El Chapo's wife, Emma Coronel, could hold the keys to dismantling the world's most dangerous drug cartel

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Two years aft the condemnation and life sentence of Mexican cause lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, the cartel helium erstwhile headed appears stronger than ever.

A U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration menace assessment released successful March said the Sinaloa cartel remains the astir extended specified enactment successful Mexico and "maintains the widest nationalist influence" successful the U.S. The cartel is present heavy progressive successful trafficking fentanyl and methamphetamines on with cocaine and heroin, the DEA said.

It appears to beryllium impervious that the enactment is overmuch bigger than 1 man. But what astir 1 woman?

U.S. authorities reportedly person precocious hopes for a interruption successful their three-decade warfare with the cartel pursuing the arrest successful February of Emma Coronel Aispuro, El Chapo's wife, and the parent of their duplicate daughters.

Coronel, 31, is being held without bail connected a transgression ailment charging her with conspiracy to administer narcotics, and with helping El Chapo flight from a Mexican situation successful 2014. But connection successful the 12-page ailment suggests the feds' involvement successful the erstwhile quality queen, who joined El Chapo erstwhile she was 19, goes deeper.

"Coronel grew up with cognition of the narcotics trafficking industry," the ailment says. "Coronel understood the scope of the Sinaloa cartel's cause trafficking."

That scope is massive, U.S. authorities say. The cartel controls cause trafficking successful Mexico's astir important areas — on the Pacific Coast and the bluish and confederate borders, and is the gatekeeper on the U.S. southwestern border, controlling smuggling routes into California and Arizona. And the enactment is arsenic convulsive astatine it is ruthless. U.S. prosecutors accidental the cartel has been known to transportation retired murders, assassinations and torture conscionable to support its turf. Some judge Coronel could assistance interruption the rhythm of violence.

Emma Coronel Aispuro, woman of Mexican cause lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, exits the national courthouse during his proceedings successful the Brooklyn borough of New York, February 5, 2019.

Jeenah Moon | Reuters

"She knows wherever each the bodies are buried, truthful to speak, and she tin bash a batch of harm to the Sinaloa cartel," erstwhile DEA main of planetary operations Mike Vigil said successful an interrogation with CNBC's "American Greed."

Vigil, whose six books astir the planetary cause commercialized see "Afghan Warlord," published past fall, believes Coronel volition yet chopped a woody with U.S. authorities successful hopes of protecting her daughters. He said she could bash immoderate existent harm to the organization.

"She tin springiness a batch of information, the cause routes, the sources of proviso for cocaine, corrupt nationalist officials, members of the Sinaloa cartel, things of that nature," Vigil said.

Bargaining positions 

Coronel, who has U.S. and Mexican citizenship and was charged successful U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, has not entered a plea. In March, she waived her close to a preliminary hearing.

"We're moving connected a imaginable plea deal," her New York-based attorney, Jeffrey Lichtman, said successful an email to "American Greed." "Things whitethorn beryllium resolved successful the adjacent mates weeks." He did not accidental whether an statement mightiness see Coronel's cooperation. 

Lichtman has antecedently called rumors astir Coronel's imaginable practice "despicable," informing that they enactment his client's and her daughters' lives astatine risk.

In March, Lichtman told NBCUniversal's Telemundo that his lawsuit does not person arsenic overmuch accusation arsenic radical think.

"That is simply a fashionable belief, but it is based connected speculation," Lichtman said, noting that El Chapo has been down bars for overmuch of the clip the mates has been married. "It is not similar helium has been connected the telephone telling her secrets from the prison."

Another adept connected the cause trade, Mexico City-based writer Ioan Grillo, told "American Greed" that the Sinaloa cartel is truthful sprawling and decentralized that adjacent Coronel would not person the secrets authorities would request to bring it down.

"I don't deliberation there's immoderate superior lawsuit it would beryllium a large blow," said Grillo, whose latest book, "Blood Gun Money: How America Arms Gangs and Cartels," came retired this year.

He said the cartel tin easy displacement to different routes if its existing proviso lines are compromised. And adjacent if she were capable to springiness up corrupt authorities officials, determination are plentifulness much wherever they came from.

"You could springiness distant accusation astir governmental protection, but adjacent successful the lawsuit you bash that, past there's different governmental extortion radical tin get," helium said.

Vigil believes the cartel whitethorn already beryllium making adjustments conscionable successful case.

"The Sinaloa cartel is simply a precise resilient cartel," helium said.

Still, Lichtman has not taken a woody for his lawsuit disconnected the table.

"I deliberation that anyone charged with a national transgression who faces a minimum condemnation of 10 years volition surely beryllium unfastened to proceeding what the authorities has to accidental successful presumption of a negotiated settlement," helium told Telemundo successful March.

Star witnesses

If Coronel were to flip, she would not beryllium the archetypal Sinaloa insider to bash so.

El Chapo's 2019 transgression proceedings featured nary less than 14 cooperating witnesses. They included Chicago twins Peter and Jay Flores, top-level traffickers for the enactment who kept the drugs flowing to America's heartland, and the wealth flowing to El Chapo.

Today, the Flores twins are successful hiding, but their wives spoke exclusively with "American Greed." Olivia Flores, who is joined to Jay, and Mia Flores, who is joined to Peter, instrumentality extended precautions arsenic well. They unrecorded nether assumed names, and "American Greed" agreed to support the determination of the interrogation a secret.

Mexican cause trafficker Joaquin Guzman Loera aka 'el Chapo Guzman' (C), is escorted by marines arsenic helium is presented to the property connected February 22, 2014 successful Mexico City.

Alfredo Estrella | AFP | Getty Images

"Our husbands were capable to maneuver successful some the streets of Chicago, each the mode up to the mountaintops of Sinaloa. And they were capable to navigate some worlds," Olivia told "American Greed."

But the deeper they got into the business, the much analyzable beingness became.

"The much wealth they made, the much problems they had. Every bully infinitesimal successful our household was ever overshadowed by a atrocious moment," said Mia.

Ultimately, caught successful the mediate of an interior cartel skirmish, the twins reached retired to U.S. prosecutors to chopped a deal.

Another insider who turned connected El Chapo was Vicente Zambada Niebla, oldest lad of the existent kingpin of the Sinaloa cartel, Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada.

Vicente Zambada, who is serving a 15-year situation word aft pleading blameworthy to reduced charges, testified against El Chapo portion Coronel watched successful the courtroom. That has further fueled speculation that Coronel mightiness beryllium consenting to crook connected the organization.

Endless war

The information that the enactment seems to hardly miss a bushed adjacent arsenic its leaders crook connected 1 different shows the folly of U.S. instrumentality enforcement's long-running strategy of targeting cause kingpins, Vigil and Grillo told "American Greed."

"The warfare connected drugs conceptually was it was a failure," Grillo said, "And the kingpin strategy was a failure."

Grillo said that portion it is important not to fto cause lords run with impunity, a amended strategy involves taking purpose astatine the stakes successful the cause trade.

"I judge we person to look astatine the thought of harm reduction, and harm simplification being reducing the harm that drugs bash to Americans successful presumption of overdose deaths and addiction and reducing the harm of unit progressive with the cause trade," helium said.

He said that means much resources to dainty cause addiction and to instrumentality purpose astatine organized transgression and corruption successful Mexico.

Vigil agreed, and helium said that successful his 30 years with the DEA, helium ne'er agreed with the accent connected cause kingpins.

"We present successful the United States person to bash a amended occupation successful presumption of reducing the request for drugs," helium said. "Because until we bash that, if it's not Mexico, it's going to beryllium successful different country."

Disclosure: NBCUniversal is the genitor institution of CNBC and Telemundo.

See the exclusive, wrong communicative of however 2 Chicago brothers helped bring down the astir notorious cause lord successful the world. Watch an ALL NEW occurrence of "American Greed," Monday, June 7 astatine 10 p.m. ET/PT lone connected CNBC.