Will Recaptured 'Chapo' At Last Face US Justice?

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Will Recaptured 'Chapo' At Last Face US Justice?

File Photo: Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman. (Reuters)

Mexico City:  With Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman back in prison, Mexico's government will likely seek to quickly extradite the slippery drug baron to the United States rather than risk losing him again, analysts say.

President Enrique Pena Nieto had balked at any extradition before Guzman escaped from a top-security prison on July 11, promising to keep him behind bars and putting the Sinaloa drug cartel kingpin on trial in Mexico.

Guzman's recapture by marines in the coastal city of Los Mochis, Sinaloa state, on Friday has helped Pena Nieto save face midway through his six-year term, but he won't take the risk of losing him once more.

The fear is justified because Guzman has escaped from two maximum-security prisons, fleeing in a laundry cart in 2001 and in a 1.5-kilometer (one-mile) tunnel in July.

And with few high-security facilities available, Guzman was sent back to the Altiplano penitentiary that he escaped from near Mexico City.

"The big question is not if they will extradite him, but when," Alejandro Hope, a security expert and former Mexican intelligence service official, told Agence France-Presse.

"The day that Guzman enters a Mexican prison is the day that he will begin to plan his next escape," Hope said. "I don't think that the Mexican government wants to run the risk of another escape."

Timing unclear
Government officials avoided any talk of extradition following Friday's arrest, though prosecutors sought an arrest warrant for his extradition in September.

Guzman's attorneys won and then lost an injunction against the warrant, though they may try to block it again, which would delay any extradition. The foreign ministry gives the final green light on extraditions.

"He won't be sent (to the US) immediately," a federal official told AFP, noting that the 58-year-old kingpin's case has to be reviewed by local courts first.

Guzman is wanted on drug trafficking charges in a half-dozen US states and the Mexican government said it formally received a US extradition request on June 25, two weeks before his escape.

His jailbreak highlighted the corruption problems facing Mexico's penitentiary system, as a dozen prison and police officials were detained over the jailbreak.

US politicians quickly called on President Barack Obama to pursue Guzman's extradition.

"Given that 'El Chapo' has already escaped from Mexican prison twice, this third opportunity to bring him to justice cannot be squandered," said US senator and Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio.

But Senator Miguel Barbosa, a leader of Mexico's leftist opposition Democratic Revolution Party, said Guzman should face trial in his homeland.

"The easiest thing would be to swiftly extradite 'Chapo' Guzman and, once again, the Mexican state shows that it doesn't have the strength to punish those who commit crimes in our territory," Barbosa said.

'Cross Chapo off list'
Raul Benitez Manaut, a security expert at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, said the authorities should "break with judicial nationalism" and extradite Guzman to the US.

"The government has an obligation to change opinion and favor his extradition," Benitez said.

Pena Nieto's government showed its willingness to ship out criminals in September when it extradited 13 top drug capos to the United States.

Guzman's capture will likely help Pena Nieto recover in opinion polls, analysts said.

His popularity collapsed following the escape, along with his much-criticized handling of the presumed massacre of 43 students by a police-backed gang and a scandal over his wife's purchase of a mansion from a government contractor.

"At least he can cross Chapo off the list," said Jose Antonio Crespo, political expert at the Center for Economic Research and Teaching.

"It's convenient for Pena Nieto to extradite him, even though it's an admission that he can't hold him."

This would allow the president to "wash his hands" of Guzman, he said.

 

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