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El Proceso Scores Interview with Rafael Caro Quintero

The DEA and Mexico (at the request of the U.S.) have been trying to find Rafael Caro-Quintero since 2013, when Mexico released him from prison after serving 28 years of a 40 year sentence, following a court decision later reversed.

I doubt they had a clue where he is. And I wonder if they haven't just used an old trick on him: Accuse him of something he hasn't done so he surfaces to make a denial. If so, it worked, because El Proceso will broadcast an interview with Caro Quintero from an undisclosed location today -- his first since his 2013 release from prison. [More...]

In the preview clip from Proceso, he denies kidnapping DEA Agent Enrique Camerena, denies torturing him, and denies killing him. In the full interview, he denies being back in the drug business and says he just wants to live out his life in peace. He says he is friends with El Chapo and El Mayo, saw them once after his release, wishes them well but has no knowledge of their drug business. As to Camarena, he says he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and he's sorry for any consequences that resulted.

“Pido perdón a la sociedad mexicana, a la DEA, a Washington…”· “No estoy en guerra con nadie; El Chapo y El Mayo son mis amigos”

As to what was he recently accused of: Mexican officials claim he has teamed up with the Beltran Leyva cartel to get back in the drug business after the capture of El Chapo and retake control of the Sinaloa region from the Sinaloa Cartel (led by El Chapo and El Mayo, Ismael Zambada-Garcia.) Mexican officials have claimed he gave orders to the Beltran Leyva group to attack El Chapo's mother's house in Badiraguato a few weeks ago and is behind recent murders there.

The whole theory seemed so hair-brained to me when it was reported in June, I didn't even write about it. First off, the Beltran Leyva brothers are all dead or in jail. Alfredo Beltran Leyva ("El Mochomo") was arrested in 2008, which set off the war between Beltran Leyva and Sinaloa, because his brothers believed El Chapo set him up. Arturo Beltran Leyva was killed in a shootout with Mexican Army in December, 2009. Carlos Beltran Levya was arrested around 2009. The last brother, Hector Beltran Leyva, was captured in 2014 and is still in prison in Mexico.

Alfredo is the most relevant here, because the Government claims his son conducted the recent attacks in El Chapo's hometown, on orders from Caro Quintero.

In 2014, after 5 years in a Mexican prison (where he allegedly continued to operate his drug business), Alfredo "El Mochomo" Beltran Leyva was extradited to the District of Columbia. He pleaded guilty in February, 2016, with no sentencing concession. In other words, he did not cooperate. The DOJ press release on his guilty plea is here. I've read the sentencing statements of both the Government and the defense, as well as all the pretrial motions in the case (via PACER), and the Government is clearly offering him no break. His lawyer is asking for a 25 year sentence rather than a life sentence.

Alfredo Beltran Leyva was scheduled to be sentenced in D.C. this week. The Government is seeking a life sentence and forfeiture of $10 billion. (That's not a misprint.) On the day of the sentencing, the judge continued the sentencing, reportedly peeved at the Government, saying it will take months and several hearings to determine how much money Beltran Leyva should forfeit, since until 2008, Beltran Leyva and Sinaloa were part of a federation that pooled their resources, meaning part of the shipments belonged to Sinaloa and part to Beltran Leyva. In a criminal forfeiture, the Government has the burden of establishing the amount of money Beltran Leyva personally made from his illegal activity.

Back to Caro-Quintero: According to the Mexican Government, including a Mexican prosecutor, Alfredo's son, who also happens to be El Chapo's nephew, named Alfredo Beltran Guzman, and nicknamed Mochomito (also called Alfredito or Tito), teamed with Caro Quintero to attack El Chapo's mother house in June and kill a bunch of people.

The Commander of the third Military Region, Alfonso Duarte Mugica, has confirmed that The Mochomito, son of Alfredo Beltrán Leyva, was the direct instigator of the first attack of this war: a razia in the terroir of the plated against the mother of jailed today bonnet. But within the criminal organization claim to know who is the hand that drives the conflagration: Rafael Caro Quintero, drug trafficker known in the 1980s as The Prince.

.... An investigation of the process reveals that Caro Quintero (former leader of the Guadalajara Cartel, prisoner for 28 years and released in August 2013 for failures in their judicial process) has been strengthened in two years and 10 months carrying free through alliances of the Beltran Leyva Cartel and other criminal organizations.

Mochomito is 24 years old. (Article is an English translation of this Proceso article.)

Beltrán Guzman, 24, is the eldest son of the Beltran Leyva cartel capo, who was extradited to the United States in November 2014... is a direct nephew of El Chapo Guzman. His grandfather is Ernesto Guzman, son of Emilio Guzman Bustillo, father of El Chapo. His mother is Patricia Nunez Guzman, niece of the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel.

Ernesto Guzman was executed last year in the Golden Triangle. For many years El Mochomito, who ordered the attack on the house of the mother of Joaquin Guzman Loera, was considered as one of the Guzman Loera clan and he will go to family gatherings and was called Tito.

More on blaming Alfredo's son here.

The first reports of the attack on El Chapo's mother's house blamed Chapo Isidro (Fausto Isidro Meza-Flores), not Beltran Leyva. Chapo Isidro is a former lieutenant of Beltran Leyva, who stayed loyal to them after the split with Sinaloa, but after the arrest of Alfredo, according to the U.S. government and media reports, launched his own groups and reportedly has been in control of trafficking in Guasave, Sinaloa for a few years. The U.S. added him and his associates to the designated kingpin list in January, 2013.

Proceso today sticks to its initial report blaming Caro Quintero and the son of Alfredo Beltran Leyva for the June attacks:

On 26 June last, this weekly (process 2069) published the official versions which ensured that Caro Quintero was behind the attack perpetrated by Alfredo Beltrán Guzmán, the Mochomito, the home of Consuelo Loera, mother of Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán, in the settlement of La Tuna Badiraguato, locality from which both bosses are. Days later, the Mexican army and the Government of Chihuahua confirmed that version.

Obviously, I have no idea who's responsible for the current violence in Sinaloa, nor do I intend to do my own investigation. It's much too confusing and too difficult to sort out from court pleadings and official government notices. (I certainly don't trust the word of retired DEA agents giving interviews to the media as to what they remember happened back in 1985.) Even so, I am skeptical that Rafael Caro Quintero is back in the drug business. Nor do I find it credible that Caro-Quintero, who has been out of prison for less than 3 years, would instigate a cartel war and order Alfredo Beltran Leyva's son to attack El Chapo's mother's house or kill townspeople in an effort to take over an area he's been gone from for 30 years.

In a letter written to the President of Mexico after his release, Caro Quintero asked the U.S. and Mexico to stop persecuting him -- he said he's done his time, let him be.

In thes new Proceso interview, he says:

"I'm not a danger to society of Mexico for the Government or for the society of the United States. I don't want to know anything about drug trafficking, I want to live in peace and be at peace, leave me in peace,"said Caro.

Caro Quintero in 1985 when he was arrested:

Caro Quintero in 2013 when he was released after serving 28 years:

Caro Quintero, according to the media, had a fortune of between $300 and $500 million, which he moved from the drug trade to legitimate businesses. According to the U.S., which has placed his and his family's businesses on the financial sanctions list and just two months ago, added his alleged common law wife to the list, Caro Quintero owns a legion of ordinary businesses which he acquired with drug proceeds. (Some of them are in the bottom left of this Treasury Department chart.)

He sure doesn't look like a man with a fortune at his disposal today. Even if the stark interview room shown in the Proceso interview was staged, he looks like a man on the run and older than his 64 years. He looks like a farmer or a day laborer, not a drug kingpin. But even if the U.S. is correct and he still has a fortune, why would he get back into drug trafficking in Mexico when he knows there is an extradition warrant for his arrest, he's living on the run and he doesn't need the money?

Rafael Caro-Quintero served 28 years in a Mexican prison for a crime he has always denied committing. As to the present, I see no evidence to substantiate the claims of Mexican and U.S. officials that he is back in the drug business or that he's currently at war with El Chapo and El Mayo and directing attacks in his and El Chapo's home town. Even if he is, it has nothing to do with the United States. It's purely Mexico's business. And Mexico only seems interested in him because the U.S. is seeking his extradition. As for the past, as far as I'm concerned, whatever he did more than 30 years ago, spending 28 years in a Mexican prison is enough punishment. The DEA needs to move on. It's already taken enough pounds of flesh from him.

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