July 18, 2015 / 7:05 AM / in 2 years

Mexico arrests seven officials over escape of drug kingpin

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - The Mexican Attorney General’s office said on Friday it had arrested seven officials over suspected involvement in the jail break of drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

A police vehicle is seen a poster with a photo of drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman offering a reward of 60 million Mexican pesos for information along a street in Mexico City July 16, 2015. REUTERS/Henry Romero

Guzman’s escape last Saturday from a maximum security prison through a mile-long tunnel built into his cell was a profound embarrassment for President Enrique Peña Nieto, raising pressure on the government to do more to battle public sector corruption.

As the tunnel surfaced in a blind spot in the cell behind a shower wall, government officials said it could only have occurred with the collusion of prison guards and officials, and that Guzman’s helpers must have seen the building’s plans.

The government dismissed the head of the prison and questioned more than 30 prison officials over the escape. It did not name the seven people who were arrested and a government spokesman could not immediately clarify the matter.

Peña Nieto, returning from a visit to France, on Friday acknowledged the escape had caused widespread frustration and that the only way to undo the damage was to recapture Guzman.

Separately, the government said the United States had requested the extradition of Guzman about two weeks before the breakout took place.

That news hinted at a U-turn by the government, because the previous attorney general, Jesus Murillo had said in January the country had no plans to hand him over.

Still, opposition Senator Juan Carlos Romero Hicks said if Mexico did recapture Guzman, extraditing him would be tantamount to admitting it was incapable of keeping him locked up.

“National sovereignty and national pride are so important ... that I doubt the government will do it,” he said.

Reporting by Dave Graham; Editing by David Gregorio

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