MEXICO has begun the process of extraditing drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman to the United States after the famed fugitive was recaptured.
The extradition process will probably take “one year or longer”, the head of Mexico’s extradition office, Manuel Merino, told Radio Formula.
He said the process had lasted as long as six years, in one case because of legal challenges.
On Sunday, agents formally notified Guzman that he was wanted in the United States.
In a statement, the Attorney General’s Office said Mexican agents assigned to the international police agency Interpol served two arrest warrants to the drug lord, who is being held at the Altiplano prison following his capture by Mexican marines on Friday.
Guzman’s defence now has three days to present arguments against extradition and 20 days to present supporting evidence, beyond the plethora of other appeals they have already started filing.
Guzman’s powerful Sinaloa cartel smuggles multi-tonne shipments of cocaine and marijuana, as well as manufacturing and transporting methamphetamines and heroin, mostly to the US.
He is wanted in various US states and his July escape deeply embarrassed the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto and strained ties between the countries.
Guzman’s lawyer, Juan Pablo Badillo, says the defence has already filed six motions to challenge extradition requests and that his client shouldn’t be extradited to the US because “our country must respect national sovereignty, the sovereignty of its institutions to impart justice”.
Mexico’s willingness to extradite Guzman is a sharp turnaround from the last time he was captured in 2014, when then-Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam said the extradition would happen only after he finished his sentence in Mexico in “300 or 400 years”.
Guzman was reapprehended on Friday after a shootout between gunmen and Mexican marines at the home in Los Mochis, a seaside city in Guzman’s home state of Sinaloa. Five suspects were killed and six others arrested. One marine was injured.
Mexican authorities say actor Sean Penn’s contacts with Guzman helped them track the fugitive down — even if he slipped away from an initial raid on the hide-out where the Hollywood actor apparently met him.