When soldiers combed Mexican drug czar Gen. Jesus Gutierrez Rebollo's plush apartment on Feb. 22, they found cellular phones with scramblers, $10,000 in U.S. currency and a particularly revealing tequila barrel. Attached to its top was a picture of a napping peasant wearing a sombrero. Above the quaint scene was a name: AMADO CARRILLO. That Mexico's top drug cop had tequila from the private stock of the country's most powerful drug lord shouldn't have come as a surprise to the cops. The two, after all, had apartments just four floors apart.
Gutierrez now is in prison, charged with accepting bribes from the drug trafficker. (The general says he was trying to get close enough to arrest him.) And where is Amado Carrillo Fuentes? It's a question U.S. drug-enforcement agents would love to have answered. As Mexico's reigning drug kingpin, Carrillo moves four times more drags into the United States each year than rival cartels. His take: $200 million a week, estimates the Drug Enforcement Administration. His continued impunity infuriates U. S, Officials, who view his operation as proof that Mexico's war on drugs is, at best, thwarted by corruption and, at worst, a sham.
Mexican and U.S. authorities know little about Carrillo They aren't even sure of his age (41 or 42) or his eye color (green or brown). He is the son of a mechanic from Sinaloa, and began his drug career in the early '80s as a "mule" for an uncle. Carrillo took over the Juarez cartel in 1995, and acquired a fleet of Boeing 727s to move as much as 15 tons of cocaine at a time from Colombia, earning him the nickname "Lord of the Skies." He got his big break last year, when drug lord Juan Garcia Abrego landed a life sentence in Houston, allowing Carrillo to pick up much of Garcia's coastal business. Says one former DEA agent, "He's now the 'Lord of the Seas'."
Authorities have made a Neighbors: Amardo Carrillo's alleged relationship with General Gutierrez raises U.S. charges that Mexico's war on drugs is a sham few clumsy attempts to nab Don Amado--as he likes to be called. He was arrested only once, in 1989, on drug charges. Authorities released him a few months later, saying they lacked sufficient evidence to pursue the case. Soldiers then raided his sister's wedding last January, but didn't find Carrillo among the 1,000 guests. And no Mexican court has a warrant for the arrest of El Cuatro (one of 38 code names and aliases) on trafficking charges, though there are at least three in the United States.
It is Carrillo's chose ties to Mexican authorities that, some charge, have protected him. Police suspect that it was Gutierrez who tipped off the drag lord about the wedding raid. Carrillo reportedly has a mansion behind a wall draped in bougainvillea in Cuernavaca. It's a stone's throw from the home of Jorge Carrillo Olea (no relation), governor of Morelos. Carrillo Olea, according to The New York Times, is one of two governors who
U.S. authorities believe are on Carrillo's payroll. "In Morelos there is no significant presence of the drug trade," Carrillo Olea told NEWSWEEK, adding that the accusations are "absolutely false."
Back in his hometown of Villa Angel Flores, Don Amado's mother says she hasn't seen her son for four years, and insists he is simply a successful farmer. Well, of a kind. Since he moves much of the coke and pot that cross the border, Mama Carrillo's boy does deal in lucrative crops.