Pubdate: Sat, 22 Dec 2001
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2001 The New York Times Company
Author: Tim Weiner


May Be Sent to U.S.

MEXICO CITY, Dec. 21 -- A man suspected of being one of Mexico's
biggest drug traffickers is under arrest and facing extradition to the
United States after a decade of thumbing his nose at law enforcement
authorities, Mexican officials said today.

The suspect, Miguel Caro Quintero, has been identified by the
authorities for years as the head of one of the world's biggest drug

He succeeded his brother, Rafael Caro Quintero, who has been
imprisoned in Mexico since 1985 for the murder of a United States Drug
Enforcement Administration agent, Enrique Camarena Salazar.

The United States says Miguel Caro Quintero heads the Sonora cartel,
one of Mexico's oldest and best-established drug syndicates.

The cartel ships tons of Colombian cocaine and other drugs from the
Mexican state of Sonora over the border into California, Arizona, New
Mexico and Texas, and across the United States, the American
authorities say.

Mr. Caro Quintero faces four federal drug- and money-laundering
indictments in Arizona and Colorado, although none in Mexico.

He has lived and worked for years without apparent fear of the law,
traveling freely and conducting his business, and even calling a radio
station near Hermosillo, Mexico, to scoff on the air at American drug
enforcement authorities.

But he was arrested Thursday in Los Mochis, in Sinaloa State, while
driving on a city street, and shipped to a maximum-security prison in
Mexico City.

His arrest was the latest sign of increased cooperation and trust
between the Mexican and American authorities, which American drug
enforcement agents say has grown dramatically in the past year under
President Vicente Fox.

The American authorities say Mr. Caro Quintero has operated with near
total impunity since 1992, when he used bribery and threats of
violence to compel a Mexican judge to drop criminal charges pending
against him.

In 1999, Mexico's Supreme Court ruled that he could be extradited to
the United States to face the federal indictments against him there, a
decision affirmed by a broader ruling on extradition by the court last

The Caro Quintero organization operates from a network of ranches in
the northern border state of Sonora, receiving Colombian cocaine and
manufacturing methamphetamine, or speed, and shipping it into the
United States.

Despite its notoriety, which soared with the 1985 murder of Mr.
Camarena, the organization has long enjoyed protection from
prosecution because of the corruption of local and federal

In 1997, Thomas A. Constantine, then the chief of the United States
Drug Enforcement Administration, made special note of Mr. Caro Quintero.

"In an act of astonishing arrogance, he called a radio station in
Hermosillo, Mexico, last May stating that he was bothered by
statements I had made," Mr. Constantine testified before the United
States Congress.

Mr. Caro Quintero "indicated that he was an innocent rancher and
charges made against him by D.E.A. were untrue," Mr. Constantine said.

"He then had the audacity to give his address and invite law
enforcement officials from Mexico and the United States to visit him --
yet he remains at large."
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