Mexico: cover-up claimed in El Chapo escape

The Mexican interior ministry, known as Gobernación, was on Sept. 15 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"—for more than 10 years the country's most-wanted fugitive. 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 is now revealed to incude "drilling sounds" in the background, incdicating 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 occassions—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 authoriites 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 hiscommittee 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.

Encinas is pointing to CISEN, the National Penitentiary System and the National Secuirty 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. The new revelations may prompt the PGR to cast the net much wider. (Excelsior, Sept. 17; The Telegraph, Sept. 15; Reuters, July 18)

Cross-post to High Times and Global Ganja Report