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Drug lord's daring prison break spoils Mexican president’s Paris trip

Notimex/Presidencia/AFP I Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto gives a press conference from the Mexican ambassador’s residence in France following news of drug lord Joaquin Guzman’s escape from prison

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto's invitation to Bastille Day celebrations in Paris has turned sour – and embarrassing – with the news that one of his country’s most notorious drug lords had escaped from a high-security prison for a second time.


Pena Nieto was supposed to be enjoying a moment in the limelight as the guest of honour during a military parade and other ceremonies marking France’s national holiday on July 14. Instead he was being lambasted by columnists and cartoonists back home following a daring prison break over the weekend.

Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, Mexico’s most infamous drug kingpin, on Saturday escaped from the Altiplano prison, located 90 kilometres west of the capital. The former leader of the feared Sinaloa Cartel, Guzman fled via a sophisticated 1.5 kilometre-long tunnel under his prison cell.

The escape route, which had lighting, ventilation and a motorcycle, would have taken a year to build -- under the noses of penitentiary officials.

The 2014 capture of Guzman had been hailed as one of Pena Nieto’s major achievements. The drug lord was first captured by authorities in 1993, but he escaped from jail in the western state of Jalisco in 2001. A second escape under Pena Nieto’s watch now threatens to become a major stain on his presidency.

In an interview with Univision television in February 2014, Pena Nieto said it was his administration’s “obligation” to keep Guzman behind bars and that a repeat prison break would be “unforgivable”.

“A crime committed outside a jail is understandable because of the crook’s audacity or the authority’s oversight. But inside a jail, a crime can only be the result of the government’s betrayal,” columnist Jesús Silva-Herzog Márquez wrote in the Reforma newspaper on Monday. “The tunnels under a prison that is absurdly referred to as a high-security prison are a metaphor for a state riddled by corruption.”

“The bad news was given to the President during his flight [to Paris]. The coincidence is suggestive: his government is facing the crisis with its head is in the clouds,” the columnist added.

Guzman’s second breakout in 15 years was instantly lampooned by popular Mexican cartoonists, who highlighted the irony of Guzman’s flight from prison during Pena Nieto’s flight to Paris.

Click on the arrows below for cartoons poking fun at Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto over “El Chapo” Guzman’s intrepid prison break.


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