Mexican officials say fugitive drug trafficker Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman continues to elude capture, but they think he injured his face and leg as the manhunt closed in on him.
The government said in a statement Friday the search for Guzman has recently moved into the mountains of northwestern Mexico after foreign governments shared intelligence, but the drug cartel boss still remains at large.
Guzman was widely considered to be the world’s richest and most powerful drug trafficker before his capture last year.
Guzman slipped away from the Altiplano prison, about 90 kilometers west of Mexico City, on July 11 after 17 months behind bars. Authorities say he climbed down a 10-meter ladder in a shaft under his prison cell’s shower area and disappeared into a sophisticated 1.5-kilometer tunnel with ventilation, lighting and a motorcycle apparently used to move dirt in the tunnel’s construction.
Guzman escaped into a gray brick building on a hill surrounded by pasture land. Investigators released a video showing the hole inside the building’s dirt-covered floor. A bed and a kitchen were in the building, indicating that people may have lived there.
Guzman’s escape is a major embarrassment for Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. His crowning achievement in Mexico’s war on drug cartels and their elusive leaders was the capture of Guzman, who had been on the run for 13 years after an earlier escape.
The United States, where Guzman faces drug cartel charges, has pledged any support Mexico needs in recapturing Guzman. American authorities had sought to extradite Guzman to stand trial in the U.S., but were rebuffed by Mexico.
The Associated Press reported that U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration officials knew of several Guzman escape plans almost immediately after his capture last year, although not of his successful July escape.
The drug agency documents say Guzman was directing some of his Sinaloa drug cartel operations from prison.
“Despite being imprisoned in a `high security’ facility, DEA reporting further indicates Guzman was able to provide direction to his son and other cartel members via the attorneys who visited [him] in prison and possibly through the use of a cell phone provided… by corrupt prison guards,” one document said.
The Sinaloa cartel is known for the elaborate tunnels built underneath the Mexico-U.S. border to transport cocaine, methamphetamines and marijuana, with ventilation, lighting and even railcars to easily move products.
The Sinaloa cartel controls most of the border crossings for illegal drugs between Mexico and the United States.