The trial of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán has been more than three decades in the making, and with jury selection scheduled to begin Nov. 5 in Brooklyn, the long-awaited moment of truth has finally arrived.
The Sinaloa cartel leader is charged under the “Kingpin Statute,” a law created to prosecute drug lords and mobsters, and he faces life in prison if he’s convicted. But the case is about far more than El Chapo’s guilt or innocence. It’s about the entire war on drugs, and the countless lives it has impacted on both sides of the border.
To tell the final chapter in the legend of El Chapo, VICE News is launching a new podcast, “Chapo: Kingpin on Trial,” with versions in both English and Spanish. Over the course of eight episodes, starting November 1, we will take a journey across Mexico and the U.S. to meet people affected by El Chapo and the drug war.
Together with Miguel Angel Vega, a journalist who has spent years covering the drug trade for the newspaper "Ríodoce" in El Chapo’s home turf of Sinaloa, we'll meet heroin traffickers, cartel hitmen, and others directly involved in the business. We’ll visit El Chapo’s hometown to interview members of his family, including the only relative aside from his 7-year-old twin daughters to visit him at the Manhattan jail where he’s being held in solitary confinement.
We’ll speak with the DEA agent who led the effort to capture El Chapo in 2014, the lawyers who are defending El Chapo in court, and former Mexican President Felipe Calderón, whose decision to deploy the military to fight the cartels escalated his country’s drug war with deadly consequences.
We’ll hear from families shattered by violence, ordinary citizens caught between drug cartels and the Mexican military, and poppy farmers who are losing their livelihood due the rise of fentanyl and other powerful synthetic opioids.
We’ll explore the myths that surround El Chapo, separating fact from fiction about his two escapes from maximum-security prisons in Mexico, the elaborate tunnels that he used to smuggle billions of dollars worth of drugs beneath the border, and his ill-fated encounter with actors Kate del Castillo and Sean Penn.
El Chapo’s lawyers have asked his judge for a last-minute delay of the trial, a request that has already been denied twice in recent weeks. If the trial proceeds as planned, it’s expected to last several months and feature high-drama testimony from former Mexican and Colombian kingpins, but some of the most powerful stories to emerge from his epic rise and fall won’t be heard inside the courtroom.
Cover: In this Jan. 19, 2017 file photo provided by U.S. law enforcement, authorities escort Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, center, from a plane to a waiting caravan of SUVs at Long Island MacArthur Airport, in Ronkonkoma, N.Y. (U.S. law enforcement via AP, File)