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El Chapo' Guzmán Denounces That He Is Discriminated Against And His Human Rights Are Violated In Prison

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“Sol Prendido” for Borderland Beat

The drug lord, sentenced to life in prison in the United States, complains in a letter that he has not had access to key documents for his case.

Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman, after his extradition to the United States in 2017.

“A very big discrimination and a violation of human rights.” This is how Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán complained about the treatment he receives at the maximum security prison in Florence, the “Rocky Mountain Alcatraz”, in the state of Colorado. The former head of the Sinaloa Cartel wrote a letter in his own handwriting to Judge Brian Cogan, the same judge who sentenced him to life imprisonment in 2019, so that his lawyer could send him several documents in Spanish about his case.

El Chapo said that Mariel Colón, his legal representative, went to the prison on June 20 to deliver some documents to him, but that prison guards did not give them to him because they were in Spanish. “Mr. Judge, here in jail they know I don’t know English,” he wrote to Cogan. The drug trafficker says he has tried to keep track of the latest developments in his case with the help of a dictionary.

The documents requested by El Chapo are related to a 2255 motion, an instrument with which a prisoner in U.S. custody asks to be released on the grounds that his sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or the laws of the United States. “Everything is consciously and in bad faith against me,” Guzmán claims in a letter dated July 9 and reported by the newspaper Milenio. In the two-page letter, to which EL PAÍS also had access, the drug lord says that “for everything they use the flag that he escaped from prison in Mexico” to prevent contact with his lawyer. “It is an absurd way out to try to justify their anomalies,” he argues.

The letter from Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman, founder of the Sinaloa Cartel, to Judge Cogan.Courtesy.

“It is a right that every prisoner has and that they know they are violating,” claims Guzman, who demands the judge’s intervention so that his correspondence is not withheld. In September 2021, El Chapo complained that he was receiving “cruel and unjust treatment” since his extradition from Mexico in January 2017. The Sinaloa Cartel founder argued that his physical condition and mental health had deteriorated due to the isolation measures he was subjected to. “I suffer from headaches, memory loss, muscle cramps, stress and depression,” the capo wrote on that occasion. “I have suffered a lot.” In January of this year, another letter was published, this time addressed to Mexico’s ambassador to the United States and requesting the intervention of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador for his release.

An appeals court upheld Guzmán’s conviction early last year. His lawyers argued that the jury’s decision had been biased because some members had read press reports about their client’s criminal history. They also said that the conditions of solitary confinement imposed on the drug lord prevented him from coordinating with his defense to work on the case. The arguments were not enough in court. “Any possible prejudice was not harmful in the face of overwhelming evidence of Guzman’s guilt,” they said in assessing the challenge.

El Chapo Guzman’s letter to Judge Cogan.

Emma Coronel, a former beauty queen and Guzman’s third wife, was released from prison last June. Coronel spent 15 months in prison for drug trafficking and money laundering, before being granted the right to serve the remainder of her three-year sentence in house arrest, imposed in 2021.

This year, the US justice system has launched a new judicial offensive against Los Chapitos, four of El Chapo’s heirs, pointing to them as the main people responsible for trafficking fentanyl to the United States. Alfredo, Ivan Archivaldo, Joaquin and Ovidio Guzman, along with 24 cartel associates, were indicted on a wide range of charges including organized crime, drug trafficking, illegal possession of weapons and money laundering last April. Ovidio Guzman, alias El Raton, was captured last January amid a major operation in Culiacan, the Sinaloa state capital.

“We are not the head of the Sinaloa Cartel, nor are we interested in becoming one,” Guzman’s sons said in a letter released last May through their lawyers. El Chapo’s heirs said they were “scapegoats” and victims of their father’s bad reputation. “We believed that by keeping quiet and not bothering anyone we would lessen the consequences of the cradle in which we were born,” they said.

“In advance, I thank you,” reads the last line of a new letter, now from El Chapo. Cogan plans to hand down another conviction in January of next year, this time against Genaro García Luna, former Secretary of Public Security in the government of Felipe Calderón (2006-2012). Garcia Luna, the architect of Mexico’s drug war, was convicted in February of three counts of drug trafficking, one count of organized crime and one count of misrepresentation after being accused of collaborating with the Sinaloa Cartel for more than two decades.

El País


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