US judge blasts drug lord El Chapo's 'overwhelming evil,' imposes life sentence

Above, Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman being extradited to the United States on January 19, 2017. The notorious drug lord was found guilty by a US jury in February of trafficking tons of cocaine, heroin and marijuana. (Interior Ministry of Mexico/AFP)
Updated 17 July 2019

US judge blasts drug lord El Chapo's 'overwhelming evil,' imposes life sentence

  • Joaquin Guzman was found guilty by a jury in February of trafficking tons of cocaine, heroin and marijuana
  • US prosecutors have claimed that ‘El Chapo’ sold more than $12 billion worth of drugs

NEW YORK : Joaquin Guzman, the convicted Mexican drug lord known as El Chapo, has escaped twice from maximum-security prisons in Mexico, once by digging a mile-long tunnel from his cell.
If U.S. authorities have their way, a third escape for Guzman will never happen.
A federal judge in Brooklyn sentenced Guzman to life in prison, plus 30 years, on Wednesday.
Authorities have not said where he will be imprisoned. But he likely will spend the rest of his life at the U.S. Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum Facility in Florence, Colorado, the cumbersome name for what is better known as ADX Florence, the nation's most secure "Supermax" prison.
No one has escaped from the prison since it opened in 1994, and Guzman would join a long list of the most infamous of criminals who call it home.
"It's very well designed for its purpose, to hold the most dangerous offenders in the federal prison system," said Martin Horn, a professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York and former commissioner of the city's Department of Correction.
"In his previous two escapes, Guzman has demonstrated that he may be a greater risk of escaping than pretty much anyone else. That makes ADX Florence an appropriate place for him."
Guzman, 62, was convicted on Feb. 12 of trafficking tons of cocaine, heroin and other drugs into the United States as the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico, where prosecutors said he amassed power through murders and wars with rival cartels.
Guzman is currently at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan. He said at his sentencing that he had been subjected to "cruel and inhumane" treatment during his 30 months of confinement.
At a news conference following the sentencing, Guzman's attorney said he was not certain which prison his client would be sent to, but presumed it would be Supermax.
"It actually may be a walk in the park compared to what he's experiencing now," said the lawyer, Jeffrey Litchman.

Located about 115 miles (185 km) south of Denver, ADX Florence is nicknamed "Alcatraz of the Rockies" after the San Francisco prison whose inmates included the gangsters Al Capone and George "Machine Gun" Kelly, and Robert Franklin Stroud, known as the Birdman of Alcatraz.
ADX Florence's current roster of about 376 inmates reads like a who's who of notorious criminals.
Among those calling the prison home are "Unabomber" Ted Kaczynski, Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, Terry Nichols from the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, "Shoe Bomber" Richard Reid, Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, and Ramzi Yousef from the 1993 World Trade Center bombing in New York.
Prisoners are typically confined for around 23 hours a day to solitary cells, each with a narrow window about 42 inches (107 cm) high and angled upward so only the sky is visible.
They can watch TV in their cells, and have access to religious services, educational programs and a commissary.
But special restrictions are used to ensure that inmates cannot exert influence or make threats beyond the prison walls. Prisoners cannot move around without being escorted. Head counts are done at least six times a day.
Guzman's first escape came in 2001, purportedly in a laundry cart and with the help of prison officials he had corrupted. His second escape, through the tunnel, came 14 years later.
Horn said ADX Florence "is literally built into the side of a mountain, with a robust security infrastructure."
Could Guzman penetrate that? "I would never say never," he said, "but it's highly unlikely."

Filipino expats unite as home country battles volcano’s wrath

Updated 2 min 37 sec ago

Filipino expats unite as home country battles volcano’s wrath

  • Filipino groups in Dubai are coming together to collect goods for donation for the Taal eruption victims
  • The Philippines remained on high alert on Friday as authorities monitored Taal, which is the second most active volcano in the country

DUBAI: A vast grey stretched across empty villages – once verdant, now lifeless after volcanic ash wiped its colors. The thick charcoal-like substance cloaked cracked roads, tumbled trees, and dilapidated houses, as an angry volcano rumbled in the Philippines.

Tens of thousands of people were displaced earlier this week when Taal, a picturesque tourist spot about 70 kilometers south of Manila, spew huge plume of volcanic ash to the sky and triggered sporadic tremors around the province.

“When can we go back to our homes?” a hopeful man asked Filipino volunteer Jaya Bernardo, as she visited an evacuation site near where the Taal Volcano erupted on Sunday.

She couldn’t answer him straight, Bernardo said, because that meant telling him there might not be anything to go back to.

Bernardo, who lives in a mildly-hit town around Taal, has been going around evacuation centers to give out care packages, saying it’s “important for people to come together” in times like this.

Within hours of the volcanic eruption, the call for help reached the UAE, home to about a million Filipino expats. Many community groups have been organizing donation drives to collect goods to be sent back home.

Lance Japor, who leads a community group in Dubai, said inquiries were coming in about how to help volcano victims even before a campaign was announced.

“What I’ve noticed is that the desire to help others in need is innate to us,” he told Arab News, adding it was not the first time Filipino expats showed urgent concern and care for their countrymen when a calamity hit the Philippines.

There was a strong response for families displaced from a city in the south of the country after armed rebels captured the area. A community group from Dubai flew to the restive city to hand out gifts to families who had taken refuge in an abandoned building.

Japor’s volcano campaign has attracted the help of private companies such as hotels donating blankets and pillows, and cargo companies pledging to deliver the packages for free to the Philippines.

Filipino expats have also expressed a desire to volunteer, Japor added, and a volunteer event has been scheduled for Jan. 18 at the Philippines’ Overseas Workers Welfare Administration’s office in Dubai.

Groups in the UAE are working with organizations in the Philippines to facilitate the donations and determine what the affected communities need. The list includes special face masks and eye drops, said Japor.

The Philippines remained on high alert on Friday as authorities monitored Taal, which is the second most active volcano in the country.

Volcanic ash has blanketed the area and villages lie empty, with authorities warning of a “bigger eruption” as earthquakes were still being felt around the area. 

The region was at alert level four from the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, meaning that “hazardous explosive eruption is possible within hours to days.” The highest alert level is five.

The institute strongly reiterated total evacuation of Taal Volcano Island and high-risk areas as identified in hazard maps.

“Residents around Taal Volcano are advised to guard against the effects of heavy and prolonged ashfall. Civil aviation authorities must advise pilots to avoid the airspace around Taal Volcano as airborne ash and ballistic fragments from the eruption column pose hazards to aircraft,” it added.

Police in the area have also warned residents against trying to go back to their houses without official clearance from authorities, but local media reports said people were sneaking back by boat to the island and nearby towns to check on their possessions.