Drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán has been extradited to the US, Mexican authorities said on Thursday (Jan. 19).
President Barack Obama’s administration has been pushing for the transfer for months, and it comes less than a day before president-elect Donald Trump is sworn into office.
Mexico’s foreign relations ministry said (link in Spanish) that it handed Guzmán over after a court rejected his challenges to extradition, also on Jan. 19. The agency was recently taken over by Luis Videgaray, the architect of Trump’s visit to Mexico last year. A spokeswoman for president Enrique Peña Nieto told the Washington Post the timing of the handover was related to the judicial process.
Still, it perplexed observers. Some speculated (Spanish) on Twitter that perhaps Mexican authorities wanted to ensure it was the Obama administration that took custody of the cartel leader, who twice escaped from Mexican custody.
There were four possible readings, tweeted security analyst Alejandro Hope: “1) coincidence, 2) tribute to Trump (on the wrong day) 3) avoiding tribute to Trump 4) tribute without the appearance. I go with 3.”
Others saw it as a sign of good will towards to the entrant president, and Trump is likely to view the extradition as good news. The president-elect boasted about his tough approach to drug trafficking during his election campaign, and even tweeted specifically about his qualifications to deal with Guzmán.
As far as extraditions go, Guzmán’s happened relatively quickly. When he was captured in Jan. 2016, legal experts said the process could drag on for years. Guzmán, who was flown to New York on Jan. 19, faces numerous charges in several US prosecutorial districts, including in the Eastern District of New York, headquartered in Brooklyn.