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20 years

Newly released video of El Chapo’s escape sheds light on response

MEXICO CITY, October 16th, 2015 (EFE) The guards at the Altiplano maximum-security prison in central Mexico took 26 minutes to notice that Joaquin “El Chapo” (Shorty) Guzman had escaped even though loud banging noises were audible in the notorious drug kingpin’s cell, a video and audio recording released Wednesday by leading national broadcaster Televisa reveals.

The just over 10-minute video – a small portion of which was released by Mexican authorities three days after his July 11 escape through a 1.5-kilometer (0.9-mile tunnel) dug to his cell, but without sound – shows the Sinaloa cartel leader lying down in his cell that night and looking at a TV device with the volume turned up high.

Construction work is heard starting at 8:46 p.m., but the staff in the prison’s control center do not appear to notice the noise, which is partially drowned out by the sound of the television, based on cameras installed in that video monitoring room and also broadcast by Televisa.

With the banging noises continuing, Guzman goes to the bathroom at 8:50 p.m.; he then approaches the shower and noises similar to those of falling earth and a slab of concrete being moved are heard.

The inmate then paces his cell before disappearing behind a wall for a few seconds. At that point, a voice is heard that does not appear to be that of El Chapo, although it is not clear what is said.

At 8:52 p.m., Guzman returns to the bed to change his shoes and then crouches down behind the wall again and disappears for good.

Twenty-five minutes later, Federal Police agents responsible for monitoring the prison’s cells gather in front of control center’s video screens but show no sign of alarm.

Two guards then are sent to Guzman’s cell and call him by his last name one minute later; after receiving no response, they search the cell and notify their commander by radio that “there’s a hole in the shower.”

At 9:29 p.m., or more than 10 minutes after the escape was discovered, the prison guards’ supervisor and a Federal Police agent enter the cell, remove a plastic container that had been inserted in the hole and climb into the tunnel.

Authorities estimate it took Guzman 15 minutes to make his way through the tunnel, which had a motorcycle on rails, lighting and oxygen tanks.

Mexico’s national security commissioner, Renato Sales, confirmed in September that the video of the kingpin’s escape had audio but said it had not been released because the sounds could not be clearly distinguished.

He said a lot of noise was heard but that the sounds related to the escape tunnel had been “confused with work on the Cutzamala system,” a water-pipeline project in the vicinity of Altiplano, located in Mexico state on the outskirts of Mexico City, and that it was necessary to clean up the sound.

Sources with the National Security Commission told EFE Wednesday that the federal Attorney General’s Office was responsible for investigating the video footage of the escape.

That suggests that a leak to the media may have originated there, a possibility the AG’s office denies.

Around three-dozen people have been arrested so far for their alleged role in the cartel leader’s prison break.

July’s escape was not the first time that the drug lord, whose wealth led to his name regularly appearing on Forbes magazine’s list of global billionaires, had broken out of prison.

On Jan. 19, 2001, Guzman escaped from the Puente Grande penitentiary in the western state of Jalisco, pulling off the Hollywood-style jailbreak by hiding in a cart full of dirty laundry in front of guards.

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