Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman personally tortured and murdered his enemies and buried a rival alive, according to the Mexican drug kingpin’s former hitman.
Isaias Valdez Rios told a court in New York that he had witnesses Guzman, 61, killing several people – the first time that the jury has heard of Guzman himself carrying out a murder. He is not on trial for murder, but federal prosecutors – who are expected to wrap up their case on Monday – want to depict him as a violent and ruthless man ready to do anything to protect his $14 billion trafficking empire.
Valdez said that one victim had been tortured before he arrived at Guzman’s camp on the plane of Ismael "Mayo" Zambada, who led the Sinaloa Cartel with Guzman.
"He had burns made with an iron on his back, his shirt was stuck to his skin,” the 39-year-old said. “He had burns made with a car lighter all over his body. His feet were burned."
After two interrogations Guzman shot the man, Valdez said, uttering his signature kill phrase: "—- your mother!"
The man was still breathing, said Valdez, who worked for seven years in the Mexican army’s special forces unit before joining Guzman’s organization.
"So we put him in a hole and buried him."
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Two other members of the rival Zetas Cartel were murdered by Guzman, beaten nearly to death with a thick tree branch before being shot.
"They were completely like rag dolls – their bones were totally broken,” he said. “They could not move. And Mr Joaquin was still hitting them with the branch and his weapon too."
Valdez was arrested in 2014 and has been in a US prison ever since. He is facing a sentence of 10 years to life, but is hoping to see that reduced in exchange for his cooperation with prosecutors.
On Wednesday the court heard how Guzman’s wife, beauty queen Emma Coronel, had helped the drug lord escape from a high-security prison in 2015, passing messages to her husband to coordinate the tunnel escape.