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El Chapo trial nears end as defense makes closing statement

By
Nicholas Sakelaris
Mexican drug lord Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman could face life in prison on 10 counts of drug smuggling. Photo by Mario Guzman/EPA-EFE
Mexican drug lord Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman could face life in prison on 10 counts of drug smuggling. Photo by Mario Guzman/EPA-EFE

Jan. 31 (UPI) -- The trial of accused drug kingpin Joaquin Guzman, better known as El Chapo, is nearing its end as the defense makes its closing statement Thursday.

Guzman, 61, faces 10 counts of drug trafficking. Prosecutors describe him as the leader the Sinaloa Cartel, the largest drug smuggling ring in history. He could be sentenced to life in prison.

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Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea Goldbarg said Guzman broke out of prison twice to avoid being passed over to "the gringos," referring to the Spanish phrase often used to describe U.S. citizens, the New York Daily News reported.

Guzman pleaded not guilty to the charges. His defense argued that he's part of a vast conspiracy and not the criminal mastermind prosecutors say he is. They claim that he was buried under $20 million in debt and is nothing but a flashy, broke poser.

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His defense had one witness, an FBI agent who presented notes he took while interrogating an informant in the Guzman case, CNN reported.

The defense was expected to make its closing arguments Thursday morning and jurors are expected to return to court Friday to start deliberations.

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"An unbelievable amount of resources have gone into putting the case together -- it's a freak show," Joaquin Perez, a Miami attorney who has followed the trial, told the Los Angeles Times. "It's almost like a test of the U.S. credibility as far as prosecuting drug traffickers."

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Guzman was extradited to the United States two years ago during Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto's administration.

During the trial, Guzman's former secretary, Alex Cifuentes, said on the witness stand that Peña Nieto accepted a $100 million bribe from his boss in October 2012, in between his election and the time he took office.

Francisco Guzman, previously Peña Nieto's chief of staff, denied the allegation.

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