On Saturday, notorious Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin Guzman, known as “El Chapo,” walked into a shower stall at the maximum security prison and never came out. Officials later discovered a nearly mile-long tunnel had been dug under the prison, ending at an empty house. William Brangham reports.
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Mexican officials have launched a nationwide manhunt, after that country's most-infamous drug lord escaped from a maximum security prison on Saturday. The escape triggered a wave of criticism that authorities had let public enemy number one in Mexico's drug war get away.
William Brangham has the latest.
This abandoned house is where Mexican authorities say drug kingpin Joaquin Guzman, known as El Chapo, escaped to freedom.
Guzman was being held in this maximum security prison, but on Saturday night, he reportedly walked into a shower stall, and never came out. Officials discovered a long narrow tunnel had been dug under the prison that ran nearly a mile away to the empty house.
Guzman is the most notorious drug lord in Mexico, and possibly the world. He runs the Sinaloa Cartel, a global network that traffics marijuana, heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamines. They're also responsible for thousands of killings in Mexico's brutal near-decade-old drug war.
This was Guzman's second escape from a Mexican prison. He escaped in 2001, but was recaptured in 2014. That arrest was held up as proof by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto that his nation was finally cracking down on the cartels and reining in the violence. But this second escape was seen as particularly damaging for the president, who was on a state visit to France when the news broke.
PRESIDENT ENRIQUE PENA NIETO, Mexico (through interpreter):
I am deeply shocked by what happened. This is undoubtedly an affront to the Mexican government, but I am also confident that Mexican institutions will rise to the challenge, with the strength and determination to recapture this criminal.
U.S. officials had long wanted to extradite Guzman to the United States to stand trial, but Mexican authorities resisted the transfer.
Today, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the U.S. is helping in the search.
JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary:
He faces very serious crimes, not just in Mexico, but he's been charged with some very serious crimes in the United States as well. The United States will support the efforts of the Mexican government to bring him to justice. WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Back in Mexico, officials are still investigating the details of El Chapo's escape and questioning dozens of prison employees. In the meantime, a massive manhunt continues.