Denied Sleep in Mexican Jails, Now El Chapo Wants To Snooze in the US

Mexican drug kingpin Joaquín Guzmán has changed his tune on extradition to the U.S.

By Rhonda FanningMarch 3, 2016 12:24 pm

The Mexican drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán has long fought extradition to face drug charges in the U.S. but that’s changed.

Now he wants to be extradited to the States. His lawyers told Mexican media outlets this week that the drug lord is willing to make a deal with U.S. authorities.

David Agren, a freelance reporter based in Mexico, has been following this story for the Guardian newspaper. He says the Mexican government has been reticent in the past to extradite Guzmán.

“Going back prior to 2000, the Mexican government had tended to be somewhat nationalistic,” Agren says. “The Institutional Revolutionary Party, which held power for most of the last century, gained some of its legitimacy by being anti-American, stoking this sort of sense of hurt.”

They took this stance even though the party had a lot of cooperation with the U.S., Agren says.

“There was sort of a thought that sending its most notorious fugitive to the United States would be seen as a sign of weakness,” Agren says.

In 2001 Guzmán escaped prison – he was wheeled out in a laundry cart. He was on the lam until 2014, when he was recaptured and taken to Altiplano Prison in Mexico, where he escaped again through a tunnel.

Agren says that’s part of the reason Guzmán hasn’t been extradited. The other reason, Agren says, is that the Mexican government hadn’t extradited many others before.

So why did El Chapo change his mind about coning to the US to face charges?

“His family is saying he’s being apparently woken up constantly,” Agren says. “He’s not allowed to sleep. Obviously, there’s a very very close scrutiny on him to make sure he’s always there.”

Guzmán’s common-law wife and mother to his two daughters, Emma Coronel, told Mexican media outlets that she’s barely seen him. She also says she fears for Guzmán’s life.

“The Mexican government has been made out to be fools … because of his last escape,” Agren says. “They’re not going to let that happen again.”

But even if they reach a deal with U.S. officials, Agren says it’s still up to Mexican courts whether to extradite him or not.

“The Mexican government has said in statements issued in January that there were two requests after his escape in July,” Agren says. “Judges in both cases had approved his apprehension for the purpose of extradition and (said) that his lawyers were free to contest it.”