“A very great discrimination and a violation of human rights.” This is how Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán complained about the treatment he receives in the maximum security prison of Florence, the “gannet of the Rocky Mountains”, 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 one who sentenced him to life imprisonment in 2019, so that his lawyer could send him several documents in Spanish about the case of he.
El Chapo assured that Mariel Colón, his legal representative, went to the jail on June 20 to give him some documents, but that the prison guards did not send them to him because they were in Spanish. “Your Honor, here in jail they know I don’t know English,” he wrote to Cogan. The drug trafficker says that 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 motion 2255, an instrument with which a prisoner in custody of the United States requests to be released on the grounds that his sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or the laws of the North American country. “Everything is consciously and in bad faith against me,” Guzmán claims in a letter dated July 9 and that was advanced by the Milenio newspaper. In the two-page letter, to which EL PAÍS also had access, the boss says that “for everything they use the banner that he escaped from prison in Mexico” to prevent contacts with his lawyer. “It’s an absurd outlet to try to justify his anomalies,” he argues.
The letter from Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán, 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 Guzmán, who demands the intervention of the judge so that his correspondence is not withheld. In September 2021, El Chapo complained that he had received “cruel and unfair treatment” since his extradition from Mexico in January 2017. The founder of the Sinaloa Cartel argued that his physical condition and mental health had deteriorated due to the measures. isolation to which he was subjected. “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 released, this time addressed to the Mexican ambassador to the United States and asking for the intervention of the president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, for his release.
An appeals court upheld Guzman’s conviction early last year. His lawyers argued that the jury’s ruling had been biased, because some members had read press releases about their client’s criminal record. They also said that the isolation conditions imposed on the capo 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 the overwhelming evidence of Guzmán’s guilt,” they said when evaluating the challenge.
El Chapo Guzmán’s letter to Judge Cogan. Courtesy
Emma Coronel, a former beauty queen and Guzmán’s third wife, was released from jail last June. Coronel spent 15 months in prison for drug trafficking and money laundering, before she was granted the right to serve the remainder of her three-year sentence on home prison, imposed in 2021.
The US justice system has launched this year a new judicial offensive against Los Chapitos, four of El Chapo’s heirs, by pointing them out as the main responsible for trafficking fentanyl to the United States. Alfredo, Iván Archivaldo, Joaquín and Ovidio Guzmán, together with 24 collaborators of the cartel, were accused of an extensive battery of charges such as organized crime, drug trafficking, illegal possession of weapons and money laundering last April. Ovidio Guzmán, alias El Ratón, was captured last January in the middle of a strong operation in Culiacán, the capital of the State of Sinaloa.
“We are not the head of the Sinaloa Cartel nor are we interested in being it,” Guzmán’s children stated in a letter released last May through their lawyers. El Chapo’s heirs said they were “scapegoats” and victims of his father’s notoriety. “We believed that keeping quiet and not bothering anyone would reduce the consequences of the cradle in which we were born,” they said.
“I thank you in advance,” reads the last line of a new letter, now from El Chapo. Cogan plans to issue another sentence in January of next year, this time against Genaro García Luna, former Secretary of Public Security in the Government of Felipe Calderón (2006-2012). García Luna, architect of the war against drugs in Mexico, was found guilty in February of three charges for drug trafficking, another for organized crime and one more for false statements, after being accused of maintaining a collaboration with the Sinaloa Cartel for more than two decades.
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