Not even the best telenovela could match this.
Jurors and a tense courtroom of rapt observers were glued to court proceedings on Thursday (local time) as Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, his wife seated in the gallery just behind him, saw one of his mistresses take the stand to testify against him.
According to the New York Post, wife Emma Coronel Aispuro cackled in laughter as Chapo’s sidepiece, Lucero Guadalupe Sanchez Lopez, a politician in Guzman’s home state of Sinaloa until her arrest wept so much that she had to be taken out of the Brooklyn federal courtroom.
Ms Coronel’s glee was only exacerbated when Sanchez’s lapel mic remained on even after she was removed for a break. Her sobs were still being broadcast throughout the courtroom after she left.
Chapo and his beauty queen wife, who often blow each other kisses in court, were both tense and avoided eye contact as Sanchez began discussing her affair with the cocaine kingpin.
But Ms Coronel, 29, soon cracked a small smirk when Sanchez, also 29, described her relationship with the 61-year-old cartel boss to the jurors.
“Up until today I am still confused because today I thought we were still involved as partners,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez said she first started dating Chapo in 2011 at age 21, and then began working for him in the drug trade.
Guzman sent his young girlfriend to states around Mexico to search for high-quality marijuana, Sanchez testified. A job she says she wasn’t paid for and which often took her to remote locations where she could only call him by climbing to the top of a hill.
Text messages between the two displayed in court on Thursday showed they mixed business and pleasure.
In one January 2012 exchange, Sanchez told Guzman she was sending him 350 kilograms of pot on a plane, and he asked her if she had marked the packages in any way.
“Love, there is a heart on them,” she replied. To which he responded: “How sweet.”
She then moved on to organising money-laundering through front businesses in Mexico, Los Angeles and Ecuador.
Chapo at one point told her to hire “a low-income person who would be easily manipulated” and then decided to make a career change into local politics.
Sanchez was elected to the state’s congress in 2013 but continued her involvement with the drug kingpin, even as her interest waned.
“I thought that the relationship had ended, but it seemed like it would never end,” said Sanchez, who later lost her seat due to her relationship with Chapo and was arrested trying to cross the US border in 2017.
She said she brought Guzman “his shirts, his pants, his tennis shoes, his underwear, his lotions” while he was hiding out from the authorities.
Sanchez said she was in bed with Guzman at one of his many hideouts in Culiacan on the night of February 16, 2014, when US authorities and Mexican Marines showed up to raid the house and Chapo fled butt naked through a secret tunnel underneath his bathtub.
They heard loud thumps and helicopters and then chaos broke out with a nude Chapo ushering her into the bathroom and down a staircase hidden below a bathtub into a muddy, pitch-black tunnel where he ran off, while she wandered through the sludge for an hour until it opened into a riverbed.
Earlier on Thursday, a DEA agent who led the raid described how it went down from his side.
Agent Victor Vasquez said it began that day, when he and the team of Marines captured an associate of Guzman’s known as Nariz, and he gave up the drug lord’s location.
At the house, the Marines broke a battering ram trying to get through a reinforced metal door.
Video evidence from the scene shows multiple marines taking turns trying to bust through the barrier.
They finally forced their way inside and Mr Vasquez said he suddenly heard, “Tunnel, tunnel, tunnel,” over his radio.
The marines swarmed into the tunnel and told Mr Vasquez they could hear Guzman ahead of them, but the narrow passage was too small for the military men in all their gear.
Mr Vasquez was too big to go inside, so he solicited marines willing to ditch their bulletproof vests and large weapons and head into the tunnels armed only with handguns and glow sticks, telling the brave volunteers, “Go with God.”
But after an hour of searching in vain, the team moved on to a second house, and then a third where Nariz showed them how to access the tunnels under the bathtub by connecting two wires together to unseal the tub so it could be lifted like a trapdoor, Mr Vasquez said.
They didn’t find El Chapo, but they did uncover caches of weapons, including Guzman’s infamous diamond-encrusted handgun and plastic bananas stuffed with cocaine, he said.
They also succeeded in flushing Guzman out of Culiacan, learning that he’d shown up at an associate’s house shortly after the raids began, apparently finding some pants, and saying, “Take me to Mazatlan.”
The team decided to take a small group of around 25 marines to the resort town on February 21 and then hit a department store to buy “beach wear, flip-flops, board shorts, swimwear” so they’d blend in, Mr Vasquez said.
They headed to the Miramar hotel, where Chapo was staying with Ms Coronel and their young twin daughters and where the team was greeted by two police cruisers with their lights on.
“The corruption in the state is rampant, we didn’t know if they were put there by the cartel or not,” Mr Vasquez said.
The marines headed in while Mr Vasquez watched the windows from out front. “There’s no tunnels in the hotel, I hope,” he said.
Then the Marines radioed, telling him to come to the basement. “I ran to the basement parking lot, and the marines had Guzman on his knees. I even froze myself and I said, ‘Holy — it is him,’” Mr Vasquez told jurors.
“I said, ‘It’s you, it’s you.’”
Previous news reports have said it was, in fact, US DEA agents, and not the marines, who first found Chapo in the hotel busting in on Guzman and Ms Coronel naked in bed together.
But under questioning during cross-examination, Mr Vasquez insisted he stayed downstairs.
The defence also showed a photo of Chapo after his arrest, naked from the waist up, with puffy eyes and bruises forming on shoulders.
“He didn’t get those bruises falling out of bed right?” said lawyer Eduardo Balarezo, but prosecutors objected to the question, and their objection was sustained.
As proceedings wound up in court on Thursday evening, Ms Coronel was still in good spirits from Sanchez’s breakdown.
Chapo initially walked out of the courtroom without waving goodbye to her for the weekend but then his head popped back and the couple waved excitedly to each other.
This story originally appeared in the New York Post and was republished with permission.