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 / Updated  / Source: TODAY
By Scott Stump

The prison escape of Mexican drug lord Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman through an underground tunnel on Saturday is a black eye for the Mexican government that also represents a threat to the United States, according to NBC News analyst Gen. Barry McCaffrey.

"It's an astonishing lapse of judgment on the part of Mexican authorities,'' the retired general told Savannah Guthrie on TODAY Monday.

Guzman previously escaped from a Mexican prison in a laundry cart in 2001 and was at large until he was caught by authorities in February of 2014.

"I think this is a giant threat to the United States. Remember, Mexican cartels are in a thousand U.S. cities and towns. This is a clear threat to our national security," McCaffrey explained.

On Saturday, Guzman escaped from a maximum security prison outside Mexico City through an elaborate tunnel that was nearly six feet tall and ran for 1,600 yards to a house in a nearby neighborhood. Experts estimate it took about 10 months to build and required expensive and sophisticated construction.

Guzman, who is believed to be about 60 years old, took control of the Sinaloa cartel in the early 1990s. He also is under federal indictment for drug trafficking in San Diego, Brooklyn, N.Y., El Paso, Miami and Chicago.

Despite being intensely sought, McCaffrey believes Guzman may still be in the country.

WATCH: See the tunnel 'El Chapo' used to escape

"I can't imagine he'll leave Mexico,'' McCaffrey said. "He's safest there. He's bought immunity from most local law enforcement. Entire police departments have been bought."

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