El Chapo Extradited to US
Mexico’s most notorious drug cartel leader arrived in New York on Thursday after being extradited to the United States to face charges in federal court.
Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was taken on Thursday from a Mexican prison in Ciudad Juarez along the El Paso, Texas border by a group of American federal officers from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and the US Marshalls Service, and flown to New York for his arraignment.
The United States Justice Department released a statement Thursday night, extending its “gratitude to the government of Mexico for their extensive cooperation and assistance in securing the extradition of Guzmán Loera to the United States.”
Guzman is expected in court on Friday to be arraigned on charges of conspiring to import more than 264,000 pounds of cocaine into the US during a 15-year period when he was the head of the powerful Sinaloa drug cartel, along with charges for the manufacture and distribution of drugs, illegal use of firearms, money laundering, and running an ongoing criminal enterprise. Guzman and several other associates were indicted in a US District Court in Brooklyn in 2009.
Guzman has also been indicted in Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, New Hampshire, and Texas.
First imprisoned in Mexico in 1993 for a minimum 20-year sentence, Guzman escaped in 2001 by hiding in a laundry cart and being smuggled out by corrupt jailers. He remained on the loose until being captured again in 2014 in the resort city of Mazatlan.
16 months into his second prison term, Guzman escaped again in July 2015, this time by uncovering a trap door in his jail cell’s shower that led to a mile-long tunnel. Guzman dropped into the hole and rode to freedom on a motorcycle on rails down the full length of the hidden tunnel.
Guzman remained for six months, hiding in the mountains of Sinaloa where he has many local supporters. During his time in hiding, though, Guzman held a meeting with American actor Sean Penn to discuss a possible movie about El Chapo’s life. Penn wrote about the meeting in an article for Rolling Stone magazine.
A national manhunt led Mexican Marines to capture Guzman in Los Moches, Sinaloa, on January 8, 2016. Since then, Mexican officials have debated whether to extradite Guzman to the US to relieve them of the burden of housing and prosecuting the powerful drug lord.
One of Mexico’s conditions for extradition has been that the US agree not to seek the death penalty for Guzman. Mexico’s constitution bans unusual punishment, including executions, and Mexico prohibits extraditions to countries that carry out death sentences.
Thursday’s surprise announcement of Guzman’s extradition seemed to be timed to occur before the inauguration of Donald Trump on Friday. Trump’s repeated calls to force Mexico to pay for a proposed border wall has caused anger among Mexico’s government officials.
Trump launched his campaign in 2015 by calling for a “wall” along the US-Mexico border to stop undocumented immigration.
Trump said Mexico is “sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”
Guzman’s lawyers had filed five appeals in Mexico to block extradition to the US. His appeals were turned down by a federal judge in Mexico in October, clearing the way for his transfer this month.