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Mexico And U.S. Debate Extradition Of Drug Trafficker

Two months ago the world’s most wanted drug trafficker -- Sinaloa Cartel leader El Chapo Guzmán -- was captured in a joint US-Mexico operation. For 13 years El Chapo Guzmán seemed untouchable as rivals fell all around him. He still enjoys near mythical status as the son of a dirt poor farmer who made it onto the Forbes' billionaires' list. Several sources interviewed for this story say they know exactly why Mexican Attorney General Jesús Murillo Karam refuses to extradite Guzman.

For the record, Murrillo opposes U.S. prosecutors “reaching deals with criminals.”

He’s referring to a plea deal offered to the son of Guzmán’s partner in return for information on the Sinaloa Cartel’s inner circle, and its alleged relationship with senior politicians over the course of three decades.

Grand juries in Chicago, San Diego, New York and Texas have already issued indictments against Guzmán for trafficking and criminal conspiracy, including murder. In Mexico, there’s a simple explanation for ‘no extradition.’  

A judge’s clerk in Chihuahua who asked that his name be withheld says Guzmán’s testimony would expose alleged government involvement in organized crime.

“Drug trafficking never ends here in Mexico,” he says “where the dealers are close to politicians.”

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One woman we met in Ojinaga, a border town across from Presidio, Texas, is concerned Guzmán won’t face a court in either country. She recalls the last time he was captured and escaped from prison, with overt help from police, in 2001. Like numerous Mexicans, she wonders if it will happen again.

“This guy has so much money that I think he’s going to go away again ... I don’t trust the law here in Mexico, because they’re nothing but crooks, it is true.”

That’s not a random reaction in Mexico. Javier Nieto, from Sonora, says the words of the Mexican Attorney General are a ploy to obscure the country’s other problems. And, asks Nieto, what would testimony in a U.S. court really reveal?

“I mean the worst thing he could say is what, that his cartel funded the campaign of Felipe Calderón? But I mean just like he could say that, the same thing with the Cartel del Golfo, Los Zetas. I mean they all fund these things. And from the very lowest levels to the very highest ranks. I mean, what are they gonna do?” says Nieto.

Until the preceding administration of Mexican President Felipe Calderón, Mexico believed its citizens should not be extradited to the U.S.; that would imply weakness in the Mexican judicial system.

Officially, the U.S. Department of Justice says extradition is the “the subject of ongoing discussions” between both countries.