Mexico has launched the process of extraditing drug cartel leader Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman to the United States, two days after the fugitive was recaptured on Friday following a months-long hunt.
But officials said the process could take months, as Guzman’s lawyers have filed many appeals to keep him in Mexico, where he has already managed to flee from two high-security prisons.
Guzman heads an organised crime syndicate called the Sinaloa Cartel and is considered the most powerful drug-trafficker in the world. His gang smuggles drugs worth billions of dollars into the United States and is also responsible for a countless number of deaths.
“El Chapo” is wanted in various US states and his latest escape in July deeply embarrassed the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, straining ties between the two nations.
Guzman's defence will now have to present arguments against extradition in three days and provide the supporting evidence in 20 days, apart from the other appeals they have already started filing.
Guzman's lawyer Juan Pablo Badillo said his client shouldn't be extradited to the US because "our country must respect national sovereignty, the sovereignty of its institutions to impart justice."
On Saturday, a Mexican federal law enforcement official said the extradition process would take at least six months. He said appeals are usually rejected and each one means a judge has to schedule a hearing.
Mexican authorities said the interview Hollywood star Sean Penn conducted with “El Chapo” at his hideout last October had helped them track the fugitive down.
Penn's article on Guzman was published on Saturday by Rolling Stone magazine, a day after the drug lord's recapture.