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Mexico: Cover-Up Claimed in El Chapo Escape

Bill Weinberg

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On Tuesday, the Mexican interior ministry, known as Gobernación, was accused by a senate committee of covering up evidence pointing to official complicity in the July escape of drug kingpin Joaquin Guzmán Loera AKA "El Chapo"—the country's most-wanted fugitive for over 10 years.

Sen. Alejandro Encinas of the left-opposition PRD, who heads the Senate National Security Committee, said that Gobernación had denied him access to video footage from Guzmán's cell—which includes "drilling sounds" in the background, indicating that prison authorities ignored construction work on the tunnel through which Chapo escaped.

"The video exists, and it is crucial in order to identify the extent of complicity in Chapo’s escape," Encinas told the EFE news agency. "Just the fact that the sound of a drill can be heard [on the recording] implies complicity on several levels."

Encinas said Gobernación had concealed the existence of the video from him on two occasions—first when a delegation visited Altiplano prison three days after Chapo's escape, and then in a high-level meeting with government security chiefs including ministry chief Miguel Angel Osorio Chong. Portions of the video, shot just before the escape, were shown at a press conference two days after Chapo flew the coop. But authorities said it indicated nothing unusual.

Then, in early August, news magazine Proceso revealed the existence of the complete video from an internal report by the Prosecutor General of the Republic (PGR). Citing the PGR report, Proceso wrote that "the banging of metal against concrete can be heard in Guzmán Loera's cell during several minutes before he disappears from the security camera shot."

Encinas is now demanding that his committee be allowed access to the full recording, which was made by the Center for Investigation and National Security (CISEN), Mexico's answer to the CIA. He is pointing to CISEN, the National Penitentiary System and theNational Security Commission as answerable in the cover-up. 

"They were evidently complicit in permitting this escape," he charged.

The PGR reported on July 18, just a week after the escape, that seven prison officials had been arrested in its investigation of the jailbreak. The government dismissed the head of Altiplano prison and questioned more than 30 officials over the caper. Those arrested were not named, but these new revelations may prompt the PGR to cast the net much wider.

(Photo Courtesy of Slate)

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