"El Chapo" Guzman: U.S. Makes New Push for Extradition

Mexico's Attorney General last week said he believed the U.S. was hours away from filing a new extradition request for Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman. His lawyers immediately filed a new request a writ of Amparo seeking protection from extradition.

It's all very confusing, since the news and the court filings are in Spanish and Google translate does not do a good job of translating legal terms. I'm reprinting the summary of the court's order below from the court's website, and hoping someone can respond in comments as to whether I'm reporting this correctly. [More...]

He first submitted the request to the court in the Federal Circuit's 16th District Court of Administrative Matters, which is a civil court. The judge accepted the filing, but ruled the court didn't have jurisdiction because the matter was essentially criminal, and sent it on to the court in the 10th District that handles Amparo requests in criminal matters. Some news reports from Mexico say it was granted, others say it was accepted.

I tracked down the 10th District order, but only a "sinthesis" is provided. Here's what it says in Spanish. (Scroll to case no. 59/2015 dated 1/22/15, click on "Ver Sinthesis.")

Núm. de Expediente: 59/2015
Fecha del Acuerdo: 22/01/2015

Síntesis: mesa iv.- se acepta la competencia declinada.. se acusa recibo.. se ordena girar exhorto se requiera al quejoso para que manifieste si ratifica la demanda promovida a su favor por andrés granado flores, apercibido que de no hacerlo se tendrá por no presentada.. asi mismo lo requiera para que al momento de la notificación o en el término de tres días legalmente copmputados señale domicilio para oír y recibir notificaciones dentro de la jurisdicción de este juzgado, lo aperciba que de no hacerlo las notificaciones que se hagan en el presente sumario se harán por medio de lista..se hace del conocimiento de las partes que a partir del veintiséis de enero de dos mil quince, la sede de éste juzgado será en avenida insurgentes sur, número 2065, piso 9 ala "a" colonia san ángel, delegación álvaro obregón, c.p. 01000, méxico distrito federal.

I also tracked down what appears to be the the case docket for the writ.

My Spanish is not good enough to understand what it says. My best guess is that it says his request for a writ was accepted, and the court ordered that if Mexico has received a request for extradition, it must be produced so that El Chapo can challenge it and have a hearing before extradition is granted. If they don't present the extradition documents, they "warn" something will happen, but I can't tell what that is. I think it adds that if no extradition request has been received by a certain date, the case will be dismissed as there nothing to adjudicate.

One reason I'm perplexed is that Mexico is not Colombia of the 1980's, where a request would come in and the person (Carlos Lehder, for example) would be put on a plane without any judicial process. Many of those who have been extradited here from Mexico spend a year or two in custody fighting extradition. So why did Chapo have to file a request for a pre-extradition hearing? Why is the news in Mexico reporting this as a "win" for El Chapo?

Mexico has 12 cases now pending against El Chapo. He's concerned they will remove him from Altiplano and start shuttling him around, from one court to another, and then one day, they'll just put him on a plane.

Some reporters in Mexico believe negotiations between El Chapo and Mexico about his extradition have been ongoing for months. He is reportedly a skilled negotiator. They believe that if extradition is granted, there could be conditions attached, protecting certain family members, particularly his two sons who are under indictment in the U.S., and some major assets.

Other reporters think the negotiations began in earnest after his arrest when the details of Jesus Vicente Zambada-Niebla's cooperation became public. Still others believe his arrest was a staged and negotiated surrender, which is why he had only one security guard with him at the time.

Assuming Mexico's Attorney General is correct about a new extradition request, I wonder which U.S. District won the bidding war for El Chapo. Illinois and the Eastern District of New York were actively campaigning to get him, and San Diego may have just thrown its hat in the ring by unsealing an Indictment against him a few weeks ago. (Texas, Arizona and the District of Colombia don't seem that interested in taking the lead role.)

"El Chapo" is really just a symbolic trophy to the U.S. It knows that putting him, or his Sinaloa co-leader, Ismael Zambada-Garcia, away for life won't make a dent in the flow of drugs into the U.S. They may both have been semi-retired for a few years. The third co-leader, Juan José Esparragoza Moreno (Blue) died of a heart attack last year. There is no shortage of candidates available and vying to take their places.

Three of Ismael Zambada-Garcia's sons are in custody. The person who allegedly headed his security detail, El Chino Antrax, has been in custody in San Diego for over a year. Zambada-Garcia's brother, Jesus Reynaldo Zambada Garcia, has been in custody since 2008. (He was extradited in 2012 and pleaded guilty. His New York Indictment, which also charges El Chapo and Ismael Zambada-Garcia is here.)

Despite all of these setbacks, a few weeks ago DEA ASAC in Tuscon, Al Laurito, told Proceso in an interview that Sinaloa is as powerful as ever and moving as much drugs as ever.

"We have not observed any significant change in the Sinaloa Cartel," he says to Process the Laurie, special agent in charge of the office of the DEA in Tucson. "We are still observing the same modes of operation that had before the capture of El Chapo, the same control of operations; It keeps the same people in charge of the traffic of drugs coming to the United States and territorial control in Mexico."

If you are interested in the mechanics of the extradition process in U.S. federal courts, the Federal Judicial Center provided this handy guide to judges in 2014.

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