MEXICO CITY // Mexico’s government offered a US$3.8 million (Dh13.96m) reward for the capture of fugitive drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman on Monday.
Top prison officials were also sacked amid suspicions that guards helped him escape.
Guzman vanished from his cell late Saturday even though he was wearing a monitoring bracelet and surveillance cameras were trained on the room 24 hours a day, interior minister Miguel Angel Osorio Chong said.
Mr Osorio Chong said Guzman “must have counted on the complicity of prison personnel ... which if confirmed would constitute an act of treason”.
Guzman had been behind bars for just 17 months when he escaped for the second time since 2001, dealing a humiliating setback to president Enrique Pena Nieto.
This time, the head of the Sinaloa drug cartel managed to flee a maximum-security prison some 90 kilometres west of Mexico City through a 1.5km tunnel found under his cell’s shower.
While cameras were constantly trained on the cell, Mr Osorio Chong said there were “two blind spots” to respect the inmate’s privacy “and human rights”. He also managed somehow to remove the bracelet, which only worked inside the prison.
Mr Osorio Chong said he fired the Altiplano prison’s director as well as the head of the nation’s penitentiary system and general coordinator “to facilitate” the investigation.
Attorney general Arely Gomez said 34 prison officials and 17 inmates were interrogated by prosecutors.
The government has launched a massive manhunt for Guzman, who amassed a huge wealth as the head of the country’s most powerful drug gang, with tentacles reaching around the globe.
Troops and police patrolled highways, borders and airports, while the governments of the United States and Central American neighbours were cooperating.
The US state department said Guzman’s “swift recapture by Mexican authorities is a priority for both the Mexican and the US governments”.
* Agence France-Presse