Since early November, federal prosecutors have been doing their greatest to show to a jury that Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera is responsible of operating a decades-long, multibillion-dollar conspiracy to traffick and distribute narcotics throughout North America.
Over the course of two months, the federal government has introduced ahead witness after witness to explain how they labored with Guzmán to deliver medicine to the USA by aircraft, practice, and vehicle (together with boats, submarines, tunnels, and hidden in pepper cans). The parade of cooperating witnesses has included a confessed mass assassin who disfigured himself to evade seize, a former drug lord who spent greater than a decade snorting as much as 4 grams of cocaine a day, and a trafficker who as soon as had a lot money mendacity round that he purchased a soccer staff
To assist readers maintain monitor of what’s occurred as far as the trial resumes after a vacation break, here’s a roundup the necessary gamers.
The Alleged Kingpin
Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera
Captured in 2016 and extradited to america in 2017
Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera, 61, is the star of the present. Born in a rural group in the Mexican state of Sinaloa referred to as La Tuna, Guzmán acquired his begin as a employed gun for the Guadalajara Cartel, Mexico’s first main, unified drug-trafficking group, earlier than branching out on his personal.
Guzmán first turned extensively recognized in 1993, after a shootout between him and the henchmen of rival drug lords left a Mexican archbishop lifeless, and he was captured a number of months later. He escaped jail in 2001, fleeing to his stronghold in a mountainous area between Sinaloa and Durango referred to as the Golden Triangle, and for the subsequent 13 years he continued to run the present, based on prosecutors. He was captured as soon as extra in 2014, after a joint process drive of a number of U.S. businesses working with Mexican marines tracked him down in the town of Mazatlán, however in 2015 he as soon as once more managed to flee jail, this time remaining free for lower than a yr. He was lastly extradited to the USA in early 2017, and now faces a 17-count indictment that would put him behind bars for all times.
In testimony from cooperating witnesses, a portrait has emerged of a sensitive, controlling man unafraid to make use of violence to implement his will. Based on one witness, Guzmán as soon as had a rival drug lord killed for refusing to shake his hand, and in courtroom paperwork prosecutors have accused him of getting a task in tons of of deaths, and have stated they might show to jurors that he personally ordered greater than 30 murders in his time.
Opposite to the legend surrounding him and to the case being made by prosecutors, his protection workforce says El Chapo is being arrange, a sufferer of corrupt drug warriors trying to put a simple face on the drug commerce. To date they’ve attacked the credibility of the witnesses, and tried each time attainable to spotlight corruption on the coronary heart of the Mexican state.
The At-Giant Affiliate
Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada García
Nonetheless at giant. Rumored to be the chief of the Sinaloa Cartel
Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada is seemingly the present chief of the Sinalo Cartel, and for many years labored intently with El Chapo, whilst different alliances with the cartel broke down in greed and bloodshed. Like Guzmán, he was born in Sinaloa and is believed to have gotten his begin working beneath Miguel Ángel Felix Gallardo, the godfather of recent Mexican drug trafficking. Gallardo’s cartel, generally known as The Federation, was a precursor to the Sinaloa Cartel and its allies-turned-rivals, the Juarez and Tijuana cartels.
El Mayo has featured extensively on the trial, largely because of the protection group, which from the start has tried to place Zambada because the true kingpin of the Sinaloa Cartel. In his opening arguments, protection lawyer Jeffrey Lichtman repeated his identify like an incantation, and painted an image of a person so highly effective, so expert at bribery, that the Mexican authorities would go away him untouched and the federal authorities of the USA would ignore him in favor of Guzmán. “The U.S. government pretends to want [Zambada]…. But somehow they still can’t seem to develop the information required to lead to his arrest,” he stated on November 13th. “The bottom line is that the world is focusing on this mythical El Chapo figure. The world is not focusing on Mayo Zambada, to allow him to remain free and in business.”
Zambada definitely has an in depth bribery community in place to make sure clean operations, however so did Guzmán. The reason for Guzmán’s incarceration and Zambada’s freedom is probably going a bit extra prosaic: Whereas El Chapo appeared to revel in his notoriety, Zambada has all the time stored a decrease profile, in response to Derek Maltz, who was agent in cost of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s particular operations division on the time of El Chapo’s arrest in the Mexican seashore resort metropolis of Mazatlán in 2014.
“Chapo was way more the face of the Sinaloa Cartel,” Maltz tells Rolling Stone. “El Mayo is a little bit older, and wiser, and much more professional in the way he’s dealt with his role as a leader. He sat in the background and made his billions in a different way, but to say that [Zambada] was the sole head during that period? No, it was a business partnership.”
If the totally different fates of Zambada and Guzmán are in reality the results of high-level corruption amongst Mexican and American officers, it’s unlikely to return out a lot at El Chapo’s trial. Decide Brian M. Cogan, who’s presiding over the trial, has stored a lot of the proceedings underneath strict secrecy, shifting to dam many topics and features of questioning from reaching the ears of the jury in the identify of streamlining the trial and protecting it targeted on the alleged crimes of Guzmán.
Whereas El Mayo stays free, a number of members of his household are in United States custody. His brother, Jesus Reynaldo Zambada, was the primary cooperating witness to testify at Guzmán’s trial, and his son, Vicente Zambada Nieble, is predicted to take the stand as nicely.
The Sinaloa Cartel
The Sinaloa Cartel was born from the ashes of the Federation, a community of Mexican drug smugglers led by Miguel Ángel Felíx Gallardo, AKA El Padrino, till 1989. Gallardo revolutionized the Mexican drug commerce by unifying many unbiased traffickers beneath one umbrella in an effort to standardize costs and scale back the sort of preventing that naturally arises from — and is dangerous to — drug trafficking.
When Gallardo was captured by Mexican police in 1989, the Federation started to fracture, as onetime allies jockeyed for energy and quarreled over trafficking routes. The faction of the cartel run by Guzmán and El Mayo turned what’s now referred to as the Sinaloa Cartel, whereas factions based mostly in Tijuana and Juarez, initially allied with Sinaloa, regularly broke off to grow to be their very own organizations. Over time, these teams turned more and more hostile to at least one one other and competitors for territory — and bloodshed over petty slights and totally different strategies — grew extra fierce.
Named for the Mexican state from which most of its leaders hail, the Sinaloa Cartel is reputed to be some of the prolific drug-trafficking organizations of all time. From the late 1980s onward, Guzmán and his associates are accused of smuggling hundreds of tons of cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana and heroin into the USA
Jesús Reynaldo “El Rey” Zambada García
Pleaded responsible to drug trafficking. Awaiting sentencing.
Testified November 14th-20th
Jesús Reynaldo Zambada García, nicknamed “El Rey,” or The King, is a brother of El Mayo, and was tasked with operating his brother’s operations in Mexico Metropolis, managing warehouses, overseeing importation of cocaine from Colombia, doling out bribes to Mexican officers, and protecting the books for the cartel as its accountant.
Zambada, 57, stated he labored for his brother from 1987 till his arrest in 2008, and claims to have labored as a “subleader” in the cartel, coordinating intently with Guzmán. His testimony make clear the deterioration in relations between Guzmán and his former allies in the Tijuana and Juarez cartels, and on El Chapo’s willingness to make use of brutal violence. In as soon as occasion, he informed jurors, Guzmán was so offended when a pacesetter of the Juarez Cartel refused to shake his hand following an tried reconciliation assembly that Guzmán had his sicarios gun down the person and his spouse outdoors a movie show.
However probably the most explosive info got here out in the ultimate minutes of Zambada’s testimony on November 20th, when he informed jurors he had personally delivered hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to the safety chief of former Mexican President Felipe Calderón, together with a prime aide to Mexico’s present president Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador, who took workplace December 1st.
Miguel Ángel Martínez Martínez
Pleaded responsible to drug trafficking, served six years in jail. Presently in witness safety.
Testified November 26th-28th
Of the witnesses who’ve testified up to now, Miguel Angel Martinez, generally known as “El Gordo,” who stated he started working instantly with El Chapo in 1987, is probably the closest to Guzmán.
Martinez was born in the state of Guanajuato, and after retreating classes in the USA, he started smuggling electronics by air into Mexico, a vocation that gave him an intimate information of the nation’s clandestine flight strips and an excellent in with the Sinaloa Cartel.
He was there in good occasions — together with jaunts to Macau and Las Vegas — and dangerous. Martinez stated he was there with Guzmán as they constructed a scrappy crew of about 25 individuals into what prosecutors say is among the most prolific drug-trafficking organizations of all time.
The one-time pilot described how the cartel moved tons of cocaine via a tunnel between Aguas Prieta, Mexico and Douglas, Arizona, earlier than shifting on to putting it in pretend pepper cans and delivery it north in vans.
He additionally copped to a staggering cocaine habit, typically snorting as a lot as 4 grams a day, a amount that El Chapo’s protection staff seized on in a bid to make him appear unreliable to jurors, at one level dumping out a packet of Splenda to provide jurors an concept of the dimensions of a gram of powder.
Martinez stated he continued to take care of Guzmán’s household even after El Chapo’s first arrest in 1993, however when Martinez himself was busted in 1998, their relationship shortly soured. Afraid that Martinez may speak, El Gordo stated Guzmán tried 3 times to have him killed. Twice, Martinez stated, he was brutally stabbed him in jail. The third time, after a band stood outdoors the jail ominously enjoying one in every of Guzmán’s favourite songs for eight hours straight, two males tossed a hand grenade into Martinez’s cell, however he survived by ducking behind a rest room.
Martinez was launched into the witness safety program in 2007. Like the opposite individuals cooperating towards his former boss, he has each purpose to worry retaliation, so to guard his id, Decide Cogan barred the courtroom sketch artists from rendering his picture with any recognizable options. Nonetheless, Martinez stated that given the earlier makes an attempt on his life, it scared him to return nose to nose with Guzmán all these years later.
“When I was fighting my extradition, I never mentioned him,” he stated. “I never failed him, I never stole from him, I never betrayed him. I watched over his family. And the only thing I ever received from him was four attempted attacks against me without saying anything.”
Juan Carlos “Chupeta” Abadía
Pleaded responsible to drug trafficking. Awaiting sentencing.
Testified November 28th-December 4th
Juan Carlos Ramírez Abadía, often known as “Cupeta,” or Lollypop, is a Colombian drug trafficker and a former chief of the North Valley Cartel, which turned probably the most highly effective cartel in the nation after the demise of the Medellín and Cali cartels.
Ramírez, 57, rose by way of the ranks of Colombian drug trafficking in the 1980s, in half because of his meticulous organizational expertise and in half because of his utter ruthlessness. This man has a bodycount: in line with Chupeta, he has ordered the deaths of 150 individuals, and personally executed one individual by capturing them in the face. In a single notably grisly incident, he described luring a cartel rival to considered one of his properties, the place Chupeta and his males butchered the rival and his safety element in a hail of gunfire. Once they have been achieved, they drove to a fuel station down the street the place the rival’s backup squad was ready and murdered them as properly.
Along with being prepared to spill blood, Chupeta additionally scrupulously stored monitor of the cocaine shipments he despatched to to El Chapo, and in courtroom he painstakingly detailed his digital ledgers, which included info on the price of gasoline, the quantity of cocaine being shipped, repairs to boats, and what he stated was cash allotted for contract killings.
Based on Ramírez, he labored for almost 20 years with El Chapo, who he gave 40 % of each cocaine cargo in change for Guzmán’s swift smuggling routes and pull with the Mexican authorities on the Sinaloa Cartel’s payroll.
Ramírez — who as a result of a medical problem confirmed as much as courtroom sporting a puffy jacket and gloves — can also be disfigured, because of a collection of botched plastic surgical procedures that he received to vary his look whereas on the lam.
German “El Barbas” Rosero
Pleaded responsible to drug trafficking. Awaiting sentencing
Testified December 4th-Fifth
German Rosero, nicknamed “El Barbas,” or The Beard, labored as a liaison between Chupeta’s North Valley Cartel and the Sinaloa Cartel, from 1998 to 2006, overseeing cocaine shipments and, in response to him, “making sure the Mexicans weren’t drunk.”
In contrast to El Chapo and lots of of his cohorts, Rosero was not a narco lifer. Till the early 1990s, he labored as a public defender in Bogotá, Colombia, however in 1991, after somebody threatened his life, Rosero wanted safety. He turned to an previous school classmate who additionally occurred to be a high-ranking member of the North Valley Cartel and an in depth affiliate of Chupeta, and commenced doing authorized work for the cartel, buying properties, and serving to out individuals who had been arrested. Over time he started to take a extra lively position in smuggling, and commenced a key determine in ensuring Colombian coke obtained into Mexican arms and, ultimately, American bloodstreams.
Rosero stated he received sick of the risks of the job, and in 2008 he voluntarily surrendered to American authorities.
Tirso “El Futbolista” Martinez Sanchez
Pleaded responsible to drug trafficking. Awaiting sentencing
Testified December 10th
Tirso Martinez Sanchez, often known as “El Futbolista,” is a former drug lord who operated a classy smuggling community in the USA that included delivery cocaine on freight trains to Chicago and New York.
Martinez described how he grew up dirt-poor with 12 siblings and an alcoholic father in Guadalajara, Mexico, and hustled from a younger age, promoting fruit on the road, washing automobiles, and dealing at a seafood stand. When he was 18, he moved to Los Angeles, the place he acquired his begin in the drug commerce flipping grams of cocaine on the road, earlier than shifting on to whiter pastures and shifting tons of of kilos of cocaine in cargo vans.
Regardless of ultimately shifting again to Mexico for good when L.A. received too scorching, Martínez continued to supervise smuggling of cocaine to warehouses in Chicago and New York, graduating from vans to freight trains in 1997, he advised jurors.
Martinez ran the practice routes for about six years, and for some time he lived giant — he estimated he made $15 or $20 million working for the Sinaloa Cartel — and invested a few of his cash in soccer groups in Mexico. However in 2002 and 2003, after cops raided his warehouses in New York and Chicago 3 times, confiscating about $100 million value of cocaine, he acquired nervous and ghosted on his former bosses, he stated.
El Futbolista was lastly arrested in 2014, and extradited to the USA, the place he pleaded responsible to costs of drug trafficking and cash laundering.
Jorge Milton Cifuentes Villa
Pleaded responsible to drug trafficking and cash laundering
Testified December 11th-13th and December 17th
Jorge Cifuentes, 52, was born in Medellín, Colómbia, and grew up in a household of drug traffickers, telling jurors that he began making cocaine “from a young age.”
By the mid-1990s, he was dwelling in Texas and he and a companion have been making hundreds of thousands of dollars smuggling cocaine into the nation, working with each the North Valley Cartel and El Mayo of the Sinaloa Cartel. In 1998, his companion, a person nicknamed “Roba Chivas” or “The Goat Thief,” was murdered by El Mayo, however that didn’t cease Cifuentes from persevering with to work with Sinaloa, and he quickly started working intently with El Chapo to coordinate shipments of cocaine from Colómbia, via Ecuador, and on to Mexico.
Issues went pretty easily for Cifuentes for years, however in late 2008 and early 2009 — thanks, he stated, to strain from Guzmán to maneuver cocaine with out taking sufficient precautions — two consecutive six-ton a great deal of cocaine have been seized, first in worldwide waters after which at warehouses in Ecuador.
Along with his enterprise smuggling cocaine, Cifuentes had investments in cattle, mining, gasoline distribution and reforesting companies, in addition to a scheme to create carbon-credits in the Amazon that he would award to his personal corporations. After the disastrous collection of cocaine seizures, Cifuentes stated, “I didn’t want to know anymore about drug trafficking with Don Joaquín.” In contrast to cocaine smuggling, nevertheless, few of his different ventures have been worthwhile. In 2012, police in Venezuela caught up with him, and he was extradited to the USA in 2013.
Pedro and Margarito Flores
Sentenced to 14 years for drug trafficking
Pedro Flores testified Dec. 17-19.
Pedro and Margarito Flores are equivalent twin brothers from Chicago who started working in the drug commerce with their father from a younger age. By the early 2000s, that they had established themselves as a few of the largest wholesale drug distributors in Chicago, and in 2005, they linked up with El Chapo and the Sinaloa Cartel, shifting their headquarters to Mexico however nonetheless cornering a lot of the market in Chicago from afar.
From 2005 till 2008, they turned a few of the most dependable distributors beneath Guzmán’s umbrella, shifting a mean of 1,000-1,500 kilos of cocaine by means of their Chicago hub per thirty days, in response to courtroom paperwork. However in 2008, the brothers and their households started to get spooked, particularly as a struggle started to flare up between Guzmán and a rival cartel faction, a warfare that put the Flores brothers in the crossfire. In order that yr, Pedro Flores advised jurors, he approached the DEA and provided to assist them make a case towards Guzmán, recording telephone calls with Guzmán and his lieutenants and tipping authorities off to a number of main cocaine and heroin shipments.
In November of 2008, the brothers turned themselves in to American authorities and moved their households again to america. However they quickly paid a heavy worth for his or her cooperation: in early 2009, their father returned to Mexico to deal with some enterprise, and inside days he had been disappeared, with a observe left on his automotive making it clear his abduction was retaliation for the brothers’ betrayal of the cartel.
The Flores twins have been sentenced in 2015 to only 14 years in jail, a reward for the knowledge they offered that has thus far put dozens of their former associates behind bars.