Latin America

Mexico’s ex-prison chief arrested in ‘El Chapo’ escape inquiry

Authorities lock up 13 former public servants in connection with drug kingpin’s jail break

The tunnel used by Joaquín Guzmán during his escape.
The tunnel used by Joaquín Guzmán during his escape.

A former top prison official in Mexico and the head of a maximum security facility are among 13 public servants who have been arrested by authorities in connection with the daring jail break made by Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán on July 11.

The Mexican Attorney General’s Office (PGR), which announced the arrests on Friday, explained that former federal prisons coordinator Celina Oseguera Parra and Valentín Cárdenas Lerma, ex-warden of El Altiplano prison in Almoloya, were being held responsible for aiding in El Chapo’s escape.

At least two dozen people, including guards on duty the night the drug kingpin escaped, have been arrested

At least two dozen people, including guards who were on duty the night that the drug kingpin escaped through a tunnel dug underneath his cell, have been detained.

El Chapo’s escape has become a major embarrassment for the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto, who just last year celebrated the capture of one of the world’s most wanted drug traffickers.

Oseguera and El Chapo never crossed paths when the Sinaloa boss was first captured in 1993 in Guatemala. At the time, she was warden of the high-security Almoloya prison outside Mexico City – where she remained responsible for guarding 500 of the country’s most dangerous inmates until 1996 – while El Chapo was taken to the Puente Grande prison in Jalisco state.

Interior secretary and chief of staff Miguel Ángel Osorio appointed Oseguera federal prisons coordinator in July 2014, but El Chapo’s second escape left her 27-year career in tatters.

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Former El Altiplano warden Valentín Cárdenas Lerma had already been arrested just days after El Chapo’s jail break and has denied any wrongdoing.

A psychologist by profession, Cárdenas had served just 10 months in the post after replacing predecessor Marisa Quintanilla, who was fired for allowing a dance organized by the Zetas drug cartel to take place inside the prison.

Cárdenas is now being held at Almoloya along with 10 other men whose names the PGR has not released.

Oseguera and another female suspect were taken to the Tepic women’s prison in Nayarit state.

In a statement, the PGR said the investigation into the escape of the world’s most wanted drug trafficker continues.

English version by Martin Delfín.

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