Take a ride with a general on a military operation, as the Jornada reporter Sanjuana Martinez conducts an interview while the military convoy tours the area.
The retired general Bibiano Villa Carlos Castillo does not beat around the bush: "To save Torreón we have to have balls." He is the Director of Public Safety and unequivocally, he adds; "Military personnel are trained for combat. No cowards. We had civilians that at the times of "chingadazos" (fighting) they folded. Previously they use to chase the cops around here, now none of that shit, we now chase them and kill them when we catch them. Here we fuck up anyone who is bad."
He dresses in a navy blue shirt and trousers, wears a helmet along with a ballistic vest. He Wields the handgun he carries when he goes to bed, he takes out the magazine, checks his rounds and, locks and loads. It's a Magnum 44 which he holsters around his waist. He grabs his sniper rifle G3 with retractable stock 7.62 caliber, capable of penetrating armor. He grabs a radio and two cell phones. He then gives an order with absolute command: "Let’s go," and walks away toward the parking lot followed by members of his personal guard which is composed of 114 military soldiers.
It's four in the afternoon and six trucks carrying about 30 armed masked military men are waiting for him to start "hunting thugs" in the "hot spots" of the city dominated by Los Zetas who are fighting Los Chapos. He boards a maroon SUV and starts an interview with a reporter of the national newspaper La Jornada inside the vehicle.
On March 2nd during a similar operation he was ambushed. Gunmen traveling in five trucks intercepted his convoy and fired over 500 rounds at him. The shield of the armored truck rated at level six saved his life. Six policemen were wounded. Is not the first time sicarios have tried to kill him since he took office. That time he knew that one of his own betrayed him: "Who was it? ... If I knew, I would have killed the bastard. Those who sell us out do not deserve to live."
At the start of the operation he adds: "I like the adrenaline. I come on patrol. When I capture a Zeta or Chapo I kill him. Why interrogate him? What is he going to tell San Pedro of what he did. The military has their own security and intelligence, they don't need his information. Believe me, The day when they capture me they are not going to cover me with kisses. Right? They are going to tear me apart. So what? That's what I'm exposed to. The day it's my turn, we will settle things, period."
General Villa Carlos Castillo operates with the ethics of the "iron fist," that is what mayors and governors of several states have decided to institute in police agencies that have increasingly become more militarized.
When asked about his lineage, he smiles with pride. He is the grandson of Jesus Arango, alias El Bizco cousin of Doroteo Arango, better known as Francisco Villa: "I feel proud because he was a great fighter. He practiced guerrilla warfare, and now it's my turn to fight the urban guerrillas. Each one with their own training."
He says he knows the enemy very well, so much so that during the ride, he was listening to them from a radio frequency that he had intercepted. Clearly the sicarios are heard recounting an operation step-by-step: "Right now they know where we are. They transmit everywhere. Taxi drivers warn them, they are halcones. They even call me 'el viejillo loco'. The sons of bitches respect no one."
Last year, the Comarca Lagunera region that is located in Torreon, Coahuila, Gomez Palacio and Lerdo, Durango, was the second most violent place in Mexico after Ciudad Juarez, with 689 drug-related killings.
In Torreón the murders and massacres in bars and nightclubs have doubled. Starting from 2008 Los Zetas took control of the plaza corrupting most cops. When the general took charge as chief he fired more than 500 officers. Today he commands 1014 officers: "That cabron who does not want to work, a chingar a su madre. Period. Here we pay well (8 thousand pesos). We accomplish three objectives: to give every police officer a house, major medical insurance and life insurance worth up to 700,000 pesos. So the ones who want to collect life insurance, well they can die."
General Villa Castillo, 62, majored in telecommunications. Was trained for 16 years. He received training in Israel. He has two degrees and a masters. He has a scanner valued at 4 million pesos to intercept calls "from the enemy." He is convinced that the Chapos live in Gomez Palacio, Durango, and Los Zetas in Matamoros, Coahuila. Both are competing for the territory of Torreon.
The convoy of his operation passes through the river Nazas that separates the two states, where sicarios leave mutilated bodies all the time. The river has four bridges: yellow, black, silver and the Union, but at length of over 50 km there are more than 15 clandestine trails used by Chapos, who are named as such because several drug cartels joined the Sinaloa cartel to take over Torreon.
While patrolling one can see patrol cars along the river that forms part of the so called Sellamiento Nazas, a joint operation that aims to control the flow of criminals in the region: "We do work, it's not just because a reporter is with us that we are pretending to be patrolling. All day we are involved in this. They go through there. Can you see the bullet holes on the vehicles?
The city is divided into nine high conflict areas, especially the poorest, now converted into a battlefield. The hills are full of very poor homes and form part of the majority of the misery in the region. The dust of the desert raises high to the conspicuous movement of the convoy. The people look with suspicion, rush away and go inside their homes immediately. Within minutes the streets are deserted.
We enter the Cerro de la Cruz, a region controlled by Los Chapos. There is only one paved road, the rest are primitive passages. A network of dirt roads that makes it harder for police to work. The place is full of halcones and is perfect for ambushes. The young people in the corners are not worried by the passing of the authority "they are the same," says the general who since taking charge of the police force has lost six policemen in gunfights and has sustained 76 confrontations with criminals, "What happens is that those bastards never give full battle. They just fire in bursts and then flee. The advantage we have is our weapons, shot by shot, but well aimed. That is why they have a lot of casualties. We have killed about 200 of them."
"Six lost, compared to 200 ... does that mean we are winning the war like Felipe Calderon says?"
"The problem is that we kill a few of them and more come out, is like we pick up another stone and still more ... Very few civilians have been killed. We always aim carefully to kill the drug dealer. Never a civilian. When they see when the shooting starts, they start running and everyone hits the ground to protect themselves."
Organized crime has found the best breeding ground for their particular army of "burreros" and sicarios in the Comarca Lagunera region, hundreds of unemployed youth, drug users and the forgotten by the politicians of the State.
Villa Castillo joined the Army at the age of 16 by order of his mother. He was the second of 36 children his father had with six women. He says that he is incorruptible and loyal to the death: "I'm not ashamed to say it: my father is the Army and my mother the homeland. To them I owe everything. They educated me, indoctrinated me and prepared me for this."
War is war, and therefore justifies military codes. The operation of patrol now passes through the Alianza mercado, a highly contentious area. Many businesses have left due to extortion and violence. We then crossed the tracks and we enter the legendary community Durangueña, a common scene of shootings and executions, and controlled by Los Zetas. "I distrust the Federal Police because they do not kill, just apprehend. But the Mexican Army and Marines, they kill."
The next residential region of poverty and misery is the San Joaquin region, a lot of alleys here: "They are places ideal for an ambush. It's hard to get out of here. They are entrenched on the hills and from there they shoot at us but now we bring long-range weapons with telescopic sights. We can pick out any bastard that is a mile away. We just see them fall ... The ethics of sicarios or narcos has been lost, they are now just murderers. They used to have ethics even when they killed, but now they come and tear everything up to pieces."
The Cerro de las Noas, famous for the Christ protector, is now a setting for the bloodiest of battles. In the recess of the hills Los Zetas turn them into bunkers with entrenched snipers: "The other day we had to go there to kill six 'cabrones' and we did kill them. What is the problem?"
- What were they Zetas or Chapos?
- How do you know if you don't question or talk to them ...
"We knew because they had stolen some of our guns, and we found them there."
There are laws general. You decide who should live or die ... Don't you think that is up to God to decide?
"Yes, but we need to give him a little help."
-If one of them approaches you to talk ...
"I kill him where he stands. I fuck him up."
- Kill then ask questions later?
"That is how it should be. It's a code of honor."
For the general, human rights are something that are not working like they should. He says the work of the National Commission on Human Rights is good, but "has not fulfilled its functions." It should protect the injured and appears to defend the offender."
The convoy of the operation passes through the community of Primero de Mayo. The wooden huts of Zaragoza Sur y Norte stand towards the Avenue of Las Mieleras: "They hide in the rocks. Every so often we go up and take away their parapets. They are armed with "cuerno de chivo" rifles 270 with telescopic sights."
After an hour and a half of patrolling the Chief orders a return to the barracks. Next to his office there is a living space. It has a bed, exercise equipment and a sauna: "I work all year, Sundays and holidays. I do not take vacations. My entertainment? ... My recreation are women. Tonight I have body to body fight in the ring, which is a bed. Who wins? Them, I give every chance to the women."
Some time after the interview it was announced that the retired general would be transferred to the Ministry of Public Security (SSP) of Quintana Roo.
Source: La Jornada