One of the founders of the Sinaloa Cartel was released from a U.S. penitentiary yesterday and there is speculation that he might well return to Mexico to take up his former position in the drug trade as Mexican authorities have yet to determine if they have a case against him.
However, Jesús Héctor Palma Salazar, also known as El Güero for his light complexion, might be slowed down some by medical conditions that include loss of vision and hemorrhoids.
Palma was released yesterday from a California penitentiary and is being held by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. Today he was to be delivered to Mexican border authorities for transfer to a Mexican penal facility.
Palma, 56, drug trafficker and former leader of the Sinaloa Cartel alongside Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, was arrested by Mexican authorities on June 23, 1995, after surviving a plane crash.
According to the Associated Press, Palma was wanted by Mexican and U.S. authorities for the shooting death of Roman Catholic Cardinal Juan Jesús Posadas Ocampo at the Guadalajara airport in 1993. He is also alleged to have ordered killing a former prosecutor, a human rights investigator and four people linked to the murder of his first wife.
But the drug trafficker, too, has been a victim of cartel brutality, particularly with regard to his family life.
Mexican police say a rival gangster, Rafael Enrique Clavel of Venezuela, ran off with Palma’s second wife and their two children but later decapitated her, sending Palma the head. He pushed the two children off a bridge in Venezuela, killing them. Palma retaliated by killing Clavel’s three children and his lawyer.
In 2007 Palma was extradited to the U.S. and subsequently sentenced to 16 years for transporting 50 kilograms of cocaine.
In April it was announced that after fulfilling 85% of his sentence Palma’s time behind bars was to be reduced due to good behavior, and he would be released within two months.
Mexico Attorney General Arely Gómez has stated that her office and its 32 state counterparts are undertaking “an exhaustive revision process” to determine if Palma has any charges pending in the Mexican justice system, at the federal or state levels.
Nonetheless, González acknowledged that some charges might already have expired.
U.S. authorities have withheld information regarding the time and place for Palma’s transfer to Mexican authorities, but the San Ysidro-Tijuana border crossing has been singled out by news outlets as the most probable place.
When Palma sought a reduction in his sentence last year, a California judge turned him down on the grounds there was a risk he would resume his narco-trafficking operations.
Palma spent many of the past nine years behind bars in a Supermax jail, held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day. The 24th hour was spent in a cell slightly larger and had a window. It was the only time he saw daylight.
For long periods of time he spoke with no one, said his lawyer, because his guards spoke no Spanish and Palma no English.
He may be seeking medical advice upon his return to Mexico. Palma is reported to be suffering from hemorrhoids, severely reduced eyesight, pain in his feet and bad teeth, according to his attorney.