Ostentatious wedding to groom with underworld links is seen as reminder of bride’s family’s power
David Agren in Mexico City – The Guardian
Alejandrina Gisselle Guzmán Salazar with her husband Edgar Cazares, right. Photograph: Instagram
It was the society wedding of the year in Mexico’s drug cartel heartland: Alejandrina Gisselle Guzmán, daughter of the convicted kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, tied the knot with the kin of another member of Mexico’s underworld.
And in the ostentatious style of a family accustomed to getting its way, they were married in a closed-door ceremony in the cathedral of Culiacán – the city at the centre of the Sinaloa cartel’s criminal empire.
The wedding took place on 25 January, according to the Mexican newspaper Reforma, which scandalised Mexico with the headline: “Cathedral locked down for the wedding of El Chapo’s daughter.”
Photos and videos posted on social media showed the bride arriving at the Culiacán cathedral, which had been cordoned off with yellow police tape, and a reception featuring popular Mexican musicians and the newlyweds taking in a private pyrotechnics show.
To seasoned Mexican observers, the wedding once again offered an uncomfortable reminder of organised crime’s influence in many pockets of the country, its ability to ingratiate itself into society at large and its relationship with the Catholic church, which has long been accused of laundering drug cartel funds through the collection plate.
It also reminded Mexicans of El Chapo’s lingering legacy in Sinaloa state, where his criminal empire provided employment and narco charity to many, and his children have succeeded him at the helm of the Sinaloa cartel.
“It is a reminder of how deeply embedded and powerful the Guzmán family remains in Sinaloa’s society. They are effectively part of the elite,” said Falko Ernst, senior Mexico analyst for the International Crisis Group. “They are treated as such by other members of the elite, including parts of the church.”
The wedding came as the country’s violence and blood-letting shows few signs of slowing and Mexico’s murder rate continues racing past grim milestones – 35,588 murders in 2019, a 2.7% increase over the previous year.
Mexico launched a militarised crackdown on drug cartels and organised crime in late 2006, but the violence has soared, security forces remain ill-trained and the rule of law is still elusive.
In a notorious show of the difficulties in calming the country – and the Sinaloa cartel’s enduring power – soldiers in Culiacán captured one of El Chapo’s sons: Ovidio Guzmán López in October, but were forced to release him after Sinaloa cartel gunmen mobilised, causing chaos and threatening to kidnap and kill family members of Mexican security personnel.
Even with El Chapo locked up in Colorado, the Guzmán family has maintained a high profile and has tried to cash in on his image.
El Chapo’s wife Emma Coronel debuted last fall in a reality show on VH1. Gisselle Guzmán trademarked her father’s image and recently launched a line of clothing, “El Chapo 701,” and has announced plans to sell “El Chapo” beer.
Gisselle Guzmán’s husband, Edgar Cazares, was identified by Reforma as the nephew of Blanca Margarita Cazares – who was sanctioned by the US Treasury in 2007 for her “sophisticated money-laundering apparatus”. He also reputedly has links to Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada García and Victor Emilio Cazares-Gastellum of the Sinaloa cartel.
The fact the wedding took place in such a prominent church outraged – but failed to surprise – many in Mexico. A priest with the diocese of Culiacán confirmed that the wedding occurred in the Culiacán cathedral.
“This has been one of many achilles heel of the Mexican church – it’s relationship with organised crime – in the last 30 years or so,” said Rodolfo Soriano-Nuñez, a sociologist who studies the Mexican catholic church.
“Locking down the cathedral and pretty much giving it away gives very bad optics and forces one to raise all sorts of questions regarding the decision-making process .”