Mexican authorities arrested Hector Palma, the former partner of Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, and sent him to maximum-security prison immediately after he was repatriated to Mexico after nine years in a US prison.
El Güero, which is best translated as Whitey or Blondie, was first detained in Mexico in 1995, and then extradited to the United States in 2007. His early release from US jail comes just over half way through a 16-year sentence for drug trafficking.
US officers in fatigues holding big guns escorted Palma over the foot bridge linking Brownsville in Texas to the Mexican city of Matamoros in the state of Tamaulipas on Wednesday afternoon. One photograph showed them handing him over to unarmed Mexican officials while on the bridge.
Once in Matamoros the former kingpin was taken to a border immigration office where he was arrested.
Attorney General Arely Gómez said last week that the government would like to put El Güero back in a Mexican penitentiary, but was struggling to find a case where the statute of limitations has not run out. A federal government statement said Palma's arrest this week was in connection with two murders in the tiny western state of Nayarit. It gave no details about them.
The statement said that the former capo was flown to Mexico City in a government plane accompanied by the army, and then taken by the federal police to the maximum-security Altiplano prison.
This is the same prison from which El Chapo Guzmán escaped through a tunnel in July last year, and to which he was returned after he was recaptured in January this year.
Palma and Guzmán reputedly served together in the 70s and 80s as hitmen for the now defunct Guadalajara cartel. Guzmán is currently being held in a facility near the border city of Ciudad Juárez where he is awaiting near-certain extradition to the US in coming months.
Although Palma spent the nine years after his extradition to the US in a San Diego prison, the authorities reportedly decided not to return him to Mexico through nearby Tijuana due to security concerns.
Palma, along with El Chapo, was at the center of a bloody feud in the late 80s and early 90s with the Arellano Félix brothers, who founded the Tijuana cartel. Although many of the Arellano Félix brothers which he battled directly are dead or in prison, there are still many family members and associates of the Tijuana cartel based in the city.
Cartel veterans have been killed in the past after being released from prison. In 2013, Rafael Arellano Félix — the oldest of the brothers of the Tijuana cartel — was killed five years after being released from prison by a hitman dressed as a clown at his 63rd birthday party in Los Cabos, Baja California Sur.
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