Mexican authorities extradited Mexican drug kingpin Joaquín Guzmán Loera, better known by his nickname “El Chapo,” to the United States to face multiple indictments associated with his leadership of the Sinaloa drug cartel. Prosecutors seek to hold his trial in Brooklyn where he will face 17 charges including drug smuggling and murder.
Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, announced Mexico’s extradition of Guzmán shortly before President Obama’s final day in office. Isaac Tamez-Salazar, a Mexican student at John Brown University, believes Guzmán’s extradition is an attempt by the Mexican government to avoid further embarrassment after Guzmán’s elaborate escape from a high-security Mexican prison in July 2015.
“He was put in the most secure prison in all the country and he managed to escape,” Tamez said. “What does that say about our security facilities?”
Guzmán was incarcerated in Altiplano Federal Prison where he was monitored by 24/7 video surveillance before his escape in 2015, his second escape from a Mexican prison. Guzmán’s associates purchased land located approximately a mile away from the prison and, under the guise of building a house, tunneled underground to Guzmán’s cell allowing the kingpin to escape through a hole in his shower.
“The problem is that he has so many connections with politicians and with people underground that would help him,” Tamez said. “He doesn’t have that in the United States.” Tamez believes Peña Nieto was pressured to extradite Guzmán primarily to avoid further national embarrassment, but also to send a message to the United States government.
“He was moved on the last day of the Obama administration,” Tamez said. Tamez thinks Peña Nieto made a political statement against Trump’s anti-Mexican agenda by relinquishing Guzmán to former president Obama instead of President Trump.
Israel Hernandez-Romero, another JBU student from Mexico, disagrees.
“I think [his extradition] is completely separate,” he said.
Regardless of the motives behind Peña Nieto’s decision to extradite Guzmán, some believe his incarceration will not significantly impact the flow of drugs between Mexico and the U.S.
“When you cut off the head of the snake, sometimes there arise two or more,” Tamez said. “The problem with killing off the leader, in a sense, is that he brought unity to all the small gangs that became part of a bigger organization.”
“He was a leader of masses,” Hernandez agreed. Although it is unclear whether his arrest will significantly affect the distribution of drugs by the Sinaloa cartel, both students are relieved to see El Chapo brought to justice.
“Bringing him to justice sets an example, you know, that no matter how much money you have, you can still be brought into the light,” Tamez said. “They’re bringing peace to all those families that have been affected by his actions.”
According to the Department of Justice, Guzmán is accused of importing and distributing mass amounts of illegal narcotics within the U.S., as well as money laundering, smuggling and murder. He allegedly distributed narcotics in multiple U.S. cities including Atlanta, Chicago, Miami, New York, Los Angeles and many others. Guzmán, if convicted, will spend life in prison.