HomeNewsBriefUS Slams Early Release of Mexican Drug Lord
BRIEF

US Slams Early Release of Mexican Drug Lord

EXTRADITION / 12 AUG 2013 BY MARGUERITE CAWLEY EN

A former Mexican drug lord responsible for the 1985 murder of a US DEA agent has walked free on a technicality after serving just 28 years of his 40 year sentence, sparking outrage from US officials and raising questions over how this decision may affect US-Mexico relations.

Rafael Caro Quintero, once considered one of Mexico's most important drug traffickers, was a co-founder of the now defunct Guadalajara Cartel. In 1985, Caro Quintero and his associate, Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo, were responsible for the torture and murder of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent Enrique Camarena Salazar, who had led an operation that cost the cartel $2 million. After fleeing to Costa Rica, Caro Quintero was captured and tried in Mexico on drug trafficking and murder charges. 

Caro Quintero was released from jail early on the morning of August 9 based on a Guadalajara court order, which stated that the drug trafficker should have been tried for a common, and not a federal, crime in relation to the Camarena Salazar murder because the official did not hold a diplomatic post, reported Animal Politico. On separate drug trafficking charges, Caro Quintero had received only a 15 year sentence.

US Department of Justice officials called the release "deeply troubling," and Mexico's attorney general echoed this sentiment. The DEA said it would "vigorously continue its efforts" to have Caro Quintero extradited to the US on drug trafficking charges, though he cannot be tried a second time for the murder.

InSight Crime Analysis

Caro Quintero's release on a technicality reflects weaknesses in the Mexican judicial system, which has proved largely incapable of tackling drug trafficking organizations. According to the Attorney General's Office, only 30 percent of those arrested on drug trafficking charges are ever convicted, while a 2011 study found that only one percent of crimes committed ever go to trial.

The release also raises questions over how the US will respond. Though the two countries work together closely in anti-narcotics operations and Mexico receives a significant amount of aid through the Merida Initiative, there have been signs of building tensions since new President Enrique Peña Nieto declared a change in security priorities, and these tensions may be exacerbated by the release. During the Caro Quintero case, various government-police-cartel connections emerged that were largely swept under the rug; the resurfacing of the case could also bring back ghosts from the past.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

BOLIVIA / 1 APR 2022

Millions of young people around the world document their experiences at work, at school or with their friends on TikTok.

ELITES AND CRIME / 3 NOV 2022

The trial of Genaro García Luna, Mexico's public security minister during the presidency of Felipe Calderón, is fast approaching.

ARMS TRAFFICKING / 29 APR 2022

A US national who received smuggled AR-15 parts in Mexico and assembled the weapons for two of the country's most…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Escaping Barrio 18

27 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an investigation charting the story of Desafío, a 28-year-old Barrio 18 gang member who is desperate to escape gang life. But there’s one problem: he’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

Europe Coverage Makes a Splash

20 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an analysis of the role of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as an arrival hub for cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico.  The article was picked up by…

THE ORGANIZATION

World Looks to InSight Crime for Mexico Expertise

13 JAN 2023

Our coverage of the arrest of Chapitos’ co-founder Ovidio Guzmán López in Mexico has received worldwide attention.In the UK, outlets including The Independent and BBC…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Shares Expertise with US State Department

16 DEC 2022

Last week, InSight Crime Co-founder Steven Dudley took part in the International Anti-Corruption Conference organized by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor and…

THE ORGANIZATION

Immediate Response to US-Mexico Marijuana Investigation

9 DEC 2022

InSight Crime’s investigation into how the legalization of marijuana in many US states has changed Mexico’s criminal dynamics made a splash this week appearing on the front page of…