The capture of notorious gang boss Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán has brought up once again the issue of extradition: two extradition requests were filed by the United States government last year, but the Sinaloa Cartel leader’s defense has been quick to stall the process by filing for amparos, or injunctions.
The extradition requests were filed by the government of the state of California on July 29, and that of Texas on September 3, and both relate to charges for three distinct crimes.
But Guzmán faces charges in various jurisdictions across the U.S., including conspiracy to import and possess with intent to distribute cocaine, conspiracy association, organized crime against health, money laundering, homicide and possession of firearms.
The U.S. government has 60 days following Guzmán’s arrest to formalize the extradition requests by presenting proof of the alleged crimes.
If the supporting evidence is sufficient, the request goes to a judge at the Attorney General’s office (PGR) who gives a legal opinion. The case then goes to the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs (SRE), which has the final say.
The cartel boss’s defense team can file amparo requests at any of those stages and after each legal decision, which is what it did just hours after his arrest in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, on Friday.
“These tactics [filing amparos] are a shot in the dark for the defense,” said criminal law specialist Javier Angulo, explaining that once the amparo is granted the defense has access to information regarding the exact stage of the case against their client, giving the team a “heads up” about what is yet to come.
Attorney General Arely Gómez, whose office issued a statement Saturday saying the proceedings were set to begin, said the defense had 20 days to formalize its case for an amparo, but that the period could be extended and the extradition process could take “between one and five years.”
Angulo, for his part, believes it could be over within the next seven to nine months. In case the defense decides to abstain from filing an amparo request at any stage, “they could well be paving the road for the extradition, and in five days [El Chapo] would be [in the United States].”
But a security expert at the National Autonomous University said it could be done sooner. Raúl Benítez Manaut said the SRE could decide to authorize the extradition within days, short-circuiting the appeal process.
“They will try to extradite him as fast as possible,” Benítez told AFP.
Speculation in various media reports suggests Guzmán would finish up in the federal Supermax prison, where inmates live in almost total solitary confinement, with virtually no human interaction.
Known as the Administrative Maximum Facility (ADX), the prison is in a remote part of Colorado. The druglord would be joining at least three other Mexican cartel leaders being held there: Hector “El Guero” Palma Salazar, one of the Sinaloa cartel’s founders; Francisco Javier Arellano Félix of the Tijuana cartel; and Osiel Cárdenas Guillén, founder of the Gulf cartel.