Tue | Sep 21, 2021
Mexico

President justifies release of kingpin targeted by US

Published:Thursday | April 8, 2021 | 12:21 AM

MEXICO CITY (AP):

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador on Wednesday defended the 2013 ruling that freed one of the drug lords most wanted by US authorities, even though Mexico’s Supreme Court later ruled it was a mistake.

Rafael Caro Quintero walked free while serving a 40-year sentence for the torture-murder of US Drug Enforcement Administration agent Enrique ‘Kiki’ Camarena in 1985, and has since apparently resumed his role as violent drug trafficker.

Caro Quintero is at the top of the DEA’s Most Wanted list, with a US$20-million reward for his capture.

López Obrador said Wednesday the legal appeal that led to Caro Quintero’s release was “justified” because supposedly no verdict had been handed down against the drug lord after 27 years in jail. López Obrador also depicted a later warrant for his rearrest as an example of US pressure.

“Once he was out, they had to look for him again, because the United States demanded he shouldn’t have been released, but legally the appeal was justified,” López Obrador said.

Presidential spokesman Jesús Ramírez said “the president was just saying that it was a legal aberration that the judge had not issued a verdict on Mr Caro Quintero after 27 years ... but he was not defending his release.”

SENTENCE OVERTURNED

There was a verdict – but a Mexican appeals court initially decided it had come from the wrong judge.

In August 2013, the appeals court overturned Caro Quintero’s 40-year sentence in the killing of Camarena and a Mexican government pilot. The panel argued a state court should have overseen the case, not a federal one, and ordered his immediate release from a maximum-security prison.

Mexico’s Supreme Court annulled the order releasing him months later, saying Camarena was a registered US government agent and therefore his killing was a federal crime and had been properly tried. An arrest warrant was issued for Caro Quintero, who has been in hiding since his release.

His late-night release angered the US government and surprised Mexican prosecutors, who weren’t notified until hours after it took place.