The legal team of infamous Mexican drug trafficker Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán has temporarily stalled his extradition to the United States in a move that may be part of an attempt to secure a deal with US prosecutors.
On June 28, a Mexican judge accepted two injunctions filed by Guzmán’s lawyers appealing the May decisions by two judges who approved extradition requests from California and Texas, reported Excélsior.
The injunctions, or “amparos,” are a recourse used by defense lawyers to temporarily halt judicial proceedings while a review is conducted to determine if their clients’ basic rights are being violated.
The Sinaloa Cartel leader currently is jailed in Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas. He has been indicted in several US jurisdictions, including California and Texas, on charges that include distribution of cocaine, organized crime, money laundering and homicide.
In arguments against extradition, José Refugio Rodríguez, the coordinator of Guzmán’s defense team, claimed the extradition requests had been filed illegitimately, according to El Debate. Rodríguez also argued that crimes for which Guzmán is wanted in the United States are not proscribed under Mexican law, and that US courts lack concrete evidence to prosecute Guzmán, reported Univision.
According to El Diario, Guzmán will have a hearing July 25 to begin the process of resolving the injunctions. Rodríguez expressed optimism the Mexican Supreme Court would eventually take up the case and rule in favor of his client.
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Following the drug lord’s recapture in January, Mexican officials said the process to extradite El Chapo to the United States could take at least a year due to the legal tools at his disposal, most especially the amparo.
Slowing down the extradition proceedings may be part of El Chapo’s broader strategy, buying time to negotiate a plea bargain with US prosecutors, El Diario reported. Previously, Guzmán’s head lawyer, Refugio Rodríguez, has said his client is willing to accept culpability for charges the US seeks in exchange for not being incarcerated in a maximum-security prison. However, according to El Diario, he is unwilling to become an informant for US prosecutors and testify against others.
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The question now, is how quickly the court will rule on Guzmán’s injunctions. Given the high-profile nature of the case, big delays in the extradition process are likely to put pressure on the administration of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, who already was deeply embarrassed by El Chapo’s July 2015 prison escape.