Shocking revelations made during El Chapo's trial

The infamous gangster’s personal life and business dealings have become public during his trial in New York

Shocking revelations made during El Chapo's trial
El Chapo Guzmán could be sentenced to life in prison - Photo: Rebecca Blackwell/AP
English 27/01/2019 12:48 Reuters Mexico City Brendan Pierson, Daina Beth Solomon Actualizada 12:48

On a typical day, Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán would wake at noon and make calls while strolling in the mountains in Sinaloa, where he was in hiding, a witness recently testified at the kingpin’s trial.

The infamous gangster’s personal life and business dealings have become public since mid-November at a courthouse in New York, where Guzmán faces 17 criminal counts and a possible life sentence.

U.S. prosecutors, who say Guzmán amassed a USD $14 billion fortune by bribery, murder, and smuggling drugs, have bolstered their case by calling to the stand law enforcement officers as well as Guzmán’s former associates, including one who says she was his lover and another whose brother was among his top allies.

Here are some of the most colorful stories from the courtroom:

Guzmán personal life

- Guzmán’s voice was “sing-songy” with a “nasally undertone,” said FBI agent Steven Marston. In one recorded call, Guzmán tells an associate, “Don’t be so harsh... take it easy with the police.” The partner responds: “You taught us to be wolves”

- Text messages between Guzmán and his wife, Emma Coronel, often turned to family matters. “Our Kiki is fearless,” Guzmán wrote in one, referring to one of their daughters. “I’m going to give her an AK-47 so she can hang with me.”

- After Coronel said she saw a suspicious car, Guzmán wrote to her, “You go ahead and lead a normal life. That’s it.” Later he reminds her: “Make sure you delete everything after we’re done chatting.”

Guzmán's lovers and business

- Multiple “wives” visited Guzmán when he was hiding in Sinaloa, said Alex Cifuentes, a former close partner.

- Lucero Sánchez Lápez, a former Mexican lawmaker, told jurors she once had a romantic relationship with Guzmán, who sent her to buy and ship marijuana. “I didn’t want for him to mistrust me because I thought he could also hurt me,” she said. “I was confused about my own feelings over him. Sometimes I loved him and sometimes I didn’t.”

- Agustina Cabanillas, a partner of Guzmán’s who called him “love,” set up drug deals by passing information between Guzmán and others. In one message, Cabanillas called Guzmán a “jerk” who was trying to spy on her. “Guess what? I’m smarter than him,” she wrote.

Corruption network

- Guzmán’s Sinaloa Cartel fed bribes, some in the millions of dollars, to Mexican officials at every level, said Jesús Zambada, the brother of Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, who worked alongside El Chapo and is still at large.

- Beneficiaries included a high-ranking police official who gave Guzmán information on police activities “every day,” said Miguel Ángel Martínez, a former cartel manager.

- Guzmán allegedly paid USD $100 million to former President Enrique Peña Nieto, Cifuentes said. Peña Nieto has denied taking any bribes.

- When imprisoned in Mexico in 2016, Guzmán bribed a national prison official USD $2 million to be transferred to a different facility, but the move was unsuccessful.


- After a rival cartel member declined to shake Guzmán’s hand, he ordered the man killed, fueling a war between the cartels, Zambada said.

- When assassins reporting to Guzmán killed a police official who worked for a rival, Zambada said, they lured him out of his house by pretending they had hit his son with a car.

- Guzmán ordered Cifuentes to kill the cartel communications expert after learning he was cooperating with the FBI. But Cifuentes said he was unable to carry out the hit because he did not know the man’s last name.

- When Damazo López Nuñez, a top lieutenant to Guzmán, told his boss that a Mexican mayor wanted them to “remove” a troublesome police officer, Guzmán told him they should do her the favor because the mayor was a favorite for an upcoming state election, López testified. He said Guzmán told him to make the killing look like revenge from a gang member.

- López also said Guzmán’s sons killed a prominent reporter in Sinaloa because he published an article about cartel infighting against their wishes.

- One of Guzmán’s former bodyguards, Isaías Valdéz Ríos, said he watched his boss personally kill three rival cartel members. Guzmán shot one of them and ordered his underlings to bury the man while he was gasping for air. On another occasion, Guzmán tortured two men for hours before shooting them each in the head and ordering their bodies tossed into a flaming pit.

Guzmán's scapes

- During Guzman’s time as a fugitive in Sinaloa, in northern Mexico, his posse lived in “humble pine huts” with tinted windows, satellite televisions and washer-dryers, Cifuentes said. About 50 guards formed three rings around the homes to keep watch.

- Guzmán escaped into a tunnel hidden beneath a bathtub when U.S. agents raided one of his homes in 2014, said Sánchez, his lover. She followed Guzmán, who was completely naked, into the passage, feeling water trickle down her legs. “It was very dark and I was very scared,” she said.

- Guzmán’s wife helped her husband tunnel out of a Mexican prison in 2015 by passing messages to his associates, López testified. She unsuccessfully tried to help him duplicate the escape when he was captured the next year.