“El Chapo” Guzman, the most powerful drug lord in the world, has amassed an incredible amount of wealth smuggling large quantities of drugs into the United States every year. Currently in his late 50s, he had, prior to his arrest in January this year, been one of the most sought after individuals in the world.
That said, he has a history of escaping from Mexico’s high security prisons, with his escape from Altiplano prison last year via a 1.5 kilometer tunnel being his second in two decades. The first time round, which was in 2001, he is said to have been pushed out of prison by one of the guards while inside a laundry cart. The American government offered a $5 million bounty for information leading to his capture, and the Mexican government some $3.8 million, but it was not until 2014, more than ten years later, that he was recaptured.
He was recently transferred from the maximum security Altiplano prison to a prison in Juarez. It is believed that fears of another escape plot may have led to the transfer. According to Alejandro Hope, a Mexico security analyst, “The more he [El Chapo] remains at a single prison, in a single cell, the more the chances that he will rebuild the conditions that led to his escape. So this also might be a deliberate attempt to destabilize any such plans.” This is as reported by the Guardian.
The unusual keenness to keep El Chapo Guzman behind bars is not unfounded, as according to new statistics, 590 prisoners have escaped from Mexican prisons from the years 2010 to 2015. This is a significant number, and serves to highlight huge loopholes in the Mexican prison system, with corruption being an aspect of concern.
According to a new report by Vice, “A closer look at the figures shows that mass escapes from prisons in drug war zones peaked in 2010, but the number of escapees has fallen since. Even so, there remains a steady trickle of jailbreaks involving less people but still underlining how corroded Mexican prisons are.”
According to Leslie Solís of México Evalúa, a Mexican policy watchdog, the government has at best been trying to keep the figures low so as not to reveal too many inconsistencies to the public. The following was her exact statement.
“The government’s response has been to try to minimize what happens, try to make it smaller than it is in order not to reveal the underlying problems. If the government doesn’t do anything it will keep happening.”
Besides El Chapo Guzman, who has escaped twice, there are many other Mexican prisoners who have made a mockery of the system, escaping as many as four times. Such is the case for Roberto Sánchez Ramírez who made his first breakout in 1991, while dressed as a woman. He also escaped in the years 1998 and 1999, and got the nickname El Fugas, or The Escaper, as a result. Last week, he was able to escape for the fourth time.
It is alleged that he and his fellow inmate named Agustín Miranda Orozco were abruptly called for a hearing at a court close to the prison and, while in the waiting room, asked for permission to go the bathroom. But as the guards waited outside, they were able to smash a brick wall using tools that happened to be there and break into a storage room. While there, the two were able to change into police uniforms and walk out of the building using the main door.
According to Hazael Ruiz, the head of the prison from which the two escaped, the guards did not follow protocol when allowing the prisoners to use the restrooms. The two men were facing charges of violent crimes and kidnapping, with their sentences adding up to 178 years.
[Photo by AP Photo/Marco Ugarte]