By Helen Cook
“El Chapo”, considered the king of drugs after leading the Sinaloa cartel for a quarter of a century, has been declared by a jury guilty of drug trafficking on Tuesday after nearly 40 court sessions in which more than a dozen of his former employees and associates betrayed his extensive network of operations and his ruthless nature.
There have been heard in the room from cruel murders of members of his own family, collaborators and rival drug traffickers, to details of the transportation and distribution of hundreds of tons of narcotics, or alleged payments of bribes to the highest offices in Mexico, such as the former president of the country Enrique Peña Nieto.
These stories, told by 14 of the former collaborators of Joaquín Guzmán, added to those of 42 other witnesses of the Prosecutor's Office, are what led the jury to reach a conclusion after six days of deliberations.
Born on April 4, 1957 in the town of Badiraguato (Sinaloa, northern Mexico) and nicknamed “The Chapo” because of his short stature, the all-powerful drug emperor is now facing a life sentence, after being guilty of, among other crimes, send hundreds of tons of heroin, cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine to the United States.
Judge Brian Cogan is going to take four months to decide the final sentence, for which he has summoned the court on June 25.
The capo grew up in a poor family on a ranch known as La Tuna, and started in the drug world at age of 15 when he began to sow and sell marijuana and opium, "the only way to have money to buy food and survive", he said in his famous interview with actor Sean Penn.
But the criminal record for which he was convicted would not begin until the eighties, as lieutenant and confidant of Miguel Ángel Félix-Gallardo, "El Padrino", founder of the first cartel in Guadalajara (Mexico).
Then, without much study, “El Chapo” designed a strategy to transport cocaine and marijuana from Colombia to the United States in airplanes, which made the trip back to Mexico loaded with dollars.
In the decade of the nineties, with the arrest in 1989 of Félix-Gallardo, “El Chapo” decided to go free and create the Sinaloa cartel, which fought against its rivals to take control of drug trafficking in Guadalajara and that since the beginning of the ninety transported the drug between the United States and Mexico through tunnels.
Known and admired for his eccentric life of luxury, Guzmán amassed such popularity in his region that he became the protagonist of dozens of songs, which did not prevent him from being arrested for the first time in 1993 and sentenced to 20 years in prison, from where he remained in charge of the cartel.
The power and money monopolized by the Mexican emperor of drugs led Time magazine to place him in 2009 among the 100 most influential people on the planet and to the publication Forbes to include him from 2012 in the list of the richest people in the world.
Later, he jumped to international fame with the television series that Netflix dedicated to him, in which he recounts his rise and fall as a trafficker, in addition to his scandalous prison escapes.
The first, that of the Puente Grande prison on January 19, 2001, and the second and most well-known one, of the El Altiplano prison on July 11, 2015, from where he emerged through a tunnel that was accessed from his own cell.
His latest arrest, which culminated in his extradition to the United States in January 2017, has already led him to spend two years in an isolation unit of the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, where the strict conditions of his confinement have paradoxically given him still more visibility.
And it is that the US authorities have imposed a large number of measures to prevent the narco from exposing his security forces, as he did with the Mexicans ones.
Since his arrival in New York, Chapo's lawyers have filed several formal complaints before the courts, since he has been denied any communication with the outside world, except for his defense and some visits from his seven-year-old twin daughters, although all through a glass.
He is also not allowed to leave the building in which he is confined, so the only chance he has to see the sunlight is during his transfers from prison to court, when he is escorted by a convoy of a dozen police vehicles, whose march also watch helicopters from the air and boats from the river they cross.
The accumulation of circumstances has led to the trial of the capo becoming a tourist attraction in New York, where people moved to attend the trial and see alive and direct the Mexican and his young and striking wife, Emma Coronel, that went to almost all the views.
"Do not let him escape, make him pay for all his crimes, declaring him guilty of all the charges", said prosecutor Andrea Goldbarg in his overwhelming final plea, lasting more than six and a half hours.
A petition to which the 12 members of the jury have responded affirmatively after six days of deliberations, which will leave behind bars the most famous drug lord after the Colombian Pablo Escobar Gaviria, after a long, mediatic and expensive judicial process.