Mexico wants to extradite drug lord 'El Chapo' to US in early 2017

Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman escorted by soldiers during a presentation in Mexico City, Jan 8, 2016.
Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman escorted by soldiers during a presentation in Mexico City, Jan 8, 2016. PHOTO: REUTERS

MEXICO CITY (AFP) - Mexico is aiming to extradite imprisoned drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman to the United States early next year, the country's national commissioner of security said on Friday (Oct 14).

"We hope (to do it) in January or February," Mr Renato Sales Heredia told the television channel Televisa when asked when Guzman, the head of the Sinaloa drug cartel facing charges ranging from murder to drug distribution in US courts, could be extradited.

Guzman’s lawyer Jose Refugio Rodriguez said: “He can have his own personal opinion. I think it will be very difficult for it to happen between now and January.”

Guzman was captured in February 2014 after 13 years on the lam, but he escaped a year later from the Altiplano maximum-security prison near Mexico City through a 1.5-kilometre-long tunnel, humiliating President Enrique Pena Nieto.

After he was recaptured in January in his northwestern home state of Sinaloa, he was sent back to the same prison.

But he was abruptly transferred in May to another prison in Ciudad Juarez, a city bordering Texas once known for its cartel turf wars.

Mr Pena Nieto had baulked at extraditing Guzman before his escape in July 2015, preferring to put him on trial in Mexico.

But after he was recaptured, the president ordered the attorney general’s office to speed up the extradition process.

Guzman’s extradition would set up a major trial in the United States for a man whose cartel has been accused of murdering countless people in Mexico while providing tonnes of cocaine and other drugs to users in the United States.