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Mexico drug lord in medium-security prison

ATLANTA, July 29 (UPI) -- Ex-Mexican drug lord Osiel Cardenas Guillen's lawyers arranged for him to serve time in a medium-security rather than high-security U.S. prison, records show.

Cardenas, 43, the symbolic leader of Mexico's Gulf Cartel -- known for its violent methods of intimidation and for working closely with corrupt law officials and business people in Mexico and the United States -- avoided Colorado's highest-security supermax U.S. Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility for "the worse of the worst" criminals and instead checked in to the U.S. Penitentiary, Atlanta, where he is to spend 25 years without the possibility of parole, the records indicate.

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Unlike the harshness of Florence, Colorado's ADX Florence prison, where inmates are locked in tomblike cells and rarely see the light of day, USP Atlanta lets inmates walk the razor-wire-surrounded facility to go to meals, to the library or for recreation, the Houston Chronicle reported Thursday.

Until now, Cardenas was kept in secret locations for security reasons, the newspaper said.

In 1999 Cardenas allegedly threatened to kill two U.S. federal agents -- one from the FBI and the other from the Drug Enforcement Administration -- who were transporting a Gulf Cartel informant through Matamoros, Mexico, across the Rio Grande from Brownsville, Texas.

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Cardenas and more than a dozen of his men allegedly surrounded the agents' car, reports indicated. After a tense standoff, the agents were able to walk away from the situation.

The FBI later offered a $2 million bounty for Cardenas' arrest. He was captured in Matamoros by the Mexican army after a gun battle March 14, 2003, and extradited to the United States Jan. 20, 2007, to stand trial for conspiracy to import large quantities of cocaine into the United States, as well as for the 1999 incident with the two U.S. agents.

He was sentenced Feb. 24 to 25 years in prison.

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