Mexican drug boss El Chapo ordered man killed over handshake snub, triggered cartel turf war

  • Handshake snub inadvertently triggered a turf war between cartels
  • Guzman is on trial in New York, charged with 17 criminal counts, and faces life in prison if convicted
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 November, 2018, 12:34pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 November, 2018, 12:34pm

Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman had a fellow cartel leader’s brother killed in 2004 because the man would not shake his hand, a witness testified at Guzman’s trial.

Jesus (Ray) Zambada Garcia testified that Rodolfo Carrillo Fuentes, whose brother Vicente Carrillo Fuentes ran the Sinaloa cartel’s allied Juarez cartel, inadvertently triggered a turf war with his disrespect.

“When he left, Chapo gave him his hand and said: ‘See you later, friend’. Rodolfo left him standing with his hand extended,” Zambada Garcia said Monday.

“Chapo was really mad.”

Soon after, Rodolfo Carrillo was killed while leaving a cinema.

“When he was coming out of the movies. He was coming out with his family, his wife and his children,” Zambada Garcia testified.

“Rodolfo Carrillo died, his wife did, too, and (a judicial police) commander was seriously injured but survived afterwards.”

In retaliation for his brother’s killing, Vicente Carrillo allegedly had Guzman’s younger brother Arturo killed in prison – starting the bloody war between the Sinaloa and Juarez enterprises.

Zambada Garcia’s testimony described Guzman’s violent temper, his diamond-encrusted weaponry and his multiple hideouts in the Sinaloa mountains after his first prison escape in 2001.

He said he visited Guzman at the hideouts on several occasions because he and his brother, Ismael (El Mayo) Zambada Garcia, wanted to stay close and earn the drug lord’s trust.

“Someday, if something should happen to me, you’re going to need good friends, and he is a good friend,” the older brother said, according to Zambada Garcia’s testimony, which also detailed two near-captures of Guzman in 2002 and 2003.

Zambada Garcia said the first close call involved a lieutenant colonel based in Mexico City who told him that Guzman was surrounded on all sides by members of the Mexican military.

The official offered to stop an invasion and arrest if Guzman paid US$250,000, Zambada Garcia testified.

After a series of phone calls, the bribe money was secured within 20 minutes, he said.

“I took the money, and I delivered it to him,” Zambada Garcia said.

“The operation was aborted. There was no problem.”

El Chapo’s drug cartel paid US$6 million in bribes to Mexico president Pena Nieto, defence lawyers claim

The second near-capture came a year later at Guzman’s Durango hideout, close to the Sinaloa border, he said.

He recalled visiting the hideout with his wife and brother for a social call and seeing military helicopters overhead.

“We all started running to take cover. I told my wife to get back on the plane with the pilot. My wife told me ‘get on the plane’ but I told her no, I’m staying here with my brother and Chapo. The noise was coming closer and closer and closer. I stayed close to Chapo. I asked him to give me a rifle,” he said.

“He had rifles there, he gave me one – I think it was an AK-47. He said: ‘If they do come down, we’re going to have to kill them’. He was calm. Alert, but calm. I felt that adrenaline rush you have in a life and death situation,” Zambada Garcia testified.

The helicopters never landed. The group concluded that they were looking for poppy and marijuana farms and had no idea that Guzman was below.

Zambada Garcia said Guzman had a .38-calibre super pistol emblazoned with his initials in black diamonds that he carried with him at all times. The personal arsenal also included bazookas, AK-47s and AR-15s, he said.

Guzman, 61, has pleaded not guilty to 17 counts of drug trafficking, conspiracy, firearms offences and money laundering. Prosecutors claim the man who rose from peasant farmer to become head of the Sinaloa cartel was involved in at least 30 killings.

Guzman escaped twice from Mexican prisons.