‘El Chapo is a family man being “slowly tortured” in prison’
– Emma Coronel, wife in first TV interview
Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman is escorted to a helicopter in handcuffs in Mexico City on 8 January after his most recent capture.
The wife of drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán claims her husband is a loving family man unfairly scapegoated by Mexican authorities, and his life is at risk because of harsh prison conditions imposed since his recapture in January.
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In her first ever interview, Guzman’s third wife Emma Coronel, 26, said her husband was being “slowly tortured” in prison and was suffering from dangerously high blood pressure which made her “afraid for his life”.
This is the first time the former beauty queen has spoken publicly about her eight years of marriage to the leader of the Sinaloa cartel – one of the world’s most powerful criminal organisations and responsible for much of the violent drug trade between Mexico and the US.
Coronel was interviewed on Telemundo by Anabel Hernández, the acclaimed Mexican investigative reporter who has received death threats over her work exposing links between cartel bosses such as Guzmán and state officials, in a seafood restaurant in Culiacán, the capital of Sinaloa state.
Guzman, 58, was recaptured in January following six months on the run after he embarrassed Mexican authorities in July 2015 by escaping from a maximum security prison on a motorbike through a sophisticated tunnel which opened into his shower room.
“They don’t let him sleep. He has no privacy”
– Emma Coronel, wife of ‘El Chapo’
He has been held in solitary confinement in El Altiplano since 8 January, where he is under constant watch by hooded, armed guards and police dogs, according to Coronel.
“They want to make him pay for his escape. They say that they are not punishing him. Of course they are. They are there with him, watching him in his cell … all day long, calling attendance. They don’t let him sleep. He has no privacy, not even to go to the bathroom.”
Guzmán is facing seven criminal indictments in several US states, on charges including conspiracy to commit murder, kidnapping, money laundering and drug distribution. He is accused of leading an organization that trafficked at least 800,000kg (1.8m lbs) of cocaine between 2003 and 2014 to the US and many other countries.
Coronel said she was unaware of his drug trafficking business, and said her husband’s wealth and power had been inflated.
“Anything evil that happens in whatever part of the world is [blamed on] El Chapo … he is not the most powerful capo in the world … but the (Mexican) government made him the most wanted capo in the world perhaps to hide more important things.