MEXICO CITY — Rafael Caro Quintero, a once-powerful Mexican cartel leader who is now a fugitive from United States justice, has sent a letter to Mexico's President Enrique Peña Nieto claiming the United States wants revenge for a crime the convicted killer says he has already paid for.
Caro Quintero was convicted decades ago in Mexico for the drawn-out torture and murder of Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena. The crime ruptured U.S.-Mexico relations in the 1980s and its aftermath echoes to this day.
On Aug.9, 2013, a Mexican judge ordered the release of Rafael Caro Quintero on a technicality.
Caro Quintero is a founder of the Guadalajara Cartel, one of the first identified criminal groups that was dubbed a cartel.
DEA Special Agent Enrique Camarena was kidnapped in 1985 shortly after leaving the U.S. consulate in Guadalajara, Mexico.
The murder was horrific. A doctor was brought in to keep Camarena alive as he lay on the brink of death so he could be further brualized.
Witnesses to the murder claim two high ranking members of the Mexican Cabinet were seen entering the home where Camarena was held. One of those reported to have been present include a former Mexican federal senator.
Caro Quintero and others filmed the excruciating torture of Camarena. He had crossed the cartel by infiltrating the Mexican underworld and causing the destruction of a multimillion dollar marijuana plantation.
That footage was sent to the U.S. to taunt the DEA and the U.S. government.
Mexico's Attorney General says he also received the letter from Caro Quintero. Jesus Murillo Karam says the letter reads in part:
"It's not fair, gentlemen, that the Mexican justice system is subject to the plans the United States has for a Mexican man who only wants peace and relief for his family."
Mexico did not inform Washington of Caro Quintero's release from prison despite the existence of an outstanding extradition request. The release underscored historic distrust between the U.S. and Mexico even as both nations were sharing intelligence at unprecedented levels to fight the cartels plaguing Mexico today.
Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) was particularly outraged by Mexico's release of Caro Quintero. He sent letters to the Departments of State and Justice urging both to find a legal way to bring Caro Quintero to justice.
Caro Quintero faces a federal indictment in California that charges him with murder, kidnapping and narcotics charges in addition to the murder of Camarena.
The crime so angered Washington that then-President Ronald Reagan ordered every Mexican vehicle entering the U.S. to be combed over, effectively crippling Mexico's border trade until the Mexican government arrested Caro Quintero.
He was taken in and sentenced to 40 years in prison. He'd served 28 years when he was released from a prison in Jalisco early in the early morning of Aug. 9.
Here's another excerpt from the letter as related by the Mexican Attorney General:
"The justice the United States seeks for your fellow Mexican was already paid in Mexico. It is trying to justify an extradition that is tinged with revenge."
The State Department has posted a $5 million reward for information leading to the arrest of Caro Quintero.
A senior U.S. law enforcement officer who is not authorized to speak publicly on the case has told Fronteras Desk that it is inconceivable that at least some members of the Mexican government did not have prior knowledge of Caro Quintero's release.