Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel is, by far, the number one drug lord in the world, according to a new report by the DEA.
El Chapo has almost full control of the drug market in the United States, which includes $3 billion worth of marijuana, cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. He funnels it in through Chicago and Los Angeles and gangs — like MS-13, Latin Kings, Bloods, the Sureños and Crips — help distribute it to the entire country and even Canada.
According to the Mexican newspaper El Universal, this may be due to a rumored agreement made in 2000 between the Sinaloa Cartel and US Officials where, in exchange for information on other drug organizations, El Chapo would do as he pleased.
Whether or not this is true, what’s a fact is that the cartel is becoming even more powerful. El Chapo is now growing his own opium to produce heroin and compete with the South American market. He has, according to farmers and officials in Mexico, 23,000 miles of opium and marijuana fields, that’s larger than Costa Rica. And just to put things in perspective as to his profits: it costs him $5,000 to produce a kilogram of heroin and can sell it for $80,000, street value.
Obviously, that’s not without consequence. Between 2007 and 2014, heroin deaths increased by 244% and there are between 435,000 to 1.5 million heroin users in the U.S. So whether he’s behind bars or roaming free, El Chapo is keeping his King Pin title.
In a bombshell episode of “Red Table Talk: The Estefans”, superstar Mexican actress Kate del Castillo went on the record about the event that changed the course of her life: her meeting with the notorious Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.
In an episode entitled “Surviving Betrayal: Kate del Castillo’s Comeback”, the telenovela star attempts to clear her name.
As background, del Castillo attracted global attention when the media discovered that she had been talking to and visiting with El Chapo after his 2015 escape from prison. According to del Castillo, their entire relationship (which she insists was strictly platonic) was sparked by a message she Tweeted out in which she said: “Today I believe more in El Chapo Guzman than in the governments that hide truths from me.” Emboldened by this state, El Chapo took it upon himself to contact the telenovela actress, whom he had long admired, for a meeting.
Del Castillo insisted that the meeting was purely business-related.
Del Castillo told El Chapo she wanted to make a movie about his life, and he agreed. Soon enough, Oscar-winning actor Sean Penn expressed his interest in the movie. And before they knew it, Penn, his producers, and del Castillo all hopped on a private jet to meet El Chapo.
It was at this meeting that Penn conducted his infamous “Rolling Stone” interview with El Chapo–an interview that del Castillo helped translate. Del Castillo told the Estefans that El Chapo was staring at her with a massive smile on his face the whole time she was there–he only had eyes for her.
At the end of the night, El Chapo showed her to the room she would be staying in. “We didn’t even know that we were going to stay there!” del Castillo told the Estefans. “I thought I was going to be raped and definitely killed or something like that. He could’ve done whatever the hell he wanted to.” But El Chapo left her alone and the visit ended shortly after that.
Del Castillo claims that her and Penn got out of there in the nick of time. “Literally 24-hours after we left, the military came in and started shooting,” she said.
Although del Castillo left the meeting with her life intact, her future was forever changed.
Del Castillo was charged by the Mexican government with obstruction of justice and money laundering. Sean Penn, however, struck a deal with “Rolling Stone” to be covered under journalism laws–he and his producing partners got off scott-free.
More than anything, del Castillo felt betrayed and foolish that she was used as a pawn by Sean Penn. “When all of us committed the same crime, why was I the only one with charges?” del Castillo asked the Estefans. Not only was del Castillo embroiled in legal controversy, but a media circus cropped up around her as well.
Rumors of a romance between her and El Chapo abounded–rumors that she vehemently denies.
Del Castillo choked up as she explains the torture that her parents went through in those days. “[The press] were saying that I was ‘la puta del Chapo’. That I had business with him, that I was laundering money.” But del Castillo says her parents always stood by her and never believed the rumors.
Because of the ordeal, Kate del Castillo was forced to flee Mexico, leaving her family, friends, and career behind. She has now taken up residence in Los Angeles. But del Castillo feels anything but safe. “I got a gun, and I sleep with my gun next to me,” she revealed. She believes that the Mesican government is embarassed that she was able to locate El Chapo before they were. “Everybody here knows that if something happens to me or my family, it’s not el cartel. It’s going to be the Mexican government,” she said.
To this day, there is no evidence that El Chapo ever paid del Castillo any money. But still, del Castillo has not returned to Mexico. Check out the “Red Table Talk: the Estefans” episode, “Surviving Betrayal: Kate del Castillo’s Comeback” here.
The U.S has a massive criminal enforcement network across the world. From Europe to Australia and across Latin America, the United States works with local governments (among others) to play the part of international police force.
This huge network has helped bring down some of the world’s largest criminal organizations. But, often times, it’s not the U.S. officers making the biggest sacrifices – it’s the criminals who join forces with the FBI or DEA as part of a plea bargain. However, those plea agreements don’t always work out in the end.
The leader of one of Honduras’ largest cartels, helped the U.S. bring down serious criminals.
According to report by VICE, Valle has a long history of helping U.S. authorities. For example, just months after her arrest, her brothers were extradited to the United States to face charges related to drug trafficking. Meanwhile in Honduras, authorities seized more than 50 properties owned by Los Valles.
And although it hasn’t been confirmed, many contribute the arrest of Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernandez – a former congressman and brother of Honduras’ current president – on drug trafficking charges.
Needless to say, this woman has helped U.S. authorities aggressively pursue the dismantling of a massive drug network (along with its ties in the US) across Latin America.
Her criminal empire was especially adept at building coalitions among cartels.
According to court documents, Los Valles was based in Western Honduras – near the Guatemalan border. The family allegedly moved tens of thousands of kilos of cocaine every month – taking the valuable drugs from Colombia, through Honduras, and into the United States using speedboats, submarines and small airplanes.
Her organization often worked together alongside Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel – formerly headed by drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán (now serving life in a United States prison).
As the kinder face of the organization, Valle was focused more on finances and logistics instead of violence. In fact, she was often sent to broker new relationships with the country’s criminal and business elites. Sources close to her said she also helped construct churches and gave money to charity during her time in criminal power in Honduras.
Valle was arrested on arrival in Miami by United States law enforcement back in 2014.
Valle served four and a half years of an 11-year prison sentence and was then realeased. But shortly after being released from prison, she was picked up by ICE and sent to a detention center in Atlanta. Her asylum claim to remain in the United States was denied—a decision she is currently appealing.
Now, after more than six years helping U.S. officials – she’s facing deportation back to Honduras, and likely death.
Since her arrest and plea deal in 2014, Valle has been acting as a key witness for the U.S. She’s helped the government arrest some of the strongest drug lords in the region, including her own organization. If she’s sent back to Honduras – she faces an almost certain death.
“There is a hunt on right now in my country for people who collaborated and then co-operated [with law enforcement] in drug trafficking cases,” former Army Capt. Santos Rodriguez Orellana told VICE by phone from Honduras.
It’s death sentence for her,” according to Mike Vigil, a former chief of international operations at the DEA, who also spoke with VICE News.
He added: “Her chances of survival in Honduras are slim to none. Honduras is, without question, a narco state. The highest levels within the political spectrum along with the military and police are in the pockets of drug traffickers. Given the fact that she cooperated in key drug trafficking trials, she is not likely to survive in Honduras. She is going into a fiery cauldron and is definitely going to get burned.”
Her case shows why so few people see the U.S. legal system as a partner – they become disposable just like that.
As if it wasn’t dangerous enough for Valle to return to Honduras with a network of criminals hunting for their revenge, there’s a hunt for her at the highest levels of government.
Honduras Public Prosecutor’s Office confirmed that Valle faces charges of money laundering in Honduras, and there is a warrant for her arrest. Her arrival in Honduras wont go unnoticed and being imprisoned will offer her little protection from violence.