The Sinaloa Cartel boss was recaptured in January after a months-long manhunt following his spectacular escape from a maximum-security prison in July 2015. El Chapo (“Shorty”) used a mile-long tunnel dug by his henchmen to reach a motorcycle that was waiting for him and disappeared. The prison break reportedly cost him $50 million in bribes.
On Saturday, Guzman was moved to a prison in Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua – just across the border from the US – prompting rumors of the impending extradition. A spokesman for the Mexican president told Reuters the transfer was due to upgrades at the Altiplano maximum-security prison, and had nothing to do with sending the drug lord to the US.
A “senior Mexican security official,” speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that Guzman would be extradited before July, though. “I think they’ll do it in the first half of this year,” the agency quoted him as saying.
An official from the state of Chihuahua,likewise requesting anonymity, told Reuters that Guzman’s extradition might be expedited by the fact that Ciudad Juarez has a US consulate, and that the drug lord could be sent to Fort Bliss, a US Army post right across the border. He described the extradition as a “matter of weeks.”
There are nine appeals pending against Guzman’s extradition, said one of his lawyers, Juan Pablo Badillo, adding that to transfer his client to the US now would be a “violation of his human rights.”
“It’s an absurd action, illogical,” Badillo told reporters after Saturday’s prison transfer. “The authorities shouldn’t do this. It was totally unexpected.”
Mexican government officials told Reuters “in private” that the decision to extradite is essentially political and entirely dependent on President Enrique Peña Nieto.