The damning testimonies from Zambada family that betrayed El Chapo’s and sealed his fate

Unearthed court transcripts expose deals between U.S. justice and the Zambada family, dramatically shifting the drug war landscape.

On February 12, 2019, a jury in Brooklyn Court in the United States found Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán guilty of conspiring to smuggle drugs into the country of the Stars and Stripes by heading the violent and powerful Sinaloa Cartel.

On the stand of the so-called “Trial of the Century,” multiple personalities, including former associates and rivals, testified to the sentencing of the former drug trafficker to spend the rest of his days in a maximum security prison.

Two of those witnesses were Vicente Zambada García, alias El Vicentillo, and Jesús Zambada García, better known as El Rey, who is also the son and brother, respectively, of Joaquín Guzmán Loera’s former partner: Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada.

Although it was public knowledge that both characters had testified during the judicial process against El Chapo Guzmán, recently, the US Department of Justice released some transcripts of the trial, which revealed not only the statements of the former drug traffickers but also the agreements they reached with US authorities in exchange for informing on their relative, El Mayo, and his ex-partner Joaquín Guzmán Loera.

The betrayal of “El Rey” and “El Vicentillo.”

Los familiares directos de Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada lo delataron ante la justicia estadounidense (Foto EFE/AFP)
Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada’s immediate family members turned him into the U.S. justice system (Photo EFE/AFP)

Transcripts of Joaquín Guzmán Loera’s trial in the United States consulted and released by journalist Laura Sánchez Ley for Milenio, show that Vicente Zambada Niebla and Jesús Zambada García revealed intimate details about the co-founders of the Sinaloa Cartel in exchange for letters of recommendation and for U.S. authorities to take their families out of Mexico and take them to live in the country of the stars and stripes.

Similarly, documents released by the Justice Department suggest that both El Vicentillo and El Rey provided private conversations with Ismael Zambada Garcia, the only leader of the Pacific Cartel who has never been arrested and remains a fugitive from authorities.

Although the pacts between drug traffickers and US prosecutors are not usually revealed, the files reviewed by Milenio contain statements made by both Vicente Zambada Niebla and Jesus Zambada Garcia, which confirmed their cooperation with the neighboring country’s justice system.

Reynaldo Zambada García, alias “El Rey. Era uno de los principales líderes del Cártel del Pacífico (Especial)
Reynaldo Zambada García, alias “El Rey. He was one of the main leaders of the Cartel of the Pacific (Special)

-Did the government agree to provide some additional benefits due to his cooperation,” Joaquín Guzmán Loera’s legal defense asked El Rey Zambada.

-Yes, ” answered “El Mayo’s” brother.

-What additional benefits?

-Well, they have helped me bring my family from Mexico here to the United States for their safety so that they do not suffer any attempt on their lives,” said Jesús Zambada García, according to documents consulted by Milenio.

Likewise, El Rey Zambada exchanged his statements for a letter of recommendation that the U.S. government gave to a judge to decide his sentence. He only had to pay USD 3 million plus a fine of another two million thanks to a cooperation agreement.

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El Mayo Zambada’s brother was also removed from the US Treasury Department’s “blacklist.”

Among the confessions that Jesús Zambada García made about his older brother, the murder of Ramón Arellano Félix, one of his main enemies, as well as the multiple and million-dollar bribes they provided to public officials from the three levels of government, including the Attorney General’s Office (PGR), the Judicial Police and even Interpol, stood out.

Vicente Zambada Niebla habría llegado a un acuerdo de cooperación con Estados Unidos 
Vicente Zambada Niebla allegedly reached a cooperation agreement with the United States (ALBERTO VERA/CUARTOSCURO.COM)

Meanwhile, the transcripts of the trial of Joaquín Guzmán Loera consulted by Milenio indicate that Vicente Zambada Niebla started in the drug trafficking business at an early age and that it was at the age of 15 when he first saw his father’s compadre El Chapo.

Despite this, they pointed out, his actual criminal path began in 1994 when his brother-in-law was murdered as part of the war that the Arellano Felix Cartel declared against the Sinaloa Cartel.

“And the reason I was so attached to my father was because of the danger I was in because I was his oldest son,” El Vicentillo testified.

In his statements, Ismael Zambada Garcia’s son also evoked an occasion when the Arellano Felix brothers nearly assassinated him at a peace meeting his father organized.

Allegedly, El Vicentillo had come to Tijuana to speak on his father’s behalf and assure him they did not want any trouble. Still, according to the story, it was Benjamín Arellano Félix who shouted in his face and confirmed to him that he would kill El Mayo, El Chapo, and Héctor “El Güero” Palma.

Finally, he and his “compadre Amado” fled the border city for Sinaloa, where they told Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada what had happened to the Arellano Felixes.

The transcript of Joaquín Guzmán Loera’s trial states that El Vicentillo said that one of the reasons for his statements was because he believed it could help him obtain a reduction in his sentence, in addition to the fact that he claimed to have handed over US$1.373 billion.

Like his uncle, Vicente Zambada Niebla requested that his family be transferred to the United States for safety in his cooperation agreement.

The whereabouts of Jesús Zambada García and Vicente Zambada Niebla remain unknown since the U.S. Bureau of Prisons specified that they are no longer in its custody. However, due to their cooperation, it is presumed that they are under a witness protection program.