El Güero Palma's Rollercoaster Ride Through the Legal System

El Güero' Palma faces new charges of aggravated homicide, despite prior acquittals. Legal challenges arise as his defense questions the validity of the arrest warrant. Learn more about the ongoing case and the context surrounding the renowned drug trafficker's imprisonment.

El Güero Palma's Rollercoaster Ride Through the Legal System
Héctor Luis El Güero Palma Salazar, prominent drug trafficker, faces new charges of aggravated homicide, igniting legal controversies and raising questions about the arrest warrant's validity. Photo: Agencies

Renowned drug trafficker Héctor Luis El Güero Palma Salazar, previously acquitted of federal crimes, finds himself facing another charge that will keep him behind bars. This latest development stems from an arrest warrant issued by a local judge in the state of Guerrero, alleging Palma's involvement in aggravated homicide. Despite claims by Palma's legal defense that he has already been exonerated for the crimes, the warrant necessitates his continued confinement at the Federal Center for Social Readaptation No. 1, Altiplano, in the State of Mexico.

New Arrest Warrant

The arrest warrant, issued by Cecilia Crockman, a judge of first instance in the Judicial District of Guerrero, has sparked controversy. While federal sources attribute the accusation to two homicides that occurred in 1995 in Nayarit, the defense argues that the events in question took place in 1992 in Guerrero, involving the murder of nine individuals. Palma's defense counsel, José Gabriel Martín Hernández, asserts that his client has already been tried and acquitted for the events in question 31 years ago. Consequently, the defense deems the new arrest warrant illegal.

Formalities Challenged

In addition to questioning the validity of the charges, Palma's lawyer raises concerns about the documentation provided in support of the new criminal case. Hernández highlights that the documentation shared with both prison authorities and the defense team lacks compliance with legal formalities. The arrest warrant, consisting of only three out of 95 pages, raises doubts about its completeness and adherence to standard procedures. The defense argues that every order of this nature should be comprehensive, adequately grounded, and motivated, which appears to be lacking in this case.

Future Proceedings

Hernández intends to address these irregularities during the arraignment, aiming to provide the presiding judge with compelling evidence to dismiss the case against Palma. The defense emphasizes that the prior judgment and exoneration of Palma for the crimes allegedly committed 31 years ago should preclude his continued imprisonment. By drawing attention to the omission of public order issues and legal formalities, the defense seeks to challenge the validity of the new arrest warrant and secure Palma's release.

Contextual Background

Earlier today, the first collegiate court of appeal in Zapopan, Jalisco, ordered the release of El Güero Palma Salazar after acquitting him of an organized crime charge, marking the resolution of his final pending federal trial. Having spent 28 years in custody across Mexico and the United States, Palma's acquittal was based on the examining magistrate María Dolores Olarte Ruvalcaba's assessment that the defense's arguments were largely unfounded and insufficient to support a conviction.

Hector "El Güero" Palma Salazar: The Rise and Fall of a Violent Mexican Drug Lord

Hector "El Güero" Palma Salazar was a notorious drug lord from Mexico who rose to power in the 1980s and 1990s, becoming one of the most violent drug traffickers in the country. He was born in La Noria de Abajo, Sinaloa, and due to his family's poverty, he only completed primary school. His involvement in crime started at a young age, stealing cars and catching the attention of Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo, the biggest cocaine and marijuana drug dealer in Mexico at the time, who hired him as a hitman in the 1970s.

Palma later became involved in drug smuggling in Sonora and formed a close friendship with Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, who also worked for Félix Gallardo in the Guadalajara Cartel. Palma was accused of keeping a drug shipment, which led to a falling out with Félix Gallardo and ultimately resulted in the murder of his wife and children. In revenge, Palma ordered the murder of nine friends and relatives of Félix Gallardo.

Palma was arrested in 1995 after a plane crash, and he was sentenced to seven years in prison for drug trafficking and organized crime. He spent his incarceration at the high-security prison in Puente Grande, Jalisco, where he reunited with "El Chapo," who had been apprehended in 1993. Palma, "El Chapo," and Arturo Martínez "El Texas" took over the entire Puente Grande prison, with Palma being accused of being one of the accomplices in "El Chapo's" escape in 2001.

Palma was extradited to the US in 2007, where he was convicted of trafficking cocaine in 2008 and sentenced to 16 years in prison. He served nine years before being released in 2016 for good behavior. However, he was soon arrested in Mexico for the murder of a judicial officer and his escort in the 1990s and remains in the Altiplano penitentiary in the State of Mexico.

The War Between Drug Cartels

The violent events that led to the murder of Palma's family were part of a larger conflict between drug cartels in Mexico. After the fall of Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo in 1985, the Guadalajara Cartel began to dissolve, creating a power vacuum. The Arellano Felix brothers, who were also part of the Guadalajara Cartel, began to target Palma and "El Chapo," which led to a full-blown war.

In 1989, the Arellano Felix brothers orchestrated the murder of Palma's wife and children, which prompted Palma to act in a bloodthirsty manner with the support of "El Chapo." The two drug lords, along with Ismael Zambada's brother, formed "La Federación," later known as the Sinaloa Cartel, which was also made up of the Beltrán Leyva brothers.

The war between the Sinaloa Cartel and the Arellano Felix family escalated, resulting in many deaths, including the murder of Cardinal Posadas Ocampo in Guadalajara. It wasn't until the death of Ramón Arellano Félix in 2002 that the war "ended" at the Mazatlan Carnival.

ADX Florence and Palma's Imprisonment

ADX Florence, located in Colorado, is considered the safest maximum-security prison in the US and is where Palma was sent after being sentenced to 16 years for drug trafficking. The prison is designed to isolate inmates and restrict their communication with others. Palma spent 23 hours a day in his cell and only had access to a window in the ceiling for one hour a day to see the sky. He did not speak English, and the guards did not speak Spanish, leading to prolonged periods of isolation and loneliness.

Palma was not the only notorious criminal imprisoned at ADX Florence; other inmates included Eric Rudolph, an American terrorist responsible for the attacks on the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, Zacarias Moussaoui, a former member of Al Qaeda who participated in the planning of the September 11 attacks, Ramzi Yousef, considered the "brain" of the attack on the Twin Towers, and Ted Kaczynski (The Unabomber), who sent 16 bomb letters to different universities in the US.

The conditions at ADX Florence have been criticized by human rights organizations due to the extreme isolation experienced by inmates. Palma served nine years of his 16-year sentence and was released in 2016 for good behavior. However, he was immediately arrested in Mexico for the murder of a judicial officer and his escort in the 1990s and remains in prison to this day.


Hector "El Güero" Palma Salazar's rise and fall as a drug lord in Mexico is a cautionary tale of the dangers of getting involved in the drug trade. His involvement in crime started at a young age and eventually led to his rise as one of the most violent drug traffickers in the country. The war between drug cartels in Mexico resulted in many deaths and destroyed countless lives.

Palma's imprisonment at ADX Florence highlights the extreme isolation and conditions that inmates endure in the US's maximum-security prisons. While Palma was released for good behavior, he was immediately arrested in Mexico for his involvement in a murder case from the 1990s. The legacy of his violent past continues to haunt him to this day.