Mexico Releases Then Recaptures Suspected Fish Smuggler And Cartel Hitman

By Kendal Blust
Published: Monday, September 24, 2018 - 9:40pm
Updated: Monday, September 24, 2018 - 9:41pm

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Parra and bodyguards
Secretaria de Seguridad Publica de Baja California
Parra (center) and two of his bodyguards were first arrested on Sept. 13, 2018. The suspected fish trafficker and cartel hitman was ordered released Sept. 21 and then recaptured the next day, this time on murder charges.

A man arrested by Mexican police two weeks ago for his suspected ties to smuggling drugs and an endangered fish was first released, then arrested again — this time on murder charges.

Suspected cartel hitman Oscar Parra, or “El Parra,” was re-arrested in Baja California on Saturday after a Mexican federal judge ordered him released the day before.

Parra is accused of killing a Mexican marine last December. The suspected homicide is allegedly tied to Parra’s involvement in an illegal totoaba fish smuggling operation associated with the Sinaloa drug cartel.

Totoaba are valuable on the black market in China. But the nets used to catch them are a leading threat to the endangered vaquita porpoise, says Carolina Castro, spokesperson for California-based conservation group Sea Shepherd.

“The nets that are made to catch the totoaba are the perfect size to entrap the vaquita,” she said. “The totoaba net has become an incredible danger for them because of the size of the mesh.”

There are fewer than 30 of the small dolphin left in the Sea of Cortez, making it the rarest marine mammal.

“For the vaquita, the situation is really, really bad. Nobody knows for sure exactly how bad it is, but very bad,” said Andrea Crosta, executive director of Elephant Action League.

The Los Angeles-based organization has studied totoaba smuggling, and Crosta says the effects of illegal totoaba fishing go beyond endangering the nearly-extinct vaquita.

“The fight, the war, is for the Sea of Cortez, for the marine life in the upper gulf, not just for the vaquita,” he said. “Because the totoaba gilnets — very, very strong nets specifically produced to catch totoaba — they kill everything … whales and shark whales and sharks and turtles and even seabirds. They kill everything.”

The federal judge who called for Parra’s release on Friday said the suspect had to be freed because Baja California police had lied about how he was detained. The Baja California Ministry of Public Safety said in a press release that police had an arrest warrant for Parra on murder charges when he was recaptured on Saturday.

“A delicate aspect that has affected security in the state is the liberation of people with an ample criminal history, like in this case, that includes, according to an analysis of the information, people that on multiple occasions have been detained with firearms and drugs and are then feed to continue committing crimes,” the ministry said in a press release Saturday, touting their efforts to improve public safety by arresting suspected cartel members like Parra.

However, a spokesman for the Center for Biological Diversity in Mexico, said conservationists were disappointed that police had failed to arrest Parra legally the first time.

"It's serious. It's disappointing," said Alejandro Olivera. "If they don't solve this problem things are going to continue they way they are, with the illegal trafficking of totoaba and everything else."

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