mexican drug lord Joaquin Guzman escaped through a one-mile tunnel that opened into the shower area of his cell, the country’s top security official revealed yesterday.
With the elaborate escape hatch allegedly built without the detection of prison staff, Guzman has done what Mexican authorities promised would not happen after his recapture last year – slipped out of a maximum-security jail for the second time.
Eighteen employees from the Altiplano prison, 56 miles west of Mexico City, have been taken in for questioning, Security Commissioner Monte Alejandro Rubido said yesterday.
The escape of Guzman – nicknamed “El Chapo”, or Shorty – was discovered late on Saturday. He is head of the powerful Sinaloa Cartel, which has an international reach and is believed to control most of the major crossing points for drugs at the US border with Mexico.
Roads near the prison were heavily patrolled by police, who had also set up checkpoints.
Flights were suspended yesterday at Toluca airport, near the penitentiary in the state of Mexico.
Guzman was last seen at about 9pm on Saturday in the shower area of the Altiplano prison, according to a statement from the National Security Commission. After a time, he was lost by the prison’s security camera surveillance network. Upon checking his cell, authorities found it empty.
Guzman’s escape is an embarrassment to the administration of president Enrique Pena Nieto, which has received plaudits for its aggressive approach to top drug lords.
Since the government took office in late 2012, the Mexican authorities have arrested or killed six of them, including Guzman.
Guzman was caught by authorities for the first time in Guatemala in 1993, extradited and sentenced to 20 years in prison on drug-trafficking related charges. He escaped from Puente Grande, another Mexican maximum-security prison, in 2001 with the help of prison guards. He allegedly escaped in a laundry cart, although there have been several versions of how he got away.
He was recaptured in February 2014 after eluding authorities for days across his home state of Sinaloa, after which the cartel is named.
He was listed as 56 years old last year, though there are discrepancies in his birth date.
Guzman faces multiple federal drug-trafficking indictments in the US as well as Mexico, and was on the US Drug Enforcement Administration’s most-wanted list.
Altiplano, which is considered the main and most secure of Mexico’s federal prisons, also houses Zetas drug cartel leader Miguel Angel Trevino, and Edgar Valdes Villarreal, known as “La Barbie”, of the Beltran Leyva cartel.