MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Captured Mexican drug lord Joaquin “Shorty” Guzman faces an outstanding jail term in Mexico and any extradition to the United States is likely to take time, President Enrique Pena Nieto said on Wednesday.
In an interview with broadcaster Univision, Pena Nieto suggested that Guzman, who was Mexico’s most wanted man when he was arrested in the northwest of the country on Saturday, was unlikely to be handed over to the United States quickly.
“The process of extradition can take time,” he said, noting that Mexico’s attorney general’s office would need to consider a request on the basis of investigations it was carrying out against Guzman, who escaped from a Mexican prison in 2001.
Guzman headed the most powerful drug cartel in Mexico and was responsible for a huge chunk of the cocaine, heroin and other drugs trafficked north to the United States.
In view of Mexico’s position, Pena Nieto said, what was important was not only Guzman’s recapture, “and in consequence that he serve out the term for which he had already been sentenced, but also the new cases that will need to follow.”
“This does not clash with a possible extradition request,” he added.
Top Mexican officials have already said Guzman is likely to remain in Mexico for the time being while he is investigated over the vast criminal empire behind his Sinaloa Cartel.
Mexican prosecutors charged Guzman with drug trafficking offences soon after his arrest in the Pacific port of Mazatlan by Mexican marines assisted by U.S. intelligence.
Fears that the wily Guzman could again prove too cunning for Mexico’s porous justice system have fed calls that he be extradited to the United States, though several Mexican politicians have called for him to be tried at home.
Guzman had served less than half of a 20-year sentence when he broke out of prison 13 years ago, and he has already won a temporary injunction to avoid extradition to the United States.
Reporting by Mexico City Newsroom; Editing by Lisa Shumaker