Captured Mexican drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán is apparently willing to plead guilty to drug trafficking charges in the U.S., according to his lawyer.
But there’s a catch: He doesn’t want to do time in a maximum-security prison.
Speaking to Univision, Guzmán’s lawyer, José Refugio Rodríguez, said that the drug cartel boss “is willing to accept his culpability for the charges [that] the United States seeks.”
“[We would ask for] favorable conditions in order to face legal proceedings in the United States … Like? That he doesn’t arrive at a maximum-security prison … and [that he gets there] after the penalty is negotiated,” Rodríguez added.
Guzmán was recaptured in early January during a raid by Mexican Marines, which took place in the city of Los Mochis. During the raid, five suspects were killed and six – including Guzmán – were arrested. Marines seized two armored vehicles, eight rifles, one handgun and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.
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He escaped from incarceration in July through a mile-long tunnel dug to what authorities say was a building in plain sight of the Altiplano prison that was set up specifically for the prison break. The tunnel leading from the drug lord’s cell to the building was equipped with a ventilation system and a customized motorcycle.
The U.S. had put a $5 million reward for information leading to Guzmán's recapture, and there was a price of $3.8 million on his head in Mexico.
At least seven U.S. federal courts have pending complaints against Guzmán, accusing him of masterminding operations that smuggled drugs into the country.
In his interview with the Spanish-language news network, Rodríguez said for Guzmán to “renounce [his] right to a defense in Mexico” he would demand not to be “held in a maximum-security prison where he would not have contact with other inmates or where he would not see the light of the sun for more than an hour a day.”
The request is an apparent allusion to the federal ADX prison in Florence, Colorado – known as the “Alcatraz of the Rockies” – where many of the most violent criminals in the U.S. are held in its "supermax" wing.
It seems unlikely to that the U.S. would agree to those conditions, and most analysts of Mexico's drug war seem to agree that Guzmán's extradition will be a relatively rushed affair.
The U.S. filed an extradition request for Guzmán on June 25, 2015 – about 2½ weeks before his most recent escape. Following some early reticence, the Mexican government appears more than willing to send the Sinaloa Cartel boss to the U.S.
A court order filed by another of Guzman's lawyers, Juan Pablo Badillo, in the weeks following the drug lord's escape from the maximum security Altiplano prison argued that if Guzmán was extradited to the U.S., he would likely be tortured into confessing to crimes for which U.S. authorities have accused him.
More than a dozen cartel leaders – including high-ranking ones like Edgar Valdez Villarreal, a.k.a., "La Barbie" – have been extradited to the U.S. from Mexico since Guzman’s escape last year. Experts say the extraditions were a move by Mexico to try and make up for the embarrassment of Chapo’s escape.
"It's all a matter of politics," Eric Olson, the associate director of the Latin American program at the Woodrow Wilson Center, told Fox News Latino. "There is, however, an understanding that the U.S. will see Guzmán extradited."