The capture on July 15 of Mexican capo Rafael Caro Quintero was preceded by twelve failed operations since 2013, some of them hampered by high-level Mexican leaks, The Washington Post reported on Saturday.
Between 2013 and 2022, and at a time when the reward for information leading to his arrest rose from $5 million to $20 million, the United States and Mexico had carried out those 12 botched operations, according to active and retired US officials.
“Many had not been previously reported. US officials believe they were blocked by high-level Mexican leaks, a sign that the Mexican government was protecting him,” the newspaper notes in its account of the arrest.
Founder of the Guadalajara Cartel, Caro Quintero, 69, was one of the main capos in the 1980s and one of the first to ship drugs on a large scale to the United States. He was detained in the municipality of Guachochi, in the northern state of Chihuahua.
The US officials consulted by The Washington Post on condition of anonymity point out that they had identified long ago that he lived in Sinaloa, a few kilometers from a Mexican military base and in a town that he controlled “like a fiefdom.”
Caro Quintero moved by motorcycle and quad, escorted by a security team that rotated every week, and the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) had turned some relatives into informants “and even knew which roads he took to visit his girlfriends.”
The Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, denied this past Monday that the DEA had “direct interference” in the capture and maintained that he did not provide information on the location of the Mexican capo, the most wanted by the DEA for being allegedly responsible for the murder. of his agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena in 1985.
The first operation of the RCQ task force, named after Caro Quintero, had taken place in 2015, according to The Washington Post.
DEA agents and US Marines and soldiers then landed in Babunica, in the state of Sinaloa, but by that time both the capo and his people had fled. “He lived like a peasant,” a US official told the newspaper.
The investigation that finally led to his arrest began to take shape “at least” eight months ago and included US anti-drug agents and veterans of the Mexican Navy special forces.
Caro Quintero’s arrest came days after the meeting of the President of Mexico, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, with his US counterpart, Joe Biden, in Washington, which took place on July 12.
From Mexico it has been denied that the capture was related to that bilateral meeting. According to The Washington Post, DEA agents were aware of the operation but not on the ground when it occurred.
The Attorney General of the United States, Merrick Garland, called Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard on Friday by phone to thank the arrest and talk about the expected extradition, on which both, according to the Department of Justice, reiterated their commitment.
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