At the age of twenty-something, he had already earned half a million dollars in exchange for shielding the communications of the Colombian family of drug traffickers Cifuentes and the Mexican capo ‘Chapo Guzmán’.
But it cost him dearly: nervous breakdowns, hospitalizations, electroshocks and exile in the United States, presumably under a new identity. The key witness told how he helped the ‘Chapo’ to buy cocaine shipments in several South American countries; among them, Ecuador.
Colombian Christian Rodriguez, 32, a witness of the US government in the trial of ex-leader of the Sinaloa cartel Joaquín “Chapo” Guzmán and his former communications chief, told a court in New York on Thursday that he suffered so much stress when working with him. FBI in 2013 that ended twice in the hospital. Not only was he afraid of being discovered and killed, but he also had serious personal problems: two parallel families, both with children, and one of them was unaware of the existence of the other.
Rodríguez started working in communications security for the Cifuentes brothers in Colombia in 2008, and through them he met Chapo that same year and started working for him. “I had too much stress on me,” Rodriguez told the jury, who is still taking medication and is on therapy. “They gave me electroconvulsive therapy,” he said, adding that he just cannot remember what happened the day before and the day after the treatment.
El Chapo, 61, considered one of the biggest leaders of the Mexican cartel in Sinaloa and accused of trafficking more than 155 tons of cocaine to the United States, was extradited almost two years ago after two spectacular escapes from Mexican prisons. If found guilty, he could be sentenced to life imprisonment.
FBI trap Rodriguez, a former engineering student and expert in cybersecurity, said he personally met with Chapo about 12 times. He said that once, when they were in the mountains of Sinaloa, the army came to capture them and with the accused and about 15 of his men had to escape and walk for three days in the mountains.
El Chapo was “very calm”, he said, but he “very scared”. In 2010, the FBI mounted an undercover operation in a Manhattan hotel to catch Rodriguez, in which an agent posed as a Russian mobster who needed security in their communications.
Rodriguez was filmed. And in 2011, the FBI approached him in Bogotá with this video and offered to cooperate. Rodriguez accepted. Remotely installed a GPS locator on Jorge Cifuentes’ phone that allowed the United States to catch him. And he helped the FBI get hold of hundreds of recordings, text messages, emails and videos of Chapo and his associates that constitute overwhelming evidence against the defendant.
In 2012, when he learned that the Cifuentes had discovered he was a snitch, he quickly moved to the United States, where he is presumed to be a protected witness. Rodriguez was never charged or spent a single hour in jail, and he earned another half a million dollars working for the FBI.
He even hopes to receive a reward from the State Department of up to USD 5 million for his help in capturing Jorge Cifuentes. “I have the hope and the illusion that I will receive them someday,” he said. “As before God” After the testimony in December 2018 of Jorge Cifuentes, prisoner in the United States and collaborator of the government, this Thursday it was the turn of his brother Alex, “right arm and left arm” of the Mexican capo, like this one he liked to say.
Alex Cifuentes, 50, grew up in a family of drug dealers and trafficked drugs since he was 10. He told the jury how he worked for Chapo between 2007 and November 2013, when he was arrested. He even lived in the Sierra de Sinaloa with El Chapo the first two years. He explained how he helped the defendant buy hundreds of kilos of cocaine in Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador and Panama, and sell that drug, heroin and “ice” (methamphetamine) in New York and Canada.
In his testimony, he treated the Chapo with respect, said laughing that he was “a good businessman” and stressed his kindness, as if apologizing for testifying against him. He said that at first he did not want to plead guilty and preferred to go to trial as El Chapo, so that a jury could decide his innocence or guilt. But his brother Jorge told him that if he did, he would be the first to testify against him. “With the Americans, I must confess as if I confessed before God,” Jorge told him, and asked him to follow his example. (I)