Court sketch by Alba Acevedo of El Chapo listening to a Spanish translator as his attorney Eduardo Balarezo speaks to the judge. Image sourced from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Latin America: Week in Review, Mexico

Trial of Mexican drug lord, “El Chapo,” starts today in NYC

November 5, 2018 By Staff


U.S.: The trial of Mexican kingpin, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, starts today with jury selection in Brooklyn, New York. The prosecution is expected to last up to four months. Extradited to the United States in 2017 for drug conspiracy charges after escaping two Mexican prisons, El Chapo and his criminal track record raised security concerns as the trial begins. A long list of government witnesses include survivors and perpetrators of international drug trafficking. Prosecutors are protecting the identities of their witnesses from the cartel and the judge is keeping jurors – all residents of New York’s Eastern District– anonymous in order to prevent jury intimidation, a common measure in cases pertaining to terrorism or mobs.

Their biggest challenge, however, will be monitoring El Chapo during transit between the Brooklyn federal court where the prosecution is taking place and the federal jailhouse where he is being kept in solitary confinement. During pre-trial hearings, authorities shut down the Brooklyn Bridge to clear the way for a police motorcade that consisted of a SWAT team and an ambulance escorted by helicopters overhead.

Opening statements are planned for Nov. 13. Meanwhile, the Sinaloa cartel carries on with their illicit business in the absence of their former ringleader.




MEXICO: Soon after the caravan rejoiced over news that Veracruz governor, Miguel Ángel Yunes, would supply buses to transport them 350 miles from their latest encampment in the town of Sayula de Alemán to Mexico City, Yunes abruptly rescinded the offer, saying it was “incorrect” to send thousands of caravan travelers to the capital while it is undergoing extreme water shortages. Instead, he directed the caravan to head north through Veracruz, offering them bus transit through a dangerous area notoriously known as “the route of death,” where many gangs have historically attacked and extorted migrants.



GUATEMALA: After returning from a weekend trip to the United States, President Jimmy Morales is set to arrive to Honduras today, to meet with President Juan Orlando Hernández. President Morales, First Lady Patricia Marroquín, and Foreign Minister Sandra Jovel visited the Guatemalan consulate in Lake Worth, Florida, to monitor printing of passports. After Honduras, the President’s delegation is expected to leave for San Salvador and meet Salvadoran Vice president Óscar Ortiz. This four-day tour comes in the wake of the Central American migrant caravans headed northward to the United States.


DOMINICAN REPUBLIC: After becoming the third Latin American country to cut ties with Taiwan, the Dominican Republic opened its embassy in mainland China on Saturday. The ceremony in Beijing featured Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Dominican President Daniel Medina. Previously, President Medina had met his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, on Friday. China continues to gain diplomatic territory in the Caribbean. The Asian country opened its largest regional embassy in the Maraval suburb of Port of Spain, capital of Trinidad and Tobago, over the weekend.

PUERTO RICO: On Friday, Governor Ricardo Rosselló created the “9/20 Committee,” aimed at establishing better protocols that register disaster-related deaths. Following criticisms on the Rosselló administration for severely undercounting the casualties related to Hurricane Maria on Sept. 2017, Puerto Rico’s government announced a 19-member committee responsible for improving information management during natural disasters. The Committee includes scholars from George Washington University, who originally reported a more accurate death toll after Maria, and researchers from Columbia University’s National Center for Disaster Preparedness (NCDP).


COLOMBIA: On Friday, the White House announced that U.S. president Donald Trump canceled his upcoming visit to Colombia, scheduled for later in December. The White House statement claimed that the president’s schedule would prevent him from traveling but abstained from giving any further details. This marks the second time this year that Trump cancels a visit to Colombia. Earlier this year he canceled the original visit scheduled for April.

BRAZIL: According to an interview published on Nov. 2 by the Correio Braziliense, president-elect Jair Bolsonaro is considering ending the country’s diplomatic relationships with Cuba. Bolsonaro voiced his concerns about Cuba’s disregard for Human Rights and reproached the Cuban government for the alleged ill-treatment of the doctors engaged in the Mais Medicos (More Doctors) program. Bolsonaro expressed his desire to keep the program begun by leftist former Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff only if these conditions are reversed.


BOLIVIA/CHILE: President Evo Morales informed last Friday that the Chilean government has yet to respond to his letter requesting to relaunch the maritime discussions between both countries related to landlocked-Bolivia’s claim of access to a piece of the Pacific Ocean coastline. On Oct. 1, the International Court of Justice, or ICJ, ruled in favor of Chile but still recommended that both countries discuss a peaceful resolution to their dispute. On Oct 9, Chilean president Sebastián Piñera assured its neighbor that he was open to talk as long as Bolivia gave up its request for a sovereign exit to the ocean.

ARGENTINA: A team of Spanish and Argentine paleontologists discovered the remains of a new species of sauropods in the Patagonia region of Argentina. The new species of this herbivorous group, to which Brontosaurus also belong to, was officially named Lavocatisaurus agrioensis, and unofficially, it was nicknamed “Alfredito” in honor of Uruguayan singer Alfredo Zitarrosa. The discovery was a big shock for the team of scientists, since that area used to be a unfriendly-to-dinosaurs desert 110 million years ago. The fossil remains found were of three creatures, an adult and two younger ones.