Goons on the Loose in Arizona

Oct 30th, 2010 | By Michel Marizco | Category: Chismes, General News, Organized Crime
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I've been dedicating my time over the past few weeks to a new career as the Tucson correspondent for KJZZ, the NPR affiliate in Phoenix, Ariz., so I haven't given this story the attention it merits. However, I am in Tucson, after all, and not Phoenix, so I don't know why this story didn't get that city's attention. And perhaps, it should have. It's been nearly three weeks since cops found Martin Alejandro Cota, his severed head lying next to the rest of his body. They're calling it a drug hit and a message.

It's an interesting little story because it has the potential to change some of the dynamics of the border. Decapitations simply haven't happened north of the line. It's still not at the depth of beheaded body counts in Mexico, where matones lop off heads at a quantity approaching melons in a farmer's market, but it's a start.

A few of you have expressed your contempt to me with the media's delay in reacting to the story. There's a few issues worth discussing here.

First, everybody enjoys a good crime story and if page views are any metric to go by, people really like grisly murder stories. For that reason alone, the story should have had legs from the start.

Secondly, of course is the 800-pound gorilla in the room and Amanda Lee Myers, the story's author, touches on it nicely. It was a few months ago that Gov. Jan Brewer announced that headless bodies had been found in the desert. That one made most people scratch their heads and inquire. It took her weeks to back away from the statement, saying that she meant the Mexican side of the border, since Mexico also has a desert. If I were a cynic, I would say that the governor tried to twist her way out of the statement in the only way she knew how. If I were even more of a cynic, I would say that most people who heard her remark just took it as a matter of course that bodies turn up sáns heads whenever Mexican drug cartels are involved and even if they couldn't point to a specific incident, the vague understanding that it happens would remain. Fortunately, I'm not a cynic.

Here, suddenly, we have a headless body, one man arrested and three on the run. I've often been critical of the media's focus on rhetoric, rampant hysteria and paranoia run amok when it comes to border stories. Here's a very real story and while I doubt it's an indication of a "spillover effect," it did indeed happen. If the governor were to speak up about headless bodies, not in the desert, but in the cities, nobody would ever be able to disprove her again. So why does it take three weeks for the story to go national? It's a good segue to discuss my brief absence from As I said, I've taken a gig as the Tucson correspondent for KJZZ. The radio station received a grant for a project called Fronteras: The Changing Face of America; six reporters strung along the U.S.-Mexico border. We're in San Diego, Phoenix, Flagstaff, Las Vegas, Tucson, El Paso and San Antonio. I like to think of the project as my opportunity to bring you stories you won't find in other media; a way to get beyond the press releases and public discourse and uncover stories you haven't already heard about. This being public radio, the format's going to be audio stories but also photography, web text and video. You can follow my reporting on, our new website (it doesn't have much up yet, but we're just starting this week). But I'm also keeping BorderReporter up and running. Been here five years now, after all, and you've built up the community nicely. I'm feeling pretty good about the project because, let's face it, original reporting is an expensive endeavor. Between travel costs, salary, Tecate and tacos, sustainability becomes very shaky ground when you're paying for it yourself. The Fronteras Desk will make it possible to continue reporting on the border. In fact, I'm feeling a little smug about the project. U.S. border media has decimated its budget for legitimate coverage. That's why you get so many press releases and reporting almost exclusively focused on the U.S. side of the border. Shallow, superficial, obvious stories that do little to expand people's knowledge of this region. We will change that. For the moment, I'm back, life is good and there's a lot of work to be done. Meanwhile, que onda con la Patricia? Y con el hijo de Amado? All the charges? Really? Hunh.

Leave a comment »

  1. I really like listening to you on the radio. Somebody with depth on that station finally. Good one.

  2. how about podcasts?

  3. Michael maybe a story on the efforts in Caborca would balance out all the fear? It’s pretty calm down my way now. Every weekend we and our friends go to the beach with no problems.
    New Caborca Tourist Police
    The tourist police are a new police unit that consists of 20 fully armed and trained officers who have different color uniforms and vehicles. There is at least one officer per vehicle who speaks English and all of the officers have received and will continue to receive English classes and training in the tourist operations and attractions in the county of Caborca, especially in the coastal areas. If a tourist is in a car accident or other problem, the normal police units will be first responders and they will call for the tourist police to assist. The tourist police will also provide tourist developments like Santo Tomas with extra patrols and security. The Caborca city government is putting a map and flyer together for Caborca and the surrounding area that shows tourist developments and attractions. The tourist police will carry these maps and will be able to assist tourists with directions, etc. The idea is to be ambassadors that provide both security and assistance for tourists. This is a very proactive step by the new mayor and his administration. They are very pro-business and very intent on improving local conditions and the economy and making Americans feel welcome and safe in the Caborca municipality.…60415615065378

    Jerry Reply:

    sorry picture link is not working.To illustrate the cost the two punch combo of the housing bubble and the Fox news led campaign to scare the shit out of everyone has dealt to the locals,all the workers from the house completion party at my place except 12 are now laid off.The good news is Caborca has produce,mining and a lot of business activity and most have been reemployed

  4. I’d guess the Zeta’s were behind this one, they are supposedly trying to move into the Arizona area, and set up distribution and retail drug sales. The other cartels have operated in the US for decades without much headline grabbing acts of violence, the Zeta’s are new to this, operating on the US side.

    D_Nephew Reply:

    hhahahahhaa……….the zetas are always the scapegoat……….ya dejense de mamadas….

  5. I read this story. Michael, I don’t know why it would surprise anyone that the media and local law enforcement would hush this story up. A lot of shit happens in phoenix that they hush. And the local media follows right along with whatever they say. And I know a lot about phoenix. The name Cota rings a bell. There are a bunch of rats in phoenix with that same last name. They are and were in the mix.

  6. Just remember there are other borders besides the border…

    juan Reply:


  7. Huh?

  8. Good Luck on your new adventure

  9. la liebre es un chupa culo

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