Mexico: Drug lord 'El Chapo' Guzman escapes, manhunt begins
Updated: 2015-07-13 07:50
Mexico's Attorney General Arely Gomez Gonzalez (2nd R) looks into the entrance of a tunnel connected to the Altiplano Federal Penitentiary and used by drug lord Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman to escape, in Almoloya de Juarez, on the outskirts of Mexico City, July 12, 2015. [Photo/Agencies]
A 74-year-old rancher whose home is about 400 yards (meters) from the cordoned property said he had seen a couple in their 30s start building on the property about a year ago. He did not want to be named for safety reasons. He said they were very friendly and not from the area.
"One day my cows made it over to the house and I didn't see anything strange," said the rancher, whose home sits between the prison and the other property.
Guzman's cartel is known for building elaborate tunnels beneath the Mexico-US border to transport cocaine, methamphetamines and marijuana, with ventilation, lighting and even railcars to easily move products.
He was first caught by authorities in Guatemala in 1993, extradited and sentenced to 20 years in prison on drug-trafficking-related charges.
Many accounts say he escaped in 2001 in a laundry cart, although there have been several versions of how he got away. What is clear is that he had help from prison guards, who were prosecuted and convicted.
Guzman was finally re-captured in February 2014 after eluding authorities for days across his home state of Sinaloa.
Born 58 years ago, according to Interpol, he and allies took control of the Sinaloa faction when a larger syndicate began to fall apart in 1989.
During his first stint as a fugitive, Guzman transformed himself into arguably the most powerful drug trafficker in the world. His fortune was estimated at more than $1 billion, according to Forbes magazine, which listed him among the "World's Most Powerful People," ranked above the presidents of France and Venezuela.
He finally was tracked down to a modest beachside high-rise in the Pacific Coast resort city of Mazatlan, where he had been hiding with his wife and twin daughters. He was captured in the early morning of Feb 22, 2014, without a shot fired.
Before they reached him, security forces went on a several-day chase through Culiacan, the capital of Sinaloa state. They found houses where Guzman supposedly had been staying with steel-enforced doors and the same kind of lighted, ventilated escape tunnels.
Even after his 2014 capture, Guzman's Sinaloa Cartel empire continues to stretch throughout North America and reaches as far as Europe and Australia. The cartel has been heavily involved in the bloody drug war that has torn through parts of Mexico for the last decade, taking an estimated 100,000 lives or more.
Altiplano, considered the most secure of Mexico's federal prisons, also houses Zetas drug cartel leader Miguel Angel Trevino, and Edgar Valdes Villarreal, known as "La Barbie," of the Beltran Leyva cartel.