Following his arrest on January 8, Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman is being held in the same Altiplano prison he broke out of last July, but this time authorities are taking unusual additional steps to keep the Sinaloa Cartel head behind bars.
Guzman was captured by a squad of marines as he attempted to escape from a safe house in Los Mochis in his mountainous home state of Sinaloa. Five of his men were killed, and one officer was wounded, as ‘El Chapo’ tried to sneak out through a secret passageway leading to the sewers beneath the city.
According to Mexican officials, he became “obsessed” with famous soap actress Kate del Castillo, who he tried to recruit for a biopic about his life. In turn, Del Castillo arranged an interview with Hollywood star Sean Penn, who secretly traveled to Sinaloa, thus producing a “very useful” lead to his whereabouts.
Motion sensors monitor his every move; dogs trained to detect his scent stand guard and prison floors have been reinforced with steel rods. These are just some of the security measures Mexican authorities have taken to make sure ‘El Chapo’ doesn’t break out for a third time.
“He is being moved from cell to cell without a pattern… he is only spending hours or a couple of days in the same cell,” said Eduardo Sanchez, a Mexican government spokesman. “Since he arrived, he has been in eight different cells.”
Tanks and extra armed vehicles have been deployed at the facility, which is reinforced with thick concrete walls to prevent an outside attack.
“Today, conditions in the prison fully comply with international standards,” said a statement from the National Security Commission, which operates the penitentiary system in the country, after its director, along with Mexico’s chief of police, took a four-hour tour of Altiplano.
‘El Chapo’s’ capture in February 2014 year was a major coup for Mexico’s embattled federal government, which is still trying to wrest control of vast territories back from drug cartels. However, as he went about his normal routine while on camera everywhere except the toilet and shower, ‘El Chapo’ plotted his escape.
Over 17 months, his engineers designed and dug a one-mile-long, two-foot-wide tunnel beneath Altiplano, outfitting it with a rail that could be ridden on a specially-mounted motorbike.
“Guzman is in a different, very cold zone of the prison and in complete isolation,” the cartel head’s lawyer, Juan Pablo Badillo, complained to reporters after visiting his client, comparing his current conditions to those he escaped last year.
Mexico says it plans to extradite him to the United States, although officials say the process could take anywhere between one and five years.