Security tight as 'El Chapo' Guzman trial set to open in Brooklyn

Geraldine Edwards
November 8, 2018

The mythical criminal pedigree of Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, who was extradited in 2017 to face USA drug conspiracy charges, has sparked security concerns at his upcoming New York City trial that at times have drawn as much attention as the case's sensational allegations.

Guzman has pleaded not guilty to charges that his Sinaloa cartel smuggled tons of cocaine and other drugs, laundered billions of dollars and oversaw a ruthless campaign of murders and kidnappings.

Joaquin Guzman, also known as "El Chapo", has been held in solitary confinement in NY for the last two years.

The courthouse was a veritable fortress Monday, as heavily armed officers and bomb-sniffing dogs periodically checked the exterior.

The names of the witnesses have been blacked out on court documents with prosecutors saying their identities need to be protected because their co-operation could put them in the crosshairs of a vengeful cartel. He faces life in prison if convicted in this trial, which is set for opening statements to begin November 13.

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The defendant accused of running the massive Sinaloa drug cartel, observed the first day of jury selection dressed in a navy suit, white shirt with a wide disco-style collar, flashing a smile but otherwise impervious.

A Mexican official told Reuters at the time that the move was a show of goodwill to incoming US President Donald Trump, who was inaugurated the next day, though Alberto Elias Beltran, Mexico's assistant attorney general for worldwide affairs, denied any connection. US Marshals will escort them to and from court every day.

Prosecutors describe Guzman as one of the most unsafe and feared drug kingpins, who between 1989 and 2014 ran the world's largest drug trafficking organization.

A judge is keeping the jury anonymous to protect them from intimidation.

No one's hiding the ominous nature of the case from potential jurors.

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Image: The shower where El Chapo escaped through a tunnel in 2015. In the United States, opioid addiction has spiraled into an epidemic. The Sinaloa cartel that Guzman founded in 1989 is still hugely powerful.

Mexico extradited Guzman to the United States in 2017, and ever since he has been held in solitary confinement at a NY federal prison.

Prosecutors say the US government is seeking a $14 billion forfeiture order as part of the case.

Mexican druglord "El Chapo" Guzman is on the run from police after making a daring escape from Mexico's most secure prison.

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