El Chapo grew up poor and when he was still in his teens turned to drug dealing.
FILE - In this January 19, 2017, file photo provided by US law enforcement, authorities escort Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, center, from a plane to a waiting caravan of SUVs at Long Island MacArthur Airport, in Ronkonkoma, N.Y. Guzman, who was convicted in February 2019 on multiple conspiracy counts in an epic drug-trafficking case, was sentenced to life behind bars in a USA prison, Wednesday, July 17, 2019.
A federal judge in Brooklyn handed down the sentence Wednesday.
Guzman made a name for himself as a trafficker in the 1980s by digging tunnels under the U.S. -Mexico border that allowed him to smuggle drugs more quickly than any of his rivals.
Prosecutors asked USA federal judge Brian Cogan to tack on a symbolic extra 30 years in prison for the use of firearms in his business, portraying Guzman as "ruthless and bloodthirsty".
US Federal Judge Brian Cogan tacked a symbolic 30 years onto the sentence and ordered Guzman to pay $12.6 billion in forfeiture - an amount based on a conservative estimate of revenues from his cartel's drug sales in the United States.
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"They're going to keep them separated forever", Guzman's lawyer Jeffrey Lichtman said of the couple.
The Mexican drug lord known as El Chapo says he was denied a fair trial.
He added that he had received an unfair trial and accused jurors of misconduct.
"My case was stained and you denied me a fair trial when the whole world was watching", Guzman said in court through an interpreter.
Guzman faces a mandatory life sentence for murder conspiracy and drug charges.
Guzman's lawyers had asked Mr Cogan to grant him a new trial following a report that jurors improperly viewed media coverage of the highly publicised trial.
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On Wednesday, Guzman - who famously escaped Mexican prisons in 2001 and again in 2015 - could see his wife Emma Coronel and their two daughters for the last time.
Speaking through a translator at a federal court in Brooklyn, Guzman called his confinement in the United States "psychological, emotional, mental torture 24 hours a day".
He will be offered the chance to speak publicly before U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan pronounces Guzman's sentence.
In what could be his last time addressing the public before he is shipped to Colorado's Supermax prison, El Chapo told the courtroom "there was no justice here".
"By leveraging any criminally forfeited assets of El Chapo and other murderous drug lords, we can offset the cost of securing our border and make meaningful progress toward delivering on the promises made to the American people", Cruz said in a January statement.
But following the sentencing Richard Donoghue, the USA attorney for the Eastern District of NY, vowed Guzman would spend "every minute of every day of his life in a prison here in the United States".
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The 62-year-old drug lord, who had been protected in Mexico by an army of gangsters and an elaborate corruption operation, was brought to the U.S.to stand trial after he twice escaped from Mexican prisons.