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The son of one of the top leaders of the Sinaloa Cartel testified that former Mexican President Vicente Fox’s chief bodyguard worked for them. The bodyguard was one of several top military figures that received large cash bribes in exchange for favors and information.
The bombshell revelation comes during the testimony of Vicente Zambada Niebla as part of the ongoing drug trafficking trial against Sinaloa Cartel’s boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. As Breitbart News has reported, the ongoing trial has not only provided a glimpse into the inner workings of Mexico’s largest drug cartel, it has also outed several public officials at the highest levels as having worked for the cartel while claiming to be fighting it.

Vicente, the son of Sinaloa Cartel co-leader Ismael El Mayo Zambada, told jurors that his father paid off several Mexican Army generals in order to get them to provide information as well as to get them to fight rival cartels. The cartel heir’s testimony comes as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors in exchange for a lighter sentence.

One of the high ranking military officials outed by Zambada was the chief bodyguard for Mexican President Vicente Fox, Mexico’s Revista Proceso reported. The cartel heir described Colonel Marco Antonio de Leon Adams as a friend of his father. He said that they would call him Chicles or Gum in reference to a popular brand of chewing gum in Mexico.

One of the bombshell incidents took place in 1997 when Vicente Zambada said he walked into the offices of Mexico’s Estado Mayor Presidential (the military branch tasked with protecting the president) and met with the general in charge to complain about investigations into his family. According to testimony reported by Revista Proceso, the cartel heir met with General Roberto Miranda over a series of raids at the business of El Mayo’s wife who the family claimed was not tied to drug trafficking.

During his testimony, Zambada spoke about another corrupt military official who worked for them — retired Army General Humberto Eduardo Antimo Miranda. The general met with Zambada and his father in 2007 and provided information about other generals taking money from Los Zetas and the Beltran Leyva cartels to move against Sinaloa. The cartel heir said the general began working for them in exchange for a $50,000 monthly bribe.

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to clarify that Vicente Zambada Niebla is the son of Sinaloa Cartel co-leader Ismael El Mayo Zambada.

Ildefonso Ortiz is an award-winning journalist with Breitbart Texas. He co-founded the Cartel Chronicles project with Brandon Darby and Stephen K. Bannon.  You can follow him on Twitter and on Facebook. He can be contacted at Iortiz@breitbart.com. 

Brandon Darby is the managing director and editor-in-chief of Breitbart Texas. He co-founded the Cartel Chronicles project with Ildefonso Ortiz and Stephen K. Bannon. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook. He can be contacted at bdarby@breitbart.com.

Border / Cartel ChroniclesCrimeEl Chapo GuzmanJoaquin “El Chapo” Guzman LoeraMexican CorruptionMexican Public Corruptionpublic corruptionSinaloa CartelVicente Fox

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8 hours ago, invisibleman said:

The cartel heir’s testimony comes as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors in exchange for a lighter sentence.

Oh yeah I believe everything this guy says! :D  This guy can say anything he wants since he is getting paid to testify about someone who isn't even there! 

This is worse that Dougie DeCinces who changed his testimony in his insider trading case "in exchange for a lighter sentence."  :shocking:

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3 hours ago, huatulco said:

"in exchange for a lighter sentence."  :shocking:


I'm sure Zambada will also get........a visa.......witness Protection program........but, he will always live looking over his shoulders...........

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"Mr. Zambada’s claims regarding his cooperation with the Americans cannot be mentioned at the trial."

At El Chapo’s Trial, a Son Betrays His Father, and the Cartel

Vicente Zambada Niebla, a former top lieutenant in the Sinaloa cartel, testified on Thursday in the drug trial of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the infamous crime lord known as El Chapo.CreditEduardo Verdugo/Associated Press
Vicente Zambada Niebla, a former top lieutenant in the Sinaloa cartel, testified on Thursday in the drug trial of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the infamous crime lord known as El Chapo.CreditCreditEduardo Verdugo/Associated Press
  • Jan. 3, 2019
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[Read our latest story on Vicente Zambada Niebla’s testimony in the El Chapo trial.]

Aside from the chiefs who ran the organization, probably no one knows more about the Sinaloa drug cartel than Vicente Zambada Niebla.

A son of Ismael Zambada García, one of the cartel’s leaders, Mr. Zambada, from an early age, was groomed to take control of the group.

But on Thursday, in a spectacular reversal, the cartel prince betrayed his father — and his birthright — testifying for more than five hours about nearly every aspect of the drug-trafficking empire: smuggling routes, money-laundering schemes, bloody wars, personal vendettas and multimillion dollars in bribes. When it came to the enterprise he seemed poised to lead one day, Mr. Zambada proved he knew almost everyone and everything.

His bravura turn on the witness stand came at the midway point in the drug trial of his father’s former partner, Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the infamous crime lord known as El Chapo. Since the trial began in November, seven other witnesses who worked with Mr. Guzmán have testified against him. But none were more conversant with the structure and details of the kingpin’s business than Mr. Zambada.


Dressed in dark blue prison clothes, Mr. Zambada walked into Room 8D of Federal District Court in Brooklyn shortly before 10 a.m. on Thursday and immediately flashed Mr. Guzmán a confident smirk. He then bombarded jurors with countless stories of Mr. Guzmán and his father shipping tons of drugs in cars, trains, planes and submarines — even in a truck beneath a load of frozen meat.

Mr. Zambada also testified that his father’s bribery budget was often as much as $1 million a month. An Army general who worked as an official in the Mexican defense department earned a monthly stipend of $50,000 from the cartel, Mr. Zambada recalled. He also said that his father routinely bribed a military officer who once served as a personal guard to Mexico’s former president, Vicente Fox.

His father remains on the United States Drug Enforcement Administration’s most wanted list.

All of this came out in a chaotic ramble as Mr. Zambada jumped from topic to topic, proving himself familiar with both Mr. Guzmán’s business ventures and his personal entourage. He told the jurors stories not only about the drug lord’s operations in Mexico, Honduras and Belize, but also about his suppliers, distributors, bodyguards, assassins, cousins, brothers and sons.

It was an astonishing betrayal from a man who started working for the cartel in his teens. Even at an early age, Mr. Zambada attended meetings with his father, sitting with him at appointments with fellow traffickers and police officials.

“I started realizing how everything was done,” he told the jurors. “And little by little, I started getting involved in my father’s business.”


As years passed, Mr. Zambada said, he rose through the ranks and became his father’s top lieutenant, overseeing cocaine shipments from Colombia to Mexico, and from Mexico across the United States border to cities like Chicago and Los Angeles. At different times, he played numerous and varied roles for the cartel: ambassador, operations manager and messenger boy.

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In 2009, however, Mr. Zambada was arrested during an Army operation in Mexico City and extradited to Chicago. At first, he was expected to be prosecuted there on charges of smuggling tons of drugs while serving as his father’s right-hand man. But before his trial began, his lawyers dropped a bombshell: They claimed that for years he had been working secretly as a spy for the D.E.A., swapping information about his rivals in exchange for the ability to run his business freely.

While American authorities have acknowledged that Mr. Zambada met with federal agents, they have long denied there was any quid pro quo agreement. In a recent ruling, Judge Brian M. Cogan, who is hearing Mr. Guzmán’s case, said that Mr. Zambada’s claims regarding his cooperation with the Americans cannot be mentioned at the trial.

[For The Times’s Alan Feuer, covering the El Chapo trial has been a bit like commuting to a space station. Read more.]

Mr. Zambada ultimately pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges in a secret proceeding in Chicago in 2013. And for the last five years, he has been waiting to appear in court and tell his story.

He did so on Thursday, energetically telling jurors how he once planned to break Mr. Guzmán’s brother out of prison with a helicopter. (The brother, Arturo, was killed before the escape could be attempted.) He also testified that in 2007 he met with a group of “high-level politicians” and representatives from Pemex, Mexico’s national oil company, to discuss a scheme to ship 100 tons of cocaine in a tanker vessel owned by the firm.

But the focus of his testimony on Thursday was his father.

One of the first questions the prosecution asked him was: “What does your dad do for a living?”

There was only one answer.

“My dad is the Sinaloa cartel’s leader,” Mr. Zambada said.

A version of this article appears in print on Jan. 3, 2019, on Page A16 of the New York editionwith the headline: A Son of a Drug Cartel Chief Betrays His Father in Testifying Against El Chapo. 
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El Chapo’s Main Supplier: A Survivor and ‘Hands-On Boss’

Juan Carlos Ramírez Abadía was one of the world’s biggest producers of Colombian cocaine. The photograph on the left shows Mr. Ramírez before his plastic surgeries; the photograph on the right is afterward.CreditUnited States Attorney's Office, Eastern District of New York
Juan Carlos Ramírez Abadía was one of the world’s biggest producers of Colombian cocaine. The photograph on the left shows Mr. Ramírez before his plastic surgeries; the photograph on the right is afterward.CreditCreditUnited States Attorney's Office, Eastern District of New York
  • Dec. 3, 2018

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As one of the world’s biggest producers of Colombian cocaine, Juan Carlos Ramírez Abadía had two main virtues: He was endlessly adaptable and utterly obsessed with the details of his trade.

When the American authorities began using radar planes to track flights of his product into Mexico, Mr. Ramírez simply switched to boats. When he cooked cocaine at laboratories deep in the jungles of Colombia, he frequently made quality-control checks, ensuring that his drugs were of the utmost purity — or “optimum,” he said.

But Mr. Ramírez, a former leader of the North Valley drug cartel, had another claim to fame, he told jurors on Monday: He was the primary supplier to Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the Mexican kingpin known as El Chapo. In his second day as a government witness at Mr. Guzmán’s drug conspiracy trial in Federal District Courtin Brooklyn, Mr. Ramírez detailed his 17-year bond with the defendant, describing it as the central partnership in one of modern history’s most profitable narco-operations.

Known as Chupeta — Spanish slang for Lollipop — Mr. Ramírez presented himself on the stand as a man consumed with the minutiae of his business, recalling how he never failed to debrief his pilots after every run and reviewed each line of the scrupulous accounting ledgers he maintained. Proud to the point of arrogance, he seldom used the word “cocaine” without reminding those in the courtroom that it was his cocaine.


Mr. Ramírez was also deeply fixated on his personal security. Early in his career, he said, after he was arrested in Colombia, he not only bribed officials to let him out of prison, but also paid them to erase every trace of his existence from government records.

Before he was arrested again, in 2007 in Brazil, he altered his entire face with several plastic surgeries. His new mien — narrowed eyes, sharpened chin and severely angled cheekbones — gave him the appearance of a vampire.

Last week, in his first day as a witness in the trial, Mr. Ramírez told the jury that he first met Mr. Guzmán in 1990 in the lobby of a Mexico City hotel. A newcomer to the drug scene, the defendant, Mr. Ramírez recalled, offered to smuggle 4,000 kilograms of cocaine (“Mycocaine,” he said) to Los Angeles from Mexico for 40 percent of the shipment.

That was slightly more than the 37 percent that most Mexican traffickers charged, Mr. Ramírez said. But Mr. Guzmán won him over with a brash, convincing pitch.

“He said, ‘I’m a lot faster,’” Mr. Ramírez recalled. “‘Try me and you’ll see.’”

Thus began a fruitful and enduring alliance that lasted nearly 20 years and led to almost 400 tons of Colombian cocaine being moved to Mexico and shipped across the border into the United States, Mr. Ramírez testified. Initially, the partners used planes to transport their loads to Mr. Guzmán’s secret airstrips in Mexico. Later, they switched to fishing boats, exchanging their cargo in covert meetings on the seas.


The terms of the deal were simple. After the cocaine had passed across the border, Mr. Guzmán took his 40 percent and sold it in the United States, Mr. Ramírez said. Mr. Ramírez’s operatives reclaimed the rest to sell themselves.

The profits were apparently astonishing. From 1990 to 1996, Mr. Ramírez said, Mr. Guzmán made as much $640 million selling his cocaine.

Mr. Ramírez exercised inordinate control over Mr. Guzmán’s business. When the partners switched from air to ocean routes, Mr. Ramírez installed Colombian captains on the Mexican boats and even had one of his employees run the onshore radio that kept in constant contact with the vessels.

“Would it be fair to say you are a hands-on boss?” a prosecutor asked Mr. Ramírez.

“Always,” he replied.

But even such focus was not enough to avoid the occasional disaster.

In the early 1990s, for example, Mr. Ramírez said he sent a fishing boat, filled with 20 tons of cocaine, to the Pacific Ocean to meet a Mexican boat that was owned and operated by Amado Carrillo Fuentes, one of Mr. Guzmán’s allies in the Sinaloa drug cartel. But Mr. Carrillo Fuentes’s captain, a cocaine addict, started having drug-induced visions that United States Coast Guard ships were near. Afraid of being caught, Mr. Ramírez said, the Mexican captain sank his ship — and lost $400 million in cocaine.

In 1996, after several more close calls, Mr. Ramírez said he surrendered to the Colombian authorities, promising to dismantle his empire and serve as much as 24 years in prison. But in the end, as he often did, he survived.

He said that he paid several million dollars to corrupt officials in his homeland. He was released from custody after being in jail only slightly more than four years.


After being freed, Mr. Ramírez adapted again and struck a new deal with Mr. Guzmán and his allies. Under this arrangement, Mr. Ramírez said he shut down his American distribution business. He allowed Mr. Guzmán and his crew not only to smuggle his cocaine across the border, but also to sell it on their own in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York, he said.

While this was a major step forward for Mr. Guzmán, it was something else for Mr. Ramírez. By that point, he explained, the United States government was on his tail and would soon indict him and seek his extradition. He pleaded guilty in 2010.

He was trying, as always, to survive.

“I wanted to be behind a curtain,” he said.

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How El Chapo Became a Kingpin, According to a Witness
Security at the Federal District Court in Brooklyn was tighter than usual in anticipation of Miguel Angel Martínez’s testimony.
Stephanie Keith for The New York Times

Security at the Federal District Court in Brooklyn was tighter than usual in anticipation of Miguel Angel Martínez’s testimony.CreditCreditStephanie Keith for The New York Times
By Alan Feuer
Nov. 26, 2018

Leer en español
The small plane, filled with a ton of Colombian cocaine, ran out of fuel as it approached the secret airstrip near Agua Prieta, Mexico. Directed by a Mexican guide, the pilot landed the craft but couldn’t slow it down. Both of its engines had died.

As the plane came skidding to a halt, the wheels snapped off, the guide told jurors on Monday.

And the million-dollar cargo?

“It was saved,” he said.

That harrowing, but ultimately successful, flight was Miguel Angel Martínez’s first full mission as an employee for a newcomer in the drug trade, a young ambitious trafficker named Joaquín Guzmán Loera. Well before he earned a billion-dollar fortune and was known to the world as El Chapo, Mr. Guzmán was the leader of a scrappy narcotics start-up, shipping drugs for Colombia’s more powerful cartels and earning profits at a less-than-even split.

In his first day as a witness at Mr. Guzmán’s drug conspiracy trial in Federal District Court in Brooklyn, Mr. Martínez described the early days of his former boss’s career, providing something like a portrait of the kingpin as a young man.


Prosecutors are using Mr. Martínez to tell what amounts to Mr. Guzmán’s origin story. Given his long friendship with the defendant, prosecutors have gone to great lengths to protect him.

Mr. Martínez testified on Monday that he was a founding member of Mr. Guzmán’s initial crew, taking a job with him in 1987 as a pilot and later running his Mexico City administrative office.

Though it eventually employed hundreds of people, Mr. Guzmán’s operation had only about 25 people in the late 1980s when it was just beginning, Mr. Martínez said. In those early days, the budding crime lord was cutting deals with Colombian suppliers as part of a larger organization, the Guadalajara drug cartel. Among those on his payroll were two of his cousins, Hector and Arturo Beltrán Leyva, who moved product north across the border to Los Angeles. A lawyer who was largely responsible for bribing the police was also part of the crew.


Mr. Martínez, who started as a pilot, soon became a kind of air traffic controller, scheduling and tracking dozens of flights carrying drug shipments from Colombia to a network of Mr. Guzmán’s hidden airstrips.

Joaquín Guzmán Loera, or El Chapo, with the witness Miguel Angel Martínez in an undated photograph.
United States Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of New York

Joaquín Guzmán Loera, or El Chapo, with the witness Miguel Angel Martínez in an undated photograph.
CreditUnited States Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of New York
He testified that he communicated by code with the pilots: fuel was “wine,” he said, and the planes were referred to as “girls.” To avoid police detection, he added, he would whistle to the pilots to let them know when it was safe to take off.

Mr. Martínez’s success in taking Colombian cocaine safely into Mexico, he explained, endeared him to Mr. Guzmán, who soon became his son’s godfather. The two men also started traveling together, Mr. Martínez recalled: once to Los Angeles, where Mr. Guzmán spent $6 million buying airplanes, and then to Las Vegas, where they gambled.

Mr. Guzmán also opened up to him, Mr. Martínez said, telling him how he got his start in dealing drugs by cultivating marijuana near his home in Sinaloa, Mexico, and making heroin by scraping — “little by little every morning” — the milk-like sap out of the poppies he had planted.

“He was a very poor person who didn’t have anything to eat,” Mr. Martínez said. “And that was the reason why he got involved in drug trafficking.”


But Mr. Guzmán did not stay poor for long. In a bit of back story that was part Mr. Martínez’s testimony in a trial in 2006, he said Mr. Guzmán owned at least three Lear jets and moved about with an entourage of gunmen, shuttling among multiple homes in multiple Mexican cities. In one of those homes, there was a hidden compartment underneath a bed that raised off the floor on a hydraulic-powered lift. Mr. Guzmán also had a zoo in Guadalajara, Mr. Martínez noted in 2006, where he kept lions, tigers, crocodiles and bears.

Some of El Chapo’s fortune was used to buy off the authorities, Mr. Martínez told the jury on Monday, including the chief of Mexico City’s federal police. According to Mr. Martínez, Mr. Guzmán paid the police chief $10 million two or three times in the early 1990s. In exchange, he said, the chief gave the kingpin information about drug investigations and helped him track down his enemies and rivals.

At least twice since he was arrested by the Mexican authorities in 1998, assassins have tried to kill Mr. Martínez. The first attempt on his life came shortly after he was taken into custody. A group of killers confronted him in prison, stabbing him repeatedly. After a second knife attack, he testified at the separate trial in 2006, someone threw two hand grenades into his cell. He survived, he said, by hiding behind his toilet bowl.

Because of the threats he has faced, prosecutors in the case have taken several extraordinary measures, forbidding artists at the trial from sketching any portion of his face. The prosecutors even won permission from Judge Brian M. Cogan to check and evaluate the sketches before they were removed from the courtroom.


Despite these precautions, there was a small breach in security on Monday afternoon. Mr. Guzmán’s wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro, somehow — against the rules — sneaked a cellphone into the courthouse just before Mr. Martínez took the stand. Ms. Coronel, a former beauty queen, has attended the trial each day since it began two weeks ago, and this was the first time she had caused any trouble.

Judge Cogan had a simple a solution to the problem. He ordered her to relinquish her phone and pass through the metal detectors again.

A version of this article appears in print on Nov. 26, 2018, on Page A21 of the New York editionwith the headline: Origin Story of El Chapo: Scrappy and ‘Very Poor,’ According to One Witness. 

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Gore, Graft and More of What We’ve Learned So Far From the El Chapo Trial

The trial of accused Mexican drug kingpin Joaquín Guzmán Loera, known as El Chapo, is expected to last about four months.CreditStephanie Keith for The New York Times
The trial of accused Mexican drug kingpin Joaquín Guzmán Loera, known as El Chapo, is expected to last about four months.CreditCreditStephanie Keith for The New York Times
  • Jan. 3, 2019

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The drug conspiracy trial of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the Mexican crime lord known as El Chapo, has been something like a marathon of sprints: Four days a week, for nearly two months, a Shakespearean cast of witnesses has appeared in court and told the epic tale of how Mr. Guzmán rose from living in poverty in the mountains of Sinaloa, Mexico, to become one of the richest — and most ruthless — drug dealers in the world.

The trial, in Federal District Court in Brooklyn, paused just before Christmas and resumes on Thursday morning. It is expected to last for another month or two and is likely to proceed at the same grueling pace.

Here, in advance of the trial’s second half, is a brief recap of the testimony so far:

· During Mr. Guzmán’s early days as a young, ambitious trafficker, witnesses testified, the nascent kingpin struck up a partnership with Juan Carlos Ramírez Abadía, his first supplier of Colombian cocaine.

· In describing the inner workings of Mr. Guzmán’s organization, the Sinaloa drug cartel, one of the crime lord’s operations chiefs, Jesús Zambada García, presented a kind of master class on the cartel, detailing its transportation methods, financing techniques and major players.


· Mr. Zambada also accused one of Mexico’s top former law enforcement officers, Genaro García Luna, of having twice accepted briefcases stuffed with cartel cash. Apparently, Mr. García Luna was not alone. The trial has suggested that corruption in Mexico is as bad, if not worse, than many thought.

· On the first day of the trial, Mr. Guzmán’s lawyers told jurors they would soon hear evidence that both the “current and former presidents” of Mexico had taken bribes from the cartel. But Judge Brian M. Cogan ultimately stopped that testimony from being heard.

· Bloodshed has been a major theme. New evidence has shed light on one of the most notorious murders in modern Mexican history: Witnesses described how in 1993 Cardinal Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo was gunned down, accidentally, by a team of cartel killers at the Guadalajara airport. Their intended target: Mr. Guzmán.

· Some of the most damning evidence against Mr. Guzmán has been secret recordings of him conducting drug deals. The jurors have heard two so far; more may be coming.


· Mr. Guzmán, often portrayed as a gun-loving hothead, also lived in luxury. Among his narco-spoils: a $10 million beach house in Acapulco, a fleet of private jets and a rural ranch with a zoo where guests could ride a train past lions, crocodiles and bears.

· A sharper portrait of the cartels has also emerged. Though cartels are often thought of as highly structured, vertically organized entities, testimony in the trial has depicted them as chaotic groups composed of warring factions — like something out of “Game of Thrones.”

Federal drug agents, cartel killers and accountants

A wide cast of characters have testified at the trial. Here are some of the most prominent:

Jesús Zambada García was an accountant who joined the Sinaloa cartel under his brother, Ismael Zambada García, and handled cartel expenses for two decades. He oversaw the influential Mexico City market before eventually being arrested in October 2008. Mr. Zambada was meticulous in keeping track of cartel finances, which he demonstrated to jurors in detailed testimony.

Miguel Angel Martínez was a former lieutenant for Mr. Guzmán. The government took his security so seriously that court artists were prohibited from drawing an accurate representation. Following his arrest in 1998, Mr. Martínez sold a home owned by Mr. Guzmán in order to pay legal fees, which caused him to fall out of favor with his boss. As a result, Mr. Martínez faced four attempts on his life — three stabbings and a fourth by a double-grenade attack.


Juan Carlos Ramírez Abadía, a leader within the North Valley Cartel in Colombia, provided the jury with a window into the supply-side of operations, walking them through ledgers documenting pivotal deals between his cartel and El Chapo’s Sinaloa cartel, which partnered for almost two decades. Mr. Ramírez went to great lengths to avoid incarceration, undergoing several extensive surgeries, altering his cheekbones, jaw, eyes, mouth, nose and ears. Still, he was arrested in Brazil in 2007 and later extradited to the United States.

Juan Carlos Ramírez Abadía was one of the world’s biggest producers of Colombian cocaine. The photograph on the left shows Mr. Ramírez before his plastic surgeries; the photograph on the right is afterward.CreditUnited States Attorney's Office, Eastern District of New York
Juan Carlos Ramírez Abadía was one of the world’s biggest producers of Colombian cocaine. The photograph on the left shows Mr. Ramírez before his plastic surgeries; the photograph on the right is afterward.CreditUnited States Attorney's Office, Eastern District of New York

Jorge Cifuentes’s humble upbringing in Colombia paralleled Mr. Guzmán’s origin story. Working alongside his parents and siblings, Mr. Cifuentes built a family drug empire, amassing great wealth and cartel connections. Mr. Cifuentes admitted in court to being a liar and a cheater. He said he once created a foundation with a stated mission of preserving jungle in the Amazon, but that was actually intended to funnel $1.5 billion in environmental contracts to companies he owned.

Born in a predominantly Latino neighborhood in Chicago, Ill., Pedro Flores helped translate drug deals for his father when he was around 7 or 8 years old. (He was the first star witness to testify in English.) Mr. Flores and his twin brother, Margarito, took over the family business as teenagers. Business boomed after he made contact with one of Mr. Guzmán’s associates — turning Chicago into an epicenter of American drug trafficking operations for the Sinaloa cartel and the Beltrán-Leyva Organization, which then worked hand in hand.

‘The biggest prize’

Here is a sampling of some of the more memorable quotes so far from the trial:

Defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman: “The conviction of Joaquín Guzmán is the biggest prize this prosecution could dream of and they’ve been dreaming of it for a decade.”


Mr. Zambada: “One of my responsibilities was to corrupt officials in the city,” he said, adding that they would build off friendships already in place within the police department. “This is done through bribes, money, especially U.S. dollars.”

Mr. Martínez: “I said to him, ‘Why kill people?’ And he answered me: ‘Either your mom’s going to cry or their mom’s going to cry.’”

Mr. Martínez on Mr. Guzmán’s reason for obsessively wiretapping his associates: “The most important thing in that environment was to know what everyone was thinking about you — whoever: your friends, our enemies, your compadres — whoever.”

Mr. Ramírez on his initial impression of El Chapo: “It was the first time that a Mexican trafficked my cocaine that quickly. I didn’t expect it that quickly.”


Mr. Flores on the importance of location in drug trafficking: “The farther you get from the border, the higher the price of cocaine. The bigger the risk, the bigger the reward.”

Mr. Flores on his first meeting with El Chapo in May 2005: “I had this idea in my head about how it would be,” he said, saying he’d pictured El Chapo lining up and shooting people. El Chapo replied in a serious tone, “No, only the ones we have to.”

What’s next?

Testimony in the second half of the trial is likely to include:

· Vicente Zambada Niebla, the son of Mr. Guzmán’s partner, Ismael Zambada García, who will arguably be the most senior cartel figure ever to have testified at major trafficking trial. As a top logistics officer for Mr. Guzmán and his father, Mr. Niebla, who has been in American custody since 2010, will likely offer the jury a sweeping and encyclopedic view of the cartel’s operations.

· Mr. Guzmán’s two famous jailbreaks, the first in 2001 when he escaped in a laundry cart, and the second in 2015 when his associates dug a mile-long tunnel into the shower in his cell. Dámaso López Núñez, a former official at the Puente Grande prison who helped with the kingpin’s first escape, is a possible witness.

· The bloody wars Mr. Guzmán fought in the latter years of his career. In one war, Mr. Guzmán battled with the Zetas, an especially violent rival cartel founded by members of the Mexican special forces. In another, he fought against his close allies (and cousins) the Beltrán-Leyva brothers.

Correction: January 5, 2019

An earlier version of this article misidentified the year of Joaquín Guzmán Loera’s second prison escape. It was 2015, not 2014.

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El Chapo Trial: Former Mexican President Peña Nieto Took $100 Million Bribe, Witness Says

The bribe was delivered to Enrique Peña Nieto, the former president of Mexico, through an intermediary, according to a witness at the trial of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the drug lord known as El Chapo.CreditTom Brenner for The New York Times
The bribe was delivered to Enrique Peña Nieto, the former president of Mexico, through an intermediary, according to a witness at the trial of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the drug lord known as El Chapo.CreditCreditTom Brenner for The New York Times
  • Jan. 15, 2019

Former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto took a $100 million bribe from international drug traffickers, according to a witness at the trial of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the infamous crime lord known as El Chapo.

The stunning testimony was delivered Tuesday in a New York courtroom by Alex Cifuentes Villa, a Colombian drug lord who worked closely with Mr. Guzmán from 2007 to 2013, when they were hiding from the authorities at one of the kingpin’s remote ranches in the Sierra Madre mountains.

“Mr. Guzmán paid a bribe of $100 million to President Peña Nieto?” Jeffrey Lichtman, one of Mr. Guzmán’s lawyers asked Mr. Cifuentes during cross-examination.

“Yes,” responded Mr. Cifuentes.

The bribe was delivered to Mr. Peña Nieto through an intermediary, according to Mr. Cifuentes.


While other witnesses at Mr. Guzmán’s trial in Federal District Court in Brooklyn have testified about payoffs from traffickers to the Mexican police and public officials, the revelations about Mr. Peña Nieto were the most egregious allegations yet. If true, they suggest that corruption by drug cartels had reached into the highest level of Mexico’s political establishment.

From the start of the trial in November, there were lurid hints that top Mexican leaders might have been compromised by dirty money. In his opening statement, Mr. Lichtman claimed his client had been framed for years by a conspiracy hatched by his partner, Ismael Zambada García, in league with “crooked” American drug agents and a “completely corrupt” Mexican government, including two of its presidents.

At the time, Mr. Peña Nieto released a statement calling Mr. Lichtman’s claims false. The judge in the case, Brian M. Cogan, later cautioned Mr. Lichtman against making promises to the jury that the evidence in the case would not support.

Then, as the first week of the trial came to an end, Mr. Guzmán’s lawyers informed Judge Cogan at a sidebar conference that a coming witness, Jesus Zambada García, Ismael Zambada’s brother, would testify, if asked, that two Mexican presidents had taken bribes from the Sinaloa drug cartel.


But Judge Cogan forbade the testimony, citing the embarrassment it would cause to unnamed “individuals and entities” who were not directly involved in the case.

Until Monday, the most prominent Mexican official accused of taking bribes was Genaro García Luna, the country’s former public security director. When Jesus Zambada testified in November, he told jurors that he had met twice with Mr. García Luna in a restaurant and both times gave him a briefcase stuffed with at least $3 million in cash.

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  • 4 weeks later...


El Chapo Convicted in Trial That Revealed Drug Cartel’s Brutality and Corruption

The guilty verdict against El Chapo, the drug kingpin whose real name is Joaquín Guzmán Loera, ended the career of an outlaw who also served as a dark folk hero in Mexico.CreditEduardo Verdugo/Associated Press
The guilty verdict against El Chapo, the drug kingpin whose real name is Joaquín Guzmán Loera, ended the career of an outlaw who also served as a dark folk hero in Mexico.CreditCreditEduardo Verdugo/Associated Press
  • Feb. 12, 2019
    • The Mexican crime lord known as El Chapo was convicted on Tuesday after a three-month drug trial in New York that exposed the inner workings of his sprawling cartel, which over decades shipped tons of drugs into the United States and plagued Mexico with relentless bloodshed and corruption.

The guilty verdict against the kingpin, whose real name is Joaquín Guzmán Loera, ended the career of a legendary outlaw who also served as a dark folk hero in Mexico, notorious for his innovative smuggling tactics, his violence against competitors, his storied prison breaks and his nearly unstoppable ability to evade the Mexican authorities.

The jury’s decision came more than a week after the panel started deliberations at the trial in Federal District Court in Brooklyn where prosecutors presented a mountain of evidence against the cartel leader, including testimony from 56 witnesses, 14 of whom once worked with Mr. Guzmán. He faces life in prison at his sentencing after being convicted of all 10 counts.

Not long after the jury got the case on Feb. 4, Matthew Whitaker, the acting United States attorney general, stepped into the courtroom and shook hands with each of the trial prosecutors, wishing them good luck. Over the next several days, the jurors, appearing to scrutinize the government’s evidence, asked to be given thousands of pages of testimony, including — in an unusual move — the full testimonies of six different prosecution witnesses.



Mr. Guzmán’s trial, which took place under intense media scrutiny and tight security from bomb-sniffing dogs, police snipers and federal marshals with radiation sensors, was the first time an American jury heard details about the financing, logistics and bloody history of one of the drug cartels that have long pumped huge amounts of heroin, cocaine, marijuana and synthetic drugs like fentanyl into the United States, earning traffickers billions of dollars.

But despite extensive testimony about private jets filled with cash, bodies burned in bonfires and shocking evidence that Mr. Guzmán and his men often drugged and raped young girls, the case also revealed the operatic, even absurd, nature of cartel culture. It featured accounts of traffickers taking target practice with a bazooka, a mariachi playing all night outside a jail cell and a murder plot involving a cyanide-laced arepa.

At times, the trial was so bizarre it felt like a drug-world telenovela unfolding live in the courtroom. Last month, one of Mr. Guzmán’s mistresses tearfully proclaimed her love for him even as she testified against him from the stand. The following day, in what seemed like a coordinated show of solidarity, the kingpin and his wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro, appeared in court in matching red velvet smoking jackets.

Toward the end of the proceeding, Alejandro Edda, an actor who plays El Chapo on the Netflix series “Narcos: Mexico,” showed up at the trialto study Mr. Guzmán. The crime lord flashed an ecstatic smile when told Mr. Edda had come to see him.

Although Monday’s conviction dealt a blow to the Sinaloa drug cartel, which Mr. Guzmán, 61, helped to run for decades, the group continues to operate, led in part by the kingpin’s sons. In 2016 and 2017, the years when Mr. Guzmán was arrested for a final time and sent for prosecution to New York, Mexican heroin production increased by 37 percent and fentanyl seizures at the southwest border more than doubled, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.


The D.E.A., in its most recent assessment of the drug trade, noted that Mr. Guzmán’s organization and a rising power, the Jalisco New Generation cartel, “remain the greatest criminal drug threat” to the United States.

The Mexican authorities began pursuing the stocky crime lord — whose nickname translates roughly to “Shorty” — in 1993 when he was blamed for a killing that epitomized for many Mexicans the extreme violence of the country’s drug wars: the assassination of the Roman Catholic cardinal, Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo, at the Guadalajara airport.

Though Mr. Guzmán was convicted that same year on charges of murdering the cardinal, he escaped from prison in 2001 — in a laundry cart pushed by a jailhouse janitor — and spent the next decade either on the lam in one of his mountain hide-outs or slipping through various police and military dragnets.

In 2012, he evaded capture by the F.B.I. and the Mexican federal police by ducking out the back door of his oceanview mansion in Los Cabos into a patch of thorn bushes. Two years later, after he was recaptured in a hotel in Mazatlán by the D.E.A. and the Mexican marines, he escaped from prison again — this time, through a lighted, ventilated, mile-long tunnel dug into the shower of his cell.

But following his last arrest — after a gunfight in Los Mochis, Mexico in 2016 — Mr. Guzmán was extradited to Brooklyn, where federal prosecutors had initially indicted him in 2009. He also faced indictment in six other American judicial districts.

The top charge of the Brooklyn indictment named Mr. Guzmán as a principal leader of a “continuing criminal enterprise” to purchase drugs from suppliers in Colombia, Ecuador, Panama and Mexico’s Golden Triangle — an area including the states of Sinaloa, Durango and Chihuahua where most of the country’s heroin and marijuana are produced.

It also accused him of earning a jaw-dropping $14 billion during his career by smuggling up to 200 tons of drugs across the United States border in an array of yachts, speedboats, long-range fishing boats, airplanes, cargo trains, semi-submersible submarines, tractor-trailers filled with frozen meat and cans of jalapeños and yet another tunnel (hidden under a pool table in Agua Prieta, Mexico).


The prosecution was years in the making and Mr. Guzmán’s trial drew upon investigative work by the F.B.I., the D.E.A., the United States Coast Guard, Homeland Security Investigations and federal prosecutors in Chicago, Miami, San Diego, Washington, New York and El Paso, Tex. The trial team also relied on scores of local American police officers and the authorities in Ecuador, Colombia and the Dominican Republic.

The evidence presented at the trial included dozens of surveillance photos, three sets of detailed drug ledgers, several of the defendant’s handwritten letters and hundreds of his most intimate — and incriminating — phone calls and text messages intercepted through four separate wiretap operations.

Prosecutors used all of this to trace Mr. Guzmán’s 30-year rise from a young, ambitious trafficker with a knack for speedy smuggling to a billionaire narco lord with an entourage of maids and secretaries, a portfolio of vacation homes — even a ranch with a personal zoo.

Andrea Goldbarg, an assistant United States attorney, called the prosecution’s case “an avalanche” during the government’s summations. Even with the help of a Power Point presentation, complete with a slide show of photos of the kingpin, Ms. Goldbarg took almost an entire day to lead the jury through it.

But the centerpiece of the government’s offering was testimony from a Shakespearean cast of cooperating witnesses who took the stand to spill the deepest secrets of Mr. Guzmán’s personal and professional lives.

Among the witnesses were the kingpin’s first employee; one of his personal secretaries; his chief Colombian cocaine supplier; the son of his closest partner and heir apparent to his empire; his I.T. expert; his top American distributor; a killer in his army of assassins; even the young mistress with whom he escaped from the Mexican marines, naked, through a tunnel that was hidden under a bathtub in his safe house.

Confronting this onslaught, Mr. Guzmán’s lawyers offered little in the way of an affirmative defense, opting instead to use cross-examination to attack the credibility of the witnesses, most of whom were seasoned criminals with their own long histories of lying, cheating, drug dealing and killing.


Late last month, there was frenzied speculation that Mr. Guzmán might testify in his own defense. But after he decided against doing so, the entire defense case lasted only 30 minutes — compared to 10 weeks for the prosecution — and consisted of a single witness and a stipulation read into the record.

In his closing argument, Jeffrey Lichtman, one of the defense lawyers, reprised a theme he first introduced during his opening statement in November, telling jurors that the real mastermind of the cartel was Mr. Guzmán’s closest partner, Ismael Zambada García.

Despite being sought by the police in Mexico for nearly 50 years, Mr. Zambada, known as El Mayo, has never been arrested. Mr. Lichtman said the reason was because Mr. Zambada had bribed virtually the entire Mexican government. Mr. Guzmán was merely “the rabbit” that the authorities chased for decades, deflecting attention from his partner, Mr. Lichtman said.

Witness after witness took the stand at the trial and talked about paying off nearly every level of the Mexican police, military and political establishment — including the shocking allegation that Mr. Guzmán gave a $100 million bribe to the country’s former president, Enrique Peña Nieto, in the run-up to Mexico’s 2012 elections. There was also testimony that bribes were paid to Genaro García Luna, one of Mexico’s top former law enforcement officers, a host of Mexican generals and police officials, and almost the entire congress of Colombia.

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El Chapo Trial: The 11 Biggest Revelations From the Case

The jury at the drug trial of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the Mexican kingpin known as El Chapo, will begin deliberating the case on Monday.CreditAlfredo Estrella/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
The jury at the drug trial of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the Mexican kingpin known as El Chapo, will begin deliberating the case on Monday.CreditCreditAlfredo Estrella/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

After a lengthy 11-week trial, a jury on Tuesday convicted Joaquín Guzmán Loera, the Mexican drug kingpin known as El Chapo. Mr. Guzmán, 61, faced 10 charges, including leading a criminal enterprise and the importation and sales of large amounts of narcotics into the United States. He now will likely spend the rest of his life in prison.

The trial allowed prosecutors to extensively detail the inner workings of Mr. Guzmán’s Sinaloa cartel, providing unparalleled insight into international drug trafficking. Here are 11 of the most important takeaways, in no particular order.

Corruption in Mexico is worse than you think

During the trial, nearly every level of Mexican government was implicated in bribes, including the presidency. One witness testifiedthat El Chapo paid Enrique Peña Nieto, when he was president in 2012, $100 million in exchange for allowing the kingpin to come out of hiding.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s top security official was said by one witness — and federal prosecutors — to have accepted a multimillion-dollar bribe from the Sinaloa cartel in 2005.



Genaro García Luna, the former secretary of public security, was accused of accepting two suitcases stuffed with $3 million. And the Mexican federal police, referred to by one witness as “our people,” were said to have protected El Chapo after his first escape from prison in 2001.

Drug traffickers love plastic surgery

Getting too much plastic surgery appears to be an unwritten rule in narco textbooks. The drug lord Amado Carrillo Fuentes, known as the Lord of the Skies, famously died under a surgeon’s knife, and several witnesses said they went through extensive operations.

Tirso Martínez Sanchez, who helped run trains filled with drugs between Mexico and the United States for the cartel, said he had several facial-reconstructive operations to drastically alter his appearance, stopping only after he started bleeding out during his third operation.

Most memorable were the comic-strip-like features of Juan Carlos Ramírez Abadía, known as Chupeta, who was El Chapo’s Colombian cocaine supplier. Over the course of several operations, he structurally altered his jawbone, cheekbone, eyes, mouth, ears and nose.

Chupeta also tried to have his fingerprints removed, most likely causing a circulation problem; he almost constantly used gloves on the stand. In court, his reddened skin looked like melted wax pulled over his scalp.


El Chapo was paranoid

According to witnesses, El Chapo heavily invested in wiretapping and spyware equipment over the decades, becoming obsessed with secure communications in the 1980s. Around that time, he also began obsessively recording the calls of his wife, lovers, associates and enemies. One associate, Miguel Angel Martínez, recalled Chapo telling him, “The most important thing in that environment was to know what everyone was thinking about you. Whoever — your friends, our enemies, your compadres.”

Later, Christian Rodriguez, a 20-something I.T. expert from Colombia, developed a more high-tech spyware system for phones and computers belonging to Mr. Guzmán’s wife, mistresses and associates. Mr. Guzmán received routine spy reports and also made a habit of calling back associates after a business transaction; the second, invisible, call activated hidden microphones that enabled him to listen in without the person’s knowledge.

El Chapo’s paranoia led to his downfall

The United States government used El Chapo’s intrepid spy systems against him. Although Mr. Guzmán used BlackBerry phones as well as a filter system, which passed messages between third parties to protect the identity of the senders, his most comprehensive system was devised by Mr. Rodriguez. It allowed him to place calls from a secure three-digit extension to other trusted parties anywhere in the world.

However, Mr. Rodriguez agreed to cooperate with American authorities after being approached by the F.B.I. during a sting operation. He turned over calls and text messages from the encrypted system.

The government was listening

The prosecution’s case was built from four wiretap investigations. In addition to Mr. Rodriguez’s system tap, prosecutors also used wiretaps collected by authorities in Colombia and the Dominican Republic, as well as one from Homeland Security Investigations.

The government collected more than one million text messages between cartel members.

The worldwide reach of the Sinaloa cartel

Like any good business, the Sinaloa cartel globalized, stretching far beyond the Mexican-United States border to Colombia, Ecuador, Panama, Belize, Honduras, Canada, Thailand and China.

From early in his career, Mr. Guzmán reached out to cocaine suppliers in Colombia to receive cheap cocaine. He negotiated cheaper deals with the dealers by promising to deliver the cocaine more quickly, gaining him the nickname El Rápido for his speed in funneling the cocaine through tunnels under the border.


A lot of people played a part

The case required the cooperation of several American law enforcement agencies, but it also required keeping some Mexican authorities out of most discussions.

Among the cooperators were the F.B.I., the Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations and the United States Coast Guard. Also involved were foreign law enforcement and military based in Ecuador, Colombia and the Dominican Republic, as well as local law enforcement in New York City, Chicago and Texas and federal prosecutors in New York, Chicago, El Paso, Miami, San Diego and Washington, D.C.

But not a single Mexican law enforcement officer testified. Victor J. Vazquez, the D.E.A. special agent who helped lead the successful arrest of El Chapo in February 2014, told the jury that the D.E.A. and Mexican military purposely kept local Mexican law enforcement in the dark because of “the corruption level — using them again was not going to work.”

What he really wanted to do was direct

El Chapo loves the limelight — even his lawyers admit it. Mr. Guzmán wanted to direct a movie, and then later tried to set up another movie with the telenovela star Kate del Castillo. That contact led to his infamous interview with Sean Penn for Rolling Stone.

And in court, El Chapo seemed ecstatic to see the actor Alejandro Edda, who plays him on Netflix’s “Narcos: Mexico.”

The cartel felt like ‘Game of Thrones’

The cartel was not a cohesive unit, but an ever-shifting factionalized federation constantly at war with itself. Mr. Guzmán has feuded with his cousins, the Beltrán-Leyva brothers; the Arellano-Félix organization; and other former close associates.

Deaths of leaders and close friends often sparked the wars, which led to the bloody deaths and injuries of innocent civilians and family members in public places, including the 1993 murder of Cardinal Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo at an airport in Guadalajara.


The Sinaloa cartel moved a lot of drugs

Mr. Guzmán’s drugs came into Mexico and later the United States on fishing boats and trains, helicopters and planes, semi-submersible and tanker ships, shoe boxes and chili cans. Although many more drugs crossed over than were seized, a few notable successes for authorities included a 16-ton seizure from a merchant vessel in Panama and a 6-ton seizure out of Ecuador.

Although it never happened, the cartel also discussed trying to move 100 tons of cocaine on an oil tanker ship.

A horrifying claim was never heard in court

In documents unsealed on Feb. 1, one witness alleged that El Chapo routinely raped young girls, preferring 13-year-olds whom he considered “his vitamins.”

He was also accused of raping a young woman, who testified against him in court. That woman, Lucero Guadalupe Sánchez López, was believed to be his former lover and sobbed on the stand while recounting her affair with the kingpin. Evidence about these attacks, kept from the jury because it was considered prejudicial, was published just ahead of deliberations.

A version of this article appears in print on Feb. 3, 2019, on Page A19 of the New York edition with the headline: Kingpin’s Trial Was Rife With Notable Moments.
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