The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration confirmed Sunday the death of Amado Carrillo Fuentes, the leader of Mexico’s most powerful drug cartel, who died Friday following eight hours of plastic surgery to drastically alter his appearance.
Mexican officials invited DEA agents to view the body and observe the identification procedures at the funeral home in Carrillo’s home state of Sinaloa, DEA Administrator Thomas A. Constantine said in a telephone interview. The DEA agents also photographed the body.
Constantine said that according to information from U.S. intelligence and Mexican officials, Carrillo and his organization had been under increasing pressure during the last six months, forcing the drug baron to live as a fugitive. Constantine said “fairly reliable sources” indicated Carrillo recently had flown to Russia, Cuba and South American countries “constantly looking for a safe haven.”
Because of that, Constantine said, Carrillo’s desire to undergo massive plastic surgery made sense.
Narcotics experts estimate about 70 percent of the cocaine used in the United States - a multibillion-dollar trade - comes through Mexico, and Mexican drug trafficking organizations recently have begun to take over U.S. markets from Colombian competitors.
The Mexican attorney general’s office said in a statement late Saturday night that a man had been admitted Thursday under the name of Antonio Flores Montes to the Santa Monica hospital, a small, private Mexico City clinic, for extensive plastic surgery on his face and liposuction of his body.
The patient underwent eight hours of surgery Thursday evening. A doctor making rounds early Friday discovered the patient dead in his bed. Carrillo, 41, was known as the “Lord of the Skies” because he pioneered flying large shipments of cocaine from Colombia directly to the Mexican-U.S. border in large jets. While building his empire, he skillfully negotiated with Colombian cocaine cartels to take over an increasing share of the drug distribution within the United States.
The drug baron also excelled in corrupting Mexican politicians and law enforcement officials to guarantee impunity for his actions. Earlier this year, Mexico’s top anti-drug official was jailed for allegedly being on Carrillo’s payroll.