To understand the killings in Tijuana, you must understand, to a degree, these men. The detainees, the ones whose name dance across narco mantas, glistening in the morning sun, whose names line the pages of ZETA, whose songs are published on Youtube, and played in private parties, and mariscos spots, with pistols in their waists, newer model vehicles, cocaine, meth, alcohol in their systems...
Tribi, one of these men, was detained today, with a weapon and crystal meth, in neighborhood in Tijuana. He is said to be operating in Ciudad Jardin, El Cortez, Altamira, Los Altos, among others. It was reported he was arrested in San Antonio de Los Buenos. Heavy violence and killings are routine in those neighborhoods.
"El Tribi", whose name has long rang in the circles mentioned above, appearing even in the latest edition of Zeta. Jesus Salvador Padilla Rodriguez, is one of the main crystal meth distributors in the Western area of Tijuana, under the line of Javier Cabera Beltran, known as "R4", "JP".
These are the men responsible for much of the violence in the city, as their counterparts in the structure of Sinaloa are before them. Tribi, has been in Tijuana since at least 2003, selling crystal. Over time he gained power and influence, and his own crew of killers and tienderos. He survived the war of 2008 and 2009, avoiding arrest, or death, as Teo and Inge purged the cities of each other's loyalists.
Banner found in 2013, in Playas De Tijuana, naming "New Cartel De Tijuana" members.
He likely flipped to Sinaloa, when they arrived to the city in the aftermath of Teo, Los Aquiles, Los Tigres, Los Atlantes, Los Chapitos Uriartes, Los de Guero Chompas. There are always disputes and unhappiness in business. These are exploited. They promise money, product, weapons, to use them as leverage to open up the city. Start with a few retail spots, then start taking out the others. Start with paying the muncipales, end with the whole city on the payroll.
CTNG/CJNG is just the latest model, most of the CJNG are Tijuana crystal meth distributors who ran neighborhoods for Sinaloa, and jumped to CJNG, under the promises, I am sure, of independence and respect from their lords and masters en La Perla. Now, CJNG pushes into the city, further each month. It began in 2013 with a banner, declaring the cartel de Tijuana, Tribi was mentioned. From this, CTNG was formed, and it wasn't long til they were sponsored by those from La Perla.
Tribi was arrested in August 2015, in possession of 80 grams of crystal, as the CJNG/CTNG/CDS war began to escalate, from killings in colonias, to a citywide battlefield, of executions, ambushes, betrayals, floors sticky with blood and dead friends, whom were lured to their death. He was released in early 2016, and returned to his place, at what would be the bloodiest year in Tijuana's history.
Though, it has been easily matched already, as August has seen over 900 killings in the city, which was the grim toll at the end of 2016. Tribi will maybe be released again, his contacts are still good, his money still spends, his friends still answer. He may see the streets again, soon. He will be executed one day. If he survives the killings this year, and next, and the one after, he will not survive when his friends change on him, and he no longer enjoys protection, and the next generation comes for him, and old man, no longer respected, or needed.
You can see the fate of these men if you look long enough, they are executed in their businesses, caught taking their children to school, they are cleaned from the city, when they are labeled the dirt that needs to be removed. These are cycles, and this is just one stage.
Among many complaints from El Chapo Guzmán about his treatment and case, Guzmán’s wife Emma made it known the family was shopping for a new attorney. So it comes as no surprise that a new lead attorney has been retained. The surprise is that the attorney, Eduardo Balazero was the lead attorney that tried the case of Alfredo “Mochomo” Beltran Leyva. “Mochomo” was expected to become a witness against Guzmán, if ever the case went to trial. It was wisely expected he would cut a deal with the feds in exchange for testimony . However, that never happened, Mochomo cut no deal, pleaded guilty and offered nothing.
Balarezo notified the court in May that he had no intentions of going forth with Mochomo’s;appellate case.
There will be an extensive Chapo update posted on BB this week.Below is the press announcement from Balarezo.
Mexican soccer star and a Norteno band leader are 2 of 22 sanctioned
As a result of several long-term DEA investigations, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) today identified Mexican national Raul Flores Hernandez and the Flores Drug Trafficking Organization (Flores DTO) as Significant Foreign Narcotics Traffickers pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act (Kingpin Act).
In addition to Flores and the Flores DTO, OFAC also designated 21 Mexican nationals and 42 entities in Mexico for providing support to the narcotics trafficking activities of Raul Flores Hernandez and the Flores DTO and/or for being owned or controlled by the Flores DTO, its members, and trusted associates.
This action marks the largest single Kingpin Act action against a Mexican drug cartel network that OFAC has designated. As a result of today’s action, all assets of the individuals and entities designated that are under U.S. jurisdiction or are in the control of U.S. persons are frozen, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.
The Government of Mexico’s Procuraduría General de la República (PGR) seized diverse assets today belonging to Raul Flores Hernandez and the Flores DTO, including the Grand Casino in the Guadalajara area. This joint action is the result of a multi-year OFAC investigation undertaken in coordination with DEA, Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and the Government of Mexico. This designation is part of a larger collaborative effort with Mexican government agencies, including the PGR and Mexico’s Finance Ministry’s Unidad de Inteligencia Financiera (UIF), to use financial sanctions, among other tools, to disrupt Mexican drug trafficking organizations.
Although he operates independently, Raul Flores Hernandez maintains strategic alliances with the leadership of Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel and the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generación. His relationships with the leaders of these drug cartels have allowed the Flores DTO to operate since the 1980s in Guadalajara, Jalisco, and Mexico City, Mexico. In March 2017, federal drug trafficking indictments were returned in the District of Columbia and the Southern District of California against Flores Hernandez.
The Flores DTO includes a significant number of Flores Hernandez’s family members and trusted associates, upon whom he heavily relies to further his drug trafficking and money laundering activities and to maintain assets on his behalf. Family members of Flores Hernandez designated today include Maria Icela Chavez Martinez, Felipe Flores Gomez, Kevin Sebastian Flores Chavez, Sendy Flores Castro, Moises Flores Esparza, Saul Flores Tinajero, Oscar Armando Jimenez Hernandez, and Irma Lizet Damian Ramirez. Associates of Flores Hernandez designated today include Fernando Gustavo Alvarez Peralta, Diego Ayala Romero, Linda Elizabeth Campos Tirado, Efrain and Omar Caro Urias, Hugo Ivan and Victor Manuel Carranza Zepeda, Jose Antonio Cordero Cardenas, and Mario Alberto Fernandez Santana. Several of these individuals own or control a number of Mexican companies within the Flores DTO’s business network. Today’s OFAC designations also include Mexican professional soccer player, Rafael Marquez Alvarez (Rafa Marquez), and Mexican singer Julio Cesar Alvarez Montelongo (Julion Alvarez). Both men have longstanding relationships with Flores Hernandez, and have acted as front persons for him and his DTO and held assets on their behalf. Also designated today are Mauricio Heredia Horner and Marco Antonio Fregoso Gonzalez for acting for or on behalf of Rafa Marquez.
The 42 entities designated today cross a wide range of industries and services in Mexico, including sports and recreation, health and rehabilitation, restaurants and bars, hospitality and tourism, gambling, and music production. Several key designated entities include a Mexican soccer club, Club Deportivo Morumbi, Asociacion Civil; the Grand Casino in Guadalajara, Jalisco; Camelias Bar, S.A. de C.V. and Nocturnum Inc, S. de R.L. de C.V., which have run popular bars and restaurants in Guadalajara; a sports rehabilitation center, Prosport & Health Imagen, S.A. de C.V.; and a music production company, Noryban Productions, S.A. de C.V. Most of the entities designated today are registered in the Mexican state of Jalisco, although two are registered in the state of Sinaloa. Several entities operate locations/branches in various other states, including Michoacán and Coahuila.
Since June 2000, more than 2,000 individuals and entities have been named pursuant to the Kingpin Act for their role in international narcotics trafficking. Penalties for violations of the Kingpin Act range from civil penalties of up to $1,437,153 per violation to more severe criminal penalties. Criminal penalties for corporate officers may include up to 30 years in prison and fines of up to $5 million. Criminal fines for corporations may reach $10 million. Other individuals could face up to 10 years in prison and fines pursuant to Title 18 of the United States Code for criminal violations of the Kingpin Act.
Translated by Otis B Fly-Wheel for Borderland Beat from a Norestearticle
Subject Matter: Territorial expansion of the CJNG Recommendation: No prior subject matter knowledge required (Otis: this article makes some fairly big claims about CJNG, and should promote some good discussion in the comments section.)
The Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion will dispute more territory with the Sinaloa Cartel after breaking its alliance with El Mayo Zambada, and taking control of Fuerzas Especiales de Los Damaso.
The Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion is vying for control of the entire national territory. Unofficial sources from the Centre for Research and National Security (CISEN) presume that the break up of the organization led by Nemesio Oseguera Gonzalez, El Mencho, with the faction of the Sinaloa Cartel headed by Ismael Zambada Garcia, El Mayo, with whom he had an alliance after the recapture of Joaquin Guzman Loera, El Chapo, in January of 2016.
The breakup of the two cartels, the two most important in drug trafficking in Mexico, could have been motivated by the recent delivery to the US authorities of Damaso Lopez Serrano, El Mini Lic, head of the Los Damaso faction of the Sinaloa Cartel, after the capture of his father, and head of the Fuerzas Especiales del Damaso. FED had allegedly been transferred to the control of the CJNG.
The hypothesis that the CJNG has broken their alliance with the Sinaloa Cartel was reinforced by a Manta hung last week in Saltillo, Coahuila, in ehich the CJNG places all cartels operating in the border area of Coahuila and Nuevo Leon with the warning that they must "leave the state in a maximum of 72 hours....".
To that narco manta were added others in the states of Colima, Guerrero, Veracruz, Baja California, Baja California Sur and Nayarit, which warn of the arrival of the CJNG to take control of the plazas dominated by the Sinaloa Cartel.
The current narco map The CJNG's claim to expand its presence throughout the national territories not only announces an open war against the Sinaloa Cartel, but also confrontation with other groups. At least this is established by the narco manta in hung in Saltillo, where the members of Los Zetas, the Cartel del Golfo and Cartel Del Norte are warned of the intention to appropriate their territories.
According to an official response issued by the Transparency for Open Government Unit of the Attorney Generals Office, the predominance of the Sinaloa Cartel is concentrated in Chihuahua, Durango, Coahuila, Baja California Sur, Baja California, Sonora, and of course Sinaloa.
The Los Zetas Cartel, according to the PGR, maintains its preponderance int he North of Tamaulipas, while the Cartel del Golfo predominates in the south of Tamaulipas and in Quintana Roo.
Until the last survey by the PGR last year, the CJNG registered full domain in Colima, MIchoacan, Jalisco, Nayarit, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Morelos, Veracruz, but now intends to expand to at least nine other states, which would be 17 states in total under its control.
Of all the Cartel that remain active in the country, it is the CJNG that, according to sources from the PGR - registers a greater presence in national territory, since its cells currently extend to all states, including Mexico City.
Minor but important alliances In order to fulfill its mission, the CJNG has begun to use local alliances with armed groups and gangs that at the time acted as executing arms of the previous dominant cartels which it now faces.
In Chihuahua, the CJNG was annexed to the local groups before serving the Sinaloa Cartel, such as La Gente Nueva, Los Cabrera and Los Artistas Asesinos. He also had agreements with a dissident section of La Linea, Los Linces, and the Nueva Cartel de Juarez.
In the states of Durango and Coahuila, the CJNG succeeded in severing the self proclaimed group from the Poniente del Poniente (CDP) and or De La Laguna (CDL), from Sinaloa; In Baja California and Baja California Sur he supported the groups of El Tigre and Los 28 from FED formerly led by El Mini Lic.
In Sonora the groups of Los Salazar and Los Memos, former allies of Sinaloa are now estimated to be on the side of the CJNG to dispute territory with El Mayo Zambada.
The economic power of the CJNG, has also surfaced in Tamaulipas, where CISEN sources estimate that it already controls factions of Los Zetas, such as Zetas Operative Group (GOZ), and the Zetas Special Forces (FEZ), as well as Los Metros and Los Dragones, who were at the service of the Cartel del Golfo.
He also added Los Pelones and Los Talibanes, who in the last three years were in the service of the CdG in Quintana Roo.
Also against Los Chapitos The differences between the CJNG and the family of El Chapo had already been marked since August of 2016, when an armed group from CJNG, on the orders of El Mencho, abducted in Puerto Vallarta, Ivan Archivaldo and Jesus Alfredo Guzman Salazar, children of Joaquin Guzman Loera.
The fact had been endorsed by the CJNG in the Saltillo manta, " we are people who know how to respect the population and we are not like you... we do know how to work and you Mayo and Los Menores, should be ashamed of how your organization has fallen....", which points to a more open confrontation between CJNG and the relatives of El Chapo, who still maintain some degree of control in some sections of the Cartel.
.According to CISEN sources, the CJNG already manages most of the local gangs that once were with the children of El Chapo.
CJNG growth plan Below are some of the strategies of the CJNG to compete for new plazas.
An alliance with the remains of the Knight Templar in Michoacan, Aguascalientes, San Luis Potosi, Queretaro and Tlaxcala.
Forge an alliance in Nuevo Leon with the Knights Templar to face Los Zetas and Cartel del Golfo.
With LFM, it has consolidated in the southeast, mainly in Oaxaca, Tabasco, Chiapas and Campeche to confront Cartel del Golfo.
Has gained a presence in State of Mexico and Mexico City in collaboration with LFM and local groups such as La Empresa, Guerreros Unidos, Cartel de Tlahuac and La Banda de El Gallito.
Dispute territories with the Sinaloa Cartel in Puebla and Veracruz by joining with the Totonacapan Cartel, the band from El Tonin and split from El Bukanas group.
But on this day, in the shadow of their own tragedy, they've come together to talk about security. It's important to change their routines, they are told. Be more careful with social media. Don't leave colleagues alone in the office at night.
Two senior journalists discuss what feels safer: to take their children with them to the office, which was the target of a grenade attack in 2009, or to leave them at home.
In this June 26, 2017 photo, local journalists gather for a press conference concerning the kidnapping of 8 people at an upscale restaurant, at the Sinaloa Attorney General's office in Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico,not long after the murder of Javier Valdez Cardenas, one of the Co-founders and inspiration for Riodoce.
Security experts have written three words on a blackboard at the front of the room: adversaries, neutrals, allies. They ask the reporters to suggest names for each column — no proof is needed, perceptions and gut feelings are enough.
Allies are crucial. In an emergency, they would need a friend, a lawyer, an activist to call.
The longest list, by far, is enemies. There are drug traffickers, politicians, business people, journalists suspected of being on the payroll of the government or the cartels, a catalog of villains who make the job of covering Mexico's chaos perilous.
There is no respite from the violence, and as bodies pile up across the country, more and more of them are journalists: at least 25 since President Enrique Pena Nieto took office in December 2012, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, with at least seven dead in seven states so far this year. A total of 589 have been placed under federal protection after attacks and threats.
Among the recent to fall is their editor and inspiration, Riodoce co-founder Javier Valdez Cardenas.
"The greatest error is to live in Mexico and to be a journalist," Valdez wrote in one of his many books on narco-violence.
Javier Valdez Speaking at a Book Signing
His absence is felt deeply, although his presence is everywhere — a large photo of Valdez displaying his middle finger, with the word "Justice," hangs on the facade of the Riodoce building; two reporters in their 30s,
Aaron Ibarra and Miriam Ramirez, wear T-shirts that display his smiling, bespectacled face or his trademark Panama hat. The masthead of the paper still bears his name, and each issue has a blank space where his op-ed column should be.
The workshop took place less than two months after his death; the reporters discuss their shared trauma, their nightmares, insomnia, and paranoia.
Mexico is now the world's most lethal country for journalists, more even than war-torn Syria.
Although a special federal prosecutor's office was established in 2010 to handle the journalists' cases, it has only prosecuted two, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. As with most of the thousands of murders tied to drug trafficking and organized crime each year, the killers of journalists are rarely brought to justice.
At Riodoce, the journalists persist in covering the violence of Sinaloa, though they are heartbroken, though the terrain is more treacherous now.
Without information on the killers, without justice, the meeting to discuss security, says Ibarra, is of little use. "It's very foolish to waste my time in this workshop," he says. "As long as we don't know why, you distrust everyone."
On the morning of May 15, Valdez left the Riodoce office in the state capital of Culiacan. He managed to drive just a couple blocks before his red Toyota Corolla was stopped by two men. He was forced out of his car and shot 12 times, presumably for the name of the paper — which translates as Twelfth River, ie Riodoce. The gunman drove away in his car and crashed it nearby.
May 15, 2017 The World of Journalism Changed, Again
His body lay for 40 minutes in the middle of a sunbaked street, with a kindergarten on one side and a restaurant on the other, his hat next to his head as if shielding his eyes from distraught family and friends gathering around him.
"I understood that as a message," said Francisco Cuamea, deputy director of the Noroeste newspaper: Anyone could be next.
Valdez was 50 years old. He left a wife and two adult children. There have been no arrests — which is no surprise to the national press corps.
Nothing but Silence Coming from Authorities Four Months Later
Rumors tend to fly freely in Culiacan. But on the subject of Valdez, there's practically nothing but silence.
"Nobody wants to get involved with the death," said Juan Carlos Ayala, a professor at the Autonomous University of Sinaloa who has spent 40 years studying violence in the state. Authorities have been silent about any progress in the case. "Either they're complicit, or they're idiots."
Sinaloa is home to the cartel of the same name that was long run by notorious kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman. Since Guzman's arrest last year and extradition to the United States in January, Sinaloa has been one of the country's bloodiest battlegrounds as rival factions fight to fill the vacuum.
More than 100 people were shot dead in the first half of the year in Sinaloa, and the cemetery is filled with ornate, two-story mausoleums for drug kings, larger than many homes for the living. The state of "calm" is when just one cartel is in control of the coastal state with its valuable ports and drug-trafficking routes to the United States.
Despite that, and the fact that Valdez was intimately aware of the perils of his work, Ismail Bojorquez, 60, a co-founder and director of Riodoce, is wracked with guilt for feeling he failed to protect his friend.
He believes two errors contributed to the killing. First there was the publication in February of an interview with Damaso Lopez, a leader of one of the rival cartel factions at war with Guzman's sons. The piece may have angered the sons. Suspected gang members bought up all the copies of the edition as soon as they were delivered to newsstands.
The second mistake was not forcing Valdez to leave the country for his own safety after the seizure of another newspaper that carried the same story.
Justice For Javier No More Silence We Will Nor Be Silenced
Valdez was a legend in Mexico and abroad, and his killing is seen as a milestone in Mexican violence against journalists. He'd survived for so long, his friends and colleagues assumed he'd always be there. He was a veteran reporter for Noroeste in 2003 when he joined five colleagues in creating Riodoce, selling $50 shares. In Sinaloa, "it was impossible to do journalism without touching the narco issue," said Bojorquez.
Over time the paper earned a reputation for brave and honest coverage, and sales and advertising increased. Reporters loved being able to publish hard-hitting investigations without fear of censorship, and readers were fascinated by a publication where they could read stories nobody else dared to cover.
Eight years after Riodoce was founded, it won the prestigious Maria Moors Cabot award for coverage in Latin America. That same year, Valdez won the International Press Freedom Award of the Committee to Protect Journalists for his courage in pursuing the Mexican drug story wherever it led.
He freely acknowledged that he was frightened. "I want to carry on living," he said at the time of the CPJ award. "To die would be to stop writing."
Drug trafficking in Sinaloa "is a way of life," he said last October, in an interview with Rompeviento TV. "You have to assume the task that falls to you as a journalist — either that or you play dumb. I don't want to be asked, ''What were you doing in the face of so much death ... why didn't you say what was going on?'"
The Riodoce staff misses Valdez, the jokester who swore like a longshoreman, the friend generous with hugs and advice, a teacher who knew how to survive. They relied on his routine. He would always wear his hat. He would go to El Guayabo, the bar across from the office, and would always sit at the same table.
Now, they ask: Was his love of routine his downfall?
His death also has forced them to question their own assumptions about how best to do their jobs and stay alive.
It used to be that there were certain unwritten rules. It was OK to report on corruption as long as you were careful not to publish key details or appear to take sides. You must think carefully about story placement and timing. Don't accept money from anyone. Know the red lines for crime gangs.
"They don't like it if you mess with their women, their children, their clean businesses, their clandestine airstrips" used to move drugs. "Those things were off-limits," said Bojorquez.
The result is, even in the best of times, a high level of self-censorship and self-preservation. Trusting one's instincts. If it smells wrong, stay away.
The trouble, said Riodoce editor Andres Villarreal, is that "smell is a sense that can be fooled ... and then the thing with Javier happened."
The old rules, he and others say, no longer apply in Sinaloa— just as they don't in Tamaulipas, Veracruz, Guerrero and other states with a toxic mix of lucrative smuggling routes, weak institutions and corrupt government officials. In times of fracturing cartels, shifting political alliances and near-total impunity for attacks on journalists, it's no longer clear who can and can't be trusted, what is or isn't safe to report.
The landscape constantly shifts. In the room where Riodoce staff met for security training, suddenly no cellphones were allowed. Days before, it was revealed that spyware sold exclusively to governments had been used to monitor journalists and activists in Mexico.
"There are not conditions to do effective journalism in Mexico, the bullets pass too close".
Outside, two police officers sought relief from the 104-degree (40 Celsius) heat in the shade of a tree. They were assigned by the state government to guard Riodoce's offices, housed in a four-story building in a middle-class neighborhood of Culiacan. Half-jokingly, some of the reporters wondered whether these officers are among the 50 percent of officers whom the governor himself has said are not trustworthy.
It has been months since the reporters have gone into the mountainous countryside, where the drug gangs are in de facto control.
For this week's edition Riodoce's editors were looking at three main stories. There was the killing of former boxing great Julio Cesar Chavez's brother in Sinaloa. They also had an expose on government spending concentrated in the governor's hometown. And there was a group kidnapping in one of Culiacan's most expensive restaurants, a block from the prosecutor's office. There was no official word on who was abducted or how it happened, so caution set in when it came time to write what everyone in the city knows: that the restaurant is a favorite of both drug traffickers and authorities.
A reporter learned from public records that the restaurant was registered under the name of a politician belonging to the ruling Institutional Revolution Party, or PRI, which dominated all levels of politics for nearly all of the last century. Recently several PRI governors have been accused of corruption in high-profile cases.
Villarreal asked the reporter to write about prior incidents in that locale, including one in which a son of "El Chapo" Guzman escaped a military raid.
Just months before, readers would have looked to Valdez's column for the best-sourced information about the kidnapping.
"Before, we would have already known what happened," said Villarreal, 46, nicknamed "El Flaco" for his slender build. "Now all channels of communication with our sources have been broken."
Valdez's office has been repurposed as a storage room for signs and stickers protesting journalist killings, as staff have become something they never expected to be: activists on behalf of the press. Reporter Miriam Ramirez grabbed a few of the signs and headed out the next morning for a demonstration at the local prosecutor's office over yet another journalist.
Salvador Adame disappeared in the western state of Michoacan three days after Valdez was killed. A burned body has been discovered and officials say it is his, based on DNA tests.
Nationwide, journalists have become more vocal, scrawling "SOS Press" on sidewalks and buildings in organized protests. On this day, the director Bojorquez is away in Washington, trying to rally international support for justice in the Valdez case.
Current PRI Sinaloa Governor Quirino Ordaz Coppel
At a meeting with the governor of Sinaloa the day after Valdez was killed, Ramirez accused authorities of spying on journalists and having them killed for telling the truth. She has since asked to be reassigned from covering the government, concerned that her anger has hurt her objectivity.
Valdez had repeatedly said that journalists in Mexico are "surrounded" by organized crime, complicit government officials and an indifferent society.
Javier's Book entitled: Huerfanos Del Narco Orfanes del Narco
In his last book, "Narco-journalism," he wrote that reporters are being killed not just by drug gangs but on the order of politicians and security forces in cahoots with organized crime. The media watchdog group Articulo 19 attributed more than half of attacks on journalists last year to police and public officials.
"In Mexico you die because they want to shut you up," Ramirez said.
Clearly, the murders have a chilling effect. No one forgets the death six years ago of blogger Maria Elizabeth Macias in the northern border state of Tamaulipas. Her body was found along with a note purportedly signed by the Zetas cartel: "Here I am because of my reports." A computer keyboard and headphones lay next to her severed head.
Some outlets have opted to close, such as the newspaper El Norte, in the northern border state of Chihuahua, after the killing of correspondent Miroslava Breach in March.
Others keep going, as El Manana of Nuevo Laredo did following the killing of its director in 2004. In 2010, Diario de Ciudad Juarez addressed the drug cartels publicly with a front-page editorial titled, "What do you want from us?"
Some journalists have fled their home states or even the country. It's a wrenching decision. It's hard to find work in exile, and they still scan the streets, looking for danger. And sometimes, they are hunted down, as apparently was photographer Ruben Espinosa, who was murdered in 2015 along with four women in a Mexico City apartment three months after fleeing Veracruz.
For those who stay behind and continue the work, it's daily dance of high-risk decisions.
Photographer Ruben Espinoza Murdered Along with Four Equally Innocent Women Friends
Ramirez was unsettled by a recent Facebook comment on a story of hers about shell companies contracted by a previous governor. "These reporters are looking to end up like Javier Valdez," said the anonymous poster, though the comment was later deleted.
Still, she says she has no intention of giving up on Riodoce or its mission.
"We have a commitment to Javier, to ourselves," said Ramirez.
Ibarra — who once wanted to be a poet — admits that covering the drug trade scares him. But he, too, intends to remain.
"Mexico is going to hell, and that's why I became a reporter," he said.
At midnight on a recent Friday, with the latest issue already put to bed, Riodoce editors sat on the sidewalk outside the office, drinking beer, when all at once, their phones began to buzz.
A series of shootouts involving gang rivals and security forces near the beach resort city of Mazatlan had left 19 confirmed dead. The war continued to escalate, as was promised by a series of cartel messages discovered in the area.
From the curb, via cellphone, they put the news up on Riodoce's website. The front page would have to be changed the next day. Sirens wailed nearby — another shootout in the area. Bojorquez glanced over at the police officers standing guard to see if they were alert. If they were at all afraid, they didn't show it.
Beneath the massive portrait of their newspaper's fallen founder, his middle finger displayed for all of Sinaloa to see, the staff of Riodoce was following in his footsteps.
"How can you even think of closing," Bojorquez said, "when the same day Javier was killed the intern asked me to send her out to report on the street?"
Riodoce did NOT close. Photo of presses running on July first, printing its latest edition.
Photo July 3: Riodoce staff loading latest edition for distribution.
Chivis Martinez for Borderland Beat material from Excelsior
The Federal Police and the Navy Secretariat (Semar) detained Leticia Rodríguez Lara, aka "Doña Lety" or "La 40", identified as leader of a Cancun cartel, which conducts criminality in different municipalities of the Riviera Maya.
Authorities explained that Doña Lety was detained in a coordinated operation by both authorities in the state of Puebla.She was arrested on the Mexico-Veracruz highway.
Investigations by the federal government indicate that Leticia Rodríguez Lara, a former agent of the Judicial Police, is originally from Veracruz. In Cancún she allied with the Cartel del Pacífico against the Los Zetas cartel to eliminate their presence in Cancún, Zetas had a lock on Cancún for years.
Leticia Rodríguez Lara is investigated for homicides, as well as kidnappings and extortions committed in Cancun, and Quintana Roo, in the dispute for the control of the “plaza” (Territory, turf. Can also refer to the product being moved or in dispute).The dispute is between cartels of the Zetas, Gulf and Nueva Generación Jalisco.
The dispute over Cancún; The struggle for control maintained by Doña Lety, led to the formation in August 2016 of the group known as Los Combos, organized to overthrow Dona Lety. A failed attempt to assassinate Dona Lety transpired last April.
Los Combos was identified by the Army in September 2016, who told local media the presence of a new cartel in the Cancún-Playa-Tulum corridor. At present this is fractured by internal problems.
Translated by Otis B Fly-Wheel for Borderland Beat from a Reforma article
Subject Matter: Nicolas Maduro Guerra, Joaquin El Chapo Guzman Loera Recommendation: No prior subject matter knowledge required
Reporter: Unknown An ex military officer assured today that Nicolas Maduro Guerra, son of the President transported packages of unknown contents to the airport on the island of Margarita, where he affirmed persons close to the Venezuelan Government maintained meetings with the narco trafficker Joaquin El Chapo Guzman.
In an interview with Canal TV Colombia, the ex Venezuelan Captain, Sunny Balza Dugarte, who is seeking political asylum in the United States assured that cargoes were delivered and sent during the night from vehicles that went directly to the planes on-loading ramps with unknown cargo.
The operations, according to Balza, were carried out in the military loading area of the International Aeroport of Caribe Santiago Marino, located on the island of Margarita, and that there was no control over the airport or the narco traffickers.
The ex military, who faces arrest warrants in Venezuela, did not detail that the cargo's contained illicit substances because of the type of packaging that entered the aircraft was marked as owned by the state oil company PDVSA.
According to Balza, the children of Cilla Flores, wife of President Nicolas Maduro, and Venezuelan Vice President Tareck El Aissami also used the airport to transport unknown parcels.
The former Captain also stated that during his stay on the island of Margarita, the Presidents son participated in orgies with dozens of women, along with his advisers, the liaison officers of the National Guard, Managers from PDVSA and the Military high command.
Sunny Balza Dugarte also noted that people close to the Government of Nicolas Maduro had meetings with in Margarita with other members of the Sinaloa Cartel.
Balza who was Commander of the Military unit attached to the islands Airport, said that El Chapo, now imprisoned in the United States, arrived by Sea every two or three months and was staying in the area of El Yaque, where he had several residences.
Siskiyoukid for Borderland Beat republished from Texas Monthly by Ryan Goldberg Photographs by David Ramos
The Drug Runners-Tarahumara of Chihuahua
It was a half hourafter midnight and Silvino Cubesare Quimare was approaching the ghost town of Separ, in southwest New Mexico. Tall and lithe, his skin browned from years of laboring under the desert sun, he strode through the darkness. Strapped to his back were two homespun burlap packs, one filled with 45 pounds of marijuana bricks and the other with enough burritos and gallon jugs of water to survive another week in the wilderness. With him were five cousins and a nephew, each shouldering a similar load. They trudged silently past the scars of an old copper mining trail, long-gone railroad tracks and trading posts that once upon a time exchanged men, minerals, and equipment across the border to Chihuahua. Up ahead, they saw the lights of a highway and knew they were within a dozen miles of their drop-off. They’d reach it before daybreak.
It was April 2, 2010, and over five days they had traveled roughly five hundred miles from their village of Huisuchi, in the remote Sierra Madre mountains of northern Mexico. For months, Huisuchi had been cursed with drought. Though clouds had gathered off and on over the villagers’ homes—dark, billowing masses that overshadowed their huts among the fields of corn—it had not rained. The villagers had danced, and their children had tossed handfuls of water toward the sky, asking their god Onorúame for help, but relief had not come. By early spring their corn was burned on the stalk. Rather than face starvation, Silvino’s cousins had approached him with an idea: they could go on a drug-running mission across the border. It was a quick-paying job, and it would help their village. “You’re strong and you know the way,” they pleaded. “You’ve done this before.”
In fact, Silvino had carried a mochila, as the narcos called it, three times before. The reasons for this were, in some ways, fated. His people, an indigenous tribe of roughly 70,000 known as the Tarahumara, had originated on the lush plains east of the mountains. But beginning in the sixteenth century the tribe fled Spanish invaders, Jesuit missionaries, and Mexican settlers—and their fatal diseases, forced labor, and attempted conversions—retreating into the Sierra Madre’s forbidding landscape. They settled what would come to be known as the Sierra Tarahumara, an expansive network of canyons that are, at some points, deeper than the Grand Canyon, dropping 6,140 feet through three ecosystems. The most famous section, covered with lichen, is the color of oxidized copper. When the Norwegian explorer Carl Lumholtz stopped at the edge of one of these canyons, Urique, in the late nineteenth century, he couldn’t imagine anyone living below. In his book on his travels through the Sierra Madre mountains, Unknown Mexico, he recounts that when the Jesuits first arrived and asked the Tarahumara about the canyon’s depth, they replied, “Only the birds know.”
For centuries the Tarahumara got by as subsistence farmers. Their huts clung to the granite slopes and crevices of the canyons, which are connected by a vast system of narrow footpaths. In these rugged gorges, they developed a unique running style that eventually brought them fame. Either barefoot or in sandals (called huaraches) made from old tire treads and goat hide, they were able to traverse seemingly super-human distances. “Tarahumara” is a Spanish corruption of the tribe’s name, Rarámuri, meaning “ones with light feet” or “foot runners.”
Traditionally they ran as a form of religious ritual, such as to celebrate the harvest, in two-team races called rarajipari. For up to 24 hours—and sometimes longer—they kicked a small wooden ball across a rocky trail, and by the end of the race, teams often had only a few men left standing. But besides stamina, rarajipari demanded selflessness and strategy. In the days leading up to the race, competitors ground corn for an energy drink called pinole (and set aside a fermented version as their post-race celebratory beer, tesgüino). The afternoon before, the two teams walked the course, quarreling over its design and the number of laps. During the race, the slower runners tended to set the early pace, while the closers bided their time. Spectators wagered clothes, goats, or money on the outcome and lit the way at night with pine-resin torches.
The tribe’s runners had never ventured far from home and remained largely unknown until 1993, when an opportunistic American photographer named Rick Fisher brought several members, including a 55-year-old grandfather and a 40-something goat farmer, to an old Colorado mining town called Leadville to enter its 100-mile ultramarathon. The race was part of the budding sport of extreme long-distance trail running, in which race lengths range from slightly longer than the standard 26.2-mile marathon to more than 150 miles. Wearing sandals and swigging beers at the final aid station before the finish, the Tarahumara runners captured first, second, and fifth place and left behind hundreds of mesmerized competitors and fans.
Fisher struck deals with sponsors; he paid his runners with bags of corn and beans. When he returned with seven new competitors in 1994, they dominated the race again. The American ultramarathoner Micah True got to know some of the Tarahumara runners in Leadville, and he was so changed by the experience that he later moved to the Sierra Madre. But by the time he arrived, what he found was troubling: because of years of drought, famine, and encroaching cartel violence, in some areas the tribe’s running traditions were almost entirely dormant. Meanwhile, as ultramarathons surged in popularity, American runners began crushing previously held records. True wondered how they would fare against the Tarahumara, and he sought to revitalize these local traditions. In 2006, he persuaded Scott Jurek, the top American, to travel to Urique Canyon for a trail race he was organizing that is now known as the Ultra Caballo Blanco. He enticed locals to enter by promising food vouchers to anyone who finished. He also enliste
Silvino, a farmer with four children, knew the canyons the way urban dwellers know city streets: every rock, cactus, and river bend was a sign. He’d run rarajipari as a boy, and, per Tarahumara tradition, gambled on the race from an early age, winning soap, pens, and sometimes even a chicken. Running was in his blood. His mother had been a running champion in her day, and one of her sisters was the mother of Arnulfo, his greatest competitor. At the Caballo Blanco, both Silvino and Arnulfo proved themselves, and though Jurek passed Silvino near the end of the 47 miles, he couldn’t catch Arnulfo.
The journalist Christopher McDougall chronicled the race, and his ensuing book—Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen—became an international sensation, igniting a global running craze. He attributed part of the Tarahumara’s success to their minimal footwear; they ran with a lightness unfamiliar to American runners, landing on the midpoint of their foot instead of the heel. International runners and film crews descended on the Sierra Tarahumara. Multinational corporations seized the merchandising opportunities, and soon, people all over the world were wearing barefoot-style shoes. It seemed that everyone profited except the Tarahumara.
Mexican cartels, meanwhile, recognized an opportunity for a different sort of international commerce. Though the Tarahumara largely kept to themselves, poverty and hunger made them targets for narcos looking for mules willing to make the demanding trek to designated drug drop-off points in New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas. Cartel recruiters trolled the gas stations and plazas of small Mexican towns. They bought blue jeans for those wearing traditional loincloths and paired them with guides to lead them to the border at night. In the Tarahumara, the cartels found literal drug runners, who not only could cover incredible distances but were desperate enough to do it.
Silvino, with his farmland afflicted by unrelenting drought, was one of the desperate ones, so he signed on to tote drugs. Still, he got paid only if he successfully completed his mission. His first time, in 2005, he did just that, tossing his mochila into the back of a truck on a highway near El Paso. The second time, he completed his drop at a fancy hotel outside Las Cruces, New Mexico. The third time, though, in February 2007, Border Patrol agents found him and two others hiding in creosote bushes one hundred miles west of Las Cruces, with three backpacks that totaled 194 pounds. He was arrested and sentenced to eight months. And so when Micah True hosted the second Caballo Blanco, Silvino couldn’t make the race; he was sitting in a New Mexico prison.
After his release, it took Silvino two months to get home. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agents left him in Juárez without enough money for a bus ticket home. He found a friend to front him enough to get to Janos, the first town on his route back. Once there, he picked chiles to earn the bus fare farther south to Chihuahua City, where he finally cobbled together the fare to Huisuchi by making cheese at a quesería.
Silvino swore he would never run drugs again, but by 2010, there was still not enough food to eat. His wife, Hilda, begged him not to go, but he felt he had no choice. He and his cousins would be paid 15,000 pesos ($825) apiece. In one week, he could make what usually took three months of labor in the Sierra—and there was little work. “A mí me vale,” Silvino told his wife. I think it’s worth it.
Now here he was, with six members of his own family—nearly a year after Born to Run had become an international best seller—striding through the dark up the boot heel of New Mexico. During the day, they slept beneath frayed creosote bushes, concealing their bags nearby, and at night they trudged north toward the freeway, avoiding rattlesnakes, coyotes, and most of all, la migra, the Border Patrol. They were close now, a few hours from their destination.
Then, all at once, they saw the spotlights. The Border Patrol had found them. Silvino flung his bags into the sand and began to run. Not again, he thought. He feared what might happen to his family if he went back to federal prison. An agent on a dirt bike tore after him as the others scattered. Silvino felt the adrenaline course through him, and he told himself to escape to the mountains they’d crossed on their way north. Amid the tall gray peaks and dry basins, he’d be harder to catch. Looking behind him, Silvino could see his nephew Luis flagging, but he couldn’t wait. He zigzagged around scrawny desert saplings, while the shadows cast by the dirt bike’s spotlight darted around him. He moved swiftly. He was conditioned to navigating switchbacks. Muy ligero, he told himself. Light-footed.
Soon the sound of the dirt bike faded. He had escaped, but Silvino continued running through the night, slept half of the next day, and then ran through the afternoon and the next night. He crossed abandoned desert valleys on old Apache land with nothing to eat, drinking only dung-infested runoff water. Two days later, he reached Ascensión, close to where they’d picked up the drugs. None of his companions had made it out. He had run one hundred miles.
Paul Chambers was sitting in his Alpine office when he got an email about a new client named Sebastian Vega Genoveva waiting for him in jail. It was March 2015, and the 27-year-old, with sandy-brown hair and a neatly cropped beard, was fresh out of law school. Unlike many of his classmates, he didn’t have to wait long for work. Not in West Texas.
Remote and rugged, West Texas, along with much of the southwestern United States, has long been a key drug-smuggling corridor. But in the nineties, as Mexican cartels rose in power relative to their Colombian counterparts—who preferred to traffic through South Florida—West Texas became even more essential. In the past twenty years, there has been a fivefold increase in Border Patrol agents working that stretch of border, up to nearly 20,000. By 2015, the tiny office of the federal public defenders in Alpine was tasked with the second-largest caseload in Texas, behind El Paso. Meanwhile, budget cuts meant the number of lawyers (four) stayed the same. The vast majority of cases were for illegal entry—immigration crimes eclipsed all other federal offenses—but they also saw increased numbers of traffickers. Many of these were caught and processed as so-called backpacker cases: groups of six or more Mexican men arrested in the mountains, each carrying about 45 pounds of marijuana. Unable to afford lawyers, each defendant was assigned one by the court. Federal public defenders were typically appointed the first defendant, and private attorneys, like Chambers, were tasked with the rest.
Scanning his new client’s arrest report, Chambers expected the details to coalesce into the usual pattern, but he noticed an anomaly. When Border Patrol agents arrested this group of six and weighed the marijuana bricks—all 256 pounds—they realized that one felt different. Unwrapping it, they discovered a plastic container with a pound of methamphetamine inside. In backpacker cases, each defendant is on the hook for the entire load, not merely his own. Chambers dug out the sentencing guidelines: a scant .11 pounds of meth would double their potential sentences, from five to ten years. He dreaded telling his client.
The next day, he drove two hours with Liz Rogers, a thirty-year former federal defender known for pulling out long-shot victories, to the West Texas Detention Facility, in Sierra Blanca, to see Vega. Rogers, a family friend, was now a private attorney and had also been assigned a member of the group.
When Chambers was still in law school, in 2012, Rogers had helped introduce him to the federal courts that were handling the influx of people and drugs coming across the border. He accompanied her to court as an intern. He’d expected to see one person on trial. Instead, groups of up to two dozen Mexican nationals at a time, arrested for smuggling drugs or illegal entry, were marched in front of the judge throughout the day. Any other way, Chambers learned, and the courthouse would be backed up for years. That summer, he saw around four hundred cases come through the Alpine office, and within a few years its annual caseload had more than doubled. Chambers returned to school with one of Rogers’s mantras ringing in his ears: “procedural due process,” as opposed to actual due process. In one of his ethics courses, he told the class that what they were learning was a fantasy. “Well, that may happen there,” the professor responded, “but that’s not the way it’s supposed to happen.”
When Chambers arrived at the detention facility, the 39-year-old Vega stood up to greet his lawyer. The six-foot-two Chambers towered over him by more than a foot. At first, Vega didn’t seem to understand what Chambers was saying through his translator. Finally, after a few hours, Vega asked the translator if she could speak more slowly. He explained that Spanish was his second language. Vega, it turned out, was a Tarahumara.
Vega and his family had fled the canyons to find work in Chihuahua, and though he got a job as a brickmaker, it barely sustained them. Soon he was recruited to run drugs into Texas. He’d hoped that once there he could stay a short time and work—in the Permian Basin oil fields, perhaps—and then return home with money for his wife and two sons. But on the afternoon of March 6, Border Patrol agents found him and five others sleeping in the brush west of Marfa. After walking for ten days in the harsh borderland, their guide had abandoned them that morning.
As Chambers listened, he was struck by Vega’s guilelessness. Vega readily told him what had happened—as he did to the agents who arrested him, along with all but one in his group—but when Chambers described his offense, Vega couldn’t understand why the charges were so severe. How could he be responsible for all the backpacks when he only carried one? It didn’t make sense, Vega said, and worse, it was unfair.
Competitors from all over the world, electrified by "Born to Run", made the pilgrimage to the Tarahumara homeland. But racing couldn’t alleviate the hardships ravaging the Tarahumara themselves.
Chambers was impressed; none of his other clients had ever commented on the injustice of the law. He called his colleague and friend Jaime Escuder, who had also been assigned a defendant in the case. Escuder had recently defended a Tarahumara man in his fifties who, they realized, had been in Vega’s brickmaking crew. They lived in the same indigent neighborhood on the edge of Chihuahua. Escuder’s client had been sentenced to eighteen months in federal prison—six months longer than others in his group because he’d had the misfortune of appearing before a different judge. Around the same time, federal defenders in Alpine had represented a pair of Tarahumara teenagers also recruited in Chihuahua. While working a job canning chiles, they were told they could earn twice as much at a pecan orchard near the Rio Grande. When they arrived at the orchard, there were no pecans. Investigators from the federal public defender’s office had seen Tarahumara come through their West Texas offices for five years, as had their colleagues in nearby Las Cruces.
Chambers turned to the internet. He read about races that went on for several days and about the ultramarathon that now brought the best long-distance runners to the Sierra Madre. He read about villages that had no electricity or running water and that were full of ex-felons. The news coverage he could find estimated that more than a hundred Tarahumara had been arrested during the previous decade, but unless the defendants had to have a Rarámuri translator, like Escuder’s, their background had probably never come up. The actual number was likely much higher.
When he met Vega again, Chambers jokingly asked, “If you could run like that, why didn’t you escape?” Vega said he never could have evaded the agents in their trucks and helicopters. Chambers nodded. There were some things you couldn’t outrun.
In March 2010, a month before Silvino’s narrow escape in New Mexico, the annual Ultra Caballo Blanco had drawn a record number of international participants to Urique Canyon. Competitors from all over the world, electrified by Born to Run, made the pilgrimage to the Tarahumara homeland. But racing couldn’t alleviate the hardships ravaging the Tarahumara themselves. That year, many had shown up to the event starving, walking or hitchhiking from hundreds of miles around, bringing only the clothes on their backs. Urique’s head of tourism watched in tears as Tarahumara runners collapsed. Silvino could only muster twenty-fifth place.
A few years earlier, the Sinaloa and Juárez cartels had begun escalating their fight for control of billion-dollar fields of marijuana and poppy in the so-called Golden Triangle, where the states of Chihuahua, Sinaloa, and Durango converge in the Sierra. To meet the surging demand for heroin in the United States, they also began seizing additional farmland in order to increase poppy cultivation. Many Tarahumara were forced to grow these crops, their wages docked and their land stolen. By 2010, entire communities had emptied out of the canyons, and some ten thousand had fled to the city of Chihuahua, where they were more easily conscripted into smuggling. There, it also became common to see Tarahumara children begging or selling candy and key chains on the streets.
For Silvino, new opportunities eventually arose from the attention generated by the book. Organizers across the world sought Tarahumara runners for their races, and those who moved comfortably among chabochi, or outsiders, began receiving regular invitations to race. So, after returning from his aborted drug run, Silvino saw his racing career take off. He finished second in an ultramarathon in Austria, the first of many races in more than half a dozen countries where his expenses were paid and the possible earnings were worth the trip. After successes in Costa Rica and Spain, he landed on the cover of Runner’s World México, in December 2014. He built a small adobe house for his wife and children and another for his parents and siblings, and he fixed up an old truck so he could bring his harvest into the town of Urique to sell. Still, racing never provided a stable income for Silvino—prize money wasn’t guaranteed—and most of the Tarahumara fared far worse.
As the cartel war ricocheted from one canyon to the next, Urique became one of the last towns to be engulfed by intense violence. It had once served as an outpost for tourists exploring the natural beauty of the surrounding canyons, which helped keep it relatively tranquil until a Sinaloa boss’s nephew was murdered there, in late 2014. From then on gunfire could routinely be heard in the town and up the canyon. In the days leading up to the 2015 Ultra Caballo Blanco, an eight-hour battle erupted in a village along the planned racecourse. International runners arrived to find armed gangs in the streets of Urique, while local government officials assured the competitors there were no problems. A day before the race, however, Juárez hit men stormed the police station, seizing two officers and a teenager, and American organizers called off the race. Most of the visiting runners, who had come from 23 countries, made their way out under military escort. More than five hundred Tarahumara, Silvino included, resolved to carry on anyway, and the mayor agreed to a version that cut out the downriver loop, where the major shoot-out had occurred.
A few months later, Sinaloa won control of the area—nearly a dozen planes flew out of the town of Urique in one day with the remaining Juárez fighters—but conditions worsened. With the Sinaloa in command, land theft and poppy growing increased.
Some Tarahumara activists tried to make their plight known, like Irma Chávez Cruz, a 25-year-old mother who was a friend of Silvino’s. Chávez had learned Spanish as a teenager, to serve as an interpreter for her people, then earned a university degree in ecology and gotten elected to local government. She worried about Tarahumara children losing their running traditions, so she regularly put on races in the region, including all-female events called ariweta. She helped organize the largest-ever recorded rarajipari in Chihuahua—Silvino led one of the teams—and together they traveled to Brazil, in October 2015, for the inaugural World Indigenous Games. The next year, Chávez ran in the Boston Marathon (possibly the first Tarahumara woman to do so) and, while there, spoke on a panel about indigenous running traditions. Together with her father, an activist, musician, and poet known as Makawi, she pleaded for government officials in Chihuahua to help prevent drug traffickers from stealing their land and their water. But help never came, and speaking out became risky. According to the Mexico City–based magazine Proceso, at least five indigenous activists were assassinated in 2015 and 2016.
In the summer of 2016, drug traffickers moved on the town of Basihuare, near Chávez’s hometown of Rejogochi, stealing the funds from the town’s ejido, a government-supported agriculture cooperative. After razing the corn and bean fields, they planted poppies instead.
That same summer, Silvino landed a job as a manager for a chia cultivation project for 400 pesos (about $20) a day. A fine salary, but it was an experimental crop: a 64-year-old American named Mickey Mahaffey, who had lived among the Tarahumara for two decades and married Silvino’s younger sister, Carmen, struck up a deal to grow eight acres for an energy-bar company based in Richmond, Virginia. Even for a strong farmer like Silvino, who used oxen to plough his fields in Huisuchi, cultivating chia in Urique proved biblical in its afflictions. In the middle of August, Silvino and seven others cleared eight acres of weeds by hand amid a plague of red ants, tarantulas, bees, gnats, flies, scorpions, snakes, floods, and 125-degree heat. It doubled as his race training.
Silvino couldn’t compete in the U.S. because of his arrest record, but he still needed to race to remain financially free of the cartels, so he often stuck to races closer to home, like the upcoming ultramarathon in Cerocahui, which included a four-thousand-foot ascent up a road out of Urique. Two runners in their mid-twenties were planning to challenge him, and the prize for winning was significant: 14,000 pesos ($765), which, coincidentally, was nearly the going rate for running drugs across the border.
If circumstances once again drove Silvino to carry another drug load, he’d be risking a potentially lengthy prison term. Chambers had seen many of these harsh sentences handed out, including to drug runners who were essentially forced into smuggling. Still, of the dozens and dozens of clients he’d defended, it was Vega, and the plight of the Tarahumara, that stuck with him.
Chambers grew up on the border. His late paternal grandfather, Boyd, was a rancher on the Sierra Vieja, a small mountain range that locals call the Candelaria Rimrock, after the nearest town. Roughly forty miles northwest of Big Bend Ranch State Park, it is a place of extremes, a dry, barren land that is only ever hot or cold. It’s untamable, though his family certainly tried. Like the Tarahumara, the Chambers clan was inexorably tied to their land.
Growing up, his love for the ranch—bouncing over Capote Creek in his grandfather’s truck, watching the men ride out with the cattle while mounted on his own pony—was matched by his admiration for the tough people who worked it. Chambers remembers his grandfather watching the Weather Channel regularly, hoping for rain. To help keep them on the ranch, his grandmother Johnnie earned a teaching degree from Sul Ross State University in her forties, and she ran the two-room schoolhouse in Candelaria for 25 years. His grandfather served as a Presidio County commissioner and was often asked to resolve border disputes privately. Back then, nationality didn’t matter as much; people were simply trying to make ends meet on both sides of the Rio Grande.
When I visited Chambers at his office in January, his desk was makeshift: two long folding tables down the hall from a few other lawyers in a one-story brick building on the main street. The white stucco walls were empty; his diplomas were stored at his fiancée’s house. There was little to give away his roots. Then again, he spent much of his life severed from them.
In late 1991, when Chambers was four, his father was arrested in the largest drug bust on record in West Texas. Federal and state drug enforcement agents arrested Glyn Robert Chambers and the popular sheriff of Presidio County, Rick Thompson, after an informant tipped them off to a red horse trailer containing 2,400 pounds of cocaine on the fairgrounds in Marfa. It was big news, from the Big Bend Sentinel (“The Marfa Coke Bust,” it blared) all the way to the New York Times. There was no trial. They both pleaded guilty and were sentenced to life in prison.
Chambers remembers law enforcement coming to his house after his father had been arrested, though he was too young to comprehend the reason. He grew up believing he’d never see him again outside of prison. His mother, Christine, didn’t want to stay in Alpine because of the publicity. They moved up and down the Interstate 35 corridor so often that Chambers lost count of the number of schools he attended. It may have been thirty. When he was thirteen, they went to live with his mother’s family, in Abilene. There was no sewer connection in their trailer, and electricity came from an extension cord that stretched from his grandparents’ house. Soon after, his mother was arrested for possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine. In the years ahead, she cycled in and out of prison for similar charges. A pair of uncles on his mom’s side also went to prison for drug offenses, and so did a paternal uncle. He became frustrated with the legal system, which he felt was too focused on punishing his family members for their addictions rather than helping them.
After going to law school, in northwest Indiana, he thought he’d never return to West Texas, but it was Liz Rogers who persuaded him to come back. Rogers also came from a ranching family, and she found her calling with the federal defenders. In time, the backpackers she’d come to represent were known to ask for her by name. Chambers never forgot that first time he accompanied Rogers to jail as an intern. Her caseload was so large she had to meet with up to nine clients at a time, but she patiently explained to each one how their case would unfold and made them all laugh. He knew he’d never be able to hold an audience like that, but he realized then that this work was what he wanted to do.
Maria Juana Ramirez at the Cerocahui ultramarathon (37 miles) in Urique Canyon in October 2016.
Helping clients like Vega affirmed his decision, though it also generated no shortage of heartbreak. Six months after Vega’s case landed on Chambers’s desk, he managed to beat the meth rap. But Vega pleaded guilty to the marijuana charge; there was no other recourse. Vega didn’t know the men who’d recruited him, which is typical in backpacker cases, so they didn’t have any information to offer prosecutors in exchange for a shorter sentence. As a result, Vega—performing the lowest, most expendable role in the drug trade—carried the burden himself. Chambers told Vega that it was a good deal, and it helped when the Federal Bureau of Prisons sent back a recommendation of 46 months instead of 60. Even still, looking at the slight, dark-haired, shackled Vega, his anger bubbled up. Chambers thought about how Vega wouldn’t be there for his two sons as they grew into their teens. He knew what an absence like that could do to a family.
A month later, Chambers stood next to Vega again—this time in an El Paso courtroom—for a second and final hearing on his slightly improved sentence. In Spanish, the judge ran through the conditions of the imprisonment twice so Vega could understand. Then the judge asked Vega if he had anything to add. He did. He wanted to thank his lawyer for helping him. For Chambers, it was one of the saddest days of his life.
With Vega’s case resolved, Chambers moved on. There were many others to get to, almost too many to keep up with. When I stopped by his office one afternoon to see if he would visit Candelaria with me, he declined. He told me he was too busy with his caseload to make the three-hour trip. I still wanted to see the town where he had spent time as a boy-—where many backpackers make their crossing today—so instead, I went with Rogers.
We drove west to Marfa before hooking southwest through the Chinati Mountains. Wherever I looked, in Alpine and Marfa and later Presidio, I saw makeshift villages of turnkey houses, the whitewashed barracks of Border Patrol. Rogers pulled off on Farm-to-Market Road 2810, better known as Pinto Canyon Road, where the asphalt ended. The next 21 miles were unpaved. The wide, grassy highlands behind us appeared lush compared with the volcanic landscape ahead: canyons and mesas, haystack buttes and dry arroyos, a psychedelic moonscape with no end in sight, where the only color came from the sky.
I thought about Silvino, and I told Rogers about his case. She shook her head in wonder. Had he been arrested the second time in New Mexico, she said, he would have faced a mandatory five years in prison. “There has to be a better way to deal with this,” she said. “When you’re desperate, you’ll do anything. A little time in the Western District of Texas jail isn’t going to keep you from trying to feed your family.”
At the bottom of the canyon road, the asphalt resumed at a desolate village called Ruidosa. It was twelve miles north to Candelaria, where you could stand in the middle of town and see all of it: ramshackle trailers and a few adobe houses; Johnnie Chambers’s empty schoolhouse; an abandoned church and a corrugated-metal cotton gin. We hadn’t seen another car in two hours. Candelaria was well on its way to becoming a ghost town.
We drove up a small bluff, and Rogers led me to the grave of Boyd Chambers. His black-granite headstone outshone rows of wooden crosses. Mounds of melon-size rocks blanketed every grave. “He made a living in one of the harshest lands on the continent,” Rogers said.
She sometimes joked with Chambers that he didn’t know where his grandfather was buried, but he did. He just didn’t like coming here, and I could see why. It was a place people were trying to leave—to run from—not where you go to make something of yourself. He’d told me that sometimes he felt fated to stay in West Texas, and yet he often felt apart from it.
Rogers pointed to the barely visible Rio Grande just under a mile beyond, and San Antonio del Bravo farther still. This was the most common drug crossing in her cases, she said. In fact, Vega had come this way. After crossing the river here, backpackers hike past the old Chambers ranch to the top of the Sierra Vieja, where they look for their U.S. 90 pickup. It was at least forty miles through the driest landscape I’d ever seen. The only liquids to be found were two cans of Lone Star and three cans of Bud Light that had been left for Boyd at his headstone. In the distance, Rogers noticed a cloud of black smoke rising downriver. It turned out to be people burning salt cedar, an invasive species that saps water from the earth. They were more optimistic souls in a long line of people who have tried, often futilely, to farm the floodplain.
“Imagine walking this with forty-four pounds on your back,” she said, not counting food and water. “The Tarahumara would know how to survive this. They’re some of the toughest people in the world.”
Of course, drug traffickers also know this. Last summer, according to a courtroom interpreter, one witness in a backpacker trial in Pecos said that smugglers in Ojinaga told him they only wanted to work with Tarahumara, because of their strength and endurance. Puro Tarahumara de ahora en adelante.
It was still dark when Silvino woke two hours before the big race in Cerocahui last October. His stomach was roiling. He hadn’t been feeling well and had visited a hospital the day before. He considered skipping the race, which was 37 miles, but the next event was four months away. He couldn’t count on his corn harvest to yield enough food for his family, and his chia project was still unpredictable. He had to run.
It was the eighth-annual ultramarathon here, and 120 runners, mostly Tarahumara, were going to set off from its plaza. They had come from as far away as Chihuahua, riding two buses for eleven hours combined. As Silvino left the San Isidro Lodge, where he had stayed the night, he glanced over at six mangy dogs and cats sleeping next to the embers of a nearby campfire. He looked up at the stars and thought about curses, as older Tarahumara runners tend to do before a race. He had grown up on the ancient tales of men who sprinkled bone dust on the course the night before, thought to induce fatigue in your competitors. He laughed at the memory of a rarajipari when an opposing team cast a spell on his team. His teammates became ill; he’d been the only one not stricken.
He didn’t believe in spells, but Silvino felt the pressure of what he’d come to do—not just for his own survival but for the survival of his people. The cartels were not letting up. Two weeks earlier, sicarios, or hit men, had stopped in Rejogochi to ask for Chávez, the young activist, and her father, Makawi. After drug traffickers had taken over the ejido in Basihuare, Makawi had given an interview to a newspaper in Chihuahua, describing the situation and the growing recruitment of Tarahumara youth into organized crime. In August 2016, Chávez had decried the work of the cartels in downtown Chihuahua on the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples before a crowd of several thousand. Makawi had also met with the wives of those who, like Sebastian Vega, were in prison in the U.S. Word was spreading that the sicarios wanted to “eliminate” the two.
It was a twenty-minute drive downhill to the square, which Silvino would be running back up for the first leg of the race: these six miles were a steep climb of 1,500 feet. Nobody was warming up when he arrived; the Tarahumara don’t stretch. Silvino wore athletic gear and blue-and-yellow Asics—the trails were too slippery, the roads too hard, for huaraches. The female racers wore their everyday clothes: skirts full of reds, yellows, pinks, and blues, and matching head scarves to block the sun. It was cool now, but the temperature would climb into the 70s.
Ten minutes after six, the runners approached the starting line, adjacent to the three-hundred-year-old red-earthen, yellow-domed Jesuit church, and took off. The darkness lifted just beyond the otherwise dreary concrete plaza, revealing the fertile valley that gives Cerocahui its name: “between two mountains.” The slope up the mountainside was rocky and dusty, the soil eroded from years of logging and grazing. When they neared the San Isidro Lodge, Silvino was in fourth but still in range of the leaders. He passed the now extinguished fire pit and its dogs and cats, a fenced-in flock of garrulous turkeys, and local government officials eating breakfast inside the lodge’s small gazebo. From there, the runners followed white arrows spray-painted on the ground into a forest of piñon pine, juniper, and small oak trees. Sunlight broke through the slim canopy. The thick old-growth trees had been chopped down long ago and sent to the sawmills of nearby Bahuichivo. Silvino remembered the women in Huisuchi who used to weave baskets out of the pine needles.
Silvino emerged from the forest onto a road—really a collection of rocks and dirt. Forty years ago, engineers had erected this road on top of an ancient Tarahumara foot trail. There were hairpin turns where the drop-off was thousands of feet, and he passed several roadside memorials. Here, Urique’s mayor and its public-works director had driven off the cliff almost four years ago. The newspapers alleged mechanical failure, but people heard otherwise: it was said that traffickers had murdered them in the middle of the night and pushed their car into the canyon. As Silvino continued to ascend, the only sounds were the buzz of white-eared hummingbirds and the musical trills of canyon and rock wrens.
At 7:48, Silvino spotted the worn arrow that directed runners to take the footpath to the scenic overlook called El Mirador del Cerro del Gallego. The explorer Lumholtz had surveyed Urique from up here more than a century ago. It was around the twelve-mile mark. He glanced over his right shoulder at the river that snaked through the canyon of the same name. Urique had an anthropomorphic quality from here: the peaks on either side of the river looked like heads, with an evergreen blanket sloped across their chests and legs. He scrambled down a cliff-side trail so narrow that only one person could traverse it at a time. Up here, he realized, right before the 2008 Semana Santa celebrations, assassins from the Sinaloa cartel had kidnapped around a dozen people from Urique—the chief of police, other officers, government officials—and beheaded all but two, whom they sent back to town, stripped naked and hands tied, to tell the story.
Silvino picked up speed as the trail descended toward the village of Porochi. He hadn’t eaten anything, not even the pocket-size bean burritos and salsa he normally ran with. He was starting to feel better—the steep climbs were behind him—and though he wouldn’t be able to catch the leader, he thought he could finish second or third. He recalled his 62-mile ultramarathon victory in Costa Rica, where he’d felt he might collapse. “I’m fighting for money,” he’d told himself. “If I don’t take the risk during a race, then I don’t get any reward.”
He passed fields with corn stalks as tall as the cabins beside them, and a few loose cows and goats. Then, with the path hugging a creek, he entered tiny Porochi. At the aid station, he declined water and collected a paper bracelet to confirm he had passed. He was in third place. The squat white ejido headquarters proclaimed Porochi as the Tierra de Corredores, or the “Land of Runners.” It was the halfway point. Silvino followed the creek, skirting red-and-white fields of poppy. The course turned toward Cerocahui on a footpath built by drug traffickers to carry out their crops.
Runners would have to reach the plaza, grab another bracelet, and then double back to the edge of town before returning. Silvino came into town only five minutes behind second place. A pair of federal police trucks rolled through with machine gunners standing in the bed, black scarves covering the bottom half of their faces. At the square, a dozen bedraggled municipal police, a few seemingly too young to grow facial hair, loitered with unloaded AK-47s—goat’s horns, they called them.
At 10:42, the first runner appeared on the cobblestone alley leading to the finish. Between sips of Guinness, the race organizer announced the winner’s name, hometown, and time. Volunteers were on hand to offer cheese sandwiches, bananas, and oranges. He crossed the finish line, accepted a sandwich, sat on a stone wall, and barely stirred for photographs with local officials. The smell of charcoal-grilled chicken filled the air.
Thirty minutes later, the second finisher arrived, and Silvino three minutes after him. There was little shade, and he dropped down on a set of steps next to four old campesinos. A pair of feral dogs dozed near Silvino’s feet. He ate a sandwich and drank a bottle of Coca-Cola. For finishing third, Silvino earned 8,000 pesos, enough to remain free of the cartels, at least for a while longer.
Early the next morning, with only a little pain in his right leg, Silvino drove in a low gear down the canyon to Urique, listening to traditional Tarahumara folk music from a USB stick connected to the CD player. Its wistful melody is reserved for joyous occasions, when Tarahumara dance to its repetitive interplay of violin and guitar. Three paper bracelets from the race still hung around his left wrist. He was back in the chia fields after breakfast.
Siskiyou_kid for Borderland Beat translated and republished from Rio Doce
Claims of torture by arresting agents set him free and a bag of money sent to the judge
Note: In Mexico there is no punishment for escape or attempted escape. The caveat; there were no crimes committed while the escapee is free.
Jesús Peña González, 'El 20', was captured and sentenced, then he escaped and then is granted his freedom
Even though the Attorney General considers Jesús Peña González a high-ranking narcotrafficker in the Sinaloa Cartel, the criminal proceedings against him are a series of screw ups.
Documents from the District Court and the Collegiate Court show evidence of illegal actions by the Secretary of the Navy and the PGR, favoring the case of 'el 20', alleged chief of security for Ismael 'el Mayo' Zambada, and creator of 'Los Ántrax' along with José Rodrigo Aréchiga Gamboa, 'el Chino Ántrax'.
The arrest, Peña González home is the the brown and white structure No.. 642
Peña González escaped from the Culiacán penitentiary last March and Peña defeated the PGR in the Supreme Court of Justice with the ratification of an amparo that annuls the conviction and sentence.
Last February, the judge declared his automatic release of three felonies, but he remained in prison because he faced another criminal offense against health, until he escaped from prison in March.
In April 2016, the judge had already acquitted him of the crimes the PGR accused him of, but the prosecution appealed and managed to have a unitary court revoke the decision and issue a conviction; Then 'El 20' challenged and a collegiate court annulled the sentence, which last month the court ratified.
The judges ruled that in this case there was a corruption in the criminal process, because there were constitutional violations.
According to the amparo, he was detained without an order of apprehension, and detained within a domicile to which they entered without a warrant, and he was unjustly held for nearly 24 hours and was tortured.
The failures of the PGR in court started in the beginning in 2014 because when the presiding judge ordered his release for the organized crime charges because there was insufficient evidence.
The third district judge subjected him to criminal prosecution for health offenses, use of exclusive firearms [exclusive to the military] and possession of gun magazines.
Peña González was captured on 20 February 2014 by elements of the Secretary of the Navy in a house located in Colonia Villa del Real, in Culiacán.
A day later he was made available to the Attorney General specializing in organized crime investigations in Mexico City.
On April 7th, 2016, the judge issued an acquittal because criminal responsibility was not proven, along with the violation of his human rights, illegally obtained evidence, absence of flagrant [acts] in his capture, and prolonged and unjustified detention as well as torture.
The PGR challenged the resolution and the third unitary Tribunal returned an order for re-apprehension.
On July 29, 2016, the Tribunal quashed the acquittal and declared him criminally responsible for the offenses against the health in the form of possession of narcotics called cocaine and marijuana for purposes of trade, carrying of a firearm for exclusive use of the army and possession of magazines for exclusive use [of the army].
The sentence was 13 years eight months in prison and a fine of 14,348 pesos.
'El 20's' defense appealed the sentence in the collegiate court and managed to have the sentence overturned.
The Supreme Court ratified the annulment of the sentence, after 'El 20' had already escaped.
According to the amparo that was issued, among the irregularities is that he was arrested in the early morning of February 20, 2014 and made available to agents of the Public Ministry of the Federation 24 hours later.
The PGR justified the delay because of the transfer that had to be made to Mexico City by orders from higher up, But the judge noted that in Culiacán there were competent authorities to consign it.
The prosecutor of the nation, seated in front of the judge, also did not explain who and why had ordered the transfer and how a higher order is above constitutional human rights that is paramount.
The official version indicates that elements of the navy patrolled and saw that an individual with a firearm tucked in his waistband exiting from a Jeep Rubicon and reached for the weapon.
When they searched him they found the 9mm pistol and in the vehicle they found three two-way radios, three cell phones, a .380 pistol, ten useful cartridges and a magazine with 34 .380 rounds, a 9mm pistol, a grenade launcher tube, a fragmentation grenade, and a 40mm grenade.
They also spotted three cucumbers and three plastic bananas filled with cocaine.
The judge stated that the official version did not hold up, and corroborated the version of 'El 20', backed by witnesses and evidence.
Peña González narrated that he was in his sister's house when the Marines arrived and knocked on the door, so his nephew opened it and they went to the room where he was and after surrendering they began to beat him.
The marines told him that he had a warrant of apprehension and when he asked what it was for, they responded that it was because of a corrido.
His nephew was also tied up and beaten in the house while they were required him to say where the safe houses were and where they hid weapons and drugs.
After about an hour they took them out and drove them to another house where they were tortured and from there they took 'el 20' to the airport to take him to Mexico City.
The Marines said that when they transported him in the patrol he had thrown himself around and had suffered blows, but the experts determined that he presented traumatic injuries related to acts of torture.
"The foregoing makes it possible to assert that wrongfulness in detention was consummated from the moment the defendant was arbitrarily detained,""because the actions of the apprehension agents, and recognizing respect for fundamental rights, because of this, all the evidence obtained from that moment is null," said the judge.
"The seized items, which as are firearms, magazines, cartridges and grenades which the defendant supposedly carried," even with respect to the accusation of possession of narcotics, they would not have existed the defendant hadn't been arrested nor the illegal intrusion to the domicile of his sister where it was, the consequence is that they lack any value.
When the PGR appealed the acquittal, the public prosecutor only took time to justify the delay in making him available and said nothing about breaking into the dwelling that distorted the idea that he was caught in flagrante, nor did they try to justify the documented torture, the collegiate court established.
The court decided to grant an amparo to Peña González and rescinded the sentence for the charges that the judge ordered his release for in February.
'El 20' remained in prison because he faced another criminal charge, but in March he fled the penitentiary of Culiacán along with Juan José Esparragoza Monzón, 'el Negro'; Rafael Félix Núñez, el Changuito Ántrax; Alfonso Limón Sánchez, el Limón; and Francisco Javier Rosales Zazueta, el Chimal.
Last month, the ministers of the Supreme Court of Justice ratified the amparo that vacates the sentence.
Detroit — A pediatrician, a horse groomer and a barber walked into a Novi drug den last month, triggering the second-largest heroin seizure in Metro Detroit history and a $4.5 million mystery federal agents are still unraveling one month later.
Federal agents are tracing the oddball backgrounds of the three men and their possible ties to a Mexican drug cartel after finding $500,000 and 88 pounds of heroin in the Novi condominium. The heroin was packaged in bricks of a brown powdery substance and DEA agents fear the drugs were laced with fentanyl, a powerful pain medication fueling the nation’s opioid epidemic that is so toxic a drop small enough to fit on the tip of a pen is considered fatal.
Interviews and federal court records indicate the July 10 bust disrupted a heroin pipeline stretching from Mexico to Metro Detroit and involved a cast of characters who made repeated trips to the area in recent months.
“Oh, there is more to the picture than meets the eye,” said defense lawyer Elias Escobedo, who represents Adolfo Verdugo Lopez, the 51-year-old pediatrician who hails from the Sinaloa drug cartel’s home turf in Mexico.
Lopez is charged alongside Manuel Arnulfo Barajas, a 21-year-old horse groomer at Los Alamitos Race Course near Los Angeles, and Andre Lee Scott, 25, a barber from San Bernardino, Calif.
The international drug mystery emerged at a $1,200-month, two-bedroom condominium at the Brownstones complex near 13 Mile and Novi roads.
The apartment was rented by a ghost. Brownstones staff never met the renter, who leased the condominium via the internet and always paid with money orders, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrea Hutting said.
“The condominium is located in a subdivision community, providing a buffer from law enforcement detection, as it poses inherent difficulty in conducting surveillance,” Hutting wrote in a court filing. “The strategic location and nature of the rental of the condominium is indicative of a sophisticated drug trafficking organization.”
The roots of the investigation and the drugs’ path to Detroit are unclear but federal agents were tracking Scott in the days leading up to the bust.
Scott led agents right to the Novi drug den.
U.S. District Court
On July 5, five days before the bust, DEA agents were tracking Scott’s cellphone. GPS coordinates showed Scott repeatedly visiting the condo, according to court records.
The condo was sparsely furnished when agents raided the rental at 9:30 a.m. July 10. There were two blow-up mattresses in the bedrooms, a sectional couch in the living room, a dining room table, a flat-screen television, a heat-sealing machine and a digital scale for weighing drugs, according to federal authorities.
Scott, the barber, and Lopez, the pediatrician, were near the kitchen when agents burst through the door. Barajas was leaving the bathroom.
Agents found more than 24 pounds of heroin near the men on the dining room table.
Investigators found more than 61 pounds of heroin in the two bedroom closets, plus $515,710 shrink-wrapped in plastic.
Hutting, the prosecutor, showed a picture of the money during a recent court hearing. One veteran U.S. Attorney’s Office employee, who has sat through thousands of court hearings involving terrorists, corrupt public officials and killers, spied a picture of the cash and shook her head in disbelief.
Outside the condo, agents found more than two pounds of heroin in Scott’s rental car.
In all, agents seized 88 pounds of heroin with a street value of $4 million.
“That is really, quite frankly, a staggering amount of narcotics,” Hutting said.
The LA connection
The Novi drug bust happened six years after the largest heroin seizure in Metro Detroit history. In 2011, investigators seized 152 pounds of heroin and 22 pounds of cocaine at a home in Pontiac.
During the Novi bust last month, investigators found a second rental car outside the condo. The rental belonged to Barajas, the horse groomer. Agents also found airline tickets indicating Lopez had flown from Sinaloa, Mexico, to Los Angeles, prosecutors claimed.
In LA, Lopez met up with Barajas. The duo took a red-eye flight from Los Angeles to Detroit and arrived the morning of the bust, Hutting said.
They stopped at an area Walmart and Barajas bought a disposable “burner” phone — an untraceable tool of the drug trade, the government alleged.
The pediatrician and horse groomer arrived at the condo less than three hours before the bust.
They were scheduled to return to Los Angeles that night.
Despite his age, Barajas is a trusted veteran of the drug trade, the prosecutor said.
“Novices are not going to be involved in this amount of narcotics or this amount of currency,” Hutting said. “Someone who is overseeing this type of seizure that was made is someone who is well-established with a drug trafficking organization and likely has direct ties to a cartel.”
Back in California, Barajas occasionally lived at Los Alamitos Race Course, where he oversaw and cared for race horses. On April 8, three months before the bust, his brown filly “Sweet N Kool” was the first horse in the fifth race at Los Alamitos, according to the track’s racing form.
The horse, however, was a last-minute scratch.
“Manuel has a passion for horses ... his goal one day is to become a horse owner and horse trainer,” sister Marina Barajas wrote in a letter last month in hopes of convincing a magistrate judge to release him on bond.
Barajas has a suspicious pattern of traveling to Mexico and lied to investigators, Hutting said.
After the bust, agents asked Barajas how many times he had traveled to Mexico.
Twice, he said.
Border patrol records showed otherwise.
Barajas has traveled to Mexico six times since 2013, Hutting said.
“As it relates to Barajas’ role in the offense, the government has reason to believe Barajas is related to the Mexican source of supply and that Barajas travels to Detroit to oversee large-scale drug transactions, as he did on this occasion when he was caught and arrested,” the prosecutor wrote in a court filing.
Ties to cartel
During last month’s arrest, investigators found a card in Barajas’ possession.
The card depicted Jesus Malverde, a folk hero considered the patron saint of drug traffickers, Hutting said.
Barajas is a hard-working U.S. citizen with no criminal record who traveled once a year to Mexico for family reunions, defense lawyer Michael Severo said.
Barajas had minimal involvement in the events leading up to the July 10 drug raid, he said.
The lawyer portrayed Barajas as a translator and escort who merely drove Lopez, the pediatrician, to the Novi condo.
“Can you tell me why your client was in Novi?” U.S. Magistrate Judge Mona Majzoub asked the lawyer during a recent court hearing.
“Lopez is from Sinaloa,” he said. “I’m going to allow those facts to hang there.”
The Sinaloa cartel has an established presence in Metro Detroit.
From 2008-12, a branch of the Sinaloa cartel was importing up to 660 pounds of cocaine into Metro Detroit every month, federal prosecutors said.
The cartel used an unlikely tool to avoid detection in Metro Detroit: Leo Earl Sharp, an 87-year-old drug mule from Michigan City, Ind.
Sharp made seven trips to Detroit and was paid about $1.25 million.
Sharp was sentenced to three years in federal prison in 2014 for trying to haul 228 pounds of cocaine into Detroit.
‘He’s so scared’
In January, The Detroit News revealed how the Sinaloa cartel bought a luxury airplane from a southeast Michigan company to haul drugs and senior drug ring members, only to have the aircraft intercepted by federal agents before the pilot flew to Mexico.
Lopez is from Sinaloa, but that does not mean he is a drug dealer, his lawyer said.
“There’s a whole community there,” Escobedo said in an interview. “It doesn’t mean the whole damn community is selling heroin.
“He’s so scared,” Escobedo added, “he doesn’t know if he’s going or coming.”
Lopez has been to Detroit several times for medical conferences and training, his lawyer said.
Lopez told investigators he was supposed to be paid $5,000 to fly to Detroit and photograph the heroin, Hutting said.
Scott, the barber, also has been to Detroit previously, Hutting said. Airline records show Scott has flown to Detroit at least four other times since September.
Scott also has paid to fly at least five people to Detroit since December “in furtherance of his (drug trafficking organization’s) heroin distribution activities,” according to court records.
“(Scott) is not someone who is just starting out in the business of drug trafficking,” Hutting said during a bond hearing last month. “This is indicative of someone who has long been involved, is higher up in the chain and is fully entrenched in drug trafficking.”
Scott, dressed in a red Wayne County jail uniform, shook his head as the prosecutor spoke.
Hutting said the heroin belonged to Scott.
Scott is a high school graduate with a clean record, an entrepreneur who is active in his community, defense lawyer Gerald Evelyn said.
“There is nothing to suggest he is a drug trafficker,” Evelyn said. “He is caught up in a situation.”
Scott grew up near Los Angeles and is a budding fashion executive, besides a barber. He launched the fashion line Aymhiigh Clothing Co. with a friend in 2010.
“Andre always puts other people’s needs before his own and (is) always a call away,” Aymhiigh co-CEO Willie Walker Jr. wrote in a letter to the court. “Andre is a very honorable, humble and mature young man.”
On July 27, lawyers for the barber and the horse groomer unsuccessfully fought to get them freed from jail pending trial.
Prosecutors said the men were dangerous and flight risks, considering the amount of heroin seized and possible 24-year prison sentences upon conviction.
Lopez did not fight for bond and is in jail awaiting trial Oct. 3 in federal court.
Scott and Barajas are safer in prison, the prosecutor argued.
“A drug organization has lost more than 30 kilograms of heroin and more than half a million dollars,” Hutting argued. “Scott and Barajas will likely be responsible for the debt. Their own safety is also of concern, as is the safety of those around them.”
Rush hour starts early on Heroin Highway, generally by 6 a.m. Hockey dads in sport-utes; high school teens in car pools; commodities brokers and pensioners making their early-morning runs into Chicago on I-290. The Eisenhower Expressway – the Ike, as locals call it – is a straight shot in from the western suburbs to the mob-deep blocks of West Chicago. So Gangster Disciples and Vice Lords are up with the sun to pitch their work to the early birds, hugging the corners under the Ike's offramps to do much of their day's business by 8 a.m. Since cheap, potent heroin flooded Chicago 10 years ago and addicted a bell-cow demographic – middle-class whites – those corners off the Ike have become bull markets for gangs strong enough to hold them down. "They serve you in your car, quick-out in under a minute, and you're back home in Hinsdale before the kids wake," says Jack Riley, the ex-special agent in charge of the Chicago office of the Drug Enforcement Administration. "That's why gangsters kill for those corners. They're the Park Place and Boardwalk of the drug game."
Riley, the town's most famous federal agent since the days of the Untouchables, put together a strike force that jailed the major kingpins and left the gangs rudderless and scrambling. "We knocked down the big guys – the suppliers and OGs – but the young ones started killing their way up. That's what happens when you get your targets: The gangsters don't know who they work for." Actually, even before his strike force rolled up the leaders, no one here knew who they really worked for. Riley estimates that Mob City has 150,000 gangsters in residence – and though most are in endless wars with one another, they've all blindly served the same master for 10 years: Joaquín Guzmán Loera, better known as El Chapo. The king of all kings has likely never set foot here, though he made this city his American office, trucking heroin (and coke) from Mexico by the metric ton and taking billions of dollars out in small bills. Chicago has been a most congenial hub for Chapo. Centrally located and braided by interstates, it is a day's drive, or less, from most of America – and from the Mexican border.
(In his Juarez cell jjust told he is going to the U.S.)
For 15 years, Chapo has been Riley's white whale, the object of an obsession that teetered on derangement and sidelined everything else, including his family. "I love my wife and kid, but I was never home for dinner," says Riley, who fought Chapo's proxies in five different cities while rising through the chain of command at the DEA. Seven years ago, when he returned to Chicago for a third (and final) tour of duty, his charge was to quash Chapo's deadliest gambit: a species of heroin spiked with fentanyl that killed seasoned addicts by the hundreds. Riley stormed in, knocked a bunch of heads together and brought everyone – the DEA, FBI, state troopers and Chicago PD – under one roof to chase the "choke-point guys": brokers who were buying in bulk from Chapo and selling wholesale weight to the gangs.
By most measures, Operation Strike Force was a smash success; arrests and seizures soared, the local drug lords fell and the busts netted many millions in cash forfeitures, enough to pay the salaries of strike-force adjuncts. But by the only metric that mattered – the price of heroin on the street – Riley's mission was a wash. "It was 50K a kilo when we started this, and 50K a kilo" three years later, he says.
And so, in 2013, Riley summoned his stagecraft and pronounced Chapo public-enemy number one. At a press conference carried by hundreds of outlets, Riley and members of the Chicago Crime Commission proclaimed Chapo the greatest threat since Al Capone, a mass poisoner of the city and its suburbs. The fallout from Riley's broadside surprised everyone, Riley included. "At most, I hoped they'd find some corrupt colonel to go after him down there," says Riley. Instead, the Mexican government was barraged with phone calls from infuriated business leaders. "They screamed that Chapo was disgracing their country" and demanded his arrest, says Riley. Authorities in Mexico changed their tack, offering new levels of cooperation. That included a firm commitment to use SEMAR, Mexico's tactical corps, to hunt down Chapo in the hills. Working hand in glove, the DEA and SEMAR closed the net on Chapo. A year after Riley's announcement, they chased him to Mazatlán and arrested him, without resistance, in his hotel room. His escape from prison in 2015 merely prolonged the ending: He was busted by SEMAR (using DEA leads) five months after he'd fled. Thus fell the dragon: After a 30-year reign of murder and terror, Chapo was caught fleeing a sewer tunnel in a shit-stained tank top and chinos.
Last spring, I flew out to sit with Riley, who retired after Chapo's arrest. At 59, he'd moved with his long-suffering wife, Monica, to a resort town whose name I can't divulge. (For 10 years, Chapo has had a price on Riley's head, a threat confirmed in recent interviews with captured traffickers.) A ruddy, white-haired bruiser who holds court from a bar stool, Riley seemed dispatched from the days of fedoras and cops lighting Luckies at crime scenes. Born and raised in Chicago, he joined the DEA out of college and moved his family 12 times as he climbed the ladder. By the time he had quit last fall, he was the nation's number-two drug cop, having been at or near the center of nearly every major mission to catch foreign kingpins since the early Nineties. (It was his squad in Washington that built the intel platform to bring down Pablo Escobar in Medellín, Colombia; that helped catch the leaders of the Cali cartel and, later, the overlords in the Mexican mobs.) Riley recites their names, but they mean nothing to him now. Only Chapo endures, though he's being held at the Manhattan Correctional Center, where he awaits his trial of the century in New York.
"Part of me understands it – he's done, he'll die in jail," said Riley. "But the other part says, 'No, he's still out there.' All those routes he opened, all that fentanyl he shipped – he's gonna kill our kids for years to come. This monster he built, this Sinaloa thing: It's too big to fail now, thanks to him."
"Explain it to me," says one retired DEA agent. "How did this fucking mope become El Chapo?"
In the months we talked, either in person or on the phone, Riley spoke of Chapo in the present tense, as though he were still at large at his mountain retreat, running the world's largest supplier of illicit drugs from a town without power or plumbing. Twice, Chapo had famously escaped maximum-security prisons, traveling Mexico in bulletproof cars to dine and frolic with call girls in seaside towns. Since 2001, when he launched a crusade to corner Mexico's $30-billion-a-year drug trade, he'd been everywhere and nowhere, growing the parameters of his empire and leaving defiled corpses as deed of ownership. He waged war by atrocity in Juárez and Tijuana, bribed generals and governors to feed him intelligence, and sent his lieutenants to the DEA, ratting on both his enemies and his allies. "Other bosses you waited out 'cause they always make mistakes," said Riley. "But this guy? Invisible. You couldn't find him."
He grunted and drained the last of his beer. We'd been at this bar for hours and hadn't looked at menus; Riley flagged the bartender and ordered lunch. Since retiring, he had spent his time knocking tee shots into tree lines and starting early on the day's first cold one. Maybe it was just his nervous system resetting, but six months after he left, he still mooned over Chapo, the enigma he never fully worked out: "He's on top for 30 years, has billions of dollars hidden – and he's a second-grade dropout who can barely read and write and has to dictate love letters in prison. So explain it to me, 'cause I don't get it: How did this fucking mope become El Chapo?"
If you wanted to create a nursery for narco princelings, you'd probably build your greenhouse in the mountains of Sinaloa, where the conditions for pathology are peak harvest. A dirt-poor ribbon of rivers and farmland on the southwest shank of Mexico's coastline, Sinaloa was largely ignored by the central government from the moment it became a state, in 1830. Roads went unpaved, villages did without schools, and no self-respecting official would visit the plazas of those remote, no-horse towns in the Sierra Madre. And so the peasants, left to their own devices, developed a shadow economy. In the 1920s and Thirties, they ran booze to Tijuana, where Hollywood's darlings blew in for the weekend to flee the dry torpor of Prohibition. Marijuana grew wild in the pastures; farmers trucked their bales five hours down the road to market in Badiraguato. In time, some harvested the poppy fields that Chinese tradesmen planted in the 1860s. Sons were taught by fathers how to bleed the bulbs for their vile-smelling opium gum. You couldn't make a killing, but you could make a sort of living if your kids didn't waste their days learning how to read.
That was Chapo's boyhood, and the boyhood, by degrees, of most of Mexico's drug lords of the past half-century. He grew up with, or close to, kids who became his partners and, eventually, his mortal foes: the Beltrán Leyva brothers, five cutthroat charmers who would one day be his enforcers and political fixers; the Arellano-Félix brothers, seven legendary sadists who roasted their victims alive in vacant fields. Even Chapo's mentors were from Sinaloa, first-gen capos like Don Neto and El Padrino, who turned a backwoods sideline into a multinational machine that stretched from Cancún to San Diego. To this day, Sinaloa's hills are to gangsters what western Pennsylvania is to frac pads and NFL quarterbacks.
"He came of age in the Eighties, when everyone got rich moving coke," explains one former Mexican operative.
Chapo was one of seven kids born to Emilio, a rancher, and Maria, a devout Catholic, in La Tuna, population 200. The family raised cows and grew sustenance crops behind a two-room house with dirt floors. What money they laid their hands on was earned uphill, where Emilio tended his poppies and marijuana. Once a month, he took the yield to Badiraguato. There he'd be paid for his contraband, then drink and whore all weekend and go home broke. A mean little man, he beat Chapo and his brothers; Chapo fled, for good, in his early teens. He stayed at his grandma's, grew his own weed and sent some of the proceeds home to feed his siblings.
Chapo (Spanish for "Shorty") was a small, squat teen who burned to spit his nickname in people's faces. He wore hats with tall crowns that lent him an inch or two, rocked on his tiptoes when talking to friends and later, as a boss, only posed for photos while standing on a custom-built stool. His will to power sprang from being the picked-on runt despised and driven off by his father. That's not junk science; it's the finding of the psychiatrist who assessed him as an adult in prison. While jailed for eight years in the 1990s, Chapo sat for therapy sessions. The psychiatrist filed a report on the man he treated. Chapo's "tenacity" and "disproportionate ambition" were wound to a sense of inferiority. To compensate, he craved "power, success and [beautiful women]," orienting his "behavior toward their obtention."
No farm was going to hold a kid like that, and at 15 or 16 (early details are murky) he won an introduction to the don of Badiraguato, Pedro Avilés Pérez. Avilés, the first of the air smugglers in Mexico, hired him to do odd jobs for his lieutenants. Chapo rode along on their runs to the U.S. border, soaking up knowledge of roads and checkpoints and befriending dispatchers and truckers. Though he couldn't read or write, he had a head for numbers and a steel-trap memory for detail. Best of all, he didn't have an ounce of mercy in him. Ordered to kill a man, he'd calmly walk up to him and put a bullet in his head.
Avilés' lieutenants were a dream team of smugglers. After Avilés was killed in a shootout with cops, they moved the operation to Guadalajara and named it the Federation. Chapo learned logistics from Amado Carrillo Fuentes, an avid flier who bought a fleet of planes and was nicknamed "Lord of the Skies." From Ismael Zambada, the silent assassin called El Mayo, Chapo learned to leverage violence just so, using only enough to send a message. And from Arturo Beltrán Leyva, he learned bribes were the grease that kept the wheels of power turning. "He was around smart guys and paid attention," says Alejandro Hope, a former senior operative with CISEN, Mexico's version of the CIA. "And his timing was perfect: He came of age in the Eighties, when everyone got rich moving coke."
Chapo's first big break was a quirk of history: the U.S. war on Colombia's cartels. In the 1970s, when Escobar and his counterparts in the Cali mob swamped Miami with coke, they put themselves in the crosshairs of the DEA. "They got rich, then they got lazy – they talked on their phones, which was how we finally took them down," says Riley. By the middle of the 1980s, U.S. Coast Guard cutters had sealed off the cartels' sea lanes in the Caribbean. The Colombians had no choice but to transship over land, sending their coke through Mexico to America. This arrangement wasn't new – they'd used Mexicans for years and paid them flat fees to serve as mules. But now all the leverage was with the Federation, and Chapo was the first to see it. "He said, 'Screw you, Pablo, I've got the smuggling routes. From now on, pay me in coke,' " says Carl Pike, a former special agent in the Special Operations Division, an elite unit created by the DEA that brings together the resources of a couple of dozen agencies to attack the cartels from all sides. "The Colombians took Chapo's terms because he was the best at what he did: getting their drugs off the plane and up to L.A. in 48 hours or less."
"Chapo was creating a new kind of cartel," says one expert.
Then a second piece of luck fell into Chapo's lap. El Padrino, his cartel leader, ordered the kidnapping and killing of a DEA agent named Kiki Camarena. It was a blunder that brought the hammer of God down: a tenacious offensive by the Mexican army, at the behest of the U.S. government. Padrino was arrested and sentenced to 40 years, handing off his kingdom to his capos. In 1989, Chapo's peer group divvied up the country: Amado Carrillo Fuentes took the routes through Juárez; the Arellano-Félixes got Tijuana and the coast, and Chapo took the run straight north to Arizona, sharing Sonora with El Mayo and the Beltrán Leyvas. He had recently turned 30 and was still wrapping his head around the burdens of excessive wealth. But he was already investing in creative fronts: "He bought a fleet of jets for 'executive travel,' and a grocery business to can cases of peppers that actually contained cocaine," says professor Bruce Bagley of the University of Miami, a cartel expert who's written six books on the narco-economy. "He was so sure of his supply lines that he guaranteed shipment. If any of his loads got seized by the cops, he paid the Colombians in full."
While the other capos got drunk on plunder, building villas with waterfalls and private zoos, Chapo lived like a handyman, sequestering himself on a dusty ranch 20 miles clear of Culiacán. (He was by then twice married, with at least seven kids; he'd go on to have 11 more by five women.) But it was his vision that firmly set him apart. "Chapo was creating the new cartel, a decentralized, hub-and-spoke model," says Bagley. "He saw what was happening to the top-down version: If you chopped the head of the snake off – Pablo being an example – the rest of his operation fell apart." Chapo formed alliances with local gangs and cut them in on his profits. He planted cells in new cities and left his staff alone to run them, and happily shared power with his closest partners, El Mayo and El Azul, a former cop. They were men like him: discreet and coolheaded, occupied only by business. The other lords' loud lifestyles were an affront to them. The only fit response was to take their routes from them – and Chapo knew whose turf to grab first.
The other capos got drunk on plunder – Chapo lived like a handyman on a dusty ranch.
There are roughly two kinds of agents who go to work at the DEA. The Type A's – Jack Riley, for one – are moral avengers who wage their war on drugs in a fissile rage. Then there's the second type: the behind-the-scenes mechanic who patiently builds a case for weeks or months, and goes home to his wife and kids at a decent hour.
Miguel Q. is a Type-B plugger who chased Chapo almost as long as Riley did. (Still on the job, he asked that I change his name; active agents risk their safety going public.) He's done multiple missions, on war-zone footing, in cities south of the border. He was on the scene for Chapo's arrest in 2014 – and his escape from prison a year later. "Most ridiculous engineering I ever saw," he says of the trench dug under Chapo's cell from a half-built house a mile away. "I mean, a dead-plumb line" from end to end, and "a hole just big enough for him to ride that cycle" and be out and on a plane back to the hills. "Who even thinks that, let alone does it?"
Well, Miguel, for one: He'd seen it up close as a young agent in the early Nineties. At the time, he was focused on truckloads of coke coming through major checkpoints out west. "It was Arellano-Félix dope, or so we thought," Miguel says – the cartel owned these particular checkpoints. Then his team started hearing chatter about a tunnel underneath the fence. A tip led them to a warehouse on the Mexican side, where miners were digging a quarter-mile tube, with rail cars, strong rooms and ventilation piping. It was a stroke of audacity and technical smarts far beyond the prowess of the Arellano-Félix Organization, who were brutal cocaine cowboys with a penchant for boiling rivals in acid and pouring their remains down a drain. "We're like, 'Who is this guy, and how many tunnels has he got?' " says Miguel. Hundreds more have been discovered in the decades since.
What vexed Miguel wasn't that he knew so little of Chapo; it was that no one in Mexico seemed to
know him either. Since co-founding the Sinaloa cartel in 1989, Chapo had run it, yet there wasn't a single recent photo of him on file. It wasn't till his arrest, in June 1993, that the public got a glimpse of him. He'd been caught in Guatemala after fleeing the country in connection with a gunfight at an airport. The shootout had left several bystanders dead, including Juan Jesús Posadas, the cardinal of Guadalajara. Posadas' murder was an inflection point: the day that Mexico was forced to come to terms with the narco-state growing under its feet.
Chapo was convicted in a closed-door trial and given 20 years, hard time, for narco-trafficking. He treated this as a senseless inconvenience. At Puente Grande, a supermax facility 50 miles west of Guadalajara, he bought off everyone from wardens to washerwomen and settled down to do his business. He received his lieutenants in a sumptuous parlor and sent them away with detailed orders on where to ship his tonnage. He brainstormed markets with his older brothers, whom he'd deputized to manage his affairs. They were easy enough to reach; he had cellphones smuggled in. He was partial to BlackBerry, a Canadian company whose hardware was hellish to crack, says Pike.
But Chapo wasn't all work. He paid guards to round up hookers in town for orgies he threw in the mess hall. He kept up his spirits with fiestas and concerts: Chapo loved to dance with pretty chicas. The first feminist drug lord, he ordered the prison's integration with a select group of female convicts; one of them, Zulema Hernández, became his muse and in-house lover. He sent her schoolboy mash notes in hothouse prose that he dictated to his steno, a fellow convict. All the while, he juggled conjugal visits from his girlfriends, wife and ex-wife. The wear and tear of a multivalent love life took its toll on Chapo. Cocaine had previously been his drug of choice, but in jail he renounced it for Viagra. His people brought it in big batches, along with steak, lobster, booze and tacos – Chapo's weakness, besides women, was food. Eventually, the overindulgence levied its toll: At the time of his rearrest, in 2014, he'd been scheduled to meet with a specialist – "the penis-pump doctor to the stars," says Riley. "The vitamin V didn't cut it anymore."
"We knew he was moving tons while he was still in jail, " says one agent. "Turned out he had hired the warden"
In the end, though, he mostly used his time in jail to learn from the errors of other bosses. "Rule one: Don't talk on phones or send texts," says Miguel, who walks me through Chapo's communications methods. A densely complex system of encrypted squibs and Wi-Fi pings between lieutenants, it was built around a network of offshore servers that bounced the posts off mirrors in other countries. "We found 60 iPhones and hundreds of SIM cards when we raided his house in Guadalajara – and still we couldn't track where his calls came from," says Miguel. Chapo hired experts to constantly revise his tactics, and always made sure to toss his phones after a couple of days of use. He was an early adopter of social media, deploying hackers to mask his instructions to staffers on Snapchat and Insta-gram. "After years of trying to track him, we moved on in 2012 and got up on his tier-two guys – the bodyguards and cooks," says Miguel. Still, it took two years to divine his "pattern of life"– the small corps of people who served Chapo closely and could point to his general location.
A Chapo drug tunnel
Rule number two: Be a nimble supplier. He fitted tractor-trailers with elaborate traps – fake walls and subfloors that hid hundreds of kilos of product (and millions in shrink-wrapped cash on the trip back). He bought jumbo jets and filled them with "humanitarian" goods for drops in Latin America, then flew the planes back, bearing tons of cocaine, to bribed baggage handlers in Guadalajara. There were fishing vessels and go-fast boats and small submarines that could lurk underwater till the Coast Guard passed above. "We knew he was moving tons while he was still in jail, but we didn't find out how till later on," says Miguel. "Turned out he had literally hired the warden" to work as his logistics guy. That warden, Dámaso López, would vanish from sight shortly before Chapo escaped. Over the next 15 years, López rose through the cartel ranks, overseeing much of the daily churn while el jefe traveled the country dodging cops. Though Chapo trusted no one but family members and the men he came up with in Sinaloa, he made two exceptions to that rule. The first one was for López; the second, a pair of brothers who became his distributors in the States. In both cases, he'd have cause to deeply regret it.
Given his honeycomb of routes and the tonnage he pushed through, there wasn't much point in warring for turf. But something happened to Chapo during those eight years in prison, some fundamental shift in his sense of self. Once happy being the wizard behind the curtain, he now seemed intent on announcing to the world who the real boss had been all along. "He broke out of Puente Grande with an S on his chest, thinking, 'I'm the baddest motherfucker on the planet,' " says Dave Lorino, a retired DEA cop who helped mastermind the case against Chapo in Chicago. "He'd learned he could buy anyone, get out of any jail – and there was nothing that us gringos could do about it.""Prison made him hard, at least in his own mind, and all the other bosses were soft," says Riley. "He thought, 'Why should I settle for a chunk of the pie when I can have the whole thing?' "
After escaping Puente Grande in 2001, either crouched in a laundry cart or strolling out the door – "official" versions vary; none are confirmed – Chapo lost no time planting his flag. He paid Tejano pop bands to spread the news, crafting narcocorrida ditties that sang his praises and warned rival capos to leave town. Stories began running in the Mexican papers about Chapo's generosity to the poor. "He was building roads here and sewage plants there and schools in the pueblos and all that crap," says Riley. "But the hell of it is, we never found those schools – and if he ever built a road, it was for his trucks." The thesis of these ploys was always the same: Chapo was the great exception. He was the honorable capo who would swell peasants' hearts with his derring-do defiance of los Yanquis. "Please," says Riley. "This is a guy who chops heads off and leaves 'em in coolers."
In 2002, Chapo launched a war on the Gulf Cartel; he sent his death squad, Los Negros, into Nuevo Laredo to bang it out in the streets. The Gulf returned fire with its own band of crazies, a U.S.-trained group of army deserters who called themselves the Zetas. The Zetas were (and are) a special slice of hell, terrorists who happen to deal drugs for a living and are as happy killing citizens as narcos. To defeat them, Chapo upped his cruelty quotient. His assassins stormed a nightclub and rolled severed heads across the dance floor. Body parts were stuffed in the mouths of dead Zetas as dumb-show warnings to his foes: "A hand in the mouth meant you'd stolen from him; a foot meant you'd jumped to the other team," says Riley.
By 2006, Chapo's violence was general in Mexico. He pushed his fight with the Zetas into Juárez, where the gutters ran red for years. Tens of thousands of people were slaughtered in Murder City, as Juárez came to be known. Riley was the agent in charge of El Paso, Texas, when the worst of the carnage erupted. "We'd intercept calls from the other side of the fence"– Chapo's hit squads checking in with their bosses. "They'd say, 'We took care of that thing on Calle so-and-so; what else you got for us tonight?' "
Being two miles from bedlam – with no jurisdiction – drove Riley to desperate measures. He broke with protocol and phoned the local papers, calling Chapo a "coward" and a "butcher." Chapo took the bait: He put a hit out on Riley. One night, Riley was at a gas station refueling when two men in a pickup pulled in. They got out of the truck and came at him in the dark. He drew his pistol first. They turned and fled. "Maybe that was a warning: 'Back off and shut up,' " he says. "I hope he knew better than to have me whacked. He'd seen what happens when you shoot DEA."
History bears this out: Chapo has never killed a fed or declared war on the U.S. government. But it's clear now that he entertained the option. According to multiple witnesses who'll testify at trial, Chapo went looking for heavy ordnance in 2008 to attack the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City. He was furious at extraditions of cartel leaders, who were getting long sentences in U.S. courts and dispatched to spend their days in federal pens. Many of them were sent to Supermax, a facility in Colorado where inmates live in near-total isolation. It was one thing to do time at Puente Grande, where a man of Chapo's means could live like a pimp while waiting for his crew to dig him out. It was another to go to Supermax, where anyone wishing to pay him a call would be subject to extreme vetting by U.S. Marshals.
Still, that Chapo would consider buying a bomb suggests that he'd lost his bearings. In 2007, Miguel was stationed in Guadalajara when he got a hot tip from Chapo's camp. A ship from Colombia was bound for Manzanillo with an enormous cache of coke onboard. Of even greater interest was the name of the cocaine's owner: Arturo Beltrán Leyva, or ABL. Chapo and ABL had been like brothers since their teens in Badiraguato. They'd made each other rich with their complementary gifts: Chapo the genius at blazing new routes – ABL the master of pervasive bribes. To be sure, there'd been tensions building between them – but what made Sinaloa the world's biggest drug gang was its settling of internal disputes. Its bosses had stuck together while Chapo was away, then welcomed him back, without a squawk, when he returned to his seat of power in 2001.
"For Chapo to reach out about ABL's dope – yeah, I was shocked," says Miguel. "All those years together and all the money they made? Chapo was basically saying, 'No more friends.' " One morning in the fall of 2007, Miguel and 120 heavily armed troops descended on the freighter. Unsealing the shipping pods, they found double what was promised, almost 25 tons of cocaine. Gathered end to end, it ran four basketball courts in length. Street value: $2 billion. "When we loaded it out to burn on the Army base, it was the biggest fire you ever saw," says Miguel. "And I had to stick around for every minute, make sure no kilos went out the door." With the exception of El Mayo, Chapo had burned all his bridges; he was now, like Macbeth, so steeped in blood that there was no going back, only forward.
Somewhere in America, in the witness-security wing of an undisclosed federal prison, sit the two men whose testimony will seal Chapo's fate. Margarito and Pedro Flores, identical twins in their thirties, are two of the least fearsome thugs on the planet, nerds who somehow noodled their way to the center of Chapo's circle. "They're, like, five-foot-five and a buck-40," says Lorino, who spent months debriefing them when they surrendered, in 2008. "I laugh when I read that they're Latin Kings. Real Kings would eat 'em for lunch and still be hungry."
In 2005, while launching his quest to monopolize Mexico's drug trade, Chapo was told about a pair of Chicago natives with the best broker network in the country. For years, the Flores brothers had been buying in bulk from one of Chapo's lieutenants near the border. They were smart and street-avoidant, faithfully paid on time and looked like they worked at a Wendy's in La Villita, the barrio on Chicago's West Side. Chapo was intrigued. Set a meeting, he told his guy. The twins were brought to Mexico for the rarest of honors: a face-to-face with Chapo at his compound.
Chapo was impressed when he sat with them: They were all about business, not bravado. He and his principal partners, El Mayo and ABL, came to an agreement on a deal. They would front as much dope as the twins could handle and give them a break on the price. They would also allow them to buy on terms instead of cash on delivery for each load. For the twins, it was like cashing a Powerball ticket. In the summer of 2005, they swamped Chicago with Chapo's H. Almost immediately, the city's hospitals were packed with ODs: Newbies and junkies abruptly stopped breathing after snorting or spiking the product. The Chicago DEA went to wartime footing, scrambling to interdict the lethal batch that would kill a thousand people in less than a year. Agents traced the dope to a lab near Mexico City. "Chapo had brought in chemists to make it extra-super-duper," says Riley. How? By adding fentanyl, a synthetic narcotic that looks (and cooks) like heroin. "It's 30 to 50 times stronger than heroin, and you can't tell which from which when you cut 'em up." In May 2006, authorities raided the lab and arrested five employees. One of them had been busted in California for manufacturing fentanyl.
But Chapo shrugged off the takedown. He had a vise grip on Chicago – and Milwaukee, Detroit, Cincinnati, Columbus, Ohio, and cities farther east that the twins supplied. From 2005 to 2008, they moved $2 billion of Sinaloa's product. The arrangement worked smashingly for the cartel. It was supplying half the coke and heroin in America, according to reports by the Justice Department. It had partners in West Coast cities, was moving heavily into Europe and planting new cells in South America. With cash pouring in from every port, it was paying hundreds of millions a year in bribes to Mexican officials, and getting white-glove service in return. Attempts by the DEA to catch Chapo and his partners were subverted time and again by intel leaks. "Outside of SEMAR, there was no one we could trust," says a frustrated DEA hand. "We'd feed them information and our informant would turn up dead." Often, Chapo would saunter away minutes before a raid, as if to thumb his nose at the pinche gringos.
He'd become, in short, the man he dreamed up as a pudgy teen in La Tuna. No one could touch him, and everyone feared him. He even had the requisite beauty-queen wife: In the summer of 2007, he married Emma Coronel, Miss Coffee and Guava. Their wedding was virtually an affair of state. Drug lords and ladies flocked to the event, dancing to Tejano combos playing songs of praise for the groom. For added amusement, the Mexican army swooped down to finally corner Chapo. This time, he didn't even make it exciting. He skipped out a full day early, having fed the generals a phony wedding date.
The twins who betrayed Chapo
In May 2008, Chapo called the Flores twins to a summit at his compound in La Tuna. Pedro couldn't make it, but Margarito went, taking the five-hour car ride up the mountain. He'd done this once before, but something was different this time: As he glanced out the window, he saw bodies chained to trees, their flesh being eaten by coyotes. He'd been in the game long enough to know what that meant – there was a tree along that road reserved for him.
At the meeting in La Tuna, Flores was given an ultimatum: Stop buying ABL's dope now, or else. "Chapo told him to pick a team – and he only warned people once," says Lorino, the retired DEA agent. "He liked the twins personally – they'd made him a lot of money," but he was prepared to kill them and forfeit billions to settle his accounts with the Beltrán Leyvas. This put the Flores twins in a desperate fix: Soon after, ABL called and told them not to buy from Chapo. Caught between two killers, the twins weighed out the options, then phoned their lawyer in Chicago. Reach out to the DEA, they told him – "We'll give them Chapo and ABL if they protect us."...........
Until July 27th, the U.S. state department failed to warn travelers of tainted alcohol, served at resorts and clubs causing blackouts.
36-40% of Mexican alcohol is counterfeit, made by cartels.
Dead after drinking alcohol at resort
Mexican authorities swept through 31 resorts, restaurants and nightclubs in Cancun and Playa del Carmen in recent days, suspending operations at two for unsanitary alcohol and in the process discovered a sketchy manufacturer that was supplying tourist hot spots.
Regulators seized 10,000 gallons of illicit alcohol from the company, noting its “bad manufacturing practices,” according to government officials. They did not release the company's name.
Among those suspended: the lobby bar in the Iberostar Paraiso Maya, a resort in the complex where Abbey Conner, a 20-year-old Wisconsin woman, (at left) drowned amid suspicious circumstances while on vacation with her family in January.
Other vacationers later told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel they had blacked out and been assaulted at the resort after drinking at the beach and pool bars.
More: U.S. State Department warns tourists about tainted alcohol at Mexico resorts after blackouts reported
More: Tourists to all-inclusive resorts in Mexico suspect they were given tainted alcohol
More: A Mexican vacation, a mysterious death, and now endless questions for Wisconsin family
[Chivis: below is the State Department Warning...pretty weak]
Alcohol: There have been allegations that consumption of tainted or substandard alcohol has resulted in illness or blacking out. If you choose to drink alcohol, it is important to do so in moderation and to stop and seek medical attention if you begin to feel ill.
Regulators also temporarily shut down Fat Tuesday, a bar in Cancun. They seized a total of 90 gallons of illicit alcohol from the two places, including some from Iberostar’s lobby bar that was unlabeled.
The results of the crackdown were announced Friday at a news conference in Mexico. Officials provided information about the announcement, including an audio recording, to the Journal Sentinel.
“This is huge,” said Ginny McGowan, Abbey Conner’s mother.
“It’s needed. There is obviously stuff going on that needs to be cleaned up and looked into further,” said McGowan, who lives in Pewaukee, Wis. “They need to investigate and interview employees. This makes sense. This needs to happen.”
The crackdown follows an investigation by the Journal Sentinel, launched last month, that exposed how dozens of travelers to some upscale, all-inclusive resorts around Cancun and Playa del Carmen have been blacking out after drinking small and moderate amounts of alcohol.
Some have been assaulted and robbed. All reported little or no recollection of what happened. The incidents occurred at various resorts, to men and women of varying ages, single and in pairs.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel compiled some of the reports of tainted alcohol at all-inclusive resorts in Mexico based on travelers who reached out to the newspaper. (Photo: Journal Sentinel/ Special to The Republic)
An attorney hired by Conner's family noted in a report given to the family in July that "low quality" alcohol was being served and mixed at Iberostar’s Paraiso del Mar bar where Conner and her brother, Austin, had been drinking before they were found floating in the pool.
Austin, then 22, awoke with a concussion and gash on his forehead and no memory of what happened.
The Conner family — and others who have blacked out — suspect tainted alcohol or targeted drugging may be to blame, but Mexican authorities have not disclosed any connections.
The Mexican government has long been aware of the country’s problems with counterfeit and otherwise illicit alcohol. As much as 36% of the alcohol consumed in the country is illegal, according to a report this year by Euromonitor International.
That means the alcohol is sold or produced under unregulated circumstances and is potentially dangerous. The study, conducted in collaboration with the nation’s Tax Administration Service, found that was an improvement from two years earlier, when 43% was illegal.
The national health authority in Mexico has seized more than 1.4 million gallons of adulterated alcohol since 2010 — not just from small local establishments, but from hotels and other entertainment areas, according to a 2017 report by the country's Federal Commission for Protection against Health Risks.
The U.S. Department of State failed to warn travelers about the alcohol risks in resort areas until the Journal Sentinel’s investigation.
In the case of Kukulkan, the lobby bar at Iberostar Paraíso Maya, inspectors found unsanitary conditions including water leakage, lack of disinfectant and expired and unlabeled alcohol.
Other establishments in Playa del Carmen were cited for lack of maintenance, cleanliness, order and documentation, including the Hotel Iberostar Paraíso Lindo, Hotel Iberostar Grand Paraíso, La Chopería, Los forgotten, McCarthy's Coco Bongo, Mexico Loco and Guy Fieri's.
Those cited for the same reasons in Cancun include: Iberostar Hotel, Hooters, La Vaquita, Blue Gecko, Dady’O, Mr. Frogs, Crab House, Fred’s House, Porfirio’s Cancun, The Distillery, La Casa del Habano, and Carlos ’n Charlie’s.
Alvaro Perez Vega, the commissioner of sanitation, called Quintana Roo — where Cancun and Riviera Maya are located — the "most important tourist destination in the country," and said ensuring the safety of visitors there is a top priority.
“We are continuing to work together with the secretary of tourism to ensure the health of the tourists in the region and the rest of the country,” Perez Vega said.
Officials did not say whether they were referring any of their findings for criminal prosecution. Nor did they reveal whether they are investigating the circumstances surrounding Conner’s death.
The head of the Mexican legislative health commission said last month that they are planning a broader effort to crack down on counterfeit alcohol. Details are expected to be revealed in September, he said.
Cousin of "El Chuletita Orozco" tortured and executed
In the early hours of Thursday morning, August 9th, in an inner colonia in La Paz, Diana Laura a man's body was discovered, as have many since the narcounemdo wars came to the city in 2014. The man was Emillio "El Capote" Ibarra Penuelas, cousin of Javier Antonio Orozco Penuelas, "El Chuletita", who played for Tampico Madera league.
Ibarra-Penuelas was confirmed to be "dedicated to narcocomunedo" in Laz Paz, by the state intelligence agencies. Bands of narco retailers sometimes aligned and sometimes loyal to factions of the Sinaloa Cartel, and increasingly the CJNG bloody the streets of La Paz to control the sales of drugs, mainly crystal among the colonias.
Many cousins, many sons, many daughters, many fathers have been killed in the last three years, the homicide rates have soared, killings have past tripled, and there seems to be no calm in sight. Damaso Lopez and Damaso Lopez Serrano are both in custody, yet the violence continues. The violence has always been murky and hard to explain to clear terms in La Paz, since the execution of El Pantera in 2014.
That killing, where Mini Lic was said to be close by, set off the chain of killings and betrayals up and down Baja California Sur, and have not stopped since. Some cells were said to be loyal to El Mayo Zambada and others to Los Damaso's, there were arrests, killings, detentions of various cell leaders, El 28 arrested in November 2014, El Grande arrested in June 2015, after a public shootout, and La China arrested in 2015. Their replacements arrived from Sinaloa, mainland, via place, ferry, private boat. Cells were reorganized, kidnappings, killings, torture carried out. The cycle went on.
I have recently walked the malecon in La Paz, I have sat against the sunset in the peace and tranquility of the darkness against the crimson sky. Families walk, groups practice yoga, women in jogging pants and headphones exercise, while children play, ice creams and crepes in hand. It's a picturesque portrait of all that is right in the world, and in Mexico. There lurks a darkness.
A darkness of torture, and murder, crystal meth and kidnappings, men bound with cheap ropes, or handcuffs, in safe houses, and videos of knifes against skin, narco banners hung from bridges, the insanity of butchery and the depths of depravity.
I have sat in resturaunts in La Paz where men were executed. The darkness moves into the light sometimes. Sometimes it vanishes, yet it always leaves it's mark, and sometimes it grows until it's covered the light, smothered it, extinguishing it, like the final nod of the sun, vanishing into the horizon.
There are signs. Messages in the bodies, signals in the bound, executed bodies, who lay in the sun, or sit in the dark, until they are discovered. There are patterns in the bullets, the ring of heavy arms firing from shoulders of men wearing t shirts and jeans, chasing down another, emptying bullets into the fleeing, until they are lifeless and bleed out, onto the pavement.
There is a sense of familiarly and foreboding in the coolers with body parts, with lifeless severed heads, twisted expressions and slicked, damp hair, eyes staring out of the OXXO coolers. The mass graves, the fosas, the digging, shovels and heavy equipment, unearthing the secrets men tell, when they are alone, tired, beaten and bloody too, they whisper "I will tell you where there are bodies". Where we buried the bodies.
Aftermath of shootout in Acapulco, April 2010
I've never been to Acapulco, but I learned the signs from there. I remember the first public shootouts, April 2010, making headlines, SUV's in the tourist district firing from vehicle to vehicle, with multiple dead, after terrorizing those who witnessed the gunfight. There were pictures of the cars, bullets torn throw windshields, bodies on the street.
It didn't take long from there. There were mass graves discovered soon enough, in the fall of 2010, when 20 plus men from Mexico City on vacation vanished, tourists, innocents, they were kidnapped, killed, and thrown in the mass graves. This was ordered by Carlos Montemayor "El Charro" La Barbie's father in law, who was detained in late 2010, and extradited to the United States some years later.
That was only the beginning. 2011 in Acapulco began with beheading of nearly 30 people, heads and bodies displayed on a public street, and the rest of the year felt like that day, over and over again, as reports of atrocities came out on a daily, weekly basis. The CIDA, Los Rojos, and the other factions splintered, and splintered again, heads, bodies, and constant killings, more brutal then the last continued.
5 killed on Panilla Beach
There are differences to be noted. Acapulco had long been a narco city, controlled by the Beltran-Leyva's until Arturo's killing in late 2009, which preceded the unraveling of Acapulco by less then 6 months. There were heavily armed and established cells under Arturo Beltran, and when they split, they all tore at each other viciously and intimately, like the Teo/Inge wars of Tijuana. They knew each other's secrets and families, girlfriends, and kids.
Los Cabos never had that, while no doubt it was a sanctuary for traffickers since the 80's, it was never an important plaza for staging, and the retail market was independent to a degree. That's all changed now, as cells have moved in to fight for these very markets, that were nonexistent to a degree 10 years ago, before the crystal meth expansion pushed it into the major markets and cities across Baja.
As Alejandro Hope noted in an article in June, the similarities between Los Cabos, Acapulco, Cancun are there. He describes how the cities themselves, are breeding grounds for the kind of insecurity and descent into chaos we have witnessed. There is overwhelming concentrated urban poverty in all these places, pushing out for the main tourists and upscale areas, which are a small, and outnumbered portion of the city. The murders were 300 last year, and will be more this year, they have passed 200 already.
Most of the cities population is below the poverty line, in whatever scale you wish to use. There is no real economy, besides tourism, and construction, based on tourism. What economy there is besides that is vulnerable to extortion. There are a lot of young men, young people, who are able to be recruited for the killing, participating the drug trade, extortion, kidnapping. Endless recruits. And, then you bring in the drugs. Get the young recruits addicted, and use them until they are worthless, then kill them, and recruit another. It's what is done in Tijuana.
The cell leaders and shifting alliances, is the same as Acapulco, as names like El Javier, Los Mayitos, Los Pepillos, El Lucifer, El Babay, who was arrested in June. Some are detained, some are murdered outside clubs in Zona Dorada, like "El Docil", executed by ambush, in December 2015, after watching Revolver Canabis perform, or El Javier executed in Culiacan in June 2016.
El Javier, murdered in Culiacan
The shootouts, then the executions, then the narco messages, then the fosas, then the mass graves, and public killings. These have all happened already. And they haven't stopped or slowed down. 6 bodies were found dismembered in various locations in March. In April, a journalist, Maximino Rodriguez Palacios was murdered, who reported on crime and security in Baja California Sur. In early May 8 men were killed in a shootout with authorities, they were said to be part of a cell of Damaso Lopez. June, saw the uncovering of another fosa with 14 bodies, that I believe grew to 22, in the passing days. June also saw another two heads found in coolers.
A family of five was attacked on Palmilla Beach, over the weekend. A group of gunmen exited vehicles and fired on the family with pistols and assault rifles, killing three men, and leaving a small child, and a mother alive, likely by chance. Less than 2 days ago, a man was executed, again in daylight after being pursued by gunmen in the tourist zone Plaza Peninsula. That was 9 killed over the weekend, including other executions.
Narco Fosa in Los Cabos
This isn't about Los Cabos being safe or unsafe for tourists, it is still safe. Go today. But, don't close your eyes to the reality, and don't think because you are safe in a resort, that you aren't aware of the violence that has descended to these places, because of the kind of inequality expressed by the dynamic of the tourist city. They don't want to know, they don't want to see. They want their instagram shots, and their quick vacation, they want to be passive. They want to look away from the violence. Hope calls these places a facade. Potemkin by the Sea.
Tourists marvel at the low cost, the beauty of the city, the paradise, the selfies, the snapchats, the beaches and bikini's, unaware, or uncaring what is bred across the city, where that cost is paid for in blood. A place where lives are cheap, and men plan executions in safe houses, and stalk their targets, to catch them, at the beach, exposed, shirtless, with family, enjoying the breeze, and the clear, clue water, stretching out across the Pacific.
In January, a lone gunman entered the trendy Blue Parrot nightclub in the upscale Mexican resort town of Playa del Carmen and opened fire. Chaos ensued as the crowd scrambled for cover as the gunman traded shots with another man inside the club and security working the annual BPM music festival tried to suppress the melee.
When the bullets stopped flying in what is believed to be a drug cartel-related gunfight, five people were dead – including a Canadian bodyguard caught in the crossfire and an American teenager who was trampled to death as panicked partiers fled the club.
On Sunday, sunbathing tourists were forced to take cover on the white sand beaches of Los Cabos – a popular getaway at the southern tip of Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula – as gunmen unloaded and left three people dead.
These two incidents bookended a bloody eight months for the resort towns of both of Mexico’s coast, heightening concerns that the country’s ongoing drug war could leave more tourists dead and threaten Mexico’s multibillion dollar tourism industry.
“We’re in a period of disequilibrium and it will take some time to get back to equilibrium,” Christopher Wilson, the deputy director of the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, told Fox News.
In Quintana Roo, the Mexican state that is home to both Cancún and Playa del Carmen, the government has recorded 134 homicides this year, which is nearly equal to the 165 the state saw in the entirety of 2016. The Benito Juárez municipality, which includes Cancún, has already surpassed last year’s homicide total of 89 when it ended June with 95 murders and in nearby Solidaridad has registered 21 slaying through June, closing in on last year’s total of 26. In Los Cabos, homicides in the famed beach area are up 400 percent this year.
The U.S State Department, which last updated its Travel Warning for Mexico last December, cautioned travelers of the dangers of travel in Baja California, but so far has no advisory for Quintana Roo.
Mexico’s drug war, which began in earnest in 2006 when then-President Felipe Calderón declared an all-out military offensive on the country’s narcrotraffickers, has left at least 200,000 dead. While current President Enrique Peña Nieto came into office in 2012 at time when violence was on the decline, the bloodshed continues and in June the country saw a record number of killings with the 2,566 homicides victims being the most in a month since the Mexican government started releasing that data in 2014.
The skyrocketing demand for heroin in the United States due to the opioid crisis – cartels are believed to make somewhere between $19 and $29 billion annually from the U.S. drug market – and the splintering of major drug trafficking organizations following the arrests or deaths of their leaders are believed to be the main factors for the spike in violence in places like Cancún and Los Cabos.
The arrest and extradition of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán to the United States has created a massive power struggle within the Sinaloa Cartel, once the country’s largest and most powerful drug trafficking organization, and is believed to be the main cause of violence along Mexico’s Pacific coast. Disparate factions of the Sinaloa Cartel, along the rising Cartel Jalisco Nuevo Generación, are also known to be active in Quintana Roo.
“The overall rise in violence in Mexico is due to the extradition of “Chapo” Guzmán,” Wilson said. “Simply because of internal criminal group dynamics there is a natural waxing and waning of violence. The one constant is that there is no governmental structure to respond effectively and until that is implemented these types of flare-ups will continue to happen.”
Mexico’s tourism officials are undeniably concerned with the spike in killings and the accompanying bad press. Tourism is the fourth largest source of foreign exchange for Mexico, with visitors doling out an estimated $20 billion a year to visit the country’s beaches, clubs and famed archeological ruins.
Drug war violence has already turned one of the country’s preeminent tourist hotspots, Acapulco, into one of the country’s most dangerous cities with dead bodies being hung from bridges, human heads being left in coolers outside city hall and shootouts occurring at posh hotels.
At least in regards to Cancún and other Caribbean resort towns, however, both Mexican officials and outside experts attest that while violent crime may be on the rise there is little chance of it reaching the endemic levels seen in Acapulco and other towns along the country’s Pacific Coast – home to the traditional trafficking routes used by the cartels.
“Tourist security has been a constant priority for the authorities,” Daniel Flota Ocampo, director of Riviera Maya Tourist Promotion, told USA Today, adding that the violence is between “criminal groups settling scores among themselves” and that authorities are taking action against them. He also noted that the majority of the violence has occurred far from the all-inclusive resorts frequented by tourists.
For now, it appears that the violence has not deterred tourists from vacationing along Mexico’s coasts. Occupancy rates at hotels in Cancún are at 90 percent and 74 percent in Los Cabos.
Mexico also saw a record 35 million international travelers visit the country last year – a 9 percent jump compared to 2015. The Mexico Tourism Board aims to reach 50 million international visitors by 2021.
posted by Yaqui for BB republished from Reuters photo from Alternativo Noticias
A Mexican federal police officer who captured drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman in northwest Mexico last year was moved for his own safety to a posting at the Mexican embassy in Washington, DC, according to two Mexican law enforcement sources.
Nicolas Gonzalez was a senior federal police officer in the northwestern state of Sinaloa during the January 2016 capture of Guzman, the sources said. Gonzalez is now Mexico's law enforcement emissary in Washington, according to the sources and the Mexican foreign ministry website.
Currently awaiting trial in New York after being deported to the United States, Guzman was re-captured in the Sinaloa town of Los Mochis. The kingpin, who ran the feared Sinaloa drug cartel, had been on the run after infamously escaping through a tunnel from his high-security jail in 2015.
During the navy-led operation to detain Guzman, the drug lord and his henchman evaded the marines by escaping via the sewer. However, after stealing a car, they were stopped by federal police who had been tasked with blocking roads out of Los Mochis and were unaware of the navy's hunt, the sources said.
The police officers who inadvertently stopped Guzman, for speeding and driving in a stolen car, phoned Gonzalez, who took over custody of Guzman at the motel where he was being held.
Gonzalez was unwilling to hand his prized charge to the navy, the sources said.
As such, the capture of Guzman after escaping the navy was a big victory for the federal police and brought Gonzalez into the spotlight.
Gonzalez's quiet transfer to Washington last year was portrayed as a promotion, but was mainly due to fears for the safety of him and his family, the two sources said.
Violence in Sinaloa has jumped since Guzman's detention, as tensions within the cartel and incursions from other criminal gangs have sparked a sharp rise in killings.
Gonzalez could not immediately be reached for comment, and the foreign ministry referred questions to the National Security Commission, which did not immediately reply to requests for comment.
Guzman was transferred under heavy guard from his cell to a court in Brooklyn, New York, on Monday.
Bjeff for Borderland Beat republished from the Monitor
Chivis Note: A tiny town with big problems…
La Joya is a tiny Texas town which dots the southern border having a population of 4000. It appears that Hernandez hoped to use his police chief position to bump-start a political career. He was a candidate for Hidalgo County sheriff, with unsuccessful bids for the Democratic Party nomination in 2012 and 2014. He later attempted an unsuccessful write-in campaign in November’s general election.Hernandez replaced former chief Julian Gutierrez, who was fired by the La Joya Mayor. Gutierrez had worked as a lieutenant in the department before he replaced former chief Jose Del Angel, who committed suicide in 2011. In the criminal complaint against Hernandez, it is alleged that Hernandez told an informant that he was “close friends” with CDG leader “El Toro”. Read details in the complaint at bottom.
El Toro was killed in April in a massive shootout with the Mexican Marina. -Note Chivis-
Article from The Monitor by Lorenzo Zazueta
A former La Joya Police Chief faces federal drug charges after a more than yearlong investigation revealed he was allegedly working as a member of a drug trafficking organization.
Federal agents arrested Geovani Hernandez, 43, of La Joya, over the weekend in connection with a federal investigation that revealed the former head of the La Joya Police department had been working with a go-between contact for an unidentified drug trafficking organization, according to court records.
Hernandez stood before U.S. Magistrate Judge Dorina Ramos on Monday morning for his initial appearance where he heard the charges against him.
He is set for a detention hearing Friday where it is possible he could be released on bond.
Hernandez, who resigned from the La Joya police department in January 2015 to pursue business interests, faces three federal charges, attempt to possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance, possession with intent to distribute more than five kilos of cocaine, and aiding and abetting, according to court records unsealed Monday.
Hernandez, Progreso Police officials said, was employed as a "provisionary sergeant," but did not specify how long he had been with the department.
During an extraordinarily brief news conference Progreso Police officials announced Hernandez, who was being investigated during his time at Progreso, was no longer with the department effective Monday.
They said they received word of his arrest on federal drug charges but refused to take questions from members of the media.
He ran unsuccessful bids for Hidalgo County Sheriff in 2012 and 2014.
The complaint details Hernandez’s communication and meetings with confidential informants working with the government on at least six different occasions.
Special agents with Homeland Security Investigations in McAllen received word in Aug. 2016 that Hernandez was helping move drugs as a member of an unidentified drug trafficking organization, the complaint states.
On May 30 Hernandez met with a confidential informant to discuss an “illegal business venture.”
During the meeting Hernandez allegedly told the informant that he needed money for his Hidalgo County Constable campaign. He also told the informant that he was a close friend of Gulf Cartel Plaza boss Juan Manuel Loza-Salinas, aka “El Toro,” who ran a plaza in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico, the complaint states.
“ (The confidential informant) told Hernandez that his organization was sending vehicles north and that they needed to run record checks on vehicles. Hernandez told the CI to find him the vehicles’ identifiers and that he would get him the information they needed in exchange for $1,000,” the complaint states.
Hernandez met with the CI days later where he handed the CI a document that contained detailed information regarding the vehicle license plate.
In late June, Hernandez met again with the CI; this time the CI handed Hernandez a note with a person’s name and date of birth and asked him to run a background check on the person to see if they were working as an informant.
He was paid approximately $2,000 to do this, records show.
In another instance just last month the CI met with Hernandez again and said they needed to drive a vehicle for the trafficking organization from Progreso to Pharr. The CI told Hernandez that they would drive to a warehouse in Progreso where they would load the trafficking organization’s “items” and transport them to Pharr.
The CI told Hernandez that he would receive half of the $10,000 they were receiving for the job.
“Hernandez told the CI not to tell him what the vehicle would be transporting, not to discuss any details on their current cell phones and to buy new cell phones,” court records show.
A month later the two met again.
“On July 15, 2017, based on phone calls, meetings and payments to Hernandez, HSI agents in anticipation of the operation, loaded 10 bricks of a white powdery substance weighing approximately 10 kilograms into an undercover vehicle,” the complaint states. “Only 1 brick weighing approximately 1.1 kilos contained cocaine hydrochloride — subsequently (the CI) took possession of the vehicle.”
The CI told Hernandez during that meeting that the organization needed his help to make sure the vehicle got through Progreso without being stopped; Hernandez allegedly agreed and told the CI to get into his own personal vehicle, the complaint states.
Later that day Hernandez was paid $5,000 for his services.
The investigation into Hernandez, dubbed Operation Blue Shame, was a collaborative effort between several law enforcement agencies including Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and IRS Criminal Investigations, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s office.
The former Progreso sergeant appeared as an actor in a narco-corrido music video that focused on drug-running cocaine from Mission to Houston. The video, published in November, re-surfaced the same day news broke about Hernandez’s arrest.
Gerardo Hernandez, the musical talent, sings about the smuggling of 6,000 kilos through the checkpoint near Encino — more commonly referred to as the Falfurrias checkpoint.
It’s unclear if Geovani Hernandez and Gerardo Hernandez are related
The song appears to reference a deal between narcos and law enforcement officers to successfully transport 10trucks filled with 600 kilos of cocaine each. The former Progreso sergeant appears to represent a law enforcement officer in the video.
“In a lapse of 30 minutes, each truck was arriving,” the song stated in Spanish. “They would put them in the warehouse and they would unload them. Each bundle accounted for — replete with white powder."
Before they get into the case the new legal team of El Chapo Guzman wanted assurances from the United States government not to go after their paid fees in a form of forfeiture. On Friday August 11th, the feds sent a letter to the court addressing this and other issues. [read the letter below in the included scribd document.]
“Certain private counsel have contacted the government and advised that they have obtained signed retainer agreements from the defendant. These attorneys, however, have sought prospective, written assurance that the government will not seek, at any time, to forfeit any legal fees collected by them for their representation of the defendant. In response, the government has advised private counsel that it will not grant a blanket, prospective assurance that it will forgo forfeiture of any and all funds received from the defendant for his legal fees. The government also advised that, should an actual forfeiture issue arise with respect to attorney fees, the parties can address the issue at that time. Therefore, the government respectfully requests that the Court deny the defendant’s request to set a deadline to provide the aforementioned assurance as moot.”
The answer: sorry, no guarantees that we will not go after your paid fees.
At a federal court hearing on Monday, U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan advised Chapo’s legal team, that if they took the case, there was no guarantee that prosecutors wouldn't later seize their fees if they it could been demonstrated that the funds came from his organized crime empire.
Judge Cogan stated; "I'm not going to pressure the government to create a carve-out for counsel fees,"
There is a point of law, that defense monies but be “clean”. That is why high profile narcos, who qualify being included in the “Forbes wealthiest” lists, have used public defenders and do not have a high powered, densely staffed legal team.
In effect, funds they have, or have invested must be proven to not have been acquired through an unlawful manner or through criminality.
Ditto for any funds used to pay legal fees. For example from family funds will be scrutinized. And for that matter if Carlos Slim or Bill Gates suddenly had a mental lapse and wanted to fund Chapo’s defense, he could, but then every aspect of his personal wealth would be subject to government eyes. Not likely to happen.
A bright spot for the diminutive capo, was that family members were in the courtroom. Although he was not allowed to speak to his family, he smiled and waved acknowledging their presence.
Tomorrow Chapo will be allowed to visit his sister, the first visit by any family member he has been allowed. Other than his visits from his legal team, he has been allowed no visitors. Even his attorneys have had to visit “no contact”, with a glass partition between them.
In a press conference after Monday’s hearing Chapo’s tentative attorney Jefferey Lichtman said, "We are looking forward, desperately, to come into this case and fight for Joaquin Guzman. ... The guy has a constitutional right to the best counsel he can get”.
Every day in various parts of the country there are armed clashes between groups of organized crime, which seek to control as many municipalities as possible. It is a rampant race among dozens of organizations, where the will never be a definitive “winner”. Even so, these criminal groups have incentives to try and expand their areas of influence and keep the plazas that are under their control.
Control translates into income.
In order to facilitate the understanding of the functions that the different locations fulfill, the author has decided to group them into five categories based on their characteristics:
1) Border points, these are the municipalities bordering the United States, Guatemala and Belize, which serve as a point of Mexico’s entry or exit of drugs and other illicit products.2) Other points of entry/exit of illicit products would be the municipalities wjhere main ports and airports are located. This includes miniciplaities where waterfront strips can accommodate smaller boats.3) Production or resource extraction ones, including municipalities where marijuana, heroin, synthetic drugs are produced, as well as fuel, metals and minerals can be illegally extracted/mined. 4) Drug sales or illegal market operations. These are typically populated municipalities or tourist corridors where illegal products can be traded. This category also includes areas where important legal markets serve the organizations for money laundering.5) Transit points for drugs or other illegal products, which are the regions that are on the main routes of drugs or illegal products into the United States.
Mini Lic associate lieutenant pleads guilty to trafficking from Sinaloa to Tijuana
As Damaso Lopez-Serrano adjusts to live in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown San Diego, a looming structure overlooking the city, and the bay, his close associate Jesus Manuel Salazar-Nunez has pled guilty, on the day he was scheduled to go to trial, in the court of Dsitrict Judge Dana Sabraw, who is overseeing prosecutions against Chino Antrax, and Serafin Zambada-Ortiz. He pled to a three count indictment, conspiracy to import cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin.
All these cases, the flow chart of how drugs are trafficked across the country through San Diego, stem from Operation Narco Polo, which will be the defining investigation that brought down the Sinaloa Cartel, as we knew it from 2006 to 2015.
From Narco Polo, prosectors assembled indictments against 60 members of the Sinaloa Cartel, starting in 2011, and ending at the end of 2015, though the resounding round of indictments will likely be against what leadership remains, including Ivan and Alfredo, though Ivan is named in the primary case of Narco Polo.
For now, there is Lopez-Serrano, who enjoyed the fans, the glamour, the success of a narco-junior, from his father, the friend of Joaquin Guzman Loera. Lopez-Serrano self surrendered at the Calexico port of entry late last month, the US Attorney's office in San Diego, described him as the highest ranking cartel member to do so.
He had been hiding in Mexicali, in safehouses, assumedly on the run, and lacking in resources, though his surrender may have been recommended by his father, as the only way to save his son's life. His one time friends and compadres, Ivan and Alfredo, after securing El Dorado, and the rest of Los Damaso's territory, would have killed him eventually.
Behind Lopez-Serrano, but first to be captured, and first to plea, is Salazar-Nunez, 35, of Sinaloa. He was arrested at the Hatfield-Jackson international airport in September 2015, by federal task force agents, on the OCEDTF, Organized Crime Drug Trafficking Task Force, which handles many cases in San Diego, including Operation Luz Verde, which returned indictments against dozens of CAF members and affiliates in July 2010, and had prepared a sealed indictment against Salazar-Nunez in early 2015.
In Salazar-Nunez possession was a Blackberry, that being intercepted by the task force, who had been listening and watching, as they seized his and Lopez-Serrano's drug shipments, and watched their reactions. Court documents do not indicate how they infiltrated their operation, but it is noted it came from previous Narco Polo cases, and likely informants, as well as common wiretaps.
Salazar-Nunez and Lopez-Serrano organized drug shipments send by tractor-trailer through Sinaloa, to safe houses in Baja California, Tijuana, and then trafficked to San Diego. It is unknown if the product was then sent out of San Diego or distributed locally. The amounts are interesting, and may indicate the product was for a certain customer. The first to fall was a tractor trailer in Sinaloa, which US agents directed elements of SEDENA to intercept.
The load was 285 kilos of methamphetamine, 11 kilos of cocaine, and three of heroin. The next was in April 2015, in Los Mochis, at the Culiaican/Guasave Navy checkpoint. The load was hidden in 19.2 tons of shrimp, 422 kilos of methamphetamine, 38 kilos of heroin, and 3 kilos of cocaine. The next was in August, 165 kilos of methamphetamine.
Agents arrested Salazar-Nunez flying into Atlanta, and he has been in custody ever since. It is likely he had direct dealings with Mini Lic, and could be able to testify, if he decides to cooperate. He is facing a life sentence, based on his plea, and the quantities involved.
This answers some questions about Mini Lic's and his fathers operations, and where, and how much they trafficked, and who passes the most product through the Tijuana plaza. Mini Lic was charged in a similar indictment, filed in August 2016, 11 months after the arrest of Salazar-Nunez, for the same drugs described in the indictment against Salazar-Nunez. The redacted indictment also charges Nahum Abraham Sicarios, "El Quinceanero", detained days after Mini Lic's surrender in Calexico. Sicarios was detained in a Mexico City condo complex, similar to where Damaso Lopez Sr was arrested, in late May 2017.
From Mexico City, to Sinaloa, to Tijuana, to San Diego, and across the country to Atlanta. The flow of traffic, of product, of money, is revealed, and exposed. There is more to tell. More to explain, and to compromise, if Mini Lic decides it will be in his best interests to tell his lifetime of secrets.
Mini Lic, represented by Michael Littman, prominent San Diego attorney, has pled not guilty to the charges, and waived his right to bail. And, now they wait. He is in good company, though through bars and walls, and floors, they are worlds apart, MCC houses Chino Antrax, Serafin Zambada Ortiz, among dozens of others Sinaloa traffickers, who can sit and remember, la vida mafia. The girls, the parties, the shipments, the houses and cars, maybe they will see it again some day. And maybe not.
OAKLAND — While a Hayward man allegedly was posting pictures of Xanax, pot, and guns for sale on Instagram, Drug Enforcement Administration agents were busy taking screenshots.
Last week, federal authorities made their move, arresting 20-year-old Marcos Hatch on charges of trafficking alprazolam, a drug used to treat anxiety. He faces five years in prison, but court documents indicate that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is reviewing the case to recommend federal gun charges be filed as well.
Marcos Hatch, seen here in one of the numerous Instagram photos that have now become evidence in a federal drug trafficking case. (U.S. District Court Records)
According to a DEA affidavit released Friday, authorities came across Hatch’s Instagram account while researching another suspected drug dealer named Christian Vanleer. It all started when an undercover Oakland policeman requested to follow Vanleer on Instagram and he accepted, unwittingly allowing the feds access to his pictures and follower lists.
Police also requested to follow some of Vanleer’s followers, including one named “triggerplayornoplay” (sic), who was later identified as Hatch, according to federal agents.
Authorities then began monitoring Hatch’s account day-to-day. They identified about 20 pictures advertising prescription painkillers and Xanax, and believe he used the hashtag #Holla to invite customers to purchase illegal drugs.
In other pictures, other users would do business with Hatch in the comments section. For instance, one user commented on a picture of marijuana, “How much for (an ounce)?” and Hatch replied, “200,” according to federal agents.
Other photos showed stacks of U.S. currency, including one where authorities say Hatch showed his face. It was hashtagged #Takenpenitentiarychances (sic), an indication that, “(Hatch) obtained the large amount of money shown by selling controlled substances, and he was taking a chance that if he got caught, he would be arrested and go to jail,” a federal agent wrote in the affidavit.
In April, more than a month before Hatch was arrested, authorities were given a search warrant to his account and began electronically monitoring his personal messages. They say he had numerous conversations involving the purchasing or selling of handguns and prescription drugs.
On May 16, authorities searched Hatch’s home and seized numerous guns, including an AK-47 in Hatch’s bedroom. They found small amounts of various drugs, clear plastic baggies, scales, and other evidence of drug sales, according to the DEA.
Meanwhile, Vanleer, as it turned out, was being investigated for his alleged role in an unrelated Bay Area drug trafficking ring centered in Discovery Bay, and headed by a man named Oscar Escalante. Authorities say its members distributed heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana and prescription pills all over the Bay Area and beyond.
Unconfirmed organizational chart of Los Damaso, before the fall
There will be one more joining the family members and trafficking networks of Sinaloa cells, now waiting in purgatory at the San Diego MCC. Alvaro Lopez-Nunez, brother of Damaso Lopez, and uncle to Damaso Lopez-Serrano, was taken into custody yesterday by the DEA. Lopez-Nunez was arrested at the Nogales Port of Entry, according to a Press Release from the San Diego US Attorney's Office, posted today.
Lopez-Nunez, 38, was one of several names which appeared redacted on the indictment filed in August 2016 in the Southern District of California, for the arrest of Mini Lic, and Nahum Abraham Sicarios-Montalvo, aka El Quincenerao. He is charged with conspiracy to import cocaine, methamphetamine, and heroin, likely linked to seizures that took place in 2015, with tractor trailers loaded with drug shipments were seized by SEDENDA acting on federal task force intelligence.
Lopez-Nunez was arraigned in Tucson today, on the San Diego indictment, and will be extradited in the coming days and weeks. There was a sealed arrest warrant for him, issued in August 2016, after the indictment was filed.
Earlier this week, Jose Manuel Salazar-Nunez pled guilty, to an earlier 2015 indictment, directly linking him to the above noted seizures and trafficking conspiracy. It is unknown if Salazar-Nunez and Lopez-Nunez are related, though it is a possibility, the latter is cousin of the Lic family. The circumstances of his arrest are unclear, whether he "self surrendered" like his nephew, or he was arrested trying to cross into the US.
It seems the Lopez family had some safe access in the area, as they both chose to avoid Baja California, and Tijuana, to either make their way to the US, or turn themselves in. Little is known about Alvaro Lopez-Nunez, but he was directly involved in the trafficking and seemed to avoid attention in Mexico, with not even an AKA officially attached to his name.
El Pollo allegedly, and the arrest near Culiacan, in May2017
Days before Damaso Lopez was detained in Mexico City, his nephew, "El Pollo", David Lopez was arrested near El Dorado, and allegedly had a heart attack, or medical emergency during his transfer, to Culiacan, and died. Would this be Alvaro Lopez-Nunez son? "El Pollo" was said to have helped in the apprehension of his uncle by providing information.
He will face the same choices all the men inside the MCC must. They are facing decades in prison, and as far as Los Damasos, were no longer safe in Mexico, as they chose to surrender to the DEA, or risk arrest to enter the United States. They will cooperate, or they will choose not to. Those are the only options, unless they are spared that choice like El Pollo, and die before they have to make it which given their status at the MCC will be unlikely.
They have stories. They have knowledge. When the money goes, and the protection follows, and the luxury sub divisions turned to safe houses along border town, and you read the indictment against you, the knowledge is all you have left.
It's near poetic to watch these structures collapse, it seems like yesterday sometimes, and it's February 2014 again, and the pictures of Damaso Lopez are circulating, and the magazines are proclaiming him heir, and his son the next in line. Heavy lies the crown.
When we talk about cities in Mexico having security issues, most people think of the municipalities where there is high number of intentional homicides recorded, such as Acapulco, Tijuana, Culiacan, Ciudad Juárez or Chihuahua City. However, there are smaller municipalities that have homicide rates per capita  that exceed two, three, four or even five times those of the five aforementioned municipalities.
These are municipalities that are off the radar of the authorities, and national media, therefore, their security crises have been neglected. Nor do they often receive federal support, even though their police agencies have an inadequate number of police personnel and insufficient equipment. For example, in recent years, most of them have not been approved for requests for resources  from SUBSEMUN [Subsidy for Security in the Municipalities a federal resource that is granted to some municipalities]  or FORTASEG (a subsidy that is granted to municipalities and, where appropriate, for the strengthening of security issues) , even though it is precisely in those municipalities where support is most needed.
A clear example of this problem is the municipality of Guadalupe and Calvo, which is south of Chihuahua, which has had 56 intentional homicides throughout 2017. These may not seem many if compared to the 303 occurred in the same period in Ciudad Juárez or the 186 of Chihuahua capital. However, Guadalupe and Calvo has only a little more than 56 thousand inhabitants, so it has a rate of 97.55 homicides per 100 thousand inhabitants , while Ciudad Juárez has only 21.18 homicides per 100 thousand inhabitants and Chihuahua capital 20.29 .
This means that when we measure the homicides in relative terms, Guadalupe and Calvo have a murder tally almost five times larger than the two main municipalities of Chihuahua.
Another paradigmatic case is the municipality of Concordia in Sinaloa , which with a population of just over 30 thousand inhabitants, has had 25 intentional murders in 2017 and has a rate of 82.07 homicides per 100 thousand inhabitants, which exceeds by more than Double that of Culiacan, which has 35.15 homicides per 100 thousand inhabitants.
The following table shows the 15 municipalities in the country with the highest number of homicides per 100,000 inhabitants  :
The common element that is repeated in all these municipalities is the direct confrontation between two or more criminal organizations. For example, Aguililla and Múgica in Michoacán, there is an open dispute over the control of the zone between the Cartel Jalisco New Generation, the Viagras and the remnants of the Caballeros Templarios. In Madera, Chihuahua, for years the Sinaloa Cartel and the Juárez Cartel have disputed control.
It is important that the governments attend to what happens in these municipalities as soon as possible, because in some cases a time bomb is ready to explode. The country can’t support a new San Fernando, Allende or Ayotzinapa, whose realities are very similar to those that live in the 15 municipalities that were mentioned in this article.
If we analyze the worst tragedies in terms of public security that we have had in the country, most share a characteristic, they were presented in towns that are sparsely populated, with high levels of insecurity, which did not receive attention due from the authorities.
For this reason, I think it is important for the federal government to think by 2018 about an emerging program to support small municipalities with high levels of insecurity, including equipment for local police, support for hiring more staff, deployment Of federal forces and more training for police officers.
Note: Other municipalities, such as San Martín Totoltepec, Puebla or Magurichi, Chihuahua, which had respectively 162.6 and 154.47 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, were not included in the analysis, since the number of homicides was very low (less than 5) and in Such a scenario cannot be ruled out that such killings have been isolated and not a sustained trend.
 Homicide rates per 100,000 inhabitants were calculated using the figures of willful homicides published by the Executive Secretariat of the National Public Security System from January to June 2017, for all municipalities and for population estimation were used The CONAPO data.
 It is important to mention that both SUBSEMUN and FORTASEG have a series of eligibility criteria for municipalities, which take into account aspects such as the total population of the municipality, the state of strength of the municipality, crime rates And its capacity to reduce them, as well as the characteristics of the municipality (for example, if it is a border or a tourist destination). In addition, the number of municipalities benefiting 300 is restricted. For this reason, it is difficult to access many of the municipalities mentioned in this article, because they have a very small population and are not in tourist or border corridors.
 Subsidy for security in municipalities.
 Strengthening program for security.
 By a manner of comparison, the municipalities with the most murders in absolute numbers have the following homicide rates per 100 thousand inhabitants: Tijuana, Baja California, with 41.09; Acapulco, Guerrero, with 48.66; Culiacán, Sinaloa, with 35.15; Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, with 21.18 and Chihuahua, Chihuahua, with 20.29.
* Víctor Manuel Sánchez Valdés is a collaborator of Causa en Común, a research professor at the Autonomous University of Coahuila, a doctorate in public policies by CIDE and a specialist in public security issues.
Translated by Yaqui for Borderland Beat from Zocolo
Jorge Toledo Bustamante Alcalde of the Municipality of Mazatepec, Morelos
Date: Aug 21, 2017
A video shows the moment when suspected members of the Mexican cartel "Los Rojos" forced the mayor of the municipality of Mazatepec, Morelos, Jorge Toledo Bustamante, to commit to the delivery of 5 million pesos ($ 270,000 USD) as payment for piso, aka right to the plaza.
They also demanded the official to hire a person "who knows what he is doing" to be a liaison between the criminal group and the municipal administration.
Toledo basically refuses to pay and even ensures that he will give up his position first. He explains that he was forced to reduce his salary in half because in the municipality there is no money, so he asks his interlocutor, to tell his "boss" that he wants to talk to him.
"Remind your boss that I treated him well when he was in detention, when I was the prison director between 2006-2012 and that I gave him access to all facilities", said the mayor to the criminals. "Tell him that even this time I went to talk to his father. I want to talk to him again. I had asked to pay only 5,000 Pesos." Toledo Bustamante repeated.
During the conversation, the representative of the criminal group realizes that in the front pocket of his pants, the mayor has a cell phone. When he takes it off of Bustamante and sees the messages, he begins to insult him. "Trying to tie me to this ? Get down on the ground. Get down to the ground right now, because I'll fuck you right now, eh?"
Bustamante was then forced to lie down because apparently he was indeed recording the conversation. The video was leaked through Facebook and then began to spread by other social networks such as Twitter.
Once he had submitted, the mayor accepts the conditions of the criminal group: "We will cooperate on what I can make possible, but you communicate with him."
"Are you saying it honestly? Are you saying it honestly? Because if you cheat us you will not get the money to bury any of your family or your family tree," the Los Rojos narcos tell him.
Finally, the municipal president assures him that "he will do what he can," but insists on talking to the criminal boss.
"He's called you several times and you have not answered," the narco warns. "I've been very busy," says Bustamante. "Don't screw with me, busy? It wasn't going to take you five minutes, what a sorry excuse," says the envoy in a threatening tone.
"Look, Toledo, the man considers you a friend, he does consider you a friend, and he respects you because you give your word. However, if you are going to walk with the government, and you will not support us, you will not even get the five million pesos you are asking to bury all your family," threatens the masked man.
In Mexico, mayors are continuously victims of extortion and attacks by organized crime.
The National Association of Mayors (ANAC) reported that between 2006 and August 2016, 36 former mayors, 7 elected mayors and 43 deputies were killed, a total of 86.
Los Rojos is one of the leading criminal groups operating in the State of Guerrero, and more recently in Morelos. They are disputing territories with other local drug cartels in the region.
So far, the mayor has not made any statement regarding the video.
However, as of one hour ago the FGE, Fiscalia General of the State, Perez Duron says he will open an immediate investigation into the case. He invites citizen participation, public servants and all authorities to present any and all denouncements if they have been intimidated or victimized by similar actions.
Translated by Otis B Fly-Wheel for Borderland Beat from a Reformaarticle with photos from El Debate
Subject Matter: Confrontation in Jimenez Chihuahua Recommendation: No prior subject matter knowledge required
Reporter: Reforma Redaction In an attack perpetrated by two armed men, six persons were assassinated, and in a later confrontation, the Military killed one of the attackers, in the Town of Jimenez, informed the Attorney General of the State (FGE).
The two attackers were travelling in an Expedition Van and after the aggression fled. "When they retired, they encountered the Military as they exited Jiminez, close to the Installation of the Federal Police, where they had a confrontation with the Military, who killed one, and wounded the other who they took in custody", assured Carlos Huerta, spokesman for the area.
The events occurred during early Monday morning in a place known as La Curva, according to the primary reports, the two attackers belonged to the criminal group Gente Nueva.
The FGE informed that during the investigation of the homicides registered on Monday morning in Jimenez, they had detained an alleged member of the criminal group Gente Nueva, he was identified Marcelino Alvarez Perez, 44 years of age and originally from Guamuchil, Sinaloa.
At the scene of the confrontation, the authorities confiscated two AK47 assault rifles, made by Norinco with additional magazines, also a Ford Expedition colored red which had been marked with symbols GN.
The primary indication were that the subjects fired against the Military, when moments before they had participated in the deaths of six civilians in the Mariano Jimenez Avenue, at the exit to Torreon.