Mexican cocaine kingpin El Chapo personally tortured and murdered his drug cartel rivals and had one of them buried alive, a former bodyguard claims.
Joaquin Guzman, 61, brutally beat and shot three of his enemies, including one who was still gasping for air as he was thrown in a hole and buried, a court heard in gory detail.
That rival had burns so bad from an iron his T-shirt was stuck to his skin when he was presented to the Sinaloa cartel boss, who left him to decompose alive for days before he was killed, it is alleged.
Guzman tortured two other men by beating them with a stick like "rag dolls" for hours before shooting them dead and ordering their bodies to be incinerated, the bodyguard claims.
Isaias Valdez Rios, in jail in the US since his arrest on drug trafficking charges in 2014, told jurors in New York he watched his boss – the former head of the Sinaloa cartel – carry out the gruesome murders.
It was the first time the federal court heard about killings allegedly carried out by Guzman himself, rather than underlings following his orders.
The court heard Valdez, 39, is a former member of the Mexican army’s special forces who began working for Guzman at one of his mountain hideouts around 2004.
Valdez claimed Guzman shot a member of the rival Arellano-Felix cartel, or the Tijuana cartel, after he was abducted in 2006.
The man was "severely tortured" with a hot iron and suffered burns so bad “the T-shirt he was wearing was stuck to his skin and he had lighter marks all over his body", Valdez told the jury.
El Chapo, who has been supported in the gallery by his wife, Emma Coronel Aispuro, left the badly injured and blindfolded man outdoors for three days, interrogated him for 20 minutes and then threw him in a hen house for several more days.
The cartel boss’ underlings began to complain about the bad odour coming from the hen house, where the rival "was decomposing in a way", said Valdez.
On Guzman’s orders, Valdez and others dug a hole in a nearby graveyard and took the man there, where El Chapo began interrogating him again and shot him with a handgun, screaming "You motherf***er", the New York Post reported.
Valdez told the court the man was gasping for air when he was dumped in the hole and buried.
The bodyguard described two other alleged killings – involving rivals who were from Guzman’s home state of Sinaloa but worked for the rival Zetas cartel – that happened around the same time.
The rivals were beaten by some of Guzman’s men before he took a large stick and battered them with it for three hours, it is alleged.
Valdez said: “The people were pretty much like rag dolls. The bones in their bodies were fractured. They couldn’t move.
“[El Chapo] was telling them, ‘You motherf***ers, how is it possible that you are working for them and betraying us?’”
Guzman allegedly ordered his men to dig a large hole and light a bonfire inside it.
He then brought the men there and shot both of them in the head.
Valdez said: “He came up and put the rifle to the head of one of them and said, ‘f*** your mother’, and boom, he shot him in the head.
"He said, ‘I don’t want any bones to remain’."
The men’s corpses were tossed into the burning pit and their bones were later ground up to eliminate any trace of them, it is alleged.
Guzman was extradited to the US in 2017 and has been on trial since November on charges of trafficking huge amounts of cocaine, heroin and other drugs into America.
His lawyers claim he was framed by a powerful drug trafficker, Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada.
Valdez claims Zambada delivered the rival Arellano-Felix drug cartel member to El Chapo, saying Guzman was displeased to find that the man had already been tortured with an iron.
Guzman later ordered Valdez to be killed, wrongly thinking that his bodyguard was stealing money.
Valdez said he was terrified, so he went into hiding, "turned off all communication" and even faked having a broken leg, sending photos of himself in a plaster at El Chapo’s request.
El Chapo’s men eventually found Valdez – blindfolding and handcuffing him after tossing him into an armoured pickup truck – but he managed to persuade them not to kill him.
El Chapo later dropped the kill order and called Valdez to tell him he had been fed "lies", said Valdez, who claims he went on to pilot drug planes for the cartel.
Guzman is alleged to have told him: "We’re family."
Prosecutors expect to wrap up their case on Monday after three months of evidence.
It is not yet known if Guzman will testify when his lawyers call their own witnesses.
Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman
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