We are now one month into the trial of Joaquin ”El Chapo” Guzman, and the hits just keep on coming.
So far we’ve touched on a number of aspects, like how the Sinaloa Cartel moved the drugs, and how El Chapo spent his fortune, but maybe it’s time for a little recap thus far.
If convicted, 61-year-old Guzman could spend the rest of his life behind bars in a maximum security US prison, which sounds fair when you consider just how ruthless his cartel was.
More on that later, but Nation have a rundown of some of the case’s major talking points so far, which means that’s a good place to start:
Most of the trial documents have been kept under wraps: they are classified.
Neither the media nor the public can access the motions or communications between the two sides and Judge Brian Cogan.
Prosecutors have justified the move by citing the security of the witnesses, who could be targets for payback doled out by El Chapo’s inner circle
Fair enough, because you know that helping put El Chapo behind bars is going to put a target on your back.
One of the big headline-grabbers has been El Chapo’s wife, 29-year-old former beauty queen Emma Coronel:
She sits in the public gallery each day, smiling at her husband and bringing him fresh suits to wear.
Coronel’s body-hugging wardrobe and stilettos have raised eyebrows.
Prosecutors are certainly watching her.
Since Guzman’s extradition to the United States in January 2017, she has been barred from visiting him and cannot speak to him on the telephone.
She may have been a little naughty on that last point, because she is alleged to have used the cell phone of one of Guzman’s attorneys in a courthouse cafeteria last month.
Prosecutors fear she might have spoken with El Chapo, but the judge downplayed the incident.
Also, much like every Southern Suburbs rugby club, nicknames abound:
Guzman, of course, is El Chapo, or “Shorty.” He also goes by “Speedy” for his ability to get cocaine into the United States quickly.
Another of his nicknames is “The Architect,” for dreaming up the networks of tunnels under the US-Mexico border that allowed him to get narcotics into the United States with ease.
Guzman’s brother is called “El Pollo”, or “The Chicken.” The brother of his main associate within the Sinaloa cartel – now a key witness for the prosecution – is called The King.
Guzman’s Colombian cocaine source? El Chupeta, or Lollipop. His pilot and manager of his dealings in Mexico? Fatty. His right-hand man? The Graduate, because he went to college.
Traffickers also use coded communications: “girls” means airplanes; “wine” is fuel for those planes; “shirts” means cocaine; “documents” means money, one witness – “Fatty,” whose real name is Miguel Angel Martinez, said in a deposition.
If you’re keen to find out more about what the first month covered, the New York Times have a good wrap here.
Just in case you’re romanticising the story of El Chapo and his time as the cartel’s head honcho, you might want to hear more about some of their tactics.
We won’t quote Fox News often, but they spoke with Joshua Fruth, a former military intelligence officer and consultant on transnational threat networks, and he had some hardcore dish to dirt.
He’s surprised that more people aren’t aware of the Sinaloa Cartel’s brutal methods:
Fruth said the cartel’s horrific tactics include the injection of adrenaline and other substances that affect the central nervous system of its victims, “which kept them awake to enhance the responses of pain receptors during slow, prolonged torture.” These tactics are used on women and children, Fruth said, including “family members of rivals or snitches, to elicit information and sow fear. These cartels have a history of sexually assaulting the family members of their target, and forcing the target to observe.”
…There’s beheading by chainsaw – a rumored favored method of Guzmán, who is said to feature in a 2010 video doing exactly that to murder victim Hugo Hernandez. Even worse, Hernandez’s face was reportedly peeled off after he was killed, and stitched on a football.
Then there is the practice of putting people in drums and either boiling them or setting them on fire, or feeding humans to exotic animals like lions and tigers…
According to experts, specialized hitmen have a crucial and increasingly important role within the Sinaloa structure. ”Assassinations are generally carried out by sicarios – professional hitmen,” said Fruth. ”But I surmise it is not uncommon for junior members to be de-sensitized to the violence by showing their loyalty through an initiation that requires the performance of an execution.”
Shudders down the spine stuff.
There’s still plenty to come in El Chapo’s trial, which continues in Brooklyn.
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