Twitter Gone Wrong

Oct 3rd, 2008 | By Michel Marizco | Category: General News, Organized Crime, Politics
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Secreto A Voces

Culiacán, Sinaloa – Death comes easy in this city, not as quickly as it does in Ciudád Juárez which broke 1,000 homicides last Thursday, but fast enough, flashpoints peppered throughout town like grenade fragments.

It comes in nice neighborhoods with private security guards manning the front gates, out in the cornfields east of the city in Navolato and a little pueblo called El Bolsón. Five hour gunfights burn in Mazatlán; .45-caliber clips are emptied into a black, swank Chrysler 300 LX in front of schools and the cathedral where families of missing Sinaloans hold cardboard signs asking for the disappeared.

I’ve spent the past two, three years looking at these deaths, learned to joke about them, because the alternative is to take it too seriously and that is not a place I want to be. Not when the headlines call out: 15 bodies found in Tijuana. A mass grave, 11 bodies, found in Cananea. 24 dead here. Eight there. Five there. One. Three. Five. One. One. One. One.

So last week, I had a chance to return to Culiacán, it’s been a few months, I missed this city with its audacities and beauty and I was able to stick to some of my old compas, cops reporters who document each and every death in this city from the time they hit the newsroom to late at night, their police scanners crackling non-stop.

Drawing from my notebook, this is what my day looked like on a day last week in Culiacán, like some sort of depraved Twitter feed:

6:58 a.m.: First call, one down, Cerrado Monte Carlo.

7:10 a.m.: Arrive at Monte Carlo, somehow convince security we’re good to enter.

7:15 a.m.: Sun’s barely up, it’s already steamy, haze pushes down like a warm blanket. A body is wrapped in a white canvas on the sidewalk. Woman screaming, holding on to her one-year old son. His eyes are blank. Does he understand his father is dead? Cops are using debris, bottlecaps, an empty cigarette pack, a piece of notebook paper to mark the bullet casings. Wind stirs the palm trees.

7:19 a.m.: The woman's walking in tight circles; hands the kid off to a ministerio publico who approaches her. She moves to grass and collapses. Man shows up, a cellphone to his ear, glaring, pissed, nodding his head slowly as he listens to the voice on the other end. Thousand yard stare; his eyes red, shining. The woman’s still sobbing; there are no tears.

7:31 a.m.: My guy approaches me, there’s two dead cops half an hour from here. No coffee this morning, we pile into the waiting car and drive east to Navolato and El Bolsón, Vicente Carrillo Fuentes’ territory.

7:46 a.m.: A car swerves left in front of us, we miss clipping him at 80 mph by an inch. The cops in front of us are lost, they’re not sure where to go. The two dead are a man and a woman.

8:02 a.m.: The little Ford pick-up the dead cops drove in rests some 80 paces into the cornfield, stalks smashed against its bumper and the windshield. There are 9 bulletholes in the front windshield. The side glass on both sides is shattered. A man’s body behind the steering wheel slumps right. The woman’s slumps left.

8:09 a.m.: A soldier sits behind a .50-caliber machine gun with a rotating turret as the cops gather around the truck. Someone’s lifting tape off the bulletholes in the truck’s body. Someone else opens the door, peering in to lift the body out. A Mexican singer’s love song continues to play on the tinny radio. I wonder if they were lovers.

8:12 a.m.: Men with AK-47s and AR-15s were chasing them down the road. Armed with revolvers, they never had a chance. They were just getting off the night shift.

9:43 a.m.: Cute kids, 15, 16 years old, are getting out of class and walking across the street, stopping to peer into the black Chrysler 300 LX outside the Swedish massage parlor. Not a whorehouse, I’m told. The guy’s wife opened the joint a few years ago.

9:51 a.m.: A tow truck appears to haul the Chrysler away. A man on a motorcycle emptied a .45 clip into the front and sides where the driver was sitting, I’m told. He drove off. No leads. Cops are looking. I point out an eighth shell under another car. The investigator nods and makes note of it. I wonder why he’s photographing the bullet casing.

11:03 a.m.: Four men in a Nissan Armada pull up next to a woman climbing into her car. She screamed, I’m told, then they piled her into the blue SUV and drove off, tires squealing. The levantón went down in front of the cathedral where families protest the disappearance of missing relatives.

11:39 a.m.: Another hit, east side of town, this one’s too far to get to in time. Machine guns, I’m told. I wonder who he was.

1:42 p.m.: A body is found in Mazatlán, its head removed from the shoulders.

2:18 p.m.: Another hit.

6:21 p.m.: I heard three blasts go off down the street. Sounded like a shotgun, maybe just a backfire. Another reporter hears them too. Nobody else seems the slightest bit concerned, not even looking up from their food, or pausing on their cells. Maybe it was nothing.

7:45 p.m.: Sitting in the Culiacán airport waiting room for a flight out. The phone rings one last time. Another hit.

-- Michel Marizco

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