'El Chapo' escape: Mexico-wide search launched for drug lord

Mexico's interior ministry says it has distributed 100,000 photographs of drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman to highway toll booths around the country since his weekend escape from a maximum security prison.

101 checkpoints established, and hospitals, hotels and funeral homes searched

Guzman escape security video

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6 years ago
Mexico authorities releases video footage that shows the moment drug kingpin Joaquin (El Chapo) Guzman escaped prison 1:51

Mexico's interior ministry says it has distributed 100,000 photographs of drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman to highway toll booths around the country since his weekend escape from a maximum security prison.

In a statement Wednesday, the ministry says 10,000 agents of various components of the federal police remain on high alert across Mexico and authorities have established 101 checkpoints on major highways throughout the country.

Hospitals, hotels and funeral homes are being checked. Forty-eight canine teams are searching passenger and cargo vehicles. Airports are on alert, closely reviewing passengers on private planes.

Guzman is once again Mexico's most wanted criminal since he escaped late Saturday through a 1.6-kilometre-long tunnel dug to come up under the shower of his prison cell.

U.S., Mexican officials work on recapture

U.S. officials met with agents of the Mexican attorney general's office this week to discuss the recent escape and to coordinate efforts to recapture him, a Mexican government official said on Wednesday.

Representatives from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Drug Enforcement Administration met Mexican law enforcement officials in Mexico City on Monday to share information, the government official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Mexico has long sought to maintain its independence from the United States on matters of national security, but has taken fire from critics for not having previously extradited Guzman to the United States.

U.S. prosecutors had said they would seek his extradition, and U.S. media reports earlier this year citing unnamed sources suggested that the U.S. government had made a formal request for Guzman's extradition.

But no announcement of a formal request was ever made public and the Mexican attorney general's office said it had no plans to hand him over because he would serve his time in Mexico.

Other sensitive issues have also bubbled beneath the surface.

Mexico's Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong this week denied media reports that Mexico had been tipped off by U.S. authorities ahead of time that Guzman was planning an escape.

The two neighbouring countries would be "cooperating permanently" to try and catch Guzman again, and were discussing everything relevant to the operation, the Mexican official said.

The kingpin's escape on Saturday night from a maximum security prison through a tunnel leading right into his cell was a bitter blow to President Enrique Peña Nieto's anti-crime efforts.

Escape caught on tape

Mexico's government on Tuesday broadcast security camera footage of Guzman in the final moments before he escaped from the maximum security prison.

National Security Commissioner Monte Alejandro Rubido showed a grainy video of a dressed Guzman pacing the room, looking behind the partition wall by his shower, sitting on his bed, then crouching again behind the wall, where he finally disappeared from view at 8:52 p.m. local time.

"He changed his shoes, and went to the shower," Rubido said, explaining the footage. "You can't see what he's doing."

The partition wall blocked the camera's view of a roughly 50-cm by 50-cm entrance hole to the mile-long tunnel shown by Mexican television earlier on Tuesday. It was one of two blind spots for the security cameras in Guzman's cell.

Up until his departure, Guzman's behavior had been "normal" for a person who spent many hours in a small cell, Rubido said.

The commissioner said the blind spots were designed to permit Guzman some privacy while he was washing.

The video footage showed the partition wall was high enough to cover the lower half of Guzman's body while standing.

The jail break occurred just as Pena Nieto began a four-day state visit to France. 

Mexican security chiefs were aghast at the breakout and the government has said it could only have taken place with the help of prison guards and officials.

The government fired the director of the Altiplano prison, which had never suffered an escape.

Guzman, Mexico's most high-profile criminal, was boss of the powerful Sinaloa cartel prior to his capture in February 2014. The cartel has smuggled billions of dollars worth of drugs into the United States and has been blamed for thousands of deaths.

Guzman previously broke out of prison in 2001.

With files from the Associated Press


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