Heartening News from Mexico Supreme Court on Killer of DEA Agent

Enrique Camarena
By Ross Parker
The Supreme Court of Mexico this week reversed the ruling of a Mexican intermediate appellate court which had resulted in the surprise release from jail three months ago of one of the murderers of iconic hero DEA Special Agent Enrique Camarena.
The decision should dampen speculation about the imminent release of other high level traffickers by Mexican courts. It also should help reduce the tension that has developed as a result of the policies of the new President of Mexico Enrique Pena Nieto to limit access of U. S. law enforcement to intelligence and investigative activities of their Mexican counterparts.

With no advance warning and under highly questionable circumstances, the lower court had overturned the conviction of drug kingpin Rafael Caro Quintero on the jurisdictional grounds that he had been incorrectly prosecuted in federal rather than state court.

The decision was kept secret for two days from the media and the U. S, government. Quintero was released from Jalisco jail on August 9th before any steps could be taken to review the ruling. His release blindsided the U. S. government, and the Justice Department immediately protested to the Mexican government and filed an extradition request for two federal indictments out of Los Angeles.

“Kiki” Camarena continues to be remembered as a courageous and effective federal agent whose efforts under constant threat were successful in dealing a serious blow to the cartel’s operation in Guadalajara.

His 1985 kidnapping, torture and murder mobilized federal agents as few such atrocities on foreign soil have. U.S. agents crossed the border to hunt down his killers. Customs agents deliberately slowed cross-border traffic to put pressure on Mexican authorities. The killers were hunted down by both Mexican and U.S. law enforcement and were convicted and sentenced in cases on both sides of the border, Quintero still had 12 more years to serve on his forty-year sentence as one of the most culpable of the murderers.

There are indications that Quintero, considered the godfather of the Mexican cartels in the 1970s and 80s, had continued his criminal activity from prison, operating a substantial money laundering operation for one of the cartels. The fact that he was released under such questionable circumstances has raised suspicions that the cartels continue to control parts of the Mexican criminal justice system.

The problem, of course, with this good news is that Quintero is in the wind. It took a maximum joint effort by American and Mexican law enforcement to arrest him 28 years ago from his hiding place in Costa Rica. Although the Mexican Attorney General has promised to apprehend Quintero, the Justice Department is taking no chances. A $5 million dollar reward has been announced and federal agents are undoubtedly actively involved in the manhunt.

When he is re-arrested, his extradition at least on the U. S. drug charges pending in the Central District of California will most likely be aggressively pursued even if he is returned to Mexican jails to serve the remainder of his sentence.


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