Timing of Mexico Drug Lord's Extradition Seen as Political | NBC Southern California
National & International News
The day’s top national and international news

Timing of Mexico Drug Lord's Extradition Seen as Political

Many in Mexico say the move is aimed at limiting political fallout for President Enrique Pena Nieto, unpopular for perceived mishandling of Donald Trump's comments about Mexico

    processing...

    NEWSLETTERS

    Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was extradited to the United States to face drug trafficking and other charges. (Published Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017)

    Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman's abrupt exit to face charges in the U.S. marks the end of an era in which he was Mexico's most notorious drug cartel boss and, for some, the stuff of folk legend.

    It's also seen by many in Mexico as a delicately timed maneuver aimed at limiting political fallout for President Enrique Pena Nieto, already deeply unpopular in part for his perceived mishandling of Donald Trump's tough rhetoric on Mexico.

    Deputy Attorney General Alberto Elias Beltran, asked at a Thursday night news conference about the timing of Guzman's extradition, said the federal government cannot interfere in court decisions.

    "It was resolved today, and we under terms of the international treaty had to make the handover immediately," he said.

    Airport Officer Stabbed

    [NATL] Airport Officer Stabbed

    A man stabbed an airport police officer Wednesday morning at Bishop International Airport in Flint, Michigan. The man is in custody and being questioned by the FBI. The airport officer was in stable condition. The FBI has said it is too early to determine if this incident is a terrorist act.

    (Published Wednesday, June 21, 2017)

    But observers still considered the timing to have been carefully planned.

    "It could be a coincidence, but I think that's unlikely," Mexican security analyst Alejandro Hope said, noting it came the last full day of Barack Obama's presidency and hours before Trump's inauguration.

    "They could not send him after Trump was inaugurated because the interpretation would have been that of a tribute," Hope said. "But maybe they wanted to do it close enough so that both administrations — the outgoing and the incoming — could really make some political hay out of this."

    Others saw it as a reward to Obama and a shot across the bow of Trump, who has called immigrants coming illegally from Mexico criminals and "rapists" and vowed to build a border wall and make Mexico pay for it.

    "The Mexican government decided to move up the time frame because they didn't want Trump to be in the presidency when they sent him over," said Michael Vigil, the former head of international operations for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. "They wanted Obama to take credit. They wanted to send a message to Trump that they won't be bullied."

    Guzman's departure came the same day Mexican officials announced high-level talks Jan. 25-26 in Washington. The discussions will include Mexico's newly installed top diplomat, Luis Videgaray, and key Trump administration officials such as chief of staff Reince Priebus, son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner and senior adviser Stephen Bannon.

    Milwaukee Cop Found Not Guilty In Shooting That Sparked Riots

    [NATL] Milwaukee Cop Found Not Guilty In Shooting That Sparked Riots

    Jurors found former Milwaukee police officer Dominique Heaggan-Brown not guilty of first-degree reckless homicide on Wednesday, June 21, 2017. Heaggan-Brown fatally shot Sylville Smith after a traffic stop and a short pursuit. Smith was carrying a gun when Heaggan-Brown opened fire. Smith's family plans to sue Heaggan-Brown and the city of Milwaukee.

    (Published Wednesday, June 21, 2017)

    Hope said the timing also sends a message that Mexico is serious about anti-drug cooperation regardless of who occupies the White House.

    Sen. Miguel Barbosa of the leftist opposition Democratic Revolution Party seized on the extradition to take a swipe at Pena Nieto. He said it was apparently the only choice after Guzman twice pulled off embarrassing escapes from maximum-security lockups.

    "We should not celebrate that the Mexican state was not capable of processing the greatest criminal that has ever existed in Mexico and was not capable of guaranteeing his incarceration," Barbosa said in a statement.

    Pena Nieto currently has the lowest approval ratings for any Mexican leader in the polling era. Besides his handling of Trump, Mexicans are also angry about corruption, rising drug gang violence and a Jan. 1 deregulation that led gasoline prices to spike by as much as 20 percent.

    Guzman lawyer Andres Granados accused the government of trying to distract the public.

    "They handled it politically to obscure the situation of the gas price hike," Granados said. "It's totally political."

    Some Mexicans feared Guzman's extradition to the United States, where he will surely be kept from communicating with underlings, could unleash a cartel power struggle and more bloodshed.

    "All the different bands are going to start fighting among themselves, no? Drug traffickers, to see who ends up being No. 1," said Roberto Lascurain, an architect in Mexico City.

    Guzman associate Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada is believed to be running the cartel following "El Chapo's" recapture last January. Some analysts believe Guzman's sons may have also taken on increased roles.

    Raul Benitez, a security expert at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, said Guzman's offspring may try to challenge for control in what "could be a negotiation without violence, or a war with machine guns."

    However, Vigil predicted that the operations of Guzman's Sinaloa cartel are unlikely to be affected.

    "Most cartels have a vertical structure, but ... Sinaloa has a horizontal one with cells that operate in a semi-autonomous manner," Vigil said. "They have a strong bench. They have a respected leader in Ismael 'El Mayo' Zambada."

    Mother, Aunt Elephants Save Baby From Drowning

    [DFW-NATL] Watch: Mother, Aunt Elephants Save Baby From Drowning

    A baby elephant was saved from drowning by a group of its family members at a South Korean Zoo. In a video recorded by the Seoul Grand Park Zoo, a baby elephant named Hope tried to drink from a pond, but somehow lost its balance and fell in. The calf's mother and aunt came to the rescue, first trying to reach it with their trunks, then going in the water and holding the scared calf up. They eventually brought the calf back to land. A third adult elephant was seen pacing back and forth in a separate enclosure, appearing alarmed by the situation.

    (Published Wednesday, June 21, 2017)

    On Twitter, some saw humor in Guzman's extradition the day before Trump takes office.

    "'They're sending the worst, they're bringing drugs, they're criminals,'" tweeted Jorge Guajardo, Mexico's ambassador to China in 2007-2013, echoing Trump's comments about illegal immigration. "Ok, you won. Here's our very worst, El Chapo."

    U.S. presidential transitions have been used by foreign countries before to send a political message. On Jan. 20, 1981, only minutes into the presidency of Republican Ronald Reagan, Iran freed 52 American hostages it held for 444 days after the storming of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran.

    A deal between Iran and the U.S. to unfreeze billions of dollars in Iranian assets in exchange for the hostages had been largely reached under outgoing Democratic President Jimmy Carter. But while Carter greeted the hostages on their landing in West Germany, it was Reagan who announced their freedom to cheering Americans.