Mexico captures drug kingpin wanted for murder by US authorities
Mexico on Friday captured a notorious drug kingpin on the FBI’s list of 10 most-wanted fugitives for the murder of a US undercover agent that strained the countries’ diplomatic relations.
Rafael Caro Quintero, 69, is accused by the United States of ordering the kidnap, torture and murder of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) special agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena in 1985.
He was detained by Mexican marines in the town of Choix in the northwestern state of Sinaloa, for “the purpose of extradition,” the navy said in a statement.
Caro Quintero had already been arrested in 1985, tried in Mexico and sentenced to 40 years in prison for Camarena’s murder.
But in 2013, a Mexican court ordered his release on a legal technicality after he served 28 years, a move that angered US authorities.
By the time Mexico’s Supreme Court overturned the decision, Caro Quintero had already gone into hiding.
The case plunged US-Mexican relations into a crisis, and it took decades for anti-drug agencies on both sides of the border to rebuild trust.
Caro Quintero, alias “Rafa,” has a $20 million bounty on his head and is described by the FBI as “extremely dangerous.”
He is accused of co-founding the now-defunct Guadalajara drug cartel and currently runs an arm of the infamous Sinaloa cartel, according to US authorities.
The US Department of Justice expressed gratitude Friday to Mexican authorities over Caro Quintero’s arrest, confirming the US plans to seek his extradition.
“There is no hiding place for anyone who kidnaps, tortures, and murders American law enforcement,” Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement.
Denial of guilt
In 2016, in an interview published by news magazine Proceso, Caro Quintero denied killing Camarena, whose story was depicted in the Netflix show “Narcos: Mexico.”
“I did not kidnap, did not torture and did not kill him,” Caro Quintero said, adding that he wanted to “live in peace” and work as a cattle rancher.
“I apologize to the society of Mexico for the mistakes I made, to the Camarena family, the DEA, the US government. I apologize,” he added.
Camarena’s murder was considered a vendetta for investigations by the DEA agent that led to the seizure of a massive marijuana field in Chihuahua.
Last year a Mexican court ruled that Caro Quintero could be extradited to the United States if caught, rejecting an appeal from his lawyers who argued that he had already been tried in his home country.
The Guadalajara drug cartel, powerful in the 1980s, is considered the forefather of modern Mexican drug cartels.
It was one of the first to establish contacts with Colombian drug lords to transport cocaine from the South American country to the United States.
The cartel’s other founders, Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo and Ernesto Fonseca Carillo, were also handed long prison sentences in Mexico for Camarena’s murder.
The organization’s disappearance led to the rise of the powerful Sinaloa drug cartel led by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.
In 2017, Mexico extradited Guzman to the United States where he is serving a life sentence.
A wave of cartel-related violence has left more than 340,000 people dead in Mexico since the government deployed the military in the war on drugs in 2006.