Mexico poised to release cartel leader behind torture and murder of DEA agent Enrique Camarena

Enrique "Kiki" Camarena, the DEA agent murdered in Mexico in 1985.

Enrique "Kiki" Camarena, the DEA agent murdered in Mexico in 1985.  (ap)

The second cartel leader in the last two years convicted of the 1985 torture and murder of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena Salazar is poised to be released from a Mexican prison.

Ernesto “Don Neto” Fonseca Carrillo, 85, was one of the leaders of the Guadalajara Cartel in the early 1980s, when Camarena, a Mexican-born undercover agent, was kidnapped, tortured and killed in February 1985, after he was identified as the source who led Mexican soldiers to destroy a 2,500-acre marijuana plantation.

That same year, Fonseca Carrillo was convicted for Camarena’s murder and sentenced to 40 years in Mexican federal prison. He has served 30 years.

Two federal officials who were not authorized to be quoted by name told the Associated Press on Friday that a court ruled in January that Fonseca Carrillo was eligible for a form of house arrest offered to elderly or infirm prisoners.

The government is reviewing defense proposals for the site where Fonseca Carrillo would be guarded by police or prison employees.

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The next step in the case will come within a month, when prosecutors decide whether the house proposed by the defense team is secure enough.

If the two sides can't agree, the judge can request an outside opinion.

Camarena's murder escalated tensions between Mexico and the U.S. to perhaps their highest level in recent decades. His body was found a month later, severely mutilated and with evidence that he had been injected with amphetamines in order to keep him awake during his torture.

The case prompted what has been described as one of the largest DEA homicide investigations ever undertaken, and it resulted in the arrest and conviction of Fonseca Carrillo and his fellow Guadalajara cartel leaders, Rafael Caro Quintero and Miguel Angel Félix Gallardo.

The United States was outraged two years ago when Caro Quintero's conviction was overturned on procedural grounds. A new warrant was issued for him, but he has not been seen since. Félix Gallardo remains in prison in Mexico.

Fonseca is from the same municipality in Sinaloa as the recently-escaped kingpin, Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.

A U.S. Department of Justice spokesperson was unable to comment in time for this article.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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