The FBI added notorious Mexican drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero to its 10-most-wanted list yesterday, placing new pressure on Mexico to capture the convicted murderer of a Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent.
The United States’ top law enforcement agency said in a press release that a US $20-million reward is also being offered, for information that leads to the arrest of the Guadalajara Cartel founder who kidnapped and murdered undercover agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena Salazar in 1985.
Caro Quintero was sentenced by a Mexican court to 40 years imprisonment for the crime but was released in 2013, 12 years early, after it was ruled that he was improperly tried in a federal court when the case should have been heard at the state level.
Although a new arrest warrant was issued soon after his release, Caro Quintero has managed to evade authorities since and, according to U.S. law enforcement officials, has returned to the narcotics business as the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel.
But in an interview published earlier this month by the news website Huffington Post, Caro Quintero denied that to be the case and also recanted his admission of guilt for Camarena’s murder.
The acting administrator of the DEA rejects the claims.
“He’s not just an old man trying to live out his final days. He’s an individual who continues to run a criminal organization,” Robert Patterson said.
FBI Deputy Director David L. Bowdich told a press conference yesterday that the agency, along with other U.S. law enforcement agencies including the DEA, is “committed to bring to justice this dangerous criminal and cartel leader responsible for the brutal murder of a DEA agent.”
“Special Agent Camarena was devoted to stopping drug trafficking and breaking the cycle of drug‐related crime. He showed tremendous courage to pursue the most violent drug traffickers, and it is because of his courage and his selflessness that we’re not going to stop looking for Caro Quintero until we find him and put him back behind bars where he belongs,” he stated.
The murder of Camarena — who the FBI said yesterday was “extremely close to unlocking a million-dollar drug pipeline from Mexico to the U.S. in 1985” — has long been a source of friction between the two countries.
Caro Quintero’s inclusion on the most-wanted list yesterday could add further tension to an already strained relationship, a report in the New York Times suggested, citing existing differences over the proposed border wall and an incorrect claim by U.S. President Donald Trump that Mexico is the most dangerous country in the world.
However, Patterson claimed that the effort to capture Caro Quintero “transcends politics.”
Former DEA chief John C. Lawn described the investigation into Camarena’s murder as “an open wound,” telling the Times that U.S. authorities “don’t believe the Mexican government is doing all it can to find him.”
At the time of Caro Quintero’s release in 2013, nine former DEA administrators said in a letter that the decision had driven “a spike in the heart of Mexican-American bilateral drug enforcement efforts,” while the DEA described the ruling as “deeply troubling.”
In the late 1970s and early ’80s, Caro Quintero became one of the primary suppliers of heroin, cocaine and marijuana to the United States, the FBI said yesterday.
His kidnapping and murder of Camarena was in retaliation for a raid by Mexican police on a 2,500-acre marijuana plantation owned by the drug lord.
The Guadalajara Cartel blamed Camarena for the takedown and kidnapped him in Guadalajara on February 7, 1985, on direct orders from Caro Quintero.
The DEA agent was then tortured before he was killed. His body was found almost a month after the crime was committed.
Caro Quintero is now believed to be living in the mountainous Golden Triangle region of northern Mexico, the country’s heroin heartland.