Prison guards first arrived at drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán's empty prison cell a full 28 minutes after he escaped through a secret tunnel, and they didn't sound the alarm until he had been on the run for 43 minutes, according to an investigation by Mexican journalist Anabel Hernández.
The report, published Sunday by Univision, one of Fusion's parent companies, is based on an alleged criminal case file that the journalist says she obtained from the Mexican Attorney General’s office (PGR). The information in that file contradicts the official version of events offered by Interior Minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong on July 16.
For example, Osorio Chong said prison guards arrived at El Chapo's cell 18 minutes after he had escaped, but the file says 28, according to Hernández.
The journalist also claims that other inmates in the cellblock reported hearing drilling sounds days prior to the drug lord's escape, and that El Chapo had been exercising more than usual before making his break.
Chapo reportedly paced his cell more than usual, exercising his arms with water bottles and doing squats against the prison bars, according to the alleged testimony of a Mexican intelligence official who was in charge of monitoring the drug lord. In two press conferences, the Mexican government stated that Chapo's behavior was “normal.”
The journalist's investigation also challenges the authenticity of the surveillance video released by the Mexican government after Chapo's escape. It shows the drug kingpin pacing silently around in his cell, but the original video includes the sound of metal hitting concrete, according to the investigation.
Mexican journalist Carlos Loret de Mola published similar claims in a report for Mexican daily El Universal last week. “The federal government exhibited images but no sounds,” he wrote, citing sources close to the investigation and transcripts from the Mexican Attorney General’s Office (PGR). “The cameras did have microphones and what they registered has already been analyzed by specialists. They found that for entire days and nights the sounds of drills and hammering were heard.”
Loret de Mola added, citing previously unseen camera footage he allegedly gained access to, that the first group of guards arrived to Chapo’s cell about “half an hour” or more after the drug lord had vanished.
Loret de Mola told Fusion that the PGR investigation he gained access to included satellite images of Altiplano prison that show that the construction on the warehouse were Chapo’s tunnel led began in May 2014, about three months after Chapo was imprisoned. The investigation found some 70,000 buckets of dirt were spread around the warehouse construction area, creating a visible brown stain against the otherwise green landscape that could be seen all the way from the prison, according to Loret de Mola's second article, which will be published tomorrow in El Universal.
The Mexican government has not responded to any of the allegations in Hernández's or Loret de Mola’s investigative reports. Fusion reached out to Mexico's Ministry of the Interior (SEGOB) and the National Security Commission, but both declined to comment.