Nation & World

Mexico drug lord accused in 1985 DEA murder says U.S. targets his family

Rafael Caro Quintero, a fugitive drug lord whom U.S. authorities hold responsible for the 1985 kidnapping and murder of DEA agent Enrique Camarena, has appealed in a personal letter to Mexico’s president for help getting U.S. drug agents off his back because they are causing an “infernal nightmare” for his loved ones.

Caro Quintero said U.S. authorities even revoked a visa given his granddaughter to undergo cancer treatment at a U.S. hospital.

A founder of the Guadalajara Cartel, Caro Quintero was sentenced to 40 years in prison for orchestrating the kidnapping, torture and murder of Camerena, a Drug Enforcement Administration agent. But a regional court in Jalisco state overturned the sentence on procedural grounds Aug. 8, allowing Caro Quintero to walk out of prison before dawn a day later. He’d served 28 years.

Mexico’s Supreme Court voted 4-1 on Nov. 6 to reinstate the conviction and an arrest warrant was issued, but Caro Quintero remains a fugitive.

Last month, the U.S. State Department offered a $5 million bounty for the re-arrest and conviction of Caro Quintero, who is now 60. The Obama administration also has formally asked Mexico for his extradition to stand trial on a pending indictment in California.

Caro Quintero argued in a letter that was sent to President Enrique Pena Nieto and several other officials that he’s been punished enough. Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam confirmed Tuesday that he and the president had received the letter.

Murillo Karam said, however, that Caro Quintero should take the matter up with Mexico’s courts, not the executive branch.

In the four-page letter, which was first partially published on Sunday in the newsweekly Proceso, Caro Quintero sounded alternately aggrieved and angry that the U.S. government is pressuring Mexico to recapture him and extradite him to stand trial in the United States.

“If I still had any debt to the state and to society, I have already paid it,” Caro Quintero said in the letter, which was dated Nov. 11.

In his letter, Caro Quintero alleged that U.S. agents are carrying out “an absurd persecution” of him and his extended family, and that Mexicans should stand up for him on patriotic grounds against a nation that “always feels superior.”

“By any means possible, the United States is trying to carry out an extradition that is all about vengeance,” Caro Quintero wrote, according to the Proceso extract.

Efforts by the U.S. government to pressure him include measures targeting his mother, his wife, his offspring and even against “one of my granddaughters who had a visa” to travel to the United States for cancer treatment, only to see it revoked, he wrote. The allegation could not be immediately confirmed.

“This infernal nightmare against my loved ones and against me does not arise from legal verdicts or from matters of law but rather . . . from resentment and a desire for vengeance of those who from outside our borders insist on accusing me of crimes I did not commit,” Caro Quintero wrote.

In the belief that Caro Quintero and his clan remain involved in drug trafficking, the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has piled new sanctions on individuals linked to him.

In June, before he went free, the office went after six of his family members – his wife, four children and a daughter-in-law – and also his longtime personal secretary, banning financial transactions with them and a series of businesses in Guadalajara, including gas stations, a shoe company and a resort spa.

In new action Oct. 31, the office named 20 new enterprises and a Guadalajara businessman, Juan Carlos Soto Ruiz, who it said managed many businesses on Caro Quintero’s behalf.

In announcing the latest sanctions, the Treasury Department said Caro Quintero stayed active in crime even behind bars.

“While in prison, Caro Quintero continued his alliance with Mexican drug trafficking organizations and used a network of family members and front persons to invest his illicit fortune into ostensibly legitimate companies and real estate projects in the Mexican city of Guadalajara,” the statement said.

The kidnapping and murder of an American drug enforcement agent in Mexico was unprecedented in 1985 and enraged U.S. law enforcement officials and the Reagan White House.

Assailants kidnapped Camarena outside the DEA office in Guadalajara, later gagging and torturing him under the supervision of a physician. When Mexican authorities did little to solve the murder, the Reagan administration practically shut the border with Mexico, paralyzing the Mexican economy.

Caro Quintero was arrested soon afterward.

In honor of Camarena, the U.S. government dedicated the multi-agency El Paso Intelligence Center in the slain agent’s memory in 1989.