"El Chapo" mother says US approved visa to visit drug lord

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MEXICO CITY (AP) — The mother of convicted drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzmán said Saturday that the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City granted her a visa so she can visit her son in prison.

Sitting in a wheelchair in front of the embassy, Consuelo Loera said she and two daughters were both approved Saturday for visas to travel to the United States.

"Thank God, the U.S. Embassy gave me the permission," she said in a feeble voice while surrounded by a throng of journalists:

Loera, 91, said she hasn't seen her son in more than four years. She added that she has yet to receive the actual visa or set a date for her trip.

A U.S. official declined to confirm that the visa was granted.

Jose Luis González, a lawyer for Guzmán, said Loera was given a paper after the interview stating that U.S. officials would get in touch if they need more information. González also said the three women were approved for travel.

"Did you see how excited she was?" said González, repeating Loera's statement that she wants to hug her son.

If she could bring him anything, Loera said, it would be his favorite Mexican food dish: enchiladas.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador lobbied for the visa to be issued after receiving a letter in February from Loera asking for assistance. In the letter, passed to López Obrador while he was in Guzman's home state of Sinaloa to announce a highway project, Loera described herself as "suffering and desperate" to see her son.

The president said he intervened out of empathy for the mother. When Guzmán was convicted in the U.S. in February, López Obrador said: "Let this serve as a lesson to show that money doesn't buy true happiness."

"El Chapo," who led the Sinaloa drug cartel and twice escaped from Mexican prisons before he was extradited to New York, was convicted of running an industrial-scale smuggling operation. The three-month trial heard tales of grisly killings, political payoffs, cocaine hidden in jalapeno cans and jewel-encrusted guns.

Guzmán's lawyers did not deny his crimes but argued that he was a fall guy for government witnesses who were more evil than their client.

He is due to be sentenced this month and faces a life term in a maximum-security U.S. prison selected to guard against another of the jail breakouts that made him a folk hero in Mexico.

Loera reiterated that she would like her son to be returned to Mexico and to be set free. Both possibilities seem highly unlikely.

Guzmán escaped from a Mexican prison in 2001 after having served eight years. He moved between hideouts for years until being imprisoned again in 2014, only to escape a year later through an expertly dug tunnel leading to his prison cell shower.

Part of his success moving drugs across the U.S.-Mexico border also involved sophisticated tunnels.

González said that Loera brought financial statements as well as proof of property ownership to show that she had the means to travel to the U.S., and reason to return to Mexico. Loera owns a ranch with cows and pigs, he said.

The U.S. Department of Justice is seeking forfeiture of a fortune that Guzmán's indictment valued at $14 billion.

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