By Ruth Hernández
Cold murders, tortures by order, pistols with diamonds, bribes to officials of Mexico and Colombia, tunnels, trains, planes, ships, boats and even submarines to transport tons of drugs to the US and a life of unbridled luxuries outside the law.
This is the criminal world of the drug cartels of Mexico described by some of its most prominent protagonists, drug traffickers imprisoned or already in freedom with new secret identities that testified these last two months in the process in New York against Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán Loera, the Mexican who led the Sinaloa cartel and faces life in prison.
Extradited two years ago and in rigorous isolation in one of the safest prisons in the country, “El Chapo” has passed two months of trial in Brooklyn court for having sent 150 tons of drugs to the US between 1989 and 2014, of which he declared himself innocent.
The testimonies of former partners or allies, to which the “Chapo” is always attentive in the court, have been drawing the story of a child who had nothing to eat until he became a business man who created a drug empire, with luxurious residences, planes and even his own zoo, but also a man without mercy, according to the accusation of the US Attorney's Office.
“El Rey” Zambada
Jesus "The King" Zambada, imprisoned in the US, was the first important witness of the Prosecutor's Office and is the brother of Ismael "Mayo" Zambada, whom he identified along with “Chapo” as the main leaders of the cartel. "El Rey" administered the cartel in Mexico City and the logistics of transporting the drug from the warehouses to the border.
He worked for the cartel from 1987 until his arrest in 2008, and he told about the beginnings of the “Chapo”, when he was hungry for power and with a handful of men distributed the drug of Colombian cartels.
He assured that El Chapo was always armed and surrounded by men who protected him, and he spoke of millionaire bribes to Mexican authorities in the name of the defendant in order to operate freely in his region and receive cargoes at the airport in Mexico City.
He also linked the “Chapo” with murders of rivals and allies, including Rodolfo Carrillo Fuentes, for allegedly refusing to shake hands in a meeting, or Julio Beltrán Leyva for having disobeyed him in sending a shipment.
Miguel Ángel Martínez, alias "El Tololoche" or "El Gordo", under the US witness protection program, was with “El Chapo” between 1986 and 1998, when he was arrested, first as a pilot and then as a manager. He was his man of confidence with the Colombian cartels.
"El Gordo" programmed and led dozens of flights that transported drugs from Colombia to clandestine airstrips that Guzmán allegedly sent to the United States through tunnels, double bottom trucks, trains and even jalapeño cans.
His former boss, he said, took advantage of the coca boom in the late 80s and early 90s, which produced millions of dollars that he used in a life of opulence with a house on every beach and ranches in every state, but also for fund their war against the Tijuana cartel, after they murdered two friends.
The ex-captain of the Ecuadorian Army Telmo Castro, mentioned as a collaborator of the “Chapo” by this protected witness, was arrested on December 22 in Guayaquil for violating the judicial measures and criteria that allowed his early release.
Juan Carlos Ramírez "El Chupeta", Colombian, imprisoned in the US, the cartel's main supplier of coca, who managed to send up 14 planes to Mexico in one night, and without a doubt, who most shocked by the coldness with which he spoke of the 150 murders that he ordered and the pride he showed for the quality of his drug and his skills, such as suggesting submarines to transport the drug.
Leader of the Norte del Valle cartel until his arrest in 2007, he dubbed Guzmán "The Fast One" for the way he traded his drug from Mexico to the US.
"El ‘Chapo’ asked me to send him 100% pure cocaine, of the highest quality", he said of the beginning of his relations in 1990, which lasted 17 years. The drug arrived from Colombia to clandestine airstrips, a transport that changed and that included shrimp boats, speedboats and even submarines to avoid being detected.
Pedro Flores, prisoner in the USA, in the 2000s was the most important distributor of the drug of the cartel from Chicago, which he became the small Sinaloa along with his twin brother.
In 2008 he turned himself in to the authorities and began cooperating by recording conversations with Guzmán and other cartel members. Two of these conversations were presented by the prosecution at the trial, in which the Mexican is heard negotiating with Flores the price of heroin shipments bound for Chicago.
Jorge Milton Cifuentes, a Colombian extradited to the US in 2013, where he pleaded guilty to drug trafficking, said he sold coca to “Chapo” bought from the FARC. Also that his client wanted to traffic in drugs from Ecuador to Mexico in Pemex oil tankers.
Chapo's defense subtracts credibility to the testimonies and on the first day of the trial unloaded the accusations in the drug trafficker Zambada García, of whom they recalled that "he has never been in prison" despite his criminal life of 40 years since he supposedly paid "to the current and to the past president of Mexico, hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes", in reference to Enrique Peña Nieto and Felipe Calderón.
The defense of the Chapo is led by Ecuadorian-born lawyer Eduardo Balarezo, guarded by interrogation expert William Purpura and New Yorker Jeffrey Lichtman, an expensive team that Chapo must pay despite having the assets seized.