The reach of the sons of notorious drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán has extended into the education system in Sinaloa.
Since the beginning of the week, about 90 children have been attending a school in a poor neighborhood of Culiacán to which Guzmán’s sons donated desks, chairs, televisions and computers among other items.
Despite a sign with the letters JGL (El Chapo’s initials) adorning its entrance, the school appears to be a fairly normal if basic educational facility. But according to the Sinaloa education minister, it is operating outside of regulations.
Juan Alfonso Mejía López said the school needs to be officially registered with educational authorities, pointing out that if it isn’t, the students’ progress won’t be officially recognized.
He said education officials have begun discussions with the school’s voluntary teachers with a view to having it registered.
Despite its current informal status, the school’s students – many of whom are the children of men and women who earn a meager living scavenging on Culiacán’s south side – appear happy to be in school rather than at home, where most don’t have access to television or the internet and are therefore unable to watch virtual classes currently screening due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Video footage published by the newspaper Milenio shows primary school-aged children studying together in makeshift classrooms.
One girl tells a reporter that she is happy to be at school and when questioned about who equipped it, she responded: “Some men who always came here to help my aunt.”
She was apparently referring to some of the sons of El Chapo, among whom are Jesús Alfredo, Iván Archivaldo and Ovidio. All three are suspected high-ranking members of the Sinaloa Cartel their father once headed.
The arrest of Ovidio Guzmán in Culiacán just over a year ago triggered a wave of cartel attacks in the northern city, prompting the authorities to release him.
One teacher who spoke to Milenio said she was approached by El Chapo’s sons and that they told her that they wanted to help local children.
Identified only as Esmeralda, the teacher said the imprisoned drug lord’s offspring initially wanted to build a new school but to save time they decided to adapt an existing property.
“I told them that luxuries weren’t so important, that the most important thing was internet. … We told them about this place and asked them if they could help us to adapt it and they did,” she said.
Esmeralda said the teachers had asked the state government for help in opening a temporary school but received no assistance because “all the resources were going to [responding to] Covid-19.”
Mejía, the education minister, said he had no knowledge of the teachers’ request.
Another teacher told Milenio that they communicate with El Chapo’s sons via cell phone messages, periodically telling them what items the school needs.
“In the last message I received they told me … not to worry that they would keep helping us in one way or another; we’re very grateful. … They were going to bring some tablets because there weren’t enough computers,” said Adilene Quiñones.
“We have very low-income children here who don’t have television [at home],” she said, adding that the parents of many are unable to help their children study because they have little education themselves.
Esmeralda said Joaquín Guzmán’s sons also gave uniforms, shoes, notebooks, pens and pencils to the students.
“Maybe it’s true that they come from organized crime but the truth is I look at their [charitable] actions,” she said.
Members of the Sinaloa Cartel and many other criminal organizations commonly distribute food packages and other essentials to needy residents in the areas where they operate.
Alejandrina Guzmán, El Chapo’s eldest daughter, distributed boxes, stenciled with her father’s image, of provisions including sugar, soups, beans, toilet paper and cooking oil to the elderly in Guadalajara earlier this year to help them get by amid the coronavirus crisis.
Meanwhile, the family patriarch is living out the rest of his days in the Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado, after a United States federal judge sentenced him to life in prison on drug trafficking charges in July 2019.
Source: Milenio (sp)