‘El Chapo’s’ sons killed Mexican journalist Javier Valdez

Witness López Nuñez also testified against Guzmán's wife, Emma Coronel, who played a key role in plotting her husband's escape from prison in 2015

‘El Chapo’s’ sons killed Mexican journalist Javier Valdez
Guzmán, 61, was extradited to the United States in 2017 and has been on trial since November on charges of trafficking cocaine, heroin and other drugs into the U.S. - Photo: Jane Rosenberg/Reuters
English 24/01/2019 12:52 Newsroom & Agencies Mexico City Brendan Pierson/Reuters & Victor Sancho/EL UNIVERSAL Actualizada 12:52
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Sons of accused Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán murdered a journalist well known for his coverage of drug cartels, a former associate testified at Guzmán’s U.S. trial on Wednesday.

Dámaso López Nuñez, a former top lieutenant to Guzmán, made the accusation in Brooklyn federal court under cross examination by one of Guzmán’s lawyers. The lawyer, Eduardo Balarezo, had asked López whether his own son, Dámaso López Serrano, might have been involved in the May 2017 murder of Javier Valdez.

Valdez, known for his signature straw hat, was the founder of the RioDoce online newspaper and author of the book “Narcoreporting” about the dangers faced by journalists covering Mexico’s drug war. His murder in Culiacán, Sinaloa provoked public outcry about cartel violence. RioDoce reported last year that López Serrano was likely behind the killing.

López said neither he nor his son had anything to do with Valdez’s murder. He testified that Guzmán’s sons killed Valdez for publishing an article about drug cartel infighting against their wishes.

“He disobeyed the direct orders and threats of my friend [Guzmán]’s sons. That’s why they killed him,” he claimed.

According to his testimony,El Licenciadogave a phone interview to Valdez that the sons of ‘El Chapo’ –he only mentioned Alfredo and Iván- found deeply unpleasant. In the interview, he denied a letter that had been broadcast by the Mexican journalist Ciro Gómez Leyva, in which the sons of Guzmán accused López Núñez of ambushing and attempting to murder them. One of Guzmán’s sons, as well as the alleged leader of the Sinaloa cartel, Ismael ‘El Mayo’ Zambada, were wounded in the ambush.

“Since the allegations were false, once the journalist [Javier Valdez] came to me, I saw it as a good opportunity to clear my name. But the sons of my friend didn’t think it was such a good idea,” he explained.

According to the witness, the sons of ‘El Chapo’ threatened the RíoDoce newspaper so that they wouldn’t publish the interview, demanding for a different article –approved by them- to be published instead. Since Valdez failed to comply, they decided to murder him.

The testimony came as a shock to the accused. Upon seeing a blank expression on Guzmán’s face, López added: “Perhaps my buddy [Guzmán] did not know the truth before, but now he does.”

Guzmán, 61, was extradited to the United States in 2017 and has been on trial since November on charges of trafficking cocaine, heroin and other drugs into the U.S. as leader of the Sinaloa Cartel. His lawyers have claimed he was framed by another powerful drug trafficker, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada.

According to media reports, Guzmán has fathered as many as 15 children. López did not say which sons murdered Valdez, but he previously testified that four - Iván, Alfredo, Ovidio and Joaquín - were involved in the cartel.

López, 52, is serving a life sentence in U.S. prison for drug trafficking and has said he is cooperating with prosecutors in hopes of getting his sentence reduced. He has testified that he began working for Guzman in 2001 and is godfather to one of his former boss’ twin daughters.

Earlier on Wednesday, López testified that Guzmán’s wife, Emma Coronel, played a key role in plotting her husband’s 2015 escape from a Mexican prison and tried to help him escape again after he was recaptured the following year.

López told jurors that while Guzmán was held in Mexico’s Altiplano prison in 2014 and 2015, he plotted his boss’ escape with Coronel and Guzmán’s sons, with Coronel passing messages to and from Guzmán.

López said the sons bought a plot of land near the prison from which to tunnel into Guzmán’s cell. Guzmán escaped through the finished tunnel in 2015.

Guzmán was recaptured in January 2016. López said Coronel told him the following month that Guzmán, then at Altiplano, wanted to duplicate his earlier escape.

That plan was thwarted when Guzmán was moved to another prison in Ciudad Juárez, López said, and a $2 million bribe to a national prison official to get him moved back was unsuccessful. López did not identify the bribed official.

Coronel has never been charged with a crime.

When López first stepped up to the witness stand on Tuesday, he looked at Guzmán and bumped his fist to his chest. Asked by one of Guzmán’s lawyers on cross-examination Wednesday why he made the gesture, López answered, “Because I love him.”

Nonetheless, López said, “the circumstances” compelled him to testify.

“I chose to think about my family,” he said.


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