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El Chapo’s beauty queen wife says she fears for his life

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ATLANTA — The wife of Sinaloa cartel boss Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman says she fears for her husband’s life and that the Mexican government is using harsh conditions to “get even” with the drug lord because his escapes made them look bad.

Emma Coronel Aispuro, a former beauty queen who holds both U.S. and Mexican citizenship, made the comments to Spanish-language broadcaster Telemundo in an interview on Sunday. Coronel and Guzman have been married since 2008. They have two children together, twin daughters born in Lancaster, Calif., in August 2011.

“They want to make him pay”

Coronel said she fears for her husband’s life while he is at Altiplano, the maximum security prison where he is currently held and from which he made his brazen escape in July 2015.

“They want to make him pay for his escape,” Coronel said. “They say that they are not punishing him. Of course they are. They are there with him, watching him in his cell. They don’t let him sleep. He has no privacy, not even to go to the restroom.”

In the interview, Coronel said Guzman is guarded by dogs and moved constantly. “Of courseĀ I am afraid for his life,” she said, adding that she has filed a complaint regarding her husband’s confinement with Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission.

A wife’s devotion

Coronel disputed some claims made about her husband’s breakout last year. She said Guzman never took a girl hostage while he was on the run. She insisted her brother had nothing to do with the construction of the tunnel Guzman used in his prison escape last year. She also claimed that her father has been held in prison for three years without charges.

Coronel, however, had nothing bad to say about Mexican and American actress Kate del Castillo, whose electronic messages helped lead to Guzman’s recapture in January. Coronel said she was an admirer of the performer and was not jealous at all.

“I’m in love with (Guzman),” Coronel said. “He’s my daughters’ father and I believe that I have already demonstrated that I will follow him anywhere.”

A narco-fairy tale

Coronel first caught Guzman’s eye in 2007, when she was 17 and competing to be the Coffee and Guava Festival Queen in Durango, according to the website Narco Blog. They were reportedly married on the day she turned 18. Guzman was in his 40s.

In the Telemundo interview, Coronel said she looked “like a princess” when she and Guzman were wed. They stayed on the ranch where the wedding was held throughout their honeymoon, she said.

Coronel was with Guzman when he was arrested in the Mexican Pacific resort town of Mazatlan in February 2014. When authorities found them, Guzman had been on the run for 13 years, after escaping from a maximum security prison by hiding in a laundry cart.

U.S. officials sought Coronel for questioning while Guzman was on the run last year.

Brazen escapes

Coronel’s comments come only a few days after Guzman’s lawyer, Juan Pablo Badillo, said El Chapo was the victim of “physical and mental torture” in an interview with Mexico’s Radio Formula. Guards would not allow the drug kingpin to sleep more than two hours at a time, Badillo said, calling the treatment “sleep deprivation” and comparing it to “what was done by Stalin in the ’40s and ’50s in Russia.”

Guzman was recaptured in January, after a shootout in his native Sinaloa state that left six people dead. Electronic exchanges between actor Sean Penn, del Castillo and people close to Guzman helped lead authorities to the drug kingpin’s location. The messages were sent to facilitate an interview with Guzman conducted by Penn, which appeared in Rolling Stone magazine in January. In it, Guzman touted his drug trade, saying he “supplies more heroin, methamphetamine, cocain and marijuana than anybody else in the world.”

Guzman broke out of Altiplano prison last summer. Taking advantage of a blind spot in his cell where security cameras couldn’t see him, Guzman crawled out through a hole dug in the floor of his shower stall. That shaft led to a mile-long tunnel with lighting and ventilation and included a modified motorcycle that ran on tracks.

Extensive new security measures have been put in place to ensure that Guzman does not escape again. The Mexican government has announced its intention to extradite Guzman to the United States. Mexico’s attorney general says the process could take anywhere from one to five years.