But despite its symbolic significance, analysts warn that the practical impact of Mr. Caro Quintero’s arrest will be limited, as he was likely no longer a major figure within the Mexican organized crime world, which has become increasingly fragmented in recent years and less centered around major cartel bosses.
“In terms of bilateral relations, as in satisfying D.E.A. pressure above all, it’s a big deal,” said Falko Ernst, a senior analyst for the International Crisis Group. “But if you look at it from a perspective of what this does to armed conflict on the ground and actually providing solutions to the violence, he was still a player, but not a major piece.”
Within Mexican drug lore, however, Mr. Caro Quintero remains a towering figure. Known as the “narco of narcos,” he was a pioneer in producing and trafficking massive amounts of drugs into the United States.
According to his 2020 indictment, Mr. Caro Quintero led a vast trafficking network starting at least in 1980 that was responsible for the manufacture and export of “multi-ton quantities of heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana, from Mexico into the United States.”
The organization was also responsible for shipping tons of cocaine from South America to the United States, according to the indictment, generating millions of dollars in profit that was then laundered back to Mexico.
The indictment also noted that leaders of the Caro Quintero organization “employed ‘sicarios,’ or hitmen, who carried out numerous acts of violence, including murders, assaults, kidnappings and acts of torture.”