Mexican Drug Lord Escapes From Prison For The 2nd Time
LYNN NEARY, HOST:
Mexico's most notorious drug trafficker has pulled off what authorities said was impossible. He's escaped from the country's maximum security prison. Joaquin El Chap Guzman, the head of the Sinaloa drug cartel, crawled out through a tunnel that officials say extended nearly one mile to a nearby town. This is the second time he has escaped from one of Mexico's prisons. We are joined now by NPR's Carrie Kahn in Mexico City. Carrie, officials held a press conference with the latest information about the escape. What did they say?
CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: It's just amazing, Lynn, the details that they gave of this tunnel. Everybody just has - their jaws are on the ground here. To describe this tunnel, it's just - it is amazing. The opening began at the shower area of the prison, and if I did my math right, it was about 20 inches by 20 inches at the top. That's so small. And then that connected to another tunnel that jumped 10 yards straight down. A ladder was found there. And that tunnel connected to the main one which, as you said, ran, unimaginatively, nearly a mile to a nearby town. Officials say they found PVC piping in the tunnel, which was probably used to aid Chapo's breathing while he was in the tunnel.
KAHN: It was just tall enough that he could - a little bit higher than he was so he didn't even have to bend over to go through the tunnel. He could stand up straight. He is short, that's his nickname, but the tunnel was that high. And then they found some sort of even motor-operated equipment that they said was used to remove all the dirt from the tunnel and it emptied out into this town, which was also at a construction site so maybe that's how they covered up what they were doing. Eighteen people are under arrest and detained and brought into Mexico City that are - that were workers in the prison.
NEARY: Wow, yeah, so it sounds like he must've had some help. So tell us more about Guzman and the Sinaloa cartel.
KAHN: The Sinaloa cartel is the largest in Mexico and even despite Guzman's arrest last year, it still is the strongest and biggest one in Mexico and has reaches all the way to Europe and even to Australia. He was once on Forbes most powerful list, and it estimated his personal fortune over a billion dollars. The Sinaloa cartel is believed to control nearly all the land border crossings into the U.S. and is the largest provider of marijuana, meth and cocaine into the U.S. And Guzman is under indictment and in sealed indictments in many towns - cities in the United States. And officials in the U.S. have wanted to extradite him ever since his arrest last year.
NEARY: Yeah, and that was a pretty spectacular enterprise. The dragnet that led to his arrest involved intelligence and help from U.S. agents. Give us a little more information about that.
KAHN: It was quite a spectacular arrest. And what is El Chapo Guzman's trademark - he avoided arrest and capture by agents through tunnels. There was just an elaborate display of tunnels in the capital of his hometown - of his home state, Sinaloa. And he was able to elude escape for a couple days, and then he was finally caught in a condominium with his wife and his twin daughters in Mazatlan. And that was last year, and officials were just elated and practically giddy in their press conferences as they told us about the spectacular arrest in this manhunt. It was quite a different scene when these same officials had to get up before the mics and before reporters and discuss what happened today.
NEARY: NPR's Carrie Kahn in Mexico City. Thanks, Carrie.
KAHN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.