NEWS
13/01/2019 11:31 GMT | Updated 14/01/2019 15:11 GMT

The El Chapo Trial Blows Apart One Of Trump's Main Border Wall Arguments

Trucks with “double bottoms” and large cans of chilis...

President Trump’s repeated claim that his planned US-Mexico border wall would stop drugs flowing into the United States has been rubbished by the very people responsible for bringing narcotics into the country.

Traffickers and former gang members testifying at the trial of notorious cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman have said the vast majority of drugs are smuggled onboard cars, trains, railers and boats that cross the border at legal ports of entry.

As recently as Friday, Trump once again stated that a major reason a border wall needs to be built is to stop the flow of “drugs & so much other big trouble”.

But numerous witnesses in the trial have detailed the smuggling methods which have allowed Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel, which El Chapo is accused of heading, to make billions of dollars over the last few decades.

And none of them would be prevented by a wall.

Former Sinaloa cartel leader, Jesus Zambada Garcia, said in November that after a US government crackdown on smuggling tunnels under the border in the early 1990s, the group switched to using legal ports of entry.

He described trucks with “double bottoms” and large cans of chilis containing a specially made, cylindrical brick of cocaine.

Garcia’s nephew, Vicente Zambada, described a much simpler method – simply driving it across the border.

He said: “Mexican families were hired to drive cars with secret compartments across the border at Juarez, sometimes three or four times a day.”

ASSOCIATED PRESS
In this courtroom sketch Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, centre, sits next to his defence attorney Eduardo Balarezo, left, for opening statements.

Trump has used the drugs issue to make the case for his border wall for which he is demanding $5 billion (£3.89bn) in funding from Democrats, which they have so far refused.

The stand-off has resulted in a partial shutdown of the US government which has just entered its 23rd day – the longest in US history.

More than 20 years since his first encounter with police, El Chapo is finally standing trial in the US for allegedly masterminding the shipment of over 200,000 tonnes of drugs into the country. 

The 61-year-old was long considered to be the leader of Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel, the world’s largest drugs trafficking organisation, shipping “wholesale amounts” of marijuana, cocaine, and heroin into the US.

Born in the Mexican state of Sinaloa, Guzmán earned his height-related nickname – he’s 5ft 6ins tall and El Chapo is often translated to “shorty” – when he was a teenager, shortly before he began working in organised crime in the ’70s.

In the decades that followed, prosecutors will argue, he became “Mexico’s drugs kingpin”, overseeing multiple shipments of drugs, some as big as 19,000kg.

The trial has heard how El Chapo relied on rampant bloodshed and bribery to protect his multibillion-dollar drug-smuggling operation and his hold on power.

This seek it was revealed his downfall may come about because of his own spying on his wife and associates.

El Chapo had software installed on their phones to monitor their texts and conversations, a key prosecution witness testified on Wednesday, an opening the FBI would later exploit.

Christian Rodriguez, a technician who said he worked for Guzman from 2008 to 2012 and set up a secure communication system for the cartel, took the stand in federal court in Brooklyn to testify in Guzman’s US trial.

Rodriguez said he handled Guzman’s requests to install spyware on about 50 “special phones” he wanted to track. The software allowed Guzman to monitor users’ calls and texts, and even to turn on a phone’s microphone and record at any time without the user’s knowledge.

FBI agent Steven Marston testified earlier on Thursday that US authorities obtained text messages from phones used by Guzman’s wife and apparent mistress thanks to the spyware.

The trial began November 13 and is expected to last a few more weeks.

Guzman faces life in prison if convicted. He has pleaded not guilty.