Following weeks of anticipation, the U.S. government has finally handed over Hector “El Guero” Palma-Salazar to Mexican authorities.
Palma is best known as El Chapo’s former partner-in-crime and a founding member of the ruthless Sinaloa Cartel.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agents (ICE) delivered Palma, whose nickname means “Blondie” in English, at a border crossing in Brownsville, Texas on Wednesday evening. ICE Press Secretary Jennifer Elzea told Fusion the drug boss was not extradited, rather "repatriated."
“So yes, you might call that ‘deported,’” she added.
In a statement ICE said the handover was closely coordinated with Mexican authorities. Once in Mexican custody, Palma was put on a plane to Mexico City. He is now in the maximum security prison of Altiplano (the same one Chapo escaped from last July), as Mexican authorities scramble to present charges to keep him in custody.
The U.S. Embassy in Mexico says Palma was detained by Mexican authorities in 2002 under a U.S.-issued provisional arrest warrant. But other reports say Palma was arrested in 1995, when the Mexican military was alerted about his whereabouts in the northern state of Jalisco.
The Embassy says Palma was extradited in 2007 and pleaded guilty before a U.S. court. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison for transporting 50 kilos of cocaine.
“Under U.S. Federal sentencing practices, the five years Palma spent in a Mexican prison counted as time served under the U.S sentence,” read the Embassy’s statement. “As part of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons’ system-wide incentive scheme for good behavior, Palma was scheduled for release after having served 85% of his sentence.”
Two months ago a spokesman at the Atwater federal prison told Fusion that Palma would be released on June 11 —he was, in fact, released on that date but held by ICE for an additional four days — but insisted his sentence was not being reduced for good behavior.
The Mexican Attorney General’s Office has yet to say what crimes Palma will be charged with in Mexico, or how long he’ll be held at Altiplano.
The United States meanwhile is eagerly awaiting the extradition of El Chapo. Mexico’s Foreign Affairs Minister recently said the Sinaloa Cartel boss had not appealed the pending extradition, which could happen at any moment.