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Security was extremely tight Monday for jury selection in the trial for Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman.

U.S. prosecutors say that as the head of the Sinaloa Cartel since 2003, Guzman directed the movement of multi-ton shipments of drugs including heroin, cocaine, marijuana, and methamphetamine across borders and into the United States.

U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan, prosecutors and defense lawyers on Monday morning questioned 20 potential jurors, and have so far ruled out five.

Most of the jurors questioned at the outset said Guzman's name "sounded familiar" to them. He denies charges of drug trafficking and conspiracy and could face life in prison if convicted.

The defendant accused of running the massive Sinaloa drug cartel, observed the first day of jury selection dressed in a navy suit, white shirt with a wide disco-style collar, flashing a smile but otherwise impervious.

Jury selection will take place amid tight security conditions reserved only for the most unsafe defendants.

Opening statements in the trial are expected on November 13. US Marshals will escort them every day.

The mammoth trial in a Brooklyn federal court starts on Monday, will cost millions of dollars and is expected to last more than four months.

No one's hiding the ominous nature of the case from potential jurors. Another was sent home after she said she couldn't be impartial, saying, "I feel very bad about drugs".

It is alleged that he spent a quarter of a century smuggling more than 155 tonnes of cocaine into the United States.

Twelve ordinary men and women will determine whether Guzman - the diminutive father of two whose nickname means "shorty" - is guilty or not of 11 trafficking, firearms and money laundering charges.

After Felix Gallardo was arrested in 1989, Guzman's Sinaloa cartel began its meteoric rise.

Guzman formerly led the Sinaloa Cartel, which became one of the most powerful drug trafficking organizations in the world, named after its base in the Mexican state of Sinaloa. USA prosecutors contend that from 1989 to 2014, the cartel smuggled at least 340,892 pounds (154,626 kilograms) of cocaine into the United States, as well as heroin, methamphetamine, and marijuana, raking in $14 billion.

El Chapo notoriously escaped from confinement in Mexico twice, which is in part the reason for the extreme security measures surrounding his confinement and extra measures during any of his transportation.

But that could create a logistical nightmare during the trial, and there is speculation that "El Chapo" is being held in a cell deep within the Brooklyn courthouse.