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Mexico Approves Extradition of Drug Lord 'El Chapo' to U.S.

Mexico's Foreign Relations Secretariat approved Guzmán Loera's extradition but his lawyers say they will fight it
By The News · 20 of May 2016 13:40:32
Military personnel keep watch at a checkpoint on the perimeter of a high security prison where drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán Loera is imprisoned in Ciudad Juárez, No available, photo: Reuters/José Luis González

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s Foreign Relations Secretariat (SRE) ruled Friday that the extradition of convicted drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera to the United States can go forward.

The process can still be appealed, meaning it could be weeks or months before the Sinaloa cartel leader may be sent to the U.S., where he is wanted in multiple jurisdictions on charges related to drug trafficking and organized crime.

Mexico’s Foreign Relations department has ruled that the extradition of Guzmán Loera to the United States can go forward. Photo: AP/Marco Ugarte, File

Mexico’s Foreign Relations Secretariat has ruled that the extradition of Guzmán Loera to the United States can go forward. Photo: AP/Marco Ugarte, File

Guzmán Loera’s lawyers now have 30 days to appeal the decision.

The SRE said Friday in a statement that the United States has provided “adequate guarantees” that Guzmán Loera would not face the death penalty. Mexico has abolished capital punishment and does not extradite its citizens if they face possible execution.

Friday’s ruling covered an extradition request from a Texas federal court related to charges of conspiracy to import and distribute cocaine and marijuana, money-laundering, arms possession and murder, and another extradition request from a federal court in California.

In all, Guzmán Loera faces charges from seven U.S. federal prosecutors including in Chicago, New York, Miami and San Diego.

Earlier this week José Refugio Rodríguez, one of Guzmán Loera’s lawyers, said that if the government approved extradition they would pursue an injunction.

“We are going to do it, but not right away, because it’s a process you have to fight with arguments,” he said. “We have 30 days.”

Guzmán Loera was arrested in January after almost six months on the run following his escape from a maximum-security prison through a mile-long tunnel that opened to the floor of his shower.

A Federal Police helicopter flies over the prison where drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzmán Loera is imprisoned in Ciudad Juárez. Photo: Reuters/José Luis González

A Federal Police helicopter flies over the prison where drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera is imprisoned in Ciudad Juárez. Photo: Reuters/José Luis González

He had already escaped once before in 2001 and spent more than a decade as one of the world’s most wanted fugitives until he was recaptured in 2014.

After his latest capture, authorities returned him to the same Altiplano lockup where he had pulled off his brazen tunnel escape. They said they had reinforced the prison’s security.

But earlier this month, authorities suddenly transferred Guzmán Loera to a prison on the outskirts of Ciudad Juárez, near the U.S. border, a move they said was due to work on improvements at Altiplano.

Rodríguez, the lawyer, is trying to get Guzmán Loera returned to Altiplano, arguing that the transfer hurt his defense because it’s hundreds of miles away from the court handling the case.

He said a judge told them Guzmán Loera could be sent back to Altiplano if prison authorities determine the conditions are right.

Authorities have said Guzmán Loera can be held safely in Juárez where, like in Altiplano, he is under 24-hour surveillance through cameras in his cell and on the helmets of his guards.

MARK STEVENSON