If you thought the story of drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman would be a dramatic one, you're still probably underestimating just how strange it gets. He's escaped from prison with elaborate schemes more than once, but now he's on trial for various drug conspiracy charges, and the court proceedings are revealing all sorts of shocking news, from the drug lord's brutality to the extreme lengths his supplier went to avoid capture.
On Thursday, it was time for Lucero Guadalupe Sanchez - a 29-year-old politician in Guzman's home state of Sinaloa until her recent arrest - to take to the stand. An added complication to her testimony is that as well as working for Guzman in the drug trade, she was also his mistress - and made her comments with Guzman and his wife in attendance.
Guzman's wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro, reportedly laughed as Sanchez broke down into tears as she spoke. El Chapo, 61, and his 29-year-old wife often blow kisses to each other in court, but they avoided all eye contact when his mistress detailed their affair. But soon she was cracking a smile. Sanchez cried so much that she had to be removed from the Brooklyn federal courtroom, and as she left, her microphone remained on, broadcasting her weeping and making Aispuro laugh even more.
“Up until today I am still confused because today I thought we were still involved as partners," Sanchez said during her testimony, in which she explained how she had started dating the drug lord at 21, and then began working for him. He sent her to find high quality marijuana in remote locations across Mexico, but they still mixed business and pleasure.
In one January 2012 text exchange, Sanchez told him she was sending him 350 kilograms of marijuana by plane. When he asked her if she had marked the packages in any way, she said: “Love, there is a heart on them,” and he replied: “How sweet.”
Soon she had moved on to money-laundering through front businesses in Mexico, Los Angeles and Ecuador, before she decided to transition into local politics. She was elected to the state's congress in 2012, but still continued her involvement with El Chapo. “I thought that the relationship had ended, but it seemed like it would never end,” she said.
Her relationship with him eventually led to her being removed from congress. In 2017, after the loss of her seat, she was arrested after attempting to cross the US border.
While he was hiding out from the authorities, Sanchez would bring him “his shirts, his pants, his tennis shoes, his underwear, his lotions," and was even in bed with him in Culiacan during a night raid in February 2014. US federal agents and Mexican Marines broke into the home, leaving Guzman to flee naked through a secret tunnel... that was hidden underneath his bathtub.
She tried to follow him through the mud-drenched, dark tunnel, but lost him, exiting the tunnel after wandering around for an hour. DEA agent Victor Vasquez also took to the stand to describe his side of the raid, in which they didn't catch Guzman, but did find a cache of weapons and drug paraphernalia, including plastic bananas stuffed with cocaine and a diamond-encrusted handgun.
As this lengthy trial continues, it looks like there will be plenty more to discover about El Chapo's life before his capture.