Two things about drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán have grabbed the top headlines in the past week.
First, he was silently removed from the “high security” El Altiplano penitentiary, from which he escaped last year through a mile-long tunnel, to a low security prison just south of Ciudad Juárez.
Immediately after, a federal judge dictated that he could be extradited to the United States where he faces charges in several federal courts mainly for “conspiracy” in illegally introducing drugs into the country. “El Chapo” is being guarded by a contingent of 65 heavily armed soldiers and policemen.
In order for the extradition to take place, Foreign Relations (SRE) secretary Claudia Ruiz Massieu has now about two weeks to make up her mind and approve, or not, Guzmán’s removal from Mexico.
At least this is what is visible on the tip of this iceberg. What’s not in view are the dogged negotiations now taking place for “El Chapo’s” billionaire fortune, which both the U.S. and Mexican government want to get a hold of.
How much money has “El Chapo” accumulated over years of drug trafficking? Around five years ago Forbes Magazine rated him among the world’s richest men with a one billion dollar fortune. (A baffling thing about this listing was, where did Forbes get the info since Guzmán worked underground and in cash?)
On the one hand, all courts who want to take Guzmán to trial want to confiscate all of his money and keep it in the U.S.
But, hold your horses, not so fast, says the Mexican Congress bi-cameral Permanent Commission which has summoned the “pertinent officers” of the National Security Agency, the Attorney General’s Office and the SRE to inform on the size of Guzmán fortune, which sources claim is about five billion. What really matters to both senators and deputies is who is going to get to keep the dough.
“This is a matter of national security,” says Senate president Roberto Gil Zuarth of the National Action Party (PAN).
In its official statement the solons claim “we’re concerned to find a way to guarantee that he will give back to Mexicans what he took away from Mexicans” and demand “foreign authorities” to comply with existing agreements on this matter.
Other senators like Miguel Barbosa of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) want more than just money from the U.S. government and would like to know more “about the network of political and economic complicity that allowed him to build his criminal empire, the most powerful in the world.
Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) Deputy Enrique Jackson Ramírez, who is part of the bi-cameral National Security Committee, deems it “necessary” for Congress to intervene in the extradition procedure.
“It seems to me it is necessary, relevant, obligatory because we’re talking about combatting with all the instruments of the law one of the goriest criminals, one of the most dangerous we’ve had in many years,” he told Excelsior Television.
As for the extradition, SRE issued a press statement saying that it is studying whether to agree or refuse the extradition requests made by the U.S. government and that the SRE will not deem whether Guzmán is guilty or innocent of the crimes he’s charged with.
All the SRE will do “is verify that the requisites of the Bilateral Treaty are applicable to the granting or not of the petition, according to our constitutional juridical framework, with respect to human rights and following the principles of our foreign policy.”
In the middle of official lingo, the real question remains to be the size of “El Chapo’s” fortune. Just for peeks, Mexican authorities say they confiscated a fleet of aircraft of all types “larger than Aeromexico’s.”
In short, what the Mexican Congress is telling the U.S. Department of Justice about “El Chapo’s” fortune, if extradited, is “don’t grab it all and sprinkle it.”
Silent negotiations are on.