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Hector "El Güero" Palma jailed in Mexico, Rafael Caro Quintero narcos

In Mexico, a notorious drug lord's acquittal has been reversed.

Prosecutors announced today that a Mexican appeals court reversed Hector "El Güero" Palma's acquittal in the 1990s, averting an international embarrassment.

Palma's release was ordered by a lower court in April. However, prosecutors appealed, arguing that the lower court applied the double jeopardy rule incorrectly.

The appeals court reversed Palma's acquittal, ruling that the organized crime case against him did not constitute a double prosecution for the same offense.

Palma was arrested and transferred to Mexico's maximum-security Altiplano prison following the ruling. Palma was ordered held for 40 additional days in non-prison custody pending investigation by a judge in May as a last-ditch measure to prevent him from walking free.

A Mexican court has halted the release of drug lord Hector Palma.
A Mexican court has halted the release of drug lord Hector Palma.

According to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Palma's release could have a negative impact on Mexico's international reputation.

Nearly eight years ago, another drug lord, Rafael Caro Quintero, walked out of a Mexican prison late at night after being improperly released from a 40-year prison sentence for the 1985 torture-murder of US Drug Enforcement Administration agent Enrique "Kiki" Camarena.

He has since returned to drug trafficking and sparked bloody turf wars in Sonora, Mexico's northernmost state.

This is a delicate subject. Mexico's government is establishing a reputation for releasing more drug lords than it captures, as part of the president's stated policy of no longer detaining drug lords to avoid violence.

Mr López Obrador has admitted that he defied initial advice from his own advisers, who suggested that following Palma's acquittal, the government could do nothing more to keep him in custody.

"When they informed me (about the release order), my first response was to wait and look for a legal mechanism," Mr López Obrador said.

""Seek it out," the president added, "because this is not a matter for a judge, the judicial branch, or the government; this is a matter of national interest." Mexico's government cannot be vilified or weakened."

With Palma, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman founded the infamous Sinaloa cartel.
With Palma, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman founded the infamous Sinaloa cartel.

Palma, also known as "El Güero" or "Blondie," co-founded and led the Sinaloa cartel with imprisoned drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

He and Guzman attracted unwanted attention in 1993 when a Roman Catholic cardinal was assassinated during a shootout between Sinaloa gunmen and the rival Arellano Félix gang at Guadalajara's airport. According to reports, the gunmen mistook the cardinal's luxury vehicle for that of a rival.

Palma was arrested in Mexico in 1995 and spent 12 years in prison on bribery and weapons charges before being extradited to the United States in 2007, where he served nine years of a sixteen-year sentence for cocaine trafficking.

He was extradited to Mexico, where he was held pending trial on the charges for which he had been acquitted by the lower court.


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