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A Look Inside El Chapo's Prison Escape Through A Tunnel


The world's most powerful drug lord is still on the lam. Joaquin Guzman escaped from Mexico's most secure lockup last weekend by a tunnel. Surveillance camera footage shows El Chapo, or Shorty, as he's known, going into the shower area of his cell, crouching and then disappearing. NPR's Mexico correspond, Carrie Kahn, just had a look at the tunnel that Guzman used. And she joins us now. Hi, Carrie.


SIEGEL: It's a mile-long tunnel, not a rough-hewn one either. Tell us what you saw.

KAHN: Oh, it was just incredible. Robert, I'll try and find the words for it. It's just an amazing feat. We're in a field that you can see the penitentiary straight ahead from where this house was. That's where the exit of the tunnel is located. It's a straight shot through this cornfield and grass area. There were even cows there grazing. And you can see the guard towers of the penitentiary.

And so first, you go into what looks like a rustic warehouse, and you see the hole. And you go down into that hole, and then underneath that was just a short ladder down about a couple yards. And then you get into this crawlspace that is amazingly big, and it has a generator there. And then you go down the big shaft, and that was the big drop down, about 33 feet. It's a large shaft with a wooden ladder constructed on one side of it. It was really strong because you have to, you know, hold all your weight on it. The rungs are not uniform, so it was quite a walk down there.

And then at the bottom, Robert, it's just incredible. There is the famous motorcycle that we heard that either Chapo Guzman sat on or was in the backseat of, and it - one mile, straight shot, out the tunnel to the penitentiary. It's just an amazing feat.

SIEGEL: And the motorcycle was actually on a rail that they built inside the tunnel. Is that right?

KAHN: Incredibly, yes. There are two rails, and the motorcycle - it's sort of a rigged-out motorcycle. And attached to it are two little cars that you - that they were told us that's where they put the dirt on. And then all along the length of the tunnel is this PVC piping. And you can see where the lights were. And the - we were told that as he came through the tunnel on the motorcycle, either the passenger or in the back of the - in the cart, he smashed the lights as he went, running along the rails so that he could - so nobody could follow him. They'd be in the dark. It's just amazing.

SIEGEL: Carrie, the Mexican authorities are, of course, under enormous pressure now to recapture El Chapo. What new or different plans do you think they have this time to get him?

KAHN: It is very unclear. We keep getting these press releases about how much manpower they have. There's 10,000 federal agents out there. They've distribute a hundred-thousand flyer with pictures of El Chapo at all tollbooths and all major highways. They're - in airports all over, they have a great amount of work out there. And they may be asked for assistence from the U.S. We're not sure of that yet, so we'll have to see what happens in the coming days.

SIEGEL: OK. That's NPR's Mexico correspondent, Carrie Kahn. Thanks, Carrie.

KAHN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Carrie Kahn is NPR's International Correspondent based in Mexico City, Mexico. She covers Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. Kahn's reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning news programs including All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition, and on
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