The thirst for revenge of Güero Palma, the legendary capo of the Sinaloa cartel
Héctor Palma Salazar “alías El Güero Palma”, during his second arrest in 2016Secretaries of State / Secretaries of State

The imminent release from prison of another historic drug trafficker has reopened the door of old ghosts in Mexico. At dawn on Saturday, an unexpected judicial resolution arrived at the Altiplano prison: Héctor Luis Palma Salazar, alias Güero Palma, one of the bosses of the Sinaloa cartel, was acquitted of organized crime charges. This Tuesday, also at dawn, Palma left the State of Mexico prison for the capital to appear before the Special Prosecutor’s Office for organized crime. Locked up since 1995, if no other Mexican court claims it, the veteran friend of Chapo Guzmán, with whom he shared the criminal crown in the nineties, vendettas personal and even life behind bars, he will once again step on the street.

Despite the capo’s advanced age, 80 years old, the shock wave of the judge’s decision has reached the National Palace, which has already set up the 32 state prosecutors’ offices and even the Foreign Ministry to track more possible pending accounts in Palma with justice. The objective is not to repeat what happened with Rafael Caro Quintero, released in 2013 after a controversial court ruling. The historic drug trafficker, founder in the eighties of the Guadalajara cartel, had been in prison for 28 years and still had more than a decade behind bars. Since his release, Quintero has become a headache for the Mexican authorities. The Narco de narcos returned to business and today is the DEA’s most wanted fugitive.

In Mexico there is panic that the same thing will happen again if the release of Palma is confirmed. Even more so because the boss still has pending accounts in the underworld. An episode that comes from the early nineties, the Guadalajara cartel already diluted and the new Sinaloa empire in full swing. During their maddened war for control of the western border, the Arellano Félix brothers, heads of the Tijuana cartel, infiltrated a hit man in the tightest circle of Sinaloa power. First he seduced Güero’s wife. Then he killed her and sent the head to her husband in a refrigerated metal box.

A week later, Güero received another macabre message. A video tape that showed how his two children, Nataly and Héctor, aged four and five, were thrown over a bridge more than 150 meters high in Venezuela. The three relatives of the capo are buried in a gigantic cemetery of the Humaya Gardens cemetery, in Culiacán (Sinaloa). A motley fresco represents them with angel wings and there is never a lack of toys and dolls to remember the little ones.

The Sinaloan response to the affront was also savage. The hit man, the Venezuelan Rafael Clavel Moreno, was quickly assassinated. They did the same with their three children, and three other Venezuelan accomplices, who appeared dismembered in a gutter. Then the lawyer for the Tijuana cartel and four relatives of the Arrellano family fell. The revenge spanned at least five years and it is still unclear how many bodies he sowed or if it is fully settled.

The threat of a new revenge

The Tijuana cartel is considered today practically a fossil after the death or imprisonment of all the brothers. But an unexpected new twist could resurrect the old and bloody rivalry. Eduardo Arellano, one of the founders of the clan, could also return to the streets in freedom, according to advancement Millennium In the past week. Imprisoned in the US since 2013, the Doctor, considered the financial mastermind of the cartel, has managed to reduce his sentence and will be released this summer thanks to a collaboration program with the DEA.

Palma himself also went through US prisons, after a spectacular arrest. In 1995 I was going to a wedding in Guadalajara but the plane crashed. Wounded, he took refuge in a house in Zapopan under the protection of a federal judicial commander. The detention operation found him convalescing in bed. The first five years he spent in the Puerta Grande jail in Mexico City, where he coincided with El Chapo, his former comrade from his beginnings as a car thief in Culiacán, arrested two years earlier in Guatemala. During that short interval, the power vacuum after the fall of the chief was filled by Güero, who held a high position in the Sinaloan mafia – head of the Sonora and Arizona plaza – since the time of Félix Gallardo, El Padrino del Guadalajara poster.

The government of Felipe Calderón requested his extradition in 2007. A long sentence awaited him in the Atwater prison (California), but in 2016 he was released for good behavior. As is happening now, the announcement of his departure set off the alarms of the Mexican authorities. When he crossed the border with Matamoros, the Navy and the Army were waiting for him to send him back to prison for the murder a subcommander of the police and his bodyguard who, after allegedly being at his command, went over to the Tijuana cartel. On May 18, 1995, in the town of Trigomil (Nayarit), their bodies were found inside their white Chevrolet pickup. They had been pulverized in the face with more than 20 bullets.

Despite his recognized good behavior during his prison odyssey, the psychological tests declassified by the US authorities after his release in 2016 portray him as a person of low social empathy and high criminal capacity. The same documents highlight that he never spoke of the macabre murder of his wife and children. In the event that his new release is confirmed, the old boss will have the opportunity to show if that affront has already been settled or if he still has a thirst for revenge.

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