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El Chapo update: US requested Guzmán extradition just weeks before escape

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Henry Romero/Reuters

(Read caption) A federal police hands out a flyer with photos of drug lord Joaquín 'El Chapo' Guzmán outside Mexico City on Thursday. The flyer offers a reward of $3.8 million for information leading to Mr. Guzmán's arrest.

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Just weeks before the drug lord Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán’s escape from Mexico's highest-security prison, US filed a request for his extradition.

The Office of Mexico's Attorney General confirmed the request Thursday and said that Attorney General Arely Goméz had informed a congressional committee of the extradition request filed on June 25.

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The office said Ms. Gomez had issued instructions to review the request and submit it to courts for consideration.

Mr. Guzmán, who slipped out of an Altiplano prison through a tunnel on July 11, faces US charges of conspiracy to import and distribute cocaine. US authorities say his drug cartel, Sinaloa, has smuggled billions of dollars worth of drugs into the United States and is responsible for thousands of deaths through addiction and gang violence.

Former Mexican Attorney General Jesús Murillo previously told The Associated Press that Guzmán wouldn’t be handed over to the US before serving time for all his crimes in Mexico, which he said would last for “about 300 or 400 years.”

A massive manhunt is underway to capture Guzmán, while at least 30 prison officials are being questioned over the breakout.

The attorney general’s office is investigating the escape and looking into any possible breach of prison protocols or intentional delay in issuing an alert after Guzmán’s escape.

Two lawmakers said Thursday that it took at least 18 minutes before anyone was alerted to the escape of the drug lord through a mile-long tunnel Saturday night.

In Mexico, the escape adds fuel to suspicions that law enforcement regularly cooperates with criminals, as the Monitor's Whitney Eulich previously reported.

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“Mexican public opinion already perceives that there’s collusion between the armed forces and organized crime,” Armand Peschard-Sverdrup, senior associate for the Americas program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies told the Monitor. “This [escape] only fuels that perception, whether it’s merited or not."

Guzmán previously slipped out of Mexican prison in 2001 in a laundry basket. He was not recaptured until February 2014. US agents’ documents obtained by the AP suggest he began planning his escape immediately after that arrest.

This report includes material from the Associated Press and Reuters.