Emma Coronel, the wife of jailed drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, sat down for her first public interview on Sunday, defending her husband to Mexican journalist Anabel Hernández.
“He is like any other man — of course he is not violent, not rude,” Coronel said in the interview, which aired on Telemundo.
“I have never heard him say a bad word. I have never seen him get excited or be upset at anyone,” Coronel added.
Coronel, who’s 26 years old, has been married to Guzmán for eight years, and has borne him twin daughters, now 4 years old.
Her time with her husband has been sporadic, with him either in jail or on the run for the entirety of their marriage.
Her most frequent visits with her husband came during his time in jail after his February 2014 recapture, when she and her daughters lived in a home near El Altiplano prison, just west of Mexico City.
Despite their brief interactions, she spoke highly of his personal character.
“He tends to win over people by his manner of being, of acting, the way he treats people in general,” she told Hernández.
Coronel’s assertions about her husband’s humility contrasts with the numerous killings, kidnappings, and other violent crimes he is suspected of being involved in, helping bathe Mexico in the blood of the innocent and the criminal alike since the late 1990s.
His cartel waged a brutal war with the Arellano Felix Organisation to take control of trafficking operations in the Tijuana area in the 1990s and 2000s. Since the late 2000s, his Sinaloa cartel has battled the Juarez cartel for control of Ciudad Juarez and warred with the vicious Los Zetas cartel over territory in central and northern Mexico.
Guzmán’s charm appears to be well-known, at least his home turf of Sinaloa state in northwest Mexico.
Guzmán is “a normal guy, very good with people,” Maria, a store owner in the drug kingpin’s home municipality of Badiraguato in Sinaloa state, told The Washington Post last summer.
“He is not a person who threatens, intimidates,” Francisco Villa Gurrola, a pastor in Badiraguato, told Vice News in July 2015.
“He knows how to converse, knows how to speak,” Villa Gurrola continued. “As an individual, I recognise him as a good person.” Residents in Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa state, took to the streets after his capture in February 2014, hailing him as a defender of the people and calling for his release.
Whatever his personal comportment, Guzmán’s activities are likely known to Coronel, say some observers.
“She knows he’s the person who butters her bread,” Laura Carlsen, the director of the Americas Program of the Center for International Policy, told The Daily Beast.
Carlsen added that Coronel was “well aware” of her husband’s status as a drug kingpin, as well as the “nasty business” that he was involved in, according to The Daily Beast.
Coronel’s family is suspected of being more than just Guzmán’s in-laws.
Her uncle is believed to be Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel Villarreal, who was a high-level member of the Sinaloa cartel before his death in a shootout with police in 2010.
Ines Coronel Barreras, Coronel’s father and Guzmán’s father-in-law, was named a major drug trafficker by the US government in 2013 and accused of coordinating drug shipments between Mexico and the US on behalf of the Sinaloa cartel.
Coronel Barreras and his son, Ines Omar Coronel Aispuro, were arrested in 2013 on drug-trafficking charges. Emma Coronel maintains their innocence, saying their prosecution is part of an effort by the Mexican government to seize her family’s assets.
Her youngest brother, Edgar, was arrested in August last year on suspicions that he helped plan Guzmán’s breakout from Altiplano prison in July.
“She’s lying,” Emmanuel Gallardo, a journalist in Mexico City, told The Daily Beast. “Everyone in Mexico knows the Coronels are connected to the Sinaloan cartel — and they have been for years.”
He faces a bevy of federal indictments in the US, including ones for trafficking and murder. While the drug lord has indicated his willingness to make a deal, he will likely have to offer more than charm to get one.
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