'El Chapo' Guzmán says Mexican prison authorities 'are turning me into a zombie'

Jailed Sinaloa cartel chief Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán is experiencing harsh treatment from authorities at Mexico’s high-security Altiplano prison, said attorney Juan Pablo Badillo, according to El Universal.

Guzmán is being “physically and mentally tortured” by prison officials, who are not permitting the kingpin — a two-time escapee — to sleep peacefully, Badillo added.

“I am loudly awakened every two hours at night. They are turning me into a zombie, they do not let me sleep,” Badillo, quoting Guzmán, said during an interview with Ciro Gómez Leyva of Radio Fórmula.

Badillo also said his client’s right to counsel had been violated.

“The Constitution states that inmates are entitled to have as many lawyers as they want,” Badillo said, “and to have direct communication to address the issues necessary for their defence.”

The lawyer added that officials at Altiplano have only been permitting Guzmán to see one lawyer a week for about a half an hour.

Badillo said the roughly 25 minutes he had to speak with Guzmán on Monday were “insufficient to address so many issues,” according to El Universal.

‘Some of those weaknesses are still there’

After Guzmán was recaptured on January 8, reports that he was being sent back to Altiplano prison, which he escaped from in July 2015, were met with some consternation. However, prison authorities have beefed up security for their returning occupant.

New security measures include placing steel bars in cell floors, putting Guzmán in an isolated part of the prison, increasing the number of security cameras, and, as Badillo mentioned, moving the drug lord to different cells.

“He is being changed from cell to cell without a pattern … he is only spending hours or a couple of days in the same cell,” government spokesman Eduardo Sanchez said in mid-January, just a few days after Guzmán was reapprehended in northwestern Sinaloa state.

New security procedures are likely to stymie the Sinaloa chief’s efforts to break out again, though, as some have noted, many of the failings that allowed his July escape were of personnel, not policy.

“Right now, El Chapo is subjected to draconian prison conditions. He’s under really, really tight surveillance,” said El Daily Post editor Alejandro Hope at a panel discussion on Mexican security at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC.

“It should be remembered,” Hope stressed, “some of the structural weaknesses of the Mexican prison system are still there … one of the persons that is being prosecuted for his escape was the head of the federal-prison system.”

“This was not just El Altiplano,” added Hope. “This was systemic. And I think some of those weaknesses are still there.”

‘These guys … have rights, technically’

Moreover, the array of harsh security measures deployed against Guzmán to keep him from escaping may give him more ammunition for legal injunctions in his fight against the extradition process.

Guzmán’s legal team has already filed several such injunctions, and won one to force authorities to stop what Badillo described as “pestering actions” against Guzmán.

Given Guzmán’s reputation and resources, it is little surprise that prison officials have such stringent procedures to guard him. But it should also be little surprise that the kingpin has seized on these procedures to gain legal advantage.

“These guys have strong legal defences,” University of San Diego professor and Wilson Center fellow David Shirk said during the same Wilson Center panel. “And they have rights, technically.”

NOW WATCH: Watch newly released video of ‘El Chapo’ being booked by Mexican authorities

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