On Sunday, Mexico’s top police official, Commissioner Monte Alejandro Rubido, announced that drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, kingpin of the Sinaloa Cartel, had escaped from maximum security prison through a hatch in his cell’s shower that opened to a mile-long tunnel.
Altiplano prison also houses Zetas drug cartel leader Miguel Angel Trevino and Edgar Valdes “La Barbie” Villarreal of the Beltran Leyva Cartel, the Associated Press reports. Eighteen prison employees have been taken in for questioning, Rubido said.
This is the second time Guzman has escaped from prison. According to the AP, Guzman was first captured in 1993, in Guatemala. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison and escaped, with the help of guards at Puente Grande, another maximum-security prison, in 2001. In February of last year he was re-captured, in his home state of Sinaloa, for which the cartel is named.
During his time as a fugitive, Guzman built the Sinaloa Cartel into one of the most profitable and powerful organizations in the world. In 2012, Patrick Radden Keefe reported for the New York Times Magazine:
From the remote mountain redoubt where he is believed to be hiding, surrounded at all times by a battery of gunmen, Chapo oversees a logistical network that is as sophisticated, in some ways, as that of Amazon or U.P.S. — doubly sophisticated, when you think about it, because traffickers must move both their product and their profits in secret, and constantly maneuver to avoid death or arrest. As a mirror image of a legal commodities business, the Sinaloa cartel brings to mind that old line about Ginger Rogers doing all the same moves as Fred Astaire, only backward and in heels. In its longevity, profitability and scope, it might be the most successful criminal enterprise in history.
After Guzman was captured, federal prosecutors in the United States said that he should be extradited. Former Mexican Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam told the AP that while doing so would save Mexico a lot of money, Guzman should be prosecuted at home as a matter of national sovereignty, dismissing concerns that he could escape again as a risk that “does not exist.”