Jan. 25 (UPI) -- A former member of accused Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's cartel testified Thursday that Guzman personally tortured and killed enemies.
Isaias Valdez Rios, a former security guard, personal aide and pilot for Guzman, told New York jurors in the accused Sinaloa cartel leader's drug conspiracy trial about violence that took place as the group competed with other cartels throughout Mexico.
Valdez, 39, joined the cartel in 2004 as a guard at a mountain encampment, working for about $100 a week after serving as a soldier in the Mexican special forces. He testified that Guzman was amicable when they first met, but had a violent side.
Valdez said much of the violence among the cartels was carried out by gunmen, but testified he witnessed Guzman himself kill and torture on at least two occasions.
Valdez recalled one day when cartel members approached Guzman with "a gift" of two members from a rival cartel, known as the Zetas, who they'd captured. He said Guzman ordered his crew to take them to a shed and start "heating them up" to get information.
Guzman was particularly upset, he said, because the men came from his home state of Sinaloa and he considered them traitors.
Valdez said after the interrogation in the shed, Guzman ordered the two to a secluded area where he beat them with a large wooden stick or branch for at least three hours, ultimately leaving them "like ragged dolls" with all of their bones broken.
Valdez said Guzman then ordered an aide to dig a large hole and fill it with wood to create a bonfire and shot them in the head with a rifle. He ordered his crew to throw the bodies on the flames, where they burned all night before Guzman's crew "ground up their bones."
Valdez also described an incident in which a man arrived at Guzman's camp bound, blindfolded and with his shirt "stuck to his skin" as he was covered with burn marks from a household iron and a cigarette lighter. He testified that Guzman was upset the man had arrived in such poor condition and asked, "what am I going to do with him like that?"
Valdez said he heard Guzman ask the man what happened to members of a rival cartel and then ordered him and others to dig a hole in a nearby graveyard. After an interrogation, he was shot with a pistol and Guzman ordered he be buried alive.
Valdez is set to take the stand again on Monday as the trial nears its conclusion.