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09/27/2011

The offspring of Mexico's top drug lord

Hats off to colleagues over at LA Times for their scoop that the wife of the world’s most wanted drug lord recently traveled to a California hospital to give birth to twins.

The story of Emma Coronel, a former beauty queen who Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman married on her 18th birthday in 2007, is interesting in multiple ways.

Coronel, who apparently holds dual citizenship, can travel in and out of the U.S. at will. She crossed over at Calexico and went to Lancaster (in the greater LA area) and gave birth Aug. 15 at Antelope Valley Hospital so that her twin girls would have automatic U.S. citizenship.

Feds told the LA Times that no charges are pending against Coronel so they couldn’t arrest her. But they kept an eye on her. On the birth certificates, the name of the father is left blank. The story also notes that while Coronel might have given useful information on her husband’s whereabouts, the problem is not locating him but ensuring that Mexican troops can seize him.

My first thought on reading this was how astonishingly many of the family members of top narcos seem to have U.S. citizenship or active U.S. visas. That certainly was the case in Colombia in the 1990s. I recall visiting a sprawling ranch owned by a confessed drug smuggler, accompanying his Miami lawyer, long before the man went to a U.S. prison, and realizing that his immediate family seemed to travel all the time to Florida for shopping trips. They were all decked out in clothes that I thought were slightly peculiar, only later to learn that “Prada” was a really expensive designer brand. (OK, so I don’t read GQ. This was, like, 1998.)

The U.S. government increasingly uses denial of visas as a political weapon against corrupt politicians in Latin America. Panama’s tourism minister no longer has an active U.S. visa, according to press reports, and numerous Honduran politicians had visas cancelled after the 2009 coup.

The granting of visas _ and monitoring of the suspicious people who have them while they are in the United States _ may also be a valuable tool.

This all comes to mind because I’m headed to the Miami airport in an hour or two to return to Mexico, and came through there before the weekend. It is always entertaining to observe the immigration agents do their jobs, the lines of fidgety travelers, and particularly the behavior of those travelers who seem to arouse the interest of the agents as they present their passports. 

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Tim

This blog is written by Tim Johnson, the Mexico bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers.

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