For almost two years, Joaquin „El Chapo“ Guzman in the high security prison in New York has been waiting for this, now the trial against the Mexican drug lord and multiple prison breakers has started. The prosecution accused him in her opening speech a „bloody war“ before. The defense drew a completely different picture – and also caused a stir in Mexico.
According to the prosecutor, Guzman kept a „huge drug smuggling empire“ running for decades and using violent violence. Hundreds of people were involved in this cartel, but „El Chapo“ was a boss who took matters into his own hands, said prosecutor Adam Fels on Tuesday (local time) in New York. He gave the opening statement as the prelude to the mammoth trial of the once mightiest drug lord in the world.
If „El Chapo“ wanted to get rid of someone, he had asked hired killers or shot himself, said prosecutor Fels further. The US government seized so much cocaine from Guzman’s empire that theoretically it could give a pinch to every US citizen – more than 300 million people.
Defense is counterattacking
The defense rejected the allegations. Guzman is portrayed as the largest drug trafficker in world history, but that is „not true,“ said attorney Jeffrey Lichtman. His client had enjoyed the spotlight, but in reality „nothing controlled“. The real boss of the cartel was Guzman’s former partner Ismael „El Mayo“ Zambada.
Zambada has also paid the former and current presidents of Mexico millions in kickbacks so that they do not interfere with the cartel’s business. „Mayo can make sure people are arrested and that the Mexican army and police kill whoever he wants.“ His client Guzman, on the other hand, is just the „scapegoat,“ Lichtman said. „Why does the Mexican government need a scapegoat? Because she gets too much money by being bribed by the heads of the drug cartels. „
Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto rejected the charges immediately. The Government of Pena Nieto „has persecuted, caught and extradited the criminal Joaquin Guzman. His lawyer’s claims are completely false and defamatory, „wrote Mexican spokesman Eduardo Sanchez on Twitter. Mexico’s ex-president Felipe Calderon also rejected the allegations. „Neither he nor the Sinaloa cartel nor anyone else has made payments to me,“ he wrote on Twitter.
Big rush and a terrified witness
The trial began on Tuesday under the strictest security measures in New York’s Brooklyn neighborhood. In the pouring rain, dozens of reporters and onlookers had approached the court very early to get a seat in the hall. The opening speeches had initially been delayed because two of the twelve jury members selected last week had to be replaced.
One woman wrote in a letter to the judge that she was too nervous to attend the trial. The „New York Post“ wrote of a „fearful and agitated“ jury, who had confirmed by a certificate that they could not participate in the process. Another member of the jury had stated that he was working independently and that the loss of earnings during the trial period was too high. The jury members are to remain anonymous for their own safety by order of the judge.
Long list of charges
Guzman followed the process kick-off with Spanish interpreting in the ear and stoic expression from the dock, dressed in a dark blue suit. His wife, former beauty queen Emma Coronel, also came to the courtroom. Judge Brian Cogan had previously forbidden Guzman to hug her.
The US judiciary accuses the Guzman, for example, because of his height of just over 1.60 meters „El Chapo“ (the short) mentioned drug trafficking, money laundering and leading a criminal organization – the Mexican drug cartel Sinaloa – before. He is said to have smuggled tons of cocaine and heroin into the United States, making billions. He should also be responsible for up to 3,000 murders.
Death penalty excluded
Judging by Judge Cogan, it may take several months to reach a verdict. If convicted, Guzman faces a life sentence. The death penalty is barred according to an agreement between Mexico and the United States.
Since his delivery to the United States in January 2017, Guzman is sitting in a high-security prison in Manhattan. In Mexico, the drug lord had previously achieved several spectacular prison outbreaks. The Brooklyn Court is considered an institution in the fight against organized crime. However, the drug war in Mexico continues to rage without „El Chapo“.