The 1985 murder of a DEA agent still haunts Mexico. Finally, a drug lord gets sentenced in the case

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JF-Expert Member
Mar 19, 2015
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Patrick J. McDonnellContact Reporter


He was known as “El Padrino” — the Godfather — and, as co-founder of the once-dominant Guadalajara drug cartel, Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo reigned over Mexico’s multibillion-dollar narco-commerce with all the ruthlessness and aplomb of the fictional Don Corleone.

The former street cop and bodyguard turned-drug kingpin counted police commanders and politicians among his protectors and supplicants.

But eventually, Gallardo went too far. The international outrage following the 1985 murder in Mexico of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent, Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, eventually led to the fall of Gallardo and his close associates and the splintering of their nationwide criminal network.

The fallout of Camarena’s murder — and the unraveling of Gallardo’s cartel — continues to be felt in Mexico to this day, influencing law enforcement, politics and how modern cartels operate. Even though Gallardo was arrested decades ago, the case made the news again this week when a Mexican federal court sentenced Gallardo to 37 years in prison for the murder of Camarena and a Mexican pilot, Alfredo Zavala.

President Trumptook office in January amid threats to build a border wall, slap a tariff on Mexican imports and carry out large-scale deportations of Mexican citizens in the U.S. illegally.

The bodies of Camarena and Zavala were found, a month after their February 1985 disappearances, near a ranch in the western state of Michoacan. Their remains showed signs of torture.

The subsequent manhunt for the killers was called the largest in DEA history. Suspicion immediately fell on the Guadalajara cartel and its three principal figures: Gallardo, Ernesto “Don Neto” Fonseca and Rafael Caro Quintero, all giants of the Mexican demimonde, subjects of corridos (ballads) and legends.

In his undercover work, Camarena had developed an extensive informant network that led to large-scale seizures of marijuana and destruction of pot plantations in northern Mexico, authorities say. His murder was called payback for the damage done to the Guadalajara mob.

Mexican authorities soon rounded up Fonseca and Caro Quintero, but Gallardo — reportedly protected by authorities — was not arrested until 1989.

Though Gallardo remains in prison, Fonseca was transferred to house arrest in 2016 under terms granted to elderly prisoners with health problems.

Caro Quintero was released from prison in 2013 on a legal technicality, to the dismay of U.S. authorities — who have offered a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to his capture or conviction. Both Mexican and U.S. officials are seeking Caro Quintero.

In 2016, Caro Quintero gave an interview from hiding to Mexico’s Proceso magazine denying any role in Camarena’s murder and rejecting reports that he had returned to the drug world.

Amid continuing demand for drugs in the United States, experts say, the destruction of the Guadalajara cartel resulted in a fragmenting of the market and the emergence of distinct regional cartels.

Among them was the Sinaloa cartel of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and other criminal mobs in Tijuana, Ciudad Juarez and elsewhere. All built on the sophistication of the Guadalajara cartel, with its close ties to South American cocaine producers. The evolving U.S. appetite for heroin, amphetamines and other illicit substances has been a boost for the trafficking enterprise.

Under pressure from U.S. authorities, Mexican officials have taken down one drug lord after another. Critics question, however, whether the “kingpin strategy” has exacerbated the problem, amid escalating national homicide rates. Violent junior sicarios, or hit men, and other would-be successors now regularly battle for leadership after the incarceration or murders of their bosses.

The arrest of Guzman, and his extradition this year from Mexico to the United States, is a case in point. His absence and the subsequent leadership void have spurred violent clashes among competing blocs fighting for control of Guzman’s fractured empire.

750x422

An undated file photo of Enrique “Kiki” Camarena. His murder strained relations between the U.S. and Mexican governments. (Associated Press)
Mexican drug gangs since the 1980s have diversified into other fields — including extortion, kidnapping, human trafficking and the forced takeover of legitimate businesses.

Like their predecessors in the Guadalajara cartel, Mexico’s current narco-leaders maintain financial and social ties to police and elected lawmakers. The nexus among gangs, law enforcement and politicians — and the resulting impunity for many criminals and corrupt officials — continues to bedevil reform efforts in Mexico.

For U.S. anti-drug authorities, a key lesson of the Camarena killing was the need for an immediate and robust response to any menace to its personnel.

"Because of the Camarena case, even the mere allegation of a threat is the tripwire that unleashes DEA’s fury," Jay Bergman, former regional director of the DEA’s Andean office, told the Los Angeles Times in 2015. "The message is loud and clear: Just thinking about harming an agent will turn your world upside down."
 

ze-dudu

JF-Expert Member
Jul 26, 2014
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2,000
Patrick J. McDonnellContact Reporter


He was known as “El Padrino” — the Godfather — and, as co-founder of the once-dominant Guadalajara drug cartel, Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo reigned over Mexico’s multibillion-dollar narco-commerce with all the ruthlessness and aplomb of the fictional Don Corleone.

The former street cop and bodyguard turned-drug kingpin counted police commanders and politicians among his protectors and supplicants.

But eventually, Gallardo went too far. The international outrage following the 1985 murder in Mexico of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent, Enrique “Kiki” Camarena, eventually led to the fall of Gallardo and his close associates and the splintering of their nationwide criminal network.

The fallout of Camarena’s murder — and the unraveling of Gallardo’s cartel — continues to be felt in Mexico to this day, influencing law enforcement, politics and how modern cartels operate. Even though Gallardo was arrested decades ago, the case made the news again this week when a Mexican federal court sentenced Gallardo to 37 years in prison for the murder of Camarena and a Mexican pilot, Alfredo Zavala.

President Trumptook office in January amid threats to build a border wall, slap a tariff on Mexican imports and carry out large-scale deportations of Mexican citizens in the U.S. illegally.

The bodies of Camarena and Zavala were found, a month after their February 1985 disappearances, near a ranch in the western state of Michoacan. Their remains showed signs of torture.

The subsequent manhunt for the killers was called the largest in DEA history. Suspicion immediately fell on the Guadalajara cartel and its three principal figures: Gallardo, Ernesto “Don Neto” Fonseca and Rafael Caro Quintero, all giants of the Mexican demimonde, subjects of corridos (ballads) and legends.

In his undercover work, Camarena had developed an extensive informant network that led to large-scale seizures of marijuana and destruction of pot plantations in northern Mexico, authorities say. His murder was called payback for the damage done to the Guadalajara mob.

Mexican authorities soon rounded up Fonseca and Caro Quintero, but Gallardo — reportedly protected by authorities — was not arrested until 1989.

Though Gallardo remains in prison, Fonseca was transferred to house arrest in 2016 under terms granted to elderly prisoners with health problems.

Caro Quintero was released from prison in 2013 on a legal technicality, to the dismay of U.S. authorities — who have offered a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to his capture or conviction. Both Mexican and U.S. officials are seeking Caro Quintero.

In 2016, Caro Quintero gave an interview from hiding to Mexico’s Proceso magazine denying any role in Camarena’s murder and rejecting reports that he had returned to the drug world.

Amid continuing demand for drugs in the United States, experts say, the destruction of the Guadalajara cartel resulted in a fragmenting of the market and the emergence of distinct regional cartels.

Among them was the Sinaloa cartel of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman and other criminal mobs in Tijuana, Ciudad Juarez and elsewhere. All built on the sophistication of the Guadalajara cartel, with its close ties to South American cocaine producers. The evolving U.S. appetite for heroin, amphetamines and other illicit substances has been a boost for the trafficking enterprise.

Under pressure from U.S. authorities, Mexican officials have taken down one drug lord after another. Critics question, however, whether the “kingpin strategy” has exacerbated the problem, amid escalating national homicide rates. Violent junior sicarios, or hit men, and other would-be successors now regularly battle for leadership after the incarceration or murders of their bosses.

The arrest of Guzman, and his extradition this year from Mexico to the United States, is a case in point. His absence and the subsequent leadership void have spurred violent clashes among competing blocs fighting for control of Guzman’s fractured empire.

750x422

An undated file photo of Enrique “Kiki” Camarena. His murder strained relations between the U.S. and Mexican governments. (Associated Press)
Mexican drug gangs since the 1980s have diversified into other fields — including extortion, kidnapping, human trafficking and the forced takeover of legitimate businesses.

Like their predecessors in the Guadalajara cartel, Mexico’s current narco-leaders maintain financial and social ties to police and elected lawmakers. The nexus among gangs, law enforcement and politicians — and the resulting impunity for many criminals and corrupt officials — continues to bedevil reform efforts in Mexico.

For U.S. anti-drug authorities, a key lesson of the Camarena killing was the need for an immediate and robust response to any menace to its personnel.

"Because of the Camarena case, even the mere allegation of a threat is the tripwire that unleashes DEA’s fury," Jay Bergman, former regional director of the DEA’s Andean office, told the Los Angeles Times in 2015. "The message is loud and clear: Just thinking about harming an agent will turn your world upside down."
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