Mexico's Attorney General's office (PGR) announced Wednesday that it had received a second arrest warrant for extradition to the U.S. for the world's most wanted and most powerful drug lord, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, head of the Sinaloa cartel. The question is will he be arrested? And if and when he is, will Mexico extradite him given that in the past El Chapo has been granted protection from extradition?
The infamous drug trafficker's lawyers are expected to appeal the decision and to request yet another court order to protect their client from extradition.
However, it is unclear when the extradition would take place, given that El Chapo's lawyers have obtained court protection against being sent to the United States, where he is wanted for drug trafficking and other charges.
In fact, after the drug kingpin was detained in February 2014, then Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam said El Chapo would be extradited to the United States in about 300 years after he purged the sentences he was to receive in Mexican courts. However in July he escaped through a mile-long tunnel that cost him US$32 million in bribes to government officials, according to various reports.
The second warrant for his arrest to be extradited comes at the petition of a Texas federal court that wants to put him on trial for conspiracy, organized crime, drug trafficking, money laundering, homicide and possession of firearms.
Mexican prosecutors had obtained a similar court order in July after a request from a federal court in California, but Guzman's lawyers filed a petition against the order and a court suspended the arrest warrant last month.
Guzman has been at large since he escaped July 11 from the maximum security jail in Toluca, in the central state of Mexico, about 28 miles north of Mexico City.
President Enrique Pena Nieto's decision to put Guzman on trial in Mexico instead of immediately extraditing him to the United States last year has come under scrutiny since his latest alleged escape.
Guzman had broken out of another maximum security jail in the northern state of Jalisco in 2001. Official versions say he fled in a laundry cart, but other experts say he walked out the main entrance.
About 13 years later, Guzman was arrested in the most dubious circumstances. El Chapo was always said to be accompanied by at least 40 heavily armed men and no matter where he was, he always had an escape route that usually involved tunnels.
But, in February of last year, he was detained in the touristic port of Mazatlan, in the violent state of Sinaloa, accompanied only by his wife and two daughters. They were allegedly located in a condominium in front of the beach. No escape route and no bodyguards.
In July, a federal court granted El Chapo Guzman a court injunction against any extradition order. This was at least the third time a court granted a similar protection order.
In January, another Mexican federal court in Mexico City granted El Chapo protection against any extradition request by the United States, unless an extradition trial was carried out.
Also in January, a court ordered the PGR to inform within 24 hours whether they were considering an “express” extradition.
Less than two weeks ago, Univision revealed that one of Guzman's main lawyers, Juan Pablo Badillo, had obtained a rare and peculiar court order protecting his client from extradition, from torture and from being killed during an attempt to arrest him.
Badillo also told the Washington Post that he had filed two judicial requests, known in Mexico as “amparos” or protections, arguing the government should stop hunting Guzman.
The lawyer claimed that belligerent language coming from authorities in Mexico and the United States — phrases like "we’re going to find him and take him off the streets” — sound like death threats, and he wants the authorities to protect his client.
Earlier this month, Julio “El Tio” Martinez told teleSUR that El Chapo was still in Sinaloa in a mountainous region he and his associates have full control over, and where they enjoy the protection of federal, state and local authorities and security forces.
“Why would he risk his liberty going elsewhere? Here in Sinaloa he enjoys massive protection by state and federal security forces. He has all of them on his payroll. He controls the whole mountain range from Jesus Maria (about 40 minutes of the Sinaloan capital Culiacan) all the way up to Badiraguato, where he was born,” said Martinez, who is an associate of a Sinaloa cartel high-level member known only as Aquiles.
El Tio told teleSUR immediately after El Chapo’s escape that the drug lord was in Jesus Maria celebrating his escape with family and associates. This was later confirmed by the Mexican government and the DEA months afterward. However, they claimed he had only been there for three weeks after breaking out of jail.