Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, one of the most notorious drug kingpins in the world, was arrested Saturday in Mexico. The burning question question now is what will happen to El Chapo. The Sinaloa drug cartel leader faces charges in at least seven U.S. federal judicial districts — Brooklyn, N.Y.; Concord, N.H.; Chicago; Del Rio, Texas; El Paso, Texas; Miami; and San Diego. The United States would love to try El Chapo in the U.S. on charges ranging from conspiracy to commit murder to drug distribution. However, on Monday, Mexican authorities formally charged El Chapo with violations of Mexico’s drug-trafficking laws. This development will likely delay any swift extradition of El Chapo to the U.S., Mexican officials said Monday.
A Mexican judge has until Tuesday to decide whether to release Guzman or start the process of bringing him to trial. Authorities believe the judge will launch the trial process, a Mexican federal official told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly discuss the matter.
According to White House spokesman Jay Carney, there is no official position yet from the Obama administration on the situation. Carney did say:
We’re obviously appreciative of fact that El Chapo was captured and we congratulate the Mexican government.
While the United States doesn’t have an official comment, surely there are talks proceeding behind closed doors regarding where El Chapo will ultimately stand trial. Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto is in a very sensitive position. His administration is being pulled in opposite directions. On one hand, it would take a huge burden off of his Administration to move Guzman to a virtually impenetrable U.S. maximum security prison. Conversely, Pena Nieto wants to prove that Mexico can try and convict one of the highest ranking drug kingpins in the world, especially since Guzman has escaped in the past, embarrassing the Mexican government.
Another potential snag in the extradition process is that if charged under the King Pin Act, which carries a possible death sentence, Mexico would likely refuse to extradite. Mexico has taken a position that it will not cooperate in extraditing a criminal if they will be facing a death sentence in the new jurisdiction.
El Chapo’s attorneys have already begun fighting any efforts to bring Guzman to the United States. They filed a petition asking the Mexican court for an injunction to block any extradition request from the United States. In the past, similar appeals by other drug suspects have taken months, and sometimes years, to resolve.
The extradition process of El Chapo Guzman is shaping up to be a long, drawn out affair. There are many political issues from both the American and Mexican perspectives. At this point is unclear where El Chapo will ultimately stand trial for the wide ranging crimes he is being accused of committing. To date, the Obama Administration has not formally put pressure on Mexico to extradite. What appears certain though is that El Chapo will strongly fight any attempts to move him to the United States.