In the test of El Chapo

In the test of El Chapo

Joaquin Archivaldo Guzmán Loera has always made up for his greatness, though his nickname "El Chapo" or Shorty is a lasting reminder of his stubby 5-foot-5-inch frame.

The Little Dragon Lord, 61, made his name as the undisputed king of the unscrupulous Sinaloa cartel. Over the years, his organization has helped shovel thousands of tons of coke, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana into the waiting arms of American consumers. He ruled notoriously with an iron fist and an eye for the smallest detail.

For decades, he led a billion-dollar company, first from his mountainous fortress in the Mexican state of Sinaloa, then after his capture in 1993. After fleeing in 2001, he kept the plane on the run and hid for 13 years in sight. Even after being caught in 2014, he was not detained for long and shocked the world with an outrageous underground escape.

By the time he was drafted back in early 2016 and shipped to the US in 2017, he seemed largely untouchable. Now he is in a difficult situation.

This week, the lawsuit against El Chapo is finally starting in Brooklyn Federal Court. The selection of the jury starts on Monday and the opening of the preliminary arguments for the 12th of November. The study is expected to take two to four months. He is being charged in 17 cases for his role as head of the cartel, including money laundering, firearms and murder conspiracy allegations.

According to court documents showing the government's case against him – and talks with some people who helped him reject him – El Chapo may have taken the last sip.

The trial was repeatedly delayed as Chapo defense lawyers demanded that the trial date be pushed back in light of the evidence gathered by the prosecution. The latest raid came when defense lawyers Brian Cogan complained that at the very last minute about 14,000 pages of new evidence had been filed by previously unnamed cooperating witnesses (who were effectively dragged into the courtroom in 23 court cases) according to the New York Times) justified another delay as it took time to translate it into Spanish for its client and to verify the evidence.

But on Tuesday Cogan finally had enough with both sides, which he accused of annoying him with "panic" phone calls about the case, Reuters said. In a difficult exchange, Cogan urged prosecutors to bring more table than necessary to be necessary to convict him – including the charge of having him involved in at least 33 murders.

"This is a case of drug conspiracy involving murders," Judge Cogan said Times, "I will not let you try a murder conspiracy case involving drugs."

Few Americans know El Chapo Better than Andrew Hogan, the former DEA agent who struck him down in 2014 in Mazatlan, a beach town in the state of Sinaloa.

For Hogan, who carried out his hunt on the kingpin Hunt for El ChapoChapo was always the target, even if he was not always in the agent's immediate field of vision. Even when he and his partner in Mexico and Ecuador made controlled money laundering for the Narzos, he stated that it was known that there was a man at the top of the pyramid: Joaquin Guzmán.

Still, he never saw El Chapo as a white whale. "I never got attached to him or to my goals. It could have been anyone, "says Hogan. "What drove me was hunting, the challenge of capturing this guy. It was not necessarily important to me who Chapo was as a person. Of course, I was interested in how many drugs he put into circulation, but I was not distracted by the man or the legend that made him anybody. "

According to Jack Riley, who worked at the time of the arrest of El Chapo in 2014 as the best policeman of the DEA in Chicago and later reached the agency's number two in Washington, the case against Chapo was a perfect example of cooperation between the various agencies.

"On Chapo had the police and the police who did not talk to each other," says Riley. "When we looked at him, it was clear that we needed to build relationships with our Mexican colleagues and gather information in Mexico and understand how he operated in the US. And that meant that many policemen exchanged information and information. what they had hesitated before. From small police departments to large police departments to DEA, FBI and ICE. "

This collaboration is particularly important given Sinaloa's many sources of revenue, says Riley.

But while he is in solitary confinement in a cell over Manhattan, Guzmán's legacy remains.

Guzmán made a name for himself by developing new ways to bring coke and heroin from the fields of Colombia and Mexico and into the veins of keen customers in the north. Over the years, Chapo transported narcotics in airplanes, trains, trucks and underwater vehicles to the States. He was a pioneer in tunneling under the border, a skill that would later help him out of his cell for high-security prisons in 2015 was a brutal man, but most of all, he innovated with an agility that would make Silicon Valley proud.

Guzmán may not be able to claim the sole credit for heroin removal with fentanyl – it has appeared sporadically over the years – but he certainly had an early hand in popularization, says Riley. An early warning of what was to come now appeared in Chicago in 2006 when suddenly dozens of drug users suddenly overdosed on too much dope that was cut with fentanyl.

In total, more than 1,000 people died in Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and other states during the Fentanyl "outbreak" in the mid-2000s, according to the Alcoholism and Drug Abuse Bureau. The spread of the deadly load followed closely with the distribution network that Chapo had built with Chicago as a hub, and a Mexican attack on a Sinaloa-affiliated drug laboratory set up to manufacture fentanyl helped Chapo's hand on the matter, Riley says

"If you give credit to a man like this, I think his research and development portfolio, the way he thought about things, was ahead of everyone else," says Riley. "He tried to see the market and adjust to it."

Twin brothers Pedro and Margarito Flores, 33, from Chicago, appear before US District Judge Ruben Castillo in the Federal Court in Chicago. Credit: Tom Gianni / AP / REX Shutterstock

Federal prosecutors seem to be preparing a massive body of evidence against Guzmán, including dozens of witnesses and hundreds of thousands of pages of documents detailing his drug empire. In a pre-trial protocol filed last year, the government pledged to link Guzmán with a variety of crimes, including the corruption of Mexican security forces and money laundering on an industrial scale.

In a particularly bloody section, the prosecutors claim that a Sinaloa Sario has specifically equipped a Murder House with plastic wallpapers and a drain specially designed to catch blood from murder victims.

Central to the case is probably the testimony of a pair of bootstrapping drug dealers named Pedro and Margarito Flores, who were born in Chicago and have been under government protection for nearly a decade since they decided to turn El Chapo around and flee the arms of the federal authorities in a dramatic escape that involved a desperate cross-border drive of their families.

Pedro and Margarito Flores, identical twins raised by a father of drug trafficking, built a massive trade network that provided wholesalers with narcotics to traders in Chicago, from where the drugs spread throughout the country.

In an unsealed statement from the grand jury, the brothers calmly describe their trade operations, in which thousands of kilos of coke, heroin, and other drugs were smuggled into trap compartments in truck tractors, and legitimate front companies were created, allowing them drug trafficking via freight trains ,

The twins moved their families to Mexico in 2003 and began working directly with Guzmán's colleagues in 2005. This emerged from the statements of their grand jury and the court files filed by the prosecutors.

Over the years, she and her wives – who had published a book about their lives as "cartel women" last year – began to fear the violence that was associated with Chapo, especially as the war between Guzmán and his rivals became violent.

In spring 2008, the brothers pledged their full cooperation with the government, engaging in numerous talks with Sinaloa lieutenants and setting up a handful of drug trafficking to be seized by the authorities.

In November 2008, they finally fled Mexico for witness protection, leaving millions of dollars in cash, cars and property, prosecutors said.

In an interview with Rolling StoneMia and Olivia Flores, the wives of Pedro and Margarito Jr., say that the glamor of living tall in Mexico lost its luster as the potential danger became more apparent.

"It's very easy to become dependent on this lifestyle, but it's not worth it," says Olivia Flores.

In addition to the millions they have left behind in Mexico and the promise of living a life in witness protection looking for cartel scenarios after their release, the Flores twins have already paid a high price: their father, Margarito Flores Sr., disappeared In Mexico, days after crossing the country in 2009. According to court documents, his car was abandoned in Sinaloa and given a note attributing his father's disappearance to his sons' actions.

The damage to the Chapo network was already done. According to a government-issued condemnation note stating why the Flores twins should be sentenced to lighter sentences than the usual high-ranking drug traffickers, the brother's testimony has led to dozens of traders, sicaria, traffickers and street bosses Accused or arrested were from Chicago to the mountains of Sinaloa.

"I know our husbands harm the drug trade, and although people will be replaced, no one will be Chapo Guzmán," says Olivia Flores. "Nobody will be bigger than him."

After his extradition to the United States Guzmán was initially represented by taxpayer-funded federal defense lawyers, the big league of public defenders. From fall 2017, he started putting together a dream team for a lawyer from Narco lawyers. He started with Angel Eduardo Balarezo, an Ecuadorian-American lawyer who had previously represented Chapo's allied opponent, Alfredo Beltran-Leyva. (Beltrán-Leyva pleaded guilty to international drug-abuse charges in 2016 and was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2017). To Balarezo comes Jeffrey Lichtman, the "Teflon Don" -Mobboss John Gotti jr. Represented.

Even with a team of battle-tested lawyers, it's hard to see how Guzmán can get out of here. Thousands of miles from its base in the mountains of the Sierra Madre, who were held in solitary confinement 23 hours a day in a heavily fortified federal area of ​​Manhattan, the chances of another daring escape are slim.

His lawyers are tasked with defending a man whose decade-long run as chief drug lord is not only general knowledge but is also detailed on hundreds of thousands of prosecutors' evidence and supported by key contributing witnesses.

Guzman's legal team has indicated that they intend to challenge the government's classification as their ultimate drug-lord. After his first appearance in this case, Lichtman spoke with reporters and accused the prosecutor of running wild with a popular image of El Chapo that is not reality. "This is a mythical character that they want to say is the only drug dealer in the world," Lichtman told Brooklyn Court in September New York Post.

Regardless of the lawyers' strategy, according to Riley, who is not involved in prosecuting the case, they have work for them.

"It's extremely difficult for a defense team to put together a coherent case with so much evidence," he says. "They will set up a typical Narco defense. They hire high-priced lawyers [who will] Try to beat the government in whatever they can, and to apply for anything they can. They turn against anything they can refuse, knowing full well that he's in jail after the trial. "

But Hogan, the DEA agent who dragged Guzman out of bed in the morning in a garage in Mazatlán on the morning of Mexican marines, warns him against underestimating El Chapo.

"He's where he belongs, but you can guarantee he's thinking about the next step," says Hogan. "I do not know what that is. But his mind is always running. "

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