U.S. and Mexico Open Talks on El Chapo's Extradition

An artisan works on a pinata depicting Mexican actress Kate del Castillo near other pinata depicting the drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman at a workshop in Reynosa, in Tamaulipas state, Mexico, January 13. Daniel Becerril/Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Justice Department has begun talks with Mexican authorities about extraditing drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman to the United States, a spokesman said on Thursday.

Guzman's extradition to face charges in the United States was discussed on Tuesday at a meeting in Miami between Arely Gomez, Mexico's attorney general, and Justice officials, said the spokesman, who requested anonymity.

He declined to identify the U.S. officials who met with Gomez.

The Miami meeting followed a phone call to Gomez last Friday by U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to congratulate Mexico on its recapture of Guzman. He escaped in July from what was supposed to be one of Mexico's most secure prisons.

The Miami meeting was the first face-to-face discussion between U.S. and Mexican officials on the matter, the spokesman said. Officials from both countries have said extraditing Guzman could take a year or longer.

U.S. officials have said the United States has filed more than one extradition request for Guzman.

News reports from Mexico said that after his recapture, Mexican authorities served Guzman with copies of two outstanding U.S. extradition requests.

A U.S. law enforcement source said at least two federal prosecutors' offices had in the past sent extradition requests for Guzman to Mexican authorities - the U.S. Attorney's offices in San Diego, California, and El Paso, Texas.

The department spokesman declined to confirm how many extradition requests have been sent and by which prosecutors.

The law enforcement source said that although prosecutors in San Diego and El Paso had formally staked claims to try Guzman if he is extradited, it is possible, if not likely, that other U.S. Attorney's offices with cases against Guzman will also bid to try him first after extradition.

Among other federal prosecutors with open cases on Guzman are those in Chicago, Miami and both Brooklyn and Manhattan, New York. Lynch previously served as U.S. attorney in Brooklyn.

U.S. officials said if there is a competition among U.S. Attorneys to try Guzman, Justice Department headquarters, and ultimately Lynch herself, may decide who tries him first.