El Chapo's former henchman, Dámaso López. El Chapo's former henchman, Dámaso López.

Former right-hand man to El Chapo gets life sentence for trafficking

'El Licenciado' pleaded guilty to importing cocaine into the US

A former high-ranking member of the Sinaloa Cartel and Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán’s right-hand man has been sentenced to life in prison by a United States court.

Dámaso “El Licenciado” López, 52, surprised the court on September 28 when he pleaded guilty to importing cocaine into the U.S. He admitted that he had been a member of the Sinaloa Cartel for 15 years, rising to a leadership post and becoming responsible for smuggling drugs into the U.S.

After his sentencing today, which included an order for the seizure of US $25 million, López offered an apology to the people of the United States for his acts.

López’s relationship with Guzmán dates back to 1999 when the drug lord was an inmate at the Puente Grande maximum security penitentiary. López was the penal facility’s deputy director of security at the time.

López played a crucial role in Guzmán’s prison break on January 2001, when he joined the criminal organization.

The friendship between the two men became stronger as time went by, and Guzmán was chosen to be the godfather of López’s son.

But the relationship came to an abrupt end with Guzmán’s third and final arrest in January 2016. Knowing of the imminent extradition of the former drug lord to the United States, López sought to seize control of the Sinaloa Cartel, which was under the control of Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, who also had the support of Guzmán’s sons.

But his ambitions were ended when he was arrested last year in Mexico City and later extradited to the United States.

López is off to jail now but he might be back in the limelight before long. U.S. authorities see him as a potential key witness in Guzmán’s trial, now under way in New York.

He might also shed some light on last year’s murder of journalist Javier Valdez in Culiacán, Sinaloa. His lawyer said in a statement that López wants to collaborate with Mexican authorities in the investigation.

He is “prepared and anxious to help,” said Manuel Retureta, but the Mexican government has not responded to his offer.

Source: El Financiero (sp), Animal Político (sp)

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