A Mexico City judge has accepted a US extradition request for Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, a sharp turn from Mexico's previous stance on sending the fugitive drug lord to the United States.
The extradition order, which was officially accepted on July 31, had been presented to Mexican authorities on June 25, two weeks prior to Guzman's high-profile escape, reported Reuters. The extradition order will be processed if and when Guzman is recaptured. The head of Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel is currently the subject of an intense international manhunt.
The court's acceptance of the extradition request means the Attorney General's Office intends to honor the US' petition, but the request can be appealed by defense attorneys. Mexican law states its citizens must face charges and serve time for any crimes committed in Mexico prior to being extradited, but President Enrique Peña Nieto has executive authority to override this process and extradite immediately once the order is upheld during the appeals process.
InSight Crime Analysis
The approval for El Chapo's extradition request stands in stark contrast to Mexico's steadfast refusal to hand over the drug lord, despite US authorities clamoring for his extradition ever since his capture in early 2014. Just this January, Mexico's then-Attorney General, Jesus Murillo Karam, said the US would get El Chapo "in about 300 or 400 years," and that keeping the kingpin on Mexican soil was a matter of national sovereignty.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of El Chapo
Mexico's about-face regarding El Chapo was likely due in part to his recent escape, but it also reflects the country's uneven approach towards extraditing drug lords wanted in the United States. US-Mexico relations surrounding extradition have been strained for decades, which has resulted in imprisoned kingpins from a number of Mexican drug trafficking organizations being sent to the United States, while many others remain behind bars in Mexico. (See list below)
Meanwhile, the timing of the US' extradition request and now its approval by Mexican authorities may fuel speculation that the drug capo's brazen jailbreak was motivated partly by knowledge that his extradition could be near. But Alejandro Hope, Security Editor for El Daily Post, says that it is hard to say that the escape and extradition request are directly connected. Hope told InSight Crime that Guzman definitely feared extradition and that he might have been aware of the proceedings, but that the tunnel and the planned escape had been in the works for months.