In a country where dramatic prison escapes are not out of the ordinary, drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman has outdone himself. Head of the Sinaloa Cartel, Mexico’s oldest and richest network of traffickers, escaped Saturday night from Mexico’s top security prison, Altiplano, 60 miles outside of Mexico City.
Guzman slipped out through a one-mile long tunnel beneath the shower in his cell; the tunnel was equipped with air vents, electric lights and a motorbike on rails, said Mexico’s National Security spokesman Monte Alejandro Rubido at a news conference in Mexico City, reported Univision.
“Along the tunnel, they found construction tools, oxygen tanks, containers with fuel and plastic tubes among other things,” Rubido said. “The passage came out at a construction site.”
Upon learning Guzman was missing, Mexican authorities closed the nearby Toluca International Airport and have, so far, taken 18 prison guards in for questioning, Rubido said.
This was not Guzman’s first prison escape. After being arrested in 1993, he escaped in 2001 from a maximum-security prison in a laundry cart and was not apprehended again until 2014 by Mexican marines with US law enforcement backup.
His February 2014 arrest was hailed by Mexican and U.S. officials, who had $5 million reward on his head, as a huge blow to the cartels. Mexican officials had refused the U.S.’s request for his extradition, but promised to keep a good eye on him. Guzman’s operations included shipping tons of cocaine, marijuana, heroin and crystal meth into the US, landing him on the Forbes list of billionaires, until 2013 that is when they took issue with the fact that he was using so much of his money to bribe officials and run front businesses. But, he’s still on the Forbes list of world’s most powerful people as “CEO of the Sinaloa cartel.”
Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, 59, nurtured a Robin Hood image in his home state of Sinaloa where musicians have written hundreds of folk ballads about him and other drug capos.
Despite stories of his generosity towards the poor, the Sinaloa Cartel under Guzman has killed thousands to get control of the lucrative trafficking routes in border cities like Tijuana and Ciudad Juarez.
According to Mexico’s federal intelligence agency, since 2007, Mexican drug cartels and security forces assigned to fight them have killed more than 83,000 people.