CHIHUAHUA, Mexico, Accused Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán, who’s awaiting extradition to the United States, might be headed back to the same prison he escaped from a year ago, a judge ruled this week.
After he was recaptured in January, the alleged kingpin was eventually transferred to a holding facility just south of the Texas border while American authorities work to have him shipped to the United States to face a slew of drug trafficking and related charges.
Wednesday, a Mexican judge ruled that Guzmán had been transferred away from the Altiplano maximum security prison, near Mexico City, in May without proper authorization — and ordered that he be sent back.
Altiplano is where Guzmán was first held after his recapture in January — and where he brazenly escaped in July 2015. He was transferred to Cefereso No. 9 prison after a power outage in May caused authorities to worry that the alleged cartel king may be plotting another breakout.
Having twice previously escaped from Mexican jails, the notorious drug trafficker is now kept in solitary confinement under heavy guard.
The judge’s ruling came following a motion filed by Guzmán’s defense team, which claimed prison officials unlawfully moved him to the facility across the border from El Paso, Texas.
“He asked us that we would file an injunction to return him to Altiplano,” defense attorney José Refugio Rodríguez said.
Defense attorneys say one of the chief reasons for the request was because the Cefereso No. 9 facility is farther away from Guzmán’s defense team than Altiplano.
Government officials, though, can appeal the judge’s ruling, which would likely delay Guzmán’s return to Altiplano for months.
Security surrounding Guzmán in Ciudad Juarez poses significant concerns for federal officials, particularly after one of Guzmán sons was kidnapped in Puerto Vallarta this week, supposedly by a rival cartel.
The ongoing battle between Guzmán’s Sinaloa cartel and its chief rival, New Generation, officials fear, could lead to any number of potentially dangerous scenarios involving the suspect’s transfer.