Things That Matter

El Mochomo, One of El Chapo’s Rivals, Pleads Guilty

Alfredo Beltran Layva El Chapo
Credit: El Debate

In a totally unexpected turn of events, Alfredo “El Mochomo” Beltran Leyva, one of El Chapo’s biggest enemies, pled guilty to drug trafficking before his case went to trial.

“Yes, Your Honor, I helped my brother Arturo and I conspired with my brother Arturo,” said Beltrán Leyva. The conspiring included trafficking cocaine, meth, marijuana and heroine to the United States. He downplayed his part in the Sinaloa Cartel by saying he was simply a member of the organization and not the leader. On June 6th, he’s expected to get a minimum of 10 years to a life sentence.

El Mochomo and his three brothers were former allies of El Chapo’s Sinaloa cartel, but split ways in 2008 provoking one of the bloodiest drug war periods in Mexico. But don’t expect him to show up as a witness against El Chapo.

“After considering many personal and legal factors, my client decided to plead guilty to the indictment without an agreement with the government,” said A. Eduardo Balarezo, Beltran Leyva’s attorney. Prosecutors state side are crossing their fingers that he’ll change his mind if El Chapo is extradited to the United States.

Read more about Alfredo Beltran Leyva from The Huffington Post here.

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Primos In Prison: Supporting Incarcerated Family Members

Things That Matter

Primos In Prison: Supporting Incarcerated Family Members

Hédi Benyounes / Unsplash

Talking about our primos in prison is taboo. If you ever had a family member in prison, you may avoid talking about it outside your family circle. The incarcerated family member then becomes a ghost, a cautionary tale, or a source of shame. We forget how they arrived in this situation and hesitate to offer support. Looking closely at issues that contribute to mass incarceration in this country can offer insights into the matter. It’s time we take a new approach to incarcerated family, and offer help in ways the correctional system refuses. It’s time to humanize our imprisoned primos and primas, showing love and empathy that we would want to see if we were behind bars.

Considering the U.S. census shows Hispanics make up 18.3 percent of the population, it is bewildering how they come to make up 32 percent of the Federal inmate population.

However, looking at social issues that plague the Latinx community, it is no surprise that low levels of education, poverty, and structural discrimination lead to incarceration. With the latest instances of aggression toward the Latinx community at the presidential level, it will be no surprise if acts of discrimination and targeting of Latinos continues to rise.

What other factors contribute to the incarceration of Latinos?

Credit: Bill Oxford / Unsplash

The Pew Research Center reports that in 1991, 60 percent of Latinos were sentenced in federal court for drug-related offenses, and 20 percent for immigration crimes. Yet, these figures changed dramatically, with 48 percent of sentences for immigration crimes, and 37 percent of sentences for drug-related crimes in 2007.

The incarceration of Latinos is feeding into the conversation around the school to prison pipeline.

Credit: @LatinoPPF / Twitter

What is the prison experience really like? Netflix series like Ava DuVernay’s “When They See Us,” and “Orange is the New Black” help pull back the curtain on the harsh realities of prison life. More than just TV shows, these depictions exposed micro and macro ways the U.S., home to the largest prison population in the world, focuses not on prisoner rehabilitation, but recidivism instead.

When we think about our family members in prison, we need to remember that they could be facing sexual violence, lack of access to mental health services, solitary confinement, and denial of their reproductive rights.

Credit: Mitch Lensink / Unsplash

It may be the case that an incarcerated family member’s situation is shrouded in mystery and whispers, but this need not be the case. It is not only time to confront these matters at the family level, but to address them at the social level as well. The first step may begin with actually accepting that inmate call. Ask what your family member is going through and share that with the family if he or she permits. You may feel a sense of hopelessness, but there is so much you can do to help not only your own family members but the greater incarcerated Latino community too.

Moving beyond thoughts and prayers—although they’re good too—here are substantive ways you can help incarcerated family members.

Credit: @Art4JusticeFund / Twitter
  • Visit if you can. Even if it is only a few times a year, the impact of human contact cannot be overstated. Ensure you are on the approved visitor’s list before you go. Bring identification and arrive early. Be a good listener and most importantly, show that family love.
  • The experience of visiting prison can be inconvenient or even traumatic, so if you feel you cannot commit this fully then try a virtual visit. Apps like JPay offer inmate services like email, video visitation, and secure payment transfers. Send pictures of the family or a video of a holiday gathering.
  • If apps prove to be intimidating, try sending a letter. Have picture printed out—old school style—and include them in your letters. Families are full of births, marriages, and so many other beautiful life events. Share them with your primos and primas who can’t be there with you. If you feel like you simply don’t want to communicate with your incarcerated family member, but you still want to contribute to the cause in some way, join a prison pen pal organization and bring a sense of human connection to others.
  • Another way to help the family behind bars is to send books. The organization, NYC books through bars, understands how much books can help with the rehabilitation and the education process in prison.
  • With vulnerable peoples such as the trans community,  women in prison, those with mental health needs, simply raising awareness on their behalf can be a radical act of kindness.
  • Another act of solidarity with your incarcerated family member is to donate to the ACLU Prisons Project. “Through litigation, advocacy, and public education, we work to ensure that conditions of confinement are consistent with health, safety, and human dignity and that prisoners retain all rights of free persons that are not inconsistent with incarceration.”

If you have a family member in prison, it is important to their own recovery and reformation to know they have people who love and support them.

Credit: aclu_nationwide / Instagram

With an array of opportunities to help our family members in prison, it is important to note that reintroduction to society can pose a major challenge for former inmates. These are areas where you can help too. Our imprisoned family members may have been victims of the system, they may have survived the only way they know how, or maybe they just made a mistake. Whatever the circumstance, the key is to remember they are human, and most importantly, they are familia. So ask yourself, for their sake and the sake of our community, what can you do to help?

READ: Cyntoia Brown Was Finally Released From Prison After 15 Years– This Is What Resistance Looks Like

Days After Getting Life In Prison, Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán Has Filed An Appeal

Things That Matter

Days After Getting Life In Prison, Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán Has Filed An Appeal

Unidad / Twitter

A lawyer for convicted drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán filed an appeal against his client’s life sentence the day after it was handed down, court documents published Monday show. The 62-year-old, who was the former co-leader of Mexico’s feared Sinaloa drug cartel, was convicted in February of smuggling large amounts of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana into the United States.

Guzman’s defense lawyer, Marc Fernich, filed the notice of appeal to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit with hopes that his client will get another chance at a trial. But according to news reports, the appeal process could take months to a year to be completed. 

Will El Chapo’s grounds for an appeal actually be successful?

Credit: @AFP / Twitter

Guzman has already been sentenced to life in prison and sent to a federal maximum security prison in Colorado, which is nicknamed the “Alcatraz of the Rockies.” An additional 30 years were added to Guzman’s sentence and he was also ordered to pay $12.6 billion in forfeiture, the amount was based on a conservative estimate of revenues from his cartel’s sales in the U.S.

But after an expected appeal, Guzman will now have to wait. How long? That could take up to a year, according to the AFP. During his sentencing, Guzman claimed that he had received an unfair trial due to juror misconduct. This is referring to a story that claimed several members of the jury violated a court order by looking at social media and various news pieces about the high profile court trial. 

“I was extradited to the US to have a fair trial, where justice would be blind to my fame and would not be a defining factor in the administration of justice,” Guzman said during his sentencing. “But what happened was actually the opposite.”

According to his lawyer, El Chapo has a “strong issues for appeal.”

Credit: @Keegan_hamilton / Twitter

While the odds of Guzman winning an appeal appear to be steep, his defense team is confident that they have a good chance at overturning the conviction. “Guzman has strong issues for appeal. We’ll fight to overturn his conviction and are confident we’ll prevail,” Fernich told the AFP

Another defense lawyer for Guzman said last week the trial was unjust due to various jurors violating the judge’s orders by following the case in the media.  Jeffrey Lichtman is asking to for a fair trial on behalf of Guzman that isn’t influenced by outside voices that would affect the way his client is viewed. 

“All we had asked for is a fair trial. I’m not here to tell you that Joaquín Guzmán is a saint . . . Whatever you think of Joaquín Guzmán, he still deserves a fair trial, everybody does in America . . .” Lichtman told the AFP.

Guzman has gone on the record claiming that the conditions he’s been placed in since he was extradited from Mexico to the United States in January 2017, have been unfair from the start. 

Credit: @amandaottaway / Twitter

Besides the trial itself, Guzman claims there was “no justice” in his case from the start due to the media sensationalism and high-profile figures involved. He’s also described his incarceration in the U.S. a “psychological, emotional, mental torture 24 hours a day.”

The former drug lord of the Mexican Sinaloa Cartel said the U.S. lacks justice and is smeared with corruptness, like other countries. During his sentencing hearing, Guzman said his human rights were violated and had been put in horrible jail conditions that he described as “torturous”. He claims he was unable to sleep well, had trouble breathing and was not allowed to see his wife or daughters.

“I’ve been forced to drink unsanitary water. I’ve been denied access to fresh air and sunlight. The only air I have in my cell comes through in the air vent,” Guzman said. ““It has been physical, emotional and mental torture.”

Many were angry at Guzman’s comments citing the hundreds of lives he’s endangered and were cut short due to his reign over the Mexico drug cartel business. It’s safe to say this won’t be the last time we hear from Guzman as he heads to federal prison for what many hope is his last stop. 

READ: Mexico’s President AMLO Says That ‘El Chapo’ Should Of Got A Different Sentence, Not Life In Prison

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