Mexican authorities searched frantically on Monday for the notorious drug kingpin known as "El Chapo" — but there was no sign of him more than 24 hours after his astonishing, elaborate escape from a maximum-security prison.
In a devastating embarrassment for the Mexican government, the kingpin, Joaquin Guzman, slipped into a shaft through the shower floor of his prison cell and got away in a mile-long, ventilated tunnel outfitted with a motorbike.
“This is like capturing Osama bin Laden, having him spend a year in prison, and then walking away from that prison only to re-engage in his terrorist activities,” said Anthony Coulson, a former supervisor at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
Related: Who Is 'El Chapo'?
Besides Mexico, Guzman has been charged with crimes in several U.S. jurisdictions, including New York, Chicago and Miami. Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary, told reporters that the United States "is very interested in making sure that Mr. Guzman is brought to justice."
Attorney General Loretta Lynch spoke with her Mexican counterpart on Sunday.
Former U.S. drug enforcement officials have said they fear that Guzman could quickly retake control of the Sinaloa cartel, which reaches deep into the United States and far around the world.
Barry McCaffrey, former director of the U.S. Office of National Drug Control Policy and an NBC News analyst, said Guzman would probably not leave Mexico.
“He’s safest there,” McCaffrey said on TODAY. “I mean, entire police departments have been bought.” But he said that Guzman, through the cartel, represents “a clear threat to our national security.”
Related: Photo Gallery: See the Tunnel Used by Drug Kingpin to Escape Prison
Guzman escaped prison in a laundry cart in 2001, and he outfitted his safe houses with secret tunnels. He used one of them to escape authorities in February 2014, just before he was caught.
The latest escape raised strong suspicions of corruption inside the prison and humiliated the government of President Enrique Peña Nieto, who campaigned as a cartel-fighter.
“You have to completely renew the Mexican prison system,” Luis Miguel Barbosa, a Mexican senator, told reporters on Monday in Paris. “The arrest of all warders and managers is not enough. This happened due to collaboration from within the jail at the highest level.”
Erin McClam is a senior writer for NBC News, responsible for reporting, writing and editing general news for NBCNews.com. Prior to joining the site in January 2013, McClam worked at The Associated Press, where he spent 13 years and was most recently financial markets editor. In that role, McClam was responsible for a team of five reporters and a deputy editor that covered the stock and bond markets, financial regulation and the nation's largest banks.
Prior to that role, McClam held a variety of jobs at AP, including being a national correspondent and an original member of its Top Stories Desk editing operation.
McClam lives in New York.
Mark Potter is an NBC News correspondent based in Miami where he reports for NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt, TODAY, MSNBC and NBCNews.com. He joined NBC News as a staff correspondent in 2004.
During his more than 40-year journalism career, Potter has reported from all over the United States, South America, Central America and the Caribbean, including Haiti, Cuba and Mexico. He has also worked in NBC's London and Hong Kong Bureaus, and has reported from China, the South Pacific, the Philippines and Israel. Much of his career was spent with investigative units at both the national and regional levels, and he has reported on topics including politics, narcotics, immigrant smuggling, environmental issues, natural disasters, international conflicts and numerous high-profile court cases.
Among the stories he has covered are the Cuban Mariel boatlift, the Grenada invasion, the arrest and trial of Panama's General Manuel Noriega, the Mexican and Colombian drug wars, the Haitian immigration crisis, the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the Hezbollah-Israeli war, the 1980's Miami riots and cocaine crisis, the Theodore Bundy murder trial, the Oklahoma City and Atlanta Centennial Park bombing investigations, the regime of Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, the Everglades Valujet crash, scores of hurricanes, the Armero volcano disaster in Colombia, the Central American conflicts, the Elian Gonzalez legal battle, several Papal trips, the right-to-die case of Terri Schiavo, the Gianni Versace murder, the U.S. heroin epidemic, the Southwest border-security debate, the U.S.-Cuban political opening and the dramatic prison-tunnel escape of Mexican kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.
For 15 years, prior to working at NBC News, Potter was a correspondent for ABC News, reporting for World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, Nightline and Good Morning America. He also worked for CNN, where among other duties he served as contributing correspondent for the Emmy-Award winning magazine show, CNN and Time.
Potter is the recipient of the Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia Award, a Robert F. Kennedy Award, an Investigative Reporters and Editors Award, National Headliner Awards, the 2011 national Emmy Award for "Mexico: The War Next Door," a 2015 Emmy Award for "Hooked: America's Heroin Epidemic," numerous Emmy nominations, and six regional Emmy Awards. He also received a 2015 National Association of Black Journalists Salute to Excellence Award.
Potter has often appeared as a guest lecturer in journalism classes at the University of Miami, the University of Missouri and the University of Kansas. His work is also featured in "Square Grouper," a 2011 documentary film about South Florida marijuana smugglers, and in “Cocaine Cowboys Reloaded,” a 2014 documentary about drug-related violence in Miami and Colombia.
Potter was graduated from the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism and then worked for three local television stations in Evansville, Ind., and Miami before joining network news in 1983.
The Associated Press contributed.