San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Crime

El Chapo's lawyer says drug lord wants quick extradition to US

MEXICO CITY — Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán has asked his lawyers to speed up his extradition to the United States out of “desperation” over being sleep-deprived in prison, his attorney said Wednesday.

The lawyer, José Refugio Rodríguez, said the defense team would seek to negotiate with U.S. authorities and that it would take at least two months for Guzmán to be shipped to the northern neighbor.

Guzmán made his plea “in a moment of desperation” over his treatment, Rodríguez told AFP.

“He can no longer take this situation.”

Prison authorities acknowledged that Guzmán, 58, is woken up every four hours to make sure he is still alive as part of regular security measures for high-profile inmates.

Guzmán was returned to the Altiplano maximum-security prison after his January 8 recapture, six months after he escaped from the same penitentiary through a 1.5-kilometer-long tunnel.

Authorities have taken extraordinary measures to prevent another embarrassing escape, installing metal rods in the floor to prevent another tunnel dig and posting a guard wearing a camera on his helmet outside the cell.

President Enrique Peña Nieto has also ordered the attorney general’s office to expedite the extradition process, in a reversal after he had refused to send him to the United States prior to Guzmán’s July escape.

Mexico’s attorney general has said it could take at least a year.

An official at the attorney general’s office said on condition of anonymity that the case was in the hands of a court but that Peña Nieto could use a special law to accelerate the process.

Guzmán’s wife, former beauty queen Emma Coronel, told Radio Formula that “if his life is in danger, we will have to do what’s necessary.”

She said that Guzmán’s extradition would not be a “defeat” because she and their twin daughters are U.S. citizens. She gave birth to the girls in California in 2011.

Rights ‘not violated’

Rodríguez told Radio Formula that he saw Guzmán on Tuesday and that the Sinaloa drug cartel leader told him: “Try to get me extradited as fast as possible.”

“Not allowing someone to sleep is an act of torture,” Rodríguez told the radio station. “I saw a desperate man, a dejected man. I found him very discouraged and in a very serious state of health.”

“He is isolated and segregated in a special area, separated from the other inmates. He told me that he was taken to a small room … but he doesn’t see the sun,” the lawyer said.

Rodríguez said last week that Guzmán would be willing to plead guilty in the United States in return for a “relatively reasonable” sentence at a “medium-security” prison.

Two U.S. courts have formally requested Guzmán’s extradition since he was recaptured, with charges of drug trafficking in California and murder in Texas.

Eduardo Guerrero, the head of Mexico’s penitentiary system, said the security measures were part of security protocols for high-profile inmates.

“This protocol in which attendance is called every four hours at night means that the inmate is woken up once for proof of life,” Guerrero told Radio Formula on Tuesday.

“We are not violating the rights and guarantees of any intern subjected to this type of security protocol,” he said.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said recently she was confident that Mexican courts would soon decide on the extradition.

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