Things That Matter

Federal Jury Finds Drug Lord ‘El Chapo’ Guilty On All 10 Counts, Faces Life In Prison

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A federal jury on Tuesday found Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera guilty after a three-month trial that exposed the crime-ridden inner workings of the Mexican drug lord. Guzman, 61, now faces the possibility of life in prison after jurors in New York convicted the former leader of Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel of drug trafficking, weapons charges and operating a criminal organization. The verdict is a culmination of decades in being regarded as a folk hero in Mexico that was notorious for his prison escapes and murder operations against competitors.

As the jury read out the verdict, there was no visible reaction from El Chapo who now faces life in prison.

A panel of eight women and four men, who served in anonymity, delivered the verdict on the sixth day of deliberations. Judge Brian M. Cogan read the jury’s charge list in an open court with 10 straight guilty verdicts on all 10 counts of the indictment. As the verdict was being read, the courtroom fell silent as Guzman showed no emotions to hearing the jury’s decision. Guzman, who escaped a Mexican prison twice, is due to be sentenced on June 25. U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Richard Donoghue told reporters the significance of the verdict.

“It is a sentence from which there is no escape, and no return,” Donoghue said during a press conference. “This conviction is a victory for the American people, who have suffered so long and so much while Guzman made billions pouring poison over our southern border.”

The trial shed light on one of the world’s most notorious crime lords.

The trial wasn’t only stunning in who was being put on trial but the circumstances were attention-grabbing. From the start, there was high media scrutiny and extensive security measures for the trial. Prosecutors called upon 56 witnesses, 14 of them who were former associates of Guzman, who cooperated with government officials in hope of gaining leniency on their own crimes. Allegations of bribery with the former Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, accusations of underage rape and revealing testimonies only heightened the attention of the trial.

The trial revealed the truly shocking nature and the rise of what quickly became on the world’s most dangerous drug organizations, the Sinaloa cartel. The cartel would make millions of dollars by smuggling cocaine and heroin to cities across the U.S from the late 1980s into the 2000s. Guzman would rise to fame overnight for his peculiar ways of transporting drugs through cars, planes, and tunnels under the U.S.-Mexican border.

Even if El Chapo is behind bars, the Sinaloa Cartel is still a force in the deadly drug wars in Mexico.

The drug war in Mexico, which killed about 100,000 people over more than a decade, has pitted the cartels against each other. The long fighting has led to countless deaths of innocent civilians and tourists in Mexico. While the verdict of Guzman is a pivotal moment in the longstanding fight against the U.S and drug trafficking, the Sinaloa Cartel still has the biggest U.S. distribution presence.

According to Reuters, drug seizures at the U.S. southern border have only increased to more than nine times in volume, to at least 82,000 pounds this past year. This highlights the growing dangers and reality of the ongoing drug war happening in Mexico even without Guzman at the helm. Next at the helm of the Sinaloa Cartel is Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, Guzman’s long-standing partner who is believed to have taken over operations since Guzman’s capture in 2016.

Yet, there is solace and progress in having what was one of the most sought after criminals in the world finally behind bars. For many families whose loved one were killed, this day brings some justice and closure.

“Today is a historic day for American justice,” Ángel Meléndez, special agent in charge for Homeland Security Investigations, told the New York Times. “Today we say American justice has been served, ending his days of evading authorities, ending his violent acts all in support of his efforts to conduct drug trafficking in the United States.”


READ: 21 Interesting Things You Didn’t Know About El Chapo

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Amelio Robles Ávila Was Mexico’s First Trans Soldier And A Revolutionary Hero, More Than 100 Years Ago

Culture

Amelio Robles Ávila Was Mexico’s First Trans Soldier And A Revolutionary Hero, More Than 100 Years Ago

Today is Mexico’s Independence Day! After a war that lasted over 11 years, Mexico achieved independence from Spanish rule and would begin a path toward self-determination. On September 16, 1810, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a Catholic priest, launched the Mexican War of Independence. Yes, decolonize! 

To celebrate Mexican history, we’ll be focusing on one hero today, not of the Mexican War of Independence but of the Mexican Revolution. Colonel Amelio Robles Ávila is recognized as the first trans soldier in the Mexican military’s history. A decorated colonel, Ávila lived as a man from the age of roughly 22 or 24 until the day he died at 95 years old. 

While some believe it was Ávila’s wealthy family that allowed him to live life as his truest self, it certainly may have helped, but his courage in battle and in life must be honored and celebrated. Ávila’s identity was not always met with kindness, but the soldier was well-equipped to deal with challenges to his gender. The pistol-whipping colonel was a ladies man, skilled marksmen, and hero. This is the story of Colonel Amelio Robles Ávila. 

Amelio Robles Ávila

Amelio Robles Ávila was born to a wealthy family on November 3, 1889, in Xochipala, Guerrero. In his youth, Ávila attended a Catholic school for little girls where he was taught to cook, clean, and sew. However, at a young age, he began to express his gender identity. He showed an aptitude for things that were, at the time perceived to be, masculine like handling weapons, taming horses, and marksmanship. 

Perhaps, it was a natural response, if not the only response, to being pressured to conform to a gender identity that isn’t yours —  Ávila was perceived as stubborn, rebellious, and too much to handle for the school nuns. But it would be his tenacity and obstinance that served him in the long run. 

In 1911, when Ávila was arranged to be married to a man, he enlisted as a revolutionary instead. 

Not a woman dressed as a man, just a man.

To force the resignation of President Porfirio Dîaz and later, to ensure a social justice-centered government, Mexico needed to engage much of its population in warfare. This meant that eventually women were welcomed with many limitations. Soldaderas were able to tend to wounded soldiers or provide food for the militia but were prohibited from combat and could not have official titles. 

Ávila legally changed his first name from Amelia to Amelio, cut his hair, and became one of Mexico’s most valuable and regarded revolutionaries. 

“To appear physically male, Robles Ávila deliberately chose shirts with large chest pockets, common in rural areas, and assumed the mannerisms common among men at the time,” according to History.com

While he was not the only person assigned female to adopt a male persona to join the war, unlike many others Ávila kept his name and lived as a man until the day he died. 

“After the war was over, their part in it was dissolved along with whatever rank they held during the fight, and they were expected to return to subservient roles. Some did,” writes Alex Velasquez of Into. “Others, like Amelio Robles Ávila, lived the rest of their lives under the male identities they had adopted during the war.”

You come at the king, you best not miss.

Ávila fought courageously in the war until its end. Becoming a Colonel with his own command, he was decorated with three stars by revolutionary general Emiliano Zapata. He led and won multiple pivotal battles where his identity and contributions were respected. 

However, that respect was sometimes earned through empathy other times through the whip of his pistol. Ávila was a man and anyone who chose to ignore this fact would be taught by force. On one occasion, when a group of men tried to “expose” him by tearing off his clothes, Ávila shot and killed two of the men in self-defense. 

Colonel Amelio Robles Ávila

Unsurprisingly, Ávila was a bit of a ladies man, though he finally settled down with Angela Torres and together they adopted their daughter Regula Robles Torres. In 1970, he was recognized by the Mexican Secretary of National Defense as a veterano as opposed to a veterana of the Mexican Revolution, thus Colonel Amelio Robles Ávila is considered the first trans soldier documented in Mexican military history. The swag is infinite! 

After the war, Ávila was able to live comfortably as a man where he devoted his life to agriculture. He lived a life, that still for so many trans people around the world seems unfathomable. Colonel Ávila lived to be 95 years old and the rest  — no all of it — is history. 

Emiliano Zapata Was A Champion Of Indigenous Rights And He Knew How To Work A Look

Culture

Emiliano Zapata Was A Champion Of Indigenous Rights And He Knew How To Work A Look

As Mexico celebrates its independence from colonial Spain, many are reminded of the nation’s tumultuous yet rich history. From Mexico’s independence from Spain, to war with France and the US, to America’s only monarchy, Mexico has a long and varied history. 

Perhaps no other period in Mexican history was as consequential as la revolución — or the Mexican Civil War. It transformed Mexican society and culture and, in the process, created many of Mexico’s greatest and most well-known icons and political figures. 

Few are more well known and respected in Mexico than the revolutionary leader, Emilano Zapato. This mustachioed handsome general fought the revolution on behalf of Mexico’s farmers and working class as well as the Indigenous communities of the south, all of whom were all too often forgotten by leaders in the capital. 

Zapata is an iconic Mexican figure who championed the struggles of both the peasant class and Mexico’s Indigenous communities.

Zapata, who was 39 when he died, arguably ranks just behind Che Guevara on the list of iconic Latin American revolutionaries.

As a young man, he worked on a ranch that belonged to the son-in-law of Mexico’s then-dictator, Porfirio Diaz, where he got an up-close look at the extreme inequality dividing the country.

Politically active from an early age, Zapata emerged as a key leader of Mexico’s farmers when the anti-Diaz revolution broke out.

Along with Pancho Villa, he was among the most radical of the revolutionaries, calling for the large-scale redistribution of land to the country’s poor and indigenous farmers.

His name was invoked in El Grito de Dolores, the country’s major celebration on Dia de la Independencia.

Early in the morning on September 16, 1810, it’s said that Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla rang the bell of his church and made the call to arms to rise up against colonial Spain, which started Mexico’s War of Independence. 

Since 1812, nearly every Mexican leader has commemorated the historical moment by delivering their own version of “El Grito.” And this year, delivered by AMLO, Zapatista received his own chants of viva

He also had one hell of a mustache and fashion sense...

Credit: Klimbim / Instagram

Images of Zapata with a broad sombrero, thick mustache and bandoleer rival Che Guevara as icons of both romantic rebellion and capitalist entrepreneurialism. Zapata’s descendants recently applied to trademark his name and envisage earning royalties on merchandise ranging from T-shirts to tequila.

Although Zapata fought many battles in life, many say his legacy was cemented with his death.

They say Zapata never died that April 10th. That he lived and fled to the Arabian Peninsula and would return when most needed. They said something about his dead body wasn’t right. That a scar was different, that a mole was missing, that the body had all ten fingers, when the real Zapata was missing a finger.

“We all laughed when we saw the cadaver,” one of Zapata’s soldiers said decades later. “We elbowed each other because the jefe was smarter than the government.” They say Zapata knew about Guajardo’s impending trick and that Jesús Delgado — a spitting image of Zapata, who traveled with the general as a body double —was the man killed. Others say it was another man, Agustín Cortés, or Joaquín Cortés, or Jesús Capistrán, or, as Zapata’s son put it, “some pendejo…from Tepoztlán.” Whoever it was, the name didn’t even matter. The important thing was that, according to these stories, Zapata lived and would eventually return.

But in today’s Mexico, the country is divided on the revolutionary’s legacy. 

Credit: DazzlingCoins.com

Protests erupted Wednesday at commemorations to mark the 100th anniversary of the death of Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata, underlining how divisive the mustachioed peasant leader remains a century later.

He’s a figure that AMLO has tried to embrace, with varying degrees of success. 

Credit: @lopezobrador_ / Twitter

Mexico’s current president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has expressed admiration for Zapata, pledged to revive Mexico’s rural economy, and declared 2019 the year of Emiliano Zapata.

But in the revolutionary leader’s home region of Morelos, a battle has broken out over his legacy, as López Obrador pushes for the completion of a power plant and pipeline that have faced strong opposition from the local community.

“It’s a mockery – declaring 2019 the year of Gen Emiliano Zapata and then commemorating it by handing over the water from farmers in his birthplace to multinationals,” Zapata González said.

Zapata, whether you see his picture as a young man or were among those who claimed to have seen him in old age, has come to symbolize whatever noble cause the Mexican Revolution stood for.

Today, a century after Zapata’s death, across Mexico and other parts of the world, the living—and perhaps even the dead—continue their fight inspired by Emiliano Zapata.