Mexico says officials must have helped drug lord Guzman escape

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican authorities must have colluded with Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman to enable the country’s top drug lord to escape from a maximum security prison at the weekend, Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong said on Monday.

Guzman sparked a massive manhunt after escaping from Altiplano prison on Saturday night in a mile-long underground tunnel that led from his cell into a deserted building, dealing a bitter blow for President Enrique Pena Nieto.

Guzman “had to have” had help to escape from prison officials, Osorio Chong said, adding that he had fired the head of Altiplano and two other officials in the penal system.

“There will be no rest for this criminal,” the minister told a news conference in Mexico City, vowing to recapture Guzman and rejecting suggestions that he should resign.

Standing alongside, Mexico’s Attorney General Arely Gomez said authorities would offer 60 million pesos ($3.82 million) for information leading to Guzman’s capture.

The interior minister, who is Mexico’s top public official while Pena Nieto is in France for a state visit, gave additional details on Guzman’s daring getaway, his second from a high security lockup in less than 15 years.

Although the drug lord was under constant video surveillance, there were two blind spots where, to protect his privacy, he could not be seen, Osorio Chong said.

During the escape, Guzman disposed of a bracelet that only he and a few other high-risk inmates had to wear, and smashed bulbs lighting up the tunnel as he fled, the minister added.

El Chapo was one of the world’s most notorious crime bosses, running the powerful Sinaloa Cartel for years.

In 2001, Guzman bribed guards to help him escape from a prison near the city of Guadalajara after a previous arrest in 1993. He was recaptured in northwestern Mexico in February 2014.

Osorio Chong said Mexico’s security forces would redouble their efforts against the Sinaloa cartel and spare no expense to recapture Guzman. He added that Gomez had been in touch with her U.S. counterpart, Loretta Lynch, and that the United States had expressed its willingness to cooperate in arresting Guzman.

Mexico was also in touch with Guatemala and Belize, and Interpol had put out an alert for Guzman in more than 100 countries, the minister added.

Reporting by Gabriel Stargardter, Joanna Zuckerman Bernstein and Adriana Barrera; Editing by Dave Graham and Michael Perry