Mex­i­can drug lord es­capes again

Cape Breton Post - - WORLD - MEXICO CITY

Mexico mounted an all-out man­hunt Sun­day for its most pow­er­ful drug lord, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guz­man, who es­caped from a max­i­mum se­cu­rity prison through a 1.5-kilo­me­tre (1 mile) tun­nel from a small open­ing in the shower area of his cell, ac­cord­ing to the coun­try’s top se­cu­rity of­fi­cial.

The elab­o­rate un­der­ground es­cape route, built al­legedly with­out the de­tec­tion of author­i­ties, al­lowed Guz­man to do what Mex­i­can of­fi­cials promised would never hap­pen af­ter his re-cap­ture last year — slip out of one of the coun­try’s most se­cure pen­i­ten­tiaries for the sec­ond time.

If Guz­man is not cap­tured im­me­di­ately, the drug lord will likely be back in full com­mand and con­trol of the Si­naloa car­tel in 48 hours, said Michael S. Vigil, a re­tired U.S. Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion chief of in­ter­na­tional oper­a­tions.

“We may never find him again,” he said. “All the ac­co­lades that Mexico has re­ceived in their coun­ter­drug ef­forts will be erased by this one event.”

Eigh­teen em­ploy­ees from var­i­ous part of the Alti­plano prison, 90 kilo­me­tres west of Mexico City, have been taken in for ques­tion­ing, Se­cu­rity Com­mis­sioner Monte Ale­jan­dro Ru­bido said in a news con­fer­ence with­out an­swer­ing ques­tions.

A man­hunt be­gan im­me­di­ately late Satur­day for the head of the pow­er­ful Si­naloa Car­tel, which has an in­ter­na­tional reach and is be­lieved to con­trol most of the ma­jor cross­ing points for drugs at the U.S. bor­der with Mexico.

Gu­atemala’s In­te­rior Min­istry said a spe­cial task force of po­lice and sol­diers were watch­ing the bor­der with Mexico for any sign of fugi­tive drug lord.

“The U.S. gov­ern­ment stands ready to work with our Mex­i­can part­ners to pro­vide any as­sis­tance that may help sup­port his swift re­cap­ture,” U.S. At­tor­ney Gen­eral Loretta Lynch said in a state­ment.

As­so­ci­ated Press jour­nal­ists near Alti­plano saw the roads were be­ing heav­ily pa­trolled by fed­eral po­lice with nu­mer­ous check­points and a Black­hawk he­li­copter fly­ing over­head. Flights were also sus­pended at Toluca air­port near the pen­i­ten­tiary in the State of Mexico, and civil avi­a­tion hangars were be­ing searched.

Guz­man was last seen about 9 p.m. in the shower area of his cell. Af­ter a time, he was lost by the prison’s se­cu­rity cam­era sur­veil­lance net­work. Upon check­ing his cell, author­i­ties found it empty and a 50-by-50 cen­time­tre hole near the shower.

Guz­man’s es­cape is a ma­jor em­bar­rass­ment to the ad­min­is­tra­tion of Pres­i­dent En­rique Pena Ni­eto, which had re­ceived plau­dits for its ag­gres­sive ap­proach to top drug lords. Since the gov­ern­ment took of­fice in late 2012, Mex­i­can author­i­ties have nabbed or killed six of them, in­clud­ing Guz­man.

Pena Ni­eto ar­rived in France on Sun­day and will stick to his planned sched­ule, ac­cord­ing to a fed­eral of­fi­cial who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause he wasn’t au­tho­rized to be named. But In­te­rior Sec­re­tary Miguel An­gel Oso­rio Chong, the Cab­i­net’s head of se­cu­rity, will re­turn to Mexico from France.

Guz­man faces mul­ti­ple fed­eral drug traf­fick­ing in­dict­ments in the U.S. as well as Mexico, and was on the U.S. Drug En­force­ment Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s most­wanted list.

Af­ter Guz­man was ar­rested on Feb. 22, 2014, the U.S. said it would file an ex­tra­di­tion re­quest, though it’s not clear if that hap­pened.

The Mex­i­can gov­ern­ment at the time ve­he­mently de­nied the need to ex­tra­dite Guz­man, even as many ex­pressed fears he would es­cape as he did in 2001 while serv­ing a 20-year sen­tence in the coun­try’s other top-se­cu­rity prison.

For­mer Mex­i­can At­tor­ney Gen­eral Je­sus Murillo Karam said ear­lier this year the U.S. would get Guz­man in “about 300 or 400 years” af­ter he served time for all his crimes in Mexico.

He dis­missed con­cerns Guz­man could es­cape a sec­ond time. That risk “does not ex­ist,” he said.

Fed­eral po­lice guard a drainage pipe out­side of the Alti­plano max­i­mum se­cu­rity prison in Al­moloya, west of Mexico City, Sun­day af­ter Mexico’s most pow­er­ful drug lord, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guz­man es­caped.

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