Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, surrounded by US marshals, waves to his wife as he enters the courtroom at Brooklyn Federal Court in New York, Nov. 13, 2018.
Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, surrounded by US marshals, waves to his wife as he enters the courtroom at Brooklyn Federal Court in New York, Nov. 13, 2018.

Opening statements have begun in the high-security trial of notorious Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman in Brooklyn, N.Y. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Fels told a jury that Guzman "sent killers to wipe out competitors ... waged wars against longtime partners" and revolutionized drug trafficking to the United States. 

Fels said Guzman, 61, ran shipments of heroin, cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine into the United States as head of the Mexican Sinaloa cartel, an organization that has played a large part in the violent drug wars devastating parts of Mexico.  

Guzman has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. He faces 17 criminal counts, and potential life imprisonment if convicted.  

Joaquin Guzman's defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman
Joaquin Guzman's defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman, speaks to reporters as he leaves Brooklyn Federal Courthouse after opening statements in the trial of the Mexican drug lord known as "El Chapo," Nov. 13, 2018, in New York.

Defense attorney Jeffrey Lichtman painted a portrait of Guzman as a fall guy for corrupt government officials and the world's biggest drug dealer, who was not named.  He said Mexican and American officials, including Mexico's current president, his immediate predecessor and an official of the U.S. Drug Enforcement  Administration, were among those paid millions to keep the real kingpin free. 

Authorities deployed tight security for the proceedings, including armed escorts for the anonymous jurors. Heavily armed federal marshals and officials with bomb-sniffing dogs were outside the courthouse. 

Police patrol outside the Brooklyn Federal Courtho
Police patrol outside the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse ahead of start of the trial of Joaquin Guzman, the Mexican drug lord known as "El Chapo," in New York City, Nov. 13, 2018.

Guzman is known for evading lockup. In 2001, he broke out of a maximum-security prison in western Mexico where he was serving a 20-year sentence for criminal association and bribery, by reportedly bribing guards and hiding in a laundry cart. He was recaptured in 2014. 

The following year, he again escaped prison through a tunnel linked to his cell that was more than a kilometer long. He was recaptured in 2016 and extradited to the United States in January 2017. 

Emma Coronel, center, the wife of Joaquin Guzman,
Emma Coronel, center, the wife of Joaquin Guzman, leaves Brooklyn Federal Courthouse after opening statements in the trial of the Mexican drug lord known as "El Chapo," Nov. 13, 2018, in New York.

Despite Guzman's capture, the bloody Sinaloa cartel remains lucrative. Analysts have said the organization's decentralized command structure has allowed it to carry on without its most famous member. 

Two hundred thousand people have died since the Mexican government began waging a military war on drugs in 2006.