Sunday, August 15, 2010
Fall from Grace
Piedras Negras: An eyewitness account
He is a minister of a Christian community in a barrio of a major Texas city. His ministry is poor, mostly immigrants from Mexico like himself.
He was in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, on Sunday, August 8, preaching the Word in the rough edged Mundo Nuevo neighborhood when his faith was shaken.
It was early in the afternoon when the disturbance began across the street, several houses away. Three municipal police vehicles were parked in front of a residence, the policemen attempting to arrest someone who had barricaded himself inside.
Screams and threats filled the air as the police returned to their cars, unable to carry out their assignment. Calls on the 2 way radios were made. The neighbors re-entered their homes and porches to escape the searing afternoon sun.
After several minutes a convoy of pickups screeched to a halt next to the police cars, all late model twin cabs, the preferred vehicle of criminal gangs in Northern Mexico.
“Metase pastor, esos son Zetas” he was told (Come inside now pastor those are Zetas).
He was looking out the window as the heavily armed gunmen, some dressed in camouflage and all wearing bulletproof vests, spilled out of the pickups.
The pastor noticed none of the pickups had license plates and the gunmen all carried assault rifles.
The gunman who seemed to be in charge rudely barked orders to the police in a hard voice that travelled through walls. The police vehicles retreated to the intersections at both ends of the block to detour any traffic as the gunmen’s jefe got back in his truck and in reverse rammed through the fence surrounding the house.
Other gunmen broke down a door and came out with two youths who screamed obscenities as they were beaten and thrown into separate vehicles. Their mother cried out for her sons at the doorway, a gun aimed at her head also.
As the pickups drove away the police vehicles with lights flashing took their place in the front and back of the pickups, serving as an escort.
No more than five minutes passed when they all heard several bursts of automatic rifle fire not far from where the abduction had taken place. Then all was silence, even among the worshippers.
The pastor got his people together and immediately drove back across the border to Eagle Pass, Texas.
As he drove home he questioned himself and his faith. How could he have been so shaken with fear from what he saw that he did not go outside and attempt to stop the abduction? Why was he still filled with fear as he related what had occurred that Sunday?
He is now filled with doubts of his response if this were to happen to one of his flock. He will probably not return to Mundo Nuevo.
He could not stop thinking about those policemen and their betrayal to the people of Piedras Negras.
Most of the poorly paid and educated municipal authorities on the Northeast Mexican border states of Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon and Coahuila are labeled as polizetas or poligolfos.
Polizetas are affiliated with Los Zetas and serve mostly as lookouts, informants and protection for members of that drug cartel.
Poligolfos offer the same services for the Gulf Cartel.
An Email confirmation of the abduction was received from a source in Piedras later that week. “Tell your friend he scares too quickly, it was only Zetas killing Zetas.”
Piedras Negras: Real Estate
Jesus “El Chucho” Romo Lopez’s fall from grace came in April of this year when he lost command of the Piedras Negras plaza at the hands of a rival cartel’s “grupo de limpieza”, or cleaning crew in cartel jargon. These crews are hit squads that descend on an area and ruthlessly eliminate all rivals.
El Chucho Romo, or El Chucho Cardenas Guillen as some residents of Coahuila insist are his true roots, and his closest circle of associates fled Piedras Negras but many loyal followers were not so lucky.
Up to sixty persons involved in drug trafficking or their immediate relatives were disappeared in the April sweeps. The only evidence that remains of their lives are the empty houses that once were their homes. These dot the length of the city.
It is rumored from credible sources that expedited U.S. visas were for sale for the sum of $600,000 each to those who could afford them. In the world that exists on the U.S.-Mexico border, where life is not black or white but measured in different shades of gray, this is entirely believable.
El Chucho Romo now seems poised to return to power in Piedras Negras at the head of a Gulf Cartel grupo de limpieza. Much of Coahuila has been cleansed of the Zetas, who still have strongholds in Torreon and the border cities of Piedras and Ciudad Acuna and those towns just south of the border (Nava, Allende, Morelos, Villa Union and Zaragoza).
Residents of Piedras say that El Chucho left behind five homes. They have remained open and abandoned since. His favorite mansion was destroyed as a statement of vengeance.
Here are images of el Chucho’s palaces, some more humble than others. They are a testament to the rewards that trafficking in poison brings.
First House: Colonia Harold Pape
Second House: Colonia Las Fuentes
Third House: Colonia Roma
Fourth House: Colonia Tecnologico
Fifth House: Mansion in Colonia Las Fuentes