El Chapo jury hears from Mexican ex-trafficker who claimed he was DEA double agent

A top lieutenant in the Sinaloa drug cartel who once claimed to be a double agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration took the stand in Brooklyn federal court Thursday to testify against infamous kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

Vincente Zambada was the latest in a series of government witnesses to testify to the rampant violence and greed that accompanied Guzman's rise to power atop the Sinaloa cartel. At one point, Judge Brian M. Cogan grew frustrated with the approach taken by Assistant U.S. Attorney Patricia Notopoulos, who appeared determined to make several different witnesses detail the cartel's business dealings and the details of bloody wars against rival gangs.

"Can't we skip that?" Cogan asked Notopoulos after the jury departed for the day. "We have to explain the origins [of the feuds]?"

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"It's not that lengthy," Notopoulos responded.

Lawyers for Guzman - who was sent to the United States in 2017 after gaining notoriety for twice escaping Mexican jails - have sought to portray the cooperators as shady opportunists willing to exaggerate their client's involvement in the drug trade to earn breaks in their own cases.

Zambada, 43, is the son of Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada, another cartel boss who's still at large. His uncle, former cartel member Jesus Zambada, also has testified at Guzman's trial.

Vicente Zambada told the jury Thursday about a meeting in the early 1990s where a rival drug gang leader told him he wanted to kill his father and Guzman to avenge a botched hit. At another meeting in the mid-2000s, representatives from corrupt Mexican politicians asked if the cartel could help them ship 100 tons of cocaine in an oil tanker ship, he said.

"They wanted to know if my dad and Chapo could provide that amount of coke," he said.

Zambada said he was arrested before he learned whether the shipment ever took place. However, he was able to testify that drugs were smuggled into the U.S. by boat, submarine, plane and underground tunnel. He explained that the cartel sought out and hired families who could cross the U.S.-Mexico border every day.

"They would cross three or four times a day with cars loaded with coke," Zambada said. "Twenty or thirty kilograms per car."

Zambada also dismissed reports that then-President of Mexico Vincente Fox had knowledge of Guzman's first escape from prison in 2001, saying Guzman himself had told Zambada that was not the case.

"There was a lot of news coverage about [Guzman's] escape," Zambada said. "They’d say he corrupted everyone, including President Fox. [Guzman] would say it was not true. Only two or three people knew of his escape."

After Zambada was extradited to the U.S., his lawyers claimed he had been working for the DEA as a confidential informant even as he was smuggling cocaine. In exchange for inside information on the cartel, he had been promised immunity from prosecution, they said.

Prosecutors denied Zambada's allegation there was an immunity deal that was "approved at the highest levels of government." He later pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate.

Zambada was to retake the witness stand Friday. The trial, which began in mid-November, is expected to continue into next month.

Fox News' Marta Dhanis and The Associated Press contributed to this report.