The Cable

Will ‘El Chapo’ Finally Face Justice in a U.S. Court?

"El Chapo" is back in Mexican custody. Will President Enrique Pena Nieto extradite him to the U.S. for trial?


After nearly six months on the run after escaping a Mexican prison, the notorious drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is back in the hands of Mexican law enforcement. The larger question now is: Will he stay there?

The United States has long wanted Mexico to extradite Guzman to face criminal charges, including cocaine smuggling and money laundering. In July 2015, after he escaped a supposedly high-security Mexican prison via a mile-long tunnel under his cell shower, the Mexican attorney general’s office said it approved an order to send Guzman north of the border once he was back in custody. But three months later, a Mexican court overruled the pledge, giving El Chapo a free pass from extradition.

Whether President Enrique Pena Nieto’s government chooses to fight that decision remains unclear. On Friday, Pena Nieto celebrated the law enforcement breakthrough on Twitter.

Translation: “Mission accomplished: We have him. I want to inform Mexicans that Joaquin Guzman Loera has been arrested.”

Guzman, the head of the infamous Sinaloa Cartel who was once on the Forbes list of billionaires, was last captured in 2014. His 2015 escape was an embarrassment for Pena Nieto, who had promised to get tough on the cartels that have waged a violent drug war across Mexico, killing more than 80,000 since 2006. Fighting between Guzman’s cartel and a rival one located in Juarez, just across the border from El Paso, Texas, has killed more than 10,000 alone.

Guzman has proven adept at prison breaks. He staged an earlier escape in 2001, reportedly covering himself in dirty laundry to flee a high-security Mexican prison, and evaded capture until 2014.

His legend grew after he disappeared. The United States offered a $5 million reward for his capture. In 2013, law enforcement officials in Chicago, a destination for many of Guzman’s drugs, named him “Public Enemy No. 1.”

He was taken back into custody Friday after a gun battle Friday in the city of Los Mochis, a seaside area in Sinaloa, Guzman’s home state. How long will remains in custody, and where he will do his time behind bars? Stay tuned.

Photo Credit: Yuri Cortez/Getty Images

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