Mexican authorities have launched the process to extradite drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman to the United States, as they also sought to question US actor Sean Penn over their clandestine meeting.
The extradition bid marks a reversal from President Enrique Pena Nieto’s refusal to send Guzman across the border prior to his July escape from a maximum-security prison.
The attorney general’s office said in a statement that Interpol Mexico agents went to Guzman’s prison near Mexico City to execute two arrest warrants for his extradition, two days after he was captured in a deadly military raid.
Mexico received the US extradition requests last year on a slew of charges, including drug trafficking and homicide. Guzman is wanted in a half-dozen US states.
After judges rule on the extradition, the foreign ministry has to issue a decision. The timing of the extradition is unclear as Guzman can appeal it.
His attorney has vowed to challenge the extradition all the way up to the Supreme Court.
Guzman is now back in the same prison that he escaped from on July 11 when he snuck down a hole in his cell’s shower that led to a 1.5-kilometer (one-mile) tunnel outside the prison.
Officials defended the decision to send him back to the Altiplano prison some 90 kilometers (55 miles) west of Mexico City, saying it remains one of the most secure and that it was reinforced with metal rods under the floors.
But the government’s decision to extradite him suggests that authorities do not want to take the risk of losing him again. Guzman escaped from prison once before in 2001 before his February 2014 capture.
While Guzman could face US justice, Mexican authorities said they wanted to question Penn over his October meeting with the then-fugitive.
A Mexican federal official told AFP that the attorney general’s office also wants to speak with Mexican actress Kate del Castillo, who brokered the meeting.
“That is correct, of course, it’s to determine responsibilities,” the official said on condition of anonymity, declining to provide more details, including a possible date for an interview with the stars.