Rafael Caro Quintero, 69, was arrested by Mexican Navy agents in Sinaloa state, western Mexico. All the news channels in the country immediately interrupted their programs to announce this capture.
The native drug trafficker of Sinaloa, cradle of many “capos”, is one of the three founders in the 70s of the Guadalajara cartel, the matrix of future organized crime companies which still in 2022 transport drugs to the American market.
The case was closely followed on the other side of the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo: the American anti-drug agency (DEA) had offered 20 million dollars for his capture, a record, just like the FBI, which had placed Caro Quintero on his 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 1985 kidnapping, torture and assassination 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, to answer before American justice for his “alleged crimes”.
“Today’s arrest is the culmination of the tireless work of the DEA and its Mexican partners,” said the statement from US Attorney General Merrick Garland. Mexican newspapers regularly mention the continued presence of American agents on Mexican territory.
For now, Caro Quintero will be transferred to the Altiplano prison, the most secure in Mexico, located near the capital Mexico City, and then be heard by a judge, said the Mexican public prosecutor’s office.
This same Friday afternoon, 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 dismissed any link with the arrest of Caro Quintero, the same day in the same region.
Hours later, however, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said the 14 soldiers died “after fulfilling their mission to support those who carried out the arrest order issued against Rafael Caro Quintero”.
– ‘No place to hide’ –
The president announced the opening of an investigation to determine “the causes of the fall of the helicopter” which was about to land”, in a message of condolence on Twitter.
Arrested for the first time 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.
Mexican justice had again requested his capture, under pressure from the United States, which relentlessly demanded his arrest and extradition in the “Kiki” Camarena case, as well as for drug trafficking.
“There is nowhere to hide for those who abduct, torture or murder American law enforcement officials,” Merrick Garland said in his statement.
“I did not kidnap him, I did not torture him, I did not kill him”, defended Caro Quintero in an interview from hiding with the weekly Proceso in July 2016. “I I was at the scene of the crime, it is my only participation”.
In popular culture, Caro Quintero is one of the main characters in the series “Narcos Mexico” which traces in detail the formation of the Guadalajara Cartel, the DEA’s secret war in Mexico, the torture and assassination of the Officer Camarena.
Guadalajara cartel leader Miguel Angel Felix 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 because of his age (80 or 91 depending on the sources).