AMLO President of Mexico Justifies Release of Rafael Caro Quintero

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Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Wednesday justified the 2013 ruling that freed Rafael Caro Quintero, one of the drug traffickers most wanted by US authorities, despite the fact that Mexico’s Supreme Court of Justice later ruled that It was a mistake.

Caro Quintero was serving a 40-year sentence for the murder of DEA agent Enrique Camarena, perpetrated in 1985 when he was released, and since then he appears to have resumed his role as a drug trafficker. The kingpin is at the top of the DEA’s most-wanted list, with a $ 20 million reward being offered for his capture.

On Wednesday, López Obrador said that the legal recourse that led to the release of Caro Quintero was “justified” because no sentence had allegedly been handed down against the kingpin after 27 years behind bars. The president also mentioned a subsequent arrest warrant as an example of the pressure exerted by the United States.

“Once he leaves, to look for him again because the United States demands that he should not have been released, but the legal protection proceeded,” said López Obrador. Jesús Ramírez, spokesman for the presidency, said that López Obrador “only pointed out that it is a legal aberration that the judge has not sentenced Mr. Caro Quintero 27 years later … but he did not defend his release.”

There was a verdict, but an appeals court in Mexico initially decided that it had been handed down by the wrong judge. In August 2013, the appeals court overturned Caro Quintero’s 40-year prison sentence for the murder of Camarena and a Mexican government pilot. The panel alleged that a state court should have heard the case, and not a federal one, and ordered his immediate release from a maximum-security prison.

Months later, the Supreme Court of Mexico annulled the order that released him, stating that Camarena was an agent of the US government and, therefore, his murder constituted a federal crime, adding that he had been properly prosecuted. An arrest warrant was issued against Caro Quintero, who has been in hiding since his release. His release, carried out overnight, upset the US government and surprised Mexican prosecutors, who were notified hours after it was carried out.

It’s a complicated matter for López Obrador, who has publicly pointed out that the Mexican government is no longer interested in stopping drug lords. In 2019, López Obrador ordered the release of Ovidio Guzmán, son of drug trafficker Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, to avoid bloodshed.

Even if the president was misinformed as to why Caro Quintero was released in 2013, more than five years before he took office, what happened on Wednesday seems to illustrate how unimportant the case or the search for the kingpin is for the Mexican government, even though it continues to be a priority for the United States.
Since his release, Caro Quintero has allegedly formed alliances with other drug cartels and has established operations in the northern state of Sonora, apparently to take territory away from the sons of “El Chapo” and the Sinaloa cartel.