One of the founding members of Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel will walk out of a U.S. jail a free man this summer after spending 20 years behind bars.
According to the U.S Bureau of Prisons, Jesús Héctor Palma Salazar, nicknamed "El Güero" or "Blondie," is set to be released from prison in June and, while it is unclear what the former cartel capo plans to do with his freedom, many expect him to return to the organized crime group he helped found more than 20 years ago.
Palma Salazar’s life in the drug trade has been marked by personal tragedy and excess amounts of bloody conflict.
A rival gangster named Rafael Clavel Moreno once seduced Palma Salazar’s wife, had her withdraw $7 million from a bank account and then beheaded her before sending the head to him. Clavel Moreno also shoved Palma Salazar’s children off a bridge in Venezuela.
"It devastated him," Mike Vigil, a retired chief of international operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration, told the Houston Chronicle. “After his kids were killed, he lost all of his morality … He took off the gloves."
The death of his family coincided with the rise of wholesale violence in Mexico’s drug trade.
"Before it was kind of like the Italian Mafia, you don't screw with the family,” Vigil said.
Vigil believes that Palma Salazar will soon be back in the drug business and looking to retake control of the Sinaloa Cartel after the arrest of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, earlier this year.
“I don't know how much money [Palma Salazar] has now, but the fact of the matter is that this is the only business he knows," Vigil said. "One thing about 'El Güero Palma' is, he loves the power. He has been without power for a long time and will want to regain it."
Palma Salazar isn’t the only Mexican drug cartel heavy set to be released from a U.S. prison soon.
Juárez Cartel founder Juan José Quintero Payán and former Sonora Cartel capo, Miguel Angel Caro Quintero, are both expected to be released in the next five years. Despite being sentenced to 18 and 17 years respectively behind bars, good behavior could see them free earlier.
Vigil told the Laredo Morning Times that while most of these convicted traffickers are facing charges in Mexico upon their release and deportation, Mexican judges have been known to order the release of criminals on suspicious technicalities.