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El Chapo Hates Mexican Prison So Much He Wants to Be Extradited ASAP

While Chapo’s chief lawyer says his client wants to be extradited because he is being mistreated, the drug lord’s wife has warned the Mexican authorities they may rue the day that he leaves because of all the secrets he knows.
Photo par AP Images

The head of Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán's legal team says that his client is being so mistreated in prison that he wants to be extradited to the United States as soon as possible.

At the same time, the drug lord's wife has warned the Mexican authorities that they will live to regret her husband's extradition because of the compromising information he can reveal.

Both declarations suggest that El Chapo has accepted that extradition is inevitable, and is trying to exercise some control over when and how it happens.

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"When I saw him yesterday, he was desperate and defeated. I would say he was a broken man," José Refugio Rodríguez, Chapo's main lawyer, told VICE News. "He told me to look for a way to reach an agreement with the US government [over extradition] because he can't bear the treatment he is receiving any more."

Rodríguez claimed the rights of the infamous chief of the Sinaloa cartel are being systematically violated in the Altiplano maximum-security prison where he has been housed since his recapture on January 8 — six months after escaping through a tunnel from his cell in the same facility.

The lawyer, who made similar comments in a number of interviews on Wednesday, said the main problem is they won't let El Chapo sleep and that this has prompted him to develop dangerously high blood pressure that means he has constant headaches, among other problems.

"They are killing him," Rodríguez said. "The sleep deprivation is now so bad he fears he could die at any time and that is why, out of desperation, he wants to reach a deal."

Related: Mexican-American Drug Lord 'La Barbie' Has Changed His Plea to Guilty

In the last couple of weeks El Chapo's legal team has also alleged that his visiting rights have been restricted and his privacy annihilated through constant surveillance, even when going to the bathroom. He has also complained of being cold all the time, and harassment from police dogs.

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The authorities themselves have accepted that they have put special measures in place to guard the country's most notorious prisoner — including waking him every four hours — though they insist that these are permitted by existing protocols.

'The moment that he is gone they are going to wish that he had never left.'

The Mexican government has repeatedly said that it would like to extradite El Chapo, but that this will only be possible once all the legal procedures have been completed. These include the right of the defense to challenge the process at every stage, meaning extradition could take years.

Even while he insisted on his client's desperation to leave Mexico, Chapo's lawyer dismissed the idea that the defense would lift its various legal challenges to extradition currently in the courts. Withdrawing these would leave the drug lord with far less bargaining power in any negotiations.

Rodríguez said that his client had yet to employ a lawyer in the US, but that he thought negotiations could be completed in a couple of months. He cited "other relevant cases" in which he said high profile Mexican drug lords had secured deals that ruled out incarceration in maximum-security facilities and included reduced sentences.

The lawyer brushed aside the fact that such agreements tend to come in exchange for information, though this was certainly implied by Chapo's current wife in an interview she gave to local media.

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Emma Coronel, who has recently begun talking to the media for the first time since she married the drug lord in 2007, warned the Mexican authorities not to see rapid extradition as "a victory."

"The moment that he is gone they are going to wish that he had never left. They know perfectly well that señor Joaquín knows many things that could affect them," she told Radio Fórmula. "They wanted to kill him before he is extradited and could say everything he knows. Let's hope they don't succeed. This [telling what he knows] is what they are forcing him into."

Related: El Chapo's Beauty Queen Wife Says She Fears for His Life

Raymundo Riva Palacio, a journalist and political commentator who wrote a book about Chapo's last escape, said the closest comparison would be Gulf Cartel leader Osiel Cárdenas.

Cárdenas was arrested in 2003 and extradited to the US in 2007. He then reached an agreement that reduced his sentence from life to 25 years and reputedly meant he also got to keep some of his money.

'Chapo is a problem, they are terrified that he could escape again.'

Riva Palacio also said that the extreme conditions in which Chapo is currently being held suggest that the authorities don't know how to handle him and would consequently be happy to see him go, even if he has damaging information.

"The dogs and all this paraphernalia show that Chapo is a problem," he said. "They are terrified that he could escape again."

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The trafficker was first arrested in 1993 and remained in jail until his first escape from high-security prison in January 2001. He was recaptured the first time in February 2014 and was 17 months behind bars before he escaped again. His return to prison came after six months on the run.

The Mexican authorities also have a dismal record in securing convictions against El Chapo. According to the weekly political magazine Proceso, Chapo has only ever been convicted of "criminal association" and never of drug trafficking or violent crimes, despite at least 20 different trials. He is now facing 10 different criminal processes in Mexican courts.

Related: Meet the Up-and-Coming Narcos Who Could Be Worse Than El Chapo

"We have nothing to gain by having him here," a high-level government source told the Spanish news agency EFE this week.

"It would not hurt the national ego for him to be there," said the source, who acknowledged that last year's highly embarrassing escape had encouraged the Mexican authorities to change their mind about extraditing the drug lord. "If this can be resolved by extradition, we would not see it as a failure, but as another sign of the good [bilateral] relationship and our commitment to combat organized crime."

Related: The US Government Accidentally Helped Arm El Chapo

Follow Jo Tuckman and Alan Hernández on Twitter: @jotuckman and @alanpasten