Here is an excerpt from the Associated Press article in the Arizona Daily Star:
"Defense attorneys believe freedom is imminent for a second member of the trio of Mexican drug kingpins responsible for the 1985 slaying of a Drug Enforcement Administration agent (Kiki Camarena, pictured), one of the capo's attorneys said Saturday. In the U.S., outrage grew over this week's surprise decision to overturn Mexican drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero's conviction in the notorious killing. Caro Quintero walked free Friday after a federal court overturned his 40-year sentence in agent Enrique "Kiki" Camarena's kidnapping, torture and murder. The three-judge appeals court in the western state of Jalisco ordered Caro Quintero's immediate release on procedural grounds after 28 years behind bars, saying he should have originally been prosecuted in state instead of federal court. Also imprisoned in the Camarena case are Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo and Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, two of the founding fathers of modern Mexican drug trafficking, whose cartel based in the northwestern state of Sinaloa later split into some of Mexico's largest drug organizations. Fonseca Carrillo's attorney, Jose Luis Guizar, said his team had filed an appeal based on the same procedural grounds used by Caro Quintero, and expected him to be freed within 15 days by a different court in Jalisco." Link to Full Article
Analysis: For those of you who aren't too familiar with the history of drug trafficking in Mexico, Caro Quintero, Fonseca Carrillo and Félix Gallardo form the narco "holy trinity" that ran the Guadalajara cartel in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1985, Caro Quintero was arrested in Costa Rica and extradited to Mexico, and Fonseca Carrillo was apprehended in Puerto Vallarta by the Mexican army. Félix Gallardo stayed out of the reach of authorities the longest, arrested in 1989 in Mexico but continued running trafficking operations by cell phone until he was transferred to the maximum security prison in Altiplano in the 1990s.
Their involvement in Kiki Camarena's murder wasn't a casual affair. Camarena was working undercover against the cartel for several years. In 1985, he identified a large marijuana growing operation at the cartel's Rancho Bufalo and pressured the Mexican government to stop it. The ranch was raided and the operation came to an end - resulting in Quintero and Carrillo's arrest shortly thereafter - but it wasn't long before the three capos realized Camarena was the infiltrator who game their operation away. Their henchmen kidnapped Camarena in broad daylight while he was on his way to meet his wife for lunch. He was tortured extensively before being killed and buried in a shallow Mexican grave.
The impact of Camarena's disappearance on US-Mexico relations was severe. US Customs brought cross-border traffic to a virtual halt as they searched every vehicle entering the US for signs of Camarena's whereabouts. The pressure on the Mexican government to find him and hold the three Guadalajara cartel leaders accountable was enormous, and a task that then-President (and PRI member) Miguel de la Madrid probably wasn't too enthusiastic about. But despite the fact the three capos were captured and later incarcerated, the cartel lived on. Félix Gallardo knew his time as a free man was limited, and he split up the Guadalajara cartel into some of the TCOs we know now - the Arellano Félix Organization, the Sinaloa cartel and the Carrillo Fuentes Organization.
To say that DEA personnel in the US are angry about Caro Quintero's release - and the potential release of Fonseca Carrillo, and maybe even Félix Gallardo - is an understatement. While it's admirable that the Mexican government is trying to follow the letter of the law, one has to ask why this is happening now, a full 28 years after they were imprisoned, and not back then. The US wants Caro Quintero extradited so he can face criminal charges here, but his whereabouts are already unknown. Releasing Carrillo and Gallardo will be another huge slap in the face to the US government, which has frustratingly remained relatively silent after ICE Special Agent Jaime Zapata was killed by Los Zetas in 2011 and two CIA employees were attacked by dirty federales in late 2012.
The next question becomes, what danger can these men pose after being mostly out of the game for 28 years? Some reports are saying they were still running some operations out of prison, but it's not necessarily the same as physically being in the mix - especially considering their former Guadalajara cartel is in various states of disrepair across the country. Would they join up with Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzmán and his Sinaloa Federation since his organization is the most solid? Or just seek a quiet and anonymous retirement in Yucatán or Los Cabos?
I don't think Caro Quintero's release is upsetting to the US because he poses a potential danger, but because it represents a distortion of justice in a murder case that, even 28 years later, is still an extremely sensitive issue for the DEA and the US government in general. The level of cooperation between our two governments has never been better, but it has been noticeable cooling off since Enrique Peña Nieto took office last December. Intelligence sharing has been restricted from the Mexican side, and now this happens without even a heads up being provided. Mind you, that would have just been a courtesy and not a requirement. The Mexican government can do what it wants, but it's still a snub considering the years-long rhetoric about drug war collaboration.
Bottom line, I wouldn't be surprised if both Fonseca Carrillo and Félix Gallardo are released soon. Maybe they'll get back into the trafficking mix, and maybe they'll just go silently into the night to enjoy their freedom while it lasts. I can't tell from the latest reports if they're going to be indicted under state authority (which I guess is what should have happened in the first place) or if the Mexican government is going to work on extradition orders. But as the article's subtitle states, "US unlikely to pressure Mexico if latest appeal is granted." I think the DEA is going to have to learn to live with the 28 years these men have served as the best justice they're going to get for Camarena's murder.