"I seek justice, not American vengeance"
Former Guadalajara Cartel boss and convicted murderer Rafael Caro Quintero, on the lam since a federal appeals court in Jalisco ordered his release from custody on technical grounds on Aug. 8, has appealed directly to Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto, asking that he be spared an "absurd persecution" by the U.S. government.
Caro Quintero, 70, is wanted both by Mexico and the United States following a Nov. 6 decision by the Mexican Supreme Judicial Court which overturned the lower tribunal's ruling and and ordered that he be returned to prison. Caro Quintero was convicted of the February 1985 torture and murder of 37 year old Drug Enforcement Administration agent Enrique Camarena Salazar at a Guadalajara safe house.
No one knows where the former drug lord, purportedly worth half a billion dollars from marijuana and cocaine trafficking in the 1980s, is hiding. On Nov. 6 the U.S. State Dept. offered a $5 million dollar reward for his capture, the highest permitted by law. Caro Quintero faces narcotics trafficking charges in the United States, where federal prosecutors would also like to try him for Camarena's murder in an American court. Now Caro has sought legal protection directly from the president himself, in an effort to avoid extradition.
The curious twist in the case was revealed last week by attorney general Jesús Murillo Karam, who confirmed for reporters in Mexico City that both president Peña Nieto and his top cabinet official, secretary of government Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong, had received identical copies of Caro's letter on Nov. 19, delivered by his attorneys. The PRI administration completed its first year in office Sunday.
Murillo Karam offered few other details, stating that "this is a matter which will have to be resolved in the judicial arena." He did not say whether authorities know where Caro Quintero is, or whether the letter might lead them to him.
The convicted murdered asked for a "fair hearing" on the U.S. allegations against him, and implored Enrique Peña Nieto "not to yield to American pressures." Caro Quintero told the president that he and his family have been the victims of an "absurd persecution" by Washington. Although the Guadalajara Cartel itself dissolved many years ago, the U.S. government maintains almost two dozen businesses in this city are fronts for Quintero family operations, or have laundered money for the former marijuana exporter. Assets of such enterprises found within U.S. territory are subject to seizure under American federal forfeiture laws.
Referring to the 28 years of a 40 year sentence he served in prison before being released four months ago, Caro Quintero argued that he had "already paid the price" for Camarena's murder and other drug trafficking crimes. "I ask for justice, not revenge (by the U.S.)," he added.
Last week Mexico's Supreme Court rejected the appeal of a co-defendant in the Camarena homicide case, Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo. A co-founder of the Guadalajara Cartel and a close Caro Quintero associate, Fonseca had raised identical technical complaints about his own conviction, claiming he was tried in the wrong court. But relying upon its earlier ruling in Caro's case, the judicial ministers ordered Fonesca to serve out the remainder of his sentence. Unlike Caro Quintero, Fonseca Carrillo had never been released from incarceration.
Federal prosecutors may pursue administrative complaints against the three lower appellate court judges who freed Caro Quintero. The court's order was faxed to the high security Jalisco prison where he was held just before midnight on Aug. 8, but prosecutors received no notice or a copy of the order until hours later. As a result they were unable to appeal to the Supreme Court to stop Caro's release.
Dec. 16 - Interpol asks for help in locating Rafael Caro Quintero
Oct. 21 - Sen. John McCain demands answers on release of Rafael Caro Quintero
© MGRR 2013. All rights reserved. This article may be cited or briefly quoted with proper attribution or a hyperlink, but not reproduced without permission.