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Mexico to Give Away ‘El Chapo’ Safehouse in Lottery

CULIACAN, Mexico (AP) — The home former drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán fled in 2014 when Mexican marines had him surrounded underwent some adjustments just lately because the Mexican authorities ready to give it away in a nationwide lottery.

The surveillance cameras that coated each angle of the modest dwelling’s exterior had been eliminated. And the opening below a bath that Guzmán had slipped by way of to attain a community of tunnels was coated with a concrete slab.

The Related Press was given entry to the property in a quiet Culiacan neighborhood forward of the lottery. In current weeks, Mexico’s Institute to Return Stolen Items to the Folks, recognized by its initials as INDEP, gave it a recent coat of white paint inside and outside and tiled over the spot in the toilet the place the bathtub and tunnel entry level had been.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has been speaking up the lottery of seized properties, however gave no point out to the historical past of this explicit home. An expansive dwelling in considered one of Mexico Metropolis’s swankiest neighborhoods and a personal field on the famed Azteca Stadium have garnered extra consideration.

INDEP’s web site lists it solely as “Casa en Culiacán.” It’s about 2,800 sq. toes and positioned, maybe appropriately, in a neighborhood referred to as Libertad, or “Freedom.” The federal government values the two-bedroom dwelling at $183,000.

The home had been deserted for years and the marines did some harm after they searched it, so repairs had been obligatory.

Guzmán escaped that point by way of the tunnels, however his freedom lasted solely days. On Feb. 22, 2014, the marines descended once more, this time in a rental on the coast in Mazatlan.

By that point, Guzmán already had a repute for daring escapes. He had slipped out of considered one of Mexico’s maximum-security prisons in 2001, allegedly in a laundry cart.

In July 2015, lower than a 12 months and half after his seize in Mazatlan, Guzmán slipped by way of a tunnel dug up to the drain in his cell’s bathe and rode a motorbike on tracks laid by way of a tunnel to escape one other maximum-security Mexican jail.

The marines captured him once more six months later in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, the place he had been holed up in one other unremarkable dwelling.

Guzmán was extradited to america, tried, convicted and sentenced to life in jail in July 2019.

INDEP officers, who declined to be recognized as a result of they weren’t licensed to converse, mentioned they had been stunned the home was getting consideration. It’s not luxurious. There isn’t any swimming pool, not one of the ostentation that characterizes different narco properties in Sinaloa.

Folks close by mentioned they didn’t know who their neighbor was.

“We never knew anything, we never knew who lived there, we never saw anyone,” mentioned one neighbor, who rapidly reduce off the dialog. Many locals aren’t in talking of Guzmán and even saying his title in a spot the place the Sinaloa cartel stays highly effective.

The home was properly positioned for its earlier functions. There’s a neighbor solely on one facet. On the opposite is a subterranean storm sewer — Culiacan constructed lots of of kilometers of them to take care of torrential rains — which is the place the toilet tunnel linked to make Guzmán’s escape doable. A college is throughout the road.

On the morning of Feb. 17, 2014, the neighborhood was instantly stuffed with the marines’ gray vans. They blocked site visitors. There was little doubt they had been in the seemingly unremarkable home.

However they didn’t discover Guzmán there. In reality, throughout his U.S. trial, a witness testified that Guzmán was not in any of the 5 homes marines searched, regardless of experiences to the opposite on the time.

5 days later, the marines caught up to Guzmán 125 miles to the south in Mazatlan, the place he was staying together with his spouse Emma Coronel and their twin daughters.

INDEP tried to public sale off the house final 12 months. It began the bidding at about $130,000. There have been no takers.

Now, López Obrador is giving it away as a part of the lottery, with the drawing scheduled for Wednesday, the day earlier than Mexico celebrates its Independence Day. It’s the primary time Mexico’s nationwide lottery is making a gift of property. The proceeds are to go to Mexico’s Olympic athletes.

“This raffle is very important and I call on all the people, those who can help buying a ticket, or two or three,” López Obrador mentioned at his every day information convention final week.

In downtown Mexico Metropolis, lottery ticket distributors mentioned gross sales have been good.

Jorge López mentioned he’s been promoting 100 to 120 of the $12 tickets every day since final week. “Right now, it’s selling very well.” He mentioned the worth of the 22 prizes, many properly above that of the Culiacan home, is drawing consideration. Some folks ask about who the properties’ earlier house owners had been, however not many, he mentioned.

Again in Culiacan, throughout city close to the middle, Ignacio Mariscal mentioned he helps the lottery. “Those houses didn’t serve anyone; those people had them,” Mariscal mentioned. “I see it as perfectly fine. It’s to help people in need.”

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AP author Christopher Sherman in Mexico Metropolis contributed to this report.

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