As Mexico’s most powerful drug lord, Guzman ran a cartel responsible for smuggling mountains of cocaine and other drugs into the United States during his 25-year reign, prosecutors said in recent court papers. They also said his “army of sicarios,” or “hit men,” was under orders to kidnap, torture and kill anyone who got in his way.
His prison breaks became the stuff of legend and raised serious questions about whether Mexico's justice system was capable of holding him accountable. In one case, he escaped through an entry under the shower in his cell to a milelong (1.6-kilometer-long) lighted tunnel with a motorcycle on rails. The planning for the escape was extensive, prosecutors say, with his wife playing a key role.
Court papers charge that Coronel worked with Guzman’s sons and a witness, who is now cooperating with the U.S. government, to organize the construction of the underground tunnel that Guzman used to escape from the Altiplano prison to prevent his extradition to the U.S. The plot included purchasing a piece of land near the prison, firearms and an armored truck and smuggling him a GPS watch so they could “pinpoint his exact whereabouts so as to construct the tunnel with an entry point accessible to him,” the court papers say.
Guzman was sentenced to life behind bars in 2019.
Coronel, who was a beauty queen in her teens, regularly attended Guzman’s trial, even when testimony implicated her in his prison breaks. The two, separated in age by more than 30 years, have been together since at least 2007, and their twin daughters were born in 2011.
Her father, Ines Coronel Barreras, was arrested in 2013 with one of his sons and several other men in a warehouse with hundreds of pounds of marijuana across the border from Douglas, Arizona. Months earlier, the U.S. Treasury had announced financial sanctions against her father for his alleged drug trafficking.
After Guzman was rearrested following his escape, Coronel lobbied the Mexican government to improve her husband’s prison conditions. And after he was convicted in 2019, she moved to launch a clothing line in his name.
Mike Vigil, the Drug Enforcement Administration’s former chief of international operations, said Coronel “has been involved in the drug trade since she was a little girl. She knows the inner workings of the Sinaloa cartel.”
He said she could be willing to cooperate.
“She has a huge motivation, and that is her twins,” Vigil said.
Associated Press writers Christopher Sherman and Mark Stevenson in Mexico City contributed to this report.
FILE - In this Feb. 12, 2019 file photo, Emma Coronel Aispuro, center, wife of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, leaves federal court in New York. The wife of Mexican drug kingpin and escape artist Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman has been arrested on international drug trafficking charges at an airport in Virginia. The Justice Department says 31-year-old Emma Coronel Aispuro, who is a dual citizen of the U.S. and Mexico, was arrested at Dulles International Airport on Monday and is expected to appear in federal court in Washington on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Credit: Seth Wenig
Credit: Seth Wenig