Crime boss in tunnel escape

JOAQUIN GUZMAN -
JOAQUIN GUZMAN –

Second jail break for most wanted drug lord

MEXICAN drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman has escaped from a maximum-security prison for the second time in 14 years, sparking a massive manhunt and dealing an embarrassing blow to the government.

Guzman escaped through a 1.5km tunnel that was dug under the shower space of his prison cell in central Mexico, authorities said yesterday.

After security cameras lost sight of Guzman late on Saturday, guards went into the cell and found a 10m-deep hole with a ladder, National Security Commissioner Monte Alejandro Rubido said.

The hole led to the huge tunnel with a ventilation and light system, Rubido said, adding that its exit was in a building that was under construction.

A motorcycle on a rail system was found in the tunnel and is believed to have been used to transport tools and remove earth from the space, which was 1.7m high and 80cm wide.

Rubido said 18 prison guards would be interrogated.

The kingpin was last spotted by security cameras entering the shower area of the Altiplano prison, 90km west of Mexico City, on Saturday night.

An alarm was issued after “he was not visible”, the commission said. “An operation to locate him was deployed in the area and on roads of neighbouring states,” it said, adding that flights were suspended at nearby Toluca airport.

Soldiers manned checkpoints on the Mexico City-Toluca highway, searching car boots and the backs of trucks.

The Altiplano prison in central Mexico State houses the country’s most notorious drug lords, murderers and kidnappers.

Guzman, 58, whose Sinaloa cartel shipped narcotics across the globe, was considered the world’s most wanted drug lord before his arrest.

His first break from prison was in 2001, when he slipped past authorities by hiding in a laundry cart. He had been arrested in Guatemala in 1993. This time around, Guzman managed to give guards the slip after spending just 17 months in prison.

Marines had recaptured him in February 2014 in a pre-dawn raid on a condo in Mazatlan, a Pacific resort in Sinaloa state, with the help of the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

His second escape is sure to embarrass the administration of President Enrique Pena Nieto, who was flying to France for a state visit when Guzman fled.

The prison break will now certainly overshadow his trip.

Pena Nieto’s government had won praise for capturing the powerful kingpin, a diminutive but feared man whose nickname means “Shorty”.

He used to be on Forbes magazine’s list of billionaires until the US publication said in 2013 that it could not verify his wealth and that it believed he was increasingly spending his fortune on protection.

He married an 18-year-old beauty queen, Emma Coronel, in 2007 and is believed to have 10 children with various women.

More than 80 000 people have been killed in drug violence in Mexico since 2006.

– AFP

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