Drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is not enjoying his stay at the maximum-security Altiplano prison outside Mexico City. Apparently, not only are the correctional officers not lending him tools to chisel his way out of his cell to escape, but they’re “torturing” him. The alleged abuse is apparently so horrific that he is begging to be extradited to the United States.
El Chapo’s lawyer, Juan Pablo Badillo, says the prison guards are purposely not allowing him to get a good night’s sleep to torture him.
“He told me, literally, ‘Every two hours, at night, they wake me up to take roll. … They are turning me into a zombie. They do not let me sleep. All I want is just for them to let me sleep. It is brutal torture,’ he told me,” Badillo said. “This is what was done by Stalin in the ’40s and ’50s in Russia.”
On Wednesday, El Chapo’s lead defense attorney, Jose Refugio Rodriguez, told the Mexican radio station Radió Fórmula that the iconic drug kingpin was willing to plead guilty to any charges in the United States if U.S. authorities promise to give him a short sentence in a medium-security prison.
“I found a desperate and despondent man,” Rodriguez said. “He told me, ‘Try to move forward with the extradition [to the United States] as quickly as possible.’ The truth is that I’m scared for Joaquín Guzman’s life.”
“We have talked about a proposal to plead guilty to the charges in the United States without questioning their veracity,” said Rodriguez. “That in exchange for a reduction in the applicable sentence like others have done in these situations, but also look for a medium-security prison so that he’s not in the conditions that he has here,” the lawyer said.
Rodriguez said this plea deal is “an act of desperation” because El Chapo had “reached his limit.”
This is quite a different sentiment than previous comments where Guzman’s lawyers had vowed to fight extradition as long as possible. Even the Mexican government is said to have a much warmer notion of extraditing Guzman. Until last year, the Mexican government refused to hand over El Chapo to the United States, stating that he must serve out his Mexican prison sentences first. But in January, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto said he would expedite Guzman’s extradition, most likely because of the embarrassment of having El Chapo escape a Mexican maximum-security prison back in July.
Rodriguez and Guzman’s family are currently reviewing options for a U.S. defense attorney. Rodriguez suggested that his client could be in a cozy U.S. prison in two months, with Guzman withdrawing the nine appeals his lawyers filed. However, Rodriguez stated, “We won’t drop the (legal) defense in Mexico until we have an agreement with the United States.”
David Weinstein, a former federal prosecutor who oversaw the narcotics division at the U.S. attorney’s office in Miami, said that extradition isn’t as simple as Rodriguez makes it out to be.
Weinstein noted that neither the Justice nor the State departments negotiate with fugitives or other wanted people who are not on U.S. soil, so any discussions could take place only following extradition. Even if Guzman were to cooperate with U.S. prosecutors, a judge would have the final say on sentencing while prison authorities would decide where he does his time.
“You can’t negotiate with the Bureau of Prisons,” Weinstein said. “Of all the governmental entities in the United States, they are the least flexible. Even judges can’t tell them what to do with regard to placement.”
Guzman faces charges from seven different U.S. attorneys’ offices, in cities including New York, Chicago, Miami and San Diego among others.
Rodríguez told The Huffington Post that he plans to inform the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights about the prison’s alleged torture of El Chapo because prolonged sleep deprivation is widely viewed as torture.
Meanwhile, prison authorities have denied that there has been torture, and that extraordinary measures against the former leader of the Sinaloa cartel are necessary to prevent him from escaping again.
Altiplano prison Director Salvador Almonte Solís wrote that Guzman was trying to “play the victim,” and that authorities had not inflicted any physical harm that could damage the prisoner’s health.
We’ll keep you informed of El Chapo’s decision in the next episode of “Prison Hunters International.”