Mexican drug lord El Chapo goes on trial in NY

Joaquin El Chapo Guzman trial begins in New York Monday but it will be behind closed doors

"Is it going to stop even one additional pound of cocaine from coming into the United States?"

After Felix Gallardo was arrested in 1989, Guzman's Sinaloa cartel began its meteoric rise.

In his way now is a lineup of government witnesses who survived the wave of violence and are expected to give details about the ruthless way he kept power for 20 years in the cutthroat world of global drug trafficking.

Until he was recaptured in early 2016 - and extradited to the United States in 2017 - he seemed largely untouchable. In 2016, an average of 174 Americans died every day from drug overdoses.

Opening arguments are scheduled to start on November 13, after a week of jury selection, held behind closed doors under security reserved for the most unsafe defendants.

US District Judge Brian Cogan, prosecutors and defence lawyers on Monday questioned 45 potential jurors, rejecting 17. The 12 jurors, with six alternates, will remain anonymous.

They will also be escorted in and out of the court by guards. He's accused of running a massive drug trafficking operation, along with money laundering, kidnapping and murder.

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Guzman, 61, formerly led the Sinaloa Cartel, named after its base in the Mexican state of Sinaloa, which became one of the most powerful drug trafficking organisations in the world.

Prosecutors say the US government is seeking a $14 billion forfeiture order as part of the case.

Guzman pleads not guilty. Some are expected to testify under aliases. "It's probably set up to be the most expensive trial in the history of the United States", he told AFP.

Mexico extradited Guzman to the United States in 2017, and ever since he has been held in solitary confinement at a NY federal prison.

There's now speculation that a special cell for Guzman has been set up in the bowels of the courthouse where he will spend the night after his days in court. The only visitors he is allowed are his three lawyers and twin, seven-year-old daughters, from whom he is separated by a thick glass screen. Instead, she has attended nearly all his pretrial hearings, waving and blowing him kisses from the gallery.

Previously, a federal judge said in light of the history of violence surrounding the cartel which El Chapo allegedly ran and the high-profile nature of the case, he has granted jurors anonymity in the trial. Re-arrested by Mexican marines in February 2014, he escaped again 14 months later.

He conducted a secret interview with Sean Penn, who, according to the actor, was unaware he was being surveilled by the Mexican government, and reportedly ended up being the beacon for authorities to ultimately catch up with Guzman.

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