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'El Chapo' One Step Closer To U.S. After Mexico Approves Extradition

Mexico's most wanted drug lord, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzmán, stands for his prison mug shot at the Altiplano maximum security federal prison in Almoloya, Mexico.

Infamous drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzmán is one step closer to being extradited to the U.S. after Mexico's Foreign Relations Department said the process could go ahead.

A U.S. Department of Justice spokesman said, "We understand that the Mexican Foreign Ministry has now approved our two requests for extradition, following their approval by Mexican courts."

Earlier this month, a Mexican federal judge gave the green-light for the kingpin's extradition, as the Two-Way reported.

Guzmán's lawyers still have appeals they can file, however, and the process could take "weeks or months" to finalize, as The Associated Press reported.

"We are going to do it, but not right away, because it's a process you have to fight with arguments," lawyer Jose Refugio Rodriguez said earlier this week. "We have 30 days."

And as the Two-Way has reported, the head of Mexico's extradition office, Miguel Merino, warned in January that Guzmán's legal team could delay the extradition for four to six years.

NPR's Carrie Kahn reported in January that Guzmán had been "indicted on drug and arms trafficking, money laundering and murder charges in at least six U.S. states."

In total, Guzmán "faces charges from seven U.S. federal prosecutors including in Chicago, New York, Miami and San Diego," The Associated Press reports.

The DOJ says it has agreed not to seek the death penalty, which is consistent with its extradition assurance policies with Mexico.

In July 2015, Guzmán escaped from Mexico's supermax Altiplano prison through a mile-long tunnel. He was recaptured in January, but fears about another possible escape persist, according to former FBI agent Arturo Fontes, who spoke to The Dallas Morning News when Guzmán was transferred to a prison in Juarez earlier this month.

"Either the Mexican government really intends to ship him out to the United States immediately, or something else is afoot," he said. "There are no coincidences here. I'm not buying the government's explanation. For the sake of the Mexican government, they need to extradite him ASAP or risk being a joke again."

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