Mexican Kingpin “El Chapo” Seeks Speedier Extradition to the United States


Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán is back behind bars at the Altiplano prison—the same prison that he escaped from seven months ago. Except this time, he’s asking to be extradited to the United States, and he wants to go as soon as possible.

“El Chapo” has become a legend in Mexico not only for his status as the head of the Sinaloa cartel, but also for his history of capture, escape, and recapture. [1] Guzmán was first captured in June of 1993 but continued to manage his criminal enterprise from inside Puente Grande prison. In January of 2001, with the assistance of bribed guards, Guzmán escaped for the first time in a cart of dirty laundry. In February of 2014, he was recaptured in Mazatlan and transferred to Altiplano, Mexico’s top security prison. In July of 2015, Guzmán escaped for the second time from Altiplano through a mile-long tunnel fully equipped with lighting, ventilation, and a motorcycle. [2] For many, his escape was a testament to the ineptitude and corruption of the Mexican government. [3] On January 8, 2016, following a bloody shootout with Mexican authorities in which five people were killed, Guzmán was recaptured in Sinaloa. Although a third escape is unlikely, authorities aren’t taking any chances.

Since “El Chapo’s” recapture, Altiplano has dramatically increased its security measures. [4]. The prison has already installed four-hundred new security cameras throughout the facility and hope to add six-hundred more by April. Guzmán is being monitored twenty-four hours by motion sensors, guards wearing helmet-mounted cameras, and dogs trained to detect his scent. In addition, the prison floors have been reinforced with three-quarter inch steel rods. According to an El Universal report, Guzmán is not kept in the same cell for long—during his first five nights of incarceration, he was transferred seven times. Needless to say, “El Chapo” isn’t happy with the new accommodations. Guzmán’s lawyer, José Rodriguez, reported that his client complained about being woken up “every two hours” and feels that he is a victim of “physical and mental torture,” a statement that has drawn swift criticism from the community. [5]

“El Chapo” faces a litany of charges—the majority involving cocaine distribution—in seven United States jurisdictions, including Miami, Chicago, and New York. [6] In the past, Guzmán’s lawyers have filed a string of “amparos” (injunctions) seeking to prevent his extradition to the United States. Mexican officials also previously opposed the idea of extradition, explaining that Guzmán should be prosecuted under Mexican law. However, this time around, both “El Chapo” and the Mexican government are both pushing for his speedy extradition to the United States. Nevertheless, the extradition process is complex and could take up to a year. [7] In the meantime, Mexico will continue its investigation of Guzmán’s alleged crimes.

Perhaps as an “act of desperation” to escape the conditions in Altiplano, “El Chapo” has agreed to plead guilty to various drug trafficking charges in the United States in exchange for a reduced sentence and the prosecution’s agreement to place him in a medium-security prison. [8] According to his lawyer Rodriguez, the extradition process could be completed in two months if Guzmán withdraws his nine pending appeals. [9] Unfortunately for “El Chapo,” his willingness to accept the charges will not be a deciding factor in whether or not he is extradited, and plea negotiations with U.S. prosecutors will not commence until he is firmly on United States soil. Until that happens, Guzmán will just have to sit and wait.

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