Drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, Mexico's most powerful drug lord, escaped sometime Saturday night from a maximum-security prison through a sophisticated mile-long clandestine passageway, authorities announced Sunday, reports the Los Angeles Times.
He had often used tunnels, as well as bribes and murder, to stay steps ahead of the law during his last decade on the lam. Yet, after his capture last year, the president of Mexico said losing him again would be "unpardonable."
It is the second time Guzman, head of the Sinaloa cartel, Mexico's largest and most lucrative trafficker of heroin, cocaine and marijuana, has been able to flee jail. The first time was 2001, from a different prison, when he famously hid in a laundry cart, and he remained a fugitive — albeit sometimes a public one — until his arrest last year.
Authorities launched a massive manhunt late Saturday after discovering Guzman’s disappearance from the Altiplano prison about 50 miles west of the capital. Soldiers occupied Mexico City’s international airport and roadblocks were set up at numerous spots in the area. The search extended across several states and beyond Mexico’s borders.
More than 30 prison guards and other employees were detained for questioning.
U.S. officials had sought Guzman’s extradition, in part for precisely the fear that he would take advantage of the weak, corrupt Mexican justice system to continue his trafficking business and even, eventually, break out.