Recaptured Mexico drug lord faces extradition to US
MEXICO CITY, Mexico — Mexican authorities announced Saturday that drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman will face hearings to be extradited to the United States, as his lawyer vowed a tough legal battle.
President Enrique Pena Nieto’s government had balked at extraditing Guzman prior to his prison break in July but the administration has apparently changed tack after recapturing him on Friday.
The attorney general’s office said it received two US extradition requests last year on a slew of charges, including drug trafficking and murder, and that it later obtained arrest warrants to ship him across the border.
“With Guzman Loera’s recapture, the respective extradition proceedings will have to start,” the office said in a statement, though it did not indicate when the hearings would start.
Lawyers for Guzman will have three days to file objections and 20 more days to prove them, though that time frame can be extended, prosecutors said.
Once a judge rules on the extradition, the decision is sent to the foreign ministry, which will have 20 days to validate it. Guzman would have another chance after that to legally challenge the extradition.
One of Guzman’s attorneys, Juan Pablo Badillo, vowed to take the case up to the Supreme Court if necessary.
“A legal battle has begun in the constitutional framework that will be very serious, very tough,” Badillo told reporters outside the Altiplano prison near Mexico City, where Guzman was sent following his arrest on Friday.
“He shouldn’t be extradited because Mexico has a fair Constitution,” he said.
US President Barack Obama’s administration congratulated Mexico following the arrest but did not publicly indicate whether it would press Pena Nieto to extradite Guzman.
US politicians called for his immediate extradition as he faces charges in a half-dozen states.
Some questioned Mexico’s ability to hold on to Guzman, who previously escaped from another maximum-security prison in 2001 by hiding in a laundry cart with inside help.
“Given that ‘El Chapo’ has already escaped from Mexican prison twice, this third opportunity to bring him to justice cannot be squandered,” said US senator and Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio.
The world’s most wanted drug baron was arrested in a military raid early Friday that left five suspects dead in Los Mochis, a coastal city in his native northwestern state of Sinaloa.
Hours later, the Sinaloa cartel kingpin was flown to the Altiplano maximum-security prison, the scene of his daring escape some 90 kilometers (55 miles) west of the capital.
On July 11, after just 17 months at Altiplano, Guzman slipped through a hole in his cell’s shower, climbed on a motorcycle mounted on rails, and traveled 1.5 kilometers (one mile) through a tunnel to freedom.
But six months later, Guzman was back in the prison after authorities located him, in part because the kingpin wanted to make a biographical film about himself, according to Attorney General Arely Gomez.
Gomez said an “important aspect that allowed us to locate him was that we discovered Guzman’s intention to make a biographical film, for which he established contact with actresses and producers.”
The last escape
The manhunt featured one last underground escape for the man who became known as “The Lord of Tunnels” for his ability to ship drugs to the US under the border and dig his way out of trouble.
Guzman was nearly captured in the mountain region in October, but marines chasing him in a helicopter decided not to shoot because he was accompanied by two women and a girl, Gomez said.
The months-long investigation culminated in a house in Los Mochis, which authorities began to stake out in December.
Marines were met by gunfire when they swooped in on Friday, leaving five suspects dead and one marine wounded. Six others were detained in the operation.
Guzman and his security chief fled through the city’s drainage system, repeating a tactic the drug kingpin successfully used in escaping authorities in 2014 in the nearby city of Culiacan. This time however the marines expected such a move, Gomez said.
The wanted men came out of a manhole and stole a car, but they were captured on a road and taken to a motel, where Guzman was seated on a bed, wearing a dirty sleeveless shirt — an ignominious end for a kingpin whose billionaire drug business reaches as far as Asia and Europe.
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