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Security experts warn prison transfer of Mexican drug lord ‘Chapo’ Guzman increases possibility of another prison escape

May 9, 2016  |  Posted by: JammedUp Staff
Security experts warn prison transfer of Mexican drug lord ‘Chapo’ Guzman increases possibility of another prison escape

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Security experts in the U.S. and Mexico are scratching their heads over the recent decision to abruptly transfer Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the nefarious leader of the Sinaloa Cartel to a prison near the Texas border and some even warn the move, could prompt a possible third prison escape by the drug kingpin.

As JammedUp News reported, Guzman who twice broke out of jail was transferred from the Altiplano maximum security detention center near Mexico City amid heightened security on Saturday to the Cefereso No.9 facility located in the state of Chihuahua.

Mexican authorities over the weekend cited security protocols for the move, saying the transfer was part of a routine policy to rotate inmates for safety reasons as part of a strategy to improve security conditions at the Altiplano Prison.

Some analysts speculated that officials may have wanted to shake up his confinement in an attempt to thwart a possible plot to escape that could have been in the works while others saw it as a precursor to the drug lord’s extradition to the U.S.

An official in Mexico acknowledged that the new prison, located in the city of Ciudad Juarez, a known stronghold of the Sinaloa cartel, isn’t as impregnable as the Altiplano detention center where he’s remained since his recapture on Jan. 8th, The Associated Press reported.

However, the official who spoke on the condition of anonymity maintained that the maximum-security wing of the prison where authorities are housing Guzman have the same protocols in place used at the Altiplano including round the clock surveillance cameras monitoring his cell.

El Chapo’s prison transfer comes on the heels of a decision by a Mexican Federal judge, who approved an extradition request for Guzmán, clearing the path for the drug lord to be transferred to the U.S.

Although the security official told the Associated Press the final decision will be made by Mexico’s Foreign Relations Department; he confirmed extradition proceedings haven’t been concluded and acknowledged that Guzman’s attorneys still have opportunities to file appeals.

Mike Vigil, the former head of international operations for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), questioned the logic of transferring El Chapo to a less secure facility in a territory that is firmly under the control of his Sinaloa cartel lieutenants.

“It makes no sense; the area is part of (El Chapo’s) empire. Guzman has the infrastructure, and he has people there who would assist him regarding engineering him another escape.”

Government officials haven’t revealed the reasoning behind the choice to house Guzman at the Cefereso No. 9 over the 19 other detention centers in Mexico’s federal penitentiary system.

Authorities have denied mounting speculation by Mexican media outlets that the move is due to Guzman’s imminent extradition to the U.S., where he faces drug-related charges in seven different jurisdictions.

However, many experts including Vigil disagree and told The Associated Press that there’s no evidence indicating the prison switch is tied to Guzman’s pending extradition.

“In the past, when they’re going to extradite people, they would just put them on a plane, and fly them into the United States,” Vigil said. “They don’t pre-position people. … He was not pre-positioned at the Juarez prison to get kicked across the border.

As JammedUp News reported, Carlos Castillo, the lawyer for the Mexican drug lord confirmed reports of the federal court’s decision to approve the request by U.S. authorities for Guzman’s extradition to California where he faces charges in a drug trafficking indictment.

Castillo further fueled the media’s speculation by claiming Mexican authorities moved his client for the purpose of extraditing ‘El Chapo.’

“The government of Mexico can deport him if it chooses, but it would be illegal as in other instances with prisoners such as Osiel Cardenas Guillen (leader of the Gulf Cartel) … I have no doubt in the case of Mr. Guzman they intend to do the same,” Castillo told Proceso on Saturday.

Castillo vowed that he and Guzman’s entire legal team would continue to fight his client’s extradition to the U.S., and officials have previously admitted the process could take up to a year to reach a final ruling.

The Altiplano facility had been considered Mexico’s highest-security prison, and many had thought it to be inescapable.

However, that notion was shattered in July 2015 after Guzman fled the prison through an elaborate, sophisticated, 1.5 mile-long tunnel that operatives dug under the shower in his cell, fitted with a motorcycle modified to operate on rails built in the passageway.

Cefereso No. 9, which experts have rated among Mexico’s worst prisons, is located 14 miles south of downtown Juarez, in the middle of the desolate, scorching Chihuahuan Desert just off the Pan American highway. Besides a university campus located about 2 miles to the east, there is hardly anything else for miles in any direction.

Chihuahua State Governor Gov. Cesar Duarte boasted of the facility’s ability to house Guzman, at a news conference, insisting that the transfer posed zero risks while claiming the move was a sign of improving security conditions in his state.

“There will be no escape, If he was brought here, it’s because the security situation is way above the standard of those at the Altiplano, that’s what the federal government settled on,” Duarte said.

The governor failed to mention that five members of “La Linea,” which is an armed wing of the Juarez Cartel managed to escape from the prison in March of 2015.

Although authorities apprehended three of the fugitives, two other inmates still remain at large.

Vigil also dispelled Duarte’s assertions and stressed it would be a mistake to house Guzman at the facility in Juarez for an extended period.

“The Mexican government risks another escape If they choose to keep him there for a prolonged period, and if he manages to escape again, it would just completely destroy the credibility of the Mexican government,” Vigil concluded.

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