MEXICO CITY ( Associated Press) – The United States’ motivation to find notorious drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero was never in doubt – hence the $20 million bounty for information leading to his capture – in line with the commitment of Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador. There was little certainty about that. , who explained his lack of interest in chasing down drug lords.
Yet on Friday, three days after López Obrador and US President Joe Biden met at the White House, the US Drug Enforcement Administration’s most wanted target was in Mexican custody.
The man allegedly responsible for the murder of a DEA agent more than three decades ago was pulled from the underground by a bloodbath as Mexican Marines locked in deep in the mountains of his native state of Sinaloa.
Arrest at great cost: Fourteen Mexican Marines were killed and another injured when a Navy Blackhawk helicopter crashed during the operation. The Navy said it appeared to be an accident, the cause of which was under investigation.
Mexico’s attorney general’s office said in a statement late Friday that Caro Quintero was arrested on extradition to the US and will be held at the maximum-security Altiplano prison, about 50 miles west of Mexico City.
DEA Administrator Anne Milgram celebrates the capture of a man particularly despised by US officials for the torture and murder of DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena in 1985. “Our incredible DEA team in Mexico worked in partnership with Mexican authorities to capture and arrest Rafael Caro. Quinto”, he said in a message to the agency late Friday. “Today’s arrest is in your blood, sweat and tears. The result of years.”
Cooperation between the DEA and Mexico’s marines had led to some of the highest-profile captures during the previous administration, but not under López Obrador, noted security analyst David Saucedo.
“It seems to me that in the private conversation between President Joe Biden and Andres Manuel (López Obrador) they certainly agreed to reinstate the high-profile drug traffickers who were suspended,” Saucedo said. Told.
Both presidents face domestic pressure to do more against drug traffickers. With the arrest of Caro Quintero, “Narcos is being recaptured and I believe that clearly this was what was really needed,” Saucedo said.
US Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar said in a statement on Saturday that no US personnel directly participated in the tactical operation that led to the capture of the drug lord. “Caro Quintero’s apprehension was exclusively organized by the Mexican government.”
Samuel González, who founded the Office of Organized Crime in the Office of the Attorney General of Mexico and is now a security analyst, said the capture may not have had a major impact on the map of organized crime in Mexico, as Caro Quintero did decades ago. was not powerful, and it could generate even more violence in areas like Sonora on the US border.
But he said that for the benefit of López Obrador, the arrest “shows evidence that Capos has no protection by his administration”.
Gonzalez believes Caro Quintero has long been a thorn in bilateral ties, but said his capture was “without a doubt” the fruit of recent talks in Washington.
“The Americans have never stopped pressing for his arrest,” Gonzalez said.
US Attorney Generals Merrick Garland and Salazar expressed gratitude for Mexico’s capture of the man convicted of the murder of Camarena – a case that brought a low point in US-Mexico relations.
“This achievement is a testament to Mexico’s determination to bring to justice anyone who terrorized and destabilized Mexico during his time in the Guadalajara Cartel; and was involved in the kidnapping, torture and murder of DEA agent Kiki Camarena. It is,” Salazar said in a statement late Friday.
Garland said the US government would demand his immediate extradition.
“My hope is that with the capture of Cerro Quintero, that will relieve a lot of tension between the DEA and Mexico”, said Mike Vigil, DEA’s former head of international operations.
Mexico’s Navy and the Attorney General’s Office led the operation deep in the mountains, which straddle the border between the states of Sinaloa and Chihuahua, several miles from any paved road. He hid Caro Quintero with the help of “Max” in the brush in a place in Sinaloa called San Simon.
López Obrador said the helicopter that crashed in the coastal city of Los Mochis was supporting an operation against Caro Quintero. US officials expressed condolences to the slain marines.
Cairo Quintero came from Badiraguato in Sinaloa, the same settlement as Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, the former leader of the Sinaloa Cartel that later formed. Caro Quintero was one of the founders of the Guadalajara Cartel and one of the primary suppliers of heroin, cocaine and marijuana to the United States in the late 1970s and 1980s, according to the DEA.
Caro Quintero blamed Camarena for the 1984 raid on a huge marijuana plantation. The following year, Camarena was kidnapped in Guadalajara, allegedly on orders from Caro Quintero. His mutilated body was found a month later.
Caro Quintero was captured in Costa Rica in 1985 and was serving a 40-year sentence in Mexico when an appeals court overturned his decision in 2013. The Supreme Court upheld the sentence, but by then it was too late – Caro Quintero was exhumed in a waiting vehicle.
Caro Quintero was included in the FBI’s 10 most wanted list in 2018 with a $20 million bounty for his capture.
López Obrador seemed vague about his case at first.
Last year, the president said the legal appeal that led to the release of Caro Quintero was “justified” as no verdict was delivered against the drug lord believed to have been in prison for 27 years. López Obrador also cited the subsequent warrant for his re-arrest as an example of American pressure.
“Once he was out, they had to look for him again, because the United States demanded that he should not have been released, but legally the appeal was justified,” López Obrador said.
President’s spokesman Jesus Ramírez said at the time, “The president was merely saying that it was a legal aberration that the judge had not issued a verdict on Mr. Caro Quintero after 27 years … but he is not defending his release.” Were.”
Mexican reporter Annabel Hernández twice interviewed fugitive Caro Quintero in the mountains of northern Mexico without disclosing the location. Caro Quintero claimed in those interviews that he was no longer involved in the drug trade.