Drug lord ‘El Chapo’ Guzman approved for extradition to US

Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman. File Photo. © Henry Romero
Convicted drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s extradition to the US can proceed, Mexico’s Foreign Relations Department has ruled. The decision is subject to appeal, but Guzman faces drug trafficking and organized crime charges in seven US jurisdictions.

The department said in a statement on Friday that the US has provided “adequate guarantees” that Guzman would not face the death penalty. Mexico has abolished capital punishment and will not extradite its citizens if they face possible execution.

The ruling covered two extradition requests: one from a Texas federal court related to charges of conspiracy to import and distribute cocaine and marijuana, money-laundering, arms possession, and murder, and the other is from a federal court in California. In all, the Sinaloa cartel leader faces charges from seven US federal prosecutors in Chicago, New York, Miami, and San Diego.

Guzman’s lawyers can still file appeals and the process could take “weeks or months” to finalize, according to the Associated Press.

“We are going to do it, but not right away, because it’s a process you have to fight with arguments,” one of Guzman’s lawyers, Jose Refugio Rodriguez, said earlier this week. “We have 30 days.”

Guzman’s Sinaloa Cartel transports multi-ton cocaine shipments from Colombia through Mexico to the US, the world’s top consumer, with distribution cells throughout, according to the State Department. The organization has also been involved in the production, smuggling, and distribution of Mexican methamphetamine, marijuana, ecstasy, and heroin across the US and Europe.

According to the New York Times, by the time Guzman was arrested in 2014, his organization had exported more drugs to the US than any other – more than 500 tons (450,000 kg) of cocaine to the US alone.

In July of 2015, Guzman escaped from Mexico’s supermax Altiplano prison through a mile-long tunnel that opened into the floor of his shower. He was arrested in January, but there are fears that he will escape again, according to former FBI agent Arturo Fontes.

“Either the Mexican government really intends to ship him out to the United States immediately, or something else is afoot,” Fontes told the Dallas Morning News. “There are no coincidences here. I’m not buying the government’s explanation. For the sake of the Mexican government, they need to extradite him ASAP or risk being a joke again.”

Guzman had already escaped once before in 2001 and spent more than a decade as one of the world's most wanted fugitives before being recaptured in 2014.

He is currently being held in a prison on the outskirts of Ciudad Juarez, near the US border.

His lawyer is trying to get him returned to Altiplano, however, because Juarez is hundreds of miles away from the court handling the case. In Juarez, officials said Guzman is under 24-hour surveillance via cameras placed in his cell and on his guards’ helmets.