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Mexican court says 'El Chapo' can be sent to the US for trial

By DAVID FRANCIS | Foreign Policy | Published: May 9, 2016

Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman might be on his way to a prison he can't escape.

On Monday, a Mexican federal court ruled Guzman, boss of the powerful Sinaloa Cartel, can be shipped north to the face trial in the United States. On Saturday, he was moved to a high security prison in the northern city of Ciudad Juarez on the U.S. border. He's expected to be extradited later this year.

A trial in the United States is exactly what Guzman, who once sat on the Forbes billionaire list, did not want, simply because he's very good at getting out of Mexican jails. Guzmán escaped last summer from the supposedly high-security Altiplano prison via a mile-long underground tunnel, an embarrassment to Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto's government. He was taken back into custody this past in January.

Earlier, Guzman escaped from another prison in 2001, allegedly hiding in dirty laundry to flee. His legend grew after he disappeared, with the United States offering a $5 million reward for his capture. In 2013, law enforcement officials in Chicago, a destination for many of Guzman's drugs, named him "Public Enemy No. 1." He was recaptured in 2014.

Mexican drug lords aren't above a little graft to see that a U.S. court decision goes their way. Earlier this year, Francisco Antonio Colorado Cessa, a notorious member of the Los Zetas cartel, was found guilty on U.S. charges of conspiracy and bribery of public officials in the Western District Court of Louisiana.

The United States has long wanted Mexico to extradite Guzman to face criminal charges, including cocaine smuggling and money laundering. It's not yet clear where his trial will take place. He faces charges in a number of cities, including Chicago, New York and Miami. The Justice Department did not return a request for comment on Monday's developments.

Pena Nieto has promised to get tough on the cartels that have waged a violent drug war across Mexico, killing more than 80,000 since 2006. Fighting between Guzman's cartel and a rival located in Juarez, just across the border from El Paso, Texas, has killed more than 10,000 alone.

The capture of El Chapo was a major victory for the Mexican president. If the drug kingpin is found guilty and sent to prison in the United States, U.S. law enforcement would win the ultimate prize: Guzman sitting behind American bars, where it's much harder to tunnel a way to freedom.
 

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