Footage released Tuesday shows the moment one of the world's most infamous drug lords, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, escaped from a maximum security prison in Mexico over the weekend.
The escape, Guzmán's second from a federal prison, has been a major embarrassment for Mexico's government, which had rebuffed earlier extradition requests by the U.S.
The kingpin of the Sinaloa cartel, seen by many as the most dominant and ruthless drug trafficking organization in Mexico, was serving a 20-year sentence after being captured in Guatemala.
The video footage of his escape — in which Guzmán can be seen disappearing into a small crawl space that led to an elaborate tunnel — was released one day after Mexican authorities issued a reward of 60 million pesos, or about $4 million, for information leading to his capture.
Mexico’s secretary of the interior, Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, acknowledged that changes to security were necessary in light of Guzmán's escape, but maintained that the prison had adhered to all regulations.
“The failure that occurred has angered all of us,” Chong told reporters in Spanish. “Want we all want is the truth, and that’s what we’re working toward, we all want to have him captured."
Guzmán escaped Saturday via a mile-long tunnel that had been fitted with stairs, ventilation, and an adapted motorcycle on rails, authorities said.
Guzmán was last seen at 8:52 p.m. approaching the prison shower area. Guzmán, Chong said, then removed an ankle bracelet that was used as an internal tracking device before heading into the tunnel. The bracelet would have only worked inside the prison.
The video shows Guzmán then dip behind a partition and out of sight, never to return to the frame.
Chong said he was certain Guzmán and his accomplices used blueprints to plan the escape. And as the days have worn on, seemingly without a trace fo the drug kingpin, it has become clear Guzmán benefitted from a highly concerted, well thought out plan.
To that end, Chong on Monday did not elaborate on the reason the director of the Altiplano prison west of Mexico City had been fired. But critics were quick to point their fingers at a pervasive weakness among government officials: Corruption.
In an op-ed for the blog El Daily Post, a former member of Mexico's domestic intelligence service, Alejandro Hope, wrote that either corruption or intimidation, "or maybe both" almost surely played a key role in facilitating the escape:
Note this: He escaped through a mile-long tunnel, wide enough to hold a motorcycle, and ending in one of the few blind spots in Mexico’s most secure prisons.
How do you do that without some high-level corruption? The engineering feat probably required access to some rather sensitive information, such as the prison’s floor plan and the orientation of the security cameras.
You don’t get that by bribing some random prison guard.
It marks the second time Guzmán has managed to escape from a maximum security prison in Mexico. In 2001, he fled Puente Grande prison, where he had been incarcerated since 1993. There were varying accounts of how he pulled it off, but many involved Guzmán hiding in a laundry cart.
Adolfo Flores is a national security correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles. He focuses on immigration.
Contact Adolfo Flores at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Wells is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
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