Chapo Guzmán's extradition to the United States might happen just as the prison cell occupied by his former partner in crime becomes available.
Jesus Hector Palma-Salazar, aka El Guero (“Blondie” in English), is scheduled to walk out of California's Atwater high-security prison in June— around the same time that El Chapo, the man who he allegedly co-founded the Sinaloa Cartel with, is being processed for extradition to the U.S.
The two narcos go way back, allegedly teaming up in the '90s to wage war against the Tijuana Cartel's infamous Arellano Felix brothers.
Blondie was netted in Mexico over a decade ago and extradited to the U.S. in 2007. He pleaded guilty to a federal drug charge and was sentenced to 16 years in prison. Now he's scheduled to walk on June 11 "via Good Conduct Time Release," according to a spokesperson for the Atwater prison.
“This does not mean his sentence is shortened for good behavior, rather it is a method of release,” the prison official told Fusion.
It's unclear if the former drug kingpin will be deported, or whether he still faces charges in Mexico. It's not even clear if Mexican authorities are even aware that Blondie will be a free man in two months—just nine years after they extradited him to the U.S.
Former Mexico-based DEA agent Ralph Villaruel thinks Blondie has two choices once he's released: get back into the drug business, or stay clean.
“He might just stay out of it or get involved, and they will probably go after him cause they'll see him as a threat,” Villaruel said. “When Francisco Arellano Felix got out and went back to Mexico he got killed.”
The former agent says old-school narcos can often find themselves at odds with the younger generations of drug bosses who play by their own set of rules.
According to an investigation by the New York Times, Blondie was captured in 1995 when an informant tipped off the Mexican military to his whereabouts in a suburb of the northern state of Jalisco.
At that time, Blondie was identified as the top kingpin of the Sinaloa Cartel, while El Chapo was serving his first prison sentence in a maximum security prison.
Blondie is not the only old school former drug lord to return to the streets. Former Guadalajara Cartel boss Rafael Caro Quintero was released in late 2013 from a Mexican prison.
Caro Quintero was serving a 40-year sentence in connection with the brutal murder of DEA agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena. The DEA said in a statement it was “deeply troubled” by the release and issued a $5 million reward for information leading to his re-capture.
It remains to be seen how Blondie's release will play out in Mexico. Just as an old school narco is going in, another one is going out.