There are fears convicted drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman could escape from prison again after he was relocated to a less-secure facility in a region controlled by his cartel.
Mexican security officials said on Sunday that the Cefereso prison on the outskirts of Ciudad Juarez is not as impregnable as the maximum-security Altiplano facility where Guzman had been held.
But they insisted he is being held in a maximum-security wing, which includes 24-hour monitoring of his cell.
Michael Vigil, former head of international operations for the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), said sending Guzman to a prison in territory under the control of his Sinaloa cartel “doesn’t make any sense”.
He said: “He has that part of his empire, he has the infrastructure there and he has people who would assist him in terms of engineering him another escape.”
A Mexican judge ruled the drug kingpin’s extradition could move ahead, pending approval from Mexico’s foreign ministry.
Guzman faces drug charges in seven jurisdictions within the United States.
Mexico’s foreign ministry has 20 days to decide whether to proceed with the extradition.
Altiplano was considered Mexico’s highest-security prison, until July 2015 when Guzman escaped through a mile-long tunnel dug by accomplices to the shower in his cell, complete with a motorcycle modified to run on rails in the tunnel.
Authorities have said the move to Cefereso Number Nine prison was due to security updates at Altiplano and a routine policy of rotating inmates for security reasons.
Since his escape, officials had strengthened security at Altiplano.
Guzman had been placed under constant observation from a ceiling camera with no blind spots.
The floors of the cells were reinforced with metal bars and a 16-inch layer of concrete and his visits were restricted.