Mexico City: Mexico is willing to extradite drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman to the United States, a federal law enforcement official said. It's a sharp reversal from the official position after his last capture in 2014.
"Mexico is ready. There are plans to cooperate with the US," said the official yesterday, who spoke on condition anonymity because he wasn't authorised to comment.
But he cautioned that there could be a lengthy wait before US prosecutors can get their hands on Guzman, the most-wanted trafficker who was recaptured Friday after six months on the run: "You have to go through the judicial process, and the defence has its elements too."
Top officials in the party of President Enrique Pena Nieto also floated the idea of extradition, which they had flatly ruled out before Guzman's embarrassing escape from Mexico's top maximum security prison on July 11.
"He has a lot of outstanding debts to pay in Mexico, but if it's necessary, he can pay them in other places," said Manlio Fabio Beltrones, president of Pena Nieto's Institutional Revolutionary Party.
But even if Mexican officials agree, Guzman's attorney Juan Pablo Badillo told the Milenio newspaper that the defence already has filed six motions to challenge extradition requests.
"They can challenge the judge, challenge the probable cause, challenge the procedure," said Juan Masini, former US Department of Justice attache at the US Embassy in Mexico.
"That's why it can take a long time. They won't challenge everything at once ... they can drip, drip, milk it that way." Guzman, a legendary figure in Mexico who went from a farmer's son to the world's top drug lord, was apprehended after a shootout between gunmen and Mexican marines at the home in Los Mochis, a seaside city in Guzman's home state of Sinaloa.
The operation resulted from six months of investigation by Mexican forces, who located Guzman in a rural part of Durango state in October but decided not to shoot because he was with two women and a child, said Mexican Attorney General Arely Gomez.