Home Columnists Mexican Kingpin 'El Chapo' Complains of Psychological Torture by Prison Guards

Mexican Kingpin 'El Chapo' Complains of Psychological Torture by Prison Guards

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Sylvia Longmire IHSBy Sylvia Longmire
Contributor, In Homeland Security

New reports are emerging from Mexico that jailed drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán is being psychologically tortured in his Cuidad Juárez prison. According to the Los Angeles Times, Guzmán is depressed and suffering hallucinations and memory loss because of harsh conditions. In addition, a psychological report was made public on October 26  that indicated Guzmán had complained about guards inflicting “psychological torture.”

El Chapo Escapes More than Once

The drug lord has a long history of escaping prison. He was first captured in 1993 in Guatemala, and imprisoned for seven years before he escaped in a laundry cart in 2001. He was a fugitive for 13 years before finally being recaptured in February 2014. However, he wasn’t behind bars for very long, escaping the maximum-security Altiplano correctional facility in July 2015. Guzmán was finally recaptured in January 2016 during a raid in the Mexican state of Sinaloa, then sent back to the very prison from which he escaped in 2014.

Given the high level of scrutiny placed on the Mexican government for their inability to keep El Chapo behind bars for very long, new security measures were immediately put into place to prevent Guzmán from escaping again. The lights were kept on in his cell at all times, and he was woken or checked on every two hours. His wife, former beauty queen Emma Coronel, complained earlier this year that her husband was being harassed and tortured.

El Chapo in ‘Constant Anguish’

Then in May 2016, Guzmán was transferred from the Altiplano prison to a medium security facility in Ciudad Juarez, close to the U.S.-Mexico border. This fueled speculation that his pending extradition had been sped up and appeals had all been overturned, which later turned out to be just rumors. Many were concerned that this transfer would increase his flight risk because of the lower security standards. However, the same security measures being used on Guzmán at Altiplano were in full force in the new facility, prompting Coronel to file a complaint with the Mexican National Human Rights Commission on October 24. Guzmán’s attorney, José Refugio Rodriguez, said El Chapo “lives in constant anguish,” and that he received a desperate message from the drug lord saying he was suffering from hallucinations and “felt he was going to die.”

While many people in Mexico would love to see Guzmán suffer as a punishment for the thousands of murders he is allegedly responsible for, the Mexican government is trying to be as transparent as possible in following the rule of law with regards to judicial proceedings. However, Mexico is not known for its stellar human rights record. Only two federal officials have been sentenced for torture since 1994. In contrast, the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) received more than 100 complaints of torture and over 4,700 complaints of ill treatment from 2007 to 2011. According to the CNDH, state prosecutors have sought to cover up military wrongdoing by using torture to coerce false testimony from witnesses.

More Comfortable in the US?

Since El Chapo’s extradition to the U.S. was approved, his attorneys have been working tirelessly through multiple appeals to have the extradition order overturned and keep him in a Mexican prison. Because of his status in the drug world, historically this would have accorded Guzmán preferential, and sometimes luxurious, treatment in contrast to that of his fellow prisoners. However, the Mexican government is motivated to make an example out of him this time around.

It will be interesting to see if his current treatment in a Mexican correctional facility will motivate him to drop his petitions for a stay of extradition and ironically seek respite in a maximum-security prison in the United States.

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