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"El Chapo" in court: Last chapter in the drama about the drug lord?

The trial against "El Chapo" begins under the greatest security precautions. (Pgr / Ho / Prensa International / Prensa Internacional via ZUMA / dpa)

At court hearings, Joaquín Guzmán's first glance always goes directly to his wife, as long as she sits in the hall. Even as his criminal trial begins on Monday, the Mexican drug lord, better known by his nickname "El Chapo," can look for Emma Coronel and their twin twin daughters again. Her emotional support, even with a smile or a quick wave across the room, the defendant uses well these days.

Guzmán is already waiting for two years in the maximum security prison in New York. The facility in the south of Manhattan is said to be tougher than the Guantánamo camp in Cuba. Guzmán spends 24 hours a day in a 15 square meter, windowless cell. There are only exceptions during the week when he is allowed to use a treadmill and a bicycle trainer for one hour each day. Depression and hallucinations are the result, his lawyers warned.

With drug smuggling and other illegal business earned the former head of the Sinaloa cartel, prosecutors billions. In the state of Sinaloa on the west coast sits the heart of the Mexican drug trade, especially marijuana and opium poppy seed for the production of heroin are grown here. Colombia-born cocaine is also being smuggled into the United States by the ton, mainly via Mexico. The Sinaloa Syndicate has long been one of the main suppliers of illegal drugs with the US target, according to the drug agency DEA.

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Guzmán resembles a hunting trophy in the bloody drug war, which continues to rage without him. His worldwide fame is comparable to that of the drug baron Pablo Escobar, who was killed in 1993. The independent Chicago Crime Commission had declared him public enemy number one in 2013 – a title previously only gangster boss Al Capone got. The magazine "Forbes" introduced him to his billionaire list and spoke of the "most powerful drug dealer worldwide".

A dozen prosecutors are now in New York on the case. Also in Chicago, Miami, San Diego on the Mexican border and other federal districts Guzmán was indicted. There, prosecutors had probably already rubbed their hands. But in Brooklyn, in the district of Eastern New York, where the case is now being negotiated, the cumulative knowledge accumulates from a decades-long fight against organized crime.

Guzmán has also made heavy guns. In addition to the lawyers Eduardo Balarezo and William Purpura, he is now also represented by star defender Jeffrey Lichtman. Among his clients was the son of mafia boss John Gotti, which Lichtman has successfully defended in a lawsuit for $ 25 million in securities fraud. The lawyers worked at full speed through 300,000 pages of documents and masses of other evidence.

It was for a long time not clear whether the 61-year-old Guzmán can pay his top lawyers at all. The prosecution had left open whether payments to the defense lawyers would be confiscated. Lichtman was not part of the team because of those concerns. But in August he told the German press agency that the problem with the payment was "finally solved". He does not name details. Of an estimated $ 14 billion (12.2 billion) from alleged drug trafficking, the US authorities continue to lack every trace.

Of all the circus around one of the biggest drug-making processes in American history, Judge Brian Cogan does not impress. With a steady hand, he has led the preparations for the procedure, which will officially begin after the kick-off with the jury's selection on November 5 in the following week with the opening remarks and then take about three or four months. If convicted, Guzmán faces life imprisonment. The death penalty, which is still legal under federal law in the United States, is ruled out, as had been agreed by Mexico and the United States upon delivery.

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Twelve jurors are now to decide on Guzmán's fate, completely shielded from the press and the public. Their names and faces should remain secret. Guzmán's violence is too great after he allegedly murdered, assaulted and abducted hundreds of people, says Judge Cogan.

The public prosecutor's office has appointed 16 witnesses – presumably former partners, friends and supporters of Guzmán. Among them is Dámaso López, who had succeeded Guzmán. He is called "Licenciado" (The Academician) because of his law studies with nicknames. After being handed over to the US in July, he and investigators agreed to cooperate with them.

In 2001 and 2015 Guzmán had succeeded in spectacular jailbreaking in Mexico, now it could be in his drama for the time being last act. "He's ready for the trial, he's in good spirits and he knows what he's facing," attorney Balarezo said. The odds that the US will put him behind bars as a live trophy are good. Illegal drugs continue to flow into the country. And the slaughter south of the border continues. (AP)



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