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Ice Cream! (but You’ll Scream First … )

July 3rd, 2010
THE BORDER REPORT And Mexico, and I mean the State, is staying the Christ out of it. Thank you, first of all, to juanito, a reader here who helped set me straight on the players. (I'd like to add, as a friend in Nogales pointed out, who in the hell drives a Volkswagen Passat to a gunfight with the Beltrán Leyvas?) He's got it right, Felix the Ice Cream Man is with Raúl Sabori, Paéz Soto, Nini Beltrán and Los Jabalí, Jose Vásquez's boys from Santa Ana. Collectively, they're the Sinaloa Federation's syndicate along the Sonora border. And they're going against El Gilo, a man identified in an FBI report as Hector Beltrán Leyva's lieutenant in Saríc and Tubutama, that pocket of cerro between Nogales and Sasabe, just along the Sonora-Arizona border. It is significant that the U.S. intel agencies do not know his real name. (All photos, courtesy, Sonora State Police.) Gilo, according to the FBI, has 300 men stocked in that town and they're running out of resources. Last week, the chief of police and town treasurer from Tubutama tried to make a run for Nogales to buy gasoline; they were subsequently eliminated from the argument. On June 12, according to a U.S. Border Patrol intel report, Gilo scrapped with the Mexican Army in Cerro Prieto; taking no casualties. The Army backed off, not saying how many casualties they themselves took. Geographically, it's a rough area to get to; there is exactly one highway leading in, you come in from Magdalena de Kino or you come in from Sasabe or Altar. My apologies to those of you not from this area, it's late, I'm busy and I don't have time to explain these logistics. Suffice it to say that there are three entrances towards that mountain range, one from the east, two from the west. In that gunfight yesterday, the Sinaloa crew fucked up; there's just no other way to put it. Los Jabalí geared up with 30-50 SUVs and trucks, all marked with three X's on the windows. Gilo's people were waiting for them. According to the FBI, the Sinaloans ran into a roadblock, just a couple cars jamming up the road; enough to force the convoy to a halt. It was truly a stupid maneuver, in my opinion. Yeah, you had them cornered, Gilo's people are sitting stranded in a fucking mountain town for chrissakes. But the Sinaloans moved in linearly when they should have come in from all directions. Idiotas. Bear in mind that the Army did nothing during this occupation; they didn't move in on Gilo, they didn't move on the Sinaloans. From the FBI report: "Subjects report that the Jabalínas (sp) were forced to a stop on the highway when Gilo's group opened fire and sustained heavy casualties." The Sinaloans are supposedly waiting for 300 men to arrive from Sinaloa. Unfortunately for them, Gilo is also awaiting reinforcements. There's an old story in the Sierra, about a lion cornered by a pack of dogs and just how many of those dogs the old mountain cat defeated before he was taken down. Right about now, 48 hours after the killings, there oughtta be two groups coming in from Sinaloa; one from Culiacán, one from the Sierra, Los Mochis, maybe. 300 men, each side, about to fight it out for a mountain town. The FBI is filled with idiots who anticipate this is a mopping up of the Beltrán Leyvas. They ain't been able to do it yet. In fact, got smoked when they tried. No, no, mi estimado. One side is brimming, building up in the cities. But the other is quiet, watching, waiting. The dogs are howling; the cat's snarling. This will be a fight for the corridos to remember. Gonna be one hell of a Fourth of July. I'll be in Tubutama this weekend. Try and behave. Sále.

America Wins the Drug War! (and Otras Chingaderas)

December 18th, 2009


That's what the Feds are saying anyway. Look at these blusterings by top DEA officials celebrating the death of Botas Blancas. In Arizona, lead DEA cop Beth Kempshall tells the Arizona Republic that the flow of drugs "could decline as Beltrán's gang struggles to sort out its chain of command and re-establish contacts with Colombian cocaine suppliers." Would Mrs. Kempshall have us believe that Arturo Beltrán was the only one with the cellphone number to Diego Espinosa's frontman within Colombia's Norte del Valle Cartel? Does she truly believe that El General, Hector, Mario and Carlos along with Sergio Villarreal and Sr. Barbie are frantically looking through big brother's Address Book for a supplier? Or trying to friend the guy on Facebook? Sadly, this is very much what the DEA either believes or wants the rest of us to believe. Here's Anthony Placido, chief of intelligence for the DEA, talking to The Associated Press yesterday: "Nobody left out there has the extensive contacts that Arturo had. He moved thousands of metric tons of drugs into the United States, including cocaine, methamphetamine and heroin," Placido said. Really, Mr. Placido? And here I thought his MoreExpress S.A. de C.V. transport company, with offices from Tapachula, Chiapas to Ensenada, Culiacán and Hermosillo was in the tomato shipping business. Nobody left out there has his magnitude of contacts, eh? Not Chapo Joaquín Guzmán, Mayo Ismael Zambada, La Tuta Servano Gómez, El Viceroy Vicente Carrillo, El Ingeniero Fernando Sanchez Arellano; El Azul Juan Diego Esparragoza, Nacho Coronel, nadie. For years, at least dating back to 1997 and Amado Carrillo's death, the Mexican traffickers have dissipated the old power structure that brought men like Carrillo and Pablo Acosta to power. Too much investment, too much centralized influence. That structure is dated and archaic; which is why we have fragmented hyper-local organizations with blurred boundaries, like the Sinaloa Cartel, who've proven vastly more effective at transporting narcotics and feeding the monster. I'm no fan of Arturo Beltrán Leyva; I've lost two colleagues, one a good friend, to his brand of murder and seen a third exiled from Mexico for the crime of reporting on his transgressions. However, I'm also not going to play up his influence in the drug business. As recently as 2007, he was little more than a supporter to Joaquín Guzmán. In 2001, it was he and Barbie who hid Chapo out after his escape from Puente Grande "max security" prison. In fact, they helped him recover from an extreme drinking binge over the following two years. The turn happened somewhere around the end of 2007, then Mochomo's fall and the war began. This is a man who dominated the narco-scene headlines for, ostensibly, two years. Bad move, that.arturo-beltran-leyvaa Not interesting; people who make too much noise never are. It's the quiet ones, El Azul, Macho Prieto (nice work on the six dead bodies outside Puerto Peñasco last night. You should be proud), El Mayo, who hold sway; the ones who learned early on, don't talk too much and for God's sake, keep out of the public view. Get your business done. Mayo's name is whispered in the mountains of Sinaloa, part respect, part mystery, fear. When a reporter was killed in southern Sinaloa, late 2004, Mayo sent a crew after the man who did him, punishing Antonio Frausto in public for bringing heat to the Pacific Coast. The result: He's lasted nearly three decades as a powerhouse in the narcotics business. When Frausto was arrested in Oklahoma in early 2009, his family threw a party in Rosales, Sinaloa, telling everybody Frausto was there. Such is the fear of El Mayo. Got off the phone with Phoenix detectives a little while ago. They're telling me what folks from Las Vegas to San Diego are saying, "Maybe now they'll get back to business instead of this chaos." In Phoenix, bajadores working for the Beltrán associates have taken to ripping off jewelry stores, nightclubs and small businesses. Some may be fronts for the Sinaloans, others, cops aren't sure about. But the level of brazen stupidity is causing panic within the Phoenix community and panic is not a good foundation to lay a stable economic business model upon. Them boys needed cash. It is indicative of the problem of Phoenix that Beltrán people have been popped with three primitive homemade grenades in the past month. By homemade, I mean over-the-counter grenades like what you'd buy to use as a paperweight and stuffed with regulation gunpowder and a blasting cap. "You're not gonna kill a group of people ten feet away with these things," I'm told. "But I'd hate to be the one who catches it." There was an arrogance in the Beltrán dynasty that is, in my opinion, the drug world at it's worst. It leads to foolishness and poor decision-making. That's why State Department was able to con Misael Beltrán Cital into coming north to Phoenix last week on a visa. He thought they were holding the door open for him. They were. In a sense. So, no, DEA. I will respectfully disagree with your assessment. You're talking too much. You and the government of Mexico have taken out a vicious supplanter with a poor business plan. He was able to move as much dope as he moved because of your mutual governments' ineptitude, one that borders dangerously close to collusion. One detective put it succinctly Thursday night when she heard the news of Beltrán's death. "Awesome," she says. "Now he can answer to God." The border wars may be over. We don't know yet. The border business remains unchanged.

God’s Gonna Cut You Down

June 11th, 2009


Is Caborca, Sonora, changing hands? If so, the latest would-be owners want everybody out, the narcos, the cops and the mayors from every town in the Pinacate Desert. And the new guys are backed by Macho Prieto himself, Mayo Zambada's security chief.

What happened here last week was a sheer massacre, the carnage going far beyond what now passes for normal along the Mexican border. (Be warned: Gross).

Narco Non Grata

August 20th, 2007




April 4th, 2006



HERMOSILLO, SONORA – Gov. Eduardo Bours Castelo wants to tear down one of the last vestiges of the most powerful drug lords Mexico ever knew. Topped with Russian cupolas and covered in graffiti, the narco-castillo of Amado Carrillo Fuentes stands three stories in the air, looming over the swank homes in Hermosillo's Colonia Pitic neighborhood. Amado, the Lord of the Skies, dominated the cocaine trade between Colombia and the United States, buying 747 jets in the U.S. and ferrying tons of cocaine up to the border at Ciudad Juarez and El Paso. In the 1990s, he purchased the unfinished castle from the proprietors who were left holding it when Tucson's own drug lord was arrested in 1988. Jaime Figueroa Soto, the biggest drug lord ever arrested in Arizona, went down hiding in a closet in his million-dollar home in Scottsdale. Narco-castillos dot the desert of northern Mexico. This one, dubbed the Palacio de Mil y Una Noches, is estimated to cost upwards of $5 million, sitting less than a quarter-mile from the governor's mansion in this provincial Mexican capital. In a frank discussion with reporters Monday, Gov. Bours said he's asked the Mexican Federal Attorney General's office to turn the seized property over to the state so it could be torn down and the property turned into a park. Describing it as a haunted house in El Imparcial newspaper, Bours said he's asked the feds to knock it down but that they say they can't because the case is still in federal court. The feds seized the house in 1993. History has a strange way of repeating itself and familiar names keep coming up in the narco-world. Jaime, now 57, was released from a U.S. prison in Florence, Colo., March 20, 2006. Amado Carrillo Fuentes died July 4, 1997 after a bad reaction to a plastic surgery operation. His death certificate listed him as a ganadero, a cattle rancher. His brother, Rodolfo Carrillo Fuentes, was killed Sept. 11, 2004, sparking off the northern Mexico drug war that we see today. It's become Mexico's own 9/11, one that's embroiled at least three different states, from Tamaulipas to Sinaloa to Baja California in a drug war. El Universal newspaper tallies more than 200 people killed as a result this year. Frontera News Service noted that it's become even more dangerous in Nuevo Laredo since the Mexican military moved in with homicides rising to more than 70. The resulting hit on Rodolfo was finally enough to scare a young reporter out of Culiacán to Hermosillo. Alfredo Jiménez Mota quit his job in Sinaloa and came to Hermosillo following that killing, said his friend, Sergio Garcia, speaking during a memorial service for Alfredo near Guaymas last Sunday. Alfredo worked five months for the daily newspaper, El Imparcial, quickly making a name for himself in covering the drug cartels for El Imparcial. However, as the major daily, Reforma, noted yesterday, El Imparcial is inexperienced in covering organized crime. The paper consistently led with stories Alfredo broke. Now it occasionally leads with stories about his disappearance. After a series of stories exposing the most affluent drug traffickers in the state, Alfredo, 25, disappeared April 2, 2005. He's never been found. Last August, Mexican papers formed a team to investigate Alfredo's disappearance, dubbing it the Phoenix Project after the investigative reporting that followed the 1976 killing of Arizona Republic reporter Don Bolles. In that case, the reporters finished the work Bolles started. In this case, the newspapers published their findings in Monday's newspapers. They incorrectly stated twice that Alfredo was 26 when he disappeared. He was not. He would have turned 26 last February. While they haven't arrived at a conclusion, the newspapers chose to focus most of the allotted space to the leader of a Sonoran meth gang, Los Numeros, who control the meth corridor to Phoenix, Ariz., through Sonoyta, Sonora. The investigative portion of the coverage focused almost exclusively on Raúl Enríquez Parra, leader of Los Numeros. Nothing in the articles state that Los Numeros were any more responsible than anybody else. It's also a convenient bet. Raúl Enríquez is dead. He was shot in the head and thrown out of an airplane last October. His body was found wrapped in an American flag in a ranch in Navojoa.

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