Mexican drug lord Joaquén “El Chapo” Guzmén Loera has for the second time in 15 years escaped a maximum-security prison, triggering a large-scale manhunt, the government announced early Sunday.
Guzmén Loera, the head of the Sinaloa drug cartel – considered by some to be one of the most powerful crime syndicates in the world – went missing at some point Saturday evening, the government said in a statement.
He escaped through a 1-mile tunnel connected to his cell, authorities said in a press conference Sunday.
He was showering at the Altiplano I federal penitentiary in Mexico state when he went missing from view at about 8:50 p.m., the National Security Commission said in a statement on Twitter.
It was soon discovered he was missing, triggering a search of the nearby area and a temporary halt to operations at the airport in the state capitol of Toluca, according to the statement.
“After guards realized he had disappeared, they found the hatch that led by ladder down to the tunnel, which was illuminated, perforated with PVC piping for ventilation and equipped with adapted motorcycle-on-rails to whisk the drug lord to freedom,” the Washington Post reports.
The Sinaloa cartel is noted for its sophisticated use of tunnels, according to the paper.
Guzmén Loera’s escape will be at least as much of a blow to the administration of President Enrique Peña Nieto as Guzmén’s 2014 recapture was a boon.
The Mexican president has built much of his time in office on widespread efforts to curb the country’s systemic networks of violence, corruption and trafficking. Guzmén Loera was caught again in February 2014 after more than a decade on the run, having escaped another maximum-security prison in 2001.
Altiplano, Guzmén Loera’s most recent prison, holds the top captured drug leaders, according to the Post, and has been described as impenetrable.
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