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This Cartel Boss Killed A DEA Agent. Now He Will Face Justice Thanks To $20 Million Bounty

Just Like Escobar And El Chapo, Quintero Is The Next Drug Lord To End Up Behind Bars

Rafael Caro Quintero, one of the most notorious drug lords of the past half-century, is only the latest in a string of high-profile cartel leaders to face justice.

Caro Quintero, a top official in the Sinaloa cartel, is expected to be extradited to the United States after he was captured by Mexican authorities earlier this month. His arrest and extradition is a major victory for U.S. law enforcement, after placing a $20 million bounty on information pertaining to his whereabouts.

Mexican authorities arrested Caro Quintero on July 15, years after his release from a Mexican prison. The drug kingpin walked free in 2013 after a judge overruled his continued incarceration on procedural grounds when Caro Quintero was 28 years into a 40-year sentence. The U.S. condemned his release, and another warrant was put out for Caro Quintero’s arrest less than a week later. By that time, however, he had disappeared.

Caro Quintero was imprisoned for engineering the kidnapping, torture, and slaying of a Drug Enforcement Administration special agent in 1985. While the U.S. government generally works to combat Central and South America’s powerful drug cartels, the killing of a U.S. official or agent is perhaps the most prominent reason for the U.S. to target a specific criminal and take a special interest in their capture.

Caro Quintero and his associates, all highly dangerous and powerful people, have built the illegal drug trade in Mexico and the U.S. into a multi-billion-dollar annual business through the trafficking of cocaine, methamphetamine, heroine, marijuana, and other substances.

And Quintero is not the only one.

In recent decades, law enforcement have killed or captured some of the most violent criminals in the world while trying to smother the explosive drug trade. Here are just a few:

Joaquín Guzmán Loera

Joaquín Guzmán Loera, known as El Chapo, is currently being held in a “supermax” U.S. prison in Colorado after breaking out of multiple Mexican lockups. As head of the Sinaloa cartel, Guzmán Loera is one of the most powerful drug lords in modern history, dubbed in 2012 by the U.S. Treasury the “world’s most powerful drug trafficker.”

Guzmán Loera has been arrested multiple times, and made multiple escapes, before he was extradited to the U.S. in 2017. In 2019, A New York jury found him guilty on ten counts, ranging from drug trafficking to the use of firearms. Guzmán Loera’s wife was arrested last year, pleaded guilty to several crimes related to aiding her husband, and was sentenced to three years in prison.

Guzmán Loera began his drug career in the 1980s working for the precursor of the Sinaloa cartel, the Guadalajara cartel. The Guadalajara cartel broke down in the late 80s after the 1985 murder of U.S. DEA agent Enrique Camarena sparked a joint U.S.-Mexico crackdown on cartel activity. The Guadalajara cartel splintered into smaller branches, one of which was located in Guzmán Loera’s home state of Sinaloa and became known as the Sinaloa cartel with El Chapo as one of its heads.

The Sinaloa cartel rose to prominence quickly on the success of Guzmán Loera’s innovative smuggling methods, and he became a highly-sought target of law enforcement. The Sinaloa leader was first arrested in Guatemala in 1993 and extradited to Mexico. In prison, he continued to run the cartel and eventually orchestrated his first escape in 2001 with the help of corrupt prison guards.

El Chapo was again arrested in 2014, but he escaped another maximum-security Mexican prison through an underground tunnel, which ran over a mile long from a construction site to underneath Guzmán Loera’s prison shower.

El Chapo’s criminal enterprise made him one of the wealthiest men in the world, according to estimates. Forbes Magazines estimated Guzmán Loera’s net worth at $1 billion in 2009 and placed him on its billionaires list, though Forbes later “removed him from the billionaires rankings because it decided his assets were too difficult to verify.”

Héctor Luis Palma Salazar

Héctor Luis Palma Salazar, known as El Güero, was one of the founding members of the Sinaloa cartel alongside El Chapo. Also, like El Chapo, Palma Salazar has been imprisoned in both the U.S. and Mexico.

Palma Salazar is believed to have committed a string of murders, including the slaying of a deputy police commander and his escort. In addition to leading one of the largest drug cartels, Palma Salazar has also been personally involved with some of the most violent actions and reprisals amid rival gangs. His wife was decapitated, and her head was sent to him in a refrigerated box. His two kids were also thrown off of a bridge and murdered.

Palma Salazar has essentially been incarcerated since 1995. Mexican authorities took him into custody while he was recuperating from a plane crash at the home of a former top police official that he had reportedly bought off. In 1997, Palma Salazar was convicted on several weapons charges, but he evaded more serious drug charges that could have extended his sentence by decades. He was locked up at Puente Grande prison in the Mexican state of Jalisco.

In 2007, Palma Salazar’s sentence at Puente Grande ended, and he was extradited to the United States. He pled guilty in 2008 to trafficking cocaine and was sent to prison. The U.S. government set him free in 2016, however, in a move that stunned some officials in Mexico.

When he was returned to his home country, Mexican authorities immediately took him back under arrest on charges of killing a deputy police chief and one other in 1995. He has remained behind bars, but some questions over whether his legal rights are being respected have raised the possibility of his release.

Pablo Escobar

Pablo Escobar is one of the best known drug lords of the 20th century, thanks in large part to a stream of media about him, such as the popular Netflix show “Narcos.” Escobar all but owned the cocaine trade in the 80s and 90s, running the powerful Medellín cartel and becoming known as the “king of cocaine.”

At the height of his power, Escobar was worth a reported $25 billion. He amassed so much wealth that, at one point, Escobar reportedly offered to pay off Columbia’s national debt of $10 billion in return for an agreement that he could not be extradited.

In the early 90s, he struck a deal with the Colombian government to submit himself to prison on the condition that he could build the prison himself. The prison he constructed was more like a palace, with its own nightclub, sauna, and waterfall. It included telephones and computers as well, so Escobar could continue to run his operation while technically incarcerated.

Colombian officials decided to move Escobar to a less opulent prison after the drug lord killed two cartel members at his prison, known as La Catedral. Escobar escaped prison before he could be transferred in July 1992. In December 1993, the Colombian government, reportedly with aid from the U.S., caught up with Escobar, and the kingpin died in a firefight with law enforcement.

The views expressed in this piece are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire. 

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