A jailbreak tip leads police to transfer son of escaped drug lord
By S. Lynne Walker
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
May 28, 2005
MEXICO CITY – The son of escaped drug kingpin Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán was transferred under heavy security to a maximum-security prison late Thursday night after an anonymous caller told authorities that a commando team was preparing to break Guzmán out of a Mexico City jail.
Iván Guzmán, the 21-year-old son of one of Mexico's most notorious drug traffickers, was driven in a half-mile-long convoy of federal police and highway patrol vehicles from the jail where he has been held since his Feb. 13 arrest to La Palma maximum-security prison.
Guzmán, who goes by the nickname "Little Chapo," was shown on national television Thursday night swaggering out of jail with his hands tucked in the pockets of his prison uniform. Jail officials later dressed him in a bulletproof vest and handcuffed him for the 60-mile drive to prison.
Guzmán's father, who escaped from a maximum-security prison outside Guadalajara in 2001 by hiding in a laundry cart, is one of Mexico's most wanted fugitives.
Mexican authorities say the elder Guzmán has joined forces with trafficker Ismael Zambada in the state of Sinaloa to fight Benjamín Arellano Félix's cartel for the lucrative Tijuana-San Diego corridor and Osiel Cárdenas for control of the corridor along Mexico's Gulf Coast.
President Vicente Fox traveled to Sinaloa on Thursday to pledge the federal government's help in halting a rash of drug-related killings there. Nearly 300 people have been slain in Sinaloa this year.
Jail officials in Mexico City called the threatened escape of young Guzmán – who was arrested on money-laundering charges – a matter of "national security."
They defied a judge's recent order blocking Guzmán's transfer, calling their decision to move him to La Palma patriotic.
Security analysts said Mexico's jails and prisons are in such disarray that any threatened jailbreak must be taken seriously.
"They are the weak link in the government's security system," said Jorge Chabat, an expert on Mexican drug trafficking organizations. "In Mexico, we can capture the drug lords, but we can't keep them in jail. Or if we have them in jail, they run their business from there. It's a total failure of the Mexican state."
On New Year's Eve, a prisoner linked to the Arellano Félix cartel fired seven shots from a handgun smuggled into the La Palma prison and killed Joaquín Guzmán's brother as he met with his attorney in La Palma's visiting area.
"There is no security. The prisons are run by organized crime," said José Antonio Ortega, president of a grass-roots organization, the Citizen's Advisory for Public Security and Penal Justice.
"They can smuggle in anything from drugs to an AK-47. They can kill anybody they want. Who is in charge? They are. The authorities have lost control."
S. Lynne Walker: email@example.com
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