Authorities in Mexico have arrested several high-level prison officials for their alleged role in the recent jailbreak of famed Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, raising concerns about the extent of corruption within the country’s prison system.
Mexican authorities recently announced the arrest of 13 suspects, including Celina Oseguera Parra — the former head of Mexico’s federal prisons — and two ex-directors of the Altiplano prison, the maximum-security facility from which El Chapo escaped in July, reported the BBC. Another 10 prison officials who worked at the Altiplano prison were also arrested, reported the AFP.
Both Oseguera and the former directors of the Altiplano prison were fired shortly after the drug kingpin’s escape.
With the arrests, a total of 20 Mexican officials have now been implicated in the case; seven prison workers were also detained in July the week following Guzman’s escape.
El Chapo is the head of Mexico’s most powerful drug trafficking organization, the Sinaloa Cartel, and was the world’s most wanted criminal prior to his arrest in February 2014.
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The arrests of high-level officials reveals the extent to which El Chapo potentially managed to penetrate and corrupt the upper echelons of Mexico’s prison system. It also provides further backing for those who say El Chapo and other powerful drug traffickers should be extradited to the United States — although Guzman is considered the world’s most prolific drug lord, there are certainly other Mexican capos with sufficient power (and wealth) to corrupt high-ranking prison officials. However, US-Mexico relations surrounding extraditions have been tense for decades, and Mexican authorities have demonstrated inconsistency in their policy of extraditing drug traffickers to the United States — especially as it relates to El Chapo.
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Mexican authorities are under significant pressure to recapture El Chapo and bring those who aided his escape to trial. The government’s investigation into the disappearance of 43 students last September has drawn heavy criticism, and authorities are likely hoping to avoid a similar situation with the Chapo case by demonstrating results. Nonetheless, the likelihood authorities will recapture the drug lord soon is slim, and the longer Guzman remains a fugitive the more the government’s credibility will continue to suffer.