Mexican and US officials say they are working to put a freed drug lord back behind bars, although there is no sign the US has taken formal legal steps to seize Rafael Caro Quintero.
Mexican Secretary of Foreign Affairs Jose Antonio Meade told reporters on Tuesday that Mexican officials are seeking to reverse an appeals court’s decision last week that freed Caro Quintero for purported procedural errors in the original prosecution.
Caro Quintero was 28 years into a 40-year sentence for helping orchestrate the 1985 killing of US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena. He has disappeared from the public eye since his release.
A US law-enforcement official familiar with the case said the administration of US President Barack Obama believes that the Mexican federal government was blindsided by the decision and that there was no complicity on the part of high-ranking officials in Mexico City.
Mexico is actively looking for Caro Quintero with US help, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the new investigation.
Caro Quintero remained on the DEA’s most-wanted list during his jail term, but Mexican Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam told reporters that there was no US request for his extradition pending at the moment the prisoner was freed.
Murillo Karam said he was not sure if the US had filed such a request since Caro Quintero’s release on Friday last week.
US officials declined to comment on what action they might have taken.
The attorney general said the US would have to file charges separate from those in the Camarena murder case that the Mexican court overturned.
Caro Quintero walked free after a three-judge federal appeals court in the western state of Jalisco overturned his sentence in Camarena’s kidnapping, torture and murder.
The panel ordered Caro Quintero’s immediate release on procedural grounds, saying he should have been tried in a state court instead of federal court.
“We’ll have to find a way to reverse the decision,” Meade said.
“We’re going to use every tool that we have at our disposal,” he added.
Murillo Karam has said the judges should have referred the case to another court instead of freeing Caro Quintero in the middle of the night with no public notification.
US officials say they had no notice of the court decision and members of Congress have called it a setback to US-Mexican cooperation on law enforcement.