MEXICO – The Mexican lawyer who leads Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman‘s legal defense team said his client wants to be extradited to the United States “as soon as possible” because conditions at the maximum-security prison where he’s being held in Mexico are unbearable and making him seriously ill.
In a phone interview, José Refugio Rodríguez Nuñes told CNN that the notorious drug kingpin would be willing to plead guilty on drug trafficking charges to U.S. authorities under three conditions:
1) He’s held at a medium-security prison in the United States.
2) He’s allowed to see family members and his attorney often enough.
3) He’s not kept in isolation.
Rodríguez said Guzman asked him to expedite the process on Monday, which was the last time Mexican authorities allowed him to see his client in prison.
The lawyer claimed Guzman is acting out of desperation, noting his client seemed very concerned about his health and looked extremely tired. He had shadows under his eyes because he’s unable to sleep enough at central Mexico’s Altiplano prison, the lawyer said.
“Let’s find a way to take me to the United States as soon as possible. Let’s sign an agreement with U.S. authorities so that we can speed up the extradition [process]. I can’t take this anymore,” Rodríguez said his client told him.
Guzman is the focus of 10 legal cases in Mexico, mainly for drug trafficking, murder and charges related to his role as a cartel leader. But he’s not just wanted there, as U.S. authorities — in Arizona, California, Texas, Illinois, New York, Florida and New Hampshire — also want him in custody.
Drug lord’s wife: ‘The treatment .. is inhumane’
Altiplano prison is the same place near Mexico City from which the drug lord escaped last July and to which he was returned after his January 8 recapture in the coastal city of Los Mochis in Sinaloa state.
“All I ask is that they let me sleep. I beg them to let me sleep!” Rodríguez said, quoting El Chapo. “I can’t take this stress I’m under anymore. I need to be able to sleep. They’re killing me little by little.”
Emma Coronel Aispuro, Guzman’s 26-year-old wife and the mother of his twin daughters, shared those concerns in a handwritten letter obtained by CNN.
Coronel says Guzmán’s life is in danger because he has developed high blood pressure while in prison, a condition for which there’s no family history and from which El Chapo didn’t suffer before.
“He’s only asking for treatment worthy of a human being. His family and I are very worried because his life is in danger,” she said in the letter, which is dated February 15. “This has become a vendetta against Joaquín. The treatment he’s getting is inhumane.”
Official: Special security measures warranted
Rodríguez, the lawyer, fears this treatment could end up killing Guzman.
“If he remains under those conditions, he’s going to die. He’s going to die. They’re slowly killing him,” the lawyer said.
“He can’t take those conditions and lack of sleep any longer. We fear he may have a stroke caused by the high blood pressure he has developed.”
Mexican officials have said Altiplano federal prison “follows international protocols” when it comes to human rights of inmates.
Speaking to reporters Monday, Renato Sales Heredia, Mexico’s national security commissioner, dismissed allegations that the rights of Mexico’s No. 1 prisoner are being violated. He also said the fact Guzman has escaped twice before from maximum-security prisons — including once from Altiplano — is a pivotal fact.
“We should ask ourselves if somebody who has fled maximum-security prisons should be subjected to special security measures. Common sense will tell you the answer is yes!” Sales said, according to media reports.
“This person should under special security measures.”
Mexico wants to extradite Guzman to the U.S.
The security commissioner went to claim Guzman is “sleeping perfectly and that there’s no violation” of his human rights.
The Sinaloa drug cartel chief’s defense team, though, filed an injunction seeking action in response to what they call a “violation of (Guzman’s) human rights.”
The injunction, which CNN obtained a copy of and was presented February 22, claims that prison officials tortured Guzman by keeping him in isolation, holding him in freezing temperatures and forcing him to take roll call every hour during the day and every two hours at night.
According to Rodríguez, the lawyers are also planning to sue the Mexican government at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
While the timing of an extradition is still not certain, it looks American officials will soon get their wish.
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said in late January that he’s directed his Attorney General’s Office to “make this extradition of this highly dangerous criminal happen as soon as possible.”