Don Neto, also known by his full name of Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo, was a key figure in the growth of the Mexican drug trade. He’s an important character in the new Netflix series, Narcos: Mexico. (Warning: There are plot spoilers for the Netflix series in this article.)
Narcos: Mexico moves the setting from Colombia to Mexico for this season, which streamed on November 16, 2018, and traces the growth of the Guadalajara Cartel. That’s the brainchild of a brutal but clever man named Felix Gallardo, who figures out a way through cunning and force to meld the warring drug trafficking organizations in the country into one cartel. (You can see photos of the real people behind the Narcos: Mexico characters here.)
In the beginning, though, he needs Don Neto to help him open doors; the older man is hesitant at first but becomes a key figure at Felix Gallardo’s side. He has more credibility with drug traffickers than the younger Gallardo in the beginning. The story – and the men’s fate – revolves around the cartel’s intersection with Kiki Camarena, an U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent who clashes with the new cartel. That clash ends in Camarena’s, and the cartel’s, demise.
Camarena’s death and torture at the hands of Gallardo, Don Neto and other cartel leaders ignited the American government against a drug trade it had been all but ignoring; the American media highlighted the agent’s death. It almost led to the shutdown of the U.S./Mexican border, and it led to the imprisonment of Gallardo, Don Neto and a third man, Rafael Caro Quintero.
Where is Don Neto today? Here’s what you need to know:
Don Neto Was First Released to House Arrest
Although Don Neto was imprisoned for years as a result of Camarena’s death, in 2016, he was placed on house arrest in what Mexican News Daily described in 2016 as luxury digs.
He had already served 31 years of a 40-year sentence at that time and was serving the rest of it “in Valle Escondido, a classy residential development in Atizapán de Zaragoza where house prices average 11 million pesos, or US $586,000,” the news site reported. He was guarded by four federal police officers and wears an electronic monitoring bracelet, the site reported, adding that his release to house arrest was due to his age and poor health. The Guardian reports that he was 86 at the time of his release to house arrest, although Mexican News Daily reports that his age is uncertain.
Don Neto’s family had asked a judge to release him because of his age, according to The Guardian. Fox News reports that, in 2017, he was granted early release by an appellate court in a ruling that the network said would apparently allow Don Neto to leave his house.
In Narcos: Mexico, Don Neto is played by actor Joaquin Cosio.
As for the other two narcos, Felix Gallardo remains in a Mexican maximum-security prison, where he has been since 1989. However, Rafael Caro Quintero vanished after being released from prison in 2013 after an appeals court overturned his conviction; although that decision was vacated by a higher court, he could not be found, and there remains multi-million dollar reward for his capture put out by the U.S. Government, according to The Guardian.
Don Neto was also ordered to pay reparations to the families of Camarena and a pilot who was working with him.
Don Neto’s cartel roots run deep. According to El Pais, he is the uncle “of the brothers Amado Carrillo Fuentes The Lord of the Skies and Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, leaders of the Juarez Cartel.”
As viewers of the Netflix series know, Don Neto was already a leader in a Sinaloan organization of drug traffickers before he helped Gallardo unite various fractious groups into one unit. According to the book, Mexico: Narco-Violence and a Failed State? By George W. Grayson, Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo was called “The Godfather” and “pioneered large-scale poppy production and trade” in Sinaloa. He also mentored Rafael Caro Quintero, who is described in the book as a “shrewd and youthful entrepreneur who converted Mexican marijuana from second-rate weed to the choice of connoisseurs by perfecting a seedless variety of the plant (sinsemillas.)”
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