Last week, Mexico released drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero in the middle of the night, despite his conviction and 40-year sentence for the 1985 kidnapping and killing of DEA agent Enrique Camarena (he was 28 years into his sentence). And now, the U.S. would like Mexico to hit "undo" on that move, and re-arrest Quintero so that they can try once more to extradite him. The request, a provisional arrest warrant, was confirmed to the New York Times by unnamed officials from both governments.
The U.S. said on Saturday that they were "extremely disappointed" with Mexico's decision, which was based on a judge's finding that the drug lord was tried in a federal court for what was a state crime. According to the Associated Press, neither the U.S. nor the media were alerted to Quintero's release ahead of time, which officials apparently knew would make few people happy. The Attorney General of Mexico Jesus Murillo Karam said last weekend that his office wasn't sure whether the U.S. had filed an extradition request on any pending charges. According to the New York Times, Karam's office privately encouraged the U.S. to send a request in the wake of Quintero's release, which looks like a sign that the country is on board with the plan to re-arrest him if possible.
Extradition, however, might be more complicated. There's a double jeopardy provision in the extradition treaty that would prevent the U.S. filing a request in the killing of Camarena, so the request would have to pertain to other, probably drug-related charges. Based on a Supreme Court decision in Mexico barring the extradition of Mexicans to countries where they'd face the death penalty or life imprisonment, those charges might also face further limitations.
Meanwhile, it's not clear whether Mexican officials actually know where Quintero went after he was released. Here's the Times:
Whether Mexican authorities can find Mr. Caro Quintero again remains an open question. When he was released from prison in Jalisco State at 2 a.m. Friday, security agents monitoring the facility decided to follow him, but they lost him, the Mexican official said. The official said security agents now have an idea about his whereabouts and are looking into that.
The U.S. believes that Quintera is still active in the drug trade in Mexico, even when he was in prison: “Caro Quintero continues to launder the proceeds from narcotics trafficking and he maintains an alliance with drug trafficking organizations such as the Sinaloa Cartel," Treasury Department spokesman John Sullivan told the AP. Caro Quintero was convicted of ordering the kidnapping, torture, and murder of Camarena, who was working for the DEA in Guadalajara. As the LA Times explains, the murder was a major diplomatic disaster. The U.S. believed that Mexico had some level of complicity in Quintero's actions, while Mexico is, in some ways, still working to work off a lingering lack of trust from American agencies investigating the drug trade.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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