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"It's shocking, embarrassing, a huge blow, almost everything under the sun," said Eric L. Olson, Associate Director of the Latin American Program at the Wilson Center who follows crime trends in Latin America. "It is almost Mexico's worst nightmare, and I suspect many in U.S. law enforcement are apoplectic right now."

"Mexico is going to be under increasing pressure from the U.S. in terms of extraditing these top people," he said.

Mexico has long struggled to reshape its police forces and root out corruption, but Mr. Olson said the prison system often takes a back seat as "the last thing in the chain of law enforcement." 

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