US angry over release of Mexican drug lord
By Adriana Gomez Licon and Mark Stevenson, APMEXICO CITY--U.S. law enforcement officials expressed outrage over the release from prison of Mexican drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero and vowed to continue efforts to bring to justice the man who ordered the killing of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent.
August 11, 2013, 12:02 am TWN
Caro Quintero was sentenced to 40 years in prison for the 1985 kidnapping and killing of DEA agent Enrique Camarena but a Mexican federal court ordered his release this week saying he had been improperly tried in a federal court for state crimes.
The 60-year-old walked out of a prison in the western state of Jalisco early Friday after serving 28 years of his sentence.
The U.S. Department of Justice said it found the court's decision “deeply troubling.”
“The Department of Justice, and especially the Drug Enforcement Administration, is extremely disappointed with this result,” it said in a statement.
The Association of Former Federal Narcotics Agents in the United States said it was “outraged” by Caro Quintero's early release and it blamed corruption within Mexico's justice system for his early release.
“The release of this violent butcher is but another example of how good faith efforts by the U.S. to work with the Mexican government can be frustrated by those powerful dark forces that work in the shadows of the Mexican `justice' system,” the organization said in a statement.
The DEA, meanwhile, said it “will vigorously continue its efforts to ensure Caro-Quintero faces charges in the United States for the crimes he committed.”
But experts say the case against Caro Quintero was flawed from the beginning and his release is the result of a stronger federal justice system in Mexico, and it's not likely to have an impact in U.S.-Mexico relations.
Caro Quintero was a founding member of one of Mexico's earliest and biggest drug cartels. He helped establish a powerful cartel based in the northwestern Mexican state of Sinaloa that later split into some of Mexico's largest cartels, including the Sinaloa and Juarez cartels.
But he wasn't tried for drug trafficking, a federal crime in Mexico. Instead, Mexican federal prosecutors, under intense pressure from the United States, hastily put together a case against him for Camarena's kidnapping and killing, both state crimes.
“What we are seeing here is a contradiction between the need of the government to keep dangerous criminals behind bars and its respect of due process,” said Raul Benitez, a security expert at Mexico's National Autonomous University.
“The United States wants Mexico to comply with due process but it is likely that due process was not followed when many criminals were caught 10 or 15 years ago.”
The undated file photo distributed by the Mexican government shows Rafael Caro Quintero, considered the grandfather of Mexican drug trafficking.