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Hunt on as cartel boss escapes from jail

Mexico has mounted an all-out manhunt for its most powerful drug lord, Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman, who authorities said escaped from a maximum security prison through a 1.5km tunnel from a small opening in the shower area of his cell.

The elaborate underground escape route, allegedly built without the detection of authorities, allowed Guzman to do what Mexican officials promised would never happen after his re-capture last year - slip out of one of the country's most secure jails for the second time.

"This represents without a doubt an affront to the Mexican state," President Enrique Pena Nieto said while on a previously scheduled trip to France. "But I also have confidence in the institutions of the Mexican state ... that they have the strength and determination to recapture this criminal."


Guzman's escape is a major embarrassment to the Pena Nieto administration, which had received plaudits for its aggressive approach to top drug lords. Since the government took office in late 2012, Mexican authorities have nabbed or killed six of them, including Guzman.

If he is not caught immediately, Guzman will likely be back in full command and control of the Sinaloa Cartel in 48 hours, said Michael S. Vigil, a retired US Drug Enforcement Administration chief.

"We may never find him again," Vigil said. "All the accolades that Mexico has received in their counterdrug efforts will be erased by this one event."