Joaquín Guzman Loera, known as El Chapo, will be standing trial in New York under high security. And a total of 27 people have so far been dismissed as potential jurors, out of nearly 60 who have been questioned.

Recaptured drug lord Joaquin
Recaptured drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman is escorted by soldiers at the hangar belonging to the office of the Attorney General in Mexico City, Mexico on January 8, 2016. (Reuters)

Joaquin Guzman Loera, who was once one of the richest people in the world, was arrested in January 2016 after being on the run for five months following his escape from a high-security prison in Mexico. 

Guzman has escaped from prison two times; the first time from a maximum-security prison in the Mexican state of Jalisco in 2001, and second time in July 2015 in central Mexico.

El Chapo stands accused of being the leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel, the biggest smuggler of heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine to the US, and also faces conspiracy charges in the US.

Who is El Chapo?

Guzman was born into a low-income family in 1957 in the rural Mexican town of Badiraguato.

He came into contact with drug trafficking during his youth while working in poppy and marijuana fields.

He is known as El Chapo (Shorty, in English) due to his diminutive height, just 164 cm.

In the late 80s, he earned his notoriety in the Mexican drug world. After his leader, Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, was arrested for killing a US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent, he became a new leader in Mexico’s lucrative drugs industry.

El Chapo founded the Sinaloa cartel, named for a city in northern Mexico, in 1989. The Sinaloa cartel has become the biggest in the world, making about $3 billion a year, and El Chapo was listed as the 709th richest person in the world by Forbes in 2009.

Arrests and Escapes

Guzman was arrested by Guatemalan forces for drug trafficking in 1993 and extradited to Mexico. Eight years later, in 2001, he escaped from maximum security prison in a laundry cart. 

He was caught again by Mexican authorities after 13 years on the run in February 2014.

His second prison break took place in July 2015. El Chapo fled by using a 1.5km tunnel from underneath his cell to a half built-house near the prison.

However, he was caught five months later, for the third time, by the Mexican state and later extradited to the United States.

What are the accusations against him?

Guzman is accused of orchestrating the trafficking of vast amounts of drugs into the US. Under Guzman’s leadership, the Sinaloa cartel became the biggest drug smuggler to Mexico’s northern neighbour.

According to the indictment by the US court, Guzman is accused of exporting hundreds of tons of cocaine to the US.

He is also accused of conspiring in the distribution of cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine and ordering the torture and murder of ‘hundreds’ of people.

Jurors’ fear

A total of 27 people have so far been dismissed as potential jurors, out of nearly 60 who have been questioned. The 12 jurors and six alternate jurors eventually chosen will remain anonymous and be escorted to and from court by armed federal marshals during the trial, which is expected to last up to four months. 

One of the people dismissed on Tuesday after expressing fear about the case said she had come across news reports that Guzman promised not to kill jurors, which made her “pretty anxious.” 

One man was let go after saying he had “some emotions mixed with fear” about the case.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies