Mexico is planning to extradite drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman to the United States by the start of 2017, a top official said. "We hope (to do it) in January or February," National Security Commissioner Renato Sales Heredia told TV network Televisa on Friday (14 October).
But the drug lord has the option to challenge the extradition and his lawyers claimed they will "fight until the end".
El Chapo's lawyer, Jose Refugio Rodriguez, said, "He can have his own personal opinion. I think it will be very difficult for it to happen between now and January" and added that his client has instructed him to "fight to the end" and that he can win the case if it "is not handled politically".
Earlier in May, the notorious Sinaloa drug cartel boss's extradition was approved by the country's government after the US guaranteed he would not face the death penalty. But in June, a judge provisionally halted the extradition after Guzman's lawyers challenged the verdict and said that the decree of limitations had run out on some crimes Guzman is accused of in the US and that a number of the charges lacked strong evidence.
He faces charges including money laundering, drug trafficking, kidnapping and murder in cities like Chicago, Miami and New York in the US.
El Chapo, one of the world's most wanted drug lords — until his arrest in February 2014 — had escaped from prison via an elaborate tunnel in July 2015. After almost six months on the run, he was recaptured in Los Mochis, Sinaloa State, in January 2016.
Since being jailed, Guzman's cartel has faced several attacks from rivals. One of his sons — Jesus Alfredo Guzman Salazar — was also kidnapped on 15 August from the resort city of Puerto Vallarta in Mexico; however, he was reportedly released just days after his abduction.