Obama Administration To Mexico: Hand Over ‘El Chapo’

Obama Administration To Mexico: Hand Over ‘El Chapo’

Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told members of Congress Wednesday that he "wholeheartedly" wants to see captured Sinaloa cartel chief Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman brought to justice, but he stressed that extraditing him to the United States will be difficult and is far from a certain outcome.

During testimony before the House Homeland Security Committee, Johnson joked that successfully extraditing Guzman to the United States would be easier than settling who among the half dozen U.S. attorneys vying to prosecute him should get the first crack. Guzman has been charged in at least seven district courts in the United States, including in Chicago, where he was named Public Enemy No. 1 last year, a notorious title first applied to Al Capone.

Johnson, who was making his first appearance before the committee since he was confirmed in December, deferred specific questions about the administration’s efforts to extradite Guzman to the Justice Department, which is handling the request. But he gave no indication that the Obama administration is close to reaching any agreement with Mexican authorities.

A senior law enforcement official told The Cable that Obama administration officials are pressing the issue at the highest levels of the Mexican government.

Johnson’s comments amplified those by Mexico’s ambassador to the United States, Eduardo Medina-Mora, who told The Cable on Tuesday that "Mr. Guzman could eventually face the charges against him in the U.S., after facing the charges against him in Mexico." Guzman still has time remaining on an earlier sentence in Mexico — he escaped from a Mexican prison in 2001 — and he also faces new charges "that will be processed in Mexican federal courts," Medina-Mora said.

Johnson told members of the committee that he’d be speaking with his counterpart in the Mexican government later today to discuss "various matters." He didn’t specify whether the Guzman case would be among them. Johnson said the United States has "a terrific partnership with the government of Mexico," and that he plans to visit there in coming weeks.

Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas) pressed the case for extraditing Guzman. "He is responsible for thousands of deaths and his reach went far beyond Mexico," McCaul said in his opening remarks. "I want him to face justice in the United States and make sure he is never out on the streets again."

John  Hudson contributed reporting for this article.