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A Mexican judge has ruled that Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán can be extradited to face drug-trafficking charges in the US, the country’s federal court authority said on Monday, Reuters reports.
But a source at the foreign ministry said that nothing was likely to happen for weeks.
Mexico’s Secretariat of Foreign Affairs has 20 days to approve the extradition, and Guzmán’s defense can still appeal the decision, according to The Associated Press.
There are still legal proceedings to be completed, as well as multiple injunctions that Guzmán’s legal team has filed since he was recaptured in January.
Guzmán’s lawyer, Jose Refugio Rodriguez, told the AP that the kingpin’s legal team would have 30 working days to get a court order blocking extradition should the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs approve the transfer. Rodriguez also said that he would keep trying to block the extradition.
Bureaucratic wrangling will likely take place on both sides of the border as well, particularly over where Guzmán will face trial in the US.
US attorneys in six states have indictments pending against the Sinaloa cartel chief, including New York, California, and Florida. The US court in Brooklyn, New York, has emerged as the likely venue.
“The Brooklyn venue offers advantages because a federal detention center that is part of the court complex offers the appropriate level of security, according to the officials,” CNN reported over the weekend, adding:
In Brooklyn, Guzman and other cartel leaders were indicted in 2009 on charges of conspiring to import more than 264,000 pounds of cocaine into the United States between 1990 and 2005, according to the US Justice Department. The traffickers also are accused of sharing drug transportation routes and obtaining their drugs from various Colombian drug organizations.
While Guzmán’s legal team has been putting up a fight to prevent his extradition, the drug lord has indicated that there are some conditions under which he would be willing to go to the US.
He said earlier this year that heightened security and close scrutiny in prison after he was recaptured in January had made his life miserable, and that he would be open to pleading guilty if he was not held in isolation at a maximum-security facility and was able to have visitors.
- AP Photo/Raymundo Ruiz
The judge’s ruling comes two days after Guzmán was suddenly transferred from a jail near Mexico City to one just miles from the US border in the northern city of Ciudad Juarez.
The move was unannounced, and while the Mexican government attributed it to renovations going on at the prison where Guzmán was being held, other experts speculated that Mexican authorities had moved the drug baron to avoid a repeat of the brazen escape he pulled off from the same prison in July 2015.
Reuters reporting by Miguel Angel Gutierrez. This post has been updated with information from The Associated Press.