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Warden From Prison Where 'El Chapo' Escaped Is Back There — In a Cell

The former warden of the jail that 'Chapo' Guzmán escaped has been locked up in the same prison while he awaits trial for aiding the drug lord's flight.
Imagen por Marco Ugarte/AP

The former warden of the maximum-security Mexican prison from which Joaquín 'El Chapo' Guzmán escaped two months ago has been ordered to stand trial for helping the drug lord to freedom.

Valentín Cárdenas Lerma was among 13 people taken into custody last week in connection with Chapo's spectacular escape from the Altiplano federal prison through a ventilated and illuminated tunnel that ran from his cell to a house in a field a mile away.


Cárdenas Lerma is currently being held in a cell in the same jail that he headed at the time of the capo's flight on July 11, reports said.

The attorney general's office released a statement on Monday saying a judge had ordered Cárdenas Lerma to face trial "for his participation in the evasion of Joaquín Guzmán Loera."

The indictment comes amid growing complaints that the government has not done enough to address the official complicity that must have been involved in Chapo's flight. Other detainees include Celina Oseguera Parra, the former chief of all federal prisons in Mexico, and Leonor García García, former legal director of Altiplano.

Related: Mexico Releases Footage of 'Chapo' Escape, But Will Public Believe It?

Guzmán, government ministers have admitted, would have needed insider help to plan the tunnel so that it emerged exactly within the shower area of his cell, which was also one of only two very small areas out of view to security cameras watching his every move behind bars.

Once he'd gone down the tunnel, the iconic capo of the Sinaloa Cartel also enjoyed a suspiciously lengthy head start of about half an hour before the first police officers began pursuing him. The former director of the prison evidently didn't sound a "red alert" warning immediately after he was informed that Chapo was no longer visible in camera feeds from the cell, said the Mexican daily La Jornada.

The judge's order, the paper said, also pointed out that Guzmán had occupied the same cell since arriving at the prison following his arrest in February 2014. Other infamous residents of the Altiplano complex, including significant traffickers such Hector Beltrán Leyva and Servando "La Tuta" Gómez, are reportedly moved between cells every one or two months.

President Enrique Peña Nieto had celebrated the arrest of the world's most wanted drug trafficker as proof of his administration's commitment to bring down all of Mexico's criminal bosses, no matter how notorious they might be for bribing authorities. The president himself highlighted the fact that Chapo had escaped from a maximum-security prison once before, in 2001, but assured the public it would be "unforgivable" if it were to happen again.

Related: 'Chapo' Prison Break Shows Just How Weak Mexico's Government Really Is

Follow Jo Tuckman on Twitter: @jotuckman