Intelligence reports suggest legendary drug trafficker Rafael Caro Quintero is seeking to expel the Sinaloa Cartel from Mexico’s Chihuahua state, raising fears the city of Ciudad Juárez may experience yet another drug-fueled murder spike.
Chihuahua’s attorney general, Jorge Enrique González Nicolás, said on July 5 that military intelligence indicates Caro Quintero “hopes to dispute and occupy the Sinaloa Cartel’s territory” in the state, reported Reforma. This includes the northern border city of Ciudad Juárez, once considered the murder capital of the world in part due to violence between warring drug cartels.
Chihuahua saw 11 execution-style murders last weekend, according to Reforma.
González Nicolás said Chihuahua officials are coordinating with federal and municipal officials to avoid a further resurgence of violence. However, recent evidence of large drug shipments — including marijuana, methamphetamine, and heroin — and an uptick in violence has led Chihuahua’s Attorney General’s Office to believe Caro Quintero may already be in Ciudad Juárez, reported El Diario.
Caro Quintero, known as the “narco of narcos,” was a founder of the Guadalajara Cartel in the 1980s. Implicated in the torture and murder of US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena in 1985, he spent 28 years in Mexican prison before being released in August 2013 on a technicality. Authorities promptly ordered he be recaptured, and the United States has a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest.
According to local media reports, since leaving prison Caro Quintero is believed to have allied with the Beltrán Levya Organization (BLO). Recent violence in the area of Badriguato, Sinaloa — where the mother of Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán resides — has been blamed on confrontations between the BLO and Sinaloa Cartel.
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Caro Quintero’s release from prison was an embarrassing episode in the Mexican government’s ongoing fight against the country’s drug trafficking organizations. It also put a strain on anti-drug cooperation between the United States and Mexico given his role in the death of DEA agent Camarena.
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Now, several years after his release — during which time the US Treasury Department says he continued to engage in drug trafficking — Caro Quintero appears eager to reestablish himself atop the Mexican drug trade.
Given reports he has forged an alliance with the BLO along with elements of the Zetas and Jalisco Cartel – New Generation (CJNG), Caro Quintero may feel the timing is propitious to challenge the once hegemonic Sinaloa Cartel, which may be experiencing internal unrest following the arrest and possible extradition of El Chapo.
This possibility raises the spectre of a return to the huge levels of violence Ciudad Juárez began to experience in 2008. By 2010, Ciudad Juárez saw over 3,000 murders, which stemmed from the battle between the Sinaloa Cartel and Juárez Cartel for control of the city’s drug routes into the lucrative US consumer market. Violence in the city fell just as quickly, however, after the Sinaloa Cartel established criminal dominance and authorities implemented a new citizen security initiative.