Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

The Real Test of Confidence

Tuesday, September 29, 2009 |

The majority of the 334 Juarez police officers that were dismissed last year after failing "confidence exams" have left the city but a few have remained. These exams consisted of some sort of polygraph examination to weed out those who were questionable as having ties to organize crime. Most of these police officers that were suspected of being dirty and subsequently terminated have been tracked by the Juarez Municipal Police and the multi task force conducting an operation known as "Operación Conjunto Chihuahua", said Ciudad Juarez Mayor José Reyes Ferriz.

These are a lot of officers suddenly without a job and on the streets of Juarez desperate for a source of income. It's not easy finding a good paying job for anyone, yet alone for a police officer with especific skills not common in most professions.

"Most of the policemen who were terminated for failing the confidence exams left the city, but those who remained behind, have been monitored tracking their activities," said Mayor Ferriz.

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La Linea Active in the Valley of Juarez

Monday, September 28, 2009 |

A former Juárez police officer suspected in 18 murders and belonging to a drug cartel cell was one of multiple arrests during the weekend by the Mexican army, military officials said Sunday.

Ex-officer Miguel Angel Delgado Carmona, 39, and suspected accomplice Roberto Gonzalez Lazalde, 34, were captured Saturday afternoon after a vehicle chase following an extortion attempt of a Juárez funeral home, officials with Joint Operation Chihuahua said.

Soldiers with the Fourth Infantry Battalion began chasing the van moments after four men had delivered a note to the funeral home stating "Call today (a telephone number) without excuse, attention La Linea."

Two of the men exited the Dodge Caravan at a street corner and escaped.

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US Citizens in Cartel's Cross Fire

Thursday, September 24, 2009 |

On this hazy day afternoon in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico the cracking sound of gun fire was once again heard coming from a motel room of "La Cúpula" located in Paseo de la Victoria and Tapioca. A sound that is too common on the streets of Juarez, a play ground for the battling drug cartels. It is suspected that organized crime was responsible in the slaughter of four people.

Again another senseless execution happening in the daylight hours, in a very public place with many witnesses and in one of the most reputable motels of the city. Government officials from both sides of the border have been warning tourists who visit Juarez to stay in public places, remain vigilant of their surrounding, apt the option to stay in their motels without having to walk the streets and lock their doors. But these safety tips mean nothing, in Juarez today anyone can kill you at any time and nothing ever happens.

The incident happened minutes before 6pm and reported by employees of the establishment. The Unofficial account is that two men and two women were the victims of this recent killing.

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The Sheepdog

Wednesday, September 23, 2009 |

I was having some success in my newly found profession of designing websites for clients. Although I came to this new profession with some experience, it had never really been a full time job for me. Yet in less than six months I had managed to secure seven accounts and at the same time I would also get a part time job with a familiar employer working in technical services. But it didn’t start like this. The last twenty years I spent as a street cop in some of the meanest streets in Albuquerque. Although I thought I wanted a change, primarily a safe environment to live the rest of my retirement, I was never really able to settle in. Something was missing. Then one day while I sat in front of my computer monitor, I was unable to move my fingers to press another key.

Something was calling out to me. This faint itch to return to my old profession was intensifying within me with every passing second. When I hinted this to family and friends, they looked at me like I was a crazy man. “Why would you want to go back to a job that has the potential of getting you killed at this point in your life?”

This urge to return was very hard to explain and at times I was having a hard time making any sense of it myself. Then I came across something written by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman. Grossman, former West Point psychology professor, has a “wolf, sheep and sheepdog” theory that relates directly to predators, victims and protectors.

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City Police Aim Guns at Mexican Federal Agents

Monday, September 21, 2009 |


In a hair-raising standoff that sent motorists scrambling for cover, municipal police pulled their guns on masked federal agents in one of Mexico's biggest cities — a stark display of the tensions caused by a crackdown on drug corruption among the country's lawmen.

Federal forces are leading sweeps across the country to round up local officers and politicians accused of collaborating with brutal drug cartels. Many city police are furious at seeing colleagues disarmed, humiliated and dragged away in handcuffs.

The evening's confrontation started when federal police showed up to disperse city officers who were protesting the federal raids by blocking several streets in San Nicolas and Escobedo, suburbs of Monterrey, the country's third largest city.

Anxious motorists fled their cars and took cover — although no shots were fired.

"The federal officers told motorists to get out of their cars because they were afraid the city police were going to open fire," said a state police spokeswoman, who was not authorized to give her name in line with department policy.

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The New Juarez Police Outlook

Sunday, September 20, 2009 |

A total of 339 new police officers graduated from the Academy of the Secretary of Municipal Public Security (SSPM), of which 56 were women considered to be one of the biggest number in history. The new police officers took an oath of service during a ceremony at Juárez city hall.

Mayor José Reyes Ferriz referred to the new officers as elements that will change the image of the department in more positive way due to their quality in training.

The mayor added that that these officers will work to regain the trust of the public and asked them not to succumb to the temptation of corruption that they may encounter from the wealthy drug cartels. He also requested the citizens take an active role as supervisors in the performance of these new officers. He said that this fifth generation of cadets under his administration came out with training based on four basic principles.

The first is the protection of the family, theirs and the society in general. More training in civic education which emphasized the love of country, but especifically that of Ciudad Juarez. They also were given an understanding of having a healthy mental outlook, which meant looking beyond everything inside themselves that goes against their own personal bias, and lastly, always maintaining a professional image.

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La Familia Michoacana

Friday, September 18, 2009 |

La Familia Michoacana (The Michoacán Family) or La Familia (The Family) is a Mexican drug trafficking cartel based in Michoacán, Mexico President Felipe Calderón's home state. Formerly the Gulf Cartel —as part of Los Zetas it has split off as its own organization since 2006.

The cartel's current leader, Nazario Moreno González known as El Más Loco (The Craziest One) preaches his organisation's divine right to eliminate enemies. He carries a "bible" of his own sayings and insists that his army of traffickers and hitmen avoid using the narcotics they sell. Nazario Moreno's partners are José de Jesús Méndez Vargas, Servando Gómez Martínez and Dionicio Loya Plancarte, all of which have a bounty of $2 million dollars each for their capture.

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Looking to the Future of the Mexican Drug War

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The threat that drug-related violence in Mexico poses to the United States is an important concern, but the implications of Mexico’s war on the cartels are certainly greater south of the border. Indeed, the security situation is a dire concern for the Calderon administration.

The government is considering the implications of increasing casualties, not only of security forces but also of civilians. The army and federal police have shown themselves to be capable of inflicting damaging blows on the various cartels, but they have been much less successful at curbing the growing violence.

One reason for this lack of effectiveness involves the increasing responsibilities of the Mexican armed forces, perhaps the most versatile tool Calderon has relied on in the cartel war.

In addition to their traditional roles in maritime drug interdiction, marijuana and poppy crop eradication and technical intelligence operations, the armed forces have now been deployed on the ground in nearly every state in the country (with concentrations on the periphery).

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Calderon’s Success Story

Wednesday, September 16, 2009 |

Since taking office in December 2006, Mexican President Felipe Calderon has undertaken extraordinary measures in pursuit of the country’s powerful drug trafficking organizations. The policies enacted by Calderon saw some progress during his first year in office, although it has only been during the past year that the continued implementation of these policies has produced meaningful results in the fight against the cartels.

One important result has been the large quantities of illegal drugs and weapons seized by federal authorities. In November 2007, customs officials in Manzanillo, Colima state, seized 26 tons of cocaine from a Hong Kong-flagged ship that had sailed from Colombia.

The seizure was the largest in Mexican history, more than double the previous record of 11 tons recovered that October in Tamaulipas state. In July 2007, the Mexican navy captured a self-propelled, semisubmersible vessel loaded with nearly 5 tons of cocaine off the coast of Oaxaca state, the first such capture by Mexican authorities.

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Sinaloa Cartel

Tuesday, September 15, 2009 |


Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman Loera is the most wanted drug lord in Mexico. Despite the turbulence it has experienced this past year, his Sinaloa cartel is perhaps the most capable drug trafficking organization in Mexico.


This turbulence involved the loss of the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes organization in Ciudad Juarez as well as the split with the Beltran Leyva organization. Guzman has maintained his long-standing alliances with his high-ranking lieutenants, Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada Garcia and Ignacio “El Nacho” Coronel Villareal. These two have continued to work with Guzman, even as he has come under attack from nearly every other cartel in Mexico.

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Los Zetas Could be Planning to kill U.S. Police

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According to a Department of Homeland Security intelligence bulletin, the Mexican narco group Los Zetas may be planning to kill U.S. law enforcement officers in some numbers.

An open question is when and if Mexican drug traffickers will decide to go after U.S. law enforcement personnel — within the United States — in an organized way. Conventional wisdom is that Mexicans have restrained any attacks because they do not want to spark more intensive U.S. investigations and pressure. (At least one knowledgeable law enforcement source in the Southwest believes law enforcement has already been targeted.)

If there is one constant in the world of cartels and gangs it is change.

People, structures, operational methods, routes, the criminals’ risk assessments, and value judgments are all different now than they were even five years ago. The following bulletin to law enforcement warns of an obviously serious — although uncorroborated — threat from Los Zetas to murder U.S. law enforcement personnel from a variety of agencies.

Briefly put, Los Zetas are rogue Mexican special forces soldiers who were first hired as muscle and then transformed into a cartel-like drug trafficking organization. According to a DEA official quoted by CNN in a piece about Los Zetas, the group are responsible for a great part of the public violence in Mexico:

“The Zetas have obviously assumed the role of being the No. 1 organization responsible for the majority of the homicides, the narcotic-related homicides, the beheadings, the kidnappings, the extortions that take place in Mexico,” said Ralph Reyes, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency’s chief for Mexico and Central America.

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Vicente Carrillo Fuentes Organization The Juarez Cartel

Monday, September 14, 2009 |

The Vicente Carrillo Fuentes organization, also known as the Juarez cartel, is based out of Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua state, across the border from El Paso, Texas. It also has a presence in much of northern Chihuahua state and parts of Nuevo Leon and Sonora states.

The cartel is led by Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, brother of original leader Amado Carrillo. Believed to be second-in-command is his nephew, Vicente Carrillo Leyva.

The Juarez cartel has had a long-standing alliance with the Beltran Leyva brothers, based on family and business ties. This past year, however, Carrillo Fuentes has turned to Los Zetas to aid in the defense of Juarez.

Over the past year, the Juarez cartel has been locked in a vicious battle with its former partner, the Sinaloa cartel, for control of Juarez. The fighting between them has left more than 2,000 dead in Chihuahua state so far this year.

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Beltran Leyva Organization

Sunday, September 13, 2009 |


The Beltran Leyva family has a long history in the narcotics business. Until this past year, the organization was part of the Sinaloa Federation, for which it controlled access to the U.S. border in Sonora state (among other responsibilities). By the time Alfredo Beltran Leyva was arrested in January, however, the Beltran Leyva organization’s alliance with Sinaloa was over. (It is rumored his arrest resulted from a Sinaloa betrayal.)

Before this year, the Beltran Leyva brothers served as high-ranking members of the organization with many people under their command and plenty of infrastructure to branch out on their own. Under the leadership of Arturo Beltran Leyva, the organization moved quickly to secure strategic narcotics transport routes in the states of Sinaloa, Durango, Sonora, Jalisco, Michoacan, Guerrero and Morelos. This attempt to conquer territory from their former Sinaloa partners sparked a wave of violence.

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Arellano Felix Organization The Tijuana Cartel

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The AFO, also known as the Tijuana cartel, has been weakened almost beyond recognition over the past year due to the efforts of both U.S. and Mexican law enforcement to capture several high-ranking leaders. The most symbolic was the October arrest of Eduardo “El Doctor” Arellano Felix, the only original Arellano Felix brother who had evaded capture.


Fighting among the various factions of the cartel itself has led to hundreds of deaths in the Tijuana area over the past 12 months and resulted in the splitting of the cartel into two factions. One is led by Fernando “El Ingeniero” Sanchez Zamora, a nephew of the original Arellano Felix brothers. Eduardo Teodoro “El Teo” Garcia Sementa, who served as an enforcer under the Arellano Felix brothers, controls the rival faction. Disagreements over authority reportedly led to much of the violence between the two factions in the first half of 2008. The violence peaked on April 26 when three separate and prolonged gunbattles erupted on the streets of Tijuana, leaving 13 people dead and five wounded.

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Gulf Cartel

Saturday, September 12, 2009 |



As recently as a year ago, the Gulf cartel was considered the most powerful drug trafficking organization in Mexico. After nearly two years of taking the brunt of the Mexican government’s efforts, it is an open question at this point whether the cartel is even intact.

The Gulf cartel’s headquarters and main area of operation historically has been the northeastern Mexican state of Tamaulipas. Through its use of Los Zetas, who operated for years as the cartel’s notorious paramilitary enforcement arm, Gulf trafficked large quantities of narcotics across the Texas border into the United States.

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Los Zetas

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During the past 12 months, Los Zetas have remained a power to be reckoned with throughout Mexico. They operate under the command of leader Heriberto “El Lazca” Lazcano Lazcano. Miguel “Z-40” Trevino Morales is believed to be the organization’s No. 2. Trevino reportedly oversees much of the Zetas’ operations in the southern portions of the country. Daniel “El Cachetes” Perez Rojas, who was arrested this past year in Guatemala, was responsible for the group’s activities in Central America and reportedly answered directly to Lazcano.

The November arrest of Jaime “El Hummer” Gonzalez Duran, the organization’s third-in-command, was another significant blow to the organization, as Gonzalez was believed responsible for Zeta operations in nine states. It is unclear at the moment who has replaced Perez and Gonzalez in the Zeta hierarchy.


Since their split with Gulf, Los Zetas have contracted themselves to a variety of drug trafficking organizations throughout the country, most notably the Beltran Leyva organization. Los Zetas also control large swaths of territory in southern Mexico, much of which formerly belonged to the Gulf cartel, and they have a presence in the interior states of Aguascalientes, San Luis Potosi and Zacatecas.

Zetas are also present in disputed territories such as Durango, Sonora, Sinaloa, Jalisco, Guerrero and Michoacan due to their alliance with the Beltran Leyva organization, though these areas are not considered to be under their control.

Following the government’s crackdowns, Los Zetas have expanded from strictly drug trafficking to other criminal activities, including extortion, kidnapping for ransom and human smuggling. Los Zetas’ human smuggling operations are based out of Quintana Roo and Yucatan states, where mostly Cuban and Central American immigrants enter Mexico on their way to the United States.

Los Zetas maintain a vast network of safe-houses and access to counterfeit immigration documents — which facilitate the illegal movement of drugs or people. At an average cost of $10,000 per person, human smuggling has become a lucrative business for the organization.

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Sinaloa Cartel May Resort to Deadly Force in U.S.

Friday, September 11, 2009 |

Authorities say Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzman, the reputed leader of the Mexican cartel, has given his associates the OK, if necessary, to open fire across the border.

Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Sells, Ariz. - The reputed head of Mexico's Sinaloa drug cartel is threatening a more aggressive stance against competitors and law enforcement north of the border, instructing associates to use deadly force, if needed, to protect increasingly contested trafficking operations, authorities said.


Such a move by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, Mexico's most-wanted fugitive, would mark a turn from the cartel's previous position of largely avoiding violent confrontations in the U.S. -- either with law enforcement officers or rival traffickers.

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The Perilous State of Mexico

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With drug-fueled violence and corruption escalating sharply, many fear drug cartels have grown too powerful for Mexico to control. Why things are getting worse, and what it means for the United States.


Monterrey, Mexico

Detective Ramon Jasso was heading to work in this bustling city a few days ago when an SUV pulled alongside and slowed ominously. Within seconds, gunmen fired 97 bullets at the 37-year-old policeman, killing him instantly.

Mr. Jasso had been warned. The day before, someone called his cellphone and said he would be killed if he didn't immediately release a young man who had been arrested for organizing a violent protest in support of the city's drug gangs. The demonstrators were demanding that the Mexican army withdraw from the drug war. The protests have since spread from Monterrey -- once a model of order and industry -- to five other cities.

Much as Pakistan is fighting for survival against Islamic radicals, Mexico is waging a do-or-die battle with the world's most powerful drug cartels. Last year, some 6,000 people died in drug-related violence here, more than twice the number killed the previous year. The dead included several dozen who were beheaded, a chilling echo of the scare tactics used by Islamic radicals. Mexican drug gangs even have an unofficial religion: They worship La Santa Muerte, a Mexican version of the Grim Reaper.

In growing parts of the country, drug gangs now extort businesses, setting up a parallel tax system that threatens the government monopoly on raising tax money. In Ciudad Juarez, just across the border from El Paso, Texas, handwritten signs pasted on schools warned teachers to hand over their Christmas bonuses or die. A General Motors distributorship at a midsize Mexican city was extorted for months at a time, according to a high-ranking Mexican official. A GM spokeswoman in Mexico had no comment.

"We are at war," says Aldo Fasci, a good-looking lawyer who is the top police official for Nuevo Leon state, where Monterrey is the capital. "The gangs have taken over the border, our highways and our cops. And now, with these protests, they are trying to take over our cities

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Mexico's Feared Band Hired Guns of the Zetas

Thursday, September 10, 2009 |

Luis Reyes Enriquez was lying on the bed of a $13-per-night hotel room in a provincial town when federal troops came for him. Reyes, a leader in Mexico City of the infamous band of hit men known as the Zetas, was caught off guard: He was hung over from a wedding party the night before.


The arrest of the man also known as "Zeta 12" and "El Rex" was the latest in a series of blows in recent weeks to the Zetas, an organization born in the late 1990s when the Gulf cartel of drug traffickers began recruiting Mexican army deserters.

Reyes, 39, was an army deserter, as well as a former federal police officer who had once been assigned to work in the attorney general's office. As a well-trained gunman with an official pedigree, he was precisely the kind of man who helped build the Zetas' reputation as a paramilitary army at the service of drug traffickers.

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The Mystery Man Gruesome Killings

Monday, September 7, 2009 |

Teodoro Garcia Simental is believed to run a network of hide-outs where kidnap victims are caged. And he is said to be behind most of Tijuana's gang war bloodshed.

Los Angeles Times


A forensic investigator inserts a probe into one of three barrels found outside a Tijuana restaurant. The barrels contained human remains dissolved in acid. A handwritten message presumably from "El Teo" warns that all those who walk with a rival drug gang headed by "The Engineer" will be turned into pozole, a stew.

Reporting from Tijuana - He is said to love the ladies, fast horses and dissolving enemies in lye.


Teodoro "El Teo" Garcia Simental is reportedly allied with the Sinaloa drug cartel after serving as a lieutenant in Tijuana's Arellano Felix cartel.

Teodoro Garcia Simental is among the best known but least identifiable villains in Mexico's drug war, blamed for a trail of terror across Baja California.

His heavily armed hit men, authorities say, have been leaving the gruesome displays of charred and decapitated bodies across the city, signed with the moniker "Tres Letras," for the three letters in "Teo." And authorities believe he runs a network of hide-outs where kidnap victims are held in cages.

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El Rikin In Custody

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The Mexican Army has captured Jose Rodolfo Escajeda a/k/a El Rikin who is "a high-ranking member of the Juárez drug cartel" which smuggles drugs into the United States across a 120 mile stretch along the Texas border below El Paso as reported by El Paso Times:

"Soldiers found him Friday in Nuevo Casas Grandes, a community south of Juárez. Law officers allege that Escajeda is responsible for smuggling drugs into the United States for the past 10 years. He was alleged to be part of the Carrillo Fuentes drug organization, and controlled the Valle de Juárez region across the border from Fabens, Tornillo and Fort Hancock. Mexican authorities and the DEA attributed many murders, arsons and several recent beheadings to his gang."
CNN reports that El Rikin further is suspected in connection with the July slayings of U.S. citizens Benjamin LeBaron and his brother-in-law, Luis Widmar, who "were beaten and shot to death after armed men stormed into their home in the town of Galeana, Mexico":

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Drug Cartel Executes Entire Family of Politician

Sunday, September 6, 2009 |

José Francisco Fuentes Esperón, a legislative candidate in the southeastern state of Tabasco, and his family have been murdered in an apparent drug cartel hit as reported by Marc Lacey for the New York Times:
"Mr. Fuentes Esperón was shot in the neck, local news media reported, while his wife, Lilián Argüelles Beltrán, was shot in the head. Their two sons, ages 8 and 10, were asphyxiated. * * * Mexico's violent drug cartels have increasingly taken aim at public officials. On Aug. 20, the president of the legislature in the state of Guerrero was murdered. Last Wednesday, gunmen killed the under secretary of public security in the state of Michoacan."

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Daily Life of Executions in Border Town Juarez

Saturday, September 5, 2009 |

The violence in Juarez Mexico from organized drug organiations fighting for turf intensifies by the months. It seems like murder has become a common theme in Juarez with no end in sight. Drug thugs kill in daylight, in front of police head quarters, in the centers among the public. The citizenship often times find themselves in the cross fire or are killed at random.

And every day when we hear of yet more blood shed on the streets of Juarez, no one is brought to justice. More often enough, the drug cartels kill at ease despite thousands of military and federal police in Juarez. As president Felipe Calderon attempts to stem the drug violence in Juarez, it is a futile struggle and it only produces ineffective results against a wave of increased violence.

Yes this border city has become the battlefield for warring cartels armed with smuggled American guns and it does not appear it will slow down any time soon. Approximately 75 to 95 percent of the conventional guns -- from AK-47s to .50 caliber rifles capable of penetrating body-type armor -- supplied to the Mexican drug cartels are from the United States. Mexican drug cartels are currently at war with the Mexican government over distribution of illegal narcotics into the United States and they need guns from the U.S. to fight back.

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