Mexican Drug Lord Escapes Jail, Triggers Manhunt

Published: 13 July 2015


Mexican drug lord Joaquín Guzman Loera, known as El Chapo or Shorty, has escaped from Mexico’s Altipano prison, the country’s most secure facility.

Guzman In 1992 © Fabrizio León Diez / Wikimedia

 Guzman was named as "the world's most powerful drug trafficker" by the US Treasury in 2012. According to Forbes magazine, he’s also the world’s richest drug dealer, with a fortune estimated at over a billion US dollars. Forbes also writes “since 2009, regrettably, he has also made the Forbes’ World’s Most Powerful People,” a position he lost after his arrest by Mexican special forces in February 2014.

Guzman runs the Sinaloa drug cartel from the remote mountains in Western Mexico, but was arrested in the coastal resort Mazatlan, after the US investigators used satellite phone data to pinpoint his location.

After his arrest, the US pursued his extradition from Mexico. According to The Guardian,  Mexico’s Attorney General Murillo Karam had refused the request, saying  he would only be handed over to the US once he had been tried, sentenced and had served time for numerous crimes committed in Mexico: “So about 300 or 400 years later — it will be a while.”  The Guardian also said Karam had refuted any suggestion Guzman could escape again, saying that risk “does not exist.”

Guzman escaped Altipano prison over the weekend via a mile-long tunnel that began in his prison shower, the only part of his cell that is not monitored using CCTV.

This is Guzman’s second escape from a high security prison. In 2001, he fled in a laundry basket from another Mexican high security jail where he was being held after being convicted on drug charges in 1995.

A 2010 investigation by US National Public Radio suggested that “Mexico's drug fight is rigged” in that authorities are disproportionally arresting drug traffickers that are rivals to the Sinaloa cartel in key border locations.

Other sources indicate the cartel is well-connected to Mexico’s power structure. In 2014, a member of Guzman’s Sinaloa cartel, Rafael Celaya Valenzuela, was convicted in the US of drug trafficking charges. Celaya Valenzuela was, according to Forbes magazine, a member of Mexico’s governing PRI party, and an alleged photo published by Forbes shows him posing with Mexican President Peña Nieto (there is no suggestion Nieto was aware of his identity or criminal activities).