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“It could be argued that he would be doing the same thing from a jail, and just bide his time,” said Weinstein who previously ran the narcotics section in Miami.

Weinstein said Guzman almost certainly had some help from various corners of the Mexican government in evading capture for so long. That’s likely information that could be helpful to U.S. prosecutors, but also potentially embarrassing to Mexico, a risk that Pena Nieto can manage with the drug lord behind bars in the Altiplano prison in the state of Mexico, a short drive from the capital.

Keeping hold of Guzman also appears to have become a point of national pride for the Pena Nieto administration.

“We think he’s being perfectly guarded and watched, and we don’t think it’s necessary to do anything else,” Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong, the country’s highest law-enforcement official, told The Associated Press. “He will be very isolated. He won’t be allowed to continue with his operations.”

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Associated Press writers Katherine Corcoran and Mark Stevenson in Mexico City, Alicia A. Caldwell in Washington and Elliot Spagat in San Diego contributed to this report.

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Michael Weissenstein on Twitter: https://twitter.com/mweissenstein