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Héctor 'El Güero' Palma In Custody Until Mid-June, But On What Charges?

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“MX” for Borderland Beat

Hector “El Guero” Palma’s next court hearing is on 15 June 2021 (photo credit: Jovani Silva, Infobae). 

After he was acquitted and released from prison a little over a week ago, Sinaloa Cartel founding member Hector “El Güero” Palma (age 80) was re-arrested outside the prison gates. Federal authorities said he was facing more criminal charges and described it as an “urgent case”. No more details were given.

However, Palma’s attorney José Gabriel Hernández Martínez confirmed to a Mexican media outlet that it is likely that Palma will be released on 15 June 2021, when his 40 day preventative arrest (Spanish: arraigo) term ends.

As determined by Mexican law, a person detained under arraigo may be held without formal charges for up to 40 days with a judge’s approval, or up to 80 days with further judicial approval, just as long as the detainee is suspected of cartel involvement.

By such rules, Palma could be released by mid-June if the presiding judge is not convinced that the prosecution’s evidences against him are sufficient. Palma’s attorney is convinced that will be the case.

The attorney explained that Palma was re-arrested on an old 1996 indictment for which he was already tried and absolved. He suspects that Palma was re-arrested to prevent media and political backlash.

It was easy to re-arrest Palma without any clear charges because of his bad reputation … the arraigo issued shows that Mexican authorities have no proof that he has committed any crime, otherwise they would not need 40 days to gather evidences against him”, he said.

Palma’s release and re-arrest garnered international headlines and worried Mexico’s President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), who said that Mexico was about to become the target of international ridicule.

It is worth mentioning that Mexican prosecutors have historically struggled to gather evidences against suspects. Prior to the adoption of Mexico’s New Criminal Justice System (Nuevo Sistema de Justicia Penal, NJSP) in 2016, the judicial system allowed for authorities to keep suspects under arraigo for up to 80 days while the prosecution gathered more evidences and built a case to present before a judge.

Arraigos have been greatly reduced over the years because critics stated that it could be abused and lead to arbitrary detention and human right violations. Prosecutors need to have the entire case against Palma ready by the end of his arraigo term.

Any errors in the case can get Palma walking out of prison within hours. As reported by Borderland Beat, Mexican investigators are still not very adjusted to this judicial reform and often hurry to put cases together. Defense attorneys are now looking into these things very carefully to help get their clients be released.

Why was he absolved?
Palma was released because the Attorney General’s Office (FGR) was unable to prove or link him to the following charges:
  • The seizure of 3,288 kilograms of cocaine, weapons, and vehicles on July 19, 1999 in Tecomán, Colima.
  • The murder of Antonio Contreras, deputy director of the Nayarit State Police, perpetrated on May 18, 1995 in Xalisco, Nayarit.
  • The seizure of a plane with 12 million dollars in the mountains de Nayarit, coming from San Luis Río Colorado, Sonora, on October 12, 1995.
  • The drug theft case at FGR’s offices in San Luis Rio Colorado, Sonora, on May 21, 1997. The prosecution said that Palma coordinated this operation from prison.

More on Palma’s background

Palma was born in La Noria de Abajo, municipality of Mocorito, Sinaloa, where he reportedly met Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, (‘The Godfather’), who recruited him as a hitman. He eventually met Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán and both became business partners.

In 1995, he was arrested while heading to a wedding on his private jet. While flying his jet suffered engine problems and he had to do a forced landing near the Jalisco and Nayarit state borders. His arrest confirmed what many Mexicans had long known: in Mexico, the police are for sale and drug lords are purchasing them. When Palma was arrested, most of his entourage were active members of the Federal Judicial Police (PJF).

Palma was imprisoned at the Federal Social Readaptation Center No. 2 (“Puente Grande”), the infamous prison where El Chapo escaped in 2001. In Mexico, Palma won several appeals and had his charges dropped multiple times.

However, in 2007, Palma was extradited to the U.S. and sentenced for his drug trafficking involvement. He was deported back to Mexico in 2016 and was re-arrested by Mexican authorities who were waiting for him at the border crossing. He was released from prison a week ago and re-apprehended for charges that have not been clearly revealed.

Sources: Zeta Tijuana; Infobae; Noroeste; La Jornada; Borderland Beat archives


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