The Mexican government initiated proceedings this weekend to extradite the notorious drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera to the United States. The announcement that it would seek to extradite the head of the Sinaloa cartel came Saturday from the Mexican attorney general’s office.
The first step in the extradition process, the AG’s office said in a statement, involves notifying and securing extradition warrants from the relevant judicial authorities. After that, the request will go through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Over the last 20 years, U.S. prosecutors have brought charges against Guzmán in jurisdictions around the country, including San Diego, Chicago, Miami and El Paso. In 2009, then-U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch filed drug trafficking charges against the kingpin and five of his associates in the U.S. District Court’s Brooklyn office.
Since she was appointed U.S. attorney general in April, Lynch has twice met with her Mexican counterpart to discuss extradition proceedings against other drug traffickers. The pair spoke again on Friday after Guzmán was caught.
The same day, Lynch praised Mexican authorities, who, she said in a statement, “have worked tirelessly in recent months to bring Guzmán to justice.”
The decision to allow Guzmán to face trial in the United States marks a reversal for Mexico. Last January, then-Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam insisted Guzmán would serve out his sentences in Mexico first.
“I can accept extradition, but when I say so. El Chapo has to stay here and do his time, then I’ll extradite him. Some 300, 400 years later. That’s a lot of time,” Karam said at the time.
After his second capture, in 2014, Guzmán was held in Mexico’s most secure federal prison Centro Federal de Readaptación Social Número 1, also known as Altiplano.
He escaped Altiplano in July through a mile-long tunnel that reportedly cost more than $1 million and took at least a year to build. The tunnel, complete with a motorcycle Guzmán rode to freedom, connected directly to a shower in the trafficker’s cell.
Guzmán eluded authorities for almost six months before he was apprehended by Mexican Marines in the city of Los Mochis. In September, several months before his capture, El Chapo agreed to an interview with actor Sean Penn. That interview was published by Rolling Stone Saturday.
The extradition process could take months to complete. Guzmán, who the attorney general said was notified Sunday that proceedings had begun, will have the opportunity to challenge extradition in court.
His lawyers have already filed injunctions against extradition. On Saturday, Guzmán’s lawyer Juan Pablo Badillo told Mexico’s Milenio Television he should not be extradited “because he is Mexican and Mexico has wise laws and a fair constitution.”