wanted poster
Rafael Caro Quintero wanted poster

The U.S. Department of Justice has been waiting nearly 40 years to put the former head of Mexico’s first major drug cartel on trial for his role in the torture and murder of a DEA special agent.

But a Mexican judge has ruled U.S. officials need to wait longer, even though Rafael “Rafa” Caro Quintero was taken into custody by the Mexican military July 15. The judge also ruled the former drug lord will remain in pretrial custody at the maximum security prison he has been held at outside Mexico City since his July 15 arrest.

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The ruling acknowledged the U.S. wants a quick extradition so Caro Quintero can stand trial for ordering the 1985 torture and death of DEA Special Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, but there are legal matters which must first be addressed, according to the judge.

Caro Quintero’s attorneys have also filed several pleadings with the court in the days since the long time fugitive was arrested. One, a Writ of Amparo, is seen as mechanism by the one-time drug lord’s attorneys to delay extradition under due process claims.

In the meantime, media outlets in Mexican have reported more than two dozen murders occurred in the five days since Caro Quintero’s arrest.

The majority of the violence was around the cities of Caborca, Cajeme, and Guaymas-Empalme, Cajeme in Sonora, areas which have seen unrest in recent months due to friction between the Sinaloa Cartel and Caro Quintero’s latest drug trafficking organization, the Caborca Cartel.

It is possible that Mexico’s Attorney General, Alejandro Gertz Manero, will take a different view of the Writ and ask the judge to reverse course so Caro Quintero, 69, can be sent to the U.S. for trial for Camarena’s death.

Caro Quintero  was the co-founder of Mexico’s Guadalajara Cartel which quickly rose to power in the late 1970s by growing large quantities of marijuana on a “superfarm” then transporting the product into the U.S. The trafficking continued into the 1980s with impunity, particularly through Arizona and Texas border communities.

The success of Caro Quintero led to his nickname El Narco de Narcos, or The Drug Trafficker of Drug Traffickers. However, U.S. officials also consider him a murderer.

According to court records, Caro Quintero is believed to have been involved directly or indirectly with the killing of six Americans in the mid-1980s. The most publicized was the torture of Camarena in response to a series of high value DEA raids on the drug lord’s farms. The DEA agent was buried alive; his body was found several weeks later.

Caro Quintero was later arrested and put on trial in a Mexican federal court where he was convicted and sentenced to 40 years in prison for Camarena’s murder. He and his family continued operating the Guadalajara Cartel until it finally dissolved due in part to Caro Quintero’s physical absence as well as feuding between other criminal organizations.

In recent years Caro Quintero founded the Caborca Cartel which has had numerous disputes and turf wars with members of the Sinaloa Cartel run by the sons of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera.



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