MEXICO

Mexican drug lord’s wife: “El Chapo will be dead by December”

Emma Coronel’s statements show new line of defense after failure of appeals against extradition to US

Emma Coronel, wife of Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán.
Emma Coronel, wife of Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán.

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The world’s biggest drug trafficker, Joaquín Guzmán Loera, aka El Chapo, will be dead by December. That’s according to his wife, Emma Coronel, who made the claim after visiting the head of the Sinaloa cartel inside the Ciudad Juárez penitentiary in northern Mexico, near the border with the United States.

The warning heralds what will be El Chapo’s latest line of defense after all of his appeals against extradition to the US have so far failed.

El Chapo’s era has come to an end, all experts agree

While awaiting a new judicial review that everyone expects to be unfavorable to the drug lord, his lawyers are now focusing the battle on the issue of human rights violations and abuse.

“What do I want to know about the extradition for, if they already tell me that I won’t be around next year?” El Chapo reportedly told his wife. “If they don’t look after my health, by December I won’t be alive.”

According to Coronel’s story, her 58-year-old husband is not the same man he used to be. He has broken down, suffers from memory loss and has trouble sleeping at night.

“With every visit, I see him in worse shape: he forgets things, he suddenly zones out. He is a different person, even in the way he talks. I know perfectly well that he is not the way he used to be when he was healthy,” said Coronel in an interview on Milenio Televisión.

However, the former beauty queen admitted that the drug lord has not lost any weight and will never contemplate suicide.

“All we ask is for him to receive humane treatment,” she said.

This is not the first time that El Chapo’s family has complained about his prison conditions. While behind bars at El Altiplano penitentiary – a maximum security prison that he escaped from in July 2015 – there were constant protests over alleged abuse, which, according to El Chapo’s family, included keeping him awake to weaken him.

Authorities have denied all accusations. National Security Commissioner Renato Sales has reiterated that El Chapo is in good health, receives medical attention and gets visits from his relatives and lawyers.

“Many of us should be so lucky as to live in El Chapo’s conditions,” he added.

After recapturing him in January, President Enrique Peña Nieto has made El Chapo’s extradition to the US a matter of state. The drug lord’s daring escape through a 1.5-kilometer-long tunnel represented a public humiliation for the president, who until then had defended the notion of keeping El Chapo in a Mexican prison as a symbol of the state’s might against the drug cartels.

Before that, in 2001, he had already escaped from Puente Grande penitentiary in Jalisco state, allegedly inside a laundry cart.

After the government’s boast about its ability to keep El Chapo behind bars was so eloquently pulverized, authorities switched strategy and began putting all their efforts behind the extradition drive.

The only thing that could prevent Guzmán’s transfer to the US would be a third escape. To prevent it, 75 officers have been tasked with watching El Chapo around the clock, and he is under permanent electronic surveillance.

The news trickling in from the outside world will not help boost his morale. El Chapo’s capture has triggered a turf war between drug cartels in northern Mexico. His children have been abducted, and even his mother’s house was recently breached by intruders.

El Chapo’s era has come to an end, all experts agree. He is playing the health card as a last resort, but the extradition is just a matter of time.

English version by Susana Urra.

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