Authorities are certain that the tunnel that led Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman to freedom would have taken more than a year in planning alone.
His escape from Altiplano, a maximum security prison and Mexico’s toughest, must have involved inside help on a large scale. Three prison officials, including the director of the facility, Valentin Cardenas, have been fired. Interior Secretary Miguel Angel Osorio Chong says that
"They had something or a lot to do with what happened, and that's why we made that decision.”
Altiplano is a hard enough prison to escape from—it has the same high-security standards as those in the US and Canada—without the additional measures taken to hold Guzman: extra surveillance and a tracking bracelet.
His rescuers would have needed intelligence on the prison well in advance of Guzman’s incarceration, including floor plans, alarm systems, and camera systems.
But frightening security breaches aside, the tunnel itself is technologically remarkable. 1.5 km wide and 19 meters below the surface, it was able to circumvent the prison’s 750 cameras and 26 security filters.
If you think that’s impressive, get this: The tunnel had lights, air venting, and a customized motorcycle rigged up on a rail line.
Homeland Security’s says that such sophisticated work should have taken 18 months to two years to complete, but
“When it’s for the boss, you probably put that on high speed.”
But if such feats are possible, it’s not surprising that Guzman is the one behind them. The drug lord spent over 25 years building sophisticated drug-smuggling tunnels under the US-Mexico border, and his cartel has been the most successful in corrupting officials. Organized crime expert Edgardo Buscaglia claims that:
“By far they are the most infiltrated in Mexico's government institutions.”