New revelations about the jailbreak of Mexico’s most notorious drug lord, “El Chapo” Guzman suggest that his escape was facilitated by failings on the part of authorities that can only be explained by either incompetence or corruption at the highest levels.
A highly-detailed report based on intelligence reports obtained by Mexicoleaks, and collated and verified by Proceso magazine, describes how recorded conversations of the Sinaloa Cartel chief Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and evidence gathered by his guards should have alerted authorities to a potential escape attempt months before he broke out of Altiplano maximum security prison in July.
According to the report, federal police documented conversations that showed El Chapo was using his lawyers, officials from Mexico’s Interior Ministry (SEGOB), and fellow inmates to try and gain access to maps of the prison layout. Analysis of the reports was submitted to then Intelligence Commissioner Ramon Eduardo Pequeño Garcia, the then head of the National Security Commission (CNS) Monte Alejandro Rubido Garcia, and the head of SEGOB, Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, but there is no evidence they were acted on, states Proceso.
The intelligence identified El Chapo’s lawyer Granados Flores as the person who had been tasked with obtaining the plans because of his knowledge of “official hierarchies in penitentiary centers and other government institutions.” One report on his efforts made reference to “a friend who ranks above Celina Oseguera Parra,” the then general director of Mexico’s federal prisons, who was arrested for her alleged role in El Chapo’s escape. According to Proceso, this connection could only have been Mexico’s National Security Commissioner Monte Alejandro Rubido Garcia, Minister Osorio Chong, or then head of the prison system Ignacio Hernandez Mora.
El Chapo’s guards also suspected he was plotting an escape and filed a report on the possibility at the end of 2014, according to Proceso.
InSight Crime Analysis
The trove of information available to Mexican authorities on El Chapo’s actions and plans in the run up to his escape point to one of two possibilities; a massive institutional failure to act on intelligence or corruption that reaches even higher up the chain than previously suspected.
Incompetence can never be ruled out when it comes to Mexico’s often disjointed and inefficient state institutions, but the lack of follow up on reports of a potential escape after officials had clearly dedicated serious resources to monitoring El Chapo, combined with his lawyer’s networking, certainly suggests high level corruption played a significant part in El Chapo’s escape.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of El Chapo
So far, arrests of officials accused of aiding El Chapo’s escape have been largely limited to low level security agents, with Oseguera Parra and then Altiplano prison director Valentin Cardenas the only higher level officials to fall under suspicion. If Mexico is to repair the damage to its international reputation caused by El Chapo’s escape, it may have to take investigations much further.