| 18.6°C Dublin

Bloodhound finds drug lord who tortured and killed US agent hiding in bushes


Rafael Caro Quintero was a wanted man by the FBI. Photo: Federal Bureau of Investigation via Reuters.

Rafael Caro Quintero was a wanted man by the FBI. Photo: Federal Bureau of Investigation via Reuters.

Rafael Caro Quintero was a wanted man by the FBI. Photo: Federal Bureau of Investigation via Reuters.

As Mexican marines closed in on infamous drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero, they turned to their secret weapon to root him out from the undergrowth.

Max, a six-year-old female bloodhound in the final stages of her career as a specialised human tracking dog, locked on to the 69-year-old and led the team of heavily armed soldiers deep into the rugged mountains of Sinaloa.

There, hiding in some bushes just outside the rural outpost of San Simon, she found Caro Quintero.

Known as “El Narco de Narcos”, he was convicted for his role in the torture and murder in 1985 of US Drug Enforcement agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena in a shocking act of brutality which soured US-Mexican relations for years.

But he was released from a Mexican prison in 2013 in a move which sparked fury among US law enforcement, who wanted him to face justice in America.

In 2018, he was placed on the FBI’s top 10 most wanted list, and a reward of $20m (€19m) was offered.But for many security experts, the likelihood of an arrest was slim.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, the left-wing president of Mexico, has advocated a policy of “hugs not bullets” towards cartels, and had not turned over any major figures in the trade in his three years as leader.

But things appear to have shifted since a meeting in the White House with President Biden last week when the issue of drug and human trafficking was raised.

In footage that emerged on Friday, Caro Quintero can be seen being dragged from the scrubland looking bewildered and dishevelled.

He has been flown to the maximum-security Altiplano prison, 50 miles from Mexico City, and will likely soon be extradited to New York.

Caro Quintero, who came from Badiraguato, Sinaloa, was one of the founders of the Guadalajara cartel and, according to the DEA, one of the primary suppliers of heroin, cocaine and marijuana to the US in the late 1970s.

He blamed DEA agent Camarena for a raid on a huge marijuana plantation in 1984 and allegedly ordered his kidnap in Guadalajara the following year. Camarena was tortured for 30 hours at a house owned by Caro Quintero, and his mutilated body was found a month later. The story was retold in the Netflix series Narcos: Mexico.

Daily Digest Newsletter

Get ahead of the day with the morning headlines at 7.30am and Fionnán Sheahan's exclusive take on the day's news every afternoon, with our free daily newsletter.

This field is required

Caro Quintero was convicted in 1985 and was serving 40 years in Mexico when an appeals court overturned his verdict in 2013 on a technicality. The Supreme Court later upheld the sentence, but it was too late - Caro Quintero had been spirited off, sparking a furious reaction inside the DEA and FBI.

Last year, he lost a final appeal against extradition to the US, with a New York indictment pending for several counts of drug trafficking. Now he will be returned to face those charges

US Attorney General Merrick Garland expressed his government’s deep gratitude to Mexican authorities for the arrest, and offered condolences for the deaths of 14 Mexican military personnel who died in a helicopter crash during the operation.

“There is no hiding place for anyone who kidnaps, tortures, and murders American law enforcement,” he said.

“Today’s arrest is the culmination of tireless work by DEA and their Mexican partners to bring Caro Quintero to justice for his alleged crimes, including the torture and execution of DEA Special Agent Enrique ‘Kiki’ Camarena.

“We will be seeking his immediate extradition to the United States so he can be tried for these crimes in the very justice system Special Agent Camarena died defending.”

In Sonora, one of the state’s hit hardest by Caro Quintero’s efforts to reclaim his territory, there was a hope his arrest could help.

“I believe in Sonora, in general, there could be calm, and yes, relief for us, because I believe the disappearances will diminish,” said Cecilia Duarte, an activist with a team of volunteer searchers in Sonora who look for the clandestine graves of the disappeared.

But, she added, Caro Quintero “is only part of the conflict. The conflict doesn’t end.”

© Telegraph Media Group Ltd (2022)

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022]

Most Watched