Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, during 2014 arrest (Image: CNN, screenshot)
Latin America: Week in Review, Mexico, North America

Senior Prison Officials Fired as Hunt for “El Chapo” Intensifies

July 14, 2015 By Staff

Top Story — The head of Mexico’s prison system as well as two other prison officials, including the director of the Altiplano maximum-security prison from which powerful drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán escaped on Saturday, have been fired, and a $ 3.8 million has been issued for information leading to Guzmán’s capture, according to a press conference held by Minister of the Interior Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong on Monday. Osorio also announced that 34 prison personnel are currently under investigation for their potential involvement in the escape.

Guzmán escaped on Saturday night by entering a 2-by-2-foot hole in the shower stall of the bathroom in his cell, in what was until then considered the most secure prison in the country, from which no other inmate had ever escaped. A security camera was aimed at the cell that, until Saturday, held Altiplano’s most high-profile prisoner. The shower-stall opening gave way to a tunnel nearly a mile long and over five feet high throughout. It included ventilation, lighting and a rail-motorbike that authorities believe was used to transport dirt and excavation material.

Osorio said that officials had to have been involved in the escape plot, and referred to such an act as “treason.” Saturday’s prison break marks the second time that the Sinaloa cartel boss has managed to escape from a Mexican jail — the first having occurred in 2001, when Guzmán was reportedly extricated from Puente Grande prison by hiding in a laundry basket after bribing personnel.

Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto is currently in France for a state visit when news broke of Guzmán’s escape. On Sunday, he issued a statement calling the escape “an affront to the Mexican state.”

Guzmán’s most recent escape dealt a humiliating blow to Peña Nieto’s administration. The capture of Guzmán in February 2014, as well as the apprehension and killing of several high-profile drug lords, have long been considered achievements for a president who has otherwise been embroiled in scandals ranging from improper contract bidding to the disappearance in September of 43 teacher-trainee students in the state of Guerrero.

Headlines from the Western Hemisphere

North America

  • The response to Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán’s escape from prison has been overwhelmingly negative in both Mexico and the United States, with most commentators arguing that the escape speaks to high levels of institutional corruption among the security forces in Mexico.


  • Puerto Rico’s government on Monday met for the first time with bondholders, arguing that the U.S. territory should be allowed to restructure its high levels of debt.
  • At the end of his tour of South America last week, Pope Francis downplayed his role in the historic easing of relations between the U.S. and Cuba, a rapprochement he has received much credit for brokering.

Central America

  • Police in Nicaragua opened fire on an innocent family returning from church in the capital city of Managua during a drug raid Saturday, killing three people and injuring four others.


  • Colombian media on Monday reported that 13 suspects allegedly detained for participating in an ELN bombing of two pension offices in Bogotá were indicted for unrelated offenses, fueling speculation that the Prosecutor General’s office was seeking judicial “false positives” in its investigation of the attacks.
  • Pope Francis stated his support on Monday for peace talks between the Colombian government and leftist rebels, offering to provide Vatican assistance to aid the negotiations.

Southern Cone

  • Representatives of Moody’s Investors Service will visit Brazil this week as part of an extensive review of the country’s credit rating, which many analysts expect will suffer a downgrade, Reuters reports.

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