Latin America

Mexico arrests the accomplices who aided drug lord ‘El Chapo’s’ jail break

Authorities confirm US TV reports that kingpin injured himself during pursuit

A roadblock in an area where ‘El Chapo’ is believed to have escaped.
A roadblock in an area where ‘El Chapo’ is believed to have escaped.R. S. (AFP)

Thirty-four people have been arrested in connection with the July prison escape of drug kingpin Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán, Mexico’s attorney general announced late Wednesday.

At the same time, CNN reported that the Sinaloa cartel leader injured his leg and face after falling from what appeared to be a small cliff while fleeing from authorities earlier this month.

‘El Chapo’s’ brother-in-law is among the 34 people detained

Attorney General Arely Gómez said all people who were allegedly involved in El Chapo’s escape from a maximum security prison – including his brother-in-law – have now been detained. But Mexican authorities have so far declined to reveal details about the search for the world’s most-wanted drug lord, though they did confirm that El Chapo had injured himself during a pursuit.

Among those arrested are prison officials – including the former warden of the Altiplano penitentiary located outside Mexico City – and pilots who reportedly flew El Chapo from San Juan del Río, situated around 168 kilometers from the jail, to his hideout.

Guzmán, whose nickname in Spanish means “shorty” because of his height, arrived in San Juan del Río in Querétero state by land after escaping through a 1.5-kilometer-long tunnel dug underneath his cell from his shower stall, according to Gómez.

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The Mexican army and navy have concentrated their search in the Sierra Madre mountain range, in an area known as the Golden Triangle that encompasses the states of Chihuahua, Sinaloa and Durango.

Since the special operation began, a number of fearful residents of the small towns and hamlets that populate the area have been forced to flee. The mayor of Cosalá, the largest town in the area, said that at least 600 people had left their homes in the last few weeks because of shoot-outs.

In an interview with Agence France-Presse (AFP), Francisca Quintero, a resident in the region, said that she hid under her bed after hearing a “hail of bullets.” “They think we’re stupid because we are from a small town,” she said.

Mexican authorities have denied that they are violating the rights and guarantees of people in the area.

The attorney general did not reveal any precise details about El Chapo’s escape except for the fact that he had landed at an undisclosed hideout following his prison escape through a 1.5-kilometer tunnel that was ventilated and had lighting.

The Sinaloa cartel drug leader was captured in February 2014 in a joint Mexican-US operation while he was visiting his wife and family in the resort city of Matzalán. He had escaped from another maximum security prison in 2001 after hiding in a laundry cart.

Authorities deny they are violating people’s rights during their search

The US government had requested his extradition in June but Mexican authorities reportedly informed them that they would put El Chapo on trial before handing him over.

According to US officials, Guzmán had more cocaine connections throughout the world than any other drug trafficker. The routes he is thought to control extend from poppy fields in Afghanistan to the streets of Chicago. His fields in Mexico are said to cover around 60,000 square kilometers of land, roughly the size of Costa Rica, according to The Economist.

English version by Martin Delfín.

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