The drug trafficker Rafael Caro Quintero in the Puente Grande Penitentiary Complex, in a file photo.Víctor Mendiola / Cuartoscuro
The story of Rafael Caro Quintero stopped on one day in early February 1985. The murder of agent Enrique
Camarena forever linked the days of the drug trafficker to those of the United States Drug Control Administration.
More than 35 years later, the US agency insists on its old obsession: the number one priority is to stop the leader of the defunct Guadalajara cartel.
To achieve this, they promise $ 20 million in exchange for information that may lead to his capture.
An exorbitant figure that doubles the reward offered by Nemesio Oseguera-Cervantes, alias El Mencho, head of the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel (CJNG), and that exceeds that of the Sinaloa capo Ismael e
Why has the DEA turned a 68-year-old man, who served 28 in prison and has been out of the spotlight for seven, into the most wanted drug trafficker?
The summary of the experts agrees: Caro Quintero has an outstanding debt.
"This designation wants to send the message that the DEA does not forget," says security analyst Alejandro Hope.
"The agency, which is an institution with a long memory, is guided by personal agendas rather than by the danger that Caro Quintero may pose," he adds.
Along the same lines, Lilian Chapa, a researcher at the World Justice Project, points out that "it is definitely not the main threat to the security of Mexico or the United States."
The journalist Anabel Hernández, author of the books on the Sinaloa cartel
Los señorres del narco
, also assures that he is not the most powerful: “It has no comparison with, for example, the total hegemony of Mayo, leader of leaders.
It is striking that for a man, whose organization has a presence in more than 60% of the planet, they ask for much less reward ”.
Hernández concludes: "Caro Quintero has been a shoe stone, since Camarena's murder and since he was released in 2013."
Thus the analyzes lead to the same outcome: both El Mayo, El Mencho or even the two sons of Chapo Guzmán are more relevant in the flow of drugs from Mexico than Caro Quintero.
Everything returns, then, to that day in February.
What happened in 1985 has already made the covers and inspired the books and scripts, but it is still the origin of current decisions.
Camarena was an American agent who, infiltrated the Guadalajara cartel, dismantled a gigantic marijuana plantation, located in the so-called Búfalo ranch.
The official version indicates that, in retaliation, the drug traffickers murdered him and the pilot with whom he inspected the drug fields, Alfredo Zavala.
Their bodies were found, a month after being kidnapped, in a ditch 150 kilometers from Guadalajara.
Reports revealed that they had been savagely tortured.
Caro Quintero was arrested shortly after in Costa Rica.
The other two leaders of the cartel, Felix Gallardo (the Godfather) and Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo (Don Neto), were also arrested.
The Prince served nearly 30 years in prison for this murder.
In 2013, a court released him for a formal defect in a sentence that was invalidated shortly after.
Since then he has not been seen again.
What did the drug dealer do after he got out of jail?
Did you regroup to dispute El Chapo's territory?
Did you ally yourself with the Beltrán Leyva?
This is supported by the US military intelligence services and the Mexican prosecutor's office.
These days, after the announcement of the DEA, the theories that point out that Caro Quintero was once again like "in the old days" with an "overwhelming" presence in Sonora, control in Baja California and Chihuahua.
This same Friday and after a request from the New York Court, the Attorney General's Office (FGR) began the process to seize three of its properties in Zapopan (Guadalajara): a property, a place and a ranch, according to the
But what about its current operations?
He has maintained a discreet presence since he was released from prison in 2013. He does have operations, there are reports that locate him, and he must be trafficking and cultivating, but far from his glory days and from being the most important drug trafficker in Mexico. ”, Says Mexican analyst Alejandro Hope.
"I don't want to know anything about drug trafficking"
In an interview with Anabel Hernández in 2016 for
, Caro Quintero claimed to be away from the business.
“I am no longer a danger to society.
I don't want to know anything about drug trafficking.
If I did something wrong, I already paid for it ”, he said after denying his participation in Camarena's death.
Hernández, who also spoke with the drug trafficker in 2018, doubts the claims that he has a control in Sonora.
“I did not see it in Sonora.
In 2018, where he felt he was protected and hiding was not there.
His place of safety, his headquarters, is in Sinaloa.
I don't think I will be capable of creating an empire in the land of Sonora, where Mayo Zambada rules, ”the journalist explains by telephone from Europe.
Hernández acknowledges that the panorama of drug trafficking in Mexico since 2018 has been shaped a lot: the Beltrán Leyvas are almost extinct and the CJNG has gained hegemony and power.
“But I couldn't say that he has returned.
It seems illogical to me that a capo who is dedicating himself to the great drug trafficking receives a journalist on two occasions.
It did not have a large staff or facilities.
He seemed like a finished man, ”he says.
The DEA's most wanted tag and the seizure of Caro Quintero's properties take place shortly after the last major drug trafficking scandal in Mexico: the arrest of General Salvador Cienfuegos in Los Angeles, accused of drug offenses and money laundering , and his subsequent delivery to the Mexican authorities to be tried in the country.
Added to the film script is the Reuters agency exclusive that the Mexican Executive had promised to arrest a high-ranking boss in exchange for bringing Cienfuegos back.
"The agreement sounds plausible, but it is only a hypothesis," says Lilian Chapa.
The analyst, an expert in national security, considers that the delivery of Cienfuegos "is an unprecedented act of trust" in the US justice system in Mexico.
Being two systems with radically different priorities.
“As is the case with Camarena, in the US when a state agent is deprived of his life, the consequences are very harsh.
In Mexico, the homicides of agents go unpunished.
It is one of the main weaknesses of the State ”.
Today, more than 30 years later, Caro Quintero still has an outstanding debt with the US system and Mexico, with its agents.