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Drug lord's extradition to US will 'not happen soon'

Updated: 2014-02-27 07:20
By Agencies in Mexico City ( China Daily)

Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin Guzman won a temporary injunction to block his extradition to the United States where he faces narcotics and arms trafficking charges, a federal judge ruled on Tuesday.

Guzman, who was Mexico's most-wanted criminal and boss of the feared Sinaloa cartel, was caught in the beach resort of Mazatlan with help from US agents in a pre-dawn raid on Saturday.

The dramatic capture brought to a close his time as one of the world's most notorious organized crime bosses, and was a major victory for the Mexican government in a long, brutal war that has killed more than 80,000 people since 2007.

The day after Guzman's arrest, the spokesman for a US federal prosecutor said he planned to seek the drug kingpin's extradition to face trial in the US, but it is still unclear whether that will happen, and extradition proceedings can take years to complete.

On Monday, Guzman's lawyers filed an injunction to block any move to extradite him to the US. The injunction was approved on Tuesday, but it remains unclear how long it will last, raising the possibility that the drug lord could remain in Mexico for a while.

"As long as the judge presides over the legal process, he can't be extradited," a court official who spoke on condition of anonymity said.

Jesus Murillo, Mexico's attorney general, said on Tuesday that Guzman's potential extradition will be analyzed by the government, but that he does not expect a quick resolution.

"I do not think it will happen soon," Murillo said in a radio interview.

Mexico's top prosecutor added that he received a phone call on Monday from his US counterpart, Attorney General Eric Holder, who he said mentioned the possibility of extraditing Guzman.

Past extradition cases have dragged on for years.

Due to widespread corruption in the ranks of Mexico's court system and police, many major drug traffickers have been turned over to face US prosecution and imprisonment.

In 2007, suspected Sinaloa trafficker Sandra Avila, known as "the Queen of the Pacific", was arrested in Mexico but was not extradited until five years later.

After she pleaded guilty in the United States and was jailed for a year, Avila was returned to Mexico last year where she was tried again and imprisoned a second time.

Guzman, 56, is being held in the Altiplano prison in Mexico, outside the capital. He gave a brief statement to a judge on Sunday and is being kept in a cell alone in a maximum security area.

Guzman escaped from a Mexican prison in 2001, where he continued to lead his lucrative drug-running business, with the help of some of his jailers.

The US had a $5 million bounty on Guzman's head. His cartel has smuggled billions of dollars of cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine into the US, and fought brutal turf wars with other gangs across Mexico.

In addition to facing multiple criminal charges in Mexico, Guzman also faces charges in Illinois, New York and Texas.

The Mexican government says there is no way Guzman will repeat the 2001 escape that let him roam western Mexico for 13 years as he moved billions of dollars of narcotics around the world. Authorities say they want to be the first to interrogate Guzman and use the information to dismantle his cartel, a multibillion-dollar enterprise that dominates drug trafficking in much of Mexico and stretches into 54 countries.