On January 8th, 2016, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera, the billionaire drug lord of Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel, was captured for the third time and sent back to the same prison he escaped from. That prison is Mexico’s Federal Social Readaptation Center No. 1, “Altiplano,” the famous prison near Almoloya in the State of Mexico.
The government of Mexico wants to avoid another embarrassing escape, so they’re keeping a close eye on El Chapo. And Chapo is complaining that he’s being awakened every four hours.
This time around, the Mexican government is working to have Chapo extradited.
Chapo Guzman already has charges filed against him in seven federal courts in the U.S.A. They are:
- The Southern District of California
- The Northern District of Illinois
- The Western District of Texas in El Paso
- The Southern District of New York in Manhattan
- The U.S. District of New Hampshire
- The Southern District of Florida in Miami
- The Eastern District of New York
Chapo faces murder charges in the Eastern District of New York court. (The aforementioned indictment was actually signed in September 2014 by that district’s then-head prosecutor Loretta Lynch, who since April 2015 has been the U.S. Attorney General.)
In that Eastern District of New York court, Chapo is being charged with the murders of Mexican informants, police, military personnel, and even operatives of enemy drug cartels. The curious thing about this indictment is that Chapo is being charged with murders of Mexican citizens, not citizens of the United States. And these were murders committed outside of U.S. territory. In fact, it would be the first time this has been done.
The justification is a legal paradigm known as “extraterritorial jurisdiction.” It’s been used before to prosecute crimes committed against American citizens outside of U.S. territory, however this would take it further. The difference is that this would involve a U.S. court charging a non-American defendant for the murder of non-Americans outside the territory of the U.S.A.
I understand that, given the notoriety of Chapo Guzman, they want to use any tool at their disposal to put him away.
But this extraterritorial case could set a precedent that could be abused in the future. It would involve jurisdiction questions, national sovereignty questions and conflicts between legal systems. It could lead to somebody in the future being prosecuted for a “crime” that is not even illegal in his own country.
That’s certainly something to think about. But, as Alice said in Alice in Wonderland, it gets “curiouser and curiouser.”
A new twist in the Chapo Guzman extradition case has surfaced.
On February 25th, Jose Refugio Rodriguez, one of Chapo’s lawyers, said that he has made contact with William Stuttgart, a U.S. lawyer, to discuss a possible extradition.
That sounds strange, considering that it would be much more difficult in the United States for Chapo to either (1) run his operations from prison, or (2) escape from prison. But that’s what his lawyer said.
The lawyer’s argument is the supposed bad treatment being meted out to Chapo in the Altiplano prison. So presumably, Chapo wants better treatment even if that means less chance of escape.
So Chapo has decided that he could get a better situation in a U.S. jail than in Mexico.
Of course, Chapo and his attorney have their conditions. Chapo says he’d be willing to be extradited and would even plead guilty in a U.S. court if he could be in a medium security prison.
Would a U.S. jurisdiction accept such a condition? How many years would Chapo be sentenced to in such a plea bargain?
Presumably they would avoid murder charges, which would avoid for now the precedent of charging non-Americans for the murder of non-Americans outside of U.S. territory.
(Interview note: On February 23 I was interviewed by Silvio Canto, Jr., on his Canto Talk show. The program was entitled “Trump and Mexico with Allan Wall.”
Topics discussed included the U.S. presidential election, Donald Trump and Mexico, trade, outsourcing, the Carrier factory case, Hispanic identity and politics, murder rates by city, and Chapo Guzman. You can listen to the actual interview here.)
By Allan Wall for TYT