Drug Kingpin Convicted of Killing D.E.A. Agent Is Captured in Mexico

MEXICO CITY — A drug kingpin convicted of orchestrating the torture and homicide of a Drug Enforcement Administration agent was captured in northern Mexico on Friday, in line with Mexican officers, bringing a case that has lengthy been a supply of pressure with america one step nearer to decision.

The drug boss, Rafael Caro Quintero, was captured in a joint operation involving the Mexican marines and the nation’s prosecutor’s workplace close to the city of San Simón within the state of Sinaloa, Mexican officers mentioned. Mr. Caro Quintero was discovered hiding within the bushes by a search canine named Max, in line with a press release from the Mexican marines.

Lawyer Common Merrick B. Garland mentioned america would search his quick extradition.

Two warrants had been issued for Mr. Caro Quintero’s arrest, officers mentioned. The previous crime lord has been beneath indictment in federal court docket in Brooklyn since 2020 on a number of counts of drug trafficking, in line with court docket information.

Mr. Caro Quintero was convicted of masterminding the 1985 killing of the D.E.A. agent Enrique Camarena, who was often called Kiki, and was positioned on the F.B.I.’s 10 most needed record in 2018, after he had been launched in 2013 on a authorized technicality. He has been on the run ever since.

In a transfer that took American authorities without warning, Mr. Caro Quintero had served 28 years of his 40-year sentence when he was abruptly let loose by a decide who dominated that he had been improperly tried in federal court docket fairly than a state court docket for the homicide of Mr. Camarena.

The torture and killing of Mr. Camarena, who had been working undercover, was thought of an inflection level in Mexico’s violent struggle on drug cartels, and has lengthy been a sore spot for U.S. regulation enforcement officers, in addition to a supply of friction with Washington.

Mr. Camarena’s brutal homicide is taken into account one of many worst episodes within the historical past of the D.E.A., and the seize of Mr. Caro Quintero has lengthy been thought of inside the company as unfinished enterprise.

“There isn’t a hiding place for anybody who kidnaps, tortures and murders American regulation enforcement,” Mr. Garland mentioned on Friday in a press release, thanking the Mexican authorities and including that the arrest was “the end result of tireless work by D.E.A. and their Mexican companions.”

The seize of the notorious drug boss, who was a founding father of the now-defunct Guadalajara Cartel, got here simply days after President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico met with President Biden in Washington.

In a joint assertion after the assembly, each leaders mentioned that they had “reaffirmed our dedication to work collectively to handle main safety points affecting our nations, together with the challenges of fentanyl, arms trafficking, and human smuggling.”

Hours after Mr. Caro Quintero was detained, a Black Hawk helicopter crashed outdoors the close by metropolis of Los Mochis, killing 14 marines onboard; in line with Mexican officers, nevertheless, there is no such thing as a proof but to recommend the 2 incidents have been associated.

The seize of Mr. Caro Quintero is prone to be seen as an vital victory for Mr. López Obrador, who has presided over one of many bloodiest durations in Mexican historical past, regardless of promising to sort out crime and quell violence.

The arrest additionally suggests ongoing cooperation between U.S. and Mexican safety forces, a relationship that has develop into more and more fraught since Mexico approved legislation last year limiting the actions of overseas brokers and lifting their diplomatic immunity.

The operation “requires a really fluid info alternate between the marines and American companies,” mentioned Alejandro Hope, a Mexico Metropolis safety analyst. “It’s an indication that at the very least at this degree, on the company degree, that cooperation persists.”

However regardless of its symbolic significance, analysts warn that the sensible impression of Mr. Caro Quintero’s arrest will likely be restricted, as he was possible now not a serious determine inside the Mexican organized crime world, which has develop into more and more fragmented in recent times and fewer centered round main cartel bosses.

“When it comes to bilateral relations, as in satisfying D.E.A. strain above all, it’s an enormous deal,” mentioned Falko Ernst, a senior analyst for the Worldwide Disaster Group. “However for those who have a look at it from a perspective of what this does to armed battle on the bottom and truly offering options to the violence, he was nonetheless a participant, however not a serious piece.”

Inside Mexican drug lore, nevertheless, Mr. Caro Quintero stays a towering determine. Often known as the “narco of narcos,” he was a pioneer in producing and trafficking huge quantities of medication into america.

In keeping with his 2020 indictment, Mr. Caro Quintero led an enormous trafficking community beginning at the very least in 1980 that was liable for the manufacture and export of “multi-ton portions of heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana, from Mexico into america.”

The group was additionally liable for delivery tons of cocaine from South America to america, in line with the indictment, producing tens of millions of {dollars} in revenue that was then laundered again to Mexico.

The indictment additionally famous that leaders of the Caro Quintero group “employed ‘sicarios,’ or hitmen, who carried out quite a few acts of violence, together with murders, assaults, kidnappings and acts of torture.”

By far probably the most notorious of these slayings was the homicide of Mr. Camarena in 1985.

The D.E.A. agent had been working undercover in Mexico when he was kidnapped in February of that yr. Mr. Caro Quintero had reportedly been on one thing of a rampage towards the U.S. company after Mr. Camarena helped uncover an enormous marijuana plantation value $160 million.

Mr. Camarena endured brutal torture earlier than being murdered: A forensic knowledgeable mentioned he was killed by blows to the face and head by a blunt object. His mutilated physique was discovered certain hand and foot and wrapped in plastic luggage on a ranch close to town of Guadalajara practically a month later.

The homicide, the primary such killing of a U.S. agent on Mexican soil since each international locations started cooperation on combating cartels, despatched shock waves throughout either side of the border and helped speed up the struggle on medicine.

The killing impressed a “sense of revenge” and a want “to disrupt Mexican drug trafficking in additional private methods and extra drastic methods than ever earlier than,” mentioned Mr. Ernst, the Worldwide Disaster Group analyst. “It’s one of many key occasions” that helped affect “the entire technique that was then formulated to go after the heads of those organizations.”

Mr. Camarena’s loss of life has additionally develop into a touchstone in cartel lore, portrayed in a number of TV sequence, together with most just lately the hit Netflix present “Narcos: Mexico.” Additionally it is bitterly remembered by the D.E.A., which named an workplace in San Diego after Mr. Camarena.

The drug prevention marketing campaign Pink Ribbon Week was additionally initially launched as a approach to commemorate the fallen agent.

Mr. Caro Quintero initially evaded seize and fled to Costa Rica, the place he was later tracked down by U.S. brokers. After being returned to Mexico, he was tried and convicted of masterminding Mr. Camarena’s killing in 1989.

However a decide overturned the conviction in 2013, setting Mr. Caro Quintero free, after which he apparently went straight again into the enterprise.

In keeping with his indictment, the cartel chief helped site visitors medicine into america a number of occasions between 2015 and 2016, together with 1000’s of kilograms of cocaine in addition to varied quantities of methamphetamines, marijuana and heroin.

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