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File photos of Caro Quintero, left, and Camarena. File photos of Caro Quintero, left, and Camarena.

Long-sought drug lord Caro Quintero captured

The founder of the Guadalajara Cartel has been on the run since 2013

Notorious drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero – the convicted murderer of United States DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena – has been arrested in northern Mexico, according to federal authorities.

Unnamed officials cited by the newspaper Milenio said that Caro Quintero – founder of the now-defunct Guadalajara Cartel – was captured by marines and federal agents in the municipality of Choix, Sinaloa.

But a Reforma newspaper report said he was detained in Guachochi, a municipality in the Sierra Tarahumara region of Chihuahua, where authorities are currently conducting an extensive manhunt for an accused murderer. No shots were fired in the arrest of the 69-year-old trafficker, according to a Reforma source.

Caro Quintero spent 28 years in jail for the 1985 murder of Camarena before his 40-year sentence was cut short in 2013 after it was ruled that he was improperly tried in a federal court when the case should have been heard at the state level. The Supreme Court later upheld the 40-year sentence, but the drug lord had disappeared by then.

There was a US $20-million reward posted for Caro Quintero by US authorities.
There was a US $20-million reward posted for Caro Quintero by US authorities.

After his release, he allegedly returned to the drug underworld as the leader of the Caborca Cartel in Sonora. The FBI added Caro Quintero to its 10-most-wanted list in April 2018, placing new pressure on Mexico to capture him.

However, President López Obrador, who took office in December 2018, has demonstrated scant interest in detaining drug lords, and even ordered the release of one of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán’s sons after he was arrested in Culiacán, Sinaloa, in 2019.

Caro Quintero – who was found to have ordered the kidnapping of Camarena in Guadalajara before torturing and killing him – was a major supplier of narcotics to the United States in the late 1970s and early ’80s. He blamed “Kiki” for a 1984 raid on a marijuana plantation. The murder of the DEA agent negatively affected Mexico-U.S. relations for years.

The security forces who detained Caro Quintero – apparently on Friday – were acting on two valid arrest warrants. The drug lord is also the subject of an extradition order in the United States, where authorities had offered US $20 million for information leading to his capture.

The apprehension of Caro Quintero is probably the highest-profile arrest of a criminal in Mexico since “El Chapo” was recaptured in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, in 2016. It came as the army and Chihuahua police search for José Noriel “El Chueco” Portillo Gil, a presumed gang leader who is accused of murdering two elderly Jesuit priests and two other men in the municipality of Urique, Chihuahua, last month.

With reports from AP, Milenio and Reforma

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