Reporting from Mexico City — The spaces for “Name of Father” are blank. But the L.A. County birth certificates list the mother, who happens to be the young wife of a highly sought-after drug lord, Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman.
Emma Coronel traveled to Southern California in mid-July and gave birth Aug. 15 to twin girls at Antelope Valley Hospital in Lancaster, according to birth records and a senior U.S. law enforcement official.
Turns out Coronel, a 22-year-old former beauty queen, holds U.S. citizenship, which entitles her to travel freely to the United States. By being born in California, and to a mother who is an American citizen, her little girls also have U.S. citizenship.
Guzman, 54, the multibillionaire fugitive head of the Sinaloa cartel, married Coronel the day she turned 18 in a lavish wedding in the highlands of central Mexico in 2007. She is believed to be his third or fourth wife and is a niece of Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel, a onetime partner of Guzman who was killed in a July 2010 shootout with the Mexican army.
U.S. federal agents apparently kept tabs on Emma Coronel even before she crossed the border at Calexico, through her hospital stay and until she left the country to return to Mexico. Although her husband tops most-wanted lists on both sides of the border, Coronel was not arrested because there are no charges against her, the law enforcement official said.
Although she no doubt could have provided useful information on her husband’s whereabouts, drug agents have said the problem with apprehending Guzman has less to do with finding him and more with how Mexican troops can seize him. He surrounds himself with enormous bands of well-armed security and tends to stick to isolated, hard-to-reach mountainous regions, agents say.
Coronel’s presence in the Los Angeles area and elsewhere in Southern California did not seem to attract attention. At the Antelope Valley Hospital, a spokeswoman declined to comment, citing privacy rules.
Birth certificates show the girls were born at the Lancaster facility at 3:50 and 3:51 p.m.
In the spaces for the mother’s signature, Coronel opted to print her name.
Guzman has children from earlier marriages. Mexican authorities seized one son, Ivan, then 21, on drug charges in 2005 but released him three years later. Another, Edgar, 22, was shot to death in 2008 in Sinaloa.
The elder Guzman, whose nickname means “Shorty,” is about 5 feet, 6 inches tall. He was arrested in 1993 but escaped prison in 2001 by bribing guards to hide him in a laundry cart.
U.S. authorities have placed a $5-million bounty on Guzman’s head and allege he and the Sinaloa cartel now control the bulk of cocaine and marijuana traffic into the U.S. from Mexico and Colombia. Guzman’s forces last year moved into Mexico’s northeastern shoulder around the border state of Tamaulipas, and he may be behind a ferocious push by gunmen into the coastal Veracruz state to challenge the Zetas gang that dominates there. Scores of people have either been killed or gone missing in recent days.
Coronel is said to have first caught Guzman’s eye when she entered the regional Miss Coffee and Guava beauty contest. He made his interest known, and she was crowned queen of the pageant. They married a few months later.
Times staff writers Anna Gorman in Los Angeles and Richard Marosi in San Diego contributed to this report.