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Mexican drug lord 'El Chapo' Guzman is extradited to US

Agencies | Updated: 2017-01-20 09:40

Mexican drug lord 'El Chapo' Guzman is extradited to US

Federal police officers stand guard near the jail where Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman was imprisoned before being extradited to the United States on Thursday, in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico January 19, 2017. [Photo/Agencies]

"The criminal Joaquin Guzman Loera was extradited this afternoon to face his pending legal cases," Mexican Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong tweeted.

Guzman's first prison break was in 2001. He spent more than a decade at large before being captured in 2014, becoming something of a folk legend for a segment of Mexico's population for his defiance of authorities. He was immortalized in ballads known as "narco-corridos."The following year he broke out through the mile-long tunnel dug directly to the shower in his cell.

It was while on the lam a second time, in fall 2015, that he held a secret meeting with actors Sean Penn and Kate del Castillo. The encounter was the subject of a lengthy article Penn published in Rolling Stone last January, right after Mexican marines re-arrested Guzman in the western state of Sinaloa.

In the interview, Guzman was unapologetic about his criminal activities, saying he had turned to drug trafficking at age 15 simply to survive.

"The only way to have money to buy food, to survive, is to grow poppy, marijuana, and at that age, I began to grow it, to cultivate it and to sell it. That is what I can tell you," he was quoted as saying in Penn's article.

Guzman was initially returned to the Altiplano prison outside Mexico City where he escaped through the tunnel. Last May, officials abruptly moved him to the prison in the desert near Juarez.

As a candidate, Trump accused Mexico of sending criminals and "rapists" to the United States, and he promised to build a wall on the Mexican border and make Mexico pay for it. Mexican officials have repeatedly said they will not pay for a wall.

Derek Maltz, who headed the DEA's Special Operations Division until his retirement in mid-2014, said the timing of Guzman's extradition less than 24 hours ahead of Trump's inauguration could be seen as a show of good faith by Mexico.

"It's a win for the good guys," he said.

He added that Guzman's extradition is not likely to immediately curb the Sinaloa cartel's role in the drug trade, but it's another signal that the US and Mexico are serious about fighting drug gangs.

"When they start seeing the extraditions of the cartel leadership and they see the unbelievable effort in Mexico with the killing and capture of top cartel leaders, they are going to start feeling the heat like they've never seen it before," Maltz said.

The White House, which was down to a skeleton staff hours before Trump takes office, said it had no immediate comment.

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