China-Mexico connection

Published on Feb 12, 2015 China is fueling meth addiction by supplying precursor chemicals to drug lords and gangs around the world. These basic chemical ingredients can be used to make Methamphetamine, and have fed a growing drug problem in … Continue reading

Published on Feb 12, 2015
China is fueling meth addiction by supplying precursor chemicals to drug lords and gangs around the world. These basic chemical ingredients can be used to make Methamphetamine, and have fed a growing drug problem in the United States through Mexican drug cartels. In recent years, Chinese authorities have launched several high-profile drug busts. But authorities are also looking the other way, or in some cases, are directly involved in synthetic drug trade. On this episode of China Uncensored, here are 11 ways that the Chinese Communist Party is breaking bad.

She is Malala

In a young age, Malala had earned the respect and support of the world. On October 09, 2012, the taliban shot her in the head while she rode home on a bus. In attempting to obliterate Malala’s words, the Taliban instead, just amplified her message far beyond the Swat Valley, calling attention to the justice of her cause in every corner of the world. During that incident, when Malala was about to be shot, the Taliban asked “Which one is Malala?” Now the whole world knows which one is Malala.

Born on the 12th of July 1997, Malala was given her first name after a famous Pashtun poet and warrior woman from southern Afghanistan, Malalai of Maiwand. Her last name, Yousafzai, is that of a large Pashtun tribal confederation that is predominant in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, where she grew up. At her house in Mingora, she lived with her two younger brothers, her parents, and two pet chickens.

Malala was educated in large part by her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, who is a poet, school owner, and an educational activist himself, running a chain of schools known as the Khushal Public School. She once stated to an interviewer that she would like to become a doctor, though later her father encouraged her to become a politician instead. Ziauddin referred to his daughter as something entirely special, permitting her to stay up at night and talk about politics after her two brothers had been sent to bed.

Malala started speaking about education rights as early as September 2008, when her father took her to Peshawar to speak at the local press club.

“How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?” Malala asked her audience in a speech covered by newspapers and television channels throughout the region.

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban is a thought provoking book.

Malala spoke with telling affection about her home country, and about the Pakistani people’s desire for prosperity, dignity and peace. Of the Taliban, whose threats against her continue, she expressed only the prayer that their children, all of their children, will have access to a real education as well. Mixed with the courage in her words, there is both personal humility and profound confidence; with passion in her voice, she summons everyone to unleash the power of young minds; to fight back against illiteracy, poverty, and terrorism; and to know in our hearts that – again, in her words – “One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world.”

“Education is the only solution,” she declares, adding that, with sufficient bravery and respect for one another “No one can stop us.”

The first thing that impressed me was the universality of the story. The specifics are different but there is a parallel between Pakistan, The US, and the Taliban, and Mexico, The US, and the drug cartels.

The origin of the Taliban can be traced to the CIA, The grandfather of the modern Mexican drug cartels was Nassar Haro, a director of the Dirección Federal de Seguridad.  According to Peter Dale Scott, the Dirección Federal de Seguridad was in part a CIA creation, and “the CIA’s closest government allies were for years in the DFS”. DFS badges, “handed out to top-level Mexican drug-traffickers, have been labelled by DEA agents a virtual ‘license to traffic.’” Scott says that “The Guadalajara Cartel, Mexico’s most powerful drug-trafficking network in the early 1980s, prospered largely because it enjoyed the protection of the DFS, under its chief Miguel Nassar (or Nazar) Haro, a CIA asset.

The Pakistani government makes a show of fighting the Taliban, harassing the populace, while high ranking generals regularly have  lunch with the Taliban leadership. The Mexican government makes a show of fighting the Drug Cartels while high ranking government officials regularly have lunch with the Cartles leadership.

But the main message is that Malala is just a regular, tough hard driven, teenage girl. She describes how when in Abu Dabi, she started to panic  just at the look of Arabic men filling the street, and how she calmed herself by recalling that she already came back from the dead. If she can fight for her rights, could we?

In a young age, Malala had earned the respect and support of the world. On October 09, 2012, the taliban shot her in the head while she rode home on a bus. In attempting to obliterate Malala’s words, the Taliban instead, just amplified her message far beyond the Swat Valley, calling attention to the justice of her cause in every corner of the world. During that incident, when Malala was about to be shot, the Taliban asked “Which one is Malala?” Now the whole world knows which one is Malala.

Born on the 12th of July 1997, Malala was given her first name after a famous Pashtun poet and warrior woman from southern Afghanistan, Malalai of Maiwand. Her last name, Yousafzai, is that of a large Pashtun tribal confederation that is predominant in Pakistan’s Swat Valley, where she grew up. At her house in Mingora, she lived with her two younger brothers, her parents, and two pet chickens.

Malala was educated in large part by her father, Ziauddin Yousafzai, who is a poet, school owner, and an educational activist himself, running a chain of schools known as the Khushal Public School. She once stated to an interviewer that she would like to become a doctor, though later her father encouraged her to become a politician instead. Ziauddin referred to his daughter as something entirely special, permitting her to stay up at night and talk about politics after her two brothers had been sent to bed.

Malala started speaking about education rights as early as September 2008, when her father took her to Peshawar to speak at the local press club.

“How dare the Taliban take away my basic right to education?” Malala asked her audience in a speech covered by newspapers and television channels throughout the region.

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban is a thought provoking book.

Malala spoke with telling affection about her home country, and about the Pakistani people’s desire for prosperity, dignity and peace. Of the Taliban, whose threats against her continue, she expressed only the prayer that their children, all of their children, will have access to a real education as well. Mixed with the courage in her words, there is both personal humility and profound confidence; with passion in her voice, she summons everyone to unleash the power of young minds; to fight back against illiteracy, poverty, and terrorism; and to know in our hearts that – again, in her words – “One child, one teacher, one pen and one book can change the world.”

“Education is the only solution,” she declares, adding that, with sufficient bravery and respect for one another “No one can stop us.”

The first thing that impressed me was the universality of the story. The specifics are different but there is a parallel between Pakistan, The US, and the Taliban, and Mexico, The US, and the drug cartels.

The origin of the Taliban can be traced to the CIA, The grandfather of the modern Mexican drug cartels was Nassar Haro, a director of the Dirección Federal de Seguridad.  According to Peter Dale Scott, the Dirección Federal de Seguridad was in part a CIA creation, and “the CIA’s closest government allies were for years in the DFS”. DFS badges, “handed out to top-level Mexican drug-traffickers, have been labelled by DEA agents a virtual ‘license to traffic.’” Scott says that “The Guadalajara Cartel, Mexico’s most powerful drug-trafficking network in the early 1980s, prospered largely because it enjoyed the protection of the DFS, under its chief Miguel Nassar (or Nazar) Haro, a CIA asset.

The Pakistani government makes a show of fighting the Taliban, harassing the populace, while high ranking generals regularly have  lunch with the Taliban leadership. The Mexican government makes a show of fighting the Drug Cartels while high ranking government officials regularly have lunch with the Cartles leadership.

But the main message is that Malala is just a regular, tough hard driven, teenage girl. She describes how when in Abu Dabi, she started to panic  just at the look of Arabic men filling the street, and how she calmed herself by recalling that she already came back from the dead. If she can fight for her rights, could we?

La Tuta

Published on Jan 28, 2014You might pass Servando “La Tuta” Gomez on the street and not look twice. But with a $2.5m bounty on his head, the charismatic leader of Mexico’s Knights Templar drug cartel commands respect and fear.Sign up for Snowmail, your…

Published on Jan 28, 2014

You might pass Servando “La Tuta” Gomez on the street and not look twice. But with a $2.5m bounty on his head, the charismatic leader of Mexico’s Knights Templar drug cartel commands respect and fear.Sign up for Snowmail, your daily preview of what is on

Mexican Drug War

Nov 22nd 2012, 16:34 by Economist.com

Mexican states compared with entire countries’ body counts, murder rates and populations

MEXICO’S murder rate has doubled over the past five years, to nearly 19 per 100,000 people per year. But what does that really mean? To give an idea of how safe or dangerous the country’s various states are, we have compared their crime statistics with those of whole countries. Visitors can relax in Yucatán, the safest state, which has about the same murder rate as Finland. Tlaxcala, not far from Mexico City, is about as safe as the United States. At the other end of the spectrum Chihuahua, the most violent state, has a murder rate equivalent to El Salvador, one of the most violent countries in the world. Another way of looking at the data is to compare the gross totals. The state of San Luis Potosí, for instance, has seen as many murders in the past year as all of Spain, despite having a population of just 2.6m.


BY NICHOLAS CASEY

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s president-elect Enrique Peña Nieto, fresh off his weekend election victory, said Tuesday he plans to continue President Felipe Calderón’s fight against the country’s drug gangs, but outlined a long-term strategy to place more of the battle in the hands of civilians rather than the military.

In a wide-ranging interview in the capital, Mr. Peña Nieto, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, praised much of Mr. Calderón’s strategy against organized crime, including the creation of a federal police force and growing cooperation with the U.S.


President Barack Obama telephoned Mexican President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto to congratulate him on his victory in last weekend’s elections, the White House said in a statement Monday. While the release listed several topics that the two men discussed, it made no explicit mention of the two countries’ fitful efforts to combat ultra-violent drug cartels.

Obama “reiterated his commitment to working in partnership with Mexico, and looks forward to advancing common goals, including promoting democracy, economic prosperity, and security in the region and around the globe, in the coming years,” according to the White House statement.

Peña Nieto’s victory brought the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which governed Mexico for decades, back to power. He has pledged to overhaul his country’s energy, labor and tax systems, Reuters reported..

“The two leaders reaffirmed the close bilateral partnership the United States and Mexico enjoy based on mutual respect, shared responsibility, and the deep connections between our people,” according to the statement. Obama also “congratulated the Mexican people who have once again demonstrated their commitment to democratic values through a free, fair, and transparent election process.”

Peña Nieto won Sunday’s election with 38 percent of the vote, according to early returns. That gave him a lead of roughly 7 percentage points over his nearest rival, leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador,  according to the Associated Press.

Obama has faced sharp Republican criticism over the government’s Fast and Furious operation, which aimed to track the flow of firearms from American gun sellers, through straw buyers, into the hands of the cartels. The Republican-led House of Representatives voted last week to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for refusing to hand over Justice Department documents tied to the operation.


MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican opposition candidate Enrique Pena Nieto’s campaign team claimed victory in the country’s presidential election on Sunday after exit polls showed him winning by a comfortable margin.

Pena Nieto, 45, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), led by between 8 and 11 percentage points in exit polls published by three of Mexico’s main television networks after voting ended on Sunday night.
Shortly afterward his campaign manager, Luis Videgaray, declared victory.

“It is a resounding triumph,” Videgaray told Milenio television, adding that he was hopeful the PRI would have a majority in the Senate and possibly in the lower house of Congress, too.

The PRI, which governed Mexico for 71 years until losing power in 2000, has staged a comeback behind the handsome Pena Nieto, who has pledged to open state-owned oil monopoly Pemex to foreign investors, raise tax revenue and liberalize the labor market.

The exit polls showed him winning around 40 percent of the vote. Leftist rival Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was in second place with Josefina Vazquez Mota of the ruling National Action Party, or PAN, trailing in third.

“I recognize that the trend up to this point is not in my favor,” said Vazquez Mota, whose campaign was dragged down by a brutal war with drug cartels and the government’s patchy economic record.
Preliminary official results were due in the next few hours.

“It’s time for the PRI to return. They’re the only ones who know how to govern,” said Candelaria Puc, 70, as she voted in the beach resort of Cancun. “The PRI is tough, but they won’t let the drug violence get out of control.”

Others feared a return to the worst years of PRI rule and put Pena Nieto’s big lead down to his cozy relationship with Televisa, Mexico’s top broadcaster.

“It’s the same party as ever and the people who vote for him (Pena Nieto) believe they are going to live happily ever after like in the soap operas,” Humberto Parra, a systems engineer, said as he went to vote in Mexico City.

By the time it lost to the PAN in 2000, the PRI had a reputation for widespread corruption, electoral fraud and authoritarianism.

The PRI was in disarray by 2006, when its presidential candidate came in a distant third, but it has rebounded since then and Pena Nieto gave it a new face.

He is promising to restore security to cities and towns ravaged by the drug war and also plans to reform Pemex, a proposal once considered political suicide.

Mexicans are fiercely protective of Pemex, but the PRI, which nationalized oil production in 1938, could be the one party able to liberalize the energy industry.

The PRI laid the foundations of the modern state with a nimble blend of politics and patronage that allowed it to appeal to labor unions and captains of industry at the same time.
Mexicans eventually tired of heavy-handedness that stifled dissent, rewarded loyalists and allowed widespread corruption.

(Additional reporting by Miguel Angel Gutierrez, Ana Isabel Martinez, Pablo Garibian; Editing by Dave Graham and Kieran Murray and Christopher Wilson)


Mexico’s Next President Won’t Slow The Drug War

By Robert Beckhusen

At this point, there’s little doubt who is likely to win Mexico’s presidential election on Sunday. That would be Enrique Peña Nieto, who polls show leading with double-digits over his rival candidates. He’s also calling for a (subtle) shift in the fight against the cartels: don’t bother as much with stopping drugs and taking down drug lords, but focus on stopping violence and kidnapping. But as far as big changes go, don’t expect much if Peña Nieto wins, at least not soon.

First, the little things. Last week, Pieña Nieto recruited Colombian General Oscar Naranjo — a veteran of the war against the notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar — as his top security adviser. Peña Nieto wants to boost Mexico’s Federal Police, and he’s for creating a new national paramilitary police force to fight the cartels.  His campaign has also been “highly solicitous” of the United States, notes Patrick Corcoran ofInSight, an organized crime monitoring group. This could mean a bigger U.S. role. Naranjo is also reportedly close to U.S. officials.
This is while the cartels still exercise draconian rule over cities throughout many parts of the country, especially along the border. Ciudad Juárez, which came to define Mexico’s drug violence when viewed from outside the country, has seen a drop in murders to 2007 levels, Corcoran adds. But other cities, like Nuevo Laredo, experienced lower and lower levels of violence only for gangland killings to spark anew. The cartels have also spread to new areas.
“If you noticed, none of the presidential candidates broke openly with [outgoing President Felipe Calderón’s] strategy — the farthest they went was to criticize the level of violence,” César Martinez Espinosa, a doctoral candidate at the University of Texas and a specialist in Mexican national security issues, writes in an e-mail. ”This is because they recognized that a majority of people (outside of Mexico City) approves Calderón’s fight against the cartels (some polls have tracked that), especially the participation of the military in it and because they might not have that much room to maneuver once they are in power.”
Reducing violence by legalizing drugs? Not likely in the least. A darker suggestion floated as a possibility in press reports is some kind of deal with the cartels, but Pieña Nieto has ruled out negotiating a truce.
The reason why a truce is brought up: Peña Nieto’s political party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (or PRI), formerly maintained uninterrupted single-party rule for most of the 20th century. But when it lost power 12 years ago, it also lost a patronage system between regional party bosses and the cartels. This system meant drugs were allowed to flow relatively freely, provided physical disputes between the cartels didn’t get out of hand. But losing a (note: corrupt) system of checks and balances, beef between cartels escalated.
Nor is it likely that such a deal could be made today. In some states that maintained PRI rule, these networks were maintained but still failed to stop the surge in violence. Some of the state-level politicians with ties to the cartels are now being purged. In any case, the PRI will be governing a different Mexico: one in which corruption is still a major problem, but in which a single party is not able to maintain control over the entire governing apparatus. Another problem is that today’s cartels are smaller, a lot more numerous and increasingly decentralized. With so many cartels operating in Mexico today, who do you cut a deal with?
“Should he win, Peña Nieto will surely seek some cosmetic changes, and he may push the philosophy underlying Mexico’s crime strategy in a new direction. But the obstacles to a different approach are enormous; as a result, for better or worse, the shifts are likely to be marginal,” notes Corcoran.
Another option is to eliminate some local police forces and “consolidate them into stronger state forces,” says Martinez. Elsewhere, the new president will have to keep up economic growth and push reforms through the courts and a chaotic, badly-run prison system. But for the time being, and for whoever wins, the war with the cartels will continue.


Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera (born April 4, 1957)[2] is a fugitive Mexican drug lord who heads the world’s largest and most powerful drug trafficking organization, the Sinaloa Cartel,[5] an organization named after the Mexican Pacific coast state of Sinaloa where it was initially formed. Known as “El Chapo Guzmán” (“Shorty Guzmán“) for his 1.68 m (5 ft 6 in) stature, he became Mexico’s top drug kingpin in 2003 after the arrest of his rival Osiel Cárdenas of the Gulf Cartel, and is now considered “The most powerful drug trafficker in the world,” by the United States Department of the Treasury.[6][7]
Guzmán Loera has been ranked by Forbes magazine as one of the most powerful people in the world every year since 2009; ranking 41st, 60th and 55th respectively.[8][9] He was also listed by Forbes as the 10th richest man in Mexico (1,140th in the world) in 2011.[10][11] Forbes also calls him the “biggest druglord of all time”,[12] and the DEA strongly believes he has surpassed the influence and reach of Pablo Escobar, and now considers him “the godfather of the drug world.”[13]
Guzman Loera’s Sinaloa Cartel smuggles multi-ton cocaine shipments from Colombia through Mexico to the United States,[1] and has distribution cells throughout the U.S.[1] The organization has also been involved in the production, smuggling and distribution of Mexican methamphetamine,marijuana, and heroin. The U.S. offers a $5 million USD reward for information leading to his capture. The Mexican government offers a reward of 30 million pesos for such information.


Cocaine Incorporated

 
 
By PATRICK RADDEN KEEFE

Published: June 15, 2012
One afternoon last August, at a hospital on the outskirts of Los Angeles, a former beauty queen named Emma Coronel gave birth to a pair of heiresses. The twins, who were delivered at 3:50 and 3:51, respectively, stand to inherit some share of a fortune that Forbes estimates is worth a billion dollars. Coronel’s husband, who was not present for the birth, is a legendary tycoon who overcame a penurious rural childhood to establish a wildly successful multinational business. If Coronel elected to leave the entry for “Father” on the birth certificates blank, it was not because of any dispute over patrimony. More likely, she was just skittish about the fact that her husband, Joaquín Guzmán, is the C.E.O. of Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel, a man the Treasury Department recently described as the world’s most powerful drug trafficker. Guzmán’s organization is responsible for as much as half of the illegal narcotics imported into the United States from Mexico each year; he may well be the most-wanted criminal in this post-Bin Laden world. But his bride is a U.S. citizen with no charges against her. So authorities could only watch as she bundled up her daughters and slipped back across the border to introduce them to their dad.
How the Sinaloa Cartel Smuggles Drugs Across Borders

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Known as El Chapo for his short, stocky frame, Guzmán is 55, which in narco-years is about 150. He is a quasi-mythical figure in Mexico, the subject of countless ballads, who has outlived enemies and accomplices alike, defying the implicit bargain of a life in the drug trade: that careers are glittering but brief and always terminate in prison or the grave. When Pablo Escobar was Chapo’s age, he had been dead for more than a decade. In fact, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, Chapo sells more drugs today than Escobar did at the height of his career. To some extent, this success is easily explained: as Hillary Clinton acknowledged several years ago, America’s “insatiable demand for illegal drugs” is what drives the clandestine industry. It’s no accident that the world’s biggest supplier of narcotics and the world’s biggest consumer of narcotics just happen to be neighbors. “Poor Mexico,” its former president Porfirio Díaz is said to have remarked. “So far from God and so close to the United States.”
The Sinaloa cartel can buy a kilo of cocaine in the highlands of Colombia or Peru for around $2,000, then watch it accrue value as it makes its way to market. In Mexico, that kilo fetches more than $10,000. Jump the border to the United States, and it could sell wholesale for $30,000. Break it down into grams to distribute retail, and that same kilo sells for upward of $100,000 — more than its weight in gold. And that’s just cocaine. Alone among the Mexican cartels, Sinaloa is both diversified and vertically integrated, producing and exporting marijuana, heroin and methamphetamine as well.
Estimating the precise scale of Chapo’s empire is tricky, however. Statistics on underground economies are inherently speculative: cartels don’t make annual disclosures, and no auditor examines their books. Instead, we’re left with back-of-the-envelope extrapolations based on conjectural data, much of it supplied by government agencies that may have bureaucratic incentives to overplay the problem.
So in a spirit of empirical humility, we shouldn’t accept as gospel the estimate, from the Justice Department, that Colombian and Mexican cartels reap $18 billion to $39 billion from drug sales in the United States each year. (That range alone should give you pause.) Still, even if you take the lowest available numbers, Sinaloa emerges as a titanic player in the global black market. In the sober reckoning of the RAND Corporation, for instance, the gross revenue that all Mexican cartels derive from exporting drugs to the United States amounts to only $6.6 billion. By most estimates, though, Sinaloa has achieved a market share of at least 40 percent and perhaps as much as 60 percent, which means that Chapo Guzmán’s organization would appear to enjoy annual revenues of some $3 billion — comparable in terms of earnings to Netflix or, for that matter, to Facebook.
The drug war in Mexico has claimed more than 50,000 lives since 2006. But what tends to get lost amid coverage of this epic bloodletting is just how effective the drug business has become. A close study of the Sinaloa cartel, based on thousands of pages of trial records and dozens of interviews with convicted drug traffickers and current and former officials in Mexico and the United States, reveals an operation that is global (it is active in more than a dozen countries) yet also very nimble and, above all, staggeringly complex. Sinaloa didn’t merely survive the recession — it has thrived in recent years. And after prevailing in some recent mass-casualty clashes, it now controls more territory along the border than ever.
“Chapo always talks about the drug business, wherever he is,” one erstwhile confidant told a jury several years ago, describing a driven, even obsessive entrepreneur with a proclivity for micromanagement. From the remote mountain redoubt where he is believed to be hiding, surrounded at all times by a battery of gunmen, Chapo oversees a logistical network that is as sophisticated, in some ways, as that of Amazon or U.P.S. — doubly sophisticated, when you think about it, because traffickers must move both their product and their profits in secret, and constantly maneuver to avoid death or arrest. As a mirror image of a legal commodities business, the Sinaloa cartel brings to mind that old line about Ginger Rogers doing all the same moves as Fred Astaire, only backward and in heels. In its longevity, profitability and scope, it might be the most successful criminal enterprise in history.
The state of Sinaloa, from which the cartel derives its name, lies wedged between the Sierra Madre Occidental and Mexico’s west coast. Sun-blasted and remote, Sinaloa is the Sicily of Mexico, both cradle and refuge of violent men, and the ancestral land of many of the country’s most notorious traffickers. Chapo was born in a village called La Tuna, in the foothills of the Sierra, in 1957. His formal education ended in third grade, and as an adult, he has reportedly struggled to read and write, prevailing upon a ghostwriter, at one point, to compose letters to his mistress. Little is known about Chapo’s early years, but by the 1980s, he joined the Guadalajara cartel, which was run by a former policeman known as El Padrino — the Godfather.
For decades, Mexican smugglers had exported homegrown marijuana and heroin to the United States. But as the Colombian cocaine boom gathered momentum in the 1980s and U.S. law enforcement began patrolling the Caribbean, the Colombians went in search of an alternate route to the United States and discovered one in Mexico. Initially, Mexican traffickers, like a pudgy 25-year-old airplane pilot named Miguel Angel Martínez, acted as independent contractors who were paid a fee by the Colombians to move their cargo. In 1986, the Guadalajara cartel dispatched Martínez to the Colombian port of Barranquilla, in the hope that someone might commission him to fly drugs up to Mexico. But Martínez couldn’t find any takers and ended up languishing in Colombia for months, worrying that he had blown his big opportunity with the cartel. Eventually, he caught a commercial flight back to Mexico, and shortly thereafter, he was summoned to a meeting with Chapo, who was by then an underboss in the cartel. “You were very well behaved in Colombia,” Chapo told him, according to subsequent testimony. He seemed impressed by Martínez’s patience in waiting for an assignment.
Having passed this test, Martínez started working for Chapo as a kind of air traffic controller, negotiating directly with the Cali and Medellín cartels, then guiding their cocaine flights from South America to secret runways in barren stretches of Mexico. Martínez knew U.S. agents were monitoring his radio communications, so rather than say a word, he would whistle — a signal to the pilots that they were cleared for takeoff.
With the decline of the Caribbean route, the Colombians started paying Mexican smugglers not in cash but in cocaine. More than any other factor, it was this transition that realigned the power dynamics along the narcotics supply chain in the Americas, because it allowed the Mexicans to stop serving as logistical middlemen and invest in their own drugs instead. In 1986, Martínez couldn’t land a gig as a lowly courier in Barranquilla. Not five years later, he was marshaling hundreds of flights laden with cocaine for Chapo. “Sometimes we would get five planes a night,” he remembered. “Sometimes 16.” Now it was the Colombians who went hat in hand to Chapo, looking not to hire him to move their product but to sell it to him outright. They would tip Martínez $25,000 just to get an audience with the man.
The young pilot became a gatekeeper to the ascendant kingpin, fielding his phone calls and accompanying him on foreign trips. There’s a vaudevillian goofiness to nicknames in Mexico, and the stout Martínez was known in the cartel as El Gordo. He and Chapo — Fatty and Shorty — made quite a pair. “Japan, Hong Kong, India, all of Europe,” Martínez recalled in testimony. Chapo owned a fleet of Learjets, and together, they saw “the whole world.” They both used cocaine as well, a habit that Chapo would eventually give up. When a lawyer inquired, years later, whether he had been Chapo’s right-hand man, Martínez replied that he might have been, but that Guzmán had five left hands and five right hands. “He’s an octopus, Chapo Guzmán,” he said. For his efforts, Martínez was paid a million dollars a year, in a single annual installment: “In cash, in a suitcase, each December.” When Martínez’s son was born, Chapo asked to serve as godfather.
In 1989, Chapo’s mentor, El Padrino, was captured by Mexican authorities, and the remaining members of the Guadalajara cartel assembled in Acapulco to determine which smuggling route each capo would inherit. According to Ioan Grillo’s book, “El Narco,” the meeting was ostensibly a gathering of friends. But the shards of El Padrino’s organization would become the basis for the Tijuana, Juárez and Sinaloa cartels, and these onetime colleagues would soon become antagonists in a cycle of bloody turf wars that continues to this day.
“Drug cartel,” it turns out, is a whopper of a misnomer; neither the Mexicans nor the Colombians ever colluded to fix prices or supply. “I wish they were cartels,” Arturo Sarukhán, Mexico’s ambassador in Washington, told me. “If they were, they wouldn’t be fighting and driving up the violence.”
At first, Chapo’s organization controlled a single smuggling route, through western Mexico into Arizona. But by 1990, it was moving three tons of cocaine each month over the border, and from there, to Los Angeles. The Sinaloa has always distinguished itself by the eclectic means it uses to transport drugs. Working with Colombian suppliers, cartel operatives moved cocaine into Mexico in small private aircraft and in baggage smuggled on commercial flights and eventually on their own 747s, which they could load with as much as 13 tons of cocaine. They used container ships and fishing vessels and go-fast boats and submarines — crude semi-submersibles at first, then fully submersible subs, conceived by engineers and constructed under the canopy of the Amazon, then floated downriver in pieces and assembled at the coastline. These vessels can cost more than a million dollars, but to the smugglers, they are effectively disposable. In the event of an interception by the Coast Guard, someone onboard pulls a lever that floods the interior so that the evidence sinks; only the crew is left bobbing in the water, waiting to be picked up by the authorities.
Moving cocaine is a capital-intensive business, but the cartel subsidizes these investments with a ready source of easy income: marijuana. Cannabis is often described as the “cash crop” of Mexican cartels because it grows abundantly in the Sierras and requires no processing. But it’s bulkier than cocaine, and smellier, which makes it difficult to conceal. So marijuana tends to cross the border far from official ports of entry. The cartel makes sandbag bridges to ford the Colorado River and sends buggies loaded with weed bouncing over the Imperial Sand Dunes into California. Michael Braun, the former chief of operations for the D.E.A., told me a story about the construction of a high-tech fence along a stretch of border in Arizona. “They erect this fence,” he said, “only to go out there a few days later and discover that these guys have a catapult, and they’re flinging hundred-pound bales of marijuana over to the other side.” He paused and looked at me for a second. “A catapult,” he repeated. “We’ve got the best fence money can buy, and they counter us with a 2,500-year-old technology.”
Improvisation is a trafficker’s greatest asset, and in recent years, Sinaloa has devised an even more efficient solution to the perennial challenge of getting marijuana across the border. Grow it here. Several years ago, a hunter was trekking through the remote North Woods of Wisconsin when he stumbled upon a vast irrigated grow site, tended by a dozen Mexican farmers armed with AK-47’s. According to the D.E.A., it was a Sinaloa pot farm, established on U.S. National Forest land to supply the market in Chicago.
Heroin is easier to smuggle but difficult to produce, and as detailed in court documents, Chapo is particularly proud of his organization’s work with the drug. He personally negotiates shipments to the United States and stands by its quality, which is normally 94 percent pure. “The value-to-weight ratio of heroin is better than any other drug,” says Alejandro Hope, who until recently was a senior officer at Cisen, Mexico’s equivalent to the C.I.A.
But the future of the business may be methamphetamine. During the 1990s, when the market for meth exploded in the United States, new regulations made it more difficult to manufacture large quantities of the drug in this country. This presented an opportunity that the Sinaloa quickly exploited. According to Anabel Hernández, author of “Los Señores del Narco,” a book about the cartel, it was one of Chapo’s deputies, a trafficker named Ignacio (Nacho) Coronel, who first spotted the massive potential of methamphetamine. “Nacho was like Steve Jobs,” Hernández told me. “He saw the future.”
Here was a drug that was ragingly addictive and could be produced cheaply and smuggled with relative ease. When they first started manufacturing meth, the Sinaloa would provide free samples to their existing wholesale clients in the Midwest. “They’d send five hundred pounds of marijuana, and secreted in that would be two kilos of meth,” Jack Riley, the D.E.A.’s special agent in charge of the Chicago office, told me. “They’d give it away for free. They wanted the market.” As demand grew, the cartel constructed superlabs, capable of churning out industrial volumes of meth. Container ships from India and China unloaded precursor chemicals — largely ephedrine — in the Pacific ports Lázaro Cárdenas and Manzanillo. To grasp the scale of production, consider the volume of some recent precursor seizures at these ports: 22 tons in October 2009; 88 tons in May 2010; 252 tons last December. When Mexico banned the importation of ephedrine, the cartel adapted, tweaking its recipe to use unregulated precursors. Recently they have started outsourcing production to new labs in Guatemala.
But Chapo’s greatest contribution to the evolving tradecraft of drug trafficking was one of those innovations that seem so logical in hindsight it’s a wonder nobody thought of it before: a tunnel. In the late 1980s, Chapo hired an architect to design an underground passageway from Mexico to the United States. What appeared to be a water faucet outside the home of a cartel attorney in the border town of Agua Prieta was in fact a secret lever that, when twisted, activated a hydraulic system that opened a hidden trapdoor underneath a pool table inside the house. The passage ran more than 200 feet, directly beneath the fortifications along the border, and emerged inside a warehouse the cartel owned in Douglas, Ariz. Chapo pronounced it “cool.”
When this new route was complete, Chapo instructed Martínez to call the Colombians. “Tell them to send all the drugs they can,” he said. As the deliveries multiplied, Sinaloa acquired a reputation for the miraculous speed with which it could push inventory across the border. “Before the planes were arriving back in Colombia on the return, the cocaine was already in Los Angeles,” Martínez marveled.
Eventually the tunnel was discovered, so Chapo shifted tactics once again, this time by going into the chili-pepper business. He opened a cannery in Guadalajara and began producing thousands of cans stamped “Comadre Jalapeños,” stuffing them with cocaine, then vacuum-sealing them and shipping them to Mexican-owned grocery stores in California. He sent drugs in the refrigeration units of tractor-trailers, in custom-made cavities in the bodies of cars and in truckloads of fish (which inspectors at a sweltering checkpoint might not want to detain for long). He sent drugs across the border on freight trains, to cartel warehouses in Los Angeles and Chicago, where rail spurs let the cars roll directly inside to unload. He sent drugs via FedEx.
But that tunnel into Douglas remains Chapo’s masterpiece, an emblem of his creative ingenuity. Twenty years on, the cartels are still burrowing under the border — more than a hundred tunnels have been discovered in the years since Chapo’s first. They are often ventilated and air-conditioned, and some feature trolley lines stretching up to a half-mile to accommodate the tonnage in transit.
You might suppose that a certain recklessness would be a prerequisite for anyone contemplating a career in the drug trade. But in reality, blue-chip traffickers tend to fixate, with neurotic intensity, on the concept of risk. “The goal of these folks is not to sell drugs,” Tony Placido, who was the top intelligence official at the D.E.A. until he retired last year, told me. “It’s to earn a spendable profit and live to enjoy it.” So the smart narcos are preoccupied with what Peter Reuter and Mark Kleiman once referred to, in a classic essay on the drug business, as “the marginal imprisonment risk.” In 2010, Chapo’s old friend Ismael (El Mayo) Zambada, the No. 2 man in the Sinaloa cartel, granted an interview to the Mexican magazine Proceso. Now in his 60s and a grandfather, El Mayo has been in the drug business for nearly half a century and has amassed a fortune. But you can’t buy peace of mind. “I’m terrified they’ll incarcerate me,” he acknowledged. “I’m full of fear. Always.”
There’s a reason coke and heroin cost so much more on the street than at the farm gate: you’re not paying for the drugs; you’re compensating everyone along the distribution chain for the risks they assumed in getting them to you. Smugglers often negotiate, in actuarial detail, about who will be held liable in the event of lost inventory. After a bust, arrested traffickers have been known to demand a receipt from authorities, so that they can prove the loss was not because of their own negligence (which would mean they might have to pay for it) or their own thievery (which would mean they might have to die). Some Colombian cartels have actually offered insurance policies on narcotics, as a safeguard against loss or seizure.
To prevent catastrophic losses, cartels tend to distribute their risk as much as possible. Before sending a 100-kilo shipment across the border, traffickers might disaggregate it into five carloads of 20 kilos each. Chapo and his associates further reduce their personal exposure by going in together on shipments, so each of those smaller carloads might hold 10 kilos belonging to Chapo and 10 belonging to Mayo Zambada. The Sinaloa is occasionally called the Federation because senior figures and their subsidiaries operate semiautonomously while still employing a common smuggling apparatus.
The organizational structure of the cartel also seems fashioned to protect the leadership. No one knows how many people work for Sinaloa, and the range of estimates is comically broad. Malcolm Beith, the author of a recent book about Chapo, posits that at any given moment, the drug lord may have 150,000 people working for him. John Bailey, a Georgetown professor who has studied the cartel, says that the number of actual employees could be as low as 150. The way to account for this disparity is to distinguish between salaried employees and subcontractors. A labor force of thousands may be required to plow all that contraband up the continent, but a lot of the work can be delegated to independent contractors, people the Mexican political scientist and security consultant Eduardo Guerrero describes as working “for the cartel but outside it.”
Even those who do work directly for the cartel are limited to carefully compartmentalized roles. At a recent trial, a regional cartel lieutenant, José Esparza, testified about his experience working for the Sinaloa along the border. On one occasion, he attended a meeting outside Culiacán with many of the cartel’s top leaders. But there was no sign of Chapo. Once the discussion concluded, an emissary left the group and approached a Hummer that was parked in the distance and surrounded by men with bulletproof vests and machine guns, to report on the proceedings. Chapo never stepped out of the vehicle.
It’s not just the federales that the narcos fear; it’s also one another. The brutal opportunism of the underworld economy means that most partnerships are temporary, and treachery abounds. For decades, Chapo worked closely with his childhood friend Arturo Beltrán Leyva, a fearsome trafficker who ran a profitable subsidiary of Sinaloa. But in 2008, the two men split, then went to war, and Beltrán Leyva’s assassins were later blamed for murdering one of Chapo’s sons. To reduce the likelihood of clashes like these, the cartel has revived an unlikely custom: the ancient art of dynastic marriage. Chapo’s organization is occasionally referred to as an alianza de sangre (“alliance of blood”), because so many of its prominent members are cousins by marriage or brothers-in-law. Emma Coronel, who gave birth to Chapo’s twins, is the niece of Nacho Coronel, the Steve Jobs of meth (who died in a shootout with the Mexican Army in 2010). All of this intermarriage, one U.S. official in Mexico suggested to me, functions as “a hedge against distrust.” An associate may be less likely to cheat you, or to murder you, if there’ll be hell to pay with his wife. It’s a cynical strategy, certainly, but in a vocation where one of Chapo’s rivals went by the nickname Mata Amigos, or “Friend Killer,” it may also be quite sound.
The surest way to stay out of trouble in the drug business is to dole out bribes, and promiscuously. Drug cartels don’t pay corporate taxes, but a colossus like Sinaloa makes regular payments to the federal, state and municipal authorities that may well rival the effective tax rate in Mexico. When the D.E.A. conducted an internal survey of its top 50 operatives and informants several years ago and asked them to name the most important factor for running a drug business, they replied, overwhelmingly, corruption. At a trial in 2010, a former police official from Juárez, Jesús Fierro Méndez, acknowledged that he had worked for Sinaloa. “Did the drug cartels have the police on the payroll?” an attorney asked.
“All of it,” Fierro Méndez replied.
The cartel bribes mayors and prosecutors and governors, state police and federal police, the army, the navy and a host of senior officials at the national level. After an arrest for drug trafficking in the 1990s, Chapo was sentenced to 20 years and shipped to Puente Grande, a fortified prison in Jalisco that was Mexico’s answer to a supermax. But during the five years he spent there, Chapo enjoyed prerogatives that make the prison sequence in “Goodfellas” look positively austere. With most of the facility on his payroll, he is said to have ordered his meals from a menu, conducted business by cellphone and orchestrated periodic visits by prostitutes, who would arrive aboard a prison truck driven by a guard. I spoke with one drug producer who negotiated a joint venture deal with Chapo while he was behind bars. Eventually, as the story goes, Chapo was smuggled out in a laundry cart. According to Martínez’s testimony, he paid more than $3 million to secure his release. Today, Chapo is a free man, Puente Grande’s warden only recently completed a jail sentence for letting him go and Mexicans call the prison Puerta Grande — the Big Door.
The tacit but unwavering tolerance that Mexican authorities have shown for the drug trade over the years has muddled the boundaries between outlaws and officials. When Miguel Angel Martínez was working for Chapo, he says, “everyone” in the organization had military and police identification. Daylight killings are sometimes carried out by men dressed in police uniforms, and it is not always clear, after the fact, whether the perpetrators were thugs masquerading as policemen or actual policemen providing paid assistance to the thugs. On those occasions when the government scores a big arrest, meanwhile, police and military officials pose for photos at the valedictory news conference brandishing assault weapons, their faces shrouded in ski masks, to shield their identities. In the trippy semiotics of the drug war, the cops dress like bandits, and the bandits dress like cops.
When you tally it all up, bribery may be the single largest line item on a cartel’s balance sheet. In 2008, President Felipe Calderón’s own drug czar, Noe Ramirez, was charged with accepting $450,000 each month. Presumably, such gargantuan bribes to senior officials cascade down, securing the allegiance of their subordinates. “You have to recruit the high commands, so they can issue the information to lower ranks and order whatever they want,” the corrupt cop, Fierro Méndez, testified. But in key jurisdictions, the cartel most likely makes payments up and down the chain of command. In a 2010 speech, Genaro García Luna, Mexico’s secretary of public security, speculated that together, the cartels spend more than a billion dollars each year just to bribe the municipal police.
It’s not only officials who must be bribed, either. There are also the “falcons,” an army of civilian lookouts who might receive $100 a month just to keep their eyes open and make a phone call if they notice an uptick in border inspections or a convoy of police. “There are cities in Mexico where virtually every cabdriver is on the payroll,” Michael Braun, formerly of the D.E.A., said. “They have eyes and ears everywhere.”
And then there are the Americans. Guards at the U.S. border have been known to wave a car through their checkpoints for a few thousand dollars, and since 2004, there have been 138 convictions or indictments in corruption investigations involving members of the United States Customs and Border Protection. Paradoxically, one explanation for this state of affairs is the rapid expansion of border forces following the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. In their hurry to fortify the U.S.-Mexico boundary with uniformed personnel, it seems, officials may have made allowances on background checks and screenings. In some instances, job offers have been extended to the immediate relatives of known traffickers.
When corruption fails, there is always violence. During the 12 years that he worked for the cartel, Martínez claims that he did not carry a gun. But Sinaloa has risen to pre-eminence as much through savagery as through savvy. “In illegal markets, the natural tendency is toward monopoly, so they fight each other,” Antonio Mazzitelli, an official with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Mexico City, told me. “How do they fight: Go to court? Offer better prices? No. They use violence.” The primal horror of Mexico’s murder epidemic makes it difficult, perhaps even distasteful, to construe the cartel’s butchery as a rational advancement of coherent business aims. But the reality is that in a multibillion-dollar industry in which there is no recourse to legally enforceable contracts, some degree of violence may be inevitable.
“It’s like geopolitics,” Tony Placido said. “You need to use violence frequently enough that the threat is believable. But overuse it, and it’s bad for business.”
The most gratuitous practitioners of violence right now would be the Zetas, a rampaging league of sociopaths with a notable devotion to physical cruelty. The Zetas are a new kind of cartel, in that they came somewhat late to the actual business of smuggling drugs. They started out as bodyguards for the Gulf Cartel before going into business for themselves, and they specialize in messaging through bloodshed. It’s the Zetas who are charged with dumping 49 mutilated bodies by the side of a highway near Monterrey last month. Sinaloa is responsible for a great deal of carnage as well, but its approach to killing has traditionally been more discreet. Whereas a Sinaloa subsidiary allied with a Tijuana farmer known as the Stewmaker, who dissolved hundreds of bodies in barrels of lye, the Zetas have pioneered a multimedia approach to violence, touting their killings on YouTube. One strategic choice facing any cartel is deciding when to intimidate the civilian population and when to cultivate it. Sinaloa can be exceedingly brutal, but the cartel is more pragmatic than the Zetas in its deployment of violence. It may simply be, as one Obama administration official suggested, that the Sinaloa leadership is “more conscious of their brand.”
It’s a curious rivalry between these two organizations, because their business models are really very different. The Zetas have diversified beyond drugs to extortion, kidnapping and human trafficking, blossoming into what officials call a “polycriminal organization.” Sinaloa, by contrast, has mostly tended to stick to its core competence of trafficking. According to one captured cartel member, Chapo specifically instructed his subordinates not to dabble in protection rackets and insisted that Sinaloa territory remain “calm” and “controlled.”
“Sinaloa does not do extortion directly,” Eduardo Guerrero said. “It’s so risky, and the profits are so small. They want the big business — and the big business is in the United States.”
Just how active the cartel is north of the border is a divisive question. According to the Department of Justice, by 2009, Mexican-based criminal organizations were operating in “more than a thousand U.S. cities.” When you consider the huge jump in the price of narcotics between bulk importation and retail sales, it might seem that Chapo would want to expand into street-level distribution. In 2005, the D.E.A. began intercepting large shipments of cocaine in which each kilo brick was heat-sealed in a distinctive Mylar foil. They spotted the foil in Los Angeles first, then in Oklahoma, Chicago, Atlanta and New Jersey. “This was Sinaloa coke,” Michael Wardrop, who led two of the agency’s most ambitious operations against the domestic networks of the cartel, told me. As the telltale wrapping popped up across the country, Wardrop and his colleagues marveled at the sheer expanse of Sinaloa’s market. “It was like watching a virus in a Petri dish,” he said. “It was constantly growing.”
Wardrop’s investigations netted more than a thousand arrests. But some observers question the extent to which the perpetrators in these cases were actually working for the cartel. “If you’re telling me there’s a straight chain of command back to El Chapo in Sinaloa — come on, that’s absurd,” the Mexican ambassador, Arturo Sarukhán, protested. Often, the gatekeepers and logistics men that the D.E.A. arrested were indeed connected to handlers in Mexico. But this was more true of high-level importers dealing in kilos than run-of-the-mill retailers pushing grams. When The Associated Press tracked down Otis Rich, a Baltimore dealer who was ensnared in one of the operations, he answered the obvious question with a telling reply: “Sina-who?”
“The fully integrated model would indeed maximize profits,” John Bailey observes in a coming book about the cartels, but “it also maximizes risk of exposure.” A big reason for the markup at the retail level is that the sales force is so exposed — out on the corner, a magnet for undercover cops, obliged to negotiate with a needy, unpredictable clientele. When you adjust for all that added risk, the windfall starts to seem less alluring. Like a liquor wholesaler who opts not to open a bar, Chapo appears to have decided that the profits associated with retail sales just aren’t worth the hassle.
What Sinaloa does do inside this country is ferry drugs along highways to regional distribution hubs, where they are turned over to trusted wholesalers, like the Flores twins of Chicago. Pedro and Margarito Flores grew up in a Mexican-American enclave of the city during the 1990s. Their father and an older brother had moved drugs for Sinaloa, and by the time the twins were in their 20s, they had gone into business as distributors, purchasing cocaine and heroin directly from Mexican cartels, then selling to dealers throughout the United States. Chicago, home of the Mercantile Exchange, has always been a hub from which legitimate goods fan out across the country, and it’s no different for black-market commodities. Chapo has used the city as a clearinghouse since the early 1990s; he once described it as his “home port.”
In 2005, the Flores twins were flown to a mountaintop compound in Sinaloa to meet with Chapo Guzmán. The kingpin is an intimidating interlocutor; one criminal who has negotiated with him face to face told me that Chapo tends to dominate a conversation, asking a lot of questions and compensating for his short stature by bouncing on the balls of his feet. But the meeting went well, and before long, the brothers were distributing around two tons of Sinaloa product each month. As preferred customers, they often took Chapo’s drugs without putting any money down, then paid the cartel only after they sold the product. This might seem unlikely, given the pervasive distrust in the underworld, but the narcotics trade is based on a robust and surprisingly reliable system of credit. In a sense, a cartel like Sinaloa has no choice but to offer a financing option, because few wholesale buyers have the liquidity to pay cash upfront for a ton of cocaine. “They have to offer lines of credit,” Wardrop told me, “no different from Walmart or Sears.”
This credit system, known as “fronting,” rests on an ironclad assumption that in the American marketplace, even an idiot salesman should have no trouble selling drugs. One convicted Sinaloa trafficker told me that it often took him more time to count the money he collected from his customers than it did to actually move the product. It may also help that the penalty for defaulting could involve dismemberment.
As wholesale buyers, the Flores brothers occupied a crucial bottleneck between the cartel and its consumers. They grew so indispensable, in fact, that after taking delivery of a shipment of drugs, they could retroactively bargain down the price. One day in 2008, Pedro Flores telephoned Guzmán in Mexico to ask for a discount on heroin.
“What did we agree on?” Chapo asked him, according to a government transcript of the call.
They had negotiated a price of $55,000 per kilo, Flores explained. But if Chapo would consider lowering that to $50,000, the twins could pay immediately.
“That price is fine,” Chapo agreed, without argument. Then he added something significant: “Do you have a way to bring that money over here?”
For the Sinaloa cartel, pushing product north into the United States is only half the logistical equation. The drug trade is a cash business — you can’t buy kilos with your credit card. So while politicians tend to focus on cartels primarily as importers of drugs, the narcos also devote an enormous amount of energy to the export of money. Cash is collected in small denominations from individual buyers and then bundled in great stacks of broken-in bills that are used to pay wholesalers, like the Flores brothers. These bills are counted, hidden in the same vehicle compartments that were used to smuggle drugs in the opposite direction and then sent to stash houses in Los Angeles, San Diego and Phoenix. From there, they move across the border into Mexico.
What happens to the money when it gets there? The cartel employs professional money launderers who specialize in drug proceeds, and according to Robert Mazur, a former D.E.A. agent who infiltrated the Colombian cartels, the fee for fully scrubbing and banking illicit proceeds may run Sinaloa more than 15 cents on the dollar. But a great deal of the cartel’s money remains in cash. In the early 1990s, a Sinaloa accountant sent planeloads of U.S. currency to Mexico City in suitcases holding $1 million each. When Miguel Angel Martínez worked for Chapo, the kingpin would test his loyalty, adding an extra $200,000 to one of the suitcases to see if Martínez would pocket it. “Eight suitcases, compadre, so that is $8 million,” he would say. (Martínez never fell for the trick.) A sizable share of the cash is devoted to paying bribes, and some is sent to Colombia to purchase more product, because drugs offer a strong return on investment. “Where would you put your money?” the former Cisen officer Alejandro Hope asked me with a chuckle. “T-bills? Real estate? I would put a large portion of my portfolio in cocaine.”
Even so, the business generates such volumes of currency that there is only so much you can launder or reinvest, which means that money can start to pile up around the house. The most that Martínez ever saw at one time was $30 million, which just sat there, having accumulated in his living room. In 2007, Mexican authorities raided the home of Zhenli Ye Gon, a Chinese-Mexican businessman who is believed to have supplied meth-precursor chemicals to the cartel, and discovered $206 million, the largest cash seizure in history. And that was the money Zhenli held onto — he was an inveterate gambler, who once blew so much cash in Las Vegas that one of the casinos presented him, in consolation, with a Rolls-Royce. “How much money do you have to lose in the casino for them to give you a Rolls-Royce?” Tony Placido, the D.E.A. intelligence official, asked. (The astonishing answer, in Zhenli’s case, is $72 million at a single casino in a single year.) Placido also pointed out that, as a precursor guy, Zhenli was on the low end of the value chain for meth. It makes you wonder about the net worth of the guy who runs the whole show.
In 2008, the Flores twins were indicted in Chicago and began secretly cooperating with law enforcement. The following year, one of their Sinaloa contacts — a debonair young trafficker named Jesús Vicente Zambada Niebla, or Vicentillo — was arrested in Mexico and later extradited to Chicago. He will be the highest-ranking member of the cartel ever to face trial in the United States, and his favorite wholesale customers will be the star witnesses against him. In a surprise twist, Vicentillo (who is the son of Chapo’s partner, Mayo Zambada) has argued that he can’t be prosecuted — because even as he worked for Sinaloa, he was also a secret informant for the D.E.A.
There has been speculation in Mexico that the Calderón regime favors Sinaloa over the unhinged Zetas and has made a devil’s pact to lay off the cartel. It might be impossible to eradicate all the cartels in Mexico, this theory goes, so the government has picked a favorite in the conflict in the hope that when the smoke clears, a Sinaloa monopoly might usher in a sort of pax narcotica. A 2010 National Public Radio investigation of Mexican arrest statistics found that Sinaloa had suffered conspicuously fewer arrests than had its peers, though this could simply be evidence of triage on the government’s part rather than p

Nov 22nd 2012, 16:34 by Economist.com

Mexican states compared with entire countries’ body counts, murder rates and populations

MEXICO’S murder rate has doubled over the past five years, to nearly 19 per 100,000 people per year. But what does that really mean? To give an idea of how safe or dangerous the country’s various states are, we have compared their crime statistics with those of whole countries. Visitors can relax in Yucatán, the safest state, which has about the same murder rate as Finland. Tlaxcala, not far from Mexico City, is about as safe as the United States. At the other end of the spectrum Chihuahua, the most violent state, has a murder rate equivalent to El Salvador, one of the most violent countries in the world. Another way of looking at the data is to compare the gross totals. The state of San Luis Potosí, for instance, has seen as many murders in the past year as all of Spain, despite having a population of just 2.6m.


BY NICHOLAS CASEY

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s president-elect Enrique Peña Nieto, fresh off his weekend election victory, said Tuesday he plans to continue President Felipe Calderón’s fight against the country’s drug gangs, but outlined a long-term strategy to place more of the battle in the hands of civilians rather than the military.

In a wide-ranging interview in the capital, Mr. Peña Nieto, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party, praised much of Mr. Calderón’s strategy against organized crime, including the creation of a federal police force and growing cooperation with the U.S.


President Barack Obama telephoned Mexican President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto to congratulate him on his victory in last weekend’s elections, the White House said in a statement Monday. While the release listed several topics that the two men discussed, it made no explicit mention of the two countries’ fitful efforts to combat ultra-violent drug cartels.

Obama “reiterated his commitment to working in partnership with Mexico, and looks forward to advancing common goals, including promoting democracy, economic prosperity, and security in the region and around the globe, in the coming years,” according to the White House statement.

Peña Nieto’s victory brought the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which governed Mexico for decades, back to power. He has pledged to overhaul his country’s energy, labor and tax systems, Reuters reported..

“The two leaders reaffirmed the close bilateral partnership the United States and Mexico enjoy based on mutual respect, shared responsibility, and the deep connections between our people,” according to the statement. Obama also “congratulated the Mexican people who have once again demonstrated their commitment to democratic values through a free, fair, and transparent election process.”

Peña Nieto won Sunday’s election with 38 percent of the vote, according to early returns. That gave him a lead of roughly 7 percentage points over his nearest rival, leftist candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador,  according to the Associated Press.

Obama has faced sharp Republican criticism over the government’s Fast and Furious operation, which aimed to track the flow of firearms from American gun sellers, through straw buyers, into the hands of the cartels. The Republican-led House of Representatives voted last week to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for refusing to hand over Justice Department documents tied to the operation.


MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican opposition candidate Enrique Pena Nieto’s campaign team claimed victory in the country’s presidential election on Sunday after exit polls showed him winning by a comfortable margin.

Pena Nieto, 45, of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), led by between 8 and 11 percentage points in exit polls published by three of Mexico’s main television networks after voting ended on Sunday night.
Shortly afterward his campaign manager, Luis Videgaray, declared victory.

“It is a resounding triumph,” Videgaray told Milenio television, adding that he was hopeful the PRI would have a majority in the Senate and possibly in the lower house of Congress, too.

The PRI, which governed Mexico for 71 years until losing power in 2000, has staged a comeback behind the handsome Pena Nieto, who has pledged to open state-owned oil monopoly Pemex to foreign investors, raise tax revenue and liberalize the labor market.

The exit polls showed him winning around 40 percent of the vote. Leftist rival Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador was in second place with Josefina Vazquez Mota of the ruling National Action Party, or PAN, trailing in third.

“I recognize that the trend up to this point is not in my favor,” said Vazquez Mota, whose campaign was dragged down by a brutal war with drug cartels and the government’s patchy economic record.
Preliminary official results were due in the next few hours.

“It’s time for the PRI to return. They’re the only ones who know how to govern,” said Candelaria Puc, 70, as she voted in the beach resort of Cancun. “The PRI is tough, but they won’t let the drug violence get out of control.”

Others feared a return to the worst years of PRI rule and put Pena Nieto’s big lead down to his cozy relationship with Televisa, Mexico’s top broadcaster.

“It’s the same party as ever and the people who vote for him (Pena Nieto) believe they are going to live happily ever after like in the soap operas,” Humberto Parra, a systems engineer, said as he went to vote in Mexico City.

By the time it lost to the PAN in 2000, the PRI had a reputation for widespread corruption, electoral fraud and authoritarianism.

The PRI was in disarray by 2006, when its presidential candidate came in a distant third, but it has rebounded since then and Pena Nieto gave it a new face.

He is promising to restore security to cities and towns ravaged by the drug war and also plans to reform Pemex, a proposal once considered political suicide.

Mexicans are fiercely protective of Pemex, but the PRI, which nationalized oil production in 1938, could be the one party able to liberalize the energy industry.

The PRI laid the foundations of the modern state with a nimble blend of politics and patronage that allowed it to appeal to labor unions and captains of industry at the same time.
Mexicans eventually tired of heavy-handedness that stifled dissent, rewarded loyalists and allowed widespread corruption.

(Additional reporting by Miguel Angel Gutierrez, Ana Isabel Martinez, Pablo Garibian; Editing by Dave Graham and Kieran Murray and Christopher Wilson)


Mexico’s Next President Won’t Slow The Drug War

By Robert Beckhusen

At this point, there’s little doubt who is likely to win Mexico’s presidential election on Sunday. That would be Enrique Peña Nieto, who polls show leading with double-digits over his rival candidates. He’s also calling for a (subtle) shift in the fight against the cartels: don’t bother as much with stopping drugs and taking down drug lords, but focus on stopping violence and kidnapping. But as far as big changes go, don’t expect much if Peña Nieto wins, at least not soon.

First, the little things. Last week, Pieña Nieto recruited Colombian General Oscar Naranjo — a veteran of the war against the notorious drug lord Pablo Escobar — as his top security adviser. Peña Nieto wants to boost Mexico’s Federal Police, and he’s for creating a new national paramilitary police force to fight the cartels.  His campaign has also been “highly solicitous” of the United States, notes Patrick Corcoran ofInSight, an organized crime monitoring group. This could mean a bigger U.S. role. Naranjo is also reportedly close to U.S. officials.
This is while the cartels still exercise draconian rule over cities throughout many parts of the country, especially along the border. Ciudad Juárez, which came to define Mexico’s drug violence when viewed from outside the country, has seen a drop in murders to 2007 levels, Corcoran adds. But other cities, like Nuevo Laredo, experienced lower and lower levels of violence only for gangland killings to spark anew. The cartels have also spread to new areas.
“If you noticed, none of the presidential candidates broke openly with [outgoing President Felipe Calderón’s] strategy — the farthest they went was to criticize the level of violence,” César Martinez Espinosa, a doctoral candidate at the University of Texas and a specialist in Mexican national security issues, writes in an e-mail. ”This is because they recognized that a majority of people (outside of Mexico City) approves Calderón’s fight against the cartels (some polls have tracked that), especially the participation of the military in it and because they might not have that much room to maneuver once they are in power.”
Reducing violence by legalizing drugs? Not likely in the least. A darker suggestion floated as a possibility in press reports is some kind of deal with the cartels, but Pieña Nieto has ruled out negotiating a truce.
The reason why a truce is brought up: Peña Nieto’s political party, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (or PRI), formerly maintained uninterrupted single-party rule for most of the 20th century. But when it lost power 12 years ago, it also lost a patronage system between regional party bosses and the cartels. This system meant drugs were allowed to flow relatively freely, provided physical disputes between the cartels didn’t get out of hand. But losing a (note: corrupt) system of checks and balances, beef between cartels escalated.
Nor is it likely that such a deal could be made today. In some states that maintained PRI rule, these networks were maintained but still failed to stop the surge in violence. Some of the state-level politicians with ties to the cartels are now being purged. In any case, the PRI will be governing a different Mexico: one in which corruption is still a major problem, but in which a single party is not able to maintain control over the entire governing apparatus. Another problem is that today’s cartels are smaller, a lot more numerous and increasingly decentralized. With so many cartels operating in Mexico today, who do you cut a deal with?
“Should he win, Peña Nieto will surely seek some cosmetic changes, and he may push the philosophy underlying Mexico’s crime strategy in a new direction. But the obstacles to a different approach are enormous; as a result, for better or worse, the shifts are likely to be marginal,” notes Corcoran.
Another option is to eliminate some local police forces and “consolidate them into stronger state forces,” says Martinez. Elsewhere, the new president will have to keep up economic growth and push reforms through the courts and a chaotic, badly-run prison system. But for the time being, and for whoever wins, the war with the cartels will continue.


Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera (born April 4, 1957)[2] is a fugitive Mexican drug lord who heads the world’s largest and most powerful drug trafficking organization, the Sinaloa Cartel,[5] an organization named after the Mexican Pacific coast state of Sinaloa where it was initially formed. Known as “El Chapo Guzmán” (“Shorty Guzmán“) for his 1.68 m (5 ft 6 in) stature, he became Mexico’s top drug kingpin in 2003 after the arrest of his rival Osiel Cárdenas of the Gulf Cartel, and is now considered “The most powerful drug trafficker in the world,” by the United States Department of the Treasury.[6][7]
Guzmán Loera has been ranked by Forbes magazine as one of the most powerful people in the world every year since 2009; ranking 41st, 60th and 55th respectively.[8][9] He was also listed by Forbes as the 10th richest man in Mexico (1,140th in the world) in 2011.[10][11] Forbes also calls him the “biggest druglord of all time”,[12] and the DEA strongly believes he has surpassed the influence and reach of Pablo Escobar, and now considers him “the godfather of the drug world.”[13]
Guzman Loera’s Sinaloa Cartel smuggles multi-ton cocaine shipments from Colombia through Mexico to the United States,[1] and has distribution cells throughout the U.S.[1] The organization has also been involved in the production, smuggling and distribution of Mexican methamphetamine,marijuana, and heroin. The U.S. offers a $5 million USD reward for information leading to his capture. The Mexican government offers a reward of 30 million pesos for such information.


Cocaine Incorporated

One afternoon last August, at a hospital on the outskirts of Los Angeles, a former beauty queen named Emma Coronel gave birth to a pair of heiresses. The twins, who were delivered at 3:50 and 3:51, respectively, stand to inherit some share of a fortune that Forbes estimates is worth a billion dollars. Coronel’s husband, who was not present for the birth, is a legendary tycoon who overcame a penurious rural childhood to establish a wildly successful multinational business. If Coronel elected to leave the entry for “Father” on the birth certificates blank, it was not because of any dispute over patrimony. More likely, she was just skittish about the fact that her husband, Joaquín Guzmán, is the C.E.O. of Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel, a man the Treasury Department recently described as the world’s most powerful drug trafficker. Guzmán’s organization is responsible for as much as half of the illegal narcotics imported into the United States from Mexico each year; he may well be the most-wanted criminal in this post-Bin Laden world. But his bride is a U.S. citizen with no charges against her. So authorities could only watch as she bundled up her daughters and slipped back across the border to introduce them to their dad.
How the Sinaloa Cartel Smuggles Drugs Across Borders

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Known as El Chapo for his short, stocky frame, Guzmán is 55, which in narco-years is about 150. He is a quasi-mythical figure in Mexico, the subject of countless ballads, who has outlived enemies and accomplices alike, defying the implicit bargain of a life in the drug trade: that careers are glittering but brief and always terminate in prison or the grave. When Pablo Escobar was Chapo’s age, he had been dead for more than a decade. In fact, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, Chapo sells more drugs today than Escobar did at the height of his career. To some extent, this success is easily explained: as Hillary Clinton acknowledged several years ago, America’s “insatiable demand for illegal drugs” is what drives the clandestine industry. It’s no accident that the world’s biggest supplier of narcotics and the world’s biggest consumer of narcotics just happen to be neighbors. “Poor Mexico,” its former president Porfirio Díaz is said to have remarked. “So far from God and so close to the United States.”
The Sinaloa cartel can buy a kilo of cocaine in the highlands of Colombia or Peru for around $2,000, then watch it accrue value as it makes its way to market. In Mexico, that kilo fetches more than $10,000. Jump the border to the United States, and it could sell wholesale for $30,000. Break it down into grams to distribute retail, and that same kilo sells for upward of $100,000 — more than its weight in gold. And that’s just cocaine. Alone among the Mexican cartels, Sinaloa is both diversified and vertically integrated, producing and exporting marijuana, heroin and methamphetamine as well.
Estimating the precise scale of Chapo’s empire is tricky, however. Statistics on underground economies are inherently speculative: cartels don’t make annual disclosures, and no auditor examines their books. Instead, we’re left with back-of-the-envelope extrapolations based on conjectural data, much of it supplied by government agencies that may have bureaucratic incentives to overplay the problem.
So in a spirit of empirical humility, we shouldn’t accept as gospel the estimate, from the Justice Department, that Colombian and Mexican cartels reap $18 billion to $39 billion from drug sales in the United States each year. (That range alone should give you pause.) Still, even if you take the lowest available numbers, Sinaloa emerges as a titanic player in the global black market. In the sober reckoning of the RAND Corporation, for instance, the gross revenue that all Mexican cartels derive from exporting drugs to the United States amounts to only $6.6 billion. By most estimates, though, Sinaloa has achieved a market share of at least 40 percent and perhaps as much as 60 percent, which means that Chapo Guzmán’s organization would appear to enjoy annual revenues of some $3 billion — comparable in terms of earnings to Netflix or, for that matter, to Facebook.
The drug war in Mexico has claimed more than 50,000 lives since 2006. But what tends to get lost amid coverage of this epic bloodletting is just how effective the drug business has become. A close study of the Sinaloa cartel, based on thousands of pages of trial records and dozens of interviews with convicted drug traffickers and current and former officials in Mexico and the United States, reveals an operation that is global (it is active in more than a dozen countries) yet also very nimble and, above all, staggeringly complex. Sinaloa didn’t merely survive the recession — it has thrived in recent years. And after prevailing in some recent mass-casualty clashes, it now controls more territory along the border than ever.
“Chapo always talks about the drug business, wherever he is,” one erstwhile confidant told a jury several years ago, describing a driven, even obsessive entrepreneur with a proclivity for micromanagement. From the remote mountain redoubt where he is believed to be hiding, surrounded at all times by a battery of gunmen, Chapo oversees a logistical network that is as sophisticated, in some ways, as that of Amazon or U.P.S. — doubly sophisticated, when you think about it, because traffickers must move both their product and their profits in secret, and constantly maneuver to avoid death or arrest. As a mirror image of a legal commodities business, the Sinaloa cartel brings to mind that old line about Ginger Rogers doing all the same moves as Fred Astaire, only backward and in heels. In its longevity, profitability and scope, it might be the most successful criminal enterprise in history.
The state of Sinaloa, from which the cartel derives its name, lies wedged between the Sierra Madre Occidental and Mexico’s west coast. Sun-blasted and remote, Sinaloa is the Sicily of Mexico, both cradle and refuge of violent men, and the ancestral land of many of the country’s most notorious traffickers. Chapo was born in a village called La Tuna, in the foothills of the Sierra, in 1957. His formal education ended in third grade, and as an adult, he has reportedly struggled to read and write, prevailing upon a ghostwriter, at one point, to compose letters to his mistress. Little is known about Chapo’s early years, but by the 1980s, he joined the Guadalajara cartel, which was run by a former policeman known as El Padrino — the Godfather.
For decades, Mexican smugglers had exported homegrown marijuana and heroin to the United States. But as the Colombian cocaine boom gathered momentum in the 1980s and U.S. law enforcement began patrolling the Caribbean, the Colombians went in search of an alternate route to the United States and discovered one in Mexico. Initially, Mexican traffickers, like a pudgy 25-year-old airplane pilot named Miguel Angel Martínez, acted as independent contractors who were paid a fee by the Colombians to move their cargo. In 1986, the Guadalajara cartel dispatched Martínez to the Colombian port of Barranquilla, in the hope that someone might commission him to fly drugs up to Mexico. But Martínez couldn’t find any takers and ended up languishing in Colombia for months, worrying that he had blown his big opportunity with the cartel. Eventually, he caught a commercial flight back to Mexico, and shortly thereafter, he was summoned to a meeting with Chapo, who was by then an underboss in the cartel. “You were very well behaved in Colombia,” Chapo told him, according to subsequent testimony. He seemed impressed by Martínez’s patience in waiting for an assignment.
Having passed this test, Martínez started working for Chapo as a kind of air traffic controller, negotiating directly with the Cali and Medellín cartels, then guiding their cocaine flights from South America to secret runways in barren stretches of Mexico. Martínez knew U.S. agents were monitoring his radio communications, so rather than say a word, he would whistle — a signal to the pilots that they were cleared for takeoff.
With the decline of the Caribbean route, the Colombians started paying Mexican smugglers not in cash but in cocaine. More than any other factor, it was this transition that realigned the power dynamics along the narcotics supply chain in the Americas, because it allowed the Mexicans to stop serving as logistical middlemen and invest in their own drugs instead. In 1986, Martínez couldn’t land a gig as a lowly courier in Barranquilla. Not five years later, he was marshaling hundreds of flights laden with cocaine for Chapo. “Sometimes we would get five planes a night,” he remembered. “Sometimes 16.” Now it was the Colombians who went hat in hand to Chapo, looking not to hire him to move their product but to sell it to him outright. They would tip Martínez $25,000 just to get an audience with the man.
The young pilot became a gatekeeper to the ascendant kingpin, fielding his phone calls and accompanying him on foreign trips. There’s a vaudevillian goofiness to nicknames in Mexico, and the stout Martínez was known in the cartel as El Gordo. He and Chapo — Fatty and Shorty — made quite a pair. “Japan, Hong Kong, India, all of Europe,” Martínez recalled in testimony. Chapo owned a fleet of Learjets, and together, they saw “the whole world.” They both used cocaine as well, a habit that Chapo would eventually give up. When a lawyer inquired, years later, whether he had been Chapo’s right-hand man, Martínez replied that he might have been, but that Guzmán had five left hands and five right hands. “He’s an octopus, Chapo Guzmán,” he said. For his efforts, Martínez was paid a million dollars a year, in a single annual installment: “In cash, in a suitcase, each December.” When Martínez’s son was born, Chapo asked to serve as godfather.
In 1989, Chapo’s mentor, El Padrino, was captured by Mexican authorities, and the remaining members of the Guadalajara cartel assembled in Acapulco to determine which smuggling route each capo would inherit. According to Ioan Grillo’s book, “El Narco,” the meeting was ostensibly a gathering of friends. But the shards of El Padrino’s organization would become the basis for the Tijuana, Juárez and Sinaloa cartels, and these onetime colleagues would soon become antagonists in a cycle of bloody turf wars that continues to this day.
“Drug cartel,” it turns out, is a whopper of a misnomer; neither the Mexicans nor the Colombians ever colluded to fix prices or supply. “I wish they were cartels,” Arturo Sarukhán, Mexico’s ambassador in Washington, told me. “If they were, they wouldn’t be fighting and driving up the violence.”
At first, Chapo’s organization controlled a single smuggling route, through western Mexico into Arizona. But by 1990, it was moving three tons of cocaine each month over the border, and from there, to Los Angeles. The Sinaloa has always distinguished itself by the eclectic means it uses to transport drugs. Working with Colombian suppliers, cartel operatives moved cocaine into Mexico in small private aircraft and in baggage smuggled on commercial flights and eventually on their own 747s, which they could load with as much as 13 tons of cocaine. They used container ships and fishing vessels and go-fast boats and submarines — crude semi-submersibles at first, then fully submersible subs, conceived by engineers and constructed under the canopy of the Amazon, then floated downriver in pieces and assembled at the coastline. These vessels can cost more than a million dollars, but to the smugglers, they are effectively disposable. In the event of an interception by the Coast Guard, someone onboard pulls a lever that floods the interior so that the evidence sinks; only the crew is left bobbing in the water, waiting to be picked up by the authorities.
Moving cocaine is a capital-intensive business, but the cartel subsidizes these investments with a ready source of easy income: marijuana. Cannabis is often described as the “cash crop” of Mexican cartels because it grows abundantly in the Sierras and requires no processing. But it’s bulkier than cocaine, and smellier, which makes it difficult to conceal. So marijuana tends to cross the border far from official ports of entry. The cartel makes sandbag bridges to ford the Colorado River and sends buggies loaded with weed bouncing over the Imperial Sand Dunes into California. Michael Braun, the former chief of operations for the D.E.A., told me a story about the construction of a high-tech fence along a stretch of border in Arizona. “They erect this fence,” he said, “only to go out there a few days later and discover that these guys have a catapult, and they’re flinging hundred-pound bales of marijuana over to the other side.” He paused and looked at me for a second. “A catapult,” he repeated. “We’ve got the best fence money can buy, and they counter us with a 2,500-year-old technology.”
Improvisation is a trafficker’s greatest asset, and in recent years, Sinaloa has devised an even more efficient solution to the perennial challenge of getting marijuana across the border. Grow it here. Several years ago, a hunter was trekking through the remote North Woods of Wisconsin when he stumbled upon a vast irrigated grow site, tended by a dozen Mexican farmers armed with AK-47’s. According to the D.E.A., it was a Sinaloa pot farm, established on U.S. National Forest land to supply the market in Chicago.
Heroin is easier to smuggle but difficult to produce, and as detailed in court documents, Chapo is particularly proud of his organization’s work with the drug. He personally negotiates shipments to the United States and stands by its quality, which is normally 94 percent pure. “The value-to-weight ratio of heroin is better than any other drug,” says Alejandro Hope, who until recently was a senior officer at Cisen, Mexico’s equivalent to the C.I.A.
But the future of the business may be methamphetamine. During the 1990s, when the market for meth exploded in the United States, new regulations made it more difficult to manufacture large quantities of the drug in this country. This presented an opportunity that the Sinaloa quickly exploited. According to Anabel Hernández, author of “Los Señores del Narco,” a book about the cartel, it was one of Chapo’s deputies, a trafficker named Ignacio (Nacho) Coronel, who first spotted the massive potential of methamphetamine. “Nacho was like Steve Jobs,” Hernández told me. “He saw the future.”
Here was a drug that was ragingly addictive and could be produced cheaply and smuggled with relative ease. When they first started manufacturing meth, the Sinaloa would provide free samples to their existing wholesale clients in the Midwest. “They’d send five hundred pounds of marijuana, and secreted in that would be two kilos of meth,” Jack Riley, the D.E.A.’s special agent in charge of the Chicago office, told me. “They’d give it away for free. They wanted the market.” As demand grew, the cartel constructed superlabs, capable of churning out industrial volumes of meth. Container ships from India and China unloaded precursor chemicals — largely ephedrine — in the Pacific ports Lázaro Cárdenas and Manzanillo. To grasp the scale of production, consider the volume of some recent precursor seizures at these ports: 22 tons in October 2009; 88 tons in May 2010; 252 tons last December. When Mexico banned the importation of ephedrine, the cartel adapted, tweaking its recipe to use unregulated precursors. Recently they have started outsourcing production to new labs in Guatemala.
But Chapo’s greatest contribution to the evolving tradecraft of drug trafficking was one of those innovations that seem so logical in hindsight it’s a wonder nobody thought of it before: a tunnel. In the late 1980s, Chapo hired an architect to design an underground passageway from Mexico to the United States. What appeared to be a water faucet outside the home of a cartel attorney in the border town of Agua Prieta was in fact a secret lever that, when twisted, activated a hydraulic system that opened a hidden trapdoor underneath a pool table inside the house. The passage ran more than 200 feet, directly beneath the fortifications along the border, and emerged inside a warehouse the cartel owned in Douglas, Ariz. Chapo pronounced it “cool.”
When this new route was complete, Chapo instructed Martínez to call the Colombians. “Tell them to send all the drugs they can,” he said. As the deliveries multiplied, Sinaloa acquired a reputation for the miraculous speed with which it could push inventory across the border. “Before the planes were arriving back in Colombia on the return, the cocaine was already in Los Angeles,” Martínez marveled.
Eventually the tunnel was discovered, so Chapo shifted tactics once again, this time by going into the chili-pepper business. He opened a cannery in Guadalajara and began producing thousands of cans stamped “Comadre Jalapeños,” stuffing them with cocaine, then vacuum-sealing them and shipping them to Mexican-owned grocery stores in California. He sent drugs in the refrigeration units of tractor-trailers, in custom-made cavities in the bodies of cars and in truckloads of fish (which inspectors at a sweltering checkpoint might not want to detain for long). He sent drugs across the border on freight trains, to cartel warehouses in Los Angeles and Chicago, where rail spurs let the cars roll directly inside to unload. He sent drugs via FedEx.
But that tunnel into Douglas remains Chapo’s masterpiece, an emblem of his creative ingenuity. Twenty years on, the cartels are still burrowing under the border — more than a hundred tunnels have been discovered in the years since Chapo’s first. They are often ventilated and air-conditioned, and some feature trolley lines stretching up to a half-mile to accommodate the tonnage in transit.
You might suppose that a certain recklessness would be a prerequisite for anyone contemplating a career in the drug trade. But in reality, blue-chip traffickers tend to fixate, with neurotic intensity, on the concept of risk. “The goal of these folks is not to sell drugs,” Tony Placido, who was the top intelligence official at the D.E.A. until he retired last year, told me. “It’s to earn a spendable profit and live to enjoy it.” So the smart narcos are preoccupied with what Peter Reuter and Mark Kleiman once referred to, in a classic essay on the drug business, as “the marginal imprisonment risk.” In 2010, Chapo’s old friend Ismael (El Mayo) Zambada, the No. 2 man in the Sinaloa cartel, granted an interview to the Mexican magazine Proceso. Now in his 60s and a grandfather, El Mayo has been in the drug business for nearly half a century and has amassed a fortune. But you can’t buy peace of mind. “I’m terrified they’ll incarcerate me,” he acknowledged. “I’m full of fear. Always.”
There’s a reason coke and heroin cost so much more on the street than at the farm gate: you’re not paying for the drugs; you’re compensating everyone along the distribution chain for the risks they assumed in getting them to you. Smugglers often negotiate, in actuarial detail, about who will be held liable in the event of lost inventory. After a bust, arrested traffickers have been known to demand a receipt from authorities, so that they can prove the loss was not because of their own negligence (which would mean they might have to pay for it) or their own thievery (which would mean they might have to die). Some Colombian cartels have actually offered insurance policies on narcotics, as a safeguard against loss or seizure.
To prevent catastrophic losses, cartels tend to distribute their risk as much as possible. Before sending a 100-kilo shipment across the border, traffickers might disaggregate it into five carloads of 20 kilos each. Chapo and his associates further reduce their personal exposure by going in together on shipments, so each of those smaller carloads might hold 10 kilos belonging to Chapo and 10 belonging to Mayo Zambada. The Sinaloa is occasionally called the Federation because senior figures and their subsidiaries operate semiautonomously while still employing a common smuggling apparatus.
The organizational structure of the cartel also seems fashioned to protect the leadership. No one knows how many people work for Sinaloa, and the range of estimates is comically broad. Malcolm Beith, the author of a recent book about Chapo, posits that at any given moment, the drug lord may have 150,000 people working for him. John Bailey, a Georgetown professor who has studied the cartel, says that the number of actual employees could be as low as 150. The way to account for this disparity is to distinguish between salaried employees and subcontractors. A labor force of thousands may be required to plow all that contraband up the continent, but a lot of the work can be delegated to independent contractors, people the Mexican political scientist and security consultant Eduardo Guerrero describes as working “for the cartel but outside it.”
Even those who do work directly for the cartel are limited to carefully compartmentalized roles. At a recent trial, a regional cartel lieutenant, José Esparza, testified about his experience working for the Sinaloa along the border. On one occasion, he attended a meeting outside Culiacán with many of the cartel’s top leaders. But there was no sign of Chapo. Once the discussion concluded, an emissary left the group and approached a Hummer that was parked in the distance and surrounded by men with bulletproof vests and machine guns, to report on the proceedings. Chapo never stepped out of the vehicle.
It’s not just the federales that the narcos fear; it’s also one another. The brutal opportunism of the underworld economy means that most partnerships are temporary, and treachery abounds. For decades, Chapo worked closely with his childhood friend Arturo Beltrán Leyva, a fearsome trafficker who ran a profitable subsidiary of Sinaloa. But in 2008, the two men split, then went to war, and Beltrán Leyva’s assassins were later blamed for murdering one of Chapo’s sons. To reduce the likelihood of clashes like these, the cartel has revived an unlikely custom: the ancient art of dynastic marriage. Chapo’s organization is occasionally referred to as an alianza de sangre (“alliance of blood”), because so many of its prominent members are cousins by marriage or brothers-in-law. Emma Coronel, who gave birth to Chapo’s twins, is the niece of Nacho Coronel, the Steve Jobs of meth (who died in a shootout with the Mexican Army in 2010). All of this intermarriage, one U.S. official in Mexico suggested to me, functions as “a hedge against distrust.” An associate may be less likely to cheat you, or to murder you, if there’ll be hell to pay with his wife. It’s a cynical strategy, certainly, but in a vocation where one of Chapo’s rivals went by the nickname Mata Amigos, or “Friend Killer,” it may also be quite sound.
The surest way to stay out of trouble in the drug business is to dole out bribes, and promiscuously. Drug cartels don’t pay corporate taxes, but a colossus like Sinaloa makes regular payments to the federal, state and municipal authorities that may well rival the effective tax rate in Mexico. When the D.E.A. conducted an internal survey of its top 50 operatives and informants several years ago and asked them to name the most important factor for running a drug business, they replied, overwhelmingly, corruption. At a trial in 2010, a former police official from Juárez, Jesús Fierro Méndez, acknowledged that he had worked for Sinaloa. “Did the drug cartels have the police on the payroll?” an attorney asked.
“All of it,” Fierro Méndez replied.
The cartel bribes mayors and prosecutors and governors, state police and federal police, the army, the navy and a host of senior officials at the national level. After an arrest for drug trafficking in the 1990s, Chapo was sentenced to 20 years and shipped to Puente Grande, a fortified prison in Jalisco that was Mexico’s answer to a supermax. But during the five years he spent there, Chapo enjoyed prerogatives that make the prison sequence in “Goodfellas” look positively austere. With most of the facility on his payroll, he is said to have ordered his meals from a menu, conducted business by cellphone and orchestrated periodic visits by prostitutes, who would arrive aboard a prison truck driven by a guard. I spoke with one drug producer who negotiated a joint venture deal with Chapo while he was behind bars. Eventually, as the story goes, Chapo was smuggled out in a laundry cart. According to Martínez’s testimony, he paid more than $3 million to secure his release. Today, Chapo is a free man, Puente Grande’s warden only recently completed a jail sentence for letting him go and Mexicans call the prison Puerta Grande — the Big Door.
The tacit but unwavering tolerance that Mexican authorities have shown for the drug trade over the years has muddled the boundaries between outlaws and officials. When Miguel Angel Martínez was working for Chapo, he says, “everyone” in the organization had military and police identification. Daylight killings are sometimes carried out by men dressed in police uniforms, and it is not always clear, after the fact, whether the perpetrators were thugs masquerading as policemen or actual policemen providing paid assistance to the thugs. On those occasions when the government scores a big arrest, meanwhile, police and military officials pose for photos at the valedictory news conference brandishing assault weapons, their faces shrouded in ski masks, to shield their identities. In the trippy semiotics of the drug war, the cops dress like bandits, and the bandits dress like cops.
When you tally it all up, bribery may be the single largest line item on a cartel’s balance sheet. In 2008, President Felipe Calderón’s own drug czar, Noe Ramirez, was charged with accepting $450,000 each month. Presumably, such gargantuan bribes to senior officials cascade down, securing the allegiance of their subordinates. “You have to recruit the high commands, so they can issue the information to lower ranks and order whatever they want,” the corrupt cop, Fierro Méndez, testified. But in key jurisdictions, the cartel most likely makes payments up and down the chain of command. In a 2010 speech, Genaro García Luna, Mexico’s secretary of public security, speculated that together, the cartels spend more than a billion dollars each year just to bribe the municipal police.
It’s not only officials who must be bribed, either. There are also the “falcons,” an army of civilian lookouts who might receive $100 a month just to keep their eyes open and make a phone call if they notice an uptick in border inspections or a convoy of police. “There are cities in Mexico where virtually every cabdriver is on the payroll,” Michael Braun, formerly of the D.E.A., said. “They have eyes and ears everywhere.”
And then there are the Americans. Guards at the U.S. border have been known to wave a car through their checkpoints for a few thousand dollars, and since 2004, there have been 138 convictions or indictments in corruption investigations involving members of the United States Customs and Border Protection. Paradoxically, one explanation for this state of affairs is the rapid expansion of border forces following the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. In their hurry to fortify the U.S.-Mexico boundary with uniformed personnel, it seems, officials may have made allowances on background checks and screenings. In some instances, job offers have been extended to the immediate relatives of known traffickers.
When corruption fails, there is always violence. During the 12 years that he worked for the cartel, Martínez claims that he did not carry a gun. But Sinaloa has risen to pre-eminence as much through savagery as through savvy. “In illegal markets, the natural tendency is toward monopoly, so they fight each other,” Antonio Mazzitelli, an official with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Mexico City, told me. “How do they fight: Go to court? Offer better prices? No. They use violence.” The primal horror of Mexico’s murder epidemic makes it difficult, perhaps even distasteful, to construe the cartel’s butchery as a rational advancement of coherent business aims. But the reality is that in a multibillion-dollar industry in which there is no recourse to legally enforceable contracts, some degree of violence may be inevitable.
“It’s like geopolitics,” Tony Placido said. “You need to use violence frequently enough that the threat is believable. But overuse it, and it’s bad for business.”
The most gratuitous practitioners of violence right now would be the Zetas, a rampaging league of sociopaths with a notable devotion to physical cruelty. The Zetas are a new kind of cartel, in that they came somewhat late to the actual business of smuggling drugs. They started out as bodyguards for the Gulf Cartel before going into business for themselves, and they specialize in messaging through bloodshed. It’s the Zetas who are charged with dumping 49 mutilated bodies by the side of a highway near Monterrey last month. Sinaloa is responsible for a great deal of carnage as well, but its approach to killing has traditionally been more discreet. Whereas a Sinaloa subsidiary allied with a Tijuana farmer known as the Stewmaker, who dissolved hundreds of bodies in barrels of lye, the Zetas have pioneered a multimedia approach to violence, touting their killings on YouTube. One strategic choice facing any cartel is deciding when to intimidate the civilian population and when to cultivate it. Sinaloa can be exceedingly brutal, but the cartel is more pragmatic than the Zetas in its deployment of violence. It may simply be, as one Obama administration official suggested, that the Sinaloa leadership is “more conscious of their brand.”
It’s a curious rivalry between these two organizations, because their business models are really very different. The Zetas have diversified beyond drugs to extortion, kidnapping and human trafficking, blossoming into what officials call a “polycriminal organization.” Sinaloa, by contrast, has mostly tended to stick to its core competence of trafficking. According to one captured cartel member, Chapo specifically instructed his subordinates not to dabble in protection rackets and insisted that Sinaloa territory remain “calm” and “controlled.”
“Sinaloa does not do extortion directly,” Eduardo Guerrero said. “It’s so risky, and the profits are so small. They want the big business — and the big business is in the United States.”
Just how active the cartel is north of the border is a divisive question. According to the Department of Justice, by 2009, Mexican-based criminal organizations were operating in “more than a thousand U.S. cities.” When you consider the huge jump in the price of narcotics between bulk importation and retail sales, it might seem that Chapo would want to expand into street-level distribution. In 2005, the D.E.A. began intercepting large shipments of cocaine in which each kilo brick was heat-sealed in a distinctive Mylar foil. They spotted the foil in Los Angeles first, then in Oklahoma, Chicago, Atlanta and New Jersey. “This was Sinaloa coke,” Michael Wardrop, who led two of the agency’s most ambitious operations against the domestic networks of the cartel, told me. As the telltale wrapping popped up across the country, Wardrop and his colleagues marveled at the sheer expanse of Sinaloa’s market. “It was like watching a virus in a Petri dish,” he said. “It was constantly growing.”
Wardrop’s investigations netted more than a thousand arrests. But some observers question the extent to which the perpetrators in these cases were actually working for the cartel. “If you’re telling me there’s a straight chain of command back to El Chapo in Sinaloa — come on, that’s absurd,” the Mexican ambassador, Arturo Sarukhán, protested. Often, the gatekeepers and logistics men that the D.E.A. arrested were indeed connected to handlers in Mexico. But this was more true of high-level importers dealing in kilos than run-of-the-mill retailers pushing grams. When The Associated Press tracked down Otis Rich, a Baltimore dealer who was ensnared in one of the operations, he answered the obvious question with a telling reply: “Sina-who?”
“The fully integrated model would indeed maximize profits,” John Bailey observes in a coming book about the cartels, but “it also maximizes risk of exposure.” A big reason for the markup at the retail level is that the sales force is so exposed — out on the corner, a magnet for undercover cops, obliged to negotiate with a needy, unpredictable clientele. When you adjust for all that added risk, the windfall starts to seem less alluring. Like a liquor wholesaler who opts not to open a bar, Chapo appears to have decided that the profits associated with retail sales just aren’t worth the hassle.
What Sinaloa does do inside this country is ferry drugs along highways to regional distribution hubs, where they are turned over to trusted wholesalers, like the Flores twins of Chicago. Pedro and Margarito Flores grew up in a Mexican-American enclave of the city during the 1990s. Their father and an older brother had moved drugs for Sinaloa, and by the time the twins were in their 20s, they had gone into business as distributors, purchasing cocaine and heroin directly from Mexican cartels, then selling to dealers throughout the United States. Chicago, home of the Mercantile Exchange, has always been a hub from which legitimate goods fan out across the country, and it’s no different for black-market commodities. Chapo has used the city as a clearinghouse since the early 1990s; he once described it as his “home port.”
In 2005, the Flores twins were flown to a mountaintop compound in Sinaloa to meet with Chapo Guzmán. The kingpin is an intimidating interlocutor; one criminal who has negotiated with him face to face told me that Chapo tends to dominate a conversation, asking a lot of questions and compensating for his short stature by bouncing on the balls of his feet. But the meeting went well, and before long, the brothers were distributing around two tons of Sinaloa product each month. As preferred customers, they often took Chapo’s drugs without putting any money down, then paid the cartel only after they sold the product. This might seem unlikely, given the pervasive distrust in the underworld, but the narcotics trade is based on a robust and surprisingly reliable system of credit. In a sense, a cartel like Sinaloa has no choice but to offer a financing option, because few wholesale buyers have the liquidity to pay cash upfront for a ton of cocaine. “They have to offer lines of credit,” Wardrop told me, “no different from Walmart or Sears.”
This credit system, known as “fronting,” rests on an ironclad assumption that in the American marketplace, even an idiot salesman should have no trouble selling drugs. One convicted Sinaloa trafficker told me that it often took him more time to count the money he collected from his customers than it did to actually move the product. It may also help that the penalty for defaulting could involve dismemberment.
As wholesale buyers, the Flores brothers occupied a crucial bottleneck between the cartel and its consumers. They grew so indispensable, in fact, that after taking delivery of a shipment of drugs, they could retroactively bargain down the price. One day in 2008, Pedro Flores telephoned Guzmán in Mexico to ask for a discount on heroin.
“What did we agree on?” Chapo asked him, according to a government transcript of the call.
They had negotiated a price of $55,000 per kilo, Flores explained. But if Chapo would consider lowering that to $50,000, the twins could pay immediately.
“That price is fine,” Chapo agreed, without argument. Then he added something significant: “Do you have a way to bring that money over here?”
For the Sinaloa cartel, pushing product north into the United States is only half the logistical equation. The drug trade is a cash business — you can’t buy kilos with your credit card. So while politicians tend to focus on cartels primarily as importers of drugs, the narcos also devote an enormous amount of energy to the export of money. Cash is collected in small denominations from individual buyers and then bundled in great stacks of broken-in bills that are used to pay wholesalers, like the Flores brothers. These bills are counted, hidden in the same vehicle compartments that were used to smuggle drugs in the opposite direction and then sent to stash houses in Los Angeles, San Diego and Phoenix. From there, they move across the border into Mexico.
What happens to the money when it gets there? The cartel employs professional money launderers who specialize in drug proceeds, and according to Robert Mazur, a former D.E.A. agent who infiltrated the Colombian cartels, the fee for fully scrubbing and banking illicit proceeds may run Sinaloa more than 15 cents on the dollar. But a great deal of the cartel’s money remains in cash. In the early 1990s, a Sinaloa accountant sent planeloads of U.S. currency to Mexico City in suitcases holding $1 million each. When Miguel Angel Martínez worked for Chapo, the kingpin would test his loyalty, adding an extra $200,000 to one of the suitcases to see if Martínez would pocket it. “Eight suitcases, compadre, so that is $8 million,” he would say. (Martínez never fell for the trick.) A sizable share of the cash is devoted to paying bribes, and some is sent to Colombia to purchase more product, because drugs offer a strong return on investment. “Where would you put your money?” the former Cisen officer Alejandro Hope asked me with a chuckle. “T-bills? Real estate? I would put a large portion of my portfolio in cocaine.”
Even so, the business generates such volumes of currency that there is only so much you can launder or reinvest, which means that money can start to pile up around the house. The most that Martínez ever saw at one time was $30 million, which just sat there, having accumulated in his living room. In 2007, Mexican authorities raided the home of Zhenli Ye Gon, a Chinese-Mexican businessman who is believed to have supplied meth-precursor chemicals to the cartel, and discovered $206 million, the largest cash seizure in history. And that was the money Zhenli held onto — he was an inveterate gambler, who once blew so much cash in Las Vegas that one of the casinos presented him, in consolation, with a Rolls-Royce. “How much money do you have to lose in the casino for them to give you a Rolls-Royce?” Tony Placido, the D.E.A. intelligence official, asked. (The astonishing answer, in Zhenli’s case, is $72 million at a single casino in a single year.) Placido also pointed out that, as a precursor guy, Zhenli was on the low end of the value chain for meth. It makes you wonder about the net worth of the guy who runs the whole show.
In 2008, the Flores twins were indicted in Chicago and began secretly cooperating with law enforcement. The following year, one of their Sinaloa contacts — a debonair young trafficker named Jesús Vicente Zambada Niebla, or Vicentillo — was arrested in Mexico and later extradited to Chicago. He will be the highest-ranking member of the cartel ever to face trial in the United States, and his favorite wholesale customers will be the star witnesses against him. In a surprise twist, Vicentillo (who is the son of Chapo’s partner, Mayo Zambada) has argued that he can’t be prosecuted — because even as he worked for Sinaloa, he was also a secret informant for the D.E.A.
There has been speculation in Mexico that the Calderón regime favors Sinaloa over the unhinged Zetas and has made a devil’s pact to lay off the cartel. It might be impossible to eradicate all the cartels in Mexico, this theory goes, so the government has picked a favorite in the conflict in the hope that when the smoke clears, a Sinaloa monopoly might usher in a sort of pax narcotica. A 2010 National Public Radio investigation of Mexican arrest statistics found that Sinaloa had suffered conspicuously fewer arrests than had its peers, though this could simply be evidence of triage on the government’s part rather than proof of a conspiracy. Calderón vehemently denies any charges of favoritism, and his administration has arrested or killed several of Chapo’s key deputies in the last few years. (My repeated requests for interviews with relevant officials in Mexico were denied.)
The suggestion that the D.E.A. might have made a deal with a high-ranking Sinaloa figure is new, however. In the past, Chapo has occasionally authorized employees to provide information to American law enforcement. Fierro Méndez, the Juárez cop, described a system in which junior traffickers would walk into U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and announce their willingness to become informers — then feed the Americans intelligence about rival cartels, thereby using law enforcement to eliminate their competitors. U.S. officials allow that there were discussions between the D.E.A. and Vicentillo, but they deny that any quid pro quo was in place.
The trial, which is scheduled for October, should shed significant light on Sinaloa’s logistical apparatus — provided the witnesses can stay alive until then. Recently, a career criminal named Saul Rodriguez testified that Vicentillo solicited his help at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Chicago, where they were both being held, in an effort to have the Flores twins assassinated. Authorities have expressed concern that the cartel might undertake a daring jailbreak to get Vicentillo out. They have also voiced the opposite worry — that Vicentillo will himself be killed. A request by the trafficker’s attorneys that he be permitted to exercise outdoors raised concerns from prison officials, because the only open space at the prison is a fenced-in recreation area on top of the building, where Vicentillo could be picked off by a sniper. (He has since been moved to a more secure facility.)
It might seem far-fetched that the cartel would try to assassinate one of its own, the son of Mayo Zambada, no less. But Sinaloa guards its secrets ruthlessly. After Chapo’s friend Miguel Angel Martínez was arrested in 1998, four men came to kill him in prison, stabbing him repeatedly. In that assault, and another that followed, he sustained more than a dozen stab wounds, which punctured his lungs, pancreas and intestines. After the second attack, he was moved to another facility and kept in a segregated unit. This time, an assassin managed to get as far as the gate outside Martínez’s cell and chucked two grenades at the bars. Locked in with nowhere to run, Martínez could only cower by the toilet to shield himself from the blast. The roof caved in, and he barely survived. Asked later who it was that tried to have him killed, Martínez said that it was his compadre, Chapo Guzmán. “Because of what I knew,” he explained. (Today he is living in witness protection in the United States.)
Between the coming trial and the increased political drumbeat on both sides of the border for his capture, Chapo may be more embattled today than at any time in his career. In February, he escaped a raid by Mexican authorities in the resort area of Los Cabos. President Calderón’s party is trailing in the polls, and some have theorized that the only way it might manage to retain power after next month’s presidential election would be if Chapo is killed or captured. U.S. authorities, meanwhile, are uncertain about who might succeed Calderón — Vice President Joe Biden met with all of the leading candidates on a visit to Mexico in March — and whether that successor will have any appetite to continue battling the cartels. With so many dead and so little progress, the Mexican populace has grown war-weary. Several U.S. officials told me that the critical window for capturing Chapo is between now and when Calderón leaves office.
In addition to the threat of capture, there is the threat of competition. By some estimates, the Zetas now control more Mexican territory than Chapo does, even if they don’t move nearly as many drugs. Zeta gunmen have made bloody incursions on Chapo’s turf, going so far as to penetrate the previously inviolable stronghold of his own home state, Sinaloa. In 2008, Chapo’s lover, Zulema Hernández, was discovered dead in the trunk of a car, her body carved with the letter “Z.” “It’s like the evolution of the dinosaurs, and the coming of the T. Rex,” Antonio Mazzitelli told me. “The T. Rex is the Zetas.”
Chapo and his colleagues were never peaceful types; in the last few years, they have waged vicious wars of acquisition to seize the lucrative smuggling routes through Juárez and Tijuana. But to fend off the Zetas, Sinaloa is resorting to new levels of barbarism. In March, the cartel dumped a collection of dismembered bodies in Zeta territory and posted a series of open letters on the walls around them, deriding the Zetas as “a bunch of drunks and car-washers.” Each message was signed, “Sincerely, El Chapo.”
One thing Chapo has always done is innovate. Even as he engages in violent brinkmanship along the border, the cartel is expanding to new markets in Europe, where a kilo of cocaine can sell for three times what it does in the U.S., and in Australia, where authorities believe that Chapo is now a major cocaine supplier. There are also indications that the cartel is exploring opportunities in Southeast Asia, China and Japan — places Chapo and Martínez first visited as younger men. And Chapo’s great comparative advantage still lies along that fraught boundary between Mexico and the United States. Even if the kingpin is killed or captured, one of his associates will quite likely take his place, and the smuggling infrastructure that Chapo created will endure, channeling the product, reaping the profits and feeding, with barely a blip in service, the enduring demand on this side of the border — what the historian Héctor Aguilar Camín once referred to as “the insatiable North American nose.”
Patrick Radden Keefe is a staff writer for The New Yorker and a fellow at the Century Foundation. From 2010 to 2011, he was a policy adviser in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
Editor: Greg Veis


It’s been a big week for reporting on Mexican drug cartels in The New York Times, where reporters on two stories kept themselves safe by replacing direct danger with lots of hard work.

On Tuesday, Ginger Thompson broke the story of Zetas cartel leaders allegedly laundering money through a massive U.S.-based horse-racing operation. Then on Friday, a lengthy Times Magazine feature by Patrick Radden Keefe went live, exploring the structure, business, and leadership of the Sinaloa cartel, which dominates the drug trade along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Keefe, author of Snakehead, told The Atlantic Wire on Friday that he’d started reporting his piece in January, using U.S. court documents and trial transcripts to track down three people involved with the Sinaloa cartel, who would speak as sources: A pilot, a drug manufacturer, and a mid-level trafficker. “In a bunch of these cases the people were either doing prison time or had gotten out of prison, so I started tracking people down. A lot of them don’t want to talk. It’s kind of a low-yield form of reporting.”
But through it, Keefe has put together a fascinating profile of an organization that rivals in scale the corporate giants of our time: “By most estimates, Sinaloa has achieved a market share of at least 40 percent and perhaps as much as 60 percent, which means that Chapo Guzmán’s organization would appear to enjoy annual revenues of some $3 billion — comparable in terms of earnings to Netflix or, for that matter, to Facebook.” And we meet the Sinaloas’ infamous leader, Chapo, who sounds like a cross between CEO and Bond villain: “From the remote mountain redoubt where he is believed to be hiding, surrounded at all times by a battery of gunmen, Chapo oversees a logistical network that is as sophisticated, in some ways, as that of Amazon or U.P.S.”
Keefe opted not to go to Sinaloa itself, the seat of the cartel’s massive operation. He knew he wasn’t going to meet Chapo, so what would he achieve? “There was a cost-benefit analysis. Looking at the reporting from people who have gone to Sinaloa, generally what people come back with — and this is gringo reporters who go up there and ask around — they come back with color. You can describe Culiacon, the capital there … And you might get some guy sitting in front of a restaurant saying ‘we do not speak of the Choppo.’ ” But you’re not going to get an interview with the man himself. “I decided against that for a number of reasons, primarily that a lot of journalists have been killed in mexico, most of them Mexican journalists.” On Thursday, reporter Baez Chino was found dead in Veracruz  the country’s 81st journalist killed since 2000.
So Keefe opted for a week in Mexico City, speaking with academics who follow the drug trade, and lots of time leafing through court documents. Eventually, he found a record of a 2006 trial in Arizona, at which Chapo’s right-hand man, Miguel Angel Martínez, had testified. He tracked down the court reporter, who sent him a copy of the transcript. Amazingly, it had been untouched by reporters. “People have been writing about Chapo for years and years and they’ve poured over his biography,” Keefe said. But here was a document that had never made it into the hands of a journalist or biographer. It included revelations such as Chapo’s own use of cocaine, and what Keefe called “trival details,” like the fact that he had his own private zoo in Guadalajara that contained tigers and bears. “It was gobsmacking for me to get my hands on this transcript, which has been out in the world and available if you’d found it, since 2006. And to realize nobody had found it.”
Thompson, meanwhile, was reporting a much more sensitive story. As she explains in her report, she found out about the Zetas cartel’s alleged involvement in U.S. horse racing in December 2011, and in the course of her reporting discovered that the U.S. Department of Justice was also investigating Zetas leader Miguel Ángel Treviño and his ranch-owning brother, José Treviño, which led to arrests this week. “The Times learned of the government’s investigation last month and agreed to hold back this article until Tuesday morning’s arrests,” she wrote. But she worked on the story for a lot longer than a month, so how did she keep herself and her sources safe? She hid behind her own reporting, she told PRI’s The World:
“I was never threatened. I think a lot of the reason for that is that I didn’t make it known that I was looking specifically at Jose Trevino. I did a lot of reporting that made it appear I was looking at something other than him directly. It was complicated and it took us a lot longer to finish this story because of that. But, yes, we thought about safety at every turn and not just for my safety but really for the safety of the people who spoke to me which is why so many people in my story are unidentified. It was mostly for the sake of their safety.”
Thanks to the two reports’ legwork, we know a lot more about the cartel situation on both sides of the border on Friday than we did on Monday.

Source-Atlantic Wire


Mexican Drug Cartels

Police arrested 52 suspected employees of the notoriously violent Los Zetas drug cartel in the northern Mexican state of Nuevo Leon, officials said Wednesday.

The detainees include two municipal police officers and two ex-cops, state Attorney General Adrian de la Garza told a press conference here.

He said those four individuals are believed to be the leaders of a Zetas cell.

The 39 men, eight women and five minors were arrested over a four-day period in the towns of Linares, Allende, Galeana, Iturbide and Montemorelos.

The five underage suspects are accused of acting as lookouts to alert the Zetas to movements of the security forces, the attorney general said.

Police seized assault rifles and torture devices during the raids, state government security spokesman Jorge Domene said.

Nuevo Leon, which borders Texas, and other states in northern Mexico, have been battered in recent years as the upstart Zetas battle the more-established drug cartels for control of territory and smuggling routes.

To earn extra cash, some cartel “sicarios” (hit men) engage in kidnapping, extortion and armed robbery.

Conflict among rival cartels and between criminals and the Mexican security forces have claimed more than 50,000 lives since December 2006, when newly inaugurated President Felipe Calderon militarized the struggle against organized crime.

Mitt Romney is mexican

MIAMI – Mitt Romney, who rarely discusses his ancestry, has repeated a striking comment in Florida in recent days to soften his rhetoric about immigration and woo the crucial Hispanic voting bloc.

“My dad was born in Mexico,’’ Romney says at many campaign stops, as he expresses empathy and solidarity with immigrant families. It follows sharp rhetoric in places such as Iowa, where he decried what he called efforts to provide “amnesty’’ to the nation’s 12 million illegal immigrants.

Were he to tell the rest of the story, it doubtless would resonate with many here: George Romney was born in Mexico and was 5 years old when a revolution forced his family members in 1912 to flee their Mormon colony and seek refuge in the United States. The Mormon exiles lost their homes, farms, and most of their belongings, were welcomed by the United States, and benefited from a $100,000 refugee fund established by Congress.

But there are other elements to the Romney story that may explain why he doesn’t tell the full tale on the campaign trail. The reason that George was born in Mexico is that his grandfather – Mitt’s great-grandfather – had taken refuge there in order to escape US laws against polygamy. It was this family patriarch, Miles Park Romney, who established the colony and lived there with four wives.

At a time when Mormonism was under attack in the United States, resulting in state and federal legislation against polygamy, some Mormon groups – including Romney’s ancestors – fled to Mexico where they were able to continue the practice until the Mexican Revolution forced them to return to the United States.

As detailed in “The Real Mitt Romney” by Michael Kranish and Scott Helman of The Boston Globe, the former Massachusetts governor’s early ancestors did practice polygamy in North America, but that did not include his grandfather’s family in the United States or Mexico.

Romney told Fox News:

“My dad’s dad was not a polygamist. My dad grew up in a family with a mom and a dad and a few brothers and one sister. They lived in Mexico and lived a very nice life there from what I understand and then when [my father] was 5 or 6 years old there was a revolution in Mexico, They escaped…. My dad had a very tough upbringing.”

If George Romney was born in Mexico, how could he run for president?

It is clear that naturalized citizens cannot qualify for the office of president, but there is no clarification in the U.S. Constitution pertaining to people born to U.S. citizens in a foreign country, and there is no definition of a “natural-born citizen.”

Some experts have challenged the idea that foreign-born children of U.S. citizens are “natural-born” because citizenship is conferred upon them after birth. A Congressional Research Service report published in November comes closest to answering that question. “There have been legitimate legal issues raised concerning those born outside of the country to U.S. citizens,” the report states. “The weight of legal and historical authority indicates that the term ‘natural born’ citizen would mean a person who is entitled to U.S. citizenship ‘by birth’ or ‘at birth,’ either by being born ’in’ the United States and under its jurisdiction, even those born to alien parents; by being born abroad to U.S. citizen-parents; or by being born in other situations meeting legal requirements for U.S. citizenship ‘at birth.’”

Romney was born to American citizens living in a Mormon church colony in Chihuahua, Mexico. Even though he wasn’t born in a United States territory or state, George Romney was given citizenship at birth because he was born to American citizens, essentially granting him the status of a natural-born citizen. “When you’re born outside the United States to [U.S.] citizens, you have citizenship at birth,” explained Peter J. Spiro, a professor of law and an expert on the law of citizenship at Temple University. “You don’t have to do anything to claim your citizenship. You are a citizen from birth.”

Romney was the first presidential candidate born outside the United States, and his decision to run against Nixon in the Republican primary of 1968 raised many questions. “This is not the kind of issue that was decided by the courts,” Spiro said. “No court has said definitively, but I think there’s some consensus understanding that a person such as George Romney would be eligible to be president.”

The issue came to the limelight again in 2008 with both parties’ candidates. Sen. John McCain was born on a U.S. naval air station in the Panama Canal Zone when his father was posted there, leading some to question whether he would be eligible for the presidency. It turned out to be a non-issue because a law passed in 1937, and applied retroactively, gave citizenship to anyone born in Panama whose mother or father was a U.S. citizen. President Obama was dogged for much longer by the birther movement about where he was born. The president released his birth certificate as proof that he was born in Hawaii.

Citizenship for foreign-born children of U.S. nationals is not an issue that has gained widespread attention.

George Romney didn’t make it far enough into the campaign for it to pose a problem, but that’s likely to change, Spiro says. “Going forward, there are likely to be other cases of other individuals who are born out the United States with citizenship, who achieve political prominence and who are in the ballpark for presidency,” he said. “This issue is not going to go away.” Several members of Congress — mostly Republicans — have attempted to cement this practice into a bill. Former Sen. Don Nickles introduced the Natural Born Citizen Act in 2004 to define the term, natural-born citizen, to include people who derived citizenship at birth from a U.S. citizen parent and to children under 18 who were adopted by U.S. citizens. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, went a step further, introducing the Equal Right to Govern Amendment in July 2003 to allow immigrants who had been naturalized for at least 20 years to run for president. Appearing on The Chris Matthews Show, in a discussion on the upcoming Florida primary, Andrea Mitchell claimed that Mitt Romney‘s relatives entered the United States illegally.

“And looking ahead to the next primary in Florida, 30 percent of the Hispanic community is Cuban-American. That’s a smaller proportion, and so the Hispanic community there is different. And they are less prone to be susceptible to Mitt Romney’s really hard line on immigration, more prone to the Newt Gingrich approach to immigration,” Mitchell observed. “The other interesting little fact is about the Mexican Romneys, those looking back at all of those records say that Mitt Romney should look back at the records because the Romneys that came back from Mexico to the United States, they crossed the border illegally.”

In 1912, the Mormons fled their colonies in Mexico to escape the violence of the Mexican revolution. Miles Park Romney begat Gaskell Romney, who begat George Romney. George — who was never a Mexican citizen — was 5 years old when the family left Mexico. He went on to be an auto executive, governor of Michigan, and a presidential candidate. George begat Mitt, who was born in Detroit. Most of the Mormons never went back to Mexico. But one of Miles Park’s sons, Miles Archibold, did return. And it is his progeny who remain here today, Mitt’s second cousins.

Burnett told Mediaite he did not come across any documents indicating the Gaskell Romney family came to the US illegally, noting they were part of an exodus of 1,200 Mormons from Mexico. Romney’s great-grandfather, Miles Park Romney, fled the United States and crossed into Mexico in 1885 to escape religious persecution. He helped build the Mormon enclave of Colonia Juarez in Chihuahua.

Miles Park Romney never became a Mexican citizen, and neither did his son, Gaskell, or grandson, George. They were all denied Mexican citizenship because statutes on the books in Mexico denied that right to American settlers and their offspring.

MIAMI – Mitt Romney, who rarely discusses his ancestry, has repeated a striking comment in Florida in recent days to soften his rhetoric about immigration and woo the crucial Hispanic voting bloc.

“My dad was born in Mexico,’’ Romney says at many campaign stops, as he expresses empathy and solidarity with immigrant families. It follows sharp rhetoric in places such as Iowa, where he decried what he called efforts to provide “amnesty’’ to the nation’s 12 million illegal immigrants.

Were he to tell the rest of the story, it doubtless would resonate with many here: George Romney was born in Mexico and was 5 years old when a revolution forced his family members in 1912 to flee their Mormon colony and seek refuge in the United States. The Mormon exiles lost their homes, farms, and most of their belongings, were welcomed by the United States, and benefited from a $100,000 refugee fund established by Congress.

But there are other elements to the Romney story that may explain why he doesn’t tell the full tale on the campaign trail. The reason that George was born in Mexico is that his grandfather – Mitt’s great-grandfather – had taken refuge there in order to escape US laws against polygamy. It was this family patriarch, Miles Park Romney, who established the colony and lived there with four wives.

At a time when Mormonism was under attack in the United States, resulting in state and federal legislation against polygamy, some Mormon groups – including Romney’s ancestors – fled to Mexico where they were able to continue the practice until the Mexican Revolution forced them to return to the United States.

As detailed in “The Real Mitt Romney” by Michael Kranish and Scott Helman of The Boston Globe, the former Massachusetts governor’s early ancestors did practice polygamy in North America, but that did not include his grandfather’s family in the United States or Mexico.

Romney told Fox News:

“My dad’s dad was not a polygamist. My dad grew up in a family with a mom and a dad and a few brothers and one sister. They lived in Mexico and lived a very nice life there from what I understand and then when [my father] was 5 or 6 years old there was a revolution in Mexico, They escaped…. My dad had a very tough upbringing.”

If George Romney was born in Mexico, how could he run for president?

It is clear that naturalized citizens cannot qualify for the office of president, but there is no clarification in the U.S. Constitution pertaining to people born to U.S. citizens in a foreign country, and there is no definition of a “natural-born citizen.”

Some experts have challenged the idea that foreign-born children of U.S. citizens are “natural-born” because citizenship is conferred upon them after birth. A Congressional Research Service report published in November comes closest to answering that question. “There have been legitimate legal issues raised concerning those born outside of the country to U.S. citizens,” the report states. “The weight of legal and historical authority indicates that the term ‘natural born’ citizen would mean a person who is entitled to U.S. citizenship ‘by birth’ or ‘at birth,’ either by being born ’in’ the United States and under its jurisdiction, even those born to alien parents; by being born abroad to U.S. citizen-parents; or by being born in other situations meeting legal requirements for U.S. citizenship ‘at birth.’”

Romney was born to American citizens living in a Mormon church colony in Chihuahua, Mexico. Even though he wasn’t born in a United States territory or state, George Romney was given citizenship at birth because he was born to American citizens, essentially granting him the status of a natural-born citizen. “When you’re born outside the United States to [U.S.] citizens, you have citizenship at birth,” explained Peter J. Spiro, a professor of law and an expert on the law of citizenship at Temple University. “You don’t have to do anything to claim your citizenship. You are a citizen from birth.”

Romney was the first presidential candidate born outside the United States, and his decision to run against Nixon in the Republican primary of 1968 raised many questions. “This is not the kind of issue that was decided by the courts,” Spiro said. “No court has said definitively, but I think there’s some consensus understanding that a person such as George Romney would be eligible to be president.”

The issue came to the limelight again in 2008 with both parties’ candidates. Sen. John McCain was born on a U.S. naval air station in the Panama Canal Zone when his father was posted there, leading some to question whether he would be eligible for the presidency. It turned out to be a non-issue because a law passed in 1937, and applied retroactively, gave citizenship to anyone born in Panama whose mother or father was a U.S. citizen. President Obama was dogged for much longer by the birther movement about where he was born. The president released his birth certificate as proof that he was born in Hawaii.

Citizenship for foreign-born children of U.S. nationals is not an issue that has gained widespread attention.

George Romney didn’t make it far enough into the campaign for it to pose a problem, but that’s likely to change, Spiro says. “Going forward, there are likely to be other cases of other individuals who are born out the United States with citizenship, who achieve political prominence and who are in the ballpark for presidency,” he said. “This issue is not going to go away.” Several members of Congress — mostly Republicans — have attempted to cement this practice into a bill. Former Sen. Don Nickles introduced the Natural Born Citizen Act in 2004 to define the term, natural-born citizen, to include people who derived citizenship at birth from a U.S. citizen parent and to children under 18 who were adopted by U.S. citizens. Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, went a step further, introducing the Equal Right to Govern Amendment in July 2003 to allow immigrants who had been naturalized for at least 20 years to run for president. Appearing on The Chris Matthews Show, in a discussion on the upcoming Florida primary, Andrea Mitchell claimed that Mitt Romney‘s relatives entered the United States illegally.

“And looking ahead to the next primary in Florida, 30 percent of the Hispanic community is Cuban-American. That’s a smaller proportion, and so the Hispanic community there is different. And they are less prone to be susceptible to Mitt Romney’s really hard line on immigration, more prone to the Newt Gingrich approach to immigration,” Mitchell observed. “The other interesting little fact is about the Mexican Romneys, those looking back at all of those records say that Mitt Romney should look back at the records because the Romneys that came back from Mexico to the United States, they crossed the border illegally.”

In 1912, the Mormons fled their colonies in Mexico to escape the violence of the Mexican revolution. Miles Park Romney begat Gaskell Romney, who begat George Romney. George — who was never a Mexican citizen — was 5 years old when the family left Mexico. He went on to be an auto executive, governor of Michigan, and a presidential candidate. George begat Mitt, who was born in Detroit. Most of the Mormons never went back to Mexico. But one of Miles Park’s sons, Miles Archibold, did return. And it is his progeny who remain here today, Mitt’s second cousins.

Burnett told Mediaite he did not come across any documents indicating the Gaskell Romney family came to the US illegally, noting they were part of an exodus of 1,200 Mormons from Mexico. Romney’s great-grandfather, Miles Park Romney, fled the United States and crossed into Mexico in 1885 to escape religious persecution. He helped build the Mormon enclave of Colonia Juarez in Chihuahua.

Miles Park Romney never became a Mexican citizen, and neither did his son, Gaskell, or grandson, George. They were all denied Mexican citizenship because statutes on the books in Mexico denied that right to American settlers and their offspring.

drug planes

DC-9 ‘Cocaine One’ kingpin’s secret conviction

It was the biggest drug seizure on an airplane in Mexican history. It led directly to the forced sale of Wachovia, then America’s 4th largest bank. And it threatened to become America’s most notorious drug scandal since Iran Contra.
Yet when a leader of the drug smuggling organization responsible for the flight of the DC-9 airliner dubbed “Cocaine One” that was busted in the Yucatan carrying 5.5 tons of cocaine quietly pled guilty to unrelated drug charges two years ago in a Federal Court in Miami, his role in the massive drug move was kept secret from officials preparing his Pre-Sentence Report (PSI),  from journalists, and even from the Federal judge in the case.


An American-registered drug plane has been plying the airspace over Central and South America carrying cargoes of cocaine for a good long while (authorities admit they’ve been “investigating” it since 2011) without apparent incident, until recently, when a newspaper in Costa Rica reported that the President of Costa Rica had been seen using it to fly to Hugo Chavez’s funeral, as well as the recent wedding of the son of Peru’s Vice-President in Lima.


Six years ago this week an American-registered luxury jet, a Gulfstream II—later dubbed “Cocaine 2”—crashed just before dawn in the middle of the jungle in Mexico’s Yucatan carrying four tons of cocaine. The event, and its aftermath, changed forever an official narrative of the war on drugs which has for years been pushing the notion that there is no significant American involvement in the global drug trade, and no American Drug Lords.  

A control tower employee in Ciudad del Carmen, the airport where the DSC-9 landed, causing something of a fuss, told authorities at a crucial juncture in what was an extremely tense situation, as the American-registered DC-9 carrying 5.5 tons of cocaine circled and requested permission to land, she was approached inside the airport terminal by an American she’d never seen before.

She described him as being 40 years old, with blond hair and a deep tan, and he was wearing a green polo shirt. The American, she said, hadn’t just wanted officials in the airport to let the plane land. He wanted the tower to certify the flight, meaning the DC-9 could then continue its journey, as a domestic flight, which would not need to clear Mexican Customs.

Said green polo shirt-wearing American remains unidentified. He just disappeared from narratives of the event… except for one respected journalist at Mexican newspaper Proceso, who wisely picked up on this detail, followed up, and then reported that among the contingent of drug traffickers awaiting the arrival of the plane on the ground with as much nonchalance as they could muster…the American had been in charge.

In every country in the world in which drugs are present, and illegal, control of the drug trade is the most important tool in perpetuating that country’s oligarchy, more important than a police force with a billion Billy clubs.

The guys chopping off heads in Mexico while wearing bandoliers strapped across their bare chests are barely into middle management.

When the Gulfstream’s fuselage split into pieces on impact, spilling cocaine across an area the length of three football fields, a chain of events was set in motion that would prove that nothing could be further from the truth.  
Several hundred miles away, and more than a year earlier, in May 2006, the Gulfstream’s ‘sister ship,’ a DC-9 which became known as “Cocaine1″ because it was painted to impersonate an official US Government plane, had been caught carrying more than 5.5 tons of cocaine.
The two planes shared too many identifying characteristics, including interlocking owners and a shared base in the sleepy retirement Mecca of St Petersburg FL  on Florida’s Gulf Coast, to be coincidence. 
The twin events represented the biggest sea change in the global drug trade since the death of Pablo Escobar in 1992, or the assassination of Barry Seal in 1986. Today, despite the intervening years, new details continue to emerge about the case. 

During the course of the investigation which followed it became clear that the money used to purchase both planes—the Gulfstream and the DC-9—was laundered and funnelled through Wachovia Bank, and more importantly, that it represented just a tiny sliver of the more than $380 billion of drug money that had been laundered during the past six years through what was then America’s 4th largest bank. 
Wachovia was fined a record $165 million. The sullied bank was forced to sell itself to Wells Fargo Bank in Salt Lake City.
At about three a.m. the normal quiet of the town of Tixkobob  (pop. 17000), located an hour outside of the Yucatan capital of Merida, was disturbed by the deafening noise of a low-flying twin-engine jet circling overhead, and the whine and buzzing of several military helicopters in pursuit. 
The noise went on for an incredible two hours until, out of fuel, the jet crashed three miles outside town on a plantation, Rancho San Francisco, identified by Mexican journalists as belonging to an American named Martin Wood.
Although remote, the crash site quickly drew a crowd. Slightly after dawn a Mexican Army unit from the Tenth Military Region deployed to the site, secured it, and then guarded it over the next 36 hours, repelling intrusions from other Mexican law enforcement agencies, as well as from the DEA, which flew six agents to the scene from Mexico City to reconnoiter, only to see them turned away from the site.

Days earlier, the Gulfstream jet had begun its journey at Fort Lauderdale’s notorious Executive Airport, flying southwest across the Gulf of Mexico to Cancun. There the pilot made arrangements with the airport’s general manager that they would be able to land without incident at the airport on their return from Colombia laden with cocaine. 
The next day, negotiations being successfully concluded, the Gulfstream  took off for Colombia. Nothing unusual was noticed. The plane was on a well-worn path. The airport in Cancun was the busiest drug port in Mexico.
After loading its cargo of cocaine the following day, the Gulfstream took off from the international airport just outside Medellin, in Rio Negro Colombia, bound once more for the exclusive Mexican Caribbean resort of Cancun, in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo.
Among the mysteries surrounding the flight, the one which looms largest is this: Why did authorities at the Cancun airport change their minds, renege on their promise, and refuse the plane permission to land? 
At a press conference a year earlier after the crash of the DC-9, Mexican Attorney General Daniel Cabeza de Vaca said officials from Federal security agencies in the Yucatan were known to be in collusion with drug traffickers. Curiously, with his next breath he mentioned Kamel Nacif, 69, a Lebanese businessman in Cancun who was in the news for alleged links to an international network of pedophiles.
 
In the drug trade, it is important to recall, the title “cartel du jour” is a designation which changes rapidly and without notice. Just ask the kingpins from the Medellin, or the Cali, cartels. 
It turns out that when the drug traffickers on the Gulfstream lost their “get out of jail free” card, a drug kingpin who the DEA has called the biggest drug trafficker since Pablo Escobar had just been captured.
On August 7, just over a month earlier, a joint operation between forces including Brazil, the US,  Argentina, Spain and Uruguay took down a drug kingpin who was recently profiled here. Before being caught, Juan Carlos Ramirez Abadia, known as “Lollipop” (El Chupeta), had been successfully holed up for more than five years in Sao Paulo Brazil. 
Three weeks after his arrest,  two Brazilians bought the Gulfstream.


The Sins of the Son and — The Smoking Airplane

by
Daniel Hopsicker and Michael C. Ruppert

Texas Governor and Republican Presidential contender George W. Bush and his brother Jeb, allegedly caught on videotape in 1985 picking up kilos of cocaine at a Florida airport in a DEA sting set up by Barry Seal

And a private turboprop King Air 200 supposedly caught on  tape in the sting with FAA ownership records leading directly to the CIA and some of the perpetrators of the most notorious (and never punished) major financial frauds of the ’80s. 

Add to this mix the now irrefutable proof, some of it from the CIA itself, that then Vice President George H.W. Bush was a decision maker in illegal Contra support operations connected to the “unusual” acquisition of aircraft  and that his staff participated in key financial, operational and political decisions

All these events lead inexorably to one unanswered question: How did this one plane go from being controlled by Barry Seal, the biggest drug smuggler in American history, to becoming, according to state officials,  a favored airplane of Texas Governor George W. Bush?

———————————–

Three months into an exhaustive investigation of persistent reports dating to 1995 that there exists an incriminating videotape of current Republican Presidential front-runner Bush caught in a hastily-aborted DEA cocaine sting, the central allegation remains unproven

But some startling details have been confirmed, amid a raft of new suspicions emerging from conflicting FAA records. Those records, along with other irrefutable documents, point to the existence of far more than mere happenstance or dark “conspiracy theorist speculations” in the matter of how George W. Bush came to be flying the friendly Texas skies in an airplane that was a crown jewel in the drug smuggling fleet of the notorious Barry Seal. Those documents reveal – beyond any doubt – that in the 1980s Barry Seal, with whom the CIA has consistently denied any relationship, piloted and controlled airplanes owned by the same Phoenix Arizona company, Greycas, which in a 1998 bankruptcy filing, was revealed to have been a subsidiary of the same company that owned the now defunct CIA proprietary airline Southern Air Transport.

The investigation started with a lead into the history of the aircraft (a 1982 Beechcraft King Air 200 with FAA registration number N6308F – Serial Number BB-1014).


According to a flurry of stories between Sept 15 and 17 in the Washington Post, Newsweek, and Knight Ridder newspapers, as many as six of the terrorists, including ringleader Mohammed Atta, received training at U.S. military facilities.

“U.S. military sources have given the FBI information that suggests five of the alleged hijackers of the planes used in Tuesday’s terror attacks received training at secure U.S. military installations in the 1990’s,” Newsweek reported. Newsweek also reported that three of the hijackers received training at the Pensacola Naval Station in Florida.

The “Magic Dutch Boys.” Rudi Dekkers and Arne Kruithof, two Dutch nationals, purchased the two flight schools that trained three of the four terrorist pilots to fly at the tiny Venice Airport, which has an extensive history of CIA involvement,.

DC-9 ‘Cocaine One’ kingpin’s secret conviction

It was the biggest drug seizure on an airplane in Mexican history. It led directly to the forced sale of Wachovia, then America’s 4th largest bank. And it threatened to become America’s most notorious drug scandal since Iran Contra.
Yet when a leader of the drug smuggling organization responsible for the flight of the DC-9 airliner dubbed “Cocaine One” that was busted in the Yucatan carrying 5.5 tons of cocaine quietly pled guilty to unrelated drug charges two years ago in a Federal Court in Miami, his role in the massive drug move was kept secret from officials preparing his Pre-Sentence Report (PSI),  from journalists, and even from the Federal judge in the case.


An American-registered drug plane has been plying the airspace over Central and South America carrying cargoes of cocaine for a good long while (authorities admit they’ve been “investigating” it since 2011) without apparent incident, until recently, when a newspaper in Costa Rica reported that the President of Costa Rica had been seen using it to fly to Hugo Chavez’s funeral, as well as the recent wedding of the son of Peru’s Vice-President in Lima.


Six years ago this week an American-registered luxury jet, a Gulfstream II—later dubbed “Cocaine 2”—crashed just before dawn in the middle of the jungle in Mexico’s Yucatan carrying four tons of cocaine. The event, and its aftermath, changed forever an official narrative of the war on drugs which has for years been pushing the notion that there is no significant American involvement in the global drug trade, and no American Drug Lords.  

A control tower employee in Ciudad del Carmen, the airport where the DSC-9 landed, causing something of a fuss, told authorities at a crucial juncture in what was an extremely tense situation, as the American-registered DC-9 carrying 5.5 tons of cocaine circled and requested permission to land, she was approached inside the airport terminal by an American she’d never seen before.

She described him as being 40 years old, with blond hair and a deep tan, and he was wearing a green polo shirt. The American, she said, hadn’t just wanted officials in the airport to let the plane land. He wanted the tower to certify the flight, meaning the DC-9 could then continue its journey, as a domestic flight, which would not need to clear Mexican Customs.

Said green polo shirt-wearing American remains unidentified. He just disappeared from narratives of the event… except for one respected journalist at Mexican newspaper Proceso, who wisely picked up on this detail, followed up, and then reported that among the contingent of drug traffickers awaiting the arrival of the plane on the ground with as much nonchalance as they could muster…the American had been in charge.

In every country in the world in which drugs are present, and illegal, control of the drug trade is the most important tool in perpetuating that country’s oligarchy, more important than a police force with a billion Billy clubs.

The guys chopping off heads in Mexico while wearing bandoliers strapped across their bare chests are barely into middle management.

When the Gulfstream’s fuselage split into pieces on impact, spilling cocaine across an area the length of three football fields, a chain of events was set in motion that would prove that nothing could be further from the truth.  
Several hundred miles away, and more than a year earlier, in May 2006, the Gulfstream’s ‘sister ship,’ a DC-9 which became known as “Cocaine1″ because it was painted to impersonate an official US Government plane, had been caught carrying more than 5.5 tons of cocaine.
The two planes shared too many identifying characteristics, including interlocking owners and a shared base in the sleepy retirement Mecca of St Petersburg FL  on Florida’s Gulf Coast, to be coincidence. 
The twin events represented the biggest sea change in the global drug trade since the death of Pablo Escobar in 1992, or the assassination of Barry Seal in 1986. Today, despite the intervening years, new details continue to emerge about the case. 

During the course of the investigation which followed it became clear that the money used to purchase both planes—the Gulfstream and the DC-9—was laundered and funnelled through Wachovia Bank, and more importantly, that it represented just a tiny sliver of the more than $380 billion of drug money that had been laundered during the past six years through what was then America’s 4th largest bank. 
Wachovia was fined a record $165 million. The sullied bank was forced to sell itself to Wells Fargo Bank in Salt Lake City.
At about three a.m. the normal quiet of the town of Tixkobob  (pop. 17000), located an hour outside of the Yucatan capital of Merida, was disturbed by the deafening noise of a low-flying twin-engine jet circling overhead, and the whine and buzzing of several military helicopters in pursuit. 
The noise went on for an incredible two hours until, out of fuel, the jet crashed three miles outside town on a plantation, Rancho San Francisco, identified by Mexican journalists as belonging to an American named Martin Wood.
Although remote, the crash site quickly drew a crowd. Slightly after dawn a Mexican Army unit from the Tenth Military Region deployed to the site, secured it, and then guarded it over the next 36 hours, repelling intrusions from other Mexican law enforcement agencies, as well as from the DEA, which flew six agents to the scene from Mexico City to reconnoiter, only to see them turned away from the site.

Days earlier, the Gulfstream jet had begun its journey at Fort Lauderdale’s notorious Executive Airport, flying southwest across the Gulf of Mexico to Cancun. There the pilot made arrangements with the airport’s general manager that they would be able to land without incident at the airport on their return from Colombia laden with cocaine. 
The next day, negotiations being successfully concluded, the Gulfstream  took off for Colombia. Nothing unusual was noticed. The plane was on a well-worn path. The airport in Cancun was the busiest drug port in Mexico.
After loading its cargo of cocaine the following day, the Gulfstream took off from the international airport just outside Medellin, in Rio Negro Colombia, bound once more for the exclusive Mexican Caribbean resort of Cancun, in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo.
Among the mysteries surrounding the flight, the one which looms largest is this: Why did authorities at the Cancun airport change their minds, renege on their promise, and refuse the plane permission to land? 
At a press conference a year earlier after the crash of the DC-9, Mexican Attorney General Daniel Cabeza de Vaca said officials from Federal security agencies in the Yucatan were known to be in collusion with drug traffickers. Curiously, with his next breath he mentioned Kamel Nacif, 69, a Lebanese businessman in Cancun who was in the news for alleged links to an international network of pedophiles.
 
In the drug trade, it is important to recall, the title “cartel du jour” is a designation which changes rapidly and without notice. Just ask the kingpins from the Medellin, or the Cali, cartels. 
It turns out that when the drug traffickers on the Gulfstream lost their “get out of jail free” card, a drug kingpin who the DEA has called the biggest drug trafficker since Pablo Escobar had just been captured.
On August 7, just over a month earlier, a joint operation between forces including Brazil, the US,  Argentina, Spain and Uruguay took down a drug kingpin who was recently profiled here. Before being caught, Juan Carlos Ramirez Abadia, known as “Lollipop” (El Chupeta), had been successfully holed up for more than five years in Sao Paulo Brazil. 
Three weeks after his arrest,  two Brazilians bought the Gulfstream.


The Sins of the Son and — The Smoking Airplane

by
Daniel Hopsicker and Michael C. Ruppert

Texas Governor and Republican Presidential contender George W. Bush and his brother Jeb, allegedly caught on videotape in 1985 picking up kilos of cocaine at a Florida airport in a DEA sting set up by Barry Seal

And a private turboprop King Air 200 supposedly caught on  tape in the sting with FAA ownership records leading directly to the CIA and some of the perpetrators of the most notorious (and never punished) major financial frauds of the ’80s. 

Add to this mix the now irrefutable proof, some of it from the CIA itself, that then Vice President George H.W. Bush was a decision maker in illegal Contra support operations connected to the “unusual” acquisition of aircraft  and that his staff participated in key financial, operational and political decisions

All these events lead inexorably to one unanswered question: How did this one plane go from being controlled by Barry Seal, the biggest drug smuggler in American history, to becoming, according to state officials,  a favored airplane of Texas Governor George W. Bush?

———————————–

Three months into an exhaustive investigation of persistent reports dating to 1995 that there exists an incriminating videotape of current Republican Presidential front-runner Bush caught in a hastily-aborted DEA cocaine sting, the central allegation remains unproven

But some startling details have been confirmed, amid a raft of new suspicions emerging from conflicting FAA records. Those records, along with other irrefutable documents, point to the existence of far more than mere happenstance or dark “conspiracy theorist speculations” in the matter of how George W. Bush came to be flying the friendly Texas skies in an airplane that was a crown jewel in the drug smuggling fleet of the notorious Barry Seal. Those documents reveal – beyond any doubt – that in the 1980s Barry Seal, with whom the CIA has consistently denied any relationship, piloted and controlled airplanes owned by the same Phoenix Arizona company, Greycas, which in a 1998 bankruptcy filing, was revealed to have been a subsidiary of the same company that owned the now defunct CIA proprietary airline Southern Air Transport.

The investigation started with a lead into the history of the aircraft (a 1982 Beechcraft King Air 200 with FAA registration number N6308F – Serial Number BB-1014).


According to a flurry of stories between Sept 15 and 17 in the Washington Post, Newsweek, and Knight Ridder newspapers, as many as six of the terrorists, including ringleader Mohammed Atta, received training at U.S. military facilities.

“U.S. military sources have given the FBI information that suggests five of the alleged hijackers of the planes used in Tuesday’s terror attacks received training at secure U.S. military installations in the 1990’s,” Newsweek reported. Newsweek also reported that three of the hijackers received training at the Pensacola Naval Station in Florida.

The “Magic Dutch Boys.” Rudi Dekkers and Arne Kruithof, two Dutch nationals, purchased the two flight schools that trained three of the four terrorist pilots to fly at the tiny Venice Airport, which has an extensive history of CIA involvement,.

Fast and Furious Spooks

Posted by Bill Conroy – July 10, 2011 at 8:17 pmCongressional Inquiry Raising Specter of Spooks in the SoupThe acting head of ATF (the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) has seemingly blown the cover of both DEA and FBI info…

The acting head of ATF (the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives) has seemingly blown the cover of both DEA and FBI informant operations in order to spare his own neck and to deflect blame away from a badly flawed operation undertaken by his own agency.
In doing so, ATF Acting Director Kenneth Melson has also left open the door to the house of mirrors that always comes into play when U.S. interests intersect with foreign affairs.
The operation that has put Melson in the hot seat before Congress is known as Fast and Furious, which was launched in October 2009 as an offshoot of Project Gunrunner — ATF’s larger effort to stem the flow of illegal weapons into Mexico
However, Fast and Furious actually undermined the goal of Project Gunrunner by allowing some 2,000 or more firearms illegally purchased in the U.S. to “walk” (or be smuggled under ATF’s watch) across the border in a supposed effort by the federal law enforcement agency to target the kingpins behind Mexico’s narco-gun-running enterprises, ATF whistleblowers contend.
Two of the guns linked to the Fast and Furious operation allegedly were found at the murder scene of Border Patrol agent Brian Terry, who was shot to death by Mexican border marauders in Arizona late last year. The whistelblower revelations about Fast and Furious have since sparked Congressional inquiries.
In a letter sent on July 5 to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, two Republican members of Congress from the committees probing Fast and Furious made startling allegations in the wake of what they say was an interview of ATF’s Melson conducted by “both Republican and and Democratic staff.”
The letter was drafted by U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform; and U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, ranking member of the Judiciary Committee.
The revelation from that letter of greatest significance:
Specifically, we have very real indications from several sources that some of the gun trafficking “higher-ups” that the ATF sought to identify [via Fast and Furious] were already known to other agencies and may have been paid as informants. The Acting Director [Melson] said that ATF was kept in the dark about certain activities of other agencies, including DEA and FBI. [Emphasis added.]
Mr. Melson said that he learned from ATF agents in the field that information obtained by these agencies [DEA, FBI and “other agencies”] could have had a material impact on the Fast and Furious investigation as far back as late 2009 or early 2010. After learning about the possible role of DEA and FBI [and “other agencies”], he testified that he reported this information in April 2011 to the Acting Inspector General and directly to then-Acting Deputy Attorney General James Cole on June 16th, 2011.
The evidence we have gathered raises the disturbing possibility that the Justice Department not only allowed criminals to smuggle weapons but that taxpayers dollars [in the form of informant payments] from other agencies may have financed those engaging in such activities.
… It is one thing to argue that the ends justify the means in an attempt to defend a policy that puts building a big case ahead of stopping known criminals from getting guns. Yet it is a much more serious matter to conceal from Congress the possible involvement of other agencies in identifying and maybe even working with the same criminals that Operation Fast and Furious was trying to identify. …. [The entire letter can be found at this link.]
What the letter from Issa and Grassley is alleging, simply put, is that multiple U.S. agencies were employing as informants and assets members of Mexican drug organizations who were responsible for importing into their nation thousands of weapons from the U.S., leading to more than 40,000 homicides in Mexico’s drug war since late 2006.
The letter, by its wording, makes clear that the complicit U.S. agencies include FBI and DEA, but it also seems to make clear that “other agencies” might also be involved in the game. And also part of this game was ATF, which, via Fast and Furious, was allowing thousands of guns to be smuggled across the U.S. border into Mexico as part of a supposed plan to identify “higher-ups” in Mexican drug organizations who were responsible for the illegal weapons trade. And, as it turns out, those responsible, in some cases, were the very individuals being employed as informants and assets by other U.S. agencies.
Connecting flight
And in a strange twist of fate, one of the “higher-ups” in the Mexican narco-trafficking world, who recently claimed to be a U.S. government informant, is now pending trial in federal court in Chicago.
Jesus Vicente Zambada Niebla, is the son of Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada Garcia — one of the purported top leaders of the Sinaloa drug-trafficking organization — a leading Mexican-based importer of weapons and exporter of drugs. Zambada Niebla was arrested in Mexico in March 2009 and in February 2010 extradited to the United States to stand trial on narco-trafficking-related charges.
The indictment pending against Zambada Niebla claims he served as the “logistical coordinator” for the “cartel,” helping to oversee an operation that imported into the U.S. “multi-ton quantities of cocaine … using various means, including but not limited to, Boeing 747 cargo aircraft, private aircraft … buses, rail cars, tractor trailers, and automobiles.”
Zambada Niebla also claims be an asset of the U.S. government. His allegation is laid out in a two-page court pleading filed in late March with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago. The pleading asserts that Zambada Niebla was working with “public authority” “on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”); and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”); and the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”).
Interestingly, in addition to the narco-trafficking charges pending against him in Chicago, Zambada Niebla also stands accused of seeking to smuggle weapons into Mexico for the Sinaloa organization.
“Jesus Vicente Zambada Niebla sought to obtain weapons from the United States … and discussed the use of violence…,” U.S. government court pleadings in Zambada Niebla’s case state.
Zambada Niebla also is linked to alleged Sinaloa organization money-launderer Pedro Alfonso Alatorre Damy via a Gulfstream II jet (tail number N987SA) that crashed in Mexico in late 2007 with some four tons of cocaine onboard.
That aircraft was allegedly purchased with Sinaloa organization drug money laundered through Alatorre Damy’s casa de cambio business and a U.S. bank. And that same aircraft was reportedly suspected of being used previously as part of the CIA’s “terrorist” rendition program, according tomedia reports and an investigation spearheaded by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.
In addition, the Gulfstream II was purchased less than two weeks before it crashed in Mexico by a duo that included a U.S. government operative who allegedly had done past contract work for a variety of US law enforcement and intelligence agencies, according to a known CIA asset (Baruch Vega) who is identified as such in public court records. The four tons of cocaine onboard of the Gulfstream II at the time of its crash landing, according Vega, were purchased in Colombia via a syndicate that included a Colombian narco-trafficker named Nelson Urrego, who,according to Panamanian press reports and Vega, is a U.S. government (CIA) asset.
[For more more details on the Gulfstream II story and connections, read Narco News’s past coverage at this link.]
And now, one of the top players in the Sinaloa drug organization, who, according to the U.S. government, managed logistics for the criminal organization — a job that entailed overseeing the purchase of aircraft for drug smuggling activities, as well as weapons for enforcement activities — now claims to have been actively cooperating with several U.S. law enforcement agencies since at least 2004.
So once again, the DEA and FBI appear in the context of employing high-level narco-traffickers as informants and/or assets. And in the background of such intrigue, always, overseas, as in the Gulfstream II case, is the CIA, which trumps every other U.S. agency when it comes to operations in a foreign land.
A former CIA counterintelligence officer explained how it works as follows, in a recent interview with Narco News:
It’s … true that sometimes agents who do narcotics work [like DEA agents] may also do things that are at the same time of interest to the CIA in terms of intelligence collection.
If CIA and DEA are working the same person, collecting information, the CIA will get the nod [ultimate control] that’s normal. In the field [overseas] the CIA trumps everyone.
… The system is designed so that agencies do not walk over each other’s assets [or informants], so you don’t have two agencies going after the same people for different reasons [DEA to bust them for narco-trafficking and CIA to use them as intelligence assets, for example]. [In those cases, though] it is CIA that gets the preference; CIA is the mother god.
Wacko, Barroom Commandos
When it comes to prime intelligence targets, they don’t come much better than the leaders of Mexican drug organizations, who have their tentacles planted deep inside Latin American governments due to the corrupt reach of the drug trade. So it is not unreasonable to suspect that part of the reason that ATF’s Fast and Furious makes no sense in terms of a law enforcement operation is because it wasn’t one at all.
In fact, it may well have been co-opted and trumped by a covert U.S. intelligence agency operation, such as one run by CIA, that is shielded even from most members of Congress — possibly even the White House, if it was launched under a prior administration and parts of it have since run off the tracks on their own.
As the former CIA counterintelligence officer said: “Is there deviation [from the norm, in terms of CIA operations]? Yes. Stuff happens, but that’s because there was deviation; but it’s not authorized.”
In any event, it’s not likely that even the Attorney General of the U.S. could discuss publicly the specifics of such an intelligence operation, authorized or not, without facing the real threat of being accused of violating national security laws — such is the power of the U.S. intelligence community over even law enforcement and the courts in this nation.
As for Zambada Niebla, it is worth noting that shortly after he filed his motion in federal court outing himself as a U.S. informant, his attorneys filed separate pleadings alleging that he is being held improperly in solitary confinement, with all communications, except with his attorneys, essentially cut off by the very government he claims to have assisted.
From those pleadings, filed on June 27:
Vicente [Zambada Niebla] contends that the sum of the conditions under which he is being held in pre-trial detention violates the Due Process clause of the Fifth Amendment and the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment.
He is prohibited from speaking to any other inmates at any time and for any purpose. Vicente is prohibited from speaking to anyone except his counselor and those Bureau of Prisons personnel above the rank of lieutenant. Neither his counselor nor BOP personnel above the rank of lieutenant are regularly on his floor at the [Chicago Metropolitan Detention Center’s Special Housing Unit].
In the entire period of his pre-trial detention [since March 2011], he has not seen sunlight or breathed fresh air. In contrast, he had outdoor exercise every day in a super maximum security facility in Mexico.
Now, it’s not likely anyone is going to feel pity for Zambada Niebla, who stands accused of being a key player in one of the most ruthless narco-trafficking organizations in Mexico — though it is important to note, for the purposes of the U.S. justice system, he stands accused, but not yet convicted.
However, what should be a bit unsettling, even to those who have no empathy for someone like Zambada Niebla, is the possibility that he is telling the truth about being a U.S. government informant/asset, and that his treatment in jail is, in fact, designed to suppress that truth.
And with the stakes this high, in terms of the drug war in Mexico and the billions of dollars funding it, as well as the Congressional scrutiny now focused on Fast and Furious in Congress, can it be completely ruled out that Zambada Niebla might well be deemed a messenger worth silencing?
Former deep undercover DEA agent Mike Levine, who has extensive experience working in Latin America, offers his take on ATF’s Fast and Furious, a view that is grounded in first-hand knowledge of the drug war and its sordid history:
… Running guns into Mexico into the hands of criminals? There can be no objective to this but death, and lots of it.
The events in Operation Fast and Furious are eerily identical to those surrounding the arrest of General Ramon Guillen Davila, a CIA asset who was [indicted for] smuggling a ton of cocaine into the US [in] 1996, in what was described as an intelligence gathering operation, the problem being that no intelligence was ever gathered and that the ton was only one of many other similar shipments of cocaine that actually hit the streets of the U.S. by way of CIA agents.
If I were a criminal profiler, it wouldn’t take much to identify a CIA pattern here [with Fast and Furious]: A wacko, barroom commando, illegal operation that makes no sense whatsoever, run outside the control of law enforcement.
Stay tuned….


Fast and Furious actions were taken by the Bush administration and Obama is now holding the bag. There is no difference between Republicans and Democrats other than fake discussion points invented and promoted for the sake of entertaining the masses, but it is a good thing that you are getting aware of the level of government corruption.

The point is not to blame Bush but that there is a continuum of policies and actions regardless of party affiliation of the president. That is irrelevant; investigation into some activities is taboo regardless of party. there is a cynic opportunism here on part of the republicans but that do not change the nature of things

What you need to understand is that what are covered are not mistakes or mishandling but actual policies and premeditated action. There is information on the public domain that suggests this is the case but the US government cannot officially acknowledge these policies, regardless of when they were implemented or by whom.

The US government is managing the Mexican Drug War and it is involved in gun-trafficking, money laundering and the drug smuggling itself, Fast and Furious is just part of this operation aimed to strengthen the Sinaloa Cartel to consolidate the drug trade and make it easier to manage

Please contact your representative and senator and tell them you are against the US government involvement in gun-trafficking. By the way in early July there is a UN vote on gun-trafficking controls tell them also you are in favor of controls


BBC

Related Stories

President Obama has taken the rare step of asserting executive privilege to withhold documents sought by lawmakers probing a botched US sting operation.

The attorney general is facing moves to hold him in contempt of Congress over the issue.

Justice officials said the privilege applied to files on how they learned of problems with Fast and Furious.

The operation saw US agents lose track of hundreds of illegal guns allowed into Mexico to trace arms dealers.

A US border agent was killed with a weapon linked to the operation in December 2010.

This is the first use of executive privilege for withholding documents by Mr Obama. Former Presidents George W Bush and Bill Clinton used the privilege six and 14 times respectively during their eight-year terms.

The Department of Justice says it has denied access to the files because they contain information that could affect ongoing criminal investigations.

Eric Holder US Attorney General Eric Holder could be held in contempt of Congress over Fast and Furious

Its officials say they have already sent more than 7,000 documents to the Republican-led House Oversight Committee.

“I write now to inform you that the president has asserted executive privilege over the relevant… documents,” Deputy Attorney General James Cole wrote to the lawmakers.

Wednesday’s contempt vote looms a day after a meeting between Attorney General Eric Holder and committee chairman, Representative Darrell Issa, failed to end the impasse.

Mr Holder said lawmakers had turned down his offer to give them the documents, along with a briefing on the operation, in exchange for assurances that the panel would drop contempt proceedings.

“They rejected what I thought was an extraordinary offer on our part,” he told reporters on Tuesday.

But Republican Senator Charles Grassley, who is not on the committee but attended the meeting, cast doubt on Mr Holder’s version.

“The attorney general wants to trade a briefing and the promise of delivering some small, unspecified set of documents tomorrow for a free pass today,” he told reporters.

On Wednesday, the office of Republican House Speaker John Boehner said use of executive privilege raised questions about the White House’s involvement with the gun probe.

“The White House decision to invoke executive privilege implies that White House officials were either involved in the ‘Fast and Furious’ operation or the cover-up that followed,” Brendan Buck, a spokesman for Mr Boehner, told reporters.

The committee’s top Democrat, Representative Elijah Cummings, accused Mr Issa of having “no interest” in resolving the dispute.

“You’ve been holding the attorney general to an impossible standard,” he told CNN.

“You accused him of a cover-up for protecting documents that he is prohibited from providing.”

It is not clear what will happen if Mr Holder is held in contempt of Congress.

Historically, Congress and the White House have negotiated agreements to avoid a court battle that would limit either Congress’ subpoena power or executive privilege itself.


Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Agency was intentionally letting guns go to Mexico

Justice Department sends Congress 1,400 pages on ‘Fast and Furious’ 

When Wisconsin Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner and Attorney General Eric Holder had a sharp back-and-forth on whether or not officials in the Department of Justice lied to Congress. The questioning was during Thursday morning’s House Judiciary Committee hearing on Operation Fast and Furious.
“First let me make something very clear, in response to an assertion you made, or hinted at: Nobody in the Justice Department has lied,” Holder said in response to accusations that he or his confidantes lied to Congress. “Nobody has lied.”
“Then why was the letter withdrawn?,” Sensenbrenner retorted, referring to a factually inaccurate letter one of Holder’s deputies, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich, sent to Iowa Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley on February 4. In that letter, Weich claimed that guns were never allowed to walk.
Holder and one of his other deputies, Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer have both admitted that statement was false in recent Senate hearings.
“The letter was withdrawn because there was information in there that was inaccurate,” Holder replied to Sensenbrenner’s question.
Fast and Furious was a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives program overseen by the Justice Department. The operation facilitated the sale of thousands of weapons to Mexican drug cartels via straw purchasers. Straw purchasers are people who can legally purchase guns in the United States with the intention of illegally trafficking them into Mexico.
At least 300 people in Mexico were killed with Fast and Furious weapons, as was U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry.

An intense struggle among several senior Justice Department officials was revealed Friday as internal documents on the gun-running Operation Fast and Furious were released by the department.

About 1,400 pages that had been demanded by Capitol Hill investigators were sent to three key congressional committees in advance of what is expected to be a contentious hearing next Thursday when Attorney General Eric Holder testifies on the subject.

The documents lift the veil on conflicting views among Justice Department executives, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and the Arizona U.S. attorney’s office over whether and how to respond to allegations made in letters from Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.

(CBS News)
WASHINGTON – Federal agent John Dodson says what he was asked to do was beyond belief.
He was intentionally letting guns go to Mexico?
“Yes ma’am,” Dodson told CBS News. “The agency was.”
An Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms senior agent assigned to the Phoenix office in 2010, Dodson’s job is to stop gun trafficking across the border. Instead, he says he was ordered to sit by and watch it happen.
Investigators call the tactic letting guns “walk.” In this case, walking into the hands of criminals who would use them in Mexico and the United States.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/04/18/AR2009041800753.html

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/guns/more/facts.html

https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/bja/180752.pdf

http://nij.gov/nij/topics/crime/gun-violence/trafficking.htm

http://www.fas.org/asmp/campaigns/smallarms/IssueBrief3ArmsTrafficking.html

Uploaded by on Mar 11, 2011

http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2011/03/03/eveningnews/main20039031.shtml?tag=…

Transcript:
Federal agent John Dodson says what he was asked to do was beyond belief.

He was intentionally letting guns go to Mexico?

“Yes ma’am,” Dodson told CBS News. “The agency was.”

An Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms senior agent assigned to the Phoenix office in 2010, Dodson’s job is to stop gun trafficking across the border. Instead, he says he was ordered to sit by and watch it happen.

Investigators call the tactic letting guns “walk.” In this case, walking into the hands of criminals who would use them in Mexico and the United States.

Dodson’s bosses say that never happened. Now, he’s risking his job to go public.

“I’m boots on the ground in Phoenix, telling you we’ve been doing it every day since I’ve been here,” he said. “Here I am. Tell me I didn’t do the things that I did. Tell me you didn’t order me to do the things I did. Tell me it didn’t happen. Now you have a name on it. You have a face to put with it. Here I am. Someone now, tell me it didn’t happen.”

Agent Dodson and other sources say the gun walking strategy was approved all the way up to the Justice Department. The idea was to see where the guns ended up, build a big case and take down a cartel. And it was all kept secret from Mexico.

ATF named the case “Fast and Furious.”

Surveillance video obtained by CBS News shows suspected drug cartel suppliers carrying boxes of weapons to their cars at a Phoenix gun shop. The long boxes shown in the video being loaded in were AK-47-type assault rifles.

So it turns out ATF not only allowed it – they videotaped it.

Documents show the inevitable result: The guns that ATF let go began showing up at crime scenes in Mexico. And as ATF stood by watching thousands of weapons hit the streets… the Fast and Furious group supervisor noted the escalating Mexican violence.

One e-mail noted, “958 killed in March 2010 … most violent month since 2005.” The same e-mail notes: “Our subjects purchased 359 firearms during March alone,” including “numerous Barrett .50 caliber rifles.”

Dodson feels that ATF was partly to blame for the escalating violence in Mexico and on the border. “I even asked them if they could see the correlation between the two,” he said. “The more our guys buy, the more violence we’re having down there.”

Senior agents including Dodson told CBS News they confronted their supervisors over and over.

Their answer, according to Dodson, was, “If you’re going to make an omelette, you’ve got to break some eggs.”

There was so much opposition to the gun walking, that an ATF supervisor issued an e-mail noting a “schism” among the agents. “Whether you care or not people of rank and authority at HQ are paying close attention to this case…we are doing what they envisioned…. If you don’t think this is fun you’re in the wrong line of work… Maybe the Maricopa County jail is hiring detention officers and you can get $30,000 … to serve lunch to inmates…”

“We just knew it wasn’t going to end well. There’s just no way it could,” Dodson said.

the Mexican Dirty War

January 16, 2008by Daniel HopsickerTwo American-registered drug planes busted  in Mexico carrying four and 5.5 tons of cocaine are just the “tip of the iceberg”  in a blockbuster aviation deal which sold 50 American-regist…

January 16, 2008
by Daniel Hopsicker
Two American-registered drug planes busted  in Mexico carrying four and 5.5 tons of cocaine are just the “tip of the iceberg”  in a blockbuster aviation deal which sold 50 American-registered aircraft to the Sinaloa Cartel, the MadCowMorningNews has learned.
According to an indictment released over the holidays by Mexico’s Atty.General, Pedro Alfonso Alatorre, already indicted as the cartel’s chief financier, purchased the DC9 (N900SA) airliner, the Gulfstream II business jet (N987SA), and 48 other planes not yet identified for Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel with laundered drug money, using a company he controls which owns currency exchanges at major airports in Mexico.
Now we know who bought the airplanes. The trickier question is: who sold them?  The answer, normally, would be, “Their local counterparts in international organized crime.”
But these aren’t normal circumstances. Why? Because the U.S. doesn’t even have any Drug Lords. Ask anybody at the DEA. Apparently, we don’t even bother to field a team.

Elusive seldom-photographed American Drug Lords

News of a 50-plane fleet of drug smuggling aircraft being sold to a Mexican Cartel by mysteriously unnamed American owners confirms rumors of a mushrooming scandal, one which may eventually implicate top officials in the U.S., Mexico, and Colombia. 
The reason was left unspoken in the Mexican Atty. General’s statement,  because it lies on the American side of the equation, in the identity of the sellers of the planes…  
The DC9 and the Gulfstream II, the two American jets now known to be part of a 50-plane sale, share interlocking ownership. The stock of two corporations which owned the planes was used in the massive recent Adnan Khashoggi-led stock fraud.
Khashoggi, currently a fugitive from justice in the case, engineered the biggest brokerage bankruptcy in America since the Great Depression, costing investors and taxpayers over $300 million.
With gas prices over $3 a gallon, you wouldn’t think the Saudi billionaire needed the money. So, what did ‘they’ do with the money? 
 

Upcoming Presidential elections, perhaps?

The operation was manned by “retired” CIA and military intelligence personnel, had close ties to major Bush backers and the national Republican Party, (Sen. Mel Martinez, until recently the Chairman of the GOP, flew free on Skyway’s Cocaine One DC9 during the crucial final two weeks of his campaign in Florida for the Senate.)
And with seeming impunity the operationengaged in multi-ton load drug trafficking, as well asmassive financial fraud.
What began as a minor scandal without fanfare in April of 2006 with the bust of an American-registered DC-9 airliner carrying 5.5 tons of cocaine on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula gathered momentum when a Gulfstream business jet flying out of the same airport was busted in the Yucatan 18 months later carrying 4 tons of cocaine. 
The level of citizen outrage increased with the crash-landing of the second American plane. With the news that the number of American planes sold to Mexican drug traffickers was not just one or two planes—but 50—the scandal is now threatening to mushroom into something much larger.

Kingpin Airlines welcomes you aboard

The brazen fleet-sized sale of American planes to Mexican drug traffickers has huge implications. 
“The extraordinary similarity,” to use the phrase used by Mexican newspaper Por Esto, between the DC9 airliner and the Gulfstream II…
The American owners of the drug planes have suffered no adverse consequences whatsoever to date.
If you own an airliner or business jet discovered hauling pure cocaine into the U.S., literally by the ton,  authorities are sympathetic. They know the hazards unauthorized charter flights pose to innocent business owners, and the confusion that can result when you’ve inadvertently purchased an airplane from someone known to be involved with international organized crime.

“Our Story Thus Far”

As this amazing information begins to sink inthat owning a drug plane may have little downside and be a terrific hedge against coming hard timesa brief recap of “Our Story Thus Far” may be in order.
Two American-registered airplanes with clear ties to the U.S. Government—a DC9 airliner (N900SA) painted to resemble an airplane from the U.S. Dept of Homeland Security, and a Gulfstream business jet (N987SA) formerly used by the CIA for renditions—were busted in Mexico 18 months apart carrying multi-ton loads of cocaine . 
Both planes flew from St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport to Mexico, then on to Colombia, where they loaded the cocaine, before being caught on their return journey to (supposedly) Fort Lauderdale,  stopping to refuel on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.  
Just before both plane’s ill-fated final flights, the “ownership” papers were  shuffled around like peas being moved underneath shells on a card table in a billion dollar game of three-card monte by people known as “aircraft brokers.

Bush Rangers, cardboard-thin cutouts

However, the MadCowMorningNewslearned from an FAA official that neither of the two “aircraft brokers”  bought or sold any other planes during the entire year.
They aren’t really “aircraft brokers.” Aircraft brokers buy and sell planes. 
They’re “cut-outs,” a spy trade term for the layers of insulation relied on to provide plausible deniability.  They play a critical role in the cover story, shielding the plane’s true owners from scrutiny.  
Both busted airplanes give every indication of having been involved in a “protected” drug trafficking operation. Imagine the surprise and shock back in the Home Office.  No wonder the cover story is, in many places, exceedingly thin.
A shameless plug:
Almost two weeks before the Mexico’s Atty. General’s announcement in early November that both planes had been used in the same drug smuggling operation,  readers of the MadCowMorningNews already knew of connections between the two downed American drug planes, and their interlocking ownership.

The “W” Connection

Stephen Adams, a secretive Midwestern media baron and Republican fund-raiser, owned the Gulfstream II at the same time he was personally purchasing one million dollars of billboard advertising for George W. Bush during the 2000 Presidential Campaign. 
Adams was also in business, in two separate companies, with Michael Farkas, the man who founded SkyWay Aircraft, which owned the DC9. Both men control companies used in Adnan Khashoggi’s $300 million stock fraud rip-off.   
The multi-ton drug busts, as well as the numerous murders already surrounding the case,  are part of a continuing “Mexican stand-off”between rival Mexican drug cartels allied with dueling factions contesting Mexico’s unsettled political landscape.
The contest has so far resulted in more than 2500 murders in Mexico last year.  Mexico’s internecine drug war is a hotter theater of operations than Iraq. 

Bank robbers for Equal Justice Under Law

When a bank robber steals a few thousand dollars before holing up with a hostage, does the FBI take more than eighteen months before divulging the name of the suspect?
Certain cases involving politically-connected Americans suspected of involvement in drug smuggling, through ownership of drug smuggling aircraft,  seem to be being treated, not as crimes, but as urgent matters of national security.  
But the American owners of the two airplanes busted in Mexico do not look like innocent victims of mean and nasty Mexican drug traffickers, but their  American counterparts... the elusive and almost never-photographedAmerican Drug Lords.
The Gulfstream, for example, picked up its multi-load of cocaine at the international airport in Rio Negro, just outside of Medellin. Although the city became famous as Pablo Escobar’s hometown, today Medellin is known for being current Colombian President Alvaro Uribe’s home turf…
So it wasn’t FARC dope.
And there is no way the shipment can be blamed on the guerrillas, which may yet prove inconvenient if—after all the pieces are fitted into the puzzle—government-to-government drug connections are visible between the U.S. and Colombian governments.  

An official issue get-out-of-jail-free card

The first plane to go down was a DC9 airliner (N900SA) which left Colombia carrying 5.5 tons of cocaine
The DC9’s owner regularly engaged in illegal, and as yet unpunished, activity, as if he had an official issue get-out-of-jail-free card.
One example: Forgetting legal niceties–like “don’t sell a plane you don’t own, dude”– the DC9 was passed from “Skyway Aircraft” to a company controlled by a company insider, “Royal Sons LLC.
But the real owner of the plane at the time was the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Tampa. And they weren’t even told of the sale.
Maybe it helped their legal cause that Skyway’s Chairman, Glenn Kovar, had been a U.S. Forest Service employee who boasted of long-standing ties to the CIA.
And several of the firm’s top executives, including its President, have backgrounds in U.S. military intelligence.  That probably didn’t hurt either.

Paint your car like a police car! Comes with own siren!

Skyway’s DC9 was painted with the distinctive blue-and-white with gold trim used by  official U.S. Government planes, and an official-looking U.S. Seal, featuring the familiar Federal eagle clutching an olive brand, had been painted alongside the door. 
If you look closely, however,  the legend wrapping around the outer edge of the Seal says “SkyWay Aircraft: Protection of America’s Skies.” 
Still, most who saw the DC9 sitting on the apron of the St-Petersburg Clearwater International Airport figured the aircraft belonged to the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security.
The DC9 was clearly impersonating an aircraft from the Dept of Homeland Security. Yet it sat unmolested by authorities at the St Pete-Clearwater Intl’ Airport, parked less than a hundred yards from the US Coast Guard’s major Caribbean Basin Air Facility.
Skyway’s SUV’s, by contrast, were painted with a bogus U.S. Government Seal were pulled over by local police, and ordered to remove the seals.
 

Pretty lucky? Or pretty well-connected?

Another intriguing fact is that several years ago Skyway’s listed address in plane ads was a hanger at Huffman Aviation at the Venice Fl. Airport.  Huffman trained both pilots who took down the World Trade Center, Mohamed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi, to fly.
The Gulfstream II (N987SA) 
The biggest clue to date to the true identity of the individuals or organization operating behind the scenes is in the name of the dummy front company which was the last registered owner of the Gulfstream business jet that crash-landed with 4 tons of cocaine may lie in the firm’s initials.
Donna Blue Aircraft”  is “DBA,” for “doing business as,” the kind of clever nomenclature “the boys” are fond of.
When we visited the company’s listed address, it was in an empty office suite with a blank sign out front.

What This is Really All About

Mankind’s knowledge about who owns large commercial and business jets which get busted carrying narcotics appears severely limited for several reasons.
1. It is completely governed, like the movement of subatomic quarks, byHeisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, with one teensy change.
2. Ownership Uncertainty fluctuates with the level of influence the plane’s owner is able to exert. 
3. Prospects are especially poor of ever identifying the owners of planes associated with national Republican figures.
The whole business, suggested a story from the Associated Press, ratherquickly moves beyond the realm of human ken.
“How the U.S.-registered Gulfstream ended up in the hands of suspected drug traffickers remains a mystery,” the AP reported.
And not by accident, either. 


On April 23, two patrol cars were ambushed by armed gunman in downtown Ciudad Juarez. In the ensuing firefight, seven policemen were killed as well as a 17-year old boy who was caught in the crossfire. All of the assailants escaped uninjured fleeing the crime-scene in three SUVs. The bold attack was executed in broad daylight in one of the busiest areas of the city. According to the Associated Press:

“Hours after the attack, a painted message directed to top federal police commanders and claiming responsibility for the attack appeared on a wall in downtown Ciudad Juarez. It was apparently signed by La Linea gang, the enforcement arm of the Juarez drug cartel. The Juarez cartel has been locked in a bloody turf battle with the Sinaloa cartel, led by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

“This will happen to you … for being with El Chapo Guzman and to all the dirtbags who support him. Sincerely, La Linea,” the message read.” (“7 Mexican police officers killed in Ciudad Juarez”, Olivia Torres, AP)

The massacre in downtown Juarez is just the latest incident in Mexico’s bloody drug war. Between 5 to 6 more people will be killed on Saturday, and on every day thereafter with no end in sight. It’s a war that cannot be won, but that hasn’t stopped the Mexican government from sticking to its basic game-plan.

The experts and politicians disagree about the origins of the violence in Juarez, but no one disputes that 23,000 people have been killed since 2006 in a largely futile military operation initiated by Mexican president Felipe Calderon. Whether the killing is the result of the ongoing turf-war between the rival drug cartels or not, is irrelevant. The present policy is failing and needs to be changed. The militarization of the war on drugs has been a colossal disaster which has accelerated the pace of social disintegration. Mexico is quickly becoming a failed state, and Washington’s deeply-flawed Merida Initiative, which provides $1.4 billion in aid to the Calderon administration to intensify military operations, is largely to blame.

The surge in narcotics trafficking and drug addiction go hand-in-hand with destructive free trade policies which have fueled their growth. NAFTA, in particular, has triggered a massive migration of people who have been pushed off the land because they couldn’t compete with heavily-subsidized agricultural products from the US. Many of these people drifted north to towns like Juarez which became a manufacturing hub in the 1990s. But Juarez’s fortunes took a turn for the worse a few years later when competition from the Far East grew fiercer. Now most of the plants and factories have been boarded up and the work has been outsourced to China where subsistence wages are the norm. Naturally, young men have turned to the cartels as the only visible means of employment and upward mobility. That means that free trade has not only had a ruinous effect on the economy, but has also created an inexhaustible pool of recruits for the drug trade.

Washington’s Merida Initiative–which provides $1.4 billion in aid to the Calderon administration to intensify military operations–has only made matters worse. The public’s demand for jobs, security and social programs, has been answered with check-points, crackdowns and state repression. The response from Washington hasn’t been much better. Obama hasn’t veered from the policies of the prior administration. He is as committed to a military solution as his predecessor, George W. Bush.

But the need for change is urgent. Mexico is unraveling and, as the oil wells run dry, the prospect of a failed state run by drug kingpins and paramilitaries on US’s southern border becomes more and more probable. The drug war is merely a symptom of deeper social problems; widespread political corruption, grinding poverty, soaring unemployment, and the erosion of confidence in public institutions. But these issues are brushed aside, so the government can pursue its one-size-fits-all military strategy without second-guessing or remorse. Meanwhile, the country continues to fall apart.

THE CLASHING CARTELS

The big cartels are engaged in a ferocious battle for the drug corridors around Juarez. The Sinaloa, Gulf and La Familia cartels have formed an alliance against the upstart Los Zetas gang. Critics allege that the Calderon administration has close ties with the Sinaloa cartel and refuses to arrest its members. Here’s an excerpt from an Al Jazeera video which points to collusion between Sinaloa and the government.

“The US Treasury identifies at least 20 front companies that are laundering drug money for the Sinaloa cartel…There are allegations that the Mexican government is “favoring” the cartel. According to Diego Enrique Osorno, investigative journalist and author of the “The Sinaloa Cartel”:

“There are no important detentions of Sinaloa cartel members. But the government is hunting down adversary groups, new players in the world of drug trafficking.”

International Security Expert, Edgardo Buscaglia, says that “of over 50,000 drug related arrests, only a very small percentage have been Sinaloa cartel members, and no cartel leaders. Dating back to 2003, law enforcement data shows objectively that the government has been hitting the weakest organized crime groups in Mexico, but they have not been hitting the main crime group, the Sinaloa Federation, that’s responsible for 45% of the drug trade in this country.” (Al Jazeera)

There’s no way to verify whether the Calderon administration is in bed with the Sinaloa cartel, but Al Jazeera’s report is pretty damning. A similar report appeared in the Los Angeles Times which revealed that the government had diverted funds that were earmarked for struggling farmers (who’d been hurt by NAFTA) “to the families of notorious drug traffickers and several senior government officials, including the agriculture minister.” Here’s an excerpt from the Los Angeles Times:

“According to several academic studies, as much as 80% of the money went to just 20% of the registered farmers…Among the most eyebrow-raising recipients were three siblings of billionaire drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, head of the powerful Sinaloa cartel, and the brother of Guzman’s onetime partner, Arturo Beltran Leyva”. (“Mexico farm subsidies are going astray”, Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times)

There’s no doubt that if the LA Times knows about the circular flow of state money to drug traffickers, than the Obama administration knows too. So why does the administration persist with the same policy and continue to support the people they pretend to be fighting?

In forty years, US drug policy has never changed. The same “hunt them down, bust them, and lock them up” philosophy continues to this day. That’s why many critics believe that the drug war is really about control, not eradication. It’s a matter of who’s in line to rake in the profits; small-time pushers who run their own operations or politically-connected kingfish who have agents in the banks, the intelligence agencies, the military and the government. Currently, in Juarez, the small fries’ are getting wiped out while the big-players are getting stronger. In a year or so, the Sinaloa cartel will control the streets, the drug corridors, and the border. The violence will die down and the government will proclaim “victory”, but the flow of drugs into the US will increase while the situation for ordinary Mexicans will continue to deteriorate.

Here’s a clip from an article in the Independent by veteran journalist Hugh O’Shaughnessy:

“The outlawing and criminalizing of drugs and consequent surge in prices has produced a bonanza for producers everywhere, from Kabul to Bogota, but, at the Mexican border, where an estimated $39,000m in narcotics enter the rich US market every year, a veritable tsunami of cash has been created. The narcotraficantes, or drug dealers, can buy the murder of many, and the loyalty of nearly everyone. They can acquire whatever weapons they need from the free market in firearms north of the border and bring them into Mexico with appropriate payment to any official who holds his hand out.” (“The US-Mexico border: where the drugs war has soaked the ground blood red”, Hugh O’Shaughnessy The Independent)

It’s no coincidence that Kabul and Bogota are the the de facto capitals of the drug universe. US political support is strong in both places, as is the involvement of US intelligence agencies. But does that suggest that the CIA is at work in Mexico, too? Or, to put it differently: Why is the US supporting a client that appears to be allied to the most powerful drug cartel in Mexico? That’s the question.

THE CHECKERED HISTORY OF THE CIA

In August 1996, investigative journalist Gary Webb released the first installment of Dark Alliance in the San Jose Mercury exposing the CIA’s involvement in the drug trade. The article blew the lid off the murky dealings of the agency’s covert operations. Webb’s words are as riveting today as they were when they first appeared 14 years ago:

“For the better part of a decade, a San Francisco Bay Area drug ring sold tons of cocaine to the Crips and Bloods street gangs of Los Angeles and funneled millions in drug profits to a Latin American guerrilla army run by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, a Mercury News investigation has found.

This drug network opened the first pipeline between Colombia’s cocaine cartels and the black neighborhoods of Los Angeles, a city now known as the “crack” capital of the world. The cocaine that flooded in helped spark a crack explosion in urban America

and provided the cash and connections needed for L.A.’s gangs to buy automatic weapons.

It is one of the most bizarre alliances in modern history: the union of a U.S.-backed army attempting to overthrow a revolutionary socialist government and the Uzi-toting “gangstas” of Compton and South-Central Los Angeles.” (“America’s ‘crack’ plague has roots in Nicaragua war”, Gary Webb, San Jose Mercury News)

Counterpunch editor Alexander Cockburn has also done extensive research on the CIA/drug connection. Here’s an excerpt from an article titled “The Government’s Dirty Little Secrets”, which ran in the Los Angeles Times.

“CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz finally conceded to a U.S. congressional committee that the agency had worked with drug traffickers and had obtained a waiver from the Justice Department in 1982 (the beginning of the Contra funding crisis) allowing it not to report drug trafficking by agency contractors. Was the lethal arsenal deployed at Roodeplaat assembled with the advice from the CIA and other U.S. agencies? There were certainly close contacts over the years. It was a CIA tip that led the South African secret police to arrest Nelson Mandela.” (The Government’s Dirty Little Secrets, Los Angeles Times, commentary, 1998)

And then there’s this from independent journalist Zafar Bangash:

“The CIA, as Cockburn and (Jeffrey) St Clair reveal, had been in this business right from the beginning. In fact, even before it came into existence, its predecessors, the OSS and the Office of Naval Intelligence, were involved with criminals. One such criminal was Lucky Luciano, the most notorious gangster and drug trafficker in America in the forties.”

The CIA’s involvement in drug trafficking closely dovetails America’s adventures overseas – from Indo-China in the sixties to Afghanistan in the eighties….As Alfred McCoy states in his book: Politics of Heroin: CIA complicity in the Global Drug Trade, beginning with CIA raids from Burma into China in the early fifties, the agency found that ‘ruthless drug lords made effective anti-communists.” (“CIA peddles drugs while US Media act as cheerleaders”, Zafar Bangash, Muslimedia, January 16-31, 1999)

And, this from author William Blum:

“ClA-supported Mujahedeen rebels … engaged heavily in drug trafficking while fighting against the Soviet-supported government,” writes historian William Blum. “The Agency’s principal client was Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, one of the leading druglords and a leading heroin refiner. CIA-supplied trucks and mules, which had carried arms into Afghanistan, were used to transport opium to laboratories along the Afghan/Pakistan border. The output provided up to one half of the heroin used annually in the United States and three-quarters of that used in Western Europe….”

And, this from Portland Independent Media:

“Before 1980, Afghanistan produced 0% of the world’s opium. But then the CIA moved in, and by 1986 they were producing 40% of the world’s heroin supply. By 1999, they were churning out 3,200 TONS of heroin a year–nearly 80% of the total market supply. But then something unexpected happened. The Taliban rose to power, and by 2000 they had destroyed nearly all of the opium fields. Production dropped from 3,000+ tons to only 185 tons, a 94% reduction! This drop in revenue hurt not only the CIA’s Black Budget projects, but also the free-flow of laundered money in and out of the Controller’s banks.” (Portland Independent Media)

The evidence of CIA involvement in the drug trade is vast, documented and compelling. Still, does that mean that there is some nefarious 3-way connection between the Sinaloa Cartel, the Calderon administration and the CIA? Isn’t it more likely that US policymakers are simply stuck in an ideological rut and are unable to break free from the culture of militarism that has swallowed Washington whole? Author John Ross answers these questions and more in a speech he delivered at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington D.C. in April 2009. Here’s an excerpt:

“What does Washington want from Mexico? On the security side, the U.S. seeks total control of Mexico’s security apparatus. With the creation of NORTHCOM (Northern Command) designed to protect the U.S. landmass from terrorist attack, Mexico is designated North America’s southern security perimeter and U.S. military aircraft now has carte blanche to penetrate Mexican airspace. Moreover, the North American Security and Prosperity Agreement (ASPAN in its Mexican initials) seeks to integrate the security apparatuses of the three NAFTA nations under Washington’s command. Now the Merida Initiative signed by Bush II and Calderon in early 2007 allows for the emplacement of armed U.S. security agents – the FBI, the DEA, the CIA, and ICE – on Mexican soil and contractors like the former Blackwater cannot be far behind. Wars are fought for juicy government contracts and $1.3 billion in Merida moneys are going directly to U.S. defense contractors – forget about the Mexican middleman.

On the energy side, the designated target is, of course, the privatization of PEMEX, Mexico’s nationalized oil industry, with a particular eye out for risk contracts on deep sea drilling in the Gulf of Mexico utilizing technology only the EXXONs of this world possess.” (John Ross, “The Big Scam : How and Why Washington Hooked Mexico on the Drug War)

The drug war is the mask behind which the real policy is concealed. The United States is using all the implements in its national security toolbox to integrate Mexico into a North America Uberstate, a hemispheric free trade zone that removes sovereign obstacles to corporate looting and guarantees rich rewards for defense contractors. As Ross notes, all of the usual suspects are involved, including the FBI and CIA. That means the killing in Juarez will continue until Washington’s objectives are achieved.

Mike Whitney is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Mike Whitney



Richard Cain, Mexico City, Bill K. Harvey and Staff D

« on: July 19, 2011, 06:45:44 PM »

“Arguments for exclusivity go only so far. The better question is how explain the Kurt Vonnegut Cat’s Cradle line turned to song:

Nice, nice, very nice
so many people in the same device”

~Phil Dragoo

The Mexican Security Police, known as the Dirección Federal de Seguridad, or DFS was a government security agency created in 1947 during the presidency of Miguel Alemán. Organizationally part of the Secretaria de Gobernación, the DFS was assigned the official duty of preserving the internal stability of Mexico against all forms subversion and terrorist threats. Following a drug scandal that concluded with criminal prosecution of its top executives, the DFS was abolished, with operational elements restructured and merged into the Centro de Investigación y Seguridad Nacional (CISEN) in 1985.

Professor Peter Dale Scott has written that the DFS was in part a CIA creation, and “the CIA’s closest government allies were for years in the DFS.” DFS badges, “handed out to top-level Mexican drug-traffickers, have been labelled by DEA agents a virtual ‘license to traffic.'” Scott says that “The Guadalajara Cartel, Mexico’s most powerful drug-trafficking network in the early 1980s, prospered largely because it enjoyed the protection of the DFS, under its chief Miguel Nassar (or Nazar) Haro, a CIA asset.

What is relevant to our interests is the fact that the DFS, in addition to being deeply involved with illicit drug related organized crime, and a corrupt tool of enforcement for the state, staffed and monitored the CIA’s Mexico City telephone intercept program LI/ENVOY, the source of the infamous “Oswald” tapes which were transcribed by husband and wife team, Boris and Anna Tarasoff.

http://www.history-matters.com/essays/frameup/MoreMexicoMysteries/MoreMexicoMysteries_2.htm

What this means is that the LI/ENVOY operation which produced the original reports (subsequently transcribed) of an Oswald speaking with Soviet and Cuban diplomatic officers was not only technically insecure, it was manned, apparently, by Mexican State Police whose activities were well documented as being open to manipulation by criminal elements.

Which leads to…

Richard Cain

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Cain

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKcainR.ht

Richard Cain (alias Scalzetti) can properly be described as a notorious Chicago mob figure, a veteran who served in the US Army stationed in both Japan and the Virgin Islands, an allegedly crooked Security Officer for UPS, an allegedly corrupt Chicago Police Department detective and employee of the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, a lie-detector operator, a Spanish speaking associate of pro-Batista, anti-Castro Cubans, a close personal friend of Chicago mob boss, Sam Giancana (at whose request was allegedly brought into the CIA’s Castro assassination plans), a business operator (Accurate Detective Laboratories), a recruiter for Spanish speaking volunteers sent to South Florida and Central American CIA training camps specializing in guerrilla warfare/commando tactics, an FBI informant, an electronic surveillance expert who specialized in telephone tapping, and, among many other things including being shot in the mouth at point blank range with a shotgun on 20 Dec., 1973, the person identified in official CIA files as having visited the CIA’s Mexico City Station in April of ’62, at which time “he stated he had an investigative agency in Mexico…for the purpose of training Mexican government agents in police methods, in investigative techniques, and in the use of the lie detector.”

During the period of 1950 – 52, Cain had tapped the telephones of Cuban revolutionary leaders on behalf of the US supported Batista regime. In 1960 he was approached to install phone taps on behalf of former Cuban President (and exiled resident of Mexico), Carlos Prio. The Chicago Tribune reported that the CIA had engaged Cain in 1960 because of his Havana mob contacts, and also to wiretap the Czech embassy in Havana.

It seems plausible that “technical assistance” referred to in official CIA reports confirming that the CIA Mexico City Station provided support to the DFS on the LI/ENVOY operation was in the form of a man who was deeply and personally connected with Sam Giancana, Giancana’s anti-Castro CIA intrigues, and the Chicago underworld milieu of Jack Ruby.

A detailed examination of Richard Cain suggests that from 1960 through ’63, he was close to, or possibly deep inside, the connection between the CIA and the Mafia’s recruitment to assassinate Fidel Castro. An HSCA report presents credible arguments that Cain was not only involved (by Giancana) in the plots against Castro, but that he himself may have been the “assassin-to-be” mentioned by his boss, Giancana, on 18 Oct., 1960.

Which leads to…

Bill K. Harvey and Staff D

The most sensitive and restricted operation by the CIA against Castro was run out of CIA’s Staff D (FI/D), headed by William King Harvey. Officially, Staff D was “a small Agency component responsible for communications intercepts.” Quoted from Inspectors General Report, 37. In fact and in practice, the very stringent restrictions on clearances for COMINT (communications intelligence) made FI/D especially well suited to house sensitive operations that CIA officials (such as Agent In Charge, Harvey) wished to conceal from the rest of the Agency. The most notorious of these projects was ZR/RIFLE, Harvey’s program for “Executive Action Capability.”

FI/D was responsible for the LI/ENVOY program in Mexico City. LI/ENVOY reports were filed regularly from Mexico City Station to Harvey at CIA HQS. It is important to know that Ann Goodpasture, Mexico City Station officer responsible for bringing DFS intercept product into the station and who supplied mistaken and misleading identification of Oswald as being “age 35 and balding,” was an FI/D employee.

Harvey’s Staff D controlled the CIA-Mafia assassination plots, and it controlled the LI/ENVOY intercept intake inside the Mexico City Station. If Richard Cain trained and possibly supervised the recruitment of Mexican (DFS) monitors, the CIA-DFS LI/ENVOY collaboration represents a pre-assassination matrix connecting three possible conspirators in operations which would be seen post-assassination to have very great significance in the implication of Lee Harvey Oswald.

This is a model of an ultra-secretive compartment of CIA, elements of the Mafia already associated with the CIA in their Castro assassination plots, and the infiltration of an officially recognized Mexican agency which would have been thought to have acted in the service of the CIA in its reporting of electronic listening posts, working with each other in ways not apparent to any who would have been uninvolved.

For us to truly recognize what this may mean in terms relevant to the hypothesis that LHO was set up to take the blame for an act he did not commit, it’s essential that we fully understand that all of the above should not result in a rush to judgement that these elements at work through the actions and associations of Richard Cain, Sam Giancana, Ann Goodpasture, and Bill K. Harvey represent proof of their collaboration on the incrimination of Oswald as part of a sinister plot to kill President Kennedy.

While exploring the possibility that the incrimination of Oswald was piggy-backed upon authorized counterintelligence operations which employed these resources and was possibly directed by these authorities, we raise more questions than we answer. I’m hopeful that even a modest introduction such as this will be encouragement — especially to those of you whose minds seem to have already been made up — to continue the search for new answers.

My thanks to Phil Dragoo whose contributions here should be required reading for all.

|


The Mexican Drug War is an ongoing armed conflict between rival drug cartels fighting each other for regional control, and Mexican government forces. The government’s principal goal has been to put down the drug-related violence that was raging between different drug cartels before any military intervention was made.[27] In addition, the Mexican government has claimed that their primary focus is on dismantling the powerful drug cartels, rather than on drug trafficking prevention, which is left to U.S. functionaries.[28][29][30]
Although Mexican drug cartels, or drug trafficking organizations, have existed for several decades, they have become more powerful since the demise of Colombia‘s Cali and Medellín cartels in the 1990s. Mexican drug cartels now dominate the wholesale illicit drug market by controlling 90% of the drugs that enter the United States.[31][32] Arrests of key cartel leaders, particularly in the Tijuana and Gulf cartels, have led to increasing drug violence as cartels fight for control of the trafficking routes into the United States.[33][34][35]
Analysts estimate that wholesale earnings from illicit drug sales range from $13.6 billion[31] to $49.4 billion annually.[31][36][37]


Some sources say that the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been involved in several drug trafficking operations. Some of these reports claim that congressional evidence indicates that the CIA worked with groups which it knew were involved in drug trafficking, so that these groups would provide them with useful intelligence and material support, in exchange for allowing their criminal activities to continue,[1] and impeding or preventing their arrest, indictment, and imprisonment by U.S. law enforcement agencies.[2]

According to Peter Dale Scott, the Dirección Federal de Seguridad was in part a CIA creation, and “the CIA’s closest government allies were for years in the DFS”. DFS badges, “handed out to top-level Mexican drug-traffickers, have been labelled by DEA agents a virtual ‘license to traffic.'”[21] Scott says that “The Guadalajara Cartel, Mexico’s most powerful drug-trafficking network in the early 1980s, prospered largely because it enjoyed the protection of the DFS, under its chief Miguel Nazar Haro, a CIA asset.”[21]
Vicente Zambada Niebla, the son of Ismael Zambada García one of the top druglords in Mexico, claimed after his arrest to his attorneys that he and other top Sinaloa cartel members had received immunity by U.S. agents and a virtual licence to smuggle cocaine over the United States border, in exchange for intelligence about rival cartels engaged in the Mexican Drug War.[22][23]

The Dirección Federal de Seguridad (Federal Security Directorate, DFS) was a Mexican intelligence agency. Created in 1947 under Miguel Alemán Valdés with “the duty of preserving the internal stability of Mexico against all forms subversion and terrorist threats”,[1] it was merged into the Centro de Investigación y Seguridad Nacional (CISEN) in 1985.
According to Peter Dale Scott, the DFS was in part a CIA creation, and “the CIA’s closest government allies were for years in the DFS”. DFS badges, “handed out to top-level Mexican drug-traffickers, have been labelled by DEA agents a virtual ‘license to traffic.'”[2] Scott says that “The Guadalajara Cartel, Mexico’s most powerful drug-trafficking network in the early 1980s, prospered largely because it enjoyed the protection of the DFS, under its chief Miguel Nazar Haro, a CIA asset.”[2]


  1. ^ Dirección Federal de Seguridad (Mexico) Security Reports, Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection, University of Texas Libraries, the University of Texas at Austin,Dirección Federal de Seguridad (Mexico) Security Reports, 1970-1977
  2. ^ a b Peter Dale Scott (2000), Washington and the politics of drugs, Variant, 2(11)

Mexican Miguel Nazar Haro was protected by the CIA

By Víctor Hugo Michel (Mexico City) and Dora Irene Rivera (Monterrey)

EDITED TRANSLATION OF A FEBRUARY 23, 2004, PIECE FROM MILENIO, MEXICO CITY

Miguel Nassar Haro* (aka Nazar Haro; or Nasar Haro), Mexico’s ex-director of the Federal Security Directorate (DFS), received help from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the U.S. Justice Department to avoid incarceration in the U.S. when he was under investigation for participating in a car theft ring, revealed Peter K. Nuñez, the former U.S. Attorney in charge of the case in San Diego, California.

In an interview with Milenio, Nuñez said that when he tried to arrest and prosecute Nassar Haro in the early 1980s, the “intelligence agencies” in Washington began to meddle in the case and they even pressured him not to pursue the investigations.

“It was a very complicated circumstance. We [in San Diego] had spent considerable time trying to charge him, and the Justice Department in Washington and some of the U.S. intelligence agencies did not want us to go ahead,” Nuñez said.

Asked if he believes the CIA got involved to influence the escape of Nassar Haro from the U.S. — after (he) spent a few hours in a San Diego jail, Nuñez dryly responded “yes.”

The CIA considered Nassar Haro, according to different reports, “the most important source in Mexico and Central America” for the U.S. espionage services.

From the beginning of the call, upon hearing the reporter’s nationality, Nuñez guessed the subject of the interview. “You want to talk about Miguel Nassar Haro,” he anticipated. “Let me tell you: I am not surprised that he has been arrested in Mexico.”

Nuñez, a favorite of Ronald Reagan who was famous for having detained the ex-director of the DFS for a few hours in a San Diego jail, affirmed that he and his team of attorneys had gathered “sufficient information” to link Nassar Haro with car theft in Southern California.

(Reporter:) How was the connection between Nassar Haro and this gang of car thieves discovered, was it through an informant?

(Nuñez:) In part, yes. Many people had already been arrested, and many of them had cooperated with the U.S. government. And among other things, they revealed the role of Nassar Haro in the case.

(The reporter continued with several questions about extradition, then and now. In a concluding comment Nuñez said that) the arrest warrants against Miguel Nassar Haro, for car theft in California, “are still open and they have not expired.” As such, “an eventual extradition request” cannot be dismissed.

Nuñez said, that according to the U.S. justice (system), two decades after being indicted in a federal court for his alleged participation in an organization dedicated to stealing vehicles in San Diego Nassar Haro is still a “fugitive.”

“The statute of limitations would not apply because Nassar Haro had already been processed,” said the ex-U.S. Attorney who was the prosecutor in the case that culminated with the Mexican agent fleeing to Tijuana, from the U.S., after he paid his bail.

Nuñez explained, that in spite of the more than 22 years that have passed, the crimes committed in the U.S. are not yet resolved. “Arrest warrants do not expire,” he said. “He paid his bail but he never returned to face the charges.”

Nuñez said that even without a U.S. extradition proceeding, the Mexican justice (system) could try Nassar Haro for crimes committed in the U.S., according to Article 4 of the Federal Penal Code of Mexico. Article 4 states that crimes committed abroad by a Mexican will be punishable in Mexico, in accordance with federal laws, if the accused is in the country and (if the accused) has yet to be tried abroad.

Nuñez revealed, that as a result of what happened with Nassar Haro, there were political damages in Washington — mostly from friction caused by the involvement of intelligence agencies and the Justice Department in a case that took place on the other side of the country, in California.

According to memory, there was a leak in Washington about the investigations of the U.S. Attorney in San Diego. “Someone leaked the information and made it public, that we were considering the indictment of Nassar Haro,” he recalled. “That was not authorized.”

The leak, that put the name of Nassar Haro in the headlines of the main newspapers in the U.S., brought down a Justice Department official, Bill Kennedy, who the Reagan administration blamed for revealing the “sensitive information.”

“Nassar Haro then came to the U.S., to file suit against the newspapers for printing his name. It was not the best choice he ever made. While he was here we charged and arrested him,” Nuñez said, remembering the moment the ex-director of the DFS was taken into custody.
__________

* Miguel Nazar Haro was recently detained, in Mexico, on an arrest warrant issued by a Monterrey, Nuevo León, judge. The ex-director of the infamous DFS, a now defunct domestic intelligence and security agency, is charged with authorizing the 1975 kidnapping of a youthful leftist — one of Mexico’s “disappeared” who were never to be heard from again. MexiData.info
__________

— MexiData.info translation


The Guadalajara Cartel (Spanish: Cártel de Guadalajara) was a Mexican drug cartel which was formed in the 1980s by Rafael Caro Quintero, Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo and Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo in order to ship heroin and marijuana to the United States. Among the first of the Mexican drug trafficking groups to work with the Colombian cocaine mafias, the Guadalajara cartel prospered from the cocaine trade.

After the arrest of Rafael Caro Quintero and Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo, Félix Gallardo kept a low profile and in 1987 he moved with his familyGuadalajara city. Félix Gallardo (“The Godfather”) then decided to divide up the trade he controlled as it would be more efficient and less likely to be brought down in one law enforcement swoop.[1]In a way, he was privatizing the Mexican drug business while sending it back underground, to be run by bosses who were less well known or not yet known by the DEA. Félix Gallardo convened the nation’s top drug narcos at a house in the resort of Acapulco where he designated the plazas or territories. The Tijuana route would go to the Arellano Felix brothers. The Ciudad Juárez routewould go to the Carrillo Fuentes family. Miguel Caro Quintero would run the Sonora corridor. The control of the Matamoros, Tamaulipas corridor – then becoming the Gulf Cartel– would be left undisturbed to Juan García Abrego. Meanwhile, Joaquín Guzmán Loera and Ismael Zambada García would take over Pacific coast operations, becoming the Sinaloa Cartel. Guzmán and Zambada brought veteran Héctor Luis Palma Salazar back into the fold. Félix Gallardo still planned to oversee national operations, he had the contacts so he was still the top man, but he would no longer control all details of the business; he was arrested on April 8, 1989.[2]
According to Peter Dale Scott, the Guadalajara Cartel, Mexico’s most powerful drug-trafficking network in the early 1980s, prospered largely because it enjoyed the protection of the Dirección Federal de Seguridad, under its chief Miguel Nazar Haro, a CIA asset.”[3]


Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo (born January 8, 1946) is a convicted Mexican drug lord known as “El Padrino” (Spanish: “The Godfather”) who in the 1980s formed the Guadalajara Cartel and became the first drug czar in Mexico to control all illegal drug traffic in Mexico and the corridors along the Mexico-U.S.A. border


The Mexican Drug War is an ongoing armed conflict between rival drug cartels fighting each other for regional control, and Mexican government forces. The government’s principal goal has been to put down the drug-related violence that was raging between different drug cartels before any military intervention was made.[27] In addition, the Mexican government has claimed that their primary focus is on dismantling the powerful drug cartels, rather than on drug trafficking prevention, which is left to U.S. functionaries.[28][29][30]
Although Mexican drug cartels, or drug trafficking organizations, have existed for several decades, they have become more powerful since the demise of Colombia‘s Cali and Medellín cartels in the 1990s. Mexican drug cartels now dominate the wholesale illicit drug market by controlling 90% of the drugs that enter the United States.[31][32] Arrests of key cartel leaders, particularly in the Tijuana and Gulf cartels, have led to increasing drug violence as cartels fight for control of the trafficking routes into the United States.[33][34][35]
Analysts estimate that wholesale earnings from illicit drug sales range from $13.6 billion[31] to $49.4 billion annually.


The timeline of the most relevant events in the Mexican Drug War

Although violence between drug cartels had been occurring for three decades, the Mexican government held a generally passive stance regarding cartel violence through the 1980s and early 2000s. That changed on December 11, 2006, when the newly elected President Felipe Calderón sent 6,500 Mexican Army soldiers to the state of Michoacán to end drug violence there. This action is regarded as the first major retaliation made against the cartel violence, and is generally viewed as the starting point of the Mexican Drug War between the government and the drug cartels.[1] As time passed, Calderón continued to escalate his anti-drug campaign, in which there are now about 45,000 troops involved along with state and federal police forces.


Arturo Guzmán Decena, a.k.a. Z-1 (January 13, 1976 ? November 21, 2002) was a Mexican Army soldier who defected to become a mercenary and commander of the mercenary gang called Los Zetas at the service of Osiel Cárdenas Guillen, the Gulf Cartel‘s drug lord.[1] Los Zetas are considered by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as the most technologically advanced, sophisticated and violent drug cartel in Mexico


A federal judge in Chicago refused Thursday to dismiss charges against a reputed Mexican drug kingpin who claimed he was working as an informant for the government.  Vicente Zambada-Niebla failed to provide evidence to rebut the government’s contention that he was never granted immunity from prosecution on drug-trafficking charges, U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo found.
Zambada-Niebla is the highest-ranking reputed member of the Sinaloa cartel in U.S. custody in a case being tried in Chicago against members of the drug-trafficking organization which authorities say is headed by Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman, described by the U.S. Treasury Department as the “world’s most powerful drug trafficker.”
Castillo’s written ruling offers a glimpse into the secret workings of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in Mexico.
According to the judge’s ruling, Sinaloa cartel lawyer Humberto Loya-Castro was a confidant to Guzman and right-hand man Ismael Zambada-Garcia, who is Zambada-Niebla’s father.
After Loya-Castro was charged in a narcotics case in California in 1995, he started providing information to DEA agents about Mexican drug trafficking. The case against Loya-Castro was dismissed in 2008 at the request of prosecutors.
In 2008, he proposed a meeting between his DEA contact and Zambada-Niebla. On March 17, 2009, they met with DEA agents at a hotel in Mexico City. Hours later, Zambada-Niebla was arrested by Mexican officials.
Prosecutors say Loya-Castro brought Zambada-Niebla to meet DEA agents at the hotel against the agents’ instructions.
“According to the government, [Zambada-Niebla] conveyed his interest and willingness to cooperate with the U.S. government, but the DEA agents told him they ‘were not authorized to meet with him, much less have substantive discussions with him,’ ” the judge wrote.
Zambada-Niebla argued that Loya-Castro had negotiated an immunity deal for him; that he provided information to Loya-Castro about rival cartels that was then passed on to the U.S. government; and that he traveled to Mexico City at great risk to himself for the meeting with DEA agents because he was assured he had immunity from prosecution.
The judge said Zambada-Niebla didn’t present enough evidence to refute the government’s position that he was never granted immunity.
Last year, Zambada-Niebla was moved from the federal lockup in Chicago to a prison in Michigan after complaining about conditions in the Chicago lockup. Federal authorities were concerned he was an escape risk and potential assassination target.
In an unrelated drug-trafficking case in Chicago last year, a defendant testified that he met Zambada-Niebla in the federal lockup here and that Zambada-Niebla sought information to have two co-defendants killed. Those defendants — Chicago natives Pedro and Margarito Flores — are cooperating with prosecutors in the case against Zambada-Niebla, court records show.
Guzman and Zambada-Niebla’s father remain fugitives in the case
For Backstory Information read my Borderland Beat Post….Paz, Chivis   link here


The son of a heavy hitter in a powerful Mexican drug trafficking organization has filed explosive legal pleadings in federal court in Chicago accusing the US government of cutting a deal with the the “Sinaloa Cartel” that gave its leadership “carte blanche to continue to smuggle tons of illicit drugs into Chicago and the rest of the United States.”
The source of that allegation is Jesus Vicente Zambada Niebla, the son of Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada Garcia, one of the purported top leaders of the Sinaloa drug-trafficking organization — a major Mexican-based importer of weapons and exporter of drugs.
The top capo of the Sinaloa drug organization, named after the Pacific Coast Mexican state where it is based, is Joaquin Guzman Loera (El Chapo) — who escaped from a maximum security prison in Mexico in 2001, only days before he was slated to be extradited to the United States. Chapo has since gone on to build one of the most powerful drug “cartels” in Mexico. With the death of Osama Bin Laden in May, Chapo (a Spanish nickname meaning “shorty”) jumped to the top of the FBI’s “Most Wanted” persons list. He also made Forbes Magazine’s 2010 list of “The World’s Most Powerful People.”


Drug War Zone : Frontline Dispatches from the Streets of el Paso and Juárez
Campbell, Howard
Pages: 337
Publisher: University of Texas Press
Location: Austin, TX, USA
Date Published: 10/2009
Language: en


 http://fromthewilderness.com/free/ciadrugs/W_plane.html

(CBS News)
WASHINGTON – Federal agent John Dodson says what he was asked to do was beyond belief.
He was intentionally letting guns go to Mexico?
“Yes ma’am,” Dodson told CBS News. “The agency was.”
An Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms senior agent assigned to the Phoenix office in 2010, Dodson’s job is to stop gun trafficking across the border. Instead, he says he was ordered to sit by and watch it happen.
Investigators call the tactic letting guns “walk.” In this case, walking into the hands of criminals who would use them in Mexico and the United States.

[Blowback] 

Stephen Downing, a retired deputy chief of the Los Angeles Police Department and board member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, responds to The Times’ Oct. 5 Op-Ed article, “Prohibition’s real lessons for drug policy.” If you would like to respond to a recent Times article, editorial or Op-Ed in our Blowback forum, here are our FAQs and submission policy.

Drug prohibitionists like former White House drug czar staffer Kevin A. Sabet seem to be in a panic over Ken Burns’ PBS documentary broadcast “Prohibition” because of its clear and convincing parallel to today’s equally disastrous war on drugs. The earlier experiment lasted less than 14 years, but today’s failed prohibition was declared by President Nixon 40 years ago and has cost our country more than $1 trillion  in cash and much more in immeasurable social harm. As a student of history and a retired deputy chief of police with the Los Angeles Police Department, I can attest that the damage that came from the prohibition of alcohol pales in comparison to the harm wrought by drug prohibition. In the last 40 years drug money has fueled the growth of violent street gangs in Los Angeles, from two (Bloods and Crips) with a membership of less than 50 people before the drug war to 20,000 gangs with a membership of about 1 million across the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Justice. These gangs serve as the distributors, collection agents and enforcers for the Mexican cartels that the Justice Department says occupy more than 1,000 U.S. cities.

Sabet, a former advisor to the White House drug policy advisor, ignores these prohibition-created harms, making no mention of the nearly 50,000 people killed in Mexico over the last five years as cartels have battled it out to control drug routes, territories and enforce collections. When one cartel leader is arrested or killed, it makes no impact on the drug trade and only serves to create more violence, as lower-level traffickers fight for the newly open top spot. U.S. law enforcement officials report that as much as 70% of cartel profits come from marijuana alone.  There’s no question that ending today’s prohibition on drugs — starting with marijuana — would do more to hurt the cartels than any level of law enforcement skill or dedication ever can. Worse than being ineffective, though, the war on drugs creates dangerous distractions for police officers who would rather focus on improving public safety. For example, the LAPD announced this week that it will take 150 police officers off the streets to accommodate the state’s shuffling of prisoners to the county level. The state must do this to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court’s order to cut our drug-war-induced overcrowded prison population by 30,000 — and our state has already laid off thousands of teachers thanks in part to funding diverted to building more prisons and hiring more guards. This follows on the heels of another reallocation of police resources in Los Angeles when the LAPD and the L.A. Sheriff’s Department woke up to a three-year backlog of rape kits. Police labs have only a finite amount of resources, and drug testing often takes priority over other cases that demand attention. Detectives (and victims) waiting for lab results related to rape and other serious crimes stood in line for months while tests for custody-related possession of pot and other drugs took precedence. There’s no doubt that the violence, the growth of cartels and gangs, the overpopulation of our prisons and the squandering of our police resources would not occur if we eliminated illegal drug profits and implemented a non-criminal approach to regulating drugs. We did this once with alcohol, and there’s no reason we can’t do it with other drugs today. 
— Stephen Downing http://opinion.latimes.com/opinionla/2011/10/end-drug-prohibition-most-commented.html

Prohibition is not the solution
I am totally against the Drug Prohibition Regime and can’t wait to see it thrown away into the dustbin of history greatest inequities humankind has inflicted on itself. I would have thought that any rational, responsible and caring individual could see that drug abuse and its profoundly disruptive consequences calls for enlightened policies where education, health and regulation would play central roles; that it calls for policies where no room is left for the Victorian values Prohibitionists seem so keen on: abstinence or punishment.
One can only assume that something deeply ideological, prejudicial or irrational prevents people from understanding that the problem is prohibition, and not the drugs themselves; that no matter what drug one is considering, prohibition is not the solution … far from it. If anything, what decades of pursuing and enforcing the prohibition regime and its dastardly offshoot, the so-called War on Drugs, have taught us is that it can only make things worse! […]
–GartValenc
The government’s hypocrisy 
It is a stretch to assume that the social and health problems associated with alcohol abuse can in any way be compared to those caused by the use of cannabis.  Alcohol destroys the internal organs of abusers.  Marijuana has no known long-term effects.  Alcohol is highly addictive.  Alcohol withdrawal can be fatal.  Cannabis is less addictive than caffeine and withdrawal, at worst, amounts to a few restless nights and a few days of low appetite.  Alcohol is the fuel of all kinds of violence.  Marijuana users tend to be quiet and communal.
What is amazing to me is that our government supports and collects taxes on the two deadliest drugs in our society, alcohol and tobacco, but wants to send people to jail for making the much more rational choice to use marijuana recreationally instead.
 herbalmagick
What would Thomas Jefferson do?
The cruelest irony of this issue is that many far right goons, the so called champions of getting the government out of our lives and expanding freedom, have always been the biggest advocates of this outdated, morally wrong,  government intrusion into our lives and denying us our “right to happiness”, which Thomas Jefferson, the hard drug alcohol drinker, so correctly protected us with.  George Washington gave his troops rum every day to keep them happy.
shndlr
My life, my decision
The overriding question that the Mr Sabet clearly misses is this: Should the government be in the business of telling responsible adults what they can and cannot ingest? Many of us say “no” to that, while many folks who call themselves conservative and say they want less government in their lives nonetheless accept that nanny-state role. What I believe government should do is offer factual education regarding what drugs of all kinds can do to people, regulate the purity of drugs, continue to punish irresponsible behavior that endangers innocent people (such as driving under the influence, etc), and then trust the rest of us grown ups to enjoy life responsibly in whatever way we choose.
–Username99
Nothing will change
This article is a laugher for many reasons:
1. Part of the human condition is to seek mood-altering substances, aka get “buzzed.” Been going on for about 100,000 years or so, live with it.
2. In spite of all the laws that prohibit it, Americans continue to pursue an artificial high, regardless of the consequences. Laws DO NOT have a deterrent effect on consumption.
3. The cost of drug laws on society has been astounding.  We have incarcerated generations of minorities, forced the status of “convicted felon” on hundreds of thousands of people with the attendant impact on society – with no impact on drug consumption.
4. The war on drugs has been an epic failure in every measurable category except one: a growth industry for the criminal justice system.
5. The public is already saturated with the harmful effects of drugs and alcohol.  A change of legalization will not change consumption patterns that much.  Those inclined to use will continue to, those that do not want the risk will refuse.
6. The odds of getting busted for drug possession, unless you are a minority in a gang neighborhood, is virtually non-existent.  Therefore, in practical terms, it’s already available on demand.
7. The impact of alcohol and tobacco dwarfs the impact of drugs, legal or not.  We lose over 400,000 to nicotine addiction, and another 50,000 or so to booze EVERY YEAR.
Secret: nothing will change.
–zgonina1

killing for peace is like fucking for virginity A group of masked men are threatening Mexico’s powerful (and notorious) Zetas drug cartel on the Internet. The Mexican site Blog del Narco posted this video of the group, that appears well-armed and says it’s committed to fighting against the Zetas cartel. Videos with a similar message and style have been posted earlier this year. While no group has formally taken credit for the videos, they are thought to be the work of the Sinaloa-based group called the “Mata Zetas,” or “Zeta Killers.” In their videos they call themselves “anonymous warriors” speaking for the people of Mexico. Authorities say they are investigating the video threats and the Mexican government has condemned vigilante justice. The Mata Zetas claim to adhere to a moral code that prevents them from engaging in kidnappings or extortion—tactics often used by drug cartels, particularly the Zetas. While the Mata Zetas claim to respect law enforcement, they admit they are working beyond the reach of the law to eliminate organised crime. “Armed forces should be aware that our only objective is to get rid of the Zeta cartel,” they said in one recent video. Despite such overtures, Mexican authorities are speculating the group may be responsible for dumping 35 bodies in the middle of rush-hour traffic in Veracruz last week. The murders, which appear to have involved torture, were initially blamed on the Zetas cartel until authorities identified the victims, including 12 women and two minors, as Zetas-affiliated. The bodies were dumped near a building where some of Mexico’s top prosecutors were convening, and the gesture was apparently intended to goad lawyers into pursuing cases more aggressively against drug cartels and narco leaders. The Mata Zetas then issued a sort of apology for their tactics, saying “[i]f society, Mexican populace, and federal authorities feel offended by what we’ve done, on behalf of the group, we apologize. Our intention was to let Veracruz know that this social scourge is not invincible.” Mexico’s drug trade currently represents a multi-billion dollar industry (some estimates claim the total economy of the illicit drug trade in Mexico alone is approaching $50 billion annually), and the reach of drug gangs has been rapidly expanding in recent years, according to U.S. Department of Justice reports.

http://stream.aljazeera.com/story/mexican-group-takes-drug-cartels

(CBS News)
WASHINGTON – Federal agent John Dodson says what he was asked to do was beyond belief.
He was intentionally letting guns go to Mexico?
“Yes ma’am,” Dodson told CBS News. “The agency was.”
An Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms senior agent assigned to the Phoenix office in 2010, Dodson’s job is to stop gun trafficking across the border. Instead, he says he was ordered to sit by and watch it happen.
Investigators call the tactic letting guns “walk.” In this case, walking into the hands of criminals who would use them in Mexico and the United States.

  legal pleadings in federal court in Chicago accusing the US government of cutting a deal with the the “Sinaloa Cartel” that gave its leadership “carte blanche to continue to smuggle tons of illicit drugs into Chicago and the rest of the United States.” The source of that allegation is Jesus Vicente Zambada Niebla, the son of Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada Garcia, one of the purported top leaders of the Sinaloa drug-trafficking organization.  Joaquin Guzman Loera (El Chapo) — who escaped from a maximum security prison in Mexico in 2001, only days before he was slated to be extradited to the United States.  With the death of Osama Bin Laden in May, Chapo  jumped to the top of the FBI’s “Most Wanted” persons list. Zambada Niebla, himself a key player in the Sinaloa organization, was arrested in Mexico City in March 2009 and in February 2010 extradited to the United States to stand trial on narco-trafficking-related charges. The indictment pending against Zambada Niebla claims he served as the “logistical coordinator” for the “cartel,” helping to oversee an operation that imported into the US “multi-ton quantities of cocaine … using various means, including but not limited to, Boeing 747 cargo aircraft, private aircraft … buses, rail cars, tractor-trailers, and automobiles.” Zambada Niebla also claims to be an asset of the US government. His allegation was laid out originally in a two-page court pleading filed in late March with the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago. The latest allegations being advanced by Zambada Niebla, who is now being held in solitary confinement in a jail cell in Chicago, are laid out in motions filed late this week in federal court. Those pleadings spell out the supposed cooperative relationship between the US Department of Justice and its various agencies, including DEA and the FBI, and the leaders of the “Sinaloa Cartel” — including Zambada Niebla. That alleged relationship was cultivated through a Mexican attorney, Humberto Loya Castro, whom Zambada Niebla claims is a Sinaloa Cartel member and “a close confidante of Joaquin Guzman Loera (Chapo).” From Zambada Niebla’s court pleadings, filed on July 29: [Humberto] Loya was indicted along with Chapo and Mayo [Zambada Niebla’s father] in 1995 in the Southern District of California and charged with participation in a massive narcotics trafficking conspiracy (Case No. 95CR0973). That case was dismissed on the prosecution’s own motion in 2008 after Loya became an informant for the United States government and had provided information for a period of over ten years. Sometime prior to 2004 [when George W. Bush was president], and continuing through the time period covered in the indictment, the United States government entered into an agreement with Loya and the leadership of the Sinaloa Cartel, including Mayo and Chapo. Under that agreement, the Sinaloa Cartel, through Loya, was to provide information accumulated by Mayo, Chapo, and others, against rival Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations to the United States government. In return, the United States government agreed to dismiss the prosecution of the pending case against Loya, not to interfere with his drug trafficking activities and those of the Sinaloa Cartel, to not actively prosecute him, Chapo, Mayo, and the leadership of the Sinaloa Cartel, and to not apprehend them. The protection extended to the Sinaloa leadership, according to the court filings, included being “informed by agents of the DEA through Loya that United States government agents and/or Mexican authorities were conducting investigations near the home territories of cartel leaders so that the cartel leaders could take appropriate actions to evade investigators.” In addition, the pleadings allege, the US government agreed not to “share any of the information they had about the Sinaloa Cartel and/or the leadership of the Sinaloa Cartel with the Mexican government in order to better assure that they would not be apprehended and so that their operations would not be interfered with.” More from the July 29 pleadings: Zambada Niebla was a party to the agreement between the United States government and the Sinaloa Cartel and provided information to the United States government through Loya pursuant to the agreement. … Loya arranged for Mr. Zambada Niebla to meet with United States government agents at the Sheraton Hotel in Mexico City in March [17th] of 2009 [after the Obama administration took power] for the purpose of introducing Mr. Zambada Niebla to the agents and for the purpose of his continuing to provide information to the DEA and the United States government personally, rather than through Loya. Loya’s federal case had been dismissed in 2008 [while Bush was still in the White House] and the DEA representative told Mr. Loya-Castro that they wanted to establish a more personal relationship with Mr. Zambada Niebla so that they could deal with him directly under the agreement. Mr. Zambada Niebla believed that under the prior agreement, any activities of the Sinaloa Cartel, including the kind described in the indictment, were covered by the agreement, and that he was immune from arrest or prosecution. Zambada Niebla claims, in the court pleadings, that he attended the meeting in March 2009 at the hotel in Mexico City as scheduled, with Loya present, and while there, even though he was then under indictment in the US, was told by US federal agents that he would not be arrested and that arrangements had been made “at the highest levels of the United States government” to assure his immunity from prosecution in exchange for his cooperation in providing information on rival narco-trafficking groups. However, Zambada Niebla contends he was double-crossed, despite the assurance of the US agents. He alleges in his pleadings that government agents “were satisfied with the information he had provided to them” at the meeting at the Sheraton Hotel on March 17, 2009, and that “arrangements would be made to meet with him again.” “Mr. Zambada Niebla then left the meeting,” the court pleadings assert. “Approximately five hours after the [hotel] meeting, Mr. Zambada-Niebla was arrested by Mexican authorities.”
Fast, Furious and the House of Death
Zambada Niebla’s pleadings also reference the controversial U.S Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) weapons-trafficking interdiction program Fast and Furious — an operation, now the subject of Congressional hearings, that allegedly allowed some 2,000 guns to be smuggled across the US/Mexican border under ATF’s watch. Zambada Niebla contends that Fast and Furious is yet another example of the US government’s complicity in the carnage of the drug war. From Zambada Niebla’s pleadings: The United States government considered the arrangements with the Sinaloa Cartel an acceptable price to pay, because the principal objective was the destruction and dismantling of rival cartels by using the assistance of the Sinaloa Cartel — without regard for the fact that tons of illicit drugs continued to be smuggled into Chicago and other parts of the United States and consumption continued virtually unabated. Essentially, the theory of the United States government in waging its “war on drugs” has been and continues to be that the “end justifies the means” and that it is more important to receive information about rival drug cartels’ activities from the Sinaloa Cartel in return for being allowed to continue their criminal activities, including and not limited to their smuggling of tons of illegal narcotics into the United States. This is confirmed by recent disclosures by the Congressional Committee’s investigation of the latest Department of Justice, DEA, FBI, and ATF’s “war on drugs” operation known as “Fast & Furious.” As a result of Operation Fast and Furious, the pleadings assert, about “three thousand people” in Mexico were killed, “including law enforcement officers in the sate of Sinaloa, Mexico, headquarters of the Sinaloa Cartel.” Among those receiving weapons through the ATF operation, the pleadings continue, were DEA and FBI informants working for drug organizations, including the leadership of those groups. “The evidence seems to indicate that the Justice Department not only allowed criminals to smuggle weapons, but that tax payers’ dollars in the form of informant payments, may have financed those engaging in such activities,” the pleadings allege. “… It is clear that some of the weapons were deliberately allowed by the FBI and other government representatives to end up in the hands of the Sinaloa Cartel and that among the people killed by those weapons were law enforcement officers. “… Mr. Zambada Niebla believes that the documentation that he requests [from the US government] will confirm that the weapons received by Sinaloa Cartel members and its leaders in Operation ‘Fast & Furious’ were provided under the agreement entered into between the United States government and [Chapo Guzman confidante] Mr. Loya Castro on behalf of the Sinaloa Cartel that is the subject of his [Zambada Niebla’s] defense [regarding] public authority.” The Zambada Niebla pleadings even reference the infamous House of Death case, so named by Narco News, which has published an exhaustive series of investigative stories on the mass-murder case dating back to 2004. From the pleadings: Mr. Zambada Niebla also requests … that the United States government produce material relating to the … “House of Death” murders, which took place in Juarez, Mexico, and were committed by United States government informants. As confirmed in the Joint Assessment Report [JAT] prepared by government authorities investigating those murders, agents of the United States government had prior knowledge that murders were going to be committed by their informants but did not take any measures to either inform the Mexican government or the intended victims, because government representatives determined it was moreimportant to protect the identity of their informants. The informants were assisting the United States government in the investigations of major drug traffickers and the government determined that the killings of over a hundred Mexican citizens was an acceptable price to pay for enabling them to continue their narcotics investigations. The Great Pretense Unmasked In its response to Zambada Niebla’s claim that he was working under “public authority” as an informant or confidential source, US federal prosecutors don’t claim outright that he was not a US government asset. They argue, instead, only that “the government denies that defendant [Zambada Niebla] exercised public authority when he committed the serious crimes charged in the indictment.” In other words, even if Zambada Niebla was offered some type of deal in exchange for his cooperation, that deal did not extend to the specific acts he is accused of in the indictment against him. Federal prosecutors also ask that the court order Zambada Niebla to produce, prior to trial, “evidence that a specific American official or officials with actual or apparent authority expressly authorized [him] to import multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine and heroin into the United States, as charged in the indictment, or expressly assured [him] that these acts were not criminal, and that [he] reasonably relied on these communications.” Narco News spoke with several former DEA and FBI agents about Zambada Niebla’s contention that he worked, in essence, as an informant for the US government. Not one of those former agents, who asked that their names not be revealed, considered it out of the realm of possibility that Zambada Niebla might have cut a deal with the US government. In fact, one former DEA agent said that by making such a claim, Zambada Niebla was essentially putting his life in jeopardy by outing himself as an informant, an extreme move that would seem to indicate that at least he believes he had a deal in place. But, in the end, all of the former federal agents agree that unless Zambada Niebla has proof of his allegations that passes legal muster, he has little chance of prevailing — and at least one of those former agents said prosecutors would not likely have challenged him to produce such proof if they did not have a high degree of confidence that it does not exist. A former FBI agent explained it this way: The U. S. Attorney General Guidelines for Informants requires that there be a written document called an “otherwise criminal activities memo” signed by both parties. This document spells out exactly what the informant is authorized to do and tells him that he may be prosecuted for any other illegal activities. This should be provided to the defense in discovery; however, it does not always happen. Some attorneys are not aware of this and do not ask for it in discovery and the government does not willingly give it up. I suspect that the government did not provide this document to the defense and that is why they are demanding that he provide proof of his status. … It would be very easy to prove what he was authorized to do by having the memo. [So] this may be a case of where the memo was never done…. The former DEA agent, who has extensive overseas experience, added: My instincts say he was an informant. It’s [Zambada Niebla’s pleadings are] an effort to “scare” or “frighten” the government to dismiss or reduce charges. Posturing, as it were. But there is a substantial risk for him. It’s pretty much a last ditch effort. Were it otherwise, the defendant would not want to be exposed as having cooperated with the government agents. However, he will have an enormous challenge proving his allegations. … An agent [or US government agency would approve such a cooperative relationship with a narco-trafficker] … so the agent can snag a higher-level trafficker and garner the resulting awards, commendations and promotions. Sometimes, there is outright bribery or gifts of value. It’s a win for the criminal informant because he may earn more money from trafficking and at the same time receive cash payments from the government for arrests he orchestrates. And that isn’t all: the informant’s own fear of arrest is reduced and he has a unique opportunity to effectively destroy his unwanted competition or archenemies. And yet another DEA agent points out that “there is such an animal called an Attorney General-exempt operation, where the Attorney General of the United States [in the Zambada Niebla case, which allegedly dates back to at least 2004, it would have been the Bush administration’s Attorney General] could authorize that laws be violated [by an informant to advance a case].” “This is usually done in money laundering investigations, however,” the DEA source said. The other possibility, the former DEA agent adds, is that Zambada Niebla was tricked on an even deeper level, and was, in fact, not dealing with US law enforcement agencies, but rather a CIA intelligence operation. “This would not be the first time CIA has used an informant and led them to believe it was an FBI, ICE or DEA operation,” the DEA source said. If that is the case, the former DEA agent adds, Zambada Niebla’s case is sunk, since even if documents and other evidence exist to prove his allegations of US government complicity, that evidence would almost certainly be deep-sixed under claims of national security that would be invoked by that very same US government.

war against drugs in Central America

The Mexican Army crackdown has driven some cartels to seek a safer location for their operations across the border in Guatemala, attracted by corruption, weak policing and its position on the overland smuggling route.[208][209] The smugglers …

The Mexican Army crackdown has driven some cartels to seek a safer location for their operations across the border in Guatemala, attracted by corruption, weak policing and its position on the overland smuggling route.[208][209] The smugglers pick up drugs from small planes that land at private airstrips hidden in the Guatemalan jungle. The cargo is then moved up through Mexico to the U.S. border. Guatemala has also arrested dozens of drug suspects and torched huge cannabis and poppy fields, but is struggling. The U.S. government has sent speedboats and night-vision goggles under a regional drug aid package, but much more is needed. In February 2009, Los Zetas threatened to kill the President of Guatemala, Álvaro Colom.[210] On March 1, 2010, 
Guatemala’s chief of national police and the country’s top anti-drugs official have been arrested over alleged links to drug trafficking.[209] A report from the Brookings Institution[211] warns that, without proactive, timely efforts, the violence will spread throughout the Central American region.[212]
According to the United States government, Los Zetas control 75% of Guatemala through violence, political corruption and infiltration in the country’s institutions.[213] Sources mentioned that Los Zetas gained ground in Guatemala after they killed several high-profile members and the supreme leader of Los Leones, an organized crime group from Guatemala.


According to recent reports, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) participated in a drug raid with Honduran police that left at least four civilians dead.  Honduran news sources report that two of those killed were pregnant women. The U.S. has yet to issue a statement regarding this atrocity.

Please click here to join us in demanding a prompt response, including an investigation and prosecution of those responsible for these murders.

The U.S. has steadily increased its focus on Honduras in the “war against drugs.” As we have seen in Mexico and Colombia, civilians too often get caught in the crossfire. Leading Honduran human rights organization COFADEH states:  “From the perspective of human rights organizations, this reality is unacceptable and reprehensible.”

The U.S. DEA regularly sends special units abroad in the “war against drugs.” According to reports, on May 11th U.S. DEA agents were accompanying Honduran police in an attempt to capture drug traffickers along the Patuca River in La Moskitia.

During the raid, a helicopter carrying U.S. and Honduran agents opened fire on a boat of civilians, killing Emerson Martínez, Chalo Brock Wood, Candelaria Tratt Nelson, Juana Banegas and the women’s unborn children.

Thank you for taking your time to raise attention to this important issue.

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oil theft from Pemex

U.S. refineries bought millions of dollars worth of oil stolen from Mexican government pipelines and smuggled across the border, the U.S. Justice Department told The Associated Press – illegal operations now led by Mexican drug cartels expanding their …

U.S. refineries bought millions of dollars worth of oil stolen from Mexican government pipelines and smuggled across the border, the U.S. Justice Department told The Associated Press – illegal operations now led by Mexican drug cartels expanding their reach.

Criminals – mostly drug gangs – tap remote pipelines, sometimes building pipelines of their own, to siphon off hundreds of millions of dollars worth of oil each year, the Mexican oil monopoly said. At least one U.S. oil executive has pleaded guilty to conspiracy in such a deal.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Homeland Security department is scheduled to return $2.4 million to Mexico’s tax administration, the first batch of money seized during a binational investigation into smuggled oil that authorities expect to lead to more arrests and seizures.

“The United States is working with the Mexican government on the theft of oil,” said Nancy Herrera, spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Houston. “It’s an ongoing investigation, with one indictment so far.”

In that case, Donald Schroeder, president of Houston-based Trammo Petroleum, is scheduled to be sentenced in December after pleading guilty in May.

In a $2 million scheme, Herrera said, Schroeder purchased stolen Mexican oil that had been brought across the border in trucks and barges and sold it to various U.S. refineries, which she did not identify. Trammo’s tiny firm profited about $150,000 in the scheme, she said.

Schroeder’s attorneys said in an e-mail that neither they nor their client would respond to AP’s requests for comment.

Bill Holbrook, spokesman for the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association, said a single indictment against a small company should not be used to smear the reputation of the entire U.S. oil industry, “and is not indicative of how domestic refiners operate.”

But in Mexico, federal police commissioner Rodrigo Esparza said the Zetas, a fierce drug gang aligned with the Gulf cartel, used false import documents to smuggle at least $46 million worth of oil in tankers to unnamed U.S. refineries.

A law enforcement source told CBS News illicit proceeds from the scheme involving theft from the Mexican government-owned Pemex oil conglomerate were seized in the investigation.

In a surprising public acknowledgment, Mexican President Felipe Calderon said last week that drug cartels have extended their operations into the theft of oil, Mexico’s leading source of foreign income which finances about 40 percent of the national budget.

“These are Mexican resources, and we do not have to sit back or turn a blind eye,” Calderon said. “This is our national heritage and we must defend it.”

Highly sophisticated thieves using Pemex equipment “are basically working day and night, seeing how they can penetrate our infrastructure,” said Pemex spokesman Carlos Ramirez. The thieves, operating in remote parts of the country, have even built tunnels and their own pipelines to siphon off the product, he said.

How much of the stolen oil is crossing into the U.S., and how much of the theft is at the hands of cartels? So far, nobody knows.

“These questions are really the center point of all of this,” Ramirez said.

He said cartels in northern Mexico are responsible for most of the theft, though he said there may well be internal operatives at Pemex stealing as well. Last week, police raided Pemex offices looking for insider misconduct.

Trammo, the sole company named in court records so far, is dwarfed by any refiner most people have heard of. It sells some 2.1 million barrels a year.

Major refiners such as San Antonio-based Valero Energy can produce more than that in a single day, buying crude from tankers or pipelines, and none has been implicated in buying stolen oil.

“It is Exxon Mobil’s policy to always obey relevant laws, rules and regulations everywhere we operate,” said spokesman Kevin Allexon. Shell Oil Co. said it abides by all laws.

Various kinds of petroleum products, including gasoline, are being stolen and sold to gas stations and factories in Mexico, said Ramirez, adding that service stations in at least two states have been shut down recently for selling stolen gas.

The thefts are a devastating blow to Pemex, which saw production fall 7.5 percent in the first half of the year.

So far this year, Pemex is aware of 190 different thefts, almost half in the Gulf state of Veracruz. Ramirez said Pemex is using hidden cameras, extra guards and additional investigators to catch the thieves, but the problem is still spreading: So far this year, oil theft is up 10 percent, and have been confirmed in 19 states, up from 13 in 2008.

And oil theft experts say that just like drugs, the crimes will be tough to stop as long as there’s money to be made.

“U.S. refineries willing to buy stolen crude don’t care where it comes from. Once the product is at their doorstep, the deal is done, and they can pay pennies on the dollar without taking the risk of getting it across the border,” said Kent Chrisman, director for global security with Oklahoma City-based Devon Energy.

Chrisman, a former Secret Service agent, recently teamed up with Texas law enforcement agents to bust a ring of thieves in that state.

Oil theft in general is a relatively new problem, Chrisman said, “but we’ve seen a big spike in recent years because oil prices went up. Every year it seems to get worse and worse. It’s a profitable business.”