El Altiplano, once home to El Chapo Guzmán. El Altiplano, once home to El Chapo Guzmán.

34 believed to have helped with escape

'El Chapo' Guzmán's escape plan 'executed to perfection'

Officials responsible for keeping cartel boss Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán behind bars, including the head of the prison system and the governor of El Altiplano penitentiary, knowingly abetted his escape, according to investigators, who announced the arrest yesterday of six more of those involved.

Attorney General Arely Gómez said among them were one of Guzmán’s lawyers, his brother-in-law, the person who negotiated the purchase of the land where the tunnel began and the pilot who flew the cartel leader to safety the night of his escape.

Prison authorities spent a year helping the leader of the powerful Sinaloa drug cartel carry out his plan to flee the maximum-security jail in the State of México.

It is believed that at least 34 people took part in the July 11 prison break, of whom 29 have been detained. They include Valentín Cárdenas, the former governor of the prison, and Celina Oseguera, ex-director general of federal prisons, who both conspired to help Guzmán tunnel his way to freedom.

One of their ruses was to authorize a construction project to mask the sound of work on the tunnel.

“These employees of the Social Rehabilitation Centre knew the weaknesses of the security system,” said Gustavo Salas, head of SEIDO, the Special Attorney for the Investigation of Organized Crime. “They authorized cosmetic works to be carried out to disguise the noise.”

He said whether or not the prison officials had been threatened made no difference to their culpability. “A threat would not justify facilitating the escape of a convict,” he said. “Even if they had been threatened they could have notified their superiors at some point and prevented the jailbreak from taking place.”

Salas added that all the detainees knew the part they had played in helping the cartel leader get a window of opportunity to flee jail. “We have gathered evidence and are convinced that this was not a random act arising from a series of chance events that favored a sudden escape. This has the hallmarks of a plan executed to perfection, in which the participants – as much those on the inside as those on the outside – knowingly neglected their duties to help Guzmán escape.”

The 1.5-kilometer-long escape tunnel is thought to have taken a year to dig, with workers doing three shifts a day. Guzmán is believed to have put together the escape team himself. Salas said those plans were put into effect just a short time after Guzmán was captured in February 2014 with the purchase of the land where the tunnel began, and the start of excavations.

The Attorney General did not release the names of the latest to be arrested, but one is believed to be Guzmán’s brother-in-law, Edgar Coronel Aispuro, brother of the cartel leader’s wife, Emma Coronel. He is thought to have been responsible for supervising the tunnel’s construction.

Another is believed to be his lawyer, Óscar Manuel Gómez Núñez, who took advantage of his legal position to speak confidentially with his client during prison visits.

During these clandestine conversations Gómez Núñez is believed to have received instructions and passed on information on the escape tunnel’s progress.

Federal authorities are looking for more collaborators who have not yet been detained, and Salas insisted that every effort will be made to track down Guzmán.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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