Mexican drug lord moves to block US extradition

Mexico's powerful drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman sought to prevent extradition bids by the United States, where he faces charges for smuggling massive amounts of cocaine.

Federal prosecutors in New York announced plans to request Guzman's extradition, while several other US cities have indicted him on a slew of other offenses.

The 56-year-old Sinaloa cartel boss is already facing drug trafficking and organized crime charges at home, with a Mexican judge required to decide by Tuesday whether to put him on trial.

Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong said the government is expecting a US request and did not rule out extraditing Guzman.

"The security cabinet will have to meet to decide what's best," Osorio Chong told Radio Formula.

After 13 years on the lam, the 56-year-old drug lord was captured by Mexican marines in the Pacific beach town of Mazatlan on Saturday following a US-backed manhunt that involved cellphone taps and use of a drone.

His beauty-queen wife, Emma Coronel, who is in her mid-20s, and their two-year-old twin daughters were present during the arrest but later set free because "they had absolutely nothing to do with the criminal actions," said Osorio Chong.

Guzman's lawyers filed documents on Sunday and Monday seeking an injunction to prevent any extradition. A Mexican judge must decide whether to approve the injunction.

Legal experts said Guzman could be extradited to the United States before a Mexican trial or after being convicted here. Authorities could also decide to wait until he serves his full sentence in Mexico.

"From the moment that the United States requests the extradition, the foreign ministry had 30 days to decide whether to accept or reject the request," Julio Hernandez Barros, law professor at Iberoamericana University, told AFP.

Raul Benitez Manaut, a security expert at Mexico's National Autonomous University, said Guzman's injunction bid, known as an "amparo," is a tactic "to stay in Mexico and delay the case."

- Escape fears -

The United States had offered a $5 million reward for information leading to Guzman's capture, while the city of Chicago -- one the main destinations for his narcotics -- had branded him "Public Enemy Number One."

A senior US lawmaker, Michael McCaul, has called for his swift extradition to put him in prison in the United States, recalling that Guzman escaped once before in 2001.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the decision whether to pursue extradition "will be the subject of further discussion between the United States and Mexico."

Mexican authorities are holding Guzman in a maximum-security prison located 90 kilometers (55 miles) west of Mexico City, where many of the country's most notorious criminals are held.

Nabbing Guzman, considered the world's biggest drug trafficker, was a major victory in President Enrique Pena Nieto's push to rein in drug violence in his country.

The Sinaloa cartel's turf wars with rival gangs contributed to a wave of drug violence that left more than 77,000 people dead in the past seven years.

- Drone, cellphone -

His arrest capped a months-long operation that resulted in the arrests of a dozen Sinaloa cartel operatives, including alleged bodyguards of Guzman's top associate, Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada.

An American government official told AFP on condition of anonymity that the US Drug Enforcement Administration provided the intelligence that led to the arrest and that "cellphone intercepts" were key.

A US-controlled surveillance drone was used for two weeks between mid-January and mid-February to back up a massive search in the northwestern city of Culiacan, the official said.

One of the world's most wanted men, Guzman had been spending most of his time in the Sinaloa state capital, living in houses with escape tunnels, extra thick walls and steel-reinforced doors, the official said.

Under pressure, he escaped through tunnels under one of his Culiacan houses as the marines closed in on him. He fled south to the tourist city of Mazatlan.

It was there that the marine unit captured him on Saturday, on the fourth floor of a condominium, without firing a shot.

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