Wife of Mexico cartel chief El Chapo gets arrested over drug charges
WASHINGTON/MEXICO CITY (US/MEXICO) – The wife of Mexican drug cartel boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was arrested in the United States on Monday over charges of helping her husband continue running his drug trafficking cartel while he was behind bars.
Emma Coronel Aispuro, 31, a regular attendee at her husband’s high-profile US trial two years ago, from where he was convicted of trafficking loads of drugs into the United States, was taken under arrest at Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia.
Her arrest is the highest profile US capture of a Mexican on drug charges since former Mexican Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos was detained in October.
Coronel was charged by the US Department of Justice for making conspiracies to distribute heroin, cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamines so as to illegally import into the United States. She is expected to appear in a federal court in Washington on Tuesday.
Moreover, an affidavit attached to the charges also states in detail that Coronel was allegedly involved in her husband’s escape from a Mexican prison in 2015 and a second attempted prison break in 2016, following which the 63-year-old was extradited to the United States.
A Mexican official familiar with the situation, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Coronel’s arrest appeared to be mainly an initiative by US and that Coronel was not wanted in Mexico.
Former Mexican ambassador to the United States Arturo Sarukhan said, “[It’s] a sign of what’s likely ahead,” describing it as an example of US agencies taking actions with little coordination regarding Mexican counterparts.
Fight against drug trafficking jointly saw recurrent strains by Cienfuegos’ arrest, and Mexico’s government heading towards restricting US agents’ activities in Mexico, which was part of retaliation for what it called a breach of trust.
The Cienfuegos case was unexpectedly dropped by the Justice Department the following month, allowing him return to Mexico, which Mexico saw as a welcoming move for restoring trust between the two countries. After two months, Mexico dropped its own case against Cienfuegos.
The investigation into Coronel was handled by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), instead of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).
The indictment documents said Coronel has been transmitting messages on behalf of Guzman to make drug trafficking easier after his arrest in 2014.
Prosecutors said Coronel also conspired to aid her husband in his July 2015 escape from the Altiplano prison in Mexico through a mile-long tunnel from his cell. An unnamed cooperating witness was paid $1 million to help facilitate a failed second escape a year later, according to the affidavit.
Coronel, who married Guzman as an 18-year-old beauty queen in 2017, enjoys the status of a dual US-Mexico citizen who lives in Mexico. It was not clear why she was in the Washington area during the time of her arrest.
Prosecutors at Guzman’s trial two years ago said he captured power through murders and wars with rival cartels. Guzman was sentenced to life in prison, with an addition to 30 years, which the sentencing judge said reflected Guzman’s “overwhelmingly evil” actions. Guzman was sent to ADX Florence in Colorado, considered as the nation’s most secure “Supermax” prison.
Tomas Guevara, an investigator in security issues at the Autonomous University of Sinaloa, said Coronel’s arrest might be part of a “pressure strategy” to force cooperation from Guzman.