Cartel kingpin Rafael Caro Quintero, known as "the narco of narcos" was in a troika that led the Guadalajara cartel, which dominated the Mexican drug trade in the 1970s and 1980s. Quintero's reign-and the cartel he ran-were unraveled by the February, 1985 abduction and murder of undercover DEA agent Enrique "Kiki" Camarena in western Mexico.
On Thursday afternoon, during a joint announcement by the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the U.S. Marshal Service and the State Department, Quintero was added to the government's main Top 10 Most Wanted list.
Quintero was convicted and sentenced to 40-years in prison-but released on a technicality in 2013, after 28 years in a Mexican prison. A higher court reversed the decision but it was too late. Quintero had gone into hiding and his whereabouts today are unknown to American law enforcement. There is now a $20 million reward for his capture, according to U.S. officials.
The torture killing of agent Camarena jarred U.S.-Mexico relations. President Ronald Reagan considered closing the southern border at the time. Then came Quintero's release from prison-and old wounds have been festering ever since.
Camarena 's body had been buried in a shallow grave and exhibited signs of extensive torture. The DEA agent's murder became symbolic of the dangerous "war on drugs" and the bloodthirsty cartel bosses who were on the loose in Mexico.
After the 2016 recapture of cartel leader and Chicago's Public Enemy Number One Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, attention turned to tracking down Quintero. Mexican officials said he had rekindled his cartel career, even while in seclusion, apparently trying to fill the void left by El Chapo's departure from the Sinaloa drug cartel. The Sinaloa cartel is responsible for more than half of all illicit street drugs sold in Chicago, according to U.S. law enforcement.
Today's addition of Quintero to the top ten list and the hefty reward for him are indications that U.S. law enforcement has been unable to find the fugitive and bring him to justice.
Quintero may not be present on the FBI's radar, but he has been seen publicly in news media interviews-vehemently denying his continuing involvement in anything illegal.
"In the name of humanity I believe that I deserve to be left in peace," Quintero said in one interview. "I'm not involved in any problem of this kind and still less in any kind of war."
The latest DEA intelligence suggests otherwise, pegging Quintero as one of the Sinaloa cartel's still-free leaders-on the run somewhere in northern Mexico. Investigators believe he is constantly moving and even refusing prostate surgery for fear that his whereabouts would be compromised.