In an attempt to placate US officials, Mexico has filed a provisional arrest warrant to facilitate the capture and extradition of former drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero, a participant in the murder of a US anti-drug agent in the 1980s who was released early on a technicality earlier this month.
Caro Quintero, one of the founders of the now-defunct Guadalajara Cartel, was found guilty of the 1985 murder of US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent Enrique Camarena Salazar and sentenced to 40 years in prison in Mexico. However, in the dawn hours of August 9, he was released after serving 28 years of his sentence, following a court ruling that he should have been tried at the local, rather than the federal level because Camarena did not technically hold a diplomatic post. The killing of a diplomat is what made it a federal case in the first place, and therefore the ruling nullified any judgement on that level.
Following a strongly critical reaction to the decision by US officials, the Mexican Attorney General’s Office has now confirmed the issuing of a provisional arrest warrant for Caro Quintero, which would allow the US to file for his extradition on separate charges that he faces in a California Federal District Court. If the former drug lord is newly detained, the US will have 60 days to file an official extradition request, reported Animal Politico.
InSight Crime Analysis
The basis for Caro Quintero’s release is embarrassing for the Mexican government and causing an unnecessary strain on relations between the United States and Mexico. A letter — filed to the Mexican government just days after Camarena’s assassination — from a diplomatic functionary states that Camarena worked for the embassy but did not have a “diplomatic” post. The judges found this “ambiguous” and “confusing,” according to an analysis of the decision by Reforma’s Victor Fuentes, and, on that basis, freed Caro Quintero.
This doesn’t appear to be a top-level decision, but Caro Quintero’s early release has threatened to create bad blood between the United States and Mexico, which cooperate closely on security matters. The decision hits close to home for the United States and in particular the DEA, which still has Caro Quintero on its most wanted list and counts Camarena as one of the few agents it has lost in service.
The decision also serves as another indication that Mexico’s justice system is one of the weakest links in the country’s fight against drug trafficking.
In either case, Mexico’s government appears willing to put resources into getting Caro Quintero back in custody.