Once he was one of the most powerful criminals in Mexico, now he has been tracked down in the bushes: Rafael Caro Quintero, the Mexican drug lord most wanted by the USA, has been arrested again in Mexico.
This was confirmed by the Navy of the North American country on Friday (local time). According to a Navy statement, sniffer dog Max tracked down Caro Quintero, who, like Pablo Escobar in Colombia, was known as “narco de narcos” (“drug lord of drug lords”) in the 1980s. A video showed how Caro Quintero, dressed in jeans and a shirt, was taken away.
US Attorney General Merrick B. Garland thanked the Mexican authorities for the arrest of 69-year-old Caro Quintero in a statement from the US Department of Justice. They want to apply for his immediate extradition to the United States so that he can be tried there.
In 1985, Caro Quintero ordered the murder of Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, a US Anti-Drug Enforcement Officer. The co-founder of the former Guadalajara cartel, Mexico’s first major drug cartel, has been on the run since 2013.
At that time he was released after 28 of 40 years in prison for alleged procedural errors. Mexico’s Supreme Court reversed that decision, but by then Caro Quintero had already gone into hiding. The State Department in Washington put a $20 million bounty on his head in 2018. Caro Quintero is on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List.
“The arrest is very, very important to the United States because Caro Quintero was the mastermind behind the murder of our agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena,” former DEA chief of international operations Mike Vigil told Sin Embargo.
The story of the murdered Camarena was later told in the Netflix streaming service series Narcos: Mexico. His murder was viewed as revenge for a DEA agent investigation that led to the seizure of a large marijuana plantation in Chihuahua.
The drug lord was arrested by the Navy on Friday in the mountain town of San Simón in northwest Sinaloa state. He is to be housed in the maximum-security prison in Almoloya, 85 kilometers west of Mexico City. Most recently, he is said to have led the smaller Caborca cartel.
In 2016, Quintero gave an underground interview in which he denied any involvement in the Camarena murder. “I didn’t kidnap him, I didn’t torture him, I didn’t kill him,” Quintero said therein. “I apologize to Mexican society for the mistakes I made,” Quintero said. He added that he now wanted to live “in peace” as a rancher. However, according to the DEA, Quintero continues to run a subdivision of the notorious Sinaloa cartel.
The Guadalajara cartel, of which Quintero is said to be one of the founders, was particularly powerful in the 1980s. It is considered a model for modern Mexican drug cartels and was one of the first to work with Colombian drug lords to transport cocaine from Colombia to the United States.
The dissolution of the Guadalajara Cartel led to the rise of the Sinaloa Cartel, led by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzmán. Mexico extradited Guzmán to the United States in 2017. He is currently serving a life sentence there.
When a Navy helicopter crashed after the arrest of Caro Quinteros, also in Sinaloa, 14 passengers were killed. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador regretted the loss and expressed his condolences to the families of the deceased on social media. One officer was also seriously injured. They would all have supported the effort for the arrest. The crash then took place when landing in the village of Los Mochis, and the causes were being investigated.
A few days ago, López Obrador was received by his US colleague Joe Biden during an official visit to Washington. The arrest of what was once Mexico’s most powerful drug lord could be interpreted as a gesture of goodwill by Mexico towards Washington following tensions over security, investment and migration.
According to the International Crisis Group, around 200 criminal groups are active in Mexico. They are involved in drug trafficking, kidnapping, extortion and petrol theft, among other things. Some are also fighting for control of legitimate businesses like avocado growing. Since the North American state began militarily waging the so-called drug war in 2006, the spiral of violence has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives. More than 100,000 people are believed to have disappeared in Mexico.