The Mexican government attributed its sudden relocation of Sinaloa cartel chief Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán to a prison in northern Mexico to renovations going on at Altiplano prison, where Guzmán had been jail since his recapture on January 8.
But a report published on Wednesday by Mexican columnist Carlos Loret de Mola, citing sources within the government, says that officials were spooked into moving the kingpin by a power outage that affected his wing of Altiplano.
On May 2, a power outage and the resultant “security procedure” caused the cancellation of Guzmán’s visit with his lawyer that day and of a visit with his wife, Emma Coronel, the following day, according to Mexican newspaper El Universal.
The outage cut power and audio and visual recording in the area where Guzmán conducted his visitations.
“The emergency plant came on almost immediately,” Loret writes, “and everything returned to normal.”
Guzmán was not in the room when the power went out — he was found in his cell. But the possibility that the blackout was related to an escape plot was enough to spook Mexican authorities into moving Guzmán to a different prison — something they had planned to do while he awaited possible extradition but never settled on when, according to high-level sources Loret spoke with.
Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Interior Minister Miguel Osorio Chong approved the move on May 6, according to Loret. In the early-morning hours of May 7, Guzmán was marched into one of three Black Hawk helicopters waiting outside Altiplano prison. Two of the helicopters were decoys.
It’s not surprising that Mexican authorities gave into “a Chapo-induced paranoia episode,” in the words of El Daily Post security and justice editor Alejandro Hope. Guzmán and his Sinaloa henchmen have built a reputation for sophisticated tunnels and elaborate escapes — the kingpin, who has escaped from prison twice, has even gotten the nickname “the master of tunnels.”
“Even if, as is likely, El Chapo had nothing to do with [the power outage], that might have been enough for the government to order his transfer to another prison,” Hope wrote on Monday. “Better safe than sorry.”