The world’s most wanted drug kingpin escaped from a Mexican prison for the second time last weekend, deeply embarrassing the country’s president who had promised just last year that a second escape would be “unforgivable.”
When Joaquín Guzmán Loera — known as “El Chapo,” or “Shorty” — was finally captured in June 2014 by Mexican police after escaping from prison 13 years earlier, President Enrique Pena Nieto assured the country it would never happen again.
an interview with Univision TV, he said that another escape “would be more than regrettable; it would be unforgivable for the government to not take the precautions to ensure that what happened last time would not be repeated.”
Late Saturday, Guzman slipped down a shaft into a mile-long ventilated tunnel constructed over the course of a year and vanished into his country-wide support network.
“Mr. Peña Nieto’s own words are coming back to haunt him,” The New York Times notes. “Mr. Guzmán not only broke out of what was supposed to be Mexico’s most secure prison over the weekend, but it happened in the president’s home state, a political stronghold where Mr. Peña Nieto served as governor before becoming president in 2012.”
‘The escape only underlines the cruel and bitter reality’
For many, Guzman’s escapes symbolise Pena Nieto’s inability to reign in Mexico’s rampant corruption, as he promised he would upon taking office in 2012.
Mexico’s escalating violence and insecurity has created a political crisis for the president, whose approval ratings hit a new low when 43 students from Ayotzinapa, a rural school in the southern state of Guerrero, were kidnapped last September.
The lack of transparency surrounding Pena Nieto’s various finances and business dealings has also stirred controversy. His government’s reputation has been tarnished by shady property dealings and several other scandals involving financial conflicts of interest.
“The lack of rule of law, the stain of corruption and the disaster of the criminal system in Mexico is probably Mexico’s No. 1 problem,” historian Enrique Krauze told the Times. “The escape only underlines the cruel and bitter reality. We need to reform the system starting from its roots.”
Guzman had always been fond of secret tunnels and intricate escape routes. In February 2014, Guzmán fled the police through anetwork of underground tunnelsaccessible via a secret door beneath the bathtub in his Sinaloa home. Mexican marines caught him shortly after he arrived in the city of Mazatlan.
Guzman’s first escape from prison in 2001 was less complex, however — he reportedly slipped past prison guards by hiding in a laundry cart (and experts have speculated that the guards had been paid off).
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