US to turn over drug cartel veteran to Mexico

Hector Luis "El Guero" Palma Salazar, 56, will be released from a California prison on Saturday.

Mexico City: US officials will hand over a veteran Sinaloa drug cartel leader to Mexican authorities after his US prison sentence ends in the coming days, the US embassy said Thursday.

Hector Luis "El Guero" Palma Salazar, 56, will be released from a California prison on Saturday, according US bureau of prisons records.

But a US embassy spokesman declined to say where and when Palma will be turned over to Mexican authorities due to security reasons.

Palma was arrested by Mexican authorities in 1995 and extradited north in 2007.

After his extradition, he pled guilty before a US court and was sentenced to 16 years in prison for transporting 50 kilograms of cocaine.

The embassy said he is returning to Mexico after serving nine years because of good behavior and the five years he spent in a Mexican prison while waiting for extradition, which counted as time served.

After he leaves prison, Palma will be turned over to US immigration officials, who are coordinating with Mexico "his direct return to Mexican authorities," the embassy said in a statement.

Mexican Attorney General Arely Gomez said this week that prosecutors are checking whether there are still any open cases against Palma in the country.

Palma, whose nicknamed means "Blondie," was a top associate of Sinaloa drug cartel kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, who is facing extradition to the United States. Guzman, who has escaped twice from prison, was recaptured in January.