Mexico’s Fugitive Former Governor Javier Duarte Taken into Custody

Javier Duarte, under custody of Guatemalan authorities, is awaiting formal extradition to Mexico. Source: Prensa Libre

Javier Duarte, under custody of Guatemalan authorities, is awaiting formal extradition to Mexico. Source: Prensa Libre

05/8/17 (written by Lucy Clement La Rosa) – The Guatemalan National Civil Police (Policía Nacional Civil, PNC) detained former governor of Mexico’s Veracruz state, Javier Duarte de Ochoa, on the evening of April 15 in Panajachel, Sololá, Guatemala. Duarte has been a fugitive of Mexico since October 2016, evading allegations of money laundering by the federal Attorney General’s Office of Mexico (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR).

According to Manuel Noriega, deputy director of Interpol in Guatemala, Duarte was found at a hotel in Panajachel. Mexican officials informed Duarte that he had been found and requested that he give himself up to the Guatemalan authorities. Duarte did so voluntarily. Observing diplomatic relations with the PGR, the detention was conducted as a joint operation between the PNC and Guatemala’s Interpol office.

Duarte was taken to the military prison, Matamoros, in Guatemala City. He will remain there until Mexico presents a formal request for extradition to the federal Attorney General’s office of Guatemala. Mexico will have 60 days to request Duarte’s extradition. The PGR released information on the day of Duarte’s arrest confirming that they intend to pursue extradition. Furthermore, the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI) expressed their public support of the Guatemalan authorities and their role in detaining Duarte.

Duarte is not the only PRI-affiliated politician that has been charged with allegations of corruption in recent weeks. Former Mexican state governor of Tamaulipas, Tomás Yarrington, was captured in early April by Italian authorities on charges of corruption in response to a U.S. extradition request, which was an embarrassment to Mexican authorities. César Duarte, who was also wanted for similar charges of corruption was captured just a week later by Mexican authorities.

Institutional Corruption in Mexico

Since disappearing six months ago, Duarte became a regional symbol of institutional corruption in Mexico. A former public official of the PRI, Duarte was accused of corruption and misappropriating state funds through his position in public office. The PGR began investigating these accusations in July of 2016.

Javier Duarte, some months before he fled Mexico, standing outside of PRG headquarters in Mexico City. Source: The New York Times

Javier Duarte, some months before he fled Mexico, standing outside of PGR headquarters in Mexico City.
Source: The New York Times

By September, Mexican authorities believed that Duarte used false identities and phantom companies to relocate public funds for personal benefit, which included acquiring over a dozen vacation homes. One month later, local congressional authorities reported that financial irregularities tied to Duarte’s dealings in 2015 accounted for more than $16,000 million Mexican pesos (about $850 million USD).

Duarte, who served as governor of Veracruz for nearly six years, resigned on October 12, 2016. One week later, a federal judge issued a warrant for his arrest. Although he publicly denied all charges, Duarte fled Mexico before he could be detained.

Duarte was expelled from the PRI on October 25, 2016 and soon after; the PGR offered $15 million pesos for information leading to his whereabouts. Additionally, President Enrique Peña Nieto condemned Duarte’s actions before Mexico’s Supreme Court of the Nation (Suprema Corte de Justicia de la Nación).

Although Javier Duarte has not denied the allegations pursuant to his imminent extradition, he has refused immediate and voluntary repatriation, requesting that Mexico formally pursue his extradition. According to César García, the Guatemalan judge presiding over Duarte’s extradition, this process may take anywhere from four to six months.

Sources

Malkin, Elisabeth and Paulina Villegas. “Warrant for Mexican Ex-Official, Now on the Run, Is Seen as a Step in Graft Fight. The New York Times. October 20, 2016.

“Javier Duarte, exgobernador prófugo de Veracruz, fue detenido en Guatemala.” Univisión. April 15, 2017.

“Fugitive Mexican Ex-Gov. Javier Duarte Detained in Guatemala.” The New York Times. April 15,2017.

“Javier Duarte, exgobernador de Veracruz, capturado en Guatemala, fue recluido en Matamoros. “Prensa Libre. April 16, 2017.

“Javier Duarte, recluido en cárcel militar Matamoros, Guatemala.” Diario de Xalapa. April 16, 2017.

Ramos, Jerson and Mynor Toc. “Javier Duarte rechaza ser extraditado a México.” Prensa Libre. April 19, 2017.

“La detención de Javier Duarte, lo más viral de la semana.” El Universal. April 22, 2017.

 

 

 

El Chapo extradited to United States

El Chapo's extradition

Seen here, El Chapo was extradited to the United States on January 19, 2017. Photo: Associated Press.

01/24/17 (written by kheinle) – One year after the arrest of Sinaloa Cartel kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán on January 8, 2016, the Mexican government extradited the notorious drug lord to the United States. Guzmán landed in Long Island, New York on Thursday, January 19, 2017 where he faces charges of organized crime, murder, and drug trafficking, as well as illegal use of firearms, money-laundering, and torture, among others.

Although seven U.S. jurisdictions have charges open against him, including Southern California and Chicago, Guzmán will be prosecuted in Brooklyn, NY in the state’s Eastern District Court on a 17-count indictment. According to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), “the indictment alleges that between January 1989 and December 2014, Guzman Loera led a continuing criminal enterprise responsible for importing into the United States and distributing massive amounts of illegal narcotics and conspiring to murder persons who posed a threat to Guzman Loera’s narcotics enterprise.”

The Road to Extradition

The DOJ has sought Guzmán’s extradition for years, but the Mexican government did not agree to do so until the requests for the kingpin’s turnover until it approved the most recent application on May 11, 2016, putting the process officially in motion. The decision to approve the extradition was likely influenced by Guzmán’s repeated ability to evade the Mexican government, having escaped from prison in 2001 and again in 2015. Mexico’s inability to securely hold Guzmán was not only a source of public ridicule, but it also undermined rule of law in a country working to establish a stronger judicial system and solidify democratic practices. Still, the extradition came as a surprise on both sides of the border. According to The New York Times, the U.S. government, for example, was reportedly not aware of Guzmán’s extradition until hours before his arrival in NY. Guzmán’s lawyer, José Refugio Rodríguez, was also unaware of his client’s departure, having arrived to the Mexican prison where Guzmán was detained to meet with his client only to find his extradition already underway. “I was supposed to visit him today,” said Refugio. “I know nothing about this.”

El Chapo's extradition

El Chapo was arraigned in the Eastern District Court in New York following his extradition. Photo: Univisión.

Some speculate that the secretive nature surrounding the extradition may be part of a bigger political message being sent from Mexico to the United States. In fact, Guzmán landed in NY just hours before President Donald Trump’s inauguration, meaning he was technically extradited to the United States under President Barak Obama, who was seen in Mexico as a strong ally. A U.S. law enforcement official told The New York Times that the extradition’s last minute timing was possibly “politically motivated.” In early January, Justice in Mexico Director David Shirk told the Dallas Morning Times that “Mexico’s willingness to extradite Chapo Guzmán is going to diminish on January 21” once Trump was in the Oval Office. Jorge Chabat, a security expert at Mexico’s Center for Research and Teaching in Economics (Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas, CIDE), noted that Mexico may have been trying to underscore the benefits of cooperation. “By not waiting to send [Guzmán] to Trump after the inauguration,” he said, “it is a subtle statement saying, ‘We could this for you, too, in the future, if we have a good relationship.” Nevertheless, the Mexican Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR) denied such claims. “It has nothing to do with [U.S. presidential turnover,” said PGR Director Alberto Elías Beltrán. He continued, “Everything was handled through terms following international law because we had to promptly make the delivery of the person requested by the United States. Had we not, we would have been out of compliance with international treaties.”

Regardless of the motivation, Guzmán’s extradition is a significant milestone in the war on drugs and the overall U.S.-Mexico bilateral relationship.

Sources:

Dresser, Denise. “El Chapo(teadero).” Reforma. January 11, 2016.

“The legal battle over El Chapo’s potential extradition.” Justice in Mexico. January 23, 2016.

Levinson, Jonathan. “NAFTA benefits more than just trade, but it needs to be changed,” Dallas Morning News, January 10, 2017.

Ahmed, Azam. “El Chapo, Mexcan Drug Kingpin, Is Extradited to U.S.” The New York Times. January 19, 2017.

“Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán es extraditado a Estados Unidos.” Univisión. January 19, 2017.

Office of Public Affairs. “Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán Loera Faces Charges in New York for Leading a Continuing Criminal Enterprise and other Drug-Related Charges.” U.S. Department of Justice. January 20, 2017.

U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York. “Memorandum of Law in Support of Pretrial Detention.” U.S. Department of Justice. January 20, 2017.

The legal battle over El Chapo’s potential extradition

Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán arrested on January 8, 2016 in Sinaloa. Photo: Alfredo Dominguez, La Jornada.

Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán arrested on January 8, 2016 in Sinaloa. Photo: Alfredo Dominguez, La Jornada.

01/23/16 (written by kheinle) — Just two weeks after the January 8th arrest of the world’s most wanted drug lord, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, in the Mexican state of Sinaloa, much has been speculated about how his case will unfold. This is the third time El Chapo, head of the powerful Sinaloa Cartel, has been captured, having twice before broken out of prison in Mexico, once in 2001 and again in 2015. After the most recent arrest, El Chapo returned to the maximum-security prison, Altiplano, from where he escaped in 2015 via an underground tunnel below his cell that stretched nearly a mile long leading away from prison grounds.

When news broke of El Chapo’s arrest in 2016, many took to social media, reacting with questions of how long until he would escape again and how long until another mishandling of a high profile case would embarrass the Peña Nieto administration. Although Mexican authorities reiterated Guzmán is securely detained, many have demanded on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border that El Chapo be extradited to the United States, not only because he faces charges in seven U.S. jurisdictions for organized crime, murder, and drug trafficking, but also to ensure the Mexican judiciary system does not permit another escape. Mexico’s justice system is perceived as being notoriously corrupt, a label it is working to overturn through its implementation of the New Criminal Justice System (Nuevo Sistema de Justicia Penal, NSJP). While that system continues to be rolled out, however, critics are quick to note the government’s inability to securely hold El Chapo not once, but twice. For her part, Political Analyst Denise Dresser called for El Chapo’s immediate extradition to the United States “before his legal battle ensnares that possibility… Catching [El Chapo] again,” Dresser continued, “doesn’t mean recognizing or remedying or reforming. So many systems failed during the second escape that it’s too big to be circumstantial. The coincidence is too coincidental. That’s why he should be taken out of a prison, security, information, and criminal investigation systems that has repeatedly shown its weaknesses, even if the President and his team deny it.”

Although the Mexican Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General de la República, PGR) did begin the extradition process on January 9, a day after El Chapo’s arrest, that could take anywhere from six months to a year or more. There is also the real possibility that extradition never happens if El Chapo’s legal team, led by Mexican Attorney Juan Pablo Badillo, succeeds in filing motions and injunctions (amparos) to suspend the requests for extradition. Doing so means El Chapo’s case must first be heard before a judge to determine his eligibility for extradition, a process that could be expedited if the Peña Nieto administration intervened, reports El País. However, opponents of Dresser’s calls for immediate extradition argue that doing so would reflect poorly on the Mexican government and its ability to function effectively. “It would be an error to extradite him now,” commented Eduardo Guerrero, a national security analyst and former intelligence analyst for President Felipe Calderón (2006-2012). “It would show that Mexico is very vulnerable.” Nevertheless, Guerrero said, the PGR needs to tread carefully in El Chapo’s case to ensure there are no legal missteps.

While the legal battle continues, the three key U.S. jurisdictions pursuing his extradition—San Diego, Chicago, and New York City—continue to vie for position to have his case heard. According to a former high-ranking official in the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), Carl Pike, the case will likely go to the jurisdiction with “the highest chance of success.”

Sources:

“Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán Loera Recaptured by Mexican Marines.” Justice in Mexico. January 8, 2016.

Beauregard, Luis Pablo. “México no extraditará a ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán en el corto plazo.” El País. January 10, 2016.

Bennett, Brian and Deborah Bonello. “Prosecutors in these seven U.S. courtrooms want ‘El Chapo.’” The Los Angeles Times. January 11, 2016.

Dresser, Denise. “El Chapo(teadero).” Reforma. January 11, 2016.

Translation by Izar-Shea, Ruby. “Mexico Drug War: Arrest of ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán Doesn’t End Government Complicity with Criminals.” Mexico Voices. January 11, 2016.

“Mexico starts proceedings to extradite Guzman to US.” The Associated Press. January 11, 2016.

Press Release: Comunicado 020/16. “Como parte del procedimiento de extradición de Joaquín Guzmán Loera, la Procuraduría General de la República informa.” Procuraduría General de la República. January 11, 2016. 

The Associated Press. “Mexico Begins Legal Process Against Guzman’s Security Chief.” ABC News. January 14, 2016.

Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera Recaptured by Mexican Marines

1/8/16 (written by rkuckertz and lcalderon) – According to a late-morning announcement from President Enrique Peña Nieto’s Twitter feed, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera, the Sinaloa cartel druglord recently made infamous for his subterranean escape in July from the Altiplano federal prison, has been captured. President Peña Nieto’s tweet read: “Mission accomplished: we have him.” Soon after the President’s online announcement, law enforcement sources confirmed this news to various media outlets, such as leading Mexican newspaper El Universal. The Mexican Navy subsequently made a statement regarding the recapture of Guzmán, saying that marines were acting on an anonymous tip from a concerned citizen regarding armed men in a nearby home in Los Mochis, a coastal town in Guzmán’s home state of Sinaloa.
PenaNieto1

According to the Navy’s statement, the mission began after 5:00am Friday morning when authorities entered the Los Mochis home. Upon entering, they were fired at from inside the building and as a result, five suspects were killed and six were arrested. Orso Ivan Gastelum Cruz, a prominent regional drug trafficker, managed to escape. Marines confiscated two armored vehicles, eight long guns, one handgun and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher. In a second tweet, President Peña Nieto called Guzmán’s recapture an “important achievement in favor of the Rule of Law of Mexico.”

PenaNieto2

It is still uncertain if Guzmán Leora will be extradited to the United States following this recapture. After Guzmán Leora was captured for the second time in 2014, President Enrique Peña Nieto declined a U.S. request for the extradition of the Sinaloa cartel druglord. In an interview with Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam in January 2015, Murillo Karam told The Associated Press, “I could accept extradition but at the time that I choose. El Chapo must stay here to complete his sentence and then I will extradite him,” he continues, “So about 300 or 400 years later — it will be a while.”

However, the United States proceeded with another request for extradition in late June of 2015, which the Mexican Attorney General granted three weeks after Guzmán Leora’s July escape. Shortly after, Guzmán Loera’s lawyer filed a request for injunction against the Attorney General’s order, resulting in the suspension of the order. As a result of the suspension, Guzmán Loera may not be directly handed over to U.S. authorities; instead, he must first receive a trial in Mexico to determine whether or not he will be extradited to the United States to face further charges. Guzmán Loera faces charges in seven U.S. jurisdictions including Brooklyn, Texas, Illinois, Chicago, New Mexico, Texas, Miami, and San Diego.

In order to place Guzmán Loera’s recent recapture into a broader context, we have provided below a general timeline of his activities prior to his leadership of the Sinaloa cartel through his most recent escape from the Altiplano federal prison.

Guzmán’s involvement in the drug trafficking world began in the 1980’s when he worked for the major drug kingpin in Mexico at that time: Miguel Angel Félix Gallardo, founder of the Guadalajara cartel. Guzmán Loera was in charge of the logistics and operations of the cartel at a time where Mexican drug traffickers were middlemen for Colombian drug cartels to get to the U.S. market. In 1985, Félix Gallardo sent his men, including Guzmán, to kidnap, torture, and kill DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena for his undercover work as an informant in the cartel for the U.S. government.

Félix Gallardo was then arrested in 1989 and the territories that once belonged to the Guadalajara cartel had to be divided, leaving Guzmán Loera as one of the founders of the Sinaloa Cartel, along with Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada and “El Guero” Palma. At this time, two other major cartels were formed: the Tijuana Cartel under the Arellano Félix brothers and the Juárez Cartel under Amado Carrillo Fuentes.

Under his leadership, the Sinaloa cartel developed creative smuggling techniques and strategies, including building air-conditioned tunnels under the Mexico-U.S. border, hiding drugs in chili pepper cans and fire extinguishers, and catapulting drugs over the border. He diversified the cartel’s production to include various kinds of illicit drugs like heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine.

On June 9, 1993, Guzmán Loera was arrested for the first time by the Guatemalan Army at a hotel close to the border with Mexico. He was then extradited to Mexico to be kept at the Federal Social Readaptation Center #1, a “maximum-security” prison often called “Altiplano.” In 1995 he was transferred to the maximum-security prison in Puente Grande, Jalisco. Even while in prison, “El Chapo” remained as one of the most powerful drug kingpins in Mexico, and sources declare he was referred to as “El Jefe” (The Boss) or “Don Joaquin” (Mr. Joaquin) and enjoyed many privileges such as having a personal cellphone.

In 2001 he escaped using a laundry cart with the help of Javier Camberos, a prison guard. Official reports suggest that there were at least 70 people involved in this escape.

On September 2001, the U.S. started asking for Guzmán’s capture and extradition to face charges of money laundering and conspiracy in a court in California. The U.S. government started to see Guzmán Loera as a priority target in its war on drugs. In 2004 it announced a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest. In 2012 the U.S. Department of the Treasury called for the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act to freeze the U.S. assets of members of his family.

On February 22nd 2014, “El Chapo” was finally apprehended again by the Mexican Navy in Mazatlán, Sinaloa with the aid of the DEA and Marshall Services. Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto declined the American request to extradite Guzmán Loera, assuring the U.S. government he wouldn’t escape again.

Sources:

Ahmed, Azam. “El Chapo, Escaped Drug Lord, Has Been Recaptured, Mexican President Says.” The New York Times. 8 January 2016.

Agren, David and Doug Stanglin. “Fugitive Mexican drug kingpin ‘El Chapo’ captured.” USA Today. 8 January 2015.

Schuppe, Jon and Mark Potter. NBC News. “El Chapo: Notorious Mexican Drug Kingpin Captured by Authorities.” 8 January 2016.

“México recaptura al narcotraficante Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.” El Universal. 8 January 2016.

“Ni se fuga ni lo extradito, dijo Murillo Karam; “El Chapo” se amparó ese día; luego se fugó.” Sin Embargo. 14 July 2015.

Flores Martínez, Raúl. “Defensa de ‘El Chapo’ pide amparo contra extradición.” Excelsior. 31 July 2015.

Tuckman, Jo. “El Chapo’s escape was spurred by concern over extradition, lawyer says.” The Guardian. 25 August 2015.

“Looking back at Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzman’s escape from prison.” Justice in Mexico. 28 August 2015.

“Un juez mexicano abre vía a la extradición de El Chapo si lo atrapan.” El País. 31 July 2015.

Aldrich, Ian. “Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán Loera Biography.” The biography. N/A

Munro, André. “Joaquín Guzmán Loera Mexican Criminal.” Britannica. 8 January 2016.

‘La Barbie’ extradited to the US

Mexican federal police escort Edgar "La Barbie" Valdez in Mexico City on August 31, 2010. Source: Reuters. "Mexico Extradites Alleged Drug Lord 'La Barbie' to U.S, Newsweek. September 30, 2015.

Mexican federal police escort Edgar “La Barbie” Valdez in Mexico City on August 31, 2010.
Source: Reuters. “Mexico Extradites Alleged Drug Lord ‘La Barbie’ to U.S, Newsweek. September 30, 2015.

10/01/15 (written by alagorio) – On September 30, 2015 thirteen defendants were extradited to the United States. Among the thirteen were two top drug lords, Edgar Valdez Villarreal, known as “La Barbie”, and Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sánchez, known as “El Coss”. The extradition demonstrates the increased collaboration between the U.S. government and the Peña Nieto administration. Originally in Mexico there were numerous objections to extraditing criminals to the United States. Nevertheless, the current extradition signals that there is the hope for a more open security policy between Mexico and the United States in the future.

After the extradition was announced, U.S. Attorney General Lorreta Lynch expressed that, “Today’s extraditions would not have been possible without the close collaboration and productive relationship the Department of Justice enjoys with officials at the highest levels of law enforcement in Mexico”. The collaboration has helped foster further dialogue between U.S. and Mexican law enforcement to seek justice for crimes such as, drug trafficking and murder that have occurred in the U.S. Nevertheless, there are still some open-ended questions to answer that explain the future for the shift in the extradition process. For example, BBC Mundo cites that there are some detainees who were extradited that did not have any criminal charges against them.

Valdez of the Beltrán Leyva cartel is a U.S. citizen who was born in Texas. Author Azam Ahmed of The New York Times explains that the most serious charges against Valdez are murdering an American Consulate worker and an immigration and customs agent. Also, Valdez is responsible for contributing to some of the most gruesome violence in Mexico, which includes, beheading rival gang members and videotaping executions. He is wanted in Louisiana and Georgia for drug related crimes but remained incarcerated in Mexico since 2010. His extradition will allow the United States to carry out the charges against him, especially for the cases of murdered U.S. workers.

The extraditions expose a powerful pivot in the original platform of the Peña Nieto administration’s denial of extraditing criminals to the United States. As reported by The New York Times, since 2012 Peña Nieto has been a strong opponent of letting the U.S. government be too involved in security matters. Nevertheless, the Mexican government felt an extreme pressure to work with the U.S. after the prison escape of “El Chapo” Guzman three months ago. Guzman’s escape caused a greater call for the U.S. to be allowed to try and imprison some of the most dangerous drug lords in Mexico. Also, the prison break showed that the Mexican prison system can be easily corrupted and that it is not able to maintain high-level prisoners.

The Mexican governments extradition of the thirteen detainees demonstrate that a new chapter in the relationship between the U.S. in Mexico has begun. After the escape of “El Chapo” Guzman the Mexican government has experienced international pressure to extradite criminals that the prison system cannot house effectively. In light of this, the United States government is helping Mexico secure the most wanted criminals in both countries.

Ahmed, Azam. “Mexico, Signaling Shift, Extradites Drug Kingpins to United States.” The New York Times. September 30, 2015.

Paullier Juan. “México extradita a “La Barbie” y a “El Coss” a EE.UU.” BBC Mundo.” September 30, 2015.

Bruton, Brinley F. “Mexico Extradites Alleged Drug Lord ‘La Barbie,’ 12 Others to U.S.” NBC News. October 1, 2015.