'El Chapo' trial: Mexico presidents reject 'scapegoat' claims

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This handout picture released by the Mexican interior ministry shows Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán (centre) escorted by Mexican police officers before his extradition to the US. Photo: January 2017Image source, AFP/Getty Images
Image caption,
Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán was extradited to the US by the Mexican authorities in 2017

Mexico's president and his predecessor have rejected allegations of bribe-taking made in the New York trial of drug kingpin Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán.

Mr Guzmán's lawyer told the trial that his client was a "scapegoat".

He said the real leader of the Sinaloa Cartel was Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada who was living openly in Mexico and bribing the "entire" government, including President Enrique Peña Nieto.

Both Mr Peña Nieto and his predecessor Felipe Calderón denied the claims.

Guzmán, 61, faces 17 charges and could be jailed for life if found guilty.

He was arrested in January 2016 after escaping from prison through a tunnel five months earlier.

Prosecutors say the Sinaloa cartel is the biggest supplier of drugs to the US.

Key associates, including one of his former lieutenants, are expected to testify against Guzmán.

The trial, which opened on Tuesday amid high security, is expected to last about four months.

What did the defence lawyer say?

Jeffrey Lichtman said about his client: "He's blamed for being the leader while the real leaders are living freely and openly in Mexico.

"In truth he controlled nothing. Mayo Zambada did."

The lawyer also said that Zambada had been left alone because he bribed everybody "including the very top, the current president of Mexico and the former".

President Peña Nieto and Mr Calderón immediately rejected the accusation, with the latter calling it "absolutely false and reckless".