An exclusive interview given by a woman claiming to be Sinaloa cartel chief Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán’s daughter has added to allegations that the Mexican government colluded with the drug lord and his cartel.
Rosa Isela Guzmán Ortiz, reportedly the American daughter of the Sinaloa kingpin, told The Guardian that her father had “bought protection at the highest official level,” and sent intermediaries to “meetings with senior politicians and their representatives.”
“All I know is that my dad told his lawyer to deliver some cheques to [a politician’s] campaign, and asked that he respect him,” she told The Guardian.
These transactions, in Guzmán Ortiz’s telling, are in part what allowed “El Chapo” to rise from his humble origins in the mountains of Sinaloa state in northwest Mexico to his status as a leader of one of the most powerful drug-trafficking organisations on the planet.
She also accused senior Mexican officials of reneging on that deal by allowing Guzmán’s recapture in January.
“If there’s a pact, they don’t respect it,” Guzmán Ortiz said. “Now that they catch him they say he’s a criminal, a killer. But they didn’t say that when they asked for money for their campaigns. They’re hypocrites.”
While it’s certainly likely that she is trying to disparage the government currently prosecuting the man she calls her father, Guzmán Ortiz is not the first one to make these allegations.
The current government, led by President Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, has drawn accusations of collusion with traffickers for several reasons.
One is political: The PRI ran Mexico as a de facto one-party state for most of the 20th century. During that time, party leaders are believed to have cut deals with traffickers so they could profit off the drug trade while exercising some control over it. Peña Nieto, as the first PRI leader of the 21st century, has inherited that legacy.
Some PRI members have even been intimately tied to Guzmán’s cartel under Peña Nieto’s watch.
Another reason is based on policy: A feature of the drug war since it was kicked off by Felipe Calderon, Peña Nieto’s predecessor and a member of the more conservative National Action Party, was something referred to as the kingpin strategy, wherein the top organised-crime leaders and drug traffickers were targeted.
“Whenever Calderon would take out a top guy, in the aftermath … what we would always see is some kind of internal struggle or some kind of new violence coming from other organisations trying to take advantage of the weakness of the cartel that got hit,” David Shirk, a
professor at the University of San Diego, told Business Insider in late 2015.
Peña Nieto has largely continued the kingpin strategy, but with less violence than occurred during Calderon’s term.
That he “has been able to stave off kind of the worst aspects of the kingpin strategy,” for reasons that aren’t clear, has led people to “think that somehow there’s been a pact or a negotiation between the Peña Nieto administration and certain cartel organisations,” Shirk added, noting that there were the same suspicions about Calderon.
‘Grasping at straws’
Guzmán Ortiz’s comments to The Guardian are just one part of the recent flurry of activity around the Sinaloa cartel chief and the legal battle over his future.
The Guardian was able to view several documents verifying her identity — including her birth certificate and Mexican voting card — and her identity was confirmed a minister in Guzmán’s hometown of Badiraguato who is a close friend of the drug lord’s 87-year-old mother, Consuela Loera.
However, “El Chapo” Guzmán’s wife and other family members have disputed Guzmán Ortiz’s purported ties to the family.
“Joaquín told me [after his recapture in January] that this woman started writing him letters saying that her mother had told her that he was her father, it was the first time he had heard of her,” Guzmán’s wife, Emma Coronel, wrote in a letter released after The Guardian interview.
Coronel also said that Guzmán’s sisters hadn’t heard of the woman claiming to be the kingpin’s daughter, either. Guzmán, the nearly 60-year-old drug lord, is believed to have multiple children with several women.
This wrangling comes amid a concerted public-relations push by Guzmán’s legal team, an effort to gain leverage with US prosecutors over Guzmán’s potential imprisonment in the US.
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