Visiting day at Mexico’s Puente Grande prison in the western state of Jalisco: a band is playing, the whiskey is flowing, and women and children mingle with the prisoners. As the alcohol starts to take effect, poems are read out and teary eyed speeches made: “Crying is for men,” says one cohort.
A video filmed more than a year ago, but released by Mexican news site Milenio on Tuesday, show a party thrown by José Luis Gutiérrez Valencia, also known as Don Chelo, a member of the Jalisco Nueva Generación drugs cartel. “I give the orders round here; you can have whatever you like,” he tells his guests.
Gutiérrez Valencia was arrested in the Pacific resort of Puerto Vallarta in 2010. He was initially believed to be a member of the Sinaloa cartel, the organization run by Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán, and who is now awaiting trial in the United States. The authorities later established he was the father-in-law of Nemesio Oseguera, the leader of the Jalisco Nueva Generación cartel, which was responsible for briefly kidnapping El Chapo’s son last year and that teamed up with Dámas López – who was locked in a violent turf war for control of the drugs trade in Sinaloa state after El Chapo’s extradition in January – until he was arrested last week.
I do what I like here, the government respects that, so you respect me José Luis Gutiérrez Valencia
The video shows Gutiérrez Valencia flanked by several bodyguards who regularly distribute liquor among the guests, while a large number of other prisoners and guests can be seen enjoying themselves, many of them using smartphones to film the party. Later, Los Buchones de Culiacán, a musical group from Sinaloa, arrive to sing the praises of El Chelo in ballads such as El jefe de Puente Grande (The boss of Puente Grande).
“Greetings to all the families that are here… I know that you are going through a difficult moment in your lives, but we’ll be waiting for you outside and if not, we’ll come here to sing as often as we can,” says the lead singer. Don Chelo regularly joins the band on stage to sing.
Over the course of the seven-minute video, no prison guards can be seen. “I do what I like here, the government respects that, I respect the government, so you respect me,” says Gutiérrez Valencia. A few moments later, as the party draws to a close he tucks in to tacos with bodyguards in polo shirts, one of whom thanks the guests for coming, finishing he speech with a rousing: “Long live crime!” which is greeted with cheers.
The Puente Grande facility includes a federal prison and a local prison, which is where the party was held. El Chapo escaped from the federal facility 17 years ago.
English version by Nick Lyne.