Mexico's imprisoned top drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán came another step closer to extradition Oct. 20 when a Mexican federal judge in Ciudad Juárez found that the process has been legally sound and turned down five requests for an amparo (or injunction) to halt it. Extradition to face criminal charges in the United States had been approved in May, but suspended later that month by a higher court in Mexico City. The suspension was inteneded to allow the lower court to hear arguments by Guzmán's lawyers that extradition would be unconstitutional. These arguments have now been rejected. Chapo's lawyers were given 10 days to file an appeal.
National Security Commissioner Renato Sales waxed optimistic. In comments picked up by Mexico News Daily, he dismissed the appeals process: "These are but technical and juridical matters. We expect to be ready to extradite him come January or February." Having twice escapedfrom Mexico's top federal lock-ups, Chapo is clearly viewed by authorities as a risk of further embarrassment as long as he remains within the country. Their eagerness to extadite him is evidenced by the fact that Chapo is now being held in Juárez—just over the border fom El Paso, Tex.
Chapo's lawyers, in turn, sounded defiant. José Refugio Rodríguez Nuñez, a member of the kingpin's legal team, zapped back at Renato Sales: "He can calculate and have a personal opinion. The way I see it, it will be rather difficult to have the issue done by January. We have been instructed by Guzmán to fight until the end to avoid his extradition."
The legal team is also playing the sympathy card. Attorney Silvia Delgado told EFE that Chao is sinking into depression at the prospect of being sent to the US, and that prison authorities are only giving him one-fourth of the anti-anxiety medication doctors have prescribed. Said Delgado after a visit: "He put a lot of emphasis on his health. He says he wouldn't make an attempt on his own life for the sake of his two daughters, but he urged us to help him with his health."
Chapo's wife, Emma Coronel, also filed a complaint with Mexico's National Human Rights Commission complaining that her conjugal visits with the imprisoned narco-lord have been cut from four to two hours. She also asserted that he is being denied visits by lawyers and family members, being subjected to torture, and that he is on the brink of losing his mind.
Hardly surprisingly, being a judge on this case is proving unhealthy. On Oct. 17, Vicente Bermudez Zacarias, the judge who had suspended Chapo's extradition back in May, was shot dead in an ambush by a black-clad assailant while jogging near his home in Metepec, west of Mexico City.