An appeal by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman to block his extradition to the United States has been denied, making incarceration in the United States unlikely but possible, as questions remain over what will happen to Mexico's organized crime landscape in the wake of the drug lord's arrest.
Shortly after his arrest on the night of February 21, the lawyers of the Sinaloa Cartel leader sought an injunction to prevent Guzman's extradition. The request followed statements by US officials indicating that they would seek his extradition.
A Mexican judge has now denied the request, on the grounds that no formal solicitation for his extradition has yet been submitted and he can thus not yet be protected against it, reported El Nuevo Herald. Mexican officials, however, have said his extradition is not likely anytime soon, and in the meantime, he faces organized crime charges in his home country.
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Although Guzman is unlikely to be extradited in the near future, the ruling is significant in that it leaves open a process that could reduce his ability to continue exerting influence from jail.
SEE ALSO: Coverage of El Chapo
In the midst of questions over what will happen to Guzman, larger concerns remain over the future of the Sinaloa Cartel and Mexico's criminal underworld in general.
Despite immediate hype over a possible spike in violence driven by rival criminals attempting to fill the vacuum left by Guzman, there has so far been little sign of upheaval.
One anonymous high level Mexican government official told El Pais that the principal challenge for Mexico now is no longer the major cartels, which he said have all been severely weakened, but various "baby cartels," which are more difficult to identify and locate. These comments support the idea that Mexican organized crime may follow the route of Colombia's by fragmenting and diversifying.
The concept of a baby cartel was developed by former Colombian police chief Oscar Naranjo to describe drug groups that do not control the entire drug production and sales process, but instead specialize in certain links of the chain. The concern with the proliferation of these smaller groups is that they may only lead to a more competitive and chaotic underworld, as occurred in Colombia following the take down of the country's major cartels.