COSTA RICAN POLICE SEIZE SUSPECT IN THE SLAYING OF U.S. DRUG AGENT
One of the key suspects in the killing of a United States drug agent was captured early today by the police in Costa Rica, American and Mexican officials said.
The suspect, Rafael Caro Quintero, who is believed by authorities to be one of the major figures in Mexico's cocaine and marijuana traffic, was captured in a house that authorities said he owned in San Jose, the Costa Rican capital. Reports from San Jose said he was arrested after United States officials tipped Costa Rican authorities to his presence.
Mr. Caro Quintero had been sought by authorities since early February, when an agent of the United States Drug Enforcement Administration, Enrique Camarena Salazar, was abducted on a street in Guadalajara. Mr. Camarena Salazar's beaten body, along with that of a Mexican pilot who sometimes worked with him, was found on a ranch southeast of Guadalajara on March 5.
Extradition Proceedings Begun
The Mexican Attorney General's office said in a statement that Mexico had already begun proceedings through diplomatic channels to obtain Mr. Caro Quintero's extradition to Mexico. It said the head of Interpol in Mexico, Florentino Ventura Gutierrez, had flown to Costa Rica soon after the capture, accompanied by members of Mexico's Federal Judicial Police.
In Washington, Attorney General Edwin Meese, calling Mr. Caro Quintero ''one of the major drug traffickers in the world,'' said the Justice Department would review whether to extradite him from Costa Rica.
The Mexican Attorney General's statement said that Mr. Caro Quintero was wanted in connection with investigations into ''criminal acts related to narcotic trafficking that occurred on recent dates in Chihuahua and Jalisco,'' and that he was subject to several outstanding arrest orders for ''crimes against health,'' the standard Mexican narcotics charge.
Although Mr. Caro Quintero has been described by both Mexican and United States officials as one of the ''intellectual authors'' of the kidnapping and later slaying of Mr. Camarena Salazar, no charges have been filed against him in that case.
With Mr. Caro Quintero at the time of his capture, according to Mexican and United States officials, were three men and a woman. The woman was identified as Sara Cosio Martinez, the niece of Guillermo Cosio Vidaurri, a high-ranking member of Mexico's ruling party.
Authorities said the young woman was kidnapped by or on behalf of Mr. Caro Quintero from Guadalajara earlier this year. The three men were not immediately identified. The Mexican authorities said Mr. Caro Quintero and his companions had arrived illegally in Costa Rica on a private jet. It was not clear how long he had been in the country.
The last time Mr. Caro Quintero was seen by United States agents, he was leaving Guadalajara in a private jet, right in front of a group of Mexican agents who had been sent to detain him. The commander of the unit that allowed him to leave was later relieved of his duties.
A raid last month on an estate owned by Mr. Caro Quintero in the northern state of Sonora failed to capture him, apparently because he had been warned in advance that it was about to occur, according to United States officials.
The United States Ambassador to Mexico, John Gavin, said in a statement that ''the United States Government welcomes this development and views it as a significant step forward in the Government of Mexico's effort to stamp out drug trafficking.'' He offered ''our every cooperation'' to Mexico in its effort to extradite Mr. Caro Quintero and bring him to trial.
This, according to a diplomatic source, could include the sharing of evidence and intelligence material gathered by United States officials in their investigation of Mr. Caro Quintero.
Trafficker-Police Links The killing of Mr. Camerena Salazar opened to scrutiny the possibility of links between Mexico's drug traffickers and police officials, and has been at the root of recent strains in the Mexican-United States relationship.
According to testimony of people being held in the kidnapping and information developed by American investigators, Mr. Caro Quintero requested the abduction of Mr. Camerena Salazar, believing incorrectly that he was one of the key agents behind a raid on a marijuana farm late last year in the northern state of Chihuahua. Several thousand tons of marijuana awaiting shipment to the United States were seized in the raid, and cost Mr. Caro Quintero tens of millions of dollars, according to United States investigators.
U.S. to Review Extradition
WASHINGTON, April 4 (UPI) - Attorney General Meese said today that the Justice Department would review whether to extradite Mr. Caro Quintero from Costa Rica.
''We're dealing with one of the major drug traffickers in the world,'' Mr. Meese said at a news conference. He said the United States had authority under United States law to extradite Mr. Caro Quintero. ''This is something that will be reviewed.''
He said that while Mr. Caro Quintero may be charged in the United States, ''there are no present charges at this time.''
Mr. Meese also said that if Mr. Caro Quintero was returned to Mexico, he felt assured of Mexico's commitment to press charges.
John C. Lawn, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said at the news conference that United States agents played a significant role in tracking down Mr. Caro Quintero.
''There was information developed by the Drug Enforcement Administration which was furnished to the authorities in Costa Rica,'' he said. ''Based upon this information they located a hacienda, surveilled the hacienda, and then during the early hours this morning effected the arrest.''
He said United States agents ''were in the vicinity of the arrests,'' adding, ''They were not physically present at the arrest site.''
Mr. Lawn said he knew Wednesday evening that the arrest might be made and was told at 6:30 A.M. today that it had occurred. The knowledge did not become public until more than eight hours later, when a news dispatch was filed from San Jose, Costa Rica.
Asked why the arrest was not announced earlier by the Justice Department, Mr. Meese said, ''Good news travels slowly.''