Latin America & Caribbean

Guzman escape: Seven Mexico prison officers charged

A police officer shows a reward notice as investigators and members of Federal Police continue investigations into the escape of drug trafficker Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, in Amolaya, Mexico, 16 July 2015. Image copyright EPA
Image caption Huge rewards are on offer for the recapture of Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman.

Mexico's Attorney General has charged seven prison officers with involvement in the escape of the notorious drug lord, Joaquin Guzman, on Saturday.

Officials said a further 15 people were being investigated.

Guzman escaped from a maximum security prison through a tunnel that surfaced in his cell and ran 1.5 km to a building outside the prison walls.

Guzman's Sinaloa cartel is responsible for much of Mexico's trafficking of drugs to the US.

President Enrique Pena Nieto, who has just arrived back from an overseas trip, said he shared the sense of frustration and anger of the Mexican people about the escape.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption President Pena Nieto has promised to punish those responsible

He said: "We are not going to resolve this only with anger and filling ourselves with fury. The only way to reverse this is with a recapture."

Mr Pena Nieto said that all those who had participated in the escape would be punished with "the full weight of the law".

So far the government has fired two prison officials and the prison's warden.

A poll in the newspaper Reforma said 88% of Mexicans believed the escape was an inside job, and 65% blamed the authorities' incompetence rather than Guzman's cunning.

Many Mexicans have been discussing whether the government should have agreed to a US request to extradite Guzman on the basis that American prisons would have been harder for Guzman to break out of.

Image copyright AP
Image caption The shower area where the tunnel Guzman slipped down was located was in his prison cell at the Altiplano maximum security prison, in Almoloya, west of Mexico city.

First arrested in Guatemala in 1993, Joaquin "Shorty" Guzman spent nearly a decade in another maximum-security Mexican jail before escaping, reportedly in a laundry basket.

He was on the run for 21 years during which he continued to build his drug-trafficking empire.

He was arrested in 2014 after a series of high-profile arrests of associates and covert surveillance by the US authorities.

He had been tracked by a special unit of trusted Mexican Marines to a series of safe houses.

He was finally found with his family at a seaside condominium in a resort town, Mazatlan.

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