AMERICAS

Judge denies five appeals to block extradition of ‘El Chapo’ to US

Drug kingpin’s attorney says he will challenge the ruling in a circuit court

The extradition process for Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera seems unstoppable. A criminal judge has denied two appeals on the grounds of unconstitutionality filed by the drug kingpin’s defense team, while the court has dismissed three other appeals that sought to block his extradition to the United States. Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office (PGR) is therefore one step closer to El Chapo’s eventual handover to American authorities, although his transfer is not yet definite.

Joaquín Guzmán Loera at the Altiplano prison.
Joaquín Guzmán Loera at the Altiplano prison.AFP

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The defense may choose to challenge the ruling – before the very same court. El Chapo’s attorneys may also file an appeal with a circuit court to review the decision, a process that could take several months. The case may even reach Mexico’s Supreme Court, says José Refugio Rodrìguez, el Chapo’s chief lawyer.

In May, the Mexican government agreed to extradite the Sinaloan drug boss to the United States so that he could appear before two federal district courts. The State of California has charged him with criminal conspiracy to import and distribute cocaine, while Texas is accusing him of conspiracy, public health and organized crime offenses, arms possession, money laundering and murder.

Drug traffickers who have gone to trial in the past were dealt severe penalties

“It is worth noting that the US government gave enough guarantees that it would not ask for the death penalty for Guzmán Loera, if he is extradited and tried in that country,” Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

El Chapo’s attorneys took the news badly. Refugio Rodríguez said his client will plead guilty and ask to make a deal with the prosecution in exchange for a lesser sentence if he is extradited. Guzmán Loera, the lawyer said, will not seek to stand trial because drug traffickers who have chosen that path in the past were dealt severe penalties.

“It is a fact that if they extradite him he will plead guilty to the charges against him there because, if not, he would have to face a trial where his culpability would be questioned and experience tells us that all those who have been in his situation who have gone to trial fared very badly,” Refugio Rodríguez said.

Though both appeals filed to halt extradition have been denied this week, El Chapo’s attorney said that it does not mean the battle is over – or that his client will be immediately transferred to the United States. The extradition process could take up to three years,” he added. “We will keep fighting because Joaquín has not been defeated on national territory,” he said.

We will keep fighting because Joaquín has not been defeated on national territory El Chapo’s lawyer José Refugio Rodrìguez

The future looks bleak for El Chapo. A war has broken out between his cartel and the Beltrán Leyva brothers. The battle has even reached Guzmán Loera’s home turf of Badiraguato, where his mother Consuelo lives. And, one or two of his children – Mexican authorities never released all of the details – were kidnapped from a restaurant by the Jalisco New Generation Cartel. Though the young men were freed days later, the act itself represented a bold strike against the Sinaloa Cartel.

El Chapo’s organization is also in the military’s sights. Members of the criminal group ambushed the army in Sinaloa in late September. As the band tried to rescue a hitman who was being held in custody, four soldiers were killed and eight others injured, according to local media. A military commander accused El Chapo’s sons of ordering the attack but they have denied it.

English version by Dyane Jean François.

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