Mexican military have captured notorious drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero, convicted for the murder and torture of a U.S. anti-narcotics agent in 1985, two sources said on Friday, a major coup for both Mexican and U.S. law enforcement agencies.
The kingpin rose to prominence as a co-founder of the Guadalajara cartel, one of Latin America’s most powerful drug trafficking organizations during the 1980s, and had been among the most prized targets for U.S. officials.
Caro Quintero spent 28 years in prison for the brutal murder of former U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, one of the most notorious murders in Mexico’s bloody narco wars that led to a nadir in U.S.-Mexico co-operation in the five-decade long ‘war on drugs.’ The events were dramatized in the 2018 Netflix series “Narcos: Mexico.”
Caro Quintero has previously denied involvement in the killing of Camarena.
In 2013, Caro Quintero was released on a technicality by a Mexican judge. He quickly went underground and returned to trafficking, according to U.S. officials, who placed him on the FBI’s Top 10 most wanted fugitives list and put a $20 million bounty on his head, a record for a drug trafficker.
“It is probably one of the most important captures of the last decade in terms of importance to the DEA,” said Mike Vigil, the DEA’s former chief of international operations.
While Caro Quintero is no longer considered a major player in the international drug trafficking world, the symbolic impact of his capture is likely to be significant on both sides of the U.S-Mexico border.
“This will hopefully start to mend the frayed relationship between the United States and Mexico in terms of combating drug trafficking,” said Vigil.
Mexico’s unwillingness to extradite Caro Quintero to the United States prior to his release from prison had always been a source of tension between the two countries and Washington is likely to demand his extradition once again.
Last year, Caro Quintero lost a final appeal against extradition to the United States.