Mexico’s Supreme Court has revoked the decision by a lower court to release Rafael Caro Quintero and issued a warrant for his re-arrest, placating the US and posing questions over how the notorious drug lord was able to gain his liberty.
Announcing its decision on November 6, the country’s Supreme Court of National Justice (SCJN) declared the grounds for the decision to release Caro Quintero inadequate by a vote of four to one, reported Excelsior.
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The former head of the now-defunct Guadalajara Cartel — one of Mexico’s first major transnational criminal groups to partner up with Colombian cocaine exporters — had originally been imprisoned in 1985 and handed a 40 year sentence for involvement in drug trafficking and murder, including the kidnap, torture and killing of undercover Drugs Enforcement Administration agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena. In 2009 that sentence was upheld, reported El Economista.
Caro Quintero was released on August 9 after a court in the western city of Guadalajara decided original court proceedings should have been tried at a local rather than federal level. The SCJN has now decided that decision — based upon Camarena not being an internationally protected official — was incorrect and Caro Quintero should be recaptured, reported El Universal.
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This decision is the latest move by Mexican authorities to remedy a situation which caused uproar among US officials. Soon after the release, the United States petitioned Mexico to recapture and extradite the former drug lord and recently offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his capture or conviction.
Within a week of the release, Mexican authorities issued a warrant for Caro Quintero’s rearrest and the country’s Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam subsequently admitted irregularities in the court proceedings that set him free.
Two months before Caro Quintero’s release, the US Treasury placed six of his family members, including his wife and four children, on the “kingpin list” — freezing any assets in the United States and prohibiting US citizens from doing business with them — and in September details of the extent of their money laundering activities emerged in the Mexican press, including multiple businesses an properties.
However, while Mexican and US authorities are upping the pressure on Caro Quintero’s network, the fissures created by his release will not be repaired until he is recaptured; something unlikely to happen soon given the admission in September by Murillo that his whereabouts are unknown.