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Mexico frees killer of U.S. agent

Published Aug. 10, 2013

MEXICO CITY — Infamous drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero walked free Friday after 28 years in prison when a court overturned his 40-year sentence for the 1985 kidnapping and killing of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent, a brutal murder that marked a low point in U.S.-Mexico relations.

The U.S. Department of Justice said Friday it was extremely disappointed by the release of the man convicted in the killing of DEA Agent Enrique Camarena, calling it "deeply troubling."

Mexico's Attorney General Jesus Murillo Karam said in a statement that he was "worried" about the court's decision, adding that his office is analyzing whether there are any charges pending against Caro Quintero.

Caro Quintero, 60, was a founding member of one of Mexico's earliest and biggest drug cartels. The court ruled Wednesday that he had been improperly tried in a federal court for a crime that should have been treated as a state offense. Prison officials were notified of the ruling Thursday, and an official at the Jalisco state prosecutors' office said the drug lord left prison Friday.

Caro Quintero still faces charges in the United States, but Mexico's Attorney General's Office said it was unclear if there was a current extradition request.

Mexico's relations with Washington were badly damaged when Caro Quintero ordered Camarena kidnapped, tortured and killed, purportedly because he was angry about a raid on a 220-acre marijuana plantation that was seized by Mexican authorities at Camarena's insistence.

Camarena was kidnapped on Feb. 7, 1985, in Guadalajara. His body and that of his Mexican pilot, both showing signs of torture, were found a month later.

American officials accused their Mexican counterparts of letting Camarena's killers get away. Caro Quintero was eventually hunted down in Costa Rica.