The sudden extradition of Mexican cartel chief Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman hours before President Donald Trump took office raised questions about whether the move was a final gesture to Obama or an early goodwill sign to Trump.
Now another kingpin appears to be following Guzman’s path to a US court, suggesting Mexico is playing politics with the extradition process.
Miguel Angel Treviño, aka Z-40, a member and eventual leader of the powerful and vicious Los Zetas cartel, was transferred from Altiplano maximum-security prison west of Mexico City on Monday to the Cefereso No. 9 prison south of Ciudad Juarez.
But the move mirrors the route Guzman took. He broke out of Altiplano in July 2015 and was rejailed there after his recapture in January 2016. In May, Guzman was unexpectedly transferred to Cefereso No. 9, rated as one of Mexico’s worst prisons.
Guzman’s transfer was at the time thought by some to be a move to facilitate extradition, though others suspected it was to thwart a brewing escape plan. The latter theory was bolstered by a report a few days later that officials were spooked into the move by a power outage at Altiplano.
According to Mike Vigil, former chief of international operations for the US Drug Enforcement Administration, the move is in preparation for extradition, though whether Mexico actually sends him north may depend on the state of US-Mexico relations going forward.
The Mexican government has been frustrated by its dealings with Trump and with the US president’s general posture toward the US’s southern neighbor.
Depending on how the US approaches issues like immigration and deportations, the border-wall proposal, and trade dealings, Mexico City could nix the extradition, Vigil said, based on conversations he had with Mexican law-enforcement and military sources.
Vigil, author of “Metal Coffins: The Blood Alliance Cartel,“ told Business Insider that Mexico is willing to deal with the US on security issues, “because they feel like they’re acting like a buffer” for the US to things like the flow of immigrants and drugs, but that sentiment may not be irrevocable.
Treviño was indicted on drug charges in the US District Court for the District of Columbia in 2007, and at the time of his arrest in 2013, he was facing an indictment in New York. He’s also been charged with money laundering in Texas.