MEXICO CITY – A second Mexican judge has ruled that the extradition of drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman to the United States can go forward, judicial authorities announced Monday.
The process still awaits approval of Mexico’s foreign ministry and it can be appealed.
The judge’s decision was on an extradition request from a federal court in Texas. Last week, another judge made the same determination on a separate extradition request from a federal court in California.
The second decision starts another 20-day period during which the foreign affairs ministry can decide to allow the extradition. If it approves the extradition, Guzman’s lawyers could appeal, making it possible that the extradition of the leader of the Sinaloa cartel could still be months away.
The courts said Monday that the second case is related to charges for conspiracy to import and distribute cocaine and marijuana, money laundering, arms possession and murder.
Guzman faces charges from seven federal prosecutors in the U.S., including Chicago, New York, Miami and San Diego.
Guzman was arrested in January after almost six months on the run following his escape from a maximum security prison through a mile-long tunnel that opened to the floor of his shower.
He had already escaped once before in 2001 and spent more than a decade as one of the world’s most wanted fugitives until he was recaptured in 2014.
After his latest capture, authorities returned him to the same Altiplano prison of the brazen tunnel escape. They said they had reinforced the prison’s security.
But earlier this month, Guzman was suddenly transferred to a prison near the U.S. border in what the government said had to do with new efforts to improve security at Altiplano.