El Chapo lived a thousand lives in his 30 years as a Narco trafficker.
The trial of Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán provided the general public with ineffable material, the likes of which would lend itself to a Telenovela of epic proportions. The jury's subjective analysis lasted a bit longer than expected, but in the end, the larger than life figure was found guilty of all 17 counts associated with his criminal dossier.
As you are likely aware, El Chapo was extradited to the U.S. after sitting cross-legged more than a year in his native Mexico - at which point authorities were more than happy to absolve themselves of responsibility. America's "incorruptible" justice system would handle things from there on out, as the Sinaloa steam engine looks to have reconsolidated its ranks without El Chapo at the helm.
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El Chapo was then transported to a properly fortified holding cell in Manhattan while his date in court. And so it began: the Narco trial of the Century. These are but some of the better anecdotes I've come to witness as an obsessive bystander. The World has never seen a kingpin of this magnitude, even with consideration to the grandiose exploits of Carlos Lehder and Pablo Escobar at the height of the Cocaine Boom.
This is perhaps the most gut-wrenching of El Chapo’s administrative decisions as the head of the Sinaloa Cartel. Isaías Valdez Ríos, the final person called to the stand by the prosecution, told the packed courthouse about a prisoner exchange involving El Chapo and his rival Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada, the latter delivering a member of his fleet as collateral in a sticky situation taking place either in 2006 or 2007 - he wasn’t too sure.
El Chapo, who accepted the offer, on indefinable grounds, held the prisoner for several days, interrogated him a few times, then ordered his henchmen to dig up an ad hoc burial site. According to Ríos' testimony, El Chapo would then maim the prisoner with a non-fatal gun wound, while he descended into the grave, gasping for air. Cause of death: live burial.
The Buck Naked Sewer Run
The following anecdote didn’t go unchallenged. El Chapo's former mistress Lucero Guadalupe Sánchez López was forced to revisit unrequited feelings of love and lust as she took the stand. To make matters more awkward, El Chapo’s wife was in the courtroom as Lucero gave her deposition, the plausible tension impossible to overlook, between all three parties: El Chapo, his former mistress, and Emma Coronel Aispuro.
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Lucero was asked to give jurors a play-by-play account of a daring escape she and El Chapo endured in the sewer grates of Culiacan, Sinaloa - parts well known to the kingpin and his mercenaries. As the story goes, Lucero and El Chapo were down to their uglies when the Feds came bustin' down the door, whose presence was captured by Scarface-levels of surveillance technology. So what did he muster as an escape plan? A bathroom enclosure which led to an underground tunnel at the turn of a switch. Before they knew it, the Feds had lost Lucero and El Chapo to Sinaloa's sewer system, without as much as minute to find spare clothing.
The Incredulous Bribes
The figures reported during Jesús Reynaldo "El Rey" Zambada García’s testimony helped the jury better comprehend El Chapo's regime of social and political control. There's really no doubt, El Chapo used bribe money to hush Mexican officials - in fact, it would have been damn near inconceivable for him to pursue a Global Narco agenda without a little monetary push.
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"El Rey" told the members of the court that Genaro García Luna, once the understudy to former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, was indebted to El Chapo to the tune of $6 million dollars in sprawling costs. A few days prior, another key witness named Alex Cifuentes who once served as a close ally to the suspected kingpin, alleged that former President Enrique Peña Nieto was himself guilty of the same matriculations, to the tune of $100 million (not pesos) in total hush money. As James Brown once said, "you’ve got to pay the cost to be the boss." It just so happens, El Chapo paid his dues at a historically high-level.
Spyware & The IT Guy That Got Away
What surprised many Narco-experts during the El Chapo trials, was the level of technological sophistication he operated under. In fact, the tech trail it produced may have inadvertently led to his downfall. Had the Feds not made a turncoat out of El Chapo’s personal IT guy, his inevitable capture, extradition, and subsequent trial, may have come sometime in the future.
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But alas, the Feds caught up with Christian Rodriguez, the Colombian IT expert under El Chapo's wing, by leveraging jail time over his participation in the extradition process. As he Rodriguez stated in court, the parcel tracking devices he concocted were a secondary interest to his boss. El Chapo was far more interested in monitoring his wife and mistresses so as to ensure their "faithfulness."
Anyone in his position would do the same. Therefore, he implanted spyware technology in all of his lover’s phones to monitor their daily perusals, until of course, the functionality of the software became too engrossing for its own good. Before long, over 50 members of his inner-circle were subject to the technology. In its conception, Rodriguez was operating under one simple directive when he created the device: "make it special!"
The Narcos Doppelganger
This courtroom anecdote is less about a determinable act that occurred during El Chapo’s Narco reign, but rather, the strangest of doppelganger experiences. It’s no secret, El Chapo like many other kingpins overcome with power, was/is quite the fan of the NarcoFiction based around his exploits. Even the NarcoReporting based on his criminal activities seems to have hit a positive note, save for the few instances where a journalist crossed a fictional line into upheaval.
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So when the actor who plays El Chapo in Netflix’s Narcos: Mexico decided to enter the courtroom to meet his maker, he was met with quite the reception. According to the actor, it was El Chapo who first made eye contact, holding his gaze for as long as it took to produce the desired look of fright.
"I didn’t smile back. I was just paying respect to him," Alejandro Edda of Narcos: Mexico told the press. "I was shocked in a way. He has a very intense look. His eyes say a lot. He’s a bit intimidating."
For a man standing a modest 5 foot 7 inches, El Chapo certainly carries himself with the confidence of a man who’s never been kicked in the teeth - but looks can be deceiving.