BY FRANK WEHR–On February 22, 2014, Mexican marines captured and arrested Mexican drug cartel kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. Guzman, who was widely regarded as the world’s most wanted drug lord, was arrested through a covert operation at his modest condo in the Avenida del Mar condo tower in the pacific resort town of Mazatlan. His arrest ends a 13-year manhunt by Mexican and U.S. law enforcement to capture Guzman after he escaped from Mexico’s Puente Grande prison in a laundry basket in 2001.
While many believe that Guzman’s arrest will do little if anything to decrease the Mexican-U.S. illegal drug trade or drug-trafficking-related violence, the capture of Guzman, who is allegedly worth $1 billion and is responsible for more than 80,000 deaths worldwide,, represents a substantial victory for Mexican and U.S. law enforcement. The next issue in Guzman’s case is where he will be brought to justice.
In addition to the eight Mexican warrants that were out for Guzman’s arrest when he was captured on February 22—two tied to his 2001 prison escape and another six for alleged crimes committed since—Guzman has been named in numerous indictments in New York and several other U.S. jurisdictions for trafficking cocaine, heroin, and marijuana, as well as for racketeering, money laundering and conspiracy to commit murder. While spokespeople for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York have announced that they plan to seek the extradition of Joaquin Guzman, bringing Guzman to justice in the U.S. will not be a quick or easy process.
“Mr. Guzman still has pending time to serve in Mexico from his original sentence and he also faces new charges in Mexico that will be processed in Mexican federal courts,” Mexican Ambassador Eduardo Medina-Mora said in a statement. “If and when we receive an extradition request, it will be analyzed by the appropriate Mexican legal authorities and if granted, Mexico will decide upon the right moment to execute that possible extradition request.”
With the Mexican government holding firm on their right to prosecute Guzman before the United States, the U.S. chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Michael McCaul, has expressed his concerns, suggesting that Mexican officials should consider extradition immediately:
The normal sequence is Mexico, being a sovereign nation, has the first prosecution. However, there’s a history here. He escaped from a prison in 2001. There is corruption in that country. And I would ask that the Mexicans consider extraditing him to the United States, where he will be put into a ‘supermax’ prison under tight security, where he cannot escape, and be brought to justice with a life sentence. I think that would be the best course of action for not only Mexico, but also the United States, in ensuring that what happened in 2001 does not happen again.
At this time, the U.S. has not filed any extradition requests for Guzman, however his attorney has already filed a motion to block his extradition to the U.S. It is too soon to determine whether or not Mexico will grant any potential extradition requests from the United States for Guzman. Until then, law enforcement officials in the U.S. and Mexico will just have to wait and hope El Chapo doesn’t get his hands on another laundry cart.