‘Max’, a dog trained by the Mexican Secretary of the Navy, has put an end to the career of the most wanted criminal by the DEA: Rafael Caro Quintero. Last Friday, this dog found the historic drug trafficker hidden in some bushes on the outskirts of the community of San Simón, in the state of Sinaloa. Initially, the capture of the ‘narco de narcos’ generated great enthusiasm on both sides of the border, but the news was demerited minutes later by the crash of a helicopter that had participated in the operation and that has left a provisional balance of 14 soldiers killed and 1 seriously injured. The authorities have not yet clarified if it was an accident or an intentional attack.

The US now has 60 days to formalize the extradition request against Caro Quintero before the Mexican Foreign Ministry, although everything indicates that the deadline will not run out and his transfer will be imminent. After his arrest, the drug trafficker was transferred by helicopter to Mexico City and, later, to the Altiplano maximum security prison, the same one from which ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán escaped in 2015, through a tunnel built under his cell. According to several local media outlets, this fateful precedent and the death of the soldiers who participated in the operation will speed up the process.

Caro Quintero was one of the most prominent drug traffickers of the 1980s, a pioneer in the massive smuggling of marijuana into the United States, founder of the country’s first modern cartel -the Guadalajara cartel- and intellectually responsible for the brutal murder of DEA agent, Kiki Camarena, who was tortured, castrated and buried alive on February 9, 1985. The ‘narco de narcos’ was sentenced to 40 years in prison for these events, but an error in the sentence – which infuriated the US – allowed him to leave free ahead of time. Despite the fact that the ruling was reversed days later and that he still had 12 years left in his sentence, Caro Quintero never returned to prison and became involved in the criminal business again, managing to avoid justice for almost a decade.

“I am no longer a danger to society. I don’t want to know anything about drug trafficking. I apologize to the DEA (…) we all deserve a second chance,” the drug trafficker assured journalist Anabel Hernández, in an interview granted from the underground. The Mexican and US authorities agreed that the legendary narco was lying and that, in reality, he was taking advantage of the absence of his former partner, ‘El Chapo’, to dispute control of the almighty cartel with his sons, known as ‘Los Chapitos’. from Sinaloa.

According to the Prosecutor’s Office, the ‘narco de narcos’ would have managed to carve out a space in the state of Sonora, through a newly minted cartel, that of Caborca. In fact, in May 2020, the authorities found two dismembered corpses accompanied by the message: “we are people from Caro Quintero, this square belonged to us.” DEA agents never stopped looking for him; It was a matter of justice and revenge and for this reason they decided, on May 9, to raise the reward for Caro Quintero to 20 million dollars, the highest in the entire agency.

“For more than 30 years, the men and women of the DEA have worked tirelessly to bring Caro Quintero to justice (…) his arrest is the result of years of blood, sweat and tears,” said Anne Milgram, head of the agency, who wanted to recall that Camarena “embodied the best of the DEA: he was a tenacious agent, who relentlessly persecuted the most dangerous drug cartels operating in Mexico. Without fear, he persecuted the most violent and most dangerous traffickers and placed our mission – to protect the health and safety of the American people – above all else.

Along the same lines, the US Department of Justice has released a statement in which it warns that “there is no hiding place for anyone who kidnaps, tortures and murders US agents.” For his part, the attorney general, Merrick Garland, has assured that his country is ready to bring Caro Quintero to justice for crimes of “torture and execution of DEA special agent Enrique Kiki Camarena.” The ‘narco de narcos’ could be sentenced to life imprisonment, but not to the death penalty, since the bilateral extradition agreement prevents it.

Caro Quintero’s arrest comes just a few days after President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) traveled to Washington to meet with his counterpart Joe Biden. This is the first major capture of a drug trafficker by the AMLO government, whose security strategy, based on militarization and the “hugs, not bullets” policy, was called into question at the end of 2019, when they managed to arrest one of Guzmán Loera’s sons and they were forced to release him to avoid further bloodshed. ‘El Culiacanazo’, as that episode is remembered, left 14 victims. The Mexican president has celebrated the capture of the ‘narco de narcos’, has lamented the death of the 14 soldiers who participated in the operation and has promised to promote “an investigation to find out the causes of the helicopter crash”.

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