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Mexican government implicated in release of Guadalajara capo

August 20, 2013

Caro Quintero

The federal Attorney General’s Office (PGR) was complicit in the release of Guadalajara Cartel founder Rafael Caro Quintero two weeks ago, according to Mexican weekly Proceso.

Despite subsequently pleading ignorance, the PGR knew that a court in Jalisco had approved Caro Quintero’s release on July 1, more than a month before he walked free, the Spanish-language magazine alleged this week.

Electronic records obtained by Proceso show that the PGR did not make any attempt to block the court’s decision or to inform the U.S. government, as it should have done under the terms of a bilateral agreement between the United States and Mexico.

Caro Quintero’s lawyers had submitted 24 injunctions for his release since May 2011, the last of which was filed on March 4, Proceso reported. On July 1, a tribunal in Jalisco finally overturned Caro Quintero’s 40-year sentence on the basis that he had been wrongly tried in a federal court for the abduction and murder of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent Enrique Camerana in 1985. The defendant should have been tried in a state court because Camerana, who was working undercover, did not hold diplomatic status in Mexico.

In the aftermath of Caro Quintero’s release, which occurred around 2 a.m. on August 9, federal Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam criticized the “incompetent” tribunal’s decision, arguing that it “should have referred the case to a judge deemed competent.”

He suggested that the PGR had been unaware of the proceedings and that there had been no extradition request from the U.S. government prior to Caro Quintero being set free. However, the U.S. State Department promptly issued a statement affirming that it had “continued to make clear to Mexican authorities the continued interest of the United States in securing Caro Quintero’s extradition.”

Murillo Karam also stated that if Caro Quintero were recaptured he could not legally be tried a second time for Camarena’s murder and could only be extradited to the United States under other charges.

This is unlikely to pose a problem to U.S. prosecutors, as in 1987 a federal court in California indicted Caro Quintero in absentia of additional murder charges, possession of marijuana and cocaine with intent to distribute, and for running a criminal enterprise. He was also indicted the following year in both California and Arizona for breaking federal laws against extortion, corruption and drug trafficking.

Caro Quintero linked to crooked politicians and CIA

More of Caro Quintero’s colorful exploits were brought to light this in a feature by Vice magazine, corroborated by various archive reports from the Los Angeles Times.

Vice reported that the former head of the Guadalajara Cartel, then the most powerful drug gang in Mexico, used to throw lavish parties in Guadalajara attended by high-ranking Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) officials, many of whom were on Caro Quintero’s payroll.

Caro Quintero once bought a Mercury Cougar for his girlfriend’s uncle, Guadalajara Mayor Guillermo Cosio Vidaurri, who would go on to govern the state of Jalisco, while on another occasion a henchman of his testified to having spent over four weeks counting by hand a bribe of 400 million dollars, to be paid to a high-level government official.

Perhaps the most shocking revelation in the Vice feature is that in 1992 one of Caro Quintero’s former bodyguards testified in a Los Angeles courtroom that the then Jalisco governor and two federal cabinet members were present in the next room when Camerana was being tortured at one of Caro Quintero’s homes in Guadalajara. Eyewitness Rene Lopez Romero told the court that Defense Minister Juan Arevalo Gardoqui, Interior Minister Manuel Bartlett Diaz, Jalisco Governor Enrique Alvarez del Castillo – who would later became federal attorney general – and a number of other senior officials all listened through an open door as Camarena was interrogated so as to hear what he was saying about their own collusion with drug-trafficking.

Lopez’s testimony led to the conviction of former Jalisco Congressman Ruben Zuno Arce, brother-in-law of former President Luis Echeverria Alvarez, for kidnapping and conspiracy in the murder of Camarena.  Zuno died in prison last September.

Finally, Vice also revealed that Caro Quintero had been cooperating with the CIA in the early 1980s in its efforts to aid the Contras guerrillas in their war on Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government. In 1990 the DEA issued a report on the Guadalajara Cartel’s close links with the CIA, which found that Caro Quintero had permitted a ranch he owned in Veracruz to be used as a training camp for anti-Sandinista guerrillas from Guatemala.

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