Following the highly publicized recapture of escaped drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman over the weekend, Mexico is formally commencing extradition proceedings - a major sign that the country plans to ship him off to the United States.
After a months-long manhunt, Guzman, the notorious leader of the Sinaloa drug cartel and the most prominent drug trafficker on the planet, was arrested in the northwestern region of Mexico on Friday.
On Sunday, the Interpol agency served two extradition warrants to the Mexican attorney general. This move triggered the latest efforts to force Guzman to face the United States justice system for the hundreds of tons of heroin, methamphetamine and cocaine that he brought into the country over the years.
While Mexico typically extradites leading drug traffickers to the United States, Mexico President Enrique Pena Nieto resisted turning over Guzman after his February 2014 arrest as a matter of national pride.
However, his position quickly changed after Guzman escaped from one of Mexico’s maximum security prison this summer - for the second time - by scurrying away through a mile-long tunnel that popped up in his prison cell.
Interestingly, Guzman was transported to the same facility over the weekend but, so as to avoid any further humiliation, Mexico plans to turn Guzman over to the United States as soon as practically possible. Not surprisingly, Guzman’s attorneys are trying to block the extradition.
The U.S. government wants to try Guzman - who is suspected to be 58 years old - on many charges, including drug trafficking, money laundering, kidnapping and murder. He faces federal indictments in seven U.S. federal jurisdictions.
Chicago, IL and Brooklyn, NY are the most likely jurisdictions to conduct one of most high profile criminal trials in years.
In 2013, Chicago called Guzman its “first Public Enemy No.1 since Al Capone,” and has had multiple indictments against him.
Former United States Drug Enforcement Administration agent Robert Mazur noted that, “It will be a fight between each jurisdiction but logic would say that Chicago is the way to go.” Mazur spent five years undercover infiltrating Colombia’s drug cartels.
Mexico could extradite Guzman by mid-2016 but depending on what Guzman’s attorneys file, a United States trial may not take place for a year or even longer.
In a strange twist to the already incredible story, Guzman actually met with American actor Sean Penn late in 2015. Apparently the Mexican government was aware of the meeting and tracked Penn so that they could locate Guzman. Penn’s interview with Guzman was published in Rolling Stone magazine over the weekend.