Notorious drug lord, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s public trial held in secret

Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera is currently on trial in an American federal court for vast amount of crimes, but the United States government has prevented much information from reaching the public. Graphic by Maria Nevada

San Juana Paramo

The long-awaited trial of notorious Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera, leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel–one of the largest drug cartels, is underway in a Federal District Court in Brooklyn.

It had appeared that the Mexican government held a strong desire for the trial to be as out in the open as possible, yet it’s been three weeks and the entire trial has been shrouded in secrecy.

In total, 16 cooperating witnesses will take the stand testifying against Guzman and shedding light both on his lavish lifestyle and violent tendencies. The first two cooperating witnesses to testify were once high-ranking officials in the cartel—as well as close friends and business associates of Guzman. The connections the remaining witnesses had or have to Guzman and the cartel are not yet known.

While the prosecution is making their case against Guzman for trafficking drugs among other charges, the defense is instead placing blame on the Mexican government according to the New York Post. The defense is arguing that aside from being corrupt, the Mexican government and law enforcement officials either have or are currently conspiring with who they say is the real leader of the Sinaloa cartel: Ismael Zambada García.

It’s not difficult to understand why the defense would take on that argument–it’s widely known that Mexico is a corrupt country. A claim further proved by the first two cooperating witnesses when they each shared their own stories of bribing government and law enforcement officials.

The first witness, Jesus Zambada García, was set to reveal how he allegedly once bribed a Mexican president reported the New York Times. However, hours before his testimony the U.S. government filed a memo essentially limiting cross-examination that would allow Zambada to reveal which Mexican president had been bribed. That memo and ensuing sidebar conversation along with the transcript have been kept secret.

It’s becoming quite common in Guzman’s trail for the U.S. government to issue late night sealed memos that limit what can be discussed in court. The government has gone to great lengths to redact documents that are available to the public. According the New York Times, a reason provided by Judge Brian Cogan is that information revealed from broad testimony doesn’t outweigh protecting individuals who aren’t involved in the case but would otherwise face embarrassment or harassment.

Despite the U.S. government’s attempts at limiting testimony and questioning, both witnesses have already divulged the names of top officials that have been bribed by the cartel. Judge Cogan has also prohibited courtroom sketch artists from drawing the faces of some witnesses, like Miguel Angel Martinez.

For the world this may be shocking news, but for Mexicans (myself included) this is old news. To be presented with the inner workings of cartels and how corruption exists at the highest levels in government has come to feel obvious—expected even. Guzman’s trial will show that drug trafficking and cartels could not have existed without the help of the Mexican government.

However, in order to judge Guzman properly everything needs to be revealed. Guzman is not the only person facing the jury, those that helped him should also be tried–especially if they’re involved with the government.

Guzman’s trial is set to last until February 2019, don’t be surprised if more sealed memos are issued and more names of past and current Mexican government officials are revealed as conspiring with the Sinaloa cartel.