A patrol car with a picture of fugitive drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s on its window in Acapulco (AFP/Getty)

(Q24N) To the world outside Mexico the elaborate escape of the mos-wanted criminal from a maximum security prison is a like a crime thriller, slipping down a 10 metre shaft to a 1,500 metre (almost one mile) tunnel – equipped with lighting and ventilation – to a recently built house.

This is the second time Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán broke prison.

However, in Mexico the country’s most-read newspaper, Reforma, says 54 per cent of respondents don’t believe the tunnel story. Many think officials may have simply let him walk out the prison’s front door.

“Who knows if it was even El Chapo locked up?” said Eduardo Sanchez, sitting at his newspaper stand in Mexico City, tidying a stack of Reformas. “When he was last captured, they said it was him but it looked like a different person to me.”

The escape tunnel used by drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman (AP)

This isn’t a fringe opinion in Mexico. Some believe the government broke their deal with Sinaola cartel, so El Chap ran. Others will say his lock-up was meaningless. El Chapo ran his cartel from inside the prison walls.

Some question Mexico’s refusal to extradite their man to the United States, making their most recent request only last month.

Was it machismo? Chris Wilson, deputy director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center, a Washington-based think tank, thinks so, saying “Mexico wanted to prove they were up to the task of combating the big cartels.”

Mexico’s Attorney General at the time mockingly told his northern neighbours he would only allow Guzmán’s extradition after he served his sentence in Mexico – saying that would be, “300 or 400 years later – it will be a while.”

But 18 months later El Chapo is free.

And the Mexicans have no clue of where he could be, despite their manhunt, which critics call disjointed.

While the Mexicans were prepared to keep Guzman within their reach for the next “300 or 400 years, in the words of Mexico’s Attorney General, on the outside, his cronies were preparing his escape.

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