Saturday, February 16, 2019

El Chapo’s final chapter


From my fave Journalist republished from Tortoise Media


What? The trial of the man who may have smuggled more drugs into the United States than anyone else in history is coming to an end. Why? His trial – and life – had a dark glamour to it. The life he led was murderous.

By Ioan Grillo

The main attraction at the federal court in Brooklyn over the past three months has been the chance to get within a few feet of the man they call El Chapo – real name Joaquin Guzman. He is the drug lord whose tales of prison escapes and smuggling tunnels have made him the dark star of his universe. Journalists, fans and tourists have been arriving from as early as 2am in sub-zero temperatures to get in line. On a typical day, only the first 25 or so would make it into the courtroom to see him in the flesh. The next 40 would find space in an overflow room and watch proceedings on TV. The rest were turned away.

Prosecutors claimed Guzman’s Sinaloa Cartel has made $14bn trafficking cocaine, marijuana, heroin and crystal meth to Americans – making this, by their estimate, the biggest narcotics trial in US history. After they had called an overkill of 56 witnesses, including 14 of the kingpin’s former cohorts, and played wiretapped calls and videos, the defence scarcely bothered to mount a rebuttal. Barring an extraordinary rebellion by the jury, Guzman is expected to spend the rest of his life in one of America’s harshest prisons.

For me, being in the court for some of the trial conjured mixed emotions. Like everyone else, I got a rush from being so close to the man in the dock. He looked remarkably relaxed. His voice and body language were identical to that of a cousin of his I had met when I went to Guzman’s home of La Tuna, a rugged village in Mexico’s Sierra Madre mountains. They both spoke in a singsong tone and had wide, active eyes that seemed to show an innate intelligence beneath their folksy, campesino manners. They were both short and stocky, the reason for Guzman’s El Chapo nickname, which most translate as “Shorty”.

I wondered why Guzman even went to trial, rather than plead guilty, when he seemed to have so little hope of winning. Most Latin American traffickers, including those who testified against him, make deals to shave off time, or get softer prison terms in exchange for testimony. Guzman acts like a showman and I wondered if he wanted to put on a show for the world. But his defence lawyer Eduardo Balarezo, told me otherwise. “He had nothing to lose,” Balarezo said. “He wasn’t offered any kind of deal.”

One day, a builder and his wife sat next to me in court, having flown all the way from San Francisco for the spectacle. Julio and Carmen Valencia were staring and starstruck. They were originally from drug producing areas of Mexico and echoed what many there said about Guzman, that he was a Robin Hood figure who gave to the poor. “He helps many people. He gives them work, pays for roads,” Julio said. “He is not an idol. But he is from our land.”

I had been hearing Guzman’s name since I began reporting in Mexico as a hungry young journalist in 2001, the year he escaped from a high security prison in a laundry cart. Over my 18 years of covering Latin America, the legend of Guzman grew and grew.

Mexico City newsstand after conviction 

That legend could be both wild and comical, as testimony from the cooperating witnesses at his trial showed. A former lover, Lucero Sanchez, recalled a time Guzman jumped out of bed and fled naked into a tunnel to evade capture. Federal agents described how he trucked cocaine into the United States in cans of chili peppers, getting Colombian suppliers to package the drugs in tubes rather than the usual bricks.

A video of Guzman was played to the court that had been addressed to the actor Sean Penn and the Mexican soap star Kate del Castillo, and published by Rolling Stone. The three had met in the mountains when he was on the run and had their picture taken together. It shows Guzman serene in a flashy blue shirt, and Penn and Del Castillo on either side with goofy grins.

In the video, Guzman says the tradition of producing narcotics was passed to him by his ancestors and he got involved when he was 15. That would have been in the early 1970s, just as Richard Nixon declared the war on drugs. “The way… to be able to buy food, to survive, is to grow [opium] poppy and marijuana, and from that age I began to grow it, to harvest it, and to sell it,” he told the camera. (The court barely heard him talk in person, since he declined to speak in his defence.)

Such tales have spawned immense TV interest, which has in turn spread his story to a global audience. There are now multiple El Chapo documentaries and two Netflix dramatisations, El Chapo and Narcos. When the actor who plays him in the latter came into the court, Guzman looked over and smiled.

Some of the American news coverage reflected this fascination with the exotic and surreal. A TV reporter at the trial told me it all provided light relief from the divisive political issues that dominate US media in the Trump era.

But, watching the trial, mostly I felt sad. Putting aside the wild stories and the entertainment, the drug war in Mexico has been a humanitarian catastrophe. In the last decade, the nation has suffered more than 200,000 murders, most believed to be at the hands of drug cartel hitmen, known as sicarios, working alongside the police and soldiers who are assigned to fight them but too often work with them. (The court heard how the Sinaloa Cartel would bribe Mexican officials at every level, right up to a president.)

Witnesses described how Guzman personally took part in murders. Many other killings were carried out in his name. At one scene in Nuevo Laredo in 2012, there were 14 bodies hung from meat hooks, along with a note signed: “Attentively, Chapo. Remember I am your real daddy.”

Perhaps most importantly, Guzman was a key player in escalating the armed conflict in Mexico, which caused wider devastation. He could be seen as a war criminal if it were to be understood as a war. From the early 2000s, his Sinaloa Cartel battled a rival crime group called the Zetas, who were led by Mexican special forces defectors. The Sinaloa Cartel responded by transforming its own sicarios into paramilitary units, equipped with assault riles and grenade launchers.

Guzman’s ambitions led these death squads into some of the bloodiest battles of all, in the border cities of Nuevo Laredo, Ciudad Juarez, Tijuana and in his own home state of Sinaloa. What had been a story of cops and criminals became a story of real armed conflict with massacres, mass graves and refugees.

As I reported on this bloodshed, I saw things that I could never have imagined. First, it was the corpses on the street, ripped apart by bullets from ambushers who would spray upwards of 500 rounds into their prey. Then it was bodies that were mutilated, decapitated. The numbers kept increasing, as if the cartels were raising the stakes at poker and nobody would pull out. In 2012, I found myself in a morgue in Monterrey with 49 bodies that been dumped on a road, all with their heads, hands and feet cut off.

The violence kept on relentlessly. In 2017, I wandered round a mass grave where the body parts of more than 250 people had been unearthed. It ran up to a middle-class housing estate, and when it was being dug up, the families complained of the smell of decaying flesh seeping into their yards.

Perhaps the loved ones of those who disappeared suffer even more than those who have died; they have no closure. Maria de Lourdes Rosales has been searching for five years for her son, a customs worker who was abducted by a group of gunmen. “You live with great pain every day,” she said. “You are missing something in your life, in your heart, in your soul, and your only goal is finding them.”

In total, the Mexican government has records of more than 40,000 people who have disappeared, it revealed this past week.

Since 2000, more than 100 journalists have been murdered in Mexico, including two I have known personally. One of them, Javier Valdez, was an inspiring writer from Guzman’s state of Sinaloa, who generously shared stories of his homeland with me in long drinking sessions in a cantina near the offices of his newspaper. In 2017, he was round the corner from there when gunmen shot him 12 times. One of the witnesses against El Chapo was asked if he was involved in that murder and denied it.

The fact that Guzman has been tried in the United States rather than Mexico has shifted the focus away from this slaughter. After he had escaped from two prisons, the Mexican government recaptured him a third time but conceded it could not hold him, and sent him north. After much debate among the US prosecutors, they decided to focus less on the murders, which happened south of the border, and concentrate instead on the charges of trafficking drugs to Americans.

El Chapo will probably spend the rest of his life in prison so perhaps it doesn’t matter what the charges are. But this has been the most high-profile trial in Mexico’s drug war so far: one might hope for wider, deeper accounting, if only for the record. Then again, a broader trial on the causes of the Mexican bloodbath would have to confront Mexican politicians who have been bribed, American gun dealers who have provided most of the weapons, and international banks that have laundered billions of dollars in drug money.

Perhaps the saddest aspect of the trial is that it hasn’t made a difference. Americans spend about $100bn a year on illegal drugs, according to a 2014 White House survey. There will always be gangsters wanting that money, and the most violent will always get the lion’s share. Last year was a record year for murders in Mexico, while Guzman was in a US cell.

Back in 1993, American agents celebrated when the cocaine king Pablo Escobar was shot dead by a elite unit of Colombian police. In 20 years we could be talking about a new super villain with a funny nickname being killed or tried.


Ismael Zambada García

A final irony is that Guzman might not even be the biggest drug trafficker in Mexico. The defence at his trial argued that the real leader of the Sinaloa Cartel was a trafficker named Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, who is at large, with a $5m bounty from the US government on his head. To counter this, the prosecution said it didn’t matter if Guzman was the supreme head of the cartel as long as he was one of its bosses.

The bottom line is that a host of drug lords from Mexico and Colombia have broken cover or been run to ground in recent years and there is no hard evidence that Guzman is richer than the others. But he became the household name.

Ballads about El Chapo are a genre unto themselves in Mexico. Interest from journalists and filmmakers is never ending. Forbes magazine once put him on its billionaire list, worth exactly $1bn, with no explanation of how it came to that number. Chapo Guzman became the Latin American rebel of the 21st century as Che Guevara had been in the 20th.

With a name so big, American prosecutors felt they had to put on a big show. The upshot: his legend has been burnished with a roaring final chapter. While, south of the Rio Grande, the murderous drug war rages on.

43 comments:

  1. Cartel de Sinaloa. Rhymes with snitches. Lol. - Sol Prendido

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Why are you a lil hater

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    2. U starting to sound dumb af bruh..why chivis puts up with your bs is beyond belief

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    3. Michoacán is the real power Sinaloas are just the poster boys always has and always will be. Con los Tarascos no van a poder. Remember that LA times article of La eMe and the Familia Michoacana

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    4. @9:49

      Give us the link to that article

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    5. http://articles.latimes.com/2013/aug/06/local/la-me-mafia-cartel-20130807

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    6. thats why the article says la familia had to pay for protection to la eme and had to not only pay to do buisness but also give a discount to la eme does that really sound like they got the power?

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    7. @1041 you don’t know anything or how things work like most on this site. There’s a lot of connected paisas from Michoacán whose sons are US born surenos and end up becoming eMe. There’s also a lot of pochos who know what’s up and know their native roots even if they are criminals. Tu no sabes nada mejor shut the fuck up

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    8. @10:41, Most if not all Mexican Cartels are working with a gang from the US. The Cartels supply the drugs at a wholesale level and the Gangs distribute them at a retail level.

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  2. #701 #freeelchapo New Training Additional recruits,New military firepower.New bulletproof vehicles.Animo Sicarios.
    We will continue to enforce and protect the orders of el Senor.

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    Replies
    1. Your a lie and not connected in any way shape or form I advise you to find another pipe dream and stop trying to impress people here on BB , I myself can care less about your bullshit lies, stop trying to include yourself in things you are not involved with and have no connection to what so ever

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    2. Got some german architects on the ready to start digging that tunnel comrade.

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  3. Similar to becoming teary-eyed at the fate of Hannibal Lectur. When someone kills an innocent they are no different than josef stalin or Heinrich Himmler. Monsters. Chapo deserves Hell-On-Earth.

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    1. Or bush,or clinton, or obama,or your supreme leader trump. Is called collateral damage jack ass. Muricans been doing it for ages against poor towns.
      Greetings from the 🇵🇭
      Pinoy brother

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  4. yeah but where's the money?

    https://www.businessinsider.com/el-chapo-guzman-4-billion-the-us-got-now-it-has-to-get-his-12019-2

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    Replies
    1. In a bank it cayman islands. Los menores know where it is

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  5. Government should put less effort on putting on a show and apply justice to all involved in drug trafficking.
    This display of ineptitude justice has been met with uneasiness among many Americans.

    Hopefully an awakening of moral responsibility will come about in the future.

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  6. I remember driving through nuevo Laredo in 2012 but I think chapo didn’t put that manta on the bridge I think it was cdg-carrizales hitting Trevino’s crew

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  7. Cartel de Sinaloa is full of betrayals and snitching and I’m still wondering if el 90 was killed by ctng or just betrayed

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  8. Lmao “ eso Es todo, amigos” Looney toons reference to “that’s all folks “ for those who don’t understand

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  9. Great fkn story.. good job bb fks!!

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  10. Le digo adios a todo mi Sinaloa abordo de carretera...una jaula fria es la que a mi Joaquin me espera...Ya por el filo de la sierra del Triangulo Dorado los pinos se ven llorar...de ver al jefe esposado y que lo llevan a encerar...Adios Señor...y arriba mi Sinaloa...

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  11. A salute to to his final demise where he will live his life in banishment far away from Sinaloa high up in the rockies

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  12. Please read you peasant Final Chapter that means ur bullshit is over too.Go to Florence and wash underwear Punta 💩🐑🐁🐀

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  13. De sicario, time to change criminal Enterprise..he ain't getting out anytime soon. He committed to much crime.

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  14. Puro metal pesado, narco grind, chekalo
    https://youtu.be/QRrq8W4LNuQ

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  15. Chicks,or other users, why do you think Chapo was given up? Dedoute having paid his bribes? Is it that he embaffembar the administration by escaping twice?

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    1. I’ll go with what has Chivis said before. It was probably for his tunnel escape which humiliated EPN.

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  16. Should have gone out like Escobar, instead he's going to suffer for the rest of his life in ADX. And chapo won't be able to see his sons anyway, they are wanted by America and would get arrested trying to enter into the US or trying to enter ADX. Not even government respects snitches, gone out snitching like a chump. "Its not me it's mayo" yet all his music said he was the baddest to come out the vigina lol just saying...

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    1. Both of them for being stupid. One decleared war on its own country the other declared wars on his rivals to take their turfs. El chapo had a chance to disappear into the safety of his state's mountain chains. But chose to meet with a Hollywood star and a c class star from mexico. I dont believe in bringing criminals from other countries and spending millions on trials and confinement. But chapo was asking for it. He cldnt just walk away. Live low key.I read a piece on valortamaulipeco that basically says that by testifying against chapo. Vicente zambada will be a step closer to make it back to mexico sooner than expexted. In turn the zambadas will look after el chapos kids which inherited their fathers business. Interesting take.

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    2. Zambadas will look after chapos kids? Are stupid? Lol good joke..

      At least Escobar didn't bow down in a courtroom crying like a baby after hearing a sentence. That's more respectable than snitching too!!
      But cds fan girls will always have a comeback when it comes to their idol lmao

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    3. Actually if you followed the trial at all you would have come to the conclusion that Chapo didn’t snitch on anyoone

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  17. El chapo will never escape. The Americans have more firepower than any cartel in Mexico. Their technology is far more advanced than is portrayed. If they want you the CIA will eventually find you.

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    1. Wow tell us something we didn’t know 🙄...10

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    2. Are u the american version of 006? At least he is some what funny u just wack and lame.

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  18. Tell that to itza

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  19. They should have put him in Islas Marias, but alas! it's closing

    https://www.sfgate.com/news/world/article/Mexico-to-close-infamous-island-penal-colony-13624982.php

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    Replies
    1. That stupid clown amlo is one dumb mofo

      Delete
    2. @6:18 I would like to see you do better.

      Delete

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