03/04/21 (written by scortez) – On February 22, Emma Coronel Aispuro, the wife of drug kingpin Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán Loera, was arrested on drug-trafficking charges at Dulles International Airport in Virginia. According to the New York Times, the charges against Coronel allege her role in assisting her husband run a criminal empire and plotting his escape from prison after he was captured in 2014. Reforma reports that the FBI obtained a postmarked letter Guzmán for Coronel, in which he negotiated the terms of increasing production of heroin. If convicted, she could face up to 10 years in prison. In 2019, Guzmán was sentenced to life in prison without parole for being the chief operating figure of the Sinaloa Cartel, one of the largest and most powerful drug-trafficking organizations in the world.
The Guardian reports that Coronel, a dual U.S.-Mexican citizen, was confident that she would not be arrested in the United States. She was a constant presence throughout the duration of Guzmán’s trial in New York City and had gone on record as knowing nothing about Guzmán’s illicit enterprise. Still, the arrest came as a surprise. Prosecutors had not made any indication that they would be pursuing charges, even after she had been directly implicated in Guzmán’s 2019 trial. For two years, Coronel had been under investigation by U.S. attorneys for communicating messages on behalf of Guzmán, while he was in hiding between 2012 and 2014.
Coronel Played Role in Her Husband’s Operations and 2015 Escape
According to Milenio, Coronel was responsible for communicating instructions, regarding her husband’s 2015 prison escape, to his children and other high-ranking members of the cartel. In their investigation, FBI agents obtained Blackberry text messages from Coronel that illustrate her deep involvement in his operations, at times involving her own father’s assistance. Igna “Nacho” Coronel, Emma’s father and longtime partner of Guzmán, is believed to have introduced the couple. Her father was later arrested in 2013 for his involvement in drug-trafficking for the cartel. After Guzmán was arrested in Mazatlán, Sinaloa in 2014, Emma continued to assist her husband with running the cartel from prison until his 2015 escape.
The U.S. Department of Justice asserts that in 2015, Emma Coronel aided Guzmán’s second escape from the Altiplano prison in the city of Almoloya. She worked with four of his sons to plan his underground escape, which included purchasing weapons and armored vehicles. The carefully planned escape involved a mile-long tunnel with tracks to allow him to escape on a makeshift motorbike on train-style tracks. The investigation also alleges that she planned to facilitate his escape after he was apprehended in 2016. Coronel contacted an individual, who is now a witness in the case, to purchase land around the prison to mirror his 2015 escape. The plan did not come to fruition because Guzmán was transferred to a prison in Ciudad Juárez and later extradited to the United States. Coronel had told a witness that they had paid $2 million dollars to an official in Mexico City in an attempt to get Guzmán back to the Altiplano prison, where he could escape more easily. It was previously believed that the bribe revealed a web of corruption that could have resulted in another planned escape.
Coronel is the latest family member of Guzmán to face charges for their role in facilitating his operations. U.S. authorities have labeled Coronel a “flight risk.” She is currently being held without bail, pending trial. Details of her involvement in the Sinaloa Cartel will continue to surface as the legal process runs its course. The arrest of Coronel also signals that the United States under the Biden Administration is going to pursue the geopolitical strategy of assisting Mexico in its fight against narcotrafficking.