecutors, who say Guzman amassed a $14 billion fortune by bribery, murder and smuggling drugs, have bolstered their case by calling to the stand law enforcement officers as well as Guzman’s former associates, including one who says she was his lover and another whose brother was among his top allies.
The prosecution may rest as early as Monday, turning the case over to Guzman’s defense lawyers, who claim the 61-year-old whose nickname means “Shorty” had a smaller role in the Sinaloa Cartel than prosecutors claim.
Here are some of the most colorful tales from recent weeks in the courtroom:
HIS OWN WORDS
* Guzman’s voice was “sing-songy” with a “nasallyundertone,” said FBI agent Steven Marston. In one recorded call,Guzman tells an associate, “Don’t be so harsh … take it easywith the police.” The partner responds: “You taught us to be awolf.” * Text messages between Guzman and his wife, Emma Coronel,often turned to family matters. “Our Kiki is fearless,” Guzmanwrote in one, referring to one of their daughters. “I’m going togive her an AK-47 so she can hang with me.” * After Coronel said she saw a suspicious car, Guzman wroteto her, “You go ahead and lead a normal life. That’s it.” Laterhe reminds her: “Make sure you delete everything after we’redone chatting.”
LOVERS AND BUSINESS
* Multiple “wives” visited Guzman when he was hiding inSinaloa, said Alex Cifuentes, a former close partner. * Lucero Sanchez Lopez, a former Mexican lawmaker, toldjurors she once had a romantic relationship with Guzman, whosent her to buy and ship marijuana. “I didn’t want for him tomistrust me because I thought he could also hurt me,” she said.”I was confused about my own feelings over him. Sometimes Iloved him and sometimes I didn’t.” * Agustina Cabanillas, a partner of Guzman’s who called him”love,” set up drug deals by passing information between Guzmanand others. In one message, Cabinillas called Guzman a “jerk”who was trying to spy on her. “Guess what? I’m smarter thanhim,” she wrote.
HIGH LEVELS OF CORRUPTION
* Guzman’s Sinaloa Cartel fed bribes, some in the millionsof dollars, to Mexican officials at every level, said JesusZambada, the brother of Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, who workedalongside El Chapo and is still at large. * Beneficiaries included a high-ranking police official whofed Guzman information on police activities “every day,” saidMiguel Angel Martinez, a former cartel manager. * Guzman once paid $100 million to former President EnriquePena Nieto, Cifuentes said. Pena Nieto has denied taking anybribes. * When imprisoned in Mexico in 2016, Guzman bribed anational prison official $2 million to be transferred to adifferent facility, but the move was unsuccessful.
* After a rival cartel member declined to shake Guzman’shand, he ordered the man killed, fueling a war between thecartels, Zambada said. * When assassins reporting to Guzman killed a policeofficial who worked for a rival, Zambada said, they lured himout of his house by pretending they had hit his son with a car. * Guzman ordered Cifuentes to kill the cartel communicationsexpert after learning he was cooperating with the FBI. ButCifuentes said he was unable to carry out the hit because he didnot know the man’s last name. * When Damazo Lopez Nunez, a top lieutenant to Guzman, toldhis boss that a Mexican mayor wanted them to “remove” atroublesome police officer, Guzman told him they should do herthe favor because the mayor was a favorite for an upcoming stateelection, Lopez testified. He said Guzman told him to make thekilling look like revenge from a gang member. * Lopez also said Guzman’s sons killed a prominent reporterin Sinaloa because he published an article about cartelinfighting against their wishes.
SAFE HOUSES AND ESCAPES
* For a period of Guzman’s time as a fugitive in Sinaloa innorthern Mexico, his posse lived in “humble pine huts” withtinted windows, satellite televisions and washer-dryers,Cifuentes said. About 50 guards formed three rings around thehomes to keep watch. * Guzman escaped into a tunnel hidden beneath a bathtub whenU.S. agents raided one of his homes in 2014, said Sanchez, hislover. She followed Guzman, who was completely naked, into thepassage, feeling water trickle down her legs. “It was very darkand I was very scared,” she said. * Guzman’s wife helped her husband tunnel out of a Mexicanprison in 2015 by passing messages to his associates, Lopeztestified. She unsuccessfully tried to help him duplicate theescape when he was captured the next year.
(Reporting by Brendan Pierson in New York; Additional reporting and writing by Daina Beth Solomon in Mexico City; Editing by Tom Brown)