Mexico starts extradition proceedings for El Chapo

Extradition process begins for ‘El Chapo’ … but not so fast

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Mexican authorities officially informed drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Sunday that extradition proceedings had begun. A law enforcement official cautioned that actual extradition will likely take at least six months.

Mexico starts extradition proceedings for El Chapo
Above, Marines look into a Los Mochis drainage tunnel in the mop-up operations after capturing Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán (at top). Marines found high-powered weapons hidden in one of the drainage tunnels. Photos: Associated Press

Mexican officials on Sunday formally launched the process to extradite re-captured drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán to the United States, starting what could be a lengthy road full of legal appeals and maneuvering.

Agents notified Guzmán at the maximum-security Altiplano prison where he is being held after being recaptured on Friday — six months after he escaped through a tunnel out of the same lockup.

The Federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR) said in a statement that Guzmán was informed that he was wanted in the United States. The notification was done by agents of the international police agency Interpol, who served two arrest warrants to the jailed drug lord.

Mexican officials had previously said they were willing to extradite Guzmán, but cautioned that the extradition process might take a while. Guzmán’s attorney Juan Pablo Badillo has said the defense has already filed six motions to challenge extradition requests.

According to the PGR, the U.S. filed extradition requests June 25, while Guzmán was in custody, and another Sept. 3, after he escaped. The Mexican government determined they were valid within the extradition treaty and sent them to a panel of federal judges, who gave orders for detention on July 29 and Sept. 8.

Now that he has been recaptured, Mexico has to start processing the extradition requests anew, according to the law.

On Saturday, a Mexican federal law enforcement official said the quickest Guzmán could be extradited would be six months, but even that is not likely because lawyers will file appeals. He said that the appeals are usually turned down, but each one means a judge has to schedule a hearing.

“That can take weeks or months, and that delays the extradition,” he said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment. “We’ve had cases that take six years.”

Badillo has said that his client shouldn’t be extradited to the United States because “our country must respect national sovereignty, the sovereignty of its institutions to impart justice.”

Mexico’s willingness to extradite Guzmán is a sharp turnaround from the last time he was captured in 2014, when then-Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam said the extradition would happen only after he finished his sentence in Mexico in “300 or 400 years.”

But the legendary drug lord’s July 2015 escape embarrassed President Enrique Peña Nieto’s government.

Guzmán was re-apprehended Friday after a shootout between gunmen and Marines at a home in Los Mochis, a seaside city in Guzmán’s home state of Sinaloa. Five suspects were killed and six others arrested. One Marine was injured.

Mexican authorities say actor Sean Penn’s contacts with Guzmán helped them track the fugitive down — even if he slipped away from an initial raid on the hideout where the Hollywood actor apparently met him.

Penn’s article on Guzmán was published late Saturday by Rolling Stone magazine, a day after the Marines captured the world’s most wanted kingpin in a raid.

Penn wrote of elaborate security precautions, but also said that as he flew to Mexico on Oct 2 for the meeting, “I see no spying eyes, but I assume they are there.”

He was apparently right.

A Mexican federal law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to comment on the issue, told the Associated Press the Penn interview led authorities to Guzmán in the area of Tamazula, a rural part of Durango.

They raided Guzmán’s remote hideout a few days after the interview and narrowly missed capturing El Chapo.

Describing the capture, Attorney General Arely Gómez said that investigators had been aided in locating Guzmán by documented contacts between his attorneys and “actors and producers” she said were interested in making a film about him, though she did not name them.

Two months after that close call, Marines finally caught him in a residential neighborhood of Los Mochis, where they’d been monitoring a suspected safe house. Five people died in a gun battle as troops moved in.

In the interview, El Chapo defends his work at the head of the world’s biggest drug trafficking organization, one blamed for thousands of killings. When asked if he is to blame for high addiction rates, he responds: “No, that is false, because the day I don’t exist, it’s not going to decrease in any way at all. Drug trafficking? That’s false.”

Penn wrote that Guzman was interested in having a movie filmed on his life and wanted Mexican actress Kate del Castillo, who had portrayed a drug trafficker in a television series, involved in the project.

“He was interested in seeing the story of his life told on film, but would entrust its telling only to Kate,” wrote Penn, who appears in a photo posted with the interview shaking hands with Guzmán.

— Reporting by AP writer E. Eduardo Castillo. AP writer Christopher Sherman in Los Mochis, Mark Stevenson in Mexico City and Eric Tucker in Washington contributed to this report.

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