Manhunt underway for escaped Mexican drug lord

E. Eduardo Castillo and Katherine Corcoran
Associated Press

Mexico City — Mexico mounted an all-out manhunt Sunday for its most powerful drug lord, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, who escaped from a maximum security prison through a 1 mile tunnel from a small opening in the shower area of his cell, according to the country’s top security official.

The elaborate underground escape route allowed Guzman to do what Mexican officials promised would never happen after his re-capture last year — slip out of one of the country’s most secure penitentiaries for the second time.

“This represents without a doubt an affront to the Mexican state,” said President Enrique Pena Nieto. “But I also have confidence in the institutions of the Mexican state … that they have the strength and determination to recapture this criminal.”

If Guzman is not caught immediately, the drug lord will likely be back in full command and control of the Sinaloa Cartel in 48 hours, said Michael S. Vigil, a retired U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration chief of international operations.

“We may never find him again,” he said. “All the accolades that Mexico has received in their counterdrug efforts will be erased by this one event.”

Thirty employees from various parts of the Altiplano prison, 55 miles west of Mexico City, have been taken in for questioning, according to the federal Attorney General’s Office.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch issued a statement offering “any assistance that may help support his swift recapture,”

Guzman was last seen about 9 p.m. in the shower area of his cell, according to a statement from the National Security Commission. After a time, he was lost by the prison’s security camera surveillance network. Upon checking his cell, authorities found it empty and a 20-by-20-inch hole near the shower.

Guzman faces multiple federal drug trafficking indictments in the U.S. as well as Mexico, and was on the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s most-wanted list.