Day of glory and drama in Mexico: the capture of one of the most wanted drug traffickers in the United States marred by an accident

Rafael Caro Quintero, 69, was arrested by agents of the Mexican Navy in the state of Sinaloa, in western Mexico. All the news channels in the country immediately interrupted their programs to announce this capture.

The drug trafficker from Sinaloa, the cradle of many capos, is one of the three founders in the 1970s of the Guadalajara cartel, the parent company of future organized crime companies that still transport drugs to the US market in 2022.

The case was closely followed across the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo: the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) had offered 20 million dollars for his capture, a record, as had the FBI, which had put Caro Quintero in custody. list of the 10 most wanted fugitives.

The dispute with the United States dates back 37 years: Caro Quintero is accused of having participated in the kidnapping, torture and murder in 1985 of a DEA agent, Enrique Camarena.

Of Mexican origin, “Kiki” Camarena had infiltrated the Guadalajara Cartel, which held him responsible for the destruction of 2,500 hectares of marijuana in 1984.

As soon as his arrest was officially confirmed, the Biden administration requested the “immediate extradition” of Caro Quintero, so that he can face US justice for his “alleged crimes.”

“Today’s arrest is the culmination of the tireless work of the DEA and its Mexican partners,” US Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement. Mexican newspapers regularly mention the continued presence of US agents on Mexican soil.

For now, Caro Quintero will be transferred to the Altiplano prison, the safest in Mexico, located near the capital Mexico City, and then will be heard by a judge, the Mexican Prosecutor’s Office reported.

On the afternoon of this same Friday, the Navy announced the death of 14 soldiers in the accident of a Black Hawk helicopter “whose cause is unknown”, also in the state of Sinaloa.

The Navy initially ruled out any link with the arrest of Caro Quintero, the same day in the same region.

Hours later, however, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said that the 14 soldiers died “after fulfilling their mission of supporting those who executed the arrest warrant issued against Rafael Caro Quintero.”

Day of glory and drama in Mexico: the capture of one of the most wanted drug traffickers in the United States marred by an accident
©AFP

“There is no place to hide”

The president announced the opening of an investigation to determine “the causes of the fall of the helicopter” that was about to land,” in a message of condolences on Twitter.

First arrested in 1985 in Costa Rica, Caro Quintero was tried and sentenced in Mexico to 40 years in prison.

A judge had released him in 2013 for a question of legal form.

The Mexican justice system had requested his capture again, pressured by the United States, which relentlessly demanded his arrest and extradition for the “Kiki” Camarena case, as well as for drug trafficking.

“There is nowhere to hide for those who kidnap, torture or murder America’s law enforcement officers,” Merrick Garland said in his statement.

“I did not kidnap him, I did not torture him, I did not kill him,” Caro Quintero defended in a secret interview with the weekly Proceso in July 2016. “I was at the crime scene, it is my only participation.”

In popular culture, Caro Quintero is one of the main characters in the series “Narcos México” that narrates in detail the formation of the Guadalajara Cartel, the DEA’s secret war in Mexico, the torture and murder of officer Camarena.

The leader of the Guadalajara cartel, Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, arrested in 1989, is serving a 40-year prison sentence for the murder of “Kiki” Camarena. Ill, he denied any involvement in an interview a year ago. The third founder, Ernesto Fonseca Carillo, has been serving his sentence under house arrest for a few years due to his age (80 or 91 according to sources).

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