Founder of Sinaloa Cartel Could Be Released This Week If No Warrants Found

80-year-old Héctor "El Guero" Palma Salazar, who was an acquaintance of drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, has been absolved of organized crime charges.

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Photo by PEDRO PARDO/AFP via Getty Images

mexico city guards

A founder and leader of the Sinaloa cartel could be released from prison this week.

Héctor “El Guero” Palma Salazar, the 80-year-old former aquaintance of drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, has been absolved of organized crime charges by a Mexican judge and could potentially walk free this week if prosecutors can’t find any outstanding warrants by Tuesday.

Palma was nearly released over the weekend, until prosecutors reportedly won the extention. Palma was initally arrested in Mexico in 1995 and served 12 years in Mexico on bribery and weapons charges. He was was extradited to the U.S. in 2007 and served nine years for cocaine trafficking. He then returned to Mexico as he awaited trial on the organized crime charges of which he was just acquitted.

Some in Mexico—such as the country’s president—aren’t too thrilled about the optics of his release. Just eight years ago, Rafael Caro Quintero left prison with an improperly ordered release. He’s since returned to drug trafficking and engaged in turf battles. 

“This is a matter of national import,” Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Monday. “Imagine the suspicion, the jokes, the memes.”

“Something similar happened when Mr. Caro Quintero was released,” López Obrador, who previously called the release “justified,” recalled. “They accused us from abroad, accused the government of complicity. No foreign government should accuse the Mexican government, and we shouldn’t give them a pretext to do that.”

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