The house from which former drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán fled in 2014 when the Mexican marines they surrounded him it underwent some changes recently as the Mexican government prepared to give it away in a national lottery.
Surveillance cameras covering every corner of the exterior of the modest home were removed. And the hole under a bathtub that Guzmán had slipped through to reach a network of tunnels was covered with a concrete slab.
The Associated Press had access to the property in a quiet neighborhood in Culiacán before he raffled the lottery. In recent weeks, the Mexican Institute to Return Stolen Goods to the People, known by its initials as INDEP, gave it a fresh coat of white paint inside and out and put tiles over the spot in the bathroom where the bathtub had been and the entry point of the tunnel.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has been talking about the lottery of seized properties, but he did not mention the history of this particular house. A spacious house in one of the most elegant neighborhoods from Mexico City and a private box at the famous Azteca Stadium have attracted more attention.
Lottery tickets for sale. Photo: AP
How is the house
INDEP’s website lists it only as “House in Culiacán”. It is approximately 2,800 square feet and is located, perhaps appropriately, in a neighborhood called Libertad, or “Freedom.” The government values the two-bedroom home at $ 183,000.
The house had been abandoned for years and the Marines did some damage when they searched it, requiring repairs.
Guzmán escaped that time through the tunnels, but his freedom lasted only a few days. On February 22, 2014, the Marines descended again, this time on a condominium on the coast of Mazatlán.
By then, Guzmán already had fame for daring getaways. He had escaped from one of Mexico’s maximum security prisons in 2001, allegedly in a laundry cart.
A customer looks at a window of lottery tickets for sale in Mexico City, Monday, Sept. 13, 2021. Photo: AP
In July 2015, less than a year and a half after his capture in Mazatlán, Guzmán slipped through a tunnel dug to the shower drain out of his cell and rode a motorcycle down the tracks through a tunnel to escape from another Mexican maximum security prison.
The marines captured him again six months later in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, where he had been locked up in another house. unremarkable.
Guzmán was extradited to the United States, tried, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in July 2019.
INDEP officials, who declined to be identified because they were not authorized to speak, said they were surprised that the house was receiving care. It is not luxurious. There is no pool, none of the glitz that characterizes other drug properties in Sinaloa.
Close people said they did not know who was his neighbor.
“We never knew anything, we never knew who lived there, we never saw anyone,” said a neighbor, who quickly cut off the conversation. Many locals are not interested in talking about Guzmán or even saying his name in a place where the Sinaloa cartel it is still powerful.
The house was well located for its previous purposes. There is a neighbor only on one side. In the other there is an underground storm sewer -Culiacán built hundreds of kilometers of them to cope with the torrential rains- which is where the bath tunnel connects to make Guzman’s escape possible. There is a school across the street.
On the morning of February 17, 2014, the neighborhood was suddenly filled with gray Marine trucks. They blocked traffic. There was no doubt that they were interested in the seemingly nondescript house.
But they did not find Guzmán there. In fact, during his trial in the United States, a witness testified that Guzmán was not in any of the five houses registered by the Marines, despite reports to the contrary at the time.
Five days later, the Marines reached Guzmán 200 kilometers south in Mazatlán, where he was staying with his wife Emma Coronel and her twin daughters.
Nobody wants to buy it
INDEP tried to auction the house last year. The auction started at around $ 130,000. There were no buyers.
Now, López Obrador is giving it away as part of the lottery, with the draw scheduled for this Wednesday, the day before Mexico celebrates its Independence Day. It is the first time that Mexico’s national lottery has given away properties. Proceeds will go to olympic athletes from Mexico.
“This raffle is very important and I call on all the people, who can help buy a ticket, or two or three,” López Obrador said at his daily press conference last week.
In downtown Mexico City, lottery ticket sellers said that sales have been good.
Jorge Lopez said he has been selling 100 to 120 of the $ 12 tickets a day since last week. “Right now, it is selling very well.” He said that the value of the 22 awards, many well above that of the Culiacán house, is attracting attention. Some people ask who the previous owners of the properties were, but not many, he said.
Back in Culiacán, across town near downtown, Ignacio Mariscal said he supports the lottery. “Those houses were of no use to anyone; those people had them, ”said Mariscal. “I see it perfectly fine. It is to help people in need. “