"If you want to play, next time bring better toys!" ― Rafael to DEA agents and Mexican police officers.

Rafael Caro Quintero is a Mexican drug trafficker and one of the co-founders of the now-defunct Guadalajara cartel, along with Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo and Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo.

He played a significant role in the kidnap and murder of DEA agent Enrique Camarena, which eventually led to his imprisonment and the collapse of his cartel.

Biography[edit | edit source]

Early life[edit | edit source]

Rafael Caro Quintero was born in 1952 in La Noria, Sinaloa. He learnt the art of cultivating marijuana from Hector, and by 1980 grew marijuana in a small greenhouse in the backyard of his ex-police friend Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo's house. The duo worked under Sinaloan drug lord Pedro Avilés.

Guadalajara cartel[edit | edit source]

Founding the cartel[edit | edit source]

Caro Quintero creates a new strain of marijuana dubbed sinsimelia (Spanish for 'seedless') in which the males would cross pollinate the female without the requirement of seeds. As a result, Caro's weed occupied less volume and could be transported much easier. However, the Mexican Army launch Operation Condor; which was a targeted invasion of Sinaloa in order to stop marijuana farmers. Rafa flees his mentor's ranch and hides in a church, where he is picked up by Félix Gallardo. Félix Gallardo saves Rafa from the military and takes him to his house, which was raided by the military earlier. His wife, Maria Elvira hid along with his children and a few batches of Rafael's marijuana. The greenhouse was destroyed.

Félix and Caro later attend a meeting held by Pedro Avilés. Félix Gallardo suggests moving the farms to the urbanc center of Guadalajara, Jalisco. Impressed by the plan, Pedro sends Miguel, Rafael and reputed drug smuggler Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo (alias Don Neto) to come up to an agreement with Hernin Naranjo, one of the men who controlled smuggling in Guadalajara. In reality, Félix Gallardo hoped to negotiate with Juan José Esparragoza Moreno (alias El Azul), a DFS commander who provided security to the Naranjo brothers instead of the brothers themselves, and wanted a super farm to built in the desert, where Rafael's crops could grow without contamination by other crops.

Rafael is dropped off at a local university, where he goes to the Geology department and consults with the professor for finding the ideal location of the new superfarm. Félix Gallardo and Don Neto head to the Hotel Americas to met with Hernin Naranjo. Naranjo rejects the partnership proposed by Félix Gallardo, and as a result Félix Gallardo shoots him dead. Rafael walks in, surprised to find a dead body, but shows the maps obtained to Félix Gallardo. Don Neto attempts to flee, but he, along with Félix Gallardo and Caro Quintero are caught by the DFS agents sent by El Azul.

The trio are taken to meet Esparragoza Moreno by DFS agent Tomas Morlet. Félix Gallardo quickly shows the DFS commander Rafael's new strain of weed. Impressed, El Azul terminates his partnership with the Naranjo brothers by killing Hernan Naranjo. The DFS provides the land for the superfarm, which was dubbed the Rancho Búfalo.

As Félix Gallardo spent the next month travelling around Mexico meeting the leaders of various plazas, Rafael spent his time building up the irrigation system for the farms after the plants began dying. He heads back to the university, and kidnaps the geology professor and forces him to locate a water source. He orders his right hand men, Cuco and Manuel to get the workers to dig for water. After being unable to find water, a drunk Caro Quintero throws hand grenades into a hole, causing a massive explosion. The explosion causes water to flow out, completing the farm's irrigation needs.

Rafael Caro Quintero, at his prime.

With the Guadalajara cartel established with Caro Quintero's as one of its leaders, Rafael began earning money and moves into a swanky apartment. His subordinates, Cuco, Manuel and Chapo rode dirtbikes around the house as Caro Quintero negotiated with the realtor. Later on a nightclub, he asks Sofia Conesa, one of the students of the geology professor, for a dance; which she rejects rather brutally; mocking Caro Quintero's lack of sophistication. Caro Quintero then dresses up in a white suit copying Tony Montana from the film Scarface, and attends the wedding of Rodolfo Sánchez hosted by Félix Gallardo. He asks Sofia for a dance again, but despite her approval, her suitor drags her away. A few minutes later, Rafael shares a cigarette with Sofia, beginning their romantic relationship.

Downward spiral[edit | edit source]

After learning that Sofia's parents disapproved of their relationship, the lovers decided to stage a fake kidnapping and elope together. Dressed up as left-wing revolutionaries, Caro Quintero and Cuco break into Sofia's mansion during Christmas Eve and take her away, and Chapo drives them away. Sofia's father, the Secretary of Education and a member of the ruling PRI political party, launches a manhunt for Rafael Caro Quintero.

Félix Gallardo, scared that it might lead to the end of his cartel visits Caro Quintero and orders him to return the girl and go to jail. However, feeling sorry for his friend, tells him to lay low in the countryside with Don Neto. He undertakes a personal favour for DFS Director-General Salvador Osuna Nava to get police off Rafa's tail. This comes in handy, as a team of police officers and American Drug Enforcement Administration agents were right about to bust into Rafael's safehouse and arrest him, along with Cuco and Chapo; but Osuna Nava's influence has police commander Guillermo Calderoni call off the raid.

The special favour requested by Osuna Nava had Félix Gallardo and Amado Carrillo Fuentes travel to Nicaragua to deliver arms for the Americans. Félix notices several tonnes of cocaine lying around unsold due to the DEA closing down the Caribbean routes used by Colombian drug cartels. Félix Gallardo decides to move to the cocaine business, and uses Juan Matta-Ballesteros' help in securing a meeting with the Colombian Cali cartel, and later the Medellín cartel to smuggle Colombian cocaine through Mexico into the United States of America. This switch to cocaine angered Rafael Caro Quintero, as he believed the cartel was about weed. This opposition creates a rift between Rafael Caro Quintero and Amado Carrilo Fuentes, who supported the switch to cocaine and was in Félix Gallardo's view, more reliable than Rafael.

While living with Don Neto, Rafael begins to develop a cocaine addiction. Alberto Sicilia Falcon, a cocaine trafficker active in Tijuana decides to wage war against the Guadalajara cartel for failing to follow up on the promise of not dealing with cocaine. Sicilia Falcon, who had a military unit working for him, raids one of Benjamín Arellano Félix's warehouses and destroys Rafael's weed. Don Neto and Rafael go to Tijuana to deal with the situation. Bribing the town's police force, they raid one of Sicilia Falcon's warehouses and Chapo sets it on fire. The small war ends with the Guadalajara cartel as the victors, as the DFS ends up assassinating Sicilia Falcon.

Rafael confronts Amado as Sofia watches.

The addiction, along with the loss of Sofia causes him to behave erratically. Félix Gallardo calls in a meeting where he declares cocaine will be the future of the cartel and gives control of the Juarez plaza to Carrillo Fuentes. This causes Rafael to walk out in disappointment. Rafael later meets Sofia in a nightclub, where Amado was trying to dance with her. Rafael angrily confronts Amado, and later fires into the roof in a fit of rage, only to be dragged away by Cuco and Chapo as Amado watches on with a smirk.

An increasingly paranoid Rafael then murders American tourists Alberto Radelat and John Clay Walker, mistaking them for being DEA agents as they dined in Cochiloco's seafood restaurant in 1984. He is scolded by Félix Gallardo for killing unarmed tourists, and is increasingly alienated from cartel affairs.

Rancho Búfalo raid and death of Kiki Camarena[edit | edit source]

In November 1984, the cartel's prized Rancho Búfalo is raided by the Mexican military, causing damages of upwards to $8 billion (2018 value) to the cartel. TIME Magazine dubs it as the 'Bust of the Century'. Rafael, Cuco and Chapo attempt to fight back against the military, but are eventually overpowered and are forced to flee.

The loss of his farm left Rafa severely distraught. He isolates himself in a room in his mansion, where he builds a shrine to Sofia and adds to his obsession with her by completely covering the room with photos of their relationship. In a corner, he also sticks a newspaper reporting on the raid.

One day, El Azul, now the Director-General of the DFS visits Rafael in his room along with Morlet. The DFS agents manipulate Rafael into agreeing to kidnap DEA agent Enrique Camarena Salazar (alias Kiki), who provided the information leading to the raid. A depressed Rafael agrees to, falling perfectly into the ploy of the DFS.

In January 1985, Kiki is kidnapped outside the Camelot bar by the DFS, and is brought to Rafael's mansion in Guadalajara. Don Neto finds out about the kidnap, and rushes to the mansion to talk some sense into Rafael, but all his attempts are in vain. Fed up, he phones Félix Gallardo, who had earlier convinced the DFS and his political backers to not go with the kidnapping plan.

Félix Gallardo quickly arrives at the location, and berates Rafa in front of the cartel soldiers and DFS agents. He tells Rafa that he is being used, and that he will be blamed if anything goes wrong. Rafa declines to listen, and soon, Félix Gallardo's political backer arrives and says that the kidnapping was necessary. After seeing the DEA agent, Félix Gallardo gives the permission begin the torture session.

Kiki Camarena, along with his Mexican pilot Alfredo Zavala Avelar were tortured for nearly two days by Sergio Espino Verdin on the orders of the DFS. The interrogation was recorded on Félix Gallardo's orders. The two die during the torture, and their bodies were dumped in the country side.

The United States government responds aggressively to the death of Kiki Camarena. Mexican politicians were pressurized into giving up their cartel connections, thousands of soldiers and police officers lost their jobs, and the DFS was shut down. With a manhunt for him, Rafael decides to flee to Costa Rica. He kidnaps Sofia again, and takes her to an airfield where a private plane was waiting to transport them to Costa Rica.

As money and marijuana were loaded into the plane, the Mexican Federal Judicial Police arrive with the DEA. Comandante Armando Pavón Reyes, the man leading the officers offers to parlay with Rafael Caro Quintero. He gets into the plane, and gives Rafael his handcuffs. Rafael offers him $1 million, but the commander declines. Armando then receives a call from his boss, who informs that the man in the plane is Manuel Valenzuela, a member of the DFS, and hence couldn't be arrested. Rafael then pays him the bribe of $1 million. As the plane begins to taxi, Rafael sticks his head out of the door and fires his gold AK-47 assault rifle, taunting the DEA agents by telling them to bring better toys next time.

Arrest[edit | edit source]

Rafael and Sofia in Costa Rica, c.1985.

Rafael flees to Costa Rica, and heads straight to a Porsche dealership after landing, where he was flagged by the local authorities. He purchases a mansion off the beach, and spent his time partying with his lover Sofia and his bodyguard Cuco.

One night he has an emotional conversation with Félix, and he thanks him for the protection and escape route, and hoped that things went back to the ways it was back then when the pair smuggled weed. Félix Gallardo agreed with his friend, but in order to save himself from sent to prison, betrays his location to the police. Calderoni, the same officer who was close to arresting Caro Quintero a few years replaced Pavón after his corruption allegations surfaced. Félix's intel was corroborated with the local authorities, and an arrest warrant was issued. With help from the local military, Calderoni raids Caro Quintero's beach house, killing Cuco in the process.

Calderoni tortures Rafael for information on Camarena's location.

Rafael Caro Quintero attempted to resist arrest, but was eventually overpowered. He desperately attempted to escape by exclaiming that they had got the wrong person. Calderoni asks Sofia to identify the person, and warns her not to risk her life for him. Sofia identifies him as Rafael Caro Quintero, breaking Rafael's heart. Calderoni takes Rafael aside and begins to torture him for information on Kiki Camarena. Under immense pain, Rafael gives in and replies 'Lope de Vega, 811': the address of his mansion.

Rafael in prison.

Caro Quintero was extradited to Mexico, where he was imprisoned, unaware that he was betrayed by his closest friend. His cartel fell apart in the late 80s, and was replaced by a number of smaller ones, including one led by Carrilo Fuentes and one led by his former right-hand man Chapo.

In 1986, Miguel visited the prison where he was jailed along with Neto, seeking advice from the latter. Miguel had eye contact with Rafa, but immediately walked away.

Personality[edit | edit source]

Quintero is the more care-free member of the Guadalajara cartel; contrary to Galladro, who is more serious and business-minded. When not focused on his drug business Quintero is often found partying, riding motorcycles, hitting on women and, especially, taking drugs. He commits crimes with recklessness and almost child-like glee, such as when he took Sofia from her family with a cheerful disposition.

As the series progresses, Quintero grows more unstable and psychotic from drug abuse. This caused him to needlessly murder two American tourists and have an unhealthy obsession over Sofia.

Season 1
"The Plaza System"
"El Padrino"
"Rafa, Rafa, Rafa!"
"The Colombian Connection"
"La Última Frontera"
"Jefe de Jefes"
"Just Say No"
"811 Lope de Vega"
Season 2
"Salva El Tigre"
"Alea Iacta Est"
"Ruben Zuno Arce"
"The Big Dig"
"El Dedazo"
"Truth and Reconciliation"
"Se Cayó El Sistema"
"Growth, Prosperity, and Liberation"
"Free Trade"
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.