Rafael Caro Quintero: Icon of Mexican Drug Trafficking
Rafael Caro Quintero, better known as the “narco de narcos,” has earned himself a legendary status in the world of organized crime in Mexico. Born on October 24, 1952 in La Noria, Badiraguato, Sinaloa, Caro Quintero has left an indelible mark on the history of drug trafficking in Mexico.
This infamous figure, apprehended by Mexican authorities, is considered a criminal heavyweight, surpassing even Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán in terms of criminal stature. Caro Quintero played a pivotal role in modernizing drug trafficking in Mexico. He founded the Guadalajara Cartel and established an organizational model that has endured to this day.
Unlike Colombian cartels, Caro Quintero introduced the concept of cells within the organization. Each cell operated independently, avoiding interference and maintaining discretion. This allowed Mexican cartels to better adapt to local circumstances and consolidate their power in the region.
Caro Quintero’s childhood was marked by poverty, coming from a large family with economic difficulties. His father, Emilio Caro Payán, had connections with marijuana producers, but his true influence in the world of drug trafficking came from Lamberto Quintero, his mother’s cousin. It was he who introduced Caro Quintero to criminal activities during his childhood. At the age of 13, after the death of his father, Caro Quintero became the breadwinner for his family.
He started working various jobs, including selling candy on the streets. However, his fate changed when he moved to Caborca, Sonora, where he met Pedro Avilés Pérez, a major drug trafficker and Lamberto Quintero’s associate. Caro Quintero joined the world of drug trafficking as a caretaker of marijuana crops, a role that would mark the beginning of his criminal career.
Together with Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, and Héctor Palma Salazar, they formed part of the initial core that led to the rise of the Guadalajara Cartel. This organization would eventually become a multi-billion-dollar empire.
The emergence of the Guadalajara Cartel marked a milestone in the history of Mexican drug trafficking. Although these organizations were not yet called cartels, they were already consolidating their power and attracting the attention of the U.S. government. The DEA sent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena to investigate the activities of these drug trafficking leaders, triggering a series of events that would change the course of Mexico’s criminal history.
Caro Quintero’s legacy in the world of organized crime in Mexico is undeniable. His entrepreneurial vision and ability to adapt to local circumstances laid the foundation for the expansion of Mexican cartels. He also contributed to their subsequent dominance in the global drug trade. His life and criminal career are a testament to the complexity and depth of the fight against drug trafficking in Mexico.