Mexico Judge Clears ‘El Chapo’ Extradition
A federal judge in Mexico approved extradition to the U.S. for drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman on Monday.
Mexico’s Foreign Relations Department now has 30 days to approve the decision, but Guzman was subsequently moved to a prison in Ciudad Juarez near the Texas border on Saturday. With appeals, however, the extradition process could likely take months, if not years, to complete.
The decision, announced by the Mexican Judicial Council that oversees Mexico’s federal judges and tribunals, came after the judge found both countries met the legal requirements in the extradition treaty between the two nations.
Guzman, the convicted leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel, is wanted in the U.S. on charges of smuggling massive amounts of drugs into the country.
Guzman’s lawyers oppose extradition and one attorney, Jose Refugio Rodriguez, said he would continue trying to block it. Rodriguez told AP that if the Foreign Department approves extradition, the defense will have 30 days to seek a court order blocking the transport of Guzman to the U.S.
Having previously escaped from two maximum security prisons, Guzman’s unexpected and unannounced transfer to a new prison could be an effort by officials to disrupt a potential escape plot.
Officials abruptly moved Guzman from Mexico’s highest-security prison, Altiplano, to Cefereso No. 9, a less secure prison, but one that is closer to U.S. surveillance.
The Houston Chronicle reports that the Drug Enforcement Agency’s El Paso Intelligence Center (EPIC) is just across the border, along with other U.S. assets, including possibly a rapid reaction force. The Mexican government is likely cooperating with the U.S. to avoid another humiliation at this point in time. Although officials deny the transfer is a precursor to imminent extradition, the close proximity makes a rapid and unannounced transfer to U.S. custody all too easy.
In a recent National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund panel discussion with DEA agents who took down the Tijuana Cartel, a U.S. counter cartel task force member recounted the extradition request submitted prior to Guzman’s last escape.
Below is a timeline of Guzman’s lock-ups and escapes:
February 2014: Recaptured after 13 years on the run following "laundry basket" escape from Puente Grande maximum security prison
July 2015: Escaped through a tunnel from Altiplano prison
2 October 2015: Interviewed by US actor Sean Penn in Durango state jungle hideout and then by phone and video
17 October: Mexican officials announce narrow escape as police try to recapture him in neighboring Sinaloa state
January 2016: Recaptured in Los Mochis, Sinaloa state
Posted in General News