Mexico expects to extradite captured drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán to the United States at the outset of 2017, a top government official has said, despite ongoing appeals by lawyers to block his departure.
Guzmán, boss of the powerful Sinaloa cartel, was arrested by Mexican police in the northern city of Los Mochis in January after breaking out of a maximum security prison through a tunnel dug right into his cell six months earlier.
It was Guzmán’s second jailbreak in less than 15 years, and President Enrique Peña Nieto swiftly pledged to extradite him.
However, the process has proven more laborious than some senior officials had suggested as the kingpin’s lawyers seek to prevent his removal to the United States through appeals.
The national security commissioner, Renato Sales, provided the clearest indication of a departure date for Guzmán on Friday, saying he expected the matter to be resolved soon.
“We expect [Guzman’s extradition] in January or February,” Sales told local television.
Responding to Sales’s remarks, José Refugio Rodríguez, an attorney for Guzmán, said far too many appeals were pending for extradition to take place that quickly.
“That’s not enough time,” Refugio said, adding that the only way to send Guzmán to the United States by early 2017 would be “to take him out [of jail] by force”.
A Mexican judge ruled in May that Guzmán could be extradited to the United States where he faces charges including money laundering, drug trafficking, kidnapping and murder.
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