The wife of Joaquín Guzmán Loera, alias "El Chapo," has launched a new fashion brand in the United States bearing his name, marking the latest attempt by families of drug kingpins to try and cash in on public fascination for the likes of Pablo Escobar.
Emma Coronel Aispuro’s new line of fashion items, named “El Chapo Guzmán," will begin with a line of caps, moving on to clothes and jackets at a later date. Coronel Aispuro gained media notoriety during her husband's trial for sporting luxury bags and designer clothes.
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In mid-February, only a few days after being sentenced to life in prison, Guzmán signed away his image rights to his wife after receiving a special dispensation to do so from the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan.
While he is under court order to only communicate with his lawyers, Jeffrey Lichtman, Eduardo Balarezo and William Purpura who represented him during his trial are also involved in setting up the fashion brand.
Coronel is not the only member of the Guzmán family who is willing to cash in on “El Chapo’s” legacy. In February 2018, his daughter, Alejandrina Gisselle Guzmán, announced the launch in Mexico of her brand “El Chapo 701.”
Making money off drug lords’ names and legacies is not only confined to Mexico or to fashion. Roberto Escobar -- Pablo’s brother -- founded the Pablo Escobar Museum in Medellín, exemplifying the commercialization of one of Colombia’s darkest memories.
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The fascination for narco-culture, compounded by numerous films and TV shows about the exploits of kingpins, has made the branding of drug lords almost inevitable. Outcry from the public and governments is usually swift, though concrete action has not always followed.
In Mexico, little effort has been made to tackle the spreading of narco-culture. After first rejecting the creation of an "El Chapo" fashion line in 2010 by Guzmán’s daughter, Mexico's Industrial Property Institute (IMPI) approved it in 2016, albeit with some restrictions, including specific categories of items that could be sold.
The IMPI rejected similar requests by Coronel, leading her to try her luck at opening the business in the United States. This is a similar situation to “narcocorridos,” songs honoring and praising drug lords, which have been banned in parts of Mexico but are a profitable business in Los Angeles.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of NarcoCulture
Legal experts have highlighted that the Chapo Guzmán label could fail by virtue of the “Son of Sam” law, which is designed to prevent criminals from capitalizing on their crimes. But Guzmán’s attorneys might have found a legal loophole, by having El Chapo sign away his image rights to his wife’s company.
Colombia has seen similar attempts to profit off the name of drug lord Pablo Escobar. Merchandise with his visage is sold by street vendors in Medellín. Escobar tours are also popular among tourists.
The government of Medellín, however, has tried to blunt the fascination with Escobar by transforming landmarks associated with him. His luxurious multimillion-dollar estate Hacienda Napoles is now a theme park dedicated to the victims of drug trafficking. His Monaco residence in Medellín was recently torn down, and the land there will also be made into a park. And the aforementioned Escobar museum was closed a year ago.