Top drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman has done what Mexican authorities promised would not happen after his re-capture last year—escaped a maximum security prison a second time. A manhunt began immediately for the head of the powerful Sinaloa Cartel, believed to control most major crossing points for drugs at the US-Mexico border. Journalists near Altiplano prison, 56 miles west of Mexico City, said roads were heavily patrolled by Federal Police, who had set up checkpoints. Flights were also suspended at Toluca airport near the penitentiary. Guzman was last seen about 9pm last night in the shower area of the prison, the National Security Commission said early today. After a time, he was lost by the prison's security camera network. Authorities then found his cell empty.
The escape is a massive blow to the administration of President Enrique Pena Nieto, which has received plaudits for its aggressive capture of drug lords. During his first stint as a fugitive, Guzman transformed himself from middling capo into arguably the most powerful drug trafficker in the world with a $1 billion fortune, and a Forbes "World's Most Powerful People" ranking. He was re-captured in 2014, some 13 years after his escape from another Mexican maximum-security prison. But Guzman's Sinaloa Cartel empire stretched throughout North America, into Europe and Australia. Guzman also faces federal drug trafficking indictments in the US, and was on the DEA's most-wanted list. Mexico's former AG said earlier this year dismissed the possibility of extraditing him to the US, dismissing concerns that Guzman could escape as a risk that "does not exist."