U.S. offers $5M in hunt for drug lord

Mexican judge let killer of DEA agent Camarena go free

The State Department set a $5 million reward Tuesday for information leading to the recapture of a once-notorious Mexican drug boss accused of masterminding the kidnapping and killing of a Drug Enforcement Administration agent three decades ago.

The high-stakes reward is the latest twist in a series of eye-opening developments in the case of Rafael Caro-Quintero, a cofounder of the now defunct Guadalajara cartel. Caro-Quintero, 60, spent the past 28 years in a Mexican jail for his role in the 1985 torture and murder of DEA Special Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena.

The drug lord had 12 years left on his sentence, but a Mexican judge suddenly and discretely released Caro-Quintero from prison at 3 a.m. one morning in August.

Suspicion has swirled that the judge was paid off with drug cartel money.

But the case burst back into the headlines this month for another reason: Two former DEA agents went public with an accusation that the CIA played a role in Camarena’s murder.

The former agents told Fox News that officers from Mexico’s DFS intelligence service, along with CIA operatives involved in a secret mission to channel drug profits to anti-leftist “Contra” rebels in Nicaragua, were present when Camarena was tortured and killed.

A CIA spokesman told Fox the claims were “ridiculous.” However, the accusations appear only to have escalated Washington’s desire to see Caro-Quintero recaptured and extradited to the U.S. for a new trial.

Last week, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control leveled sanctions against 20 entities and one individual linked to Caro-Quintero, seizing their assets inside the U.S. and prohibiting U.S. citizens from doing business with them. The move was bolstered Tuesday by the State Department’s announcement of the $5 million reward.

Caro-Quintero was the organizer and mastermind of this atrocious act and his unexpected release from a Mexican prison was shocking and disturbing to law enforcement professionals on both sides of the border,” DEA Administrator Michele M. Leonhart said Tuesday.

A Mexican government official, who spoke with The Washington Times on condition of anonymity, acknowledged the suspicions surrounding Caro-Quintero’s release in August, but stressed that the Mexican attorney general’s office has opened an investigation.

The attorney general has challenged the release before Mexico’s Supreme Court, with a ruling expected later this week. In the interim, the official said, Mexican authorities are honoring Washington’s request to hunt down Caro-Quintero.

The case has put more stress on the already-tense relationship between U.S. and Mexican law enforcement authorities, who are tasked with working together in the fight against cross-border drug cartels.

“It obviously did enormous damage to the trust level between the DEA and their counterparts in Mexico,” said Eric L. Olson, associate director of the Latin America Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington.

© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

About the Author
Guy Taylor

Guy Taylor

Guy Taylor is the National Security Team Leader at The Washington Times, overseeing the paper’s State Department, Pentagon and intelligence community coverage. He’s also a frequent guest on The McLaughlin Group and C-SPAN.

His series on political, economic and security developments in Mexico won a 2012 Virginia Press Association award.

Prior to rejoining The Times in 2011, his work was ...

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