Thursday, December 2, 2010
Colima: Diary of a "Narco" state
Mexico's PGR has offered a 3 million peso reward for Oscar Ulises Mariscal Rios, a state police officer and alleged murderer of the former Governor of Colima, Jesus Silverio Cavazos
The most surprising aspect of the assassination of the former Governor of Colima, Jesus Silverio Cavazos, on Sunday the 21st of this month is that a crime of this magnitude had not occurred before. The killing of the former Governor underlines the moral breakdown in Colima, one of the first states to be infected by large drug cartels.
The infiltration of Colima’s institutions is in full view as the police are now implicated in the former Governor’s assassination
It took more than 20 years to go from the symptoms of deterioration to the current stage of putrefaction, while politicians and elites collectively closed their eyes and shut their mouths at the obvious.
Colima authorities were initially quick to deny that the murder was related to drug trafficking but they have now been forced to report the obvious as Mexican Army and Marine units have taken over security in the state capitol of the same name, Colima.
The military have set up road blocks and are patrolling the streets while they mount house to house searches for weapons and criminals including those responsible for the death of Cavazos, which President Calderon has vowed to solve.
Organized crime has permeated politics at all levels of the state. For several decades Colima has been the sanctuary for drug traffickers from Sinaloa who first entered the state during Operation Condor in the mid-1970s.
Operation Condor was a brutal military operation aimed at drug cultivation and traffickers in Mexico’s western Sierra Madre. Ten thousand soldiers under the command of General José Hernández Toledo, who had participated in the 1968 student massacre in Tlatelolco, were sent to the mountains of Sinaloa, Durango and Chihuahua to destroy illegal marijuana and opium poppy plantations, with little success and massive repression.
The most prominent Sinaloan to make Colima home during this period was Manual Salcido Uzueta, “El Cochiloco" , a top lieutenant of Mexico’s first modern drug lord, Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo.
Salcido arrived in the late 1970s and by the early 1980s had integrated himself into the social life and was influencing the political classes of the state.
By the time El Cochiloco was murdered in Guadalajara in 1991, Colima had become a major corridor for drugs entering Mexico through the port of Manzanillo.
The import of chemical precursors for synthetic drugs into Manzanillo and their manufacture had elevated a local family, the Amezcua Contreras and their “Colima cartel”, into the top methamphetamine trafficking organization in Mexico by the mid 1990’s. The Amezcua Contreras brothers were pioneers in the distribution and sale of methamphetamine into the U.S.
Trafficking by the Colima Cartel of large amounts of methamphetamine into the U.S. and its distribution by criminal networks such as prison gangs and outlaw motorcycle gangs in the 1990’s led to the “crystal meth” scourge of small town Midwest America.
The Amezcua Contreras brothers were finally convicted in the early 2000’s due to intense U.S. pressure and the Colima cartel was dismantled. Organized crime operations in Colima and drug trafficking through the port of Manzanillo then came under the control of the Sinaloa cartel and Chapo Guzman.
Massive imports of pseudoephedrine, a precursor of methamphetamine, entered through Manzanillo from China through front companies run by Zhenli Ye Gon, a Mexican businessman of Chinese origin and alleged member of the Sinaloa cartel who is currently free in the U.S. and fighting extradition to Mexico. In a 2007, Mexican authorities discovered and seized $207 million during a raid on a Mexico City residence belonging to Ye Gon.
The precursor chemicals were transported from Manzanillo to laboratories in the in the industrial areas of Guadalajara, where they were processed into methamphetamine in an operation run by Nacho Coronel that distributed the drug into Australia, Asia, the U.S., and Europe.
In Manzanillo federal officials were on the payroll of the Sinaloa cartel and allowed the shipments of precursor chemicals to enter the country.
Federal port officials including the port master of Manzanillo, Navy captain Jorge Castañeda Uscanga, have been arrested for corruption this year and large shipments of precursor chemicals have been seized in the ongoing offensive by the Calderon administration against Mexico’s drug cartels.
However, methampetamine manufacture and trafficking by the Sinaloa cartel continues.
It was the Amezcua Contreras brothers that created direct links with the families of local politicians during the rise of the Colima cartel and created a level of corruption among authorities that continues to this day.
The families of the late former Governor and his political protégé and current Governor of Colima, Mario Anguiano, are both linked to drug trafficking.
Rafael Cavazos, brother of the former governor, was arrested in 2003 when the PGR (Mexico’s Federal Attorney General’s office) took down a drug distribution ring in the municipality of Tecoman that transported drugs into Michoacan. Another brother, Francisco, was arrested in 2004 in an anti-drug operation.
Humberto Anguiano, brother of the current Governor, Mario Anguiano, spent seven years in prison for selling methamphetamine, and his cousin Rafael Anguiano Chavez was arrested in Los Angeles in 1997 where he headed an operation, connected to the Colima cartel, that distributed methamphetamine and cocaine from coast to coast.
Cavazos's murder is a symbol of the impunity that prevails when a murder of this magnitude is committed, it occurs because whoever ordered the attack is fully confident that he, or they, will go unpunished.
Unpunished crimes, impunity and lax attitudes against crime are what tears at the socio-political fabric and Colima has endured decades of this.
Organized crime in Colima has always been controlled by the same cartel and since the state was not disputed by rivals, the levels of violence and insecurity seen in other parts of the country were not apparent here, until now. Cells composed of remnants of the Beltran Leyva organization and Los Zetas are now active in Colima.
Dark clouds have engulfed Colima with the deaths of top cartel figures like Arturo Beltran Leyva and Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel. This year Colima has witnessed 120 executions linked to organized crime and 40 cases of people disappeared have been reported. The actual number of disappearances may be much higher.
Penetration of Colima by organized crime was a rather open affair, where the distinction between criminals and politicians became blurred, and society did nothing to prevent it.
El Sanuario del narco/ Raymundo Riva Palacio
Ofrece la PGR $3 Millones de Recompensa por el Asesino de Silverio/ Rubén TORRES|EL ECONOMISTA
Vinculos criminales/Jorge CARRASCO ARAIZAGA|PROCESO