Security tight as 'El Chapo' Guzman trial set to open in Brooklyn

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The mythical criminal pedigree of Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, who was extradited in 2017 to face US drug conspiracy charges, has sparked security concerns at his upcoming New York City trial that at times have drawn as much attention as the case's sensational allegations.

At pretrial hearings leading to the trial, heavily armed federal officers and bomb-sniffing dogs patrolled outside. The Mexican drug lord is accused of running the world's most powerful drug cartel.

That led to speculation Monday that Guzman would be held in a special cell deep within the Brooklyn courthouse facility. The names of the witnesses will also be kept secret.

Guzman, who was captured in 2016 after tunneling his way out of a maximum securiy Mexican jail, was brought to New York City in January 2017 to face murder and drug conspiracy charges. Prosecutors have so far avoided naming the witnesses, saying that doing so would put them in danger. Opening statements are expected on November 13.

Prosecutors say that from 1989 to 2014, the cartel smuggled 340,892 pounds (154,626 kilograms) of cocaine into the United States, as well as heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana, raking in $14 billion.

Federal authorities have imposed high security to prevent Guzman from slipping away yet again.

Federal prosecutors say from January 1989 to December 2014, Guzman's cartel was responsible for importing and distributing massive amounts of illegal narcotics and killed those who threatened the enterprise.

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Arely Gómez González, Mexico's attorney general at the time, said the search drew few valuable clues until Guzman reached out to actors and producers and began planning a movie about his life.

El Chapo - "Shorty", for his 5-foot-6 stature - has been an iconic figure in the drug trade for decades. Some mentioned they were aware he had escaped from prison in Mexico. He was recaptured in Mexico in February 2014.

USA prosecutors have spent years piecing together a case that they hope will end with the 61-year-old spending the rest of his life in a maximum-security United States prison.

It is alleged that he spent a quarter of a century smuggling more than 155 tonnes of cocaine into the United States.

The judge struck two women after they raised security concerns about presiding over the proceedings, expected to cost millions and turn into the most expensive federal trial in USA history.

Bacon reported from Virginia.

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