- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 19, 2017

Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman has been extradited and was en route Thursday evening to the United States to face criminal charges related to his leadership of the Sinaloa Cartel, the Justice Department announced.

The extradition comes a year after he was recaptured in Mexico following a brazen prison escape in which the notorious cartel leader was able to slip out of Mexico’s highest-security prison through a sophisticated, mile-long tunnel that connected to the shower in his cell.

Guzman is charged with six separate indictments in various U.S jurisdictions. The Justice Department declined to say where Guzman is being transported in the United States, with officials saying details about his initial appearance in federal court are forthcoming.

The extradition has been in the making for a year, since El Chapo was recaptured after six months on the run.

Guzman’s July 2015 escape through a professionally excavated tunnel did not come as a complete surprise to U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents.

He is a regarded as folk hero with a vast support network and enormous wealth to buy off prison guards and other local officials, and his Sinaloa Cartel is infamous for using sophisticated drug-running tunnels under the U.S. border. It was also his second such escape.

In 2001, he broke out of another prison and spent more than a decade on the run before his recapture in 2014.

While Guzman’s re-arrest in January was newsworthy in its own right, an article published about him in Rolling Stone on the day of his arrest prompted additional interest in how authorities tracked him down

The author of the article, actor Sean Penn, had visited the Sinaloa drug lord while he was in hiding and had to bat away rumors that he had been working with the government to help locate the runaway drug lord.

After Guzman’s recapture, American authorities doubled down on their insistence that the drug lord be brought to the United States to face charges and be imprisoned.

The Justice Department’s announcement of Guzman’s extradition comes on the final day of President Obama’s term. President-elect Donald Trump, whose comments about Mexico could complicate relationships with the country, will be sworn into office on Friday.

In a statement issued Thursday, the Justice Department extended its gratitude to the Mexican government “for their extensive cooperation and assistance in securing the extradition.”

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