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Big Catch, Team Effort

January 03, 2002

Reputed drug lord Miguel Caro Quintero is so cocky that back in 1997 he called a radio station in his hometown of Hermosillo, Mexico, to refute the charges made against him by the chief of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. He gave his address and challenged authorities on both sides of the border to come get him. Last month, at the request of the U.S. government, agents from Mexico's attorney general's office collared the man alleged to have inherited the infamous Sonora cocaine and marijuana cartel from his jailed older brother.

The arrest is the latest example of increased cooperation and trust between Mexican and U.S. authorities and an encouraging sign of progress in the effort to dismantle the criminal empires that flood U.S. streets with life-sapping products while making Mexico corrupt and increasingly violent. Now, the Justice Department should file the formal request for extradition that will set in motion the legal process to bring Caro Quintero north for trial.

The Mexican Supreme Court cleared the way for this by ruling that a Mexican national can be extradited as long as the sentence would not be execution or life in prison. In Mexico, the maximum penalty for a crime is 70 years, which should be plenty for Caro Quintero if he is found guilty, given that he was born in 1963.

The suspect is now in a high-security prison in Mexico City. If all goes as authorities plan, this man who believed himself invincible will face four federal drug and money-laundering indictments in Arizona and Colorado and live out his life in an American jail with people whose lives cocaine helped destroy.

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