HomeNewsAnalysisMexico Extradites 'El Chapo,' Spurs Debate
ANALYSIS

Mexico Extradites 'El Chapo,' Spurs Debate

EL CHAPO / 20 JAN 2017 BY STEVEN DUDLEY EN

Mexico's government extradited legendary kingpin Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán to the United States just hours before Donald Trump's inauguration, in a move that is spurring debate about what message the Mexican government is trying to send to the incoming president. 

Mexican authorities announced the extradition in a communique issued on the afternoon of January 19, less than 24 hours before Trump was to be sworn in as the 45th US President. 

It came a day after a high court denied hearing an injunction to keep the extradition at bay for several more months. Guzmán and his lawyers had filed numerous injunctions that argued that the extradition was against the Mexican constitution.

For a time this tactic worked for Guzmán, even providing his team enough time to build a tunnel and escape a maximum-security prison for a second time in his criminal career in 2015, after he was captured in 2014. The first time came in 2001, when he allegedly made his way out the front door in a laundry cart.

Guzmán was captured again in January 2016, following a massive manhunt which included using information from the surveillance of actor Sean Penn who, along with the Mexican actress Kate del Castillo, interviewed Guzmán in his jungle hideout for Rolling Stone magazine while he was on the run between stints in prison.

InSight Crime Analysis 

The timing of the extradition is curious and sparked a raucous debate over what message Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto intended to send to the incoming US president.

For some, such as crime analyst Alejandro Hope, it was a clear snub. 

"They decided not to give Trump an early victory with the extradition of Chapo," he wrote on Twitter. "I applaud."

Peña Nieto and Trump famously met in Mexico City in August 2016, during the US presidential campaign, after which each tried to spin their own narrative: Trump gave a blistering anti-immigrant speech in Arizona, which included his by then patented promise to build wall along the border that he said Mexico would pay for; Peña Nieto tweeted "there is no way Mexico is paying for the wall."

The extradition of Guzmán presented the Mexican president with a dilemma. If he had waited to do it during a Trump administration, it would have surely provided the incoming president with a political victory. And for some Mexico-watchers, such as journalist and author Ioan Grillo, the extradition was exactly that: "Mexico extradites Chapo Guzmán to the United States," he wrote. "READ - Trying to show the Trump government, it is cooperating on security."

To be sure, Trump and his incoming cabinet appear ready to apply a more blunt and forceful approach as it relates to the war on drugs. But, in a way, the extradition might backfire on Peña Nieto. Guzmán was known to use his information to attack his enemies. It's not clear if he will be willing to do the same now that he is in the United States. But if Trump is seeking leverage on his Mexican political counterparts in his negotiations about who is paying for the wall, this is definitely a place to start. With close to 30 years in the drug business, Chapo has more kompromat than all the other extradited narcos combined.

Of course, it is possible that the decision was not political but opportunistic. The Peña Nieto administration had to act quickly before Guzmán's lawyers filed yet another injunction. Along these lines, one of Guzmán's lawyers told Aristegui Noticias they were surprised by the swift action. 

Guzmán's extradition is not the end of the Sinaloa Cartel and will unlikely have any lasting impact on the criminal dynamic in Mexico. Even before he was captured for the second time in 2014, his power within the cartel was thought to be waning.

His successors have struggled to keep the vast criminal organization intact. Various splinter groups are controlled by Guzmán's children and some of his former allies, but the largest faction remains under the firm control of Guzmán's longtime counterpart Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada. 

Guzmán has been indicted in seven different US federal court districts, but he is expected to face trial in Brooklyn in the Eastern District of New York.  

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

JALISCO CARTEL / 3 SEP 2021

Criminal groups in Mexico are posting in public lists of police they plan to kill, and the message often comes…

COLOMBIA / 26 OCT 2021

Two top police commanders in Colombia and Mexico have recently admitted to filtering sensitive information to drug traffickers while working…

ENVIRONMENTAL CRIME / 10 NOV 2021

Criminal groups across western Mexico have increased their control of illegal logging, silencing landowners, government officials and even entire communities…

About InSight Crime

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Extensive Coverage of our Chronicles of a Cartel Bodyguard

23 SEP 2022

Our recent investigation, A Cartel Bodyguard in Mexico’s 'Hot Land', has received extensive media coverage.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime, American University Host Illegal Fishing Panel

19 SEP 2022

InSight Crime and the Center for Latin American & Latino Studies (CLALS) at American University discussed the findings of a joint investigation on IUU fishing at a September 9 conference.

THE ORGANIZATION

Impact on the Media Landscape

9 SEP 2022

InSight Crime’s first investigation on the Dominican Republic made an immediate impact on the Dominican media landscape, with major news outlets republishing and reprinting our findings, including in …

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Sharpens Its Skills

2 SEP 2022

Last week, the InSight Crime team gathered for our annual retreat in Colombia, where we discussed our vision and strategy for the next 12 months.  During the week, we also learned how to…

THE ORGANIZATION

Colombia’s Fragile Path to Peace Begins to Take Shape

26 AUG 2022

InSight Crime is charting the progress of President Gustavo Petro’s agenda as he looks to revolutionize Colombia’s security policy, opening dialogue with guerrillas, reforming the military and police, and…