Mexico nabs FBI Most Wanted cartel boss accused of ’80s kidnapping, murder of DEA agent

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Mexican forces have arrested infamous drug lord Rafael Caro-Quintero nearly a decade after he walked out of prison and returned to drug trafficking. 

An official with Mexico’s Navy on Friday confirmed Caro-Quintero’s arrest but provided no further details. Caro-Quintero left prison in 2013 after serving 28 years of a 40-year prison sentence for his involvement in the 1985 kidnapping and killing of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena. 

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has maintained that he is not interested in detaining drug lords and prefers to avoid violence.

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Caro-Quintero was the former leader of the Guadalajara cartel, and the DEA alleges he had returned to drug trafficking and ordered bloody attacks in the northern Mexico border state of Sonora. 

Caro-Quintero blamed Camarena for a raid on a marijuana plantation in 1984, allegedly ordering his kidnapping the following year. Camarena’s body was found a month later with evidence of torture and abuse. 

The FBI added Caro-Quintero to the Top 10 Most Wanted list in 2018 and offered a reward of up to $20 million for information leading to Quintero’s arrest and/or conviction. 

Attorney General Merrick Garland released a statement on his capture and said the U.S. would be seeking his extradition. 

Garland’s statement noted: “There is no hiding place for anyone who kidnaps, tortures, and murders American law enforcement. We are deeply grateful to Mexican authorities for their capture and arrest of Rafael Caro-Quintero.” 

Garland paid tribute to the ‘tireless work by the DEA and their Mexican partners to bring Caro-Quintero to justice for his alleged crimes, including the torture and execution of DEA Special Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena.”

Garland noted that the U.S. wants him tried in a U.S. court. “We will be seeking his immediate extradition to the United States so he can be tried for these crimes in the very justice system Special Agent Camarena died defending.” 

Garland also seem to confirm reports out of Mexico that the helicopter carrying the Mexican Navy team back -who had taken part in the operation to capture Caro-Quintero, -had died when their helicopter crashed. “We join in mourning the 14 Mexican servicemembers who gave their lives in service to their country and extend our condolences to the loved ones they left behind.”

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An appeals court overturned Caro-Quintero’s verdict. The Supreme Court upheld the sentence, but Caro-Quintero had disappeared before the ruling could be applied. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

This is a developing story. 

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