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World’s Most Powerful Drug Trafficker Awaits Trial In New York


Mexico's top drug lord Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman is escorted as he arrives at Long Island MacArthur airport in New York, U.S., Jan. 19, 2017, after his extradition from Mexico.

United States officials are preparing to try a Mexican man who has been called the world’s most powerful drug trafficker.

Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera, better known as “El Chapo,” will be tried in New York City.

Guzmán is the head of Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel. Mexican officials have jailed him not once, but twice, at maximum security prisons. But he escaped both times.

Last month, Mexico sent Guzmán to New York, one of several American states in which he faces criminal charges.

Robert Capers is the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. He says Guzmán is responsible for much of the drug cocaine sold in the state.

“The continuing criminal enterprise charges that I will describe for you by itself attributes to Mr. Guzmán cocaine shipments of over 200 tons, which were supplied by some of Colombia’s most powerful drug-trafficking organizations, and links Guzmán to over seven and a half tons of cocaine and heroin that were seized in the United States, including four tons that were seized right here in this district.”

Paul Callan is a former prosecutor who represented the government in murder cases. He believes the Department of Justice chose to prosecute Guzmán in New York because it has a very strong case against him.

“New York is also well-accustomed to trying high-notoriety defendants. We have very secure courtroom facilities. We have secure jail facilities, and New York is used to handling the press and the kind of coverage that takes place in these high-profile cases.”

After he was told the charges against him in a U.S. federal court, Guzmán was sent to the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) near New York’s financial area.

The MCC is a high-security jail. It has held a number of notable criminals, including people who claim to belong to al-Qaida.

Selwyn Rabb worked as an investigative journalist at The New York Times newspaper. He has visited the MCC many times during his career as a reporter.

“He’s going to be monitored 24 hours a day. He’s not going to be able to go to the bathroom or take a shower or do anything without some eyes poking at him.”

Experts consider the MCC to be one of the most secure jails in the United States. Few people have escaped from the 12-floor tall building since it opened 42 years ago.

New Yorkers have mixed feelings about having Guzman jailed there.

Jean Young works in Lower Manhattan, near the MCC.

“Thank God that the federal building has a lot of checkpoints. And I know the street goes up at one point, and they go under the cars with mirrors, but I mean it’s the cartel -- if they want to get here, they’ll get here.”

Many people work or live near the prison, in New York’s TriBeCa neighborhood. Luke Valente says he likes the area.

“I have a lot of faith in the professionals that are working here and in the U.S. in general. I think considering what he’s done in the past, in places outside the U.S. as far as being in custody, I feel that much more safe and confident that they’ll be able to see his sentence through.”

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Ramon Taylor and Asli Pelit reported this story for VOANews.com from New York. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted their report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

cartel – n. a group of businesses that agree to fix prices so they all will make more money

maximum – adj. the highest number or amount that is possible or allowed — usually singular

enterprise – n. a project or activity that involves many people and that is often difficult

attribute – v. to say that (something) is because of (someone or something)

accustomed – adj. familiar with something so that it seems normal or usual (+ to)

facility – n. something (such as a building or large piece of equipment) that is built for a specific purpose

profile – adj. used to describe the amount of attention that someone or something is given

monitor – n. to watch, observe, listen to, or check (something) for a special purpose over a period of time

poke – v. to look around or search through something

checkpoint – n. a place where people, cars, etc., are searched by someone (such as a police officer) before being allowed to continue

mirror – n. a piece of glass that reflects images

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