Drug lord 'El Chapo' moved to new prison amid jailbreak fears
08 May 2016, 09:30
Mexico City - Convicted drug lord Joaquin "El
Chapo" Guzman, who twice pulled off brazen jailbreaks and is fighting to
avoid extradition to the United States, was transferred to a prison in northern
Mexico near the Texas border early Saturday.
Lawyers for Guzman, who was recaptured in January, have
filed multiple appeals against their client being sent to the US, and Mexican
officials have said it could take as long as a year to reach a final ruling.
There was no immediate indication that the transfer could be
a sign that the process is nearing conclusion.
The Sinaloa cartel boss was moved from the maximum-security
Altiplano lockup near Mexico City to a prison in Ciudad Juarez, a security
official told The Associated Press, without giving a reason. The official was
not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of
Mexico's National Security Commission said in a statement
that the transfer was in line with security protocols, and it has rotated more
than 7 400 inmates nationwide as part of a security strategy implemented last
Michael Vigil, the former head of international operations
for the US Drug Enforcement Administration, said Guzman was moved because of
security concerns. Vigil, who said he had been briefed by Mexican officials,
did not specify those concerns or say whether Mexican officials had information
about possible new escape plots. He also did not specify the officials with
whom he spoke.
Jose Refugio Rodriguez, an attorney for Guzman, confirmed
that he was sent to the Cefereso No 9 prison. He said Guzman's defense team was
not notified beforehand, and one of his lawyers was traveling to Juarez to try
to meet with their client.
"I don't know what the strategy is," Refugio told
The Associated Press. "I can't say what the government is thinking."
He confirmed that Guzman's lawyers are still trying to block
Guzman faces charges from seven separate US attorneys'
offices, including in Chicago, New York, Miami and San Diego.
A US Customs and Border Protection spokesperson in El Paso,
Texas, referred inquiries to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which did
not immediately respond to telephone and email messages. Messages left with
representatives of the US Attorney's Office and the US Marshals Service in El
Paso also were not returned immediately. The US Justice Department declined to
"El Chapo" first broke out of a Mexican prison in
2001. He was recaptured in 2014, only to escape the Altiplano lockup the
following year through a mile-long tunnel dug to the floor of the shower stall
in his cell.
Mexican marines re-arrested him in the western state of
Sinaloa in January, after he fled a safe house through a storm drain.
He was returned to Altiplano, where officials beefed up his
security regimen. Guzman was placed under constant observation from a ceiling
camera with no blind spots, and the floors of top-security cells were
reinforced with metal bars and a 40cm layer of concrete.