Mexico opens prison doors where drug lord Guzman was held

Mexico opens prison doors where drug lord Guzman was held
Mexican drug lord, El Chapo during an arrest. PHOTO: File

Mexican authorities opened the door to Reuters on Wednesday to tour the prison cell that held fugitive drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman in the final moments before he escaped from a maximum security prison through a tunnel in his cell on Saturday night.

His cell held a cot and a bathroom with a washbasin and, behind a partition wall, his shower where the mouth of the tunnel led.

The partition wall blocked the camera’s view of a roughly 50-cm (20 inch) by 50-cm entrance hole to the mile-long tunnel which authorities said El Chapo used to escape.

The escape of Guzman, Mexico’s most notorious drug lord, is a major embarrassment for President Enrique Pena Nieto, and was the second time the drug kingpin had broken out of prison.

His escape from a maximum security prison has brutally exposed the limitations of a system both incapable of containing its most infamous inmate and often controlled by those behind bars.

Guzman had only been imprisoned 17 months before he escaped. He was arrested in 2014 after his last escape from prison in 2001.

Lawmakers said it could only have happened with detailed knowledge of the facility, and by buying off senior officials and guards.

As a former luminary of the Forbes billionaires’ list and boss of a gang that has been blamed for thousands of deaths, Guzman has long used bribery and intimidation to buy the support of security forces and government officials.

Mexican Senator Alejandro Encinas said the escape means the state has to re-evaluate the entire prison system.

“This means a complete re-assessment of the prison system throughout the country, of the protocols that are in place, the rules, of the treatment of inmates especially those who are very dangerous and to review everything from visits and custody to extraordinary measures for people who have such enormous economic power to do this,” Encinas said.

The government has fired the prison’s director and 34 prison employees have been questioned over the breakout.

According to think tank Mexico Evalua, there were 31 between 2010 and May 2013. One saw more than 130 inmates break out of prison in the city of Piedras Negras right on the U.S. border.

Guzman’s home turf is Sinaloa, Mexico’s drug-producing heartland amidst villagers nestled amid jagged mountains and the mighty Badiraguato Sierra, from where he has smuggled billions of dollars worth of illicit drugs north to the United States.

Public security officials have fanned out throughout the country in search of El Chapo.

Mexico has announced a reward of 60 million pesos ($3.82 million) for information leading to Guzman’s capture. Interior Minister Osorio Chong also reported security forces would redouble their efforts against the Sinaloa cartel and spare no expense to recapture Guzman, adding that the United States has expressed its willingness to cooperate in arresting Guzman.

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