Blog dedicated to reporting on Mexican drug cartels
on the border line between the US and Mexico

Monday, October 31, 2011

'Massive' smuggling ring dismantled in Arizona

by Dennis Wagner - Oct. 31, 2011 12:43 PM
The Arizona Republic

A deputy's routine traffic stop last year helped authorities penetrate what they say is one of the biggest smuggling operations ever identified in Arizona, a network that allegedly has moved $2 billion of narcotics across the border in just five years.

At a news conference Monday, investigators announced the seizure of more than 30 tons of marijuana and arrests of 76 people who are suspected of affiliation with Mexico's notorious Sinaloa Cartel.
Matt Allen, special agent in charge for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Arizona, said the criminal network is "one of the most prolific drug smuggling organizations ever uncovered in the state."

"This is a historic drug bust," added Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu. "...We have to stand up and bring the fight to the cartels and say, 'This is America. You're not coming here.'"

Babeu said the investigation, known as Operation Pipeline Express, began in June 2010 when one of his deputies pulled over a vehicle near Stanfield that was loaded with 1,500 pounds of marijuana. Intelligence gathered during that stop led to a massive criminal investigation involving about two dozen law enforcement agencies.

Allen said the group moved an estimated $33 million in marijuana, cocaine and heroin into the United States monthly. He said those arrested came from all levels of the organization - from drug-carrying mules to scouts and commanders who organized the trafficking.

Authorities said the ring, built around cells based in Chandler, Stanfield and Maricopa, used backpacker and vehicles to run narcotics across the border and through the Tohono O'odham Indian Reservation, a notorious smuggling route. Investigators seized 108 semi-automatic rifles and other weapons during the probe, which Babeu said was completed without an exchange of gunfire.

"We in Arizona continue to stand and fight against the Mexican drug cartels, who think they own this place," he said. "...While this is a historic drug bust, sadly, this represents only a fraction of what my deputies face every day."

Another Border Patrol Agent convicted...for detaining Mexican drug smuggler

By Diana Washington Valdez \ El Paso Times
El Paso native Jesus "Chito" E. Diaz Jr. lost his career with the U.S. Border Patrol and ended up with a felony conviction after an encounter three years ago with a Mexican teenage drug smuggler on the South Texas border.

On Oct. 20, U.S. District Judge Alia Moses Ludham sentenced Diaz to 24 months in prison for depriving a 15-year-old Mexican citizen of his constitutional rights under color of law. Diaz was accused of pulling off the handcuffs on the boy, an admitted drug smuggler, slamming him to the ground, and pressing the youth's back with his knee. Diaz pleaded not guilty in his trial in February to one count of excessive force and five counts of lying to internal affairs officers.

The National Border Patrol Council, which represents more than 17,000 Border Patrol agents, and the Law Enforcement Officers Advocates Council, an advocacy group, contend that Diaz was unfairly targeted for prosecution and that his case's outcome sets a bad precedent for other agents who serve on the front lines.

"This case continues the tradition of bias against Border Patrol agents in the Western District of Texas," the National Border Patrol said in a statement Thursday. "Diaz's actions did not rise to the level of a crime ... While the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Western District of Texas has a job to do, one that includes prosecuting the criminals who commit crimes, it has shown a distinctly quick trigger in going after Border Patrol agents."

Diaz, 33, who is in custody, could not be reached for comment. His wife, Diana Diaz, a Border Patrol supervisor in Del Rio, Texas, said her husband should not be in prison. "I am speaking only as his wife when I say that 'Chito' does not belong in jail," she said. Diaz Jr. attended El Paso Community College and also has a brother who serves in the Border Patrol and other relatives in El Paso. He and his wife have six children.

The Department of Homeland Security's Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Office of Professional Responsibility cleared Diaz of any wrongdoing in the 2008 incident. However, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Attorney's Office proceeded against Diaz.

Andy Ramirez, president of the LEOAC, said he believes the U.S. government went forward with the charges against Diaz to appease the Mexican government. The Mexican consulate in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico, where the juvenile lived, submitted a complaint alleging that Diaz had mistreated the boy while in the agent's custody.

Rarmirez said GOP presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann, a congresswoman from Minnesota, and U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., have offered to help Diaz. Gov. Rick Perry, also a presidential nominee hopeful for the Republican Party, declined to get involved.

In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Hunter complained about the Diaz prosecution, and compared it to the 2006 case against former El Paso Border Patrol Agents Ignacio Ramos and José Alonso Compeán.

"It was the same office, under U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton, that unapologetically led the prosecution against Agents Ramos and Compeán, going as far as providing the smuggler with full immunity and border-crossing documentation," Hunter's letter said. "In the case of Agent Diaz, the smuggler was also given immunity for reasons that are not at all clear.

Ramos and Compeán were sentenced to more than 10 years in prison each in connection with the shooting of a drug smuggler who was fleeing back to Mexico. After a national campaign of support for the two agents, then-President George W. Bush commuted their sentences and they were released.

Diaz Jr. was starting his shift when Border Patrol agents were sent to check on a report of possible drug smuggling near the Rio Grande just outside of Eagle Pass, which is across the border from Piedras Negras.

Diaz and the other agents arrived at a pecan orchard known as the Rosetta Farm at about 2 a.m. on Oct. 16, 2008. Witnesses at Diaz's trial said the suspects were hiding among the high grass and a fallen tree in the area. Border Patrol agents and a canine unit eventually encountered the 15-year-old and an adult suspect.

According to court documents, the suspects crossed the Rio Grande illegally on a boat, and were supposed to transport backpacks filled with marijuana to the U.S. side of the border.

They did not have the backpacks on them when they were apprehended, but showed strap marks on their shoulders. Authorities identified the adult suspect as a Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, gang member with a rap sheet. Neither the adult nor the juvenile was charged with drug smuggling.

According to U.S. drug investigators, some MS-13 members are affiliated with the Sinaloa cartel, which is active in the Piedras Negras-Eagle Pass smuggling corridor. The cartel is led by Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman.

At one point during the 2008 incident, Diaz took custody of the teenager, who had been handcuffed by another Border Patrol agent, and asked the boy "donde esta la mota?" ("Where is the pot?").

The boy testified that he was handcuffed from behind and Diaz lifted his arms with the cuffs, causing him pain, slammed him on the ground and pressed his knee against the boy's back. The encounter between Diaz and the boy lasted about 10 minutes, according to testimony.

Agents found the backpacks with marijuana near where they apprehended the suspects. The Border Patrol turned over the marijuana to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The boy was transported by vehicle to the Border Patrol station for processing, and did not mention the mistreatment until after he met the next day with Mexican consulate officials.

The teenager agreed to testify against Diaz, and received immunity against any charges related to the drugs, illegal entry or of initially lying to federal officials about the marijuana. He also received a U.S. visa.

The LEOAC's Ramirez said two of the Border Patrol trainee agents who testified against Diaz were fired later, one for sleeping on the job and the other for refusing to submit to a drug urinalysis test.

Ramirez also contends that Diaz received unfair treatment, especially compared with the U.S. Attorney's case against Alex Moses Jr. of Eagle Pass. Moses was a U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspector who received five years' probation after being convicted of smuggling 6 ounces of cocaine from Mexico in 2008.

Ramirez said Moses is a cousin of Federal Judge Alia Moses Ludham, who presided over the Diaz trial. She was the chief federal prosecutor for the U.S. Western District of Texas in Del Rio before Bush nominated her to the judgeship.

"The common denominator was Johnny Sutton, the U.S. Attorney of the Western District of Texas who ordered the prosecution of Ramos and Compeán, and who began the investigation against Diaz before he retired," Ramirez said.

Earlier this year, in another case pending in the Western District of Texas, a U.S. district judge dismissed a lawsuit against the U.S. government in connection with the fatal shooting of a 15-year-old boy on the Rio Grande near the Paso del Norte Bridge.

The Border Patrol agent involved in the shooting, Jesus Mesa Jr., has not been charged with anything. His lawyer, Randolph Ortega, has said that Mesa was defending himself against rock throwing.

Relatives and friends of Diaz are circulating a petition for the former agent to receive a presidential pardon. The National Border Patrol Council indicated that it probably will assist with an appeal of Diaz's conviction.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Cabo San Lucas heats up

A confusing situation continues to unfold in Cabo San Lucas after the Plaza Sendero retail mall in this resort city was the scene of a confrontation between gunmen and authorities during the afternoon hours of Saturday.

This Saturday evening the Milenio news agency reported that 12 gunmen armed with assault weapons had barricaded themselves in the Soriana big box store located in the mall.

The gunmen were being pursued by municipal police at the time and had entered the mall to avoid capture.

According to Milenio there were approximately 600 shoppers inside the store at the time and that up to 200 remained hostage after 6 of the gunmen had been captured.

In a later report Sedena, Mexico's Defense Ministry, denied that any hostages were being held and that no injuries or deaths had occurred at the Plaza Sendero.

Sedena reported that at 3:00pm a detachment of troops had surrounded the mall and that a search was underway for the gunmen, with an undetermined number found and arrested.

The State Attorney General's office reported no hostages taken and 3 gunmen arrested.

The incident at Plaza Sendero in this usually quiet tourist resort city followed a gunbattle in the colonia Brisas del Pacifico that stretched from 11:00pm Friday to early Saturday morning.

Automatic gunfire and grenade blasts shook the city when state police and the military raided a home in the search for the killers of police commander Martín Márquez Ruíz, who was murdered earlier in the week.

One Marine and a gunman were killed, 3 state ministerial police were wounded and 2 gunmen were captured during the raid in Brisas del Pacifico.

It was not known if the clashes in Brisas del Pacifico and the Plaza Sendero mall were related.


Attorney General in Mexico: 200 Murders Result of Operation Fast and Furious

By Texcoco
From the Forum
In a conference call this morning with Chairman of the House Oversight Committee Darrell Issa, reporters were told the Attorney General in Mexico has confirmed at least 200 murders south of the border happened as a result of Operation Fast and Furious.

“I would be remiss if I didn’t mention, as the Attorney General in Mexico is so concerned, she’s made the point that at least 200 Mexicans have been killed with these weapons and probably countless more,” Issa said.

Eleven crimes in the United States have been linked to Operation Fast and Furious up to this point. Issa said he expects as the investigation in the operation continues, more crimes connected to Fast and Furious will come to light and be exposed. This is not surprising, considering out of 2500 weapons the Obama Justice Department allowed to “walk,” and that only 600 have been recovered, the rest are lost until they show up at violent crime scenes. The damage from Operation Fast and Furious has only started to be seen. Remember, the Mexican Government and ATF agents working in Mexico were left completely in the dark about the operation.

July 26, 2011
A new report released by Issa’s office shows ATF agents working in Mexico were left in the dark about the details of Operation Fast and Furious. The report shows that in late 2009, ATF officials in Mexico began to see increasing amounts of guns traced to the Phoenix ATF Field Division office showing up at violent crime scenes.

Former ATF Attaché to Mexico Darren Gil and ATF Acting Attaché to Mexico Carlos Canino expressed their concerns to officials in the Phoenix Field Office and in Washington D.C. but were ignored. The report shows ATF and DOJ “failed to share crucial details of the of Operation Fast and Furious with either their own employees stationed in Mexico or representatives of the Government of Mexico.” Specifically, personnel in Arizona denied ATF agents working in Mexico information directly related to their jobs and everyday operations.

Issa submitted a request to the White House for information surrounding the operation nearly two weeks ago and that request has not yet been filled. White House Officials have until the end of this week to submit documents requested before Issa takes the next step.

Documentation about what the White House knew about the operation was requested after Special ATF Agent in Charge William Newell admitted in Congressional testimony that he was in contact with White House national security advisers about the operation and after emails surfaced showing at least three White House officials were in contact with the Justice Department about the operation.

Since this scandal came to light in March 2011, the Obama Justice Department has continually stonewalled the investigation from the House Oversight Committee, and not much has changed. Issa said there is an ongoing cover-up of a pattern of ongoing mistakes and that the Justice Department continues to use petty prosecutions to limit information given to the Oversight Committee.

“People are picking their words very carefully," Issa said.

When asked what the consequences would be for DOJ or ATF officials involved in the operation, Issa said prosecutions may come at the end of this scandal to those who knowingly trafficked weapons across the border and could be held accountable for the death of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.

“This was dumb, it was useless and it was lethal,” Issa said.

Lazcano Told to Watch his Back from Z-40

They told Lazcano to watch his back from Miguel Angel Trevino Morales aka "The Z40."

By Texcoco
From the Forum

A Zetas boss member testified that "Z40" has given information to the police about people of his own organization in order for them to get arrested.

Miguel Ángel Treviño Morales

When Zeta boss Enrique Rejon Aguilar, “El Mamito” was arrested on July 5, he told the authorities that those who betray once, will betray twice.

He gave this response when he was asked why he did not helped Jose de Jesus Mendez Vargas, alias "El Chango" Mendez, the boss of La Familia, who sought an alliance with Los Zetas. This means that Los Zetas never had the intentions of Alligning with "El Chango" as he was not trusted, once the enemy, always the enemy.

But the words of “El Mamito” also seemed to be a message sent directly to his own organization.

Because just last August, the Zetas uploaded a video on YouTube in which they accuse Miguel Angel Trevino Morales, "The Z-40," of being a traitor.

But not only do they accuse the second in command of Los Zetas as a traitor who has delivered several powerful Zeta bosses, but they also accuse "Z-40" of attempting to move up further the hierarchy and the only one above him is Heriberto Lazcano, "El Lazca".

Therefore, bosses of Zeta cells think that Treviño Morales will eventually seek to kill or deliver "El Lazca" to authorities, making him the top capo.

They think of Miguel Angel Trevino Morales as a "Judas".

In the video, they ask its leader, "El Lazca" to ask himself why so many high-ranking Zetas have been apprehended by the federal Public Security Secretariat without firing a single shot.

On the Youtube video they allege that many, from "El Hummer" to "El Mamito" have been delivered to authorities by Treviño Morales, "El Z-40."

They also say that Z-40 turned over those Zeta bosses because they were in his way to continue moving up the power in the organization.

The Zetas have said that he has order everyone to have a cell phone for private communication, but in reality is a form of locating them trough satellite.

Even in the video it indicates that it was Treviño Morales, the second in command of Los Zetas, who received the nod to approach Jose de Jesus Mendez Vargas, alias "El Chango Méndez", leader of the Familia Michoacana.

But once the Michoacan drug trafficker traveled from the town of Cosio, in Aguascalientes, "Z-40" betrayed him by giving out his location to the Federal Public Security Secretariat.

In fact, they said Treviño Morales is a faithful friend of "Los Smurfs" a name givent to the federal police.

People have rumored that since 2010 "El Z-40" has been a traitor responsible for the death of Efraín Teodoro Torres, "El Z-14", a powerful hit man and the last of the 14 former soldiers and founders of Los Zetas.

This is the corrido supposedly made by members of the Zetas organized crime:

Hacking Grp Anon IRC-Gives 1st Zeta Name

Hacking Grp Anon IRC-Gives 1st Zeta Name + Promises Names of Zeta supporters & announces OP CARTEL

Posted by Buela Chivis
From the Forums
(note: article of zeta first name at bottom; today Gustavo's website was hacked and a photo inserted from ANONYMOUS MEXICO)

Unless you have been in a coma, if you follow narco news you must have heard the story of AnonymousIRC group and the Los Zetas.

If not see Buggs post here:

I follow the group and their offshoots such a; YourAnonNews, AnonKitsu etc. but I was really taken by surprise as the posts are for the most part OWS activity on Wallstreet and other “occupations” by this group of protestors. I scrolled thru the twitter thread and saw not one mention of anything narco let alone Zetas. Their work includes hacking into pedophile sites and exposing names (yay) war against the 1% and the like.
BUT…OWS vs Zetas? I could not entertain that notion, but kept on seeking info. And about an hour ago hit paydirt. AnonKitsu posted this:

These were from within the hour:

@Sm0k34n0nStarting today #OpCartel begins. Heads up #Zetas! Love, @Sm0k34n0n @anonkitsu @AnonSyndiv cc @AnonymousIRC @YourAnonNews @MotormouthNews

@AnonKitsuCountless people live in fear everyday because they fear #Zetas. There was no kidnapped #anonymous member but this one still has targets set

@Sm0k34n0nLos #Zetas are the most dangerous drug cartel in Mexico. We dont take kindly to this is my crew #OpCartel

You can see they intend to hack into Zetas data for exposure, but that means they must have a mole or two and they do have members throughout Latin America, or the world as far as that goes. I am not sure how this will be possible, but they have made good on their promises so just maybe…..sometimes truth is much more bizarre than fiction. Also in the above tweet you see they discount the kidnapping but embrace the attack on the last letter.

BTW this is their decription on the page profile:

We are Anonymous. We are Legion.We do not forgive. We do not forget. We love you. Expect us. Bitcoins to: 18NHixaoQekQJ3y52aBGJJwgBWX9X3myYR http://the.internet

Now to what is described as their first featured Zeta: Paz, Buela

Anonymous gives first name hacking Gustavo Rosario Torres’ site ex-attorney general in Tabasco State

This is the site of Gustavo Rosario, ex-Attorney General for the State of Tabasco.
Gustavo Rosario published the site to “clean his name”.

Previous posts related to this:

As reported previously, the hacker group Anonymous, launched a second warning against drug cartels that restrict freedom of expression, specifically against “The Zetas”. Today the site of former attorney general of Tabasco, Gustavo Rosario Torres: was hacked.

Anonymous Mexico placed a sign that reads: “Gustavo Rosario is Zeta.”

The former attorney of Tabasco, from August 2008, has been mentioned in Los Angeles Times, Report Indigo, El Universal, Radio Formula, for alleged involvement and protection to members of organized crime. The Mexican Department of Justice has not since released any resolution on the matter, while the former official, now serve as “assessor” for the actual gobernor of Tabasco State

Neglected War
Houston Chron

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Mexican Drug Gangs Take War to the Streets

Residents in the towns of Huejucar, Florencia and Bolanas are getting caught up in the crossfire.

By: Aljazeera

Rival Mexican drug cartel groups are taking their turf wars to the streets of northern Mexico.

Residents in the towns of Huejucar, Florencia and Bolanas are getting caught up in the crossfire during street battles between the Zetas and Sinolas gangs.

Adam Raney reports from Jalisco.

Nephew of Gulf Cartel Boss Arrested in Texas, Facing Drug and Immigration Charges

From the Archives,

By Associated Press
A man arrested on federal drug and immigration charges in South Texas is believed to be the nephew of the former boss of Mexico’s Gulf cartel and was a rising player in the drug trafficking network, a U.S. law enforcement official said Wednesday.

Rafael Cardenas Vela was arrested last week following a traffic stop in Port Isabel, a Gulf coast town that sits across the causeway from South Padre Island. He is charged with conspiracy to possess and distribute drugs and using a fraudulent passport, according to federal court records.

The law enforcement official familiar with the case told The Associated Press on Wednesday that authorities believe Cardenas Vela is the nephew of Osiel Cardenas Guillen and was a rising player in the cartel’s operations. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the person wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the case.

Cardenas Guillen was extradited to the U.S. in 2006 from Mexico and sentenced to 25 years in prison last year.

Angela Dodge, a spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Houston, said in an email that “we understand there is a familial relationship,” but declined to comment beyond that.

A message seeking comment was left for Cardenas Vela’s attorney.

The Gulf cartel is based in Matamoros, Mexico, across the border from Brownsville, Texas. Its territory is not what it once was, but it holds on to major drug smuggling corridors between Reynosa and Matamoros. Under Cardenas Guillen’s leadership, the Gulf cartel spawned the Zetas, which started as the cartel’s paramilitary muscle and evolved into a ruthless rival in their own right.

Port Isabel police said in a statement about Cardenas Vela’s arrest that officers pulled over a silver Ford F-150 pickup with temporary Texas tags for speeding just after 6:30 p.m. Oct. 20. The truck was eastbound and just a short distance from the causeway that crosses to South Padre Island.

The driver was German Alejandro Huizar Marroquin, 31, of Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas, who presented a Mexican driver’s license. The front-seat passenger was Cardenas Vela, though he presented a Mexican passport for 37-year-old Pedro Gonzalez Garcia, of Tomatlan, Jalisco.

Francisco Javier Escalante Jimenez of Matamoros and another man from Brownsville were in the backseat.

The officer found discrepancies in the identification for three of the four and called U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement for assistance. The men were taken to the Port Isabel police station and turned over to ICE custody.

ICE confirmed Cardenas Vela’s arrest and said the investigation was ongoing but offered no other details Wednesday.

According to court records unsealed this week, special agents from Homeland Security Investigations, a branch of ICE, interviewed Cardenas Vela after the traffic stop.

Cardenas Vela presented a valid Mexican passport and U.S. visa under the name Pedro Garcia Gonzalez, but the agents determined that was not his true identity. He then admitted he has been involved in the transportation and importation of marijuana and cocaine into the U.S. for several years, records state. He told agents that two years ago he sold about five tons of marijuana to people he knew would import it into the U.S.

Huizar Marroquin and Escalante Jimenez were charged with making false statements about Cardenas Vela’s true identity and remain in federal custody. Messages seeking comment were left for their attorneys Wednesday.

In a Friday, Feb. 9, 2007 file photo, accused Mexican drug kingpin Osiel Cardenas-Guillen, 39, leaves the federal courthouse in Houston after pleading not guilty to charges connected to running a cartel that at its height smuggled four to six tons of cocaine per month into the country. A U.S. law enforcement official said Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2011 that Rafael Cardenas Vela, who was arrested recently on federal drug and immigration charges in Texas, is believed to be the nephew of Osiel Cardenas-Guillen, the former boss of Mexico’s Gulf Cartel, and was a rising player in the drug trafficking network.

Online Hackers Threaten to Expose Cartel's Secrets

Group called Anonymous demands release of one of their own who was kidnapped

By Dane Schiller
Houston Chronicle
An international group of online hackers is warning a Mexican drug cartel to release one of its members, kidnapped from a street protest, or it will publish the identities and addresses of the syndicate's associates, from corrupt police to taxi drivers, as well as reveal the syndicates' businesses.

The vow is a bizarre cyber twist to Mexico's ongoing drug war, as a group that has no guns is squaring off against the Zetas, a cartel blamed for thousands of deaths as well as introducing beheadings and other frightening brutality.

"You made a huge mistake by taking one of us. Release him," says a masked man in a video posted online on behalf of the group, Anonymous.

"We cannot defend ourselves with a weapon … but we can do this with their cars, homes, bars, brothels and everything else in their possession," says the man, who is wearing a suit and tie.

"It won't be difficult; we all know who they are and where they are located," says the man, who underlines the group's international ties by speaking Spanish with the accent of a Spaniard while using Mexican slang.

He also implies that the group will expose mainstream journalists who are somehow in cahoots with the Zetas by writing negative articles about the military, the country's biggest fist in the drug war.

"We demand his release," says the Anonymous spokesman, who is wearing a mask like the one worn by the shadowy revolutionary character in the movie V for Vendetta, which came out in 2006. "If anything happens to him, you sons of (expletive) will always remember this upcoming November 5."

The person reportedly kidnapped is not named, and the video does not share information about the kidnapping other than that it occurred in the Mexican state of Veracruz during a street protest.

Anonymous draws its roots from an online forum dedicated to bringing sensitive government documents and other material to light.

If Anonymous can make good on its threats to publish names, it will "most certainly" lead to more deaths and could leave bloggers and others open to reprisal attacks by the cartel, contends Stratfor, an Austin-based global intelligence company.

"In this viral world on the Internet, it shows how much damage could be done with just one statement on the Web," said Fred Burton of Stratfor, which published a report Friday that probes the implications of the cartel drawing the activists' ire.

Mike Vigil, the retired head of international operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration, said the Zetas must take Anonymous seriously.

"It is a gutsy move," Vigil said. "By publishing the names, they identify them to rivals, and trust me, they will go after them."

Smugglers in Texas Using "Cloned" Vehicles to Move Drugs

By: AztecWarrior13
From the Forums

Texas law enforcement agencies report drug smugglers have resorted to "cloning" company and government vehicles to try to avoid detection and protect their illegal cargo.

"It's making our job a lot harder," said Michael O'Connor, Victoria County sheriff. "We're up against a matrix of deceptive transportation."

O'Connor said his officers have undergone additional training on how to spot the nearly perfect look-alikes.
Photographs provided by the Texas Department of Public Safety show 18-wheelers with duplicate logos of major companies, crammed with bales of marijuana.

Others closely resemble government vehicles, even a school bus that had marijuana bales set up inside so they looked like passenger seats.

Another shows a truck with a Texas Department of Transportation logo spotted in Gonzales County, except it was stuffed with marijuana.

"At one time, you could say there was a certain type of vehicle used. Now, it's everything, everything imaginable," O'Connor said.

He said some have "window-dressing" such as oilfield equipment or soldiers in uniform and a patient in the back of an ambulance, but they were all imposters.

Friday, October 28, 2011

CHAPO: Lord of the Mountains, Grows Stronger in Mexico’s Sierra Madre

Buela Chivis
From the Forums
He was the barefoot son of a peasant who became one of the richest moguls in the world, a billionaire entrepreneur with a third-grade education. He controls a vast drug distribution empire that spans six continents, but he still carries his own AK-47. He is generous and feared, a mass murderer and a folk hero. He is a ghost who has become a legend.

In the fifth year of a terrible war in Mexico that has exhausted the military, consumed the presidency of Felipe Calderon and left more than 43,000 dead in drug violence, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the founder of the Sinaloa cartel, reigns supreme.

His pursuers compare him to Al Capone, Butch Cassidy or Osama bin Laden. But none of these gets it quite right. Guzman is the single largest supplier of illegal drugs to the United States, and though he is in hiding, he is not on the run.

Ten years after he escaped from prison in a laundry basket on the eve of his extradition to the United States, Chapo is more powerful than ever: His networks are deeper, his territory is expanding, and his supplies of cocaine, marijuana, heroin and methamphetamine are essentially undiminished, according to U.S. and Mexican agents and officials, who were grinding their teeth at the news that Guzman’s 22-year-old beauty queen wife was able to travel in August to a Los Angeles County hospital, where she gave birth to healthy twins.

Calderon, reportedly desperate to nail his nemesis and prove himself a winning commander in chief in an increasingly unpopular war that might cost his party the presidency, has raised the stakes to demand that Chapo be taken down before he leaves office next year.

As a sign of the intensified effort, Mexico now operates at least three full-time capture-kill units solely dedicated to ending the reign of Guzman, said officials with direct knowledge of the groups. These special operations teams — one each in the Mexican army, navy and federal police — have been vetted to work alongside agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, who have supplied detailed intelligence about Guzman’s possible locations.

Calderon and his top law enforcement officials say they have come close to getting Guzman — within an hour or two — several times in the past two years.

Despite such assertions, Calderon has been dogged by perceptions among many Mexicans that his administration, especially his military, has gone easy on Guzman’s cartel, or even that it’s helping him, while it goes after his biggest rival, Los Zetas, a rising criminal power in the country.

“He’s protected by the government,” said Javier Valdez, a top editor of the Sinaloa-based journal Rio Doce, adding that he doesn’t think any urgent effort is underway to find Chapo.

Elusive mountain ‘lord’

Guzman, one of the most wanted criminals in North America, has proven impossible to catch — even as U.S. drones penetrate Mexican airspace, and Mexican security forces, supplied with sophisticated U.S. eavesdropping equipment, scan the ether for the sound of his encrypted voice. His pursuers suspect he is most likely in a mountain stronghold here in the Sierra Madre range of northwest Mexico, a hardscrabble backwater of Mexican hillbillies that gives new meaning to the words “poor” and “remote.”

The Messenger

One wonders even now whether showing her picture could cause more harm, put more people in danger, spread the poison.

Her offense? She was an online chat room moderator in Mexico, using the Internet to crusade against her city's organized crime. On September 24, she became the first confirmed social media correspondent to be executed by criminal interests, as they sought to keep new media silent.

When she was found dead--with horrific embellishments--it was noted that she was from Mexico's area of “silent war,” at the border city of Nuevo Laredo. Though Nuevo Laredo is the busiest commercial port on the border, astride the Pan-American Highway, it suffers a special isolation. Its local news reporting has been so severely suppressed by criminal intimidation, for so long, that the outside world sees little of the city's gang conflicts. In the news, the half million people trapped at Nuevo Laredo can seem eerily quiet. Or simply absent.

The silence showed even as word went around the world about the social media killing--because half the world got her name wrong. Was she really Maria Elizabeth Macias Castro–or was she Marisol Macias Castaneda? In many global media she was one, but in many more she was the other, with no final word on which was right. Then the story vanished, for no further information was coming from the scene. Her personal details lay concealed in a half-million-strong citadel where even giving out a name could tumble you into the pit.

Online, she was known by a pseudonym, NenaDLaredo (GirlFromLaredo), keeping her identity veiled as she tackled issues the old-style media were avoiding. Notably, she denounced the Zetas, Nuevo Laredo’s dominant underworld cartel. Like a masked avatar, she urged fellow citizens to contact government tip lines with information about Zeta movements--though the dragons were closing in.

On September 14, ten days before she met her fate, Nuevo Laredo had produced two other corpses, of a young man and a young woman, who were pie-sliced and suspended from a pedestrian bridge, with a hand-lettered poster mounted beside the ropes. This gave first notice, saying that "Internet relajes (jerks, clowns)" should not disturb organized crime..


However, the two victims left as examples with the poster could not be verified as social media activists, for a dismal reason: They were never publicly identified at all. In Nuevo Laredo’s atmosphere of mystery, the two remained ghastly ciphers, their names and backgrounds unrevealed. Conceivably, their double murder could have been one more garden-variety underworld hit, dressed up post-mortem with a poster so the killers could use them as stage props for threats against the Web. In this vein, the male victim’s fingers were missing, as if fingerprints might reveal an identity unsuited to an anti-Internet message.

At every turn, the details of this story wreck the telling, overpowering with their horror--as the most primal savagery reacts against the quantum leap of electronic horizons.

Nuevo Laredo had come early to cartel violence, baptized in the Nuevo Laredo War of 2003 to 2007, well before Mexico's official "drug war" kicked off in late 2006. The city's traditional media were long accustomed to staying discreetly dark on cartel crimes, as they faced cartel threats: “get aligned” with what the gang wants, take the envelope from the spying paymaster right in the newsroom, parrot back the caricatured gang “press releases”–or suffer the beatings, and then worse. The information vacuum was partially filled by improvisers in social media--tweeting alerts on firefights, using chat-room bulletins to finger gang lookouts, venting the general frustration.

When the September 24 killing arrived, the killers left no doubt about the victim's identity. There was a new poster now, propped beside the obsessively assaulted remains. Sneeringly, it used her chat-room code name--though the atmosphere of mystery still won some points. Her Web work was a sideline, and on the matter of her day job the obituary again blurred. Was she really a newspaper editor (as many of the worldwide conduits announced), or was she a less dramatic ad vendor at a local newspaper, as in others?

Either way, the killers didn’t seem much interested in her old-media activities. The crude poster, this time propped against a cement flower planter next to a Columbus statue on a public square, cited not only her Internet handle but the name of the Web site where she had kept up the heat on the Zetas. For good measure, the poster addressed its warning to “Redes Sociales”—“Social Networks.”

The signature “ZZZZ” was a common Zetas tag, though naturally it could have been faked by some rival gang (some of the wording reminded vaguely of an old effort by the Sinaloa Cartel). Yet the Zetas never denied the killing, or sent indignant counter-messages claiming the message wasn't really theirs, as sometimes done elsewhere. The rules of murder-messaging left the boast to stand: We did do this. We are saying it: We own the Web.

So now it was confirmed. The killers were reaching through the glowing screen, to crush the messenger.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Islamic Plot to Bomb U.S. Embassy Reported in Mexico

From the Archives
More on the bomb plot that has been covered by Borderland Beat;
Is U.S. a target from Islamic Extremists via Mexico?

Reporter: Tom Ramstack
Source: (AHN)
An Islamic terrorist tried to detonate explosives to destroy the American embassy in Mexico City last year, according to Mexican media reports this week.

The reports drew denials from Mexico’s secretary of the navy.

Nevertheless, at least two Mexican media organizations published allegedly leaked government documents giving details of how the navy thwarted the attack.

The American media outlet CNN is quoting an unnamed State Department source saying Mexican police arrested a Somali citizen suspected of planning a terrorist attack in June 2010.

He was investigated for hiding explosives but was released because evidence against him was inconclusive.

The Mexican news media reports gave much more detail.

They said an internal Mexican navy document dated June 10, 2010, gave a list of incriminating items found in a hotel in Mexico City’s Roma neighborhood.

The items included a cardboard cylindrical container that held 22.7 kilograms of high explosives. It was sealed in paraffin wax along with two kinds of copper wrapped in plastic.

Navy agents also found four multi-channel radios, a frequency analyzer, a liter of nitric acid, six liters of pure glycerin, a plastic bag containing detonating cords and a kilogram of aluminum. Nearby was a copy of the Koran and a Muslim prayer rug.

The report quoted by the news media said police seized identification papers from a Somali man called Ahmed who was using the name Arturo Hernandez Hernandez.

Papers he carried bore the logo of the Islamic extremist group Al Shabaab, the news reports said. He entered Mexico from Guatemala.

The tip that alerted police to Ahmed’s presence originated with the Israeli embassy in Mexico City, according to the document quoted by the media.

“U.S. authorities informed us that intelligence officers assigned to the Embassy of Israel in Mexico are the ones who have followed the trail of the alleged terrorist of Somali nationality, named Ahmed, who allegedly belongs to an international armed Islamic extremist organization and of whom we attached a photograph and fake identification,” the document says.

“There is also information about the explosives that would be used to attack the Embassy of the United States of America in Mexico, among other targets, such as consulates,” the document says.

Ahmed’s presence at the Puebla Hotel in Mexico City beginning on June 7, 2010, was verified by surveillance cameras, the document says.

The document was marked “confidential” and carried the stamp of the Mexican government and the navy, the media reports said.

However, the Mexican secretary of the navy said the documents were “fake.”

He released a statement saying the navy “categorically rejects the authorship of the alleged report in possession of some media outlets.”

The statement also said, “The print seals and watermarks that appear on the document, as well as its format, do not correspond to the ones utilized by this federal government agency.”

U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives officials in Washington said they were unaware of any plot to blow up the American embassy in Mexico City.

If the media reports are true, they appear to verify recent statements at congressional hearings by Homeland Security Department officials who said Islamic terrorists might be using Mexico as a back door for attacks against the United States.

The media report comes only days after the Obama administration announced the arrest of an American Muslim accused of trying to kill the Saudi ambassador to the United States.

The Justice Department says he was captured after trying to hire members of a Mexican drug cartel to kill the ambassador with a bomb at a Washington restaurant.

President Barack Obama blamed the Iranian government for sponsoring the planned bombing. He said the plot continued a pattern of “dangerous and reckless behavior” by the Iranians.

The Iranian government denies any involvement.

The lack of security and other little problems

Pa Que Sepas/Carlos
De (falta de) seguridad y otros problemitas

These past weeks I've been thinking how in Mexico, the problem of insecurity has grown from a  problem in some localities to become a national problem with serious negative consequences for the economy and society.

How did the country became a paradise for drug trafficking? What failed? Where did we go wrong?  

Certainly the fact that our neighbor to the north is the main consumer of drugs in the world is excellent motivation for drug trafficking. Not only is the U.S. the greatest drug user, but it also fails to help us with the arms trade and its border is as corrupt as any Mexican political party.

Yes, the gringos in charge of policing the border are equally, if not more, corrupt than our politicians, but of course, they are much more expensive.

However, I do not think the fault lies with the Americans.  

Let your imagination soar (try real hard) and assume that the institutions in Mexico have very little corruption and impunity is almost nonexistent. 

In this utopian scenario the problem of drug trafficking would never have grown to today's level. Yes, there would be a drug problem, but it would never have become the problem it is now.  

Why? Because the authorities would not have allowed drug traffickers to infiltrate the country's institutions,  and would have attacked the problem before it began capturing drug lords that would not be as powerful as they could not grow their influences quite simply because the authorities would not cooperate.

So the ingredients of corruption and impunity are essential for this "cauldron of drug trafficking" and as we all know, it was not yesterday that Mexican politicians suddenly became corrupt. That began several decades ago. 

Unfortunately we could say that this is the nature of Mexican politicians (certainly not all, but at the very least most of the important ones are corrupt). Therefore we could say we're talking about a cultural problem and such problems are not solved with a change in Presidents. 

For people who are hoping that the next president will end the problems of insecurity, its best you come down from the clouds. This is not a problem that is solved with a change of "sexenio". (sexenios are the 6 year term of office that Mexican Presidents and Governors serve, with no re-election.)

We can say that "since Calderon took office the problem of insecurity has become more serious," Yes and no. Drug trafficking has always existed, only now it manifests itself in a violent way. Why? Because Calderón decided to fight it, and he was right. 

The real failure is not in addressing the problem but HOW it is being addressed. It is not being addressed intelligently and strategically. No, it is only being attacked with more violence.  

Why doesn't the government act against those companies that lend themselves to money laundering, for example? This will be attacking one of the main financial sources of the "narcos" (drug traffickers). How is it possible that in many cities of the country it is an open secret who the narcos are, or who launders money, and the police fail to act?

If after the start of the next sexenio the violence disappears from one day to the next it is not because the new president has been able to do what Calderón failed to accomplish in 6 years.

No. It will happen because the new president will have made a pact with the drug cartels in which the government does not "bother" them, and they "will not disturb the government or the people." And the consequences of this pact will bring the situation back to what it was in the administrations before Calderon's; ie, the drug cartels will continue to grow and continue to increase their power, but we will not see much blood on the news.  

This will eventually turn Mexico into a true "narco state." In reality, many northern cities are now literally narco states. They decide who will govern, and how. The police work for them. People either work for them or leave the city or are killed.   

What to do? In my very humble opinion I think it would be a huge mistake if the next president stops fighting the drug cartels, and it would also be a huge mistake to continue fighting them using the same methods. 

So I think you have to change strategy. As I mentioned and as many journalists have commented, this problem has to be attacked intelligently. Dismantling the drug cartels financial systems must be a priority because it is the money, and not the weapons, that gives them such power. Without money they can not buy influence, they can not buy weapons or recruit henchmen. 

The current war in which the strategy against drug cartels is to attack with violence only is a war that will never end.

If we fight the drug cartels with intelligence we will win, but this will not happen in a single sexenio.

We must also fight the other big problem that led us to this: corruption and impunity. This is the problem that can sink the country in the long-term

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Mexican Marines Arrest Zeta Leader "El Bam Bam" in Veracruz

By Rafael Carranza
Valley Central
The Zeta leader for the embattled port city of Veracruz, Mexico is in federal custody following his arrest on Tuesday.

The Mexican Navy received an anonymous tip regarding the whereabouts of Carlos Arturo Pitalua-Carillo, also known as “El Bam Bam.”

Soldiers arrested him with five other men, and seized several high powered rifles and ammunition.

The Mexican Navy is linking all six men to two separate attacks on military checkpoints near the city.

Pituala-Carrillo is believed to be the Zetas’ leader for the port of Veracruz.

The city that has reached notoriety in recent weeks for the large number of killings targeting Zetas cartel members, by a group known as “Los Mata Zetas” or the Zetas Killers.

Back in September, the bodies of 35 suspected Zetas members and allies were dumped in the middle of a busy intersection.

Several days later, Mexican authorities uncovered the remains of 32 other people at several homes throughout the city.

Again, the group calling themselves the “Mata Zetas” also claimed responsibility.

The State of Veracruz, some eight hours south of the Rio Grande Valley, is the latest and one of fiercest battlegrounds between rivaling cartels.

The fighting can be traced to the ruthless Zetas cartel and the powerful Sinaloa Drug Cartel, which battle for control of profitable trafficking routes, especially along Mexico’s gulf coast.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mexican Couple Arrested with Ice Chest Filled with Body Parts

Army raids bulletproofing auto shop

Adriana Gomez Licon
Associated Press

The Mexican army says it has found an auto shop used to bulletproof vehicles for drug gangs.

Ten people were arrested and soldiers confiscated 10 cars or SUVs that were being bulletproofed, as well a six other vehicles in a warehouse in the northern state of Sinaloa, the army said in a late-Monday statement.

Authorities did not say which cartel managed the shop raided on Sunday, but it was in the home state of Mexico's most-wanted drug lord Joaquin Guzman, who is known as "El Chapo."

In border states such as Tamaulipas, soldiers have raided similar bulletproofing shops and found freight trucks completely covered in steel.

In Acapulco, meanwhile, federal police said they caught a young woman and a young man as they were getting out of a car near a shopping mall with an ice chest that contained a decapitated head and other human remains. Police had followed them because the car matched the description in a kidnapping report.

Inside the vehicle, police said, they found another head inside another ice chest.

Police officers discovered the bound bodies of the victims in a car near Acapulco two hours after the arrest.

Federal police said 19-year-old Damaris Gomez leads a group if killers working for "the street sweeper" gang. The 21-year-old man riding with her is an alleged hit man, police said.

The local gang has been fighting the Independent Cartel of Acapulco for control of the coast city since the 2010 arrest of Edgar Valdez Villarreal, known as "La Barbie." He is accused of being a drug capo for the Beltran Leyva cartel

Mexican President Felipe Calderon has deployed federal police officers to the port city to curb drug violence.

In the northern border city of Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, Texas, police found the dismembered bodies of four men in bits scattered around the city.

Prosecutors spokesman Arturo Sandoval said police first found two heads and parts of two bodies at street corner in the southern part of the city, along with a handwritten message saying "To the New Juarez cartel, keep recruiting, we're waiting for you."

The New Juarez Cartel is a group that recently appeared, and which accuses authorities of favoring the Sinaloa cartel, which is fighting a bloody turf battle against local gangs for control of Ciudad Juarez.

The other victims' remains were found scattered elsewhere in the city later in the day.

Amid continuing reports about the operation of U.S. intelligence officers in Mexico, the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City issued a statement Tuesday saying that "in accordance with Mexican law, the U.S. government does not carry out law enforcement operations in Mexico. That is a job for Mexican authorities."

The U.S. statement noted that "we closely cooperate with Mexican authorities in that effort, in full respect for Mexico's sovereignty and Mexican law, for the mutual benefit of our two counties and our shared goals. The U.S. government does this by providing equipment and training, and by sharing information."

Mexico Deploys Battalion Across from the Rio Grande

More than 600 Mexican soldiers arrived in the area across the Rio Grande from Starr County on Monday in an effort to help secure the known drug corridor after several recent firefights.

Frontera Chica, or Little Border, is the common name given to the area including Camargo, Miguel Aleman and Ciudad Mier. Among the recent violence there was a daylong firefight Oct. 8 that resulted in the death of 11 Gulf Cartel gunmen and the arrest of 36, as well as the seizure of 4 tons of marijuana.

The troops are members of the 105th Battalion, which was formed Oct. 1 to permanently address the security situation in the area, according to the Mexican military.

The troops arrived Monday with weapons, vehicles, communication systems and other support systems to begin operations.

The battalion is tasked with patrolling the area, gathering information and intelligence, fighting members of organized crime, community outreach and taking actions to protect citizens during natural disasters.

The new battalion will focus on curbing the activities of organized crime and reducing crime overall in order to restore peace to the area, according to the news release by the Mexican military.

In separate news, Mexican authorities announced the rescue in Ciudad Victoria of 12 people who had been kidnapped by members of organized crime. State authorities continue to say that the Tamaulipas capital is relatively safe.

The kidnappings were allegedly carried out by Zetas, who still have a strong presence in Ciudad Victoria and have enforced a virtual gag order on local media and local authorities, said a Tamaulipas law enforcement official not authorized to speak to the media.

The first rescue took place the afternoon of Oct. 19 at a house in the Del Valle neighborhood, where Mexican marines rescued 10 victims and arrested three alleged kidnappers. They also seized an assault rifle, communication equipment and an automobile.

Three days later, Mexican marines rescued two kidnapping victims and arrested four kidnappers, according to the announcement.

Nephew of Mexican Cartel Kingpin Busted in Texas

By Dane Schiller,
Houston Chronicle
The up-and-coming nephew of imprisoned Gulf Cartel king Osiel Cardenas Guillen is in U.S. custody after being arrested in deep South Texas, where he had decked out a luxury home, concealed his identity and was hiding from both the law and his fellow Mexican underworld rivals.

Rafael Cardenas Vela was wearing pink shorts and loafers while being driven to South Padre Island by his bodyguards when their pickup was pulled over by police, who were working with federal agents and had been tipped to his whereabouts.

Cardenas, apparently 38 years old, admitted to traveling under another man's passport as well as an immigration permit to enter the United States, and that for years he has smuggled marijuana and cocaine, according to an affidavit made public Tuesday.

His arrest is seen as especially significant, as he is believed to not only have climbed the ranks of the family business but have been a possible protégé of his infamous uncle, convicted in Houston and locked away in the Supermax prison in Colorado.

"He was giving orders," a law-enforcement official speaking anonymously said of the younger Cardenas. "He was coming up, his name was coming up more and more."

Cardenas did not have a private lawyer listed in court records as of Tuesday afternoon, and the court-appointed attorneys for his reputed bodyguards, who also were arrested, declined comment.

No shots were fired as Cardenas and three bodyguards were pulled over by a Port Isabel police officer. Cardenas and his crew were riding in a new Ford F-150 pickup, and were not carrying weapons, drugs or large amounts of cash.

Nothing in his name
Cardenas apparently had avoided scrutiny in the Rio Grande Valley by not keeping anything in his name, including multiple vehicles, a condominium on South Padre Island, a house in Brownsville and a 3,100-square-foot house just west of Rio Hondo - all within about 30 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border.

The melon-colored home with an extravagant marble bar by a swimming pool is surrounded by walls and sits on several acres, with llamas, horses and other animals, according to authorities. Among the things being confiscated by authorities: wave runners, all-terrain vehicles, a sport-utility vehicle and a loaded Dodge Charger.

Time apparently had run out for Cardenas, also known as Pedro and Junior. Law enforcement sources told the Houston Chronicle he likely is being hunted by the rival Zetas Cartel, as well as resented by some of his own Gulf Cartel's operatives, who see him as giving orders from the safety of Texas as they took heat in Mexico.

U.S. Agencies Infiltrating Drug Cartels Across Mexico

Jesús Vicente Zambada-Niebla, center, known as Vicentillo, at the attorney general's office in Mexico City in 2009.


American law enforcement agencies have significantly built up networks of Mexican informants that have allowed them to secretly infiltrate some of that country’s most powerful and dangerous criminal organizations, according to security officials on both sides of the border.

As the United States has opened new law enforcement and intelligence outposts across Mexico in recent years, Washington’s networks of informants have grown there as well, current and former officials said. They have helped Mexican authorities capture or kill about two dozen high-ranking and midlevel drug traffickers, and sometimes have given American counternarcotics agents access to the top leaders of the cartels they are trying to dismantle.

Typically, the officials said, Mexico is kept in the dark about the United States’ contacts with its most secret informants — including Mexican law enforcement officers, elected officials and cartel operatives — partly because of concerns about corruption among the Mexican police, and partly because of laws prohibiting American security forces from operating on Mexican soil.

“The Mexicans sort of roll their eyes and say we know it’s happening, even though it’s not supposed to be happening,” said Eric L. Olson, an expert on Mexican security matters at the Woodrow Wilson Center.

“That’s what makes this so hard,” he said. “The United States is using tools in a country where officials are still uncomfortable with those tools.”

In recent years, Mexican attitudes about American involvement in matters of national security have softened, as waves of drug-related violence have left about 40,000 people dead. And the United States, hoping to shore up Mexico’s stability and prevent its violence from spilling across the border, has expanded its role in ways unthinkable five years ago, including flying drones in Mexican skies.

The efforts have been credited with breaking up several of Mexico’s largest cartels into smaller — and presumably less dangerous — crime groups. But the violence continues, as does the northward flow of illegal drugs.

While using informants remains a largely clandestine affair, several recent cases have shed light on the kinds of investigations they have helped crack, including a plot this month in which the United States accused an Iranian-American car salesman of trying to hire killers from a Mexican drug cartel, known as Los Zetas, to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington.

American officials said Drug Enforcement Administration informants with links to the cartels helped the authorities to track down several suspects linked to the February murder of a United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent, Jaime J. Zapata, who is alleged to have been shot to death by members of Los Zetas in central Mexico.

The D.E.A.’s dealings with informants and drug traffickers — sometimes, officials acknowledged, they are one and the same — are at the center of proceedings in a federal courthouse in Chicago, where one of the highest-ranking leaders of the Sinaloa cartel is scheduled to go on trial next year.

And last month, a federal judge in El Paso sentenced a midlevel leader of the Sinaloa cartel to life in prison after he was found guilty on drug and conspiracy charges. He was accused of working as a kind of double agent, providing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency with information about the movements of a rival cartel in order to divert attention from his own trafficking activities.

As important as informants have been, complicated ethical issues tend to arise when law enforcement officers make deals with criminals. Few informants, law enforcement officials say, decide to start providing information to the government out of altruism; typically, they are caught committing a crime and want to mitigate their legal troubles, or are essentially taking bribes to inform on their colleagues.

Morris Panner, a former assistant United States attorney who is a senior adviser at the Center for International Criminal Justice at Harvard Law School, said some of the recent cases involving informants highlight those issues and demonstrate that the threats posed by Mexican narcotics networks go far beyond the drug trade.

“Mexican organized crime groups have morphed from drug trafficking organizations into something new and far more dangerous,” Mr. Panner said. “The Zetas now are active in extortion, human trafficking, money laundering, and increasingly, anything a violent criminal organization can do to make money, whether in Mexico, Guatemala or, it appears, the U.S.”

Because of the clandestine nature of their communications with informants, and the potential for diplomatic flare-ups between the United States and Mexico, American officials were reluctant to provide any details about the scope of their confidential sources south of the border.

Over the past two years, officials said, D.E.A. agents in Houston managed to develop “several highly placed confidential sources with direct access” to important leaders of the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas. This paid informant network is a centerpiece of the Houston office’s efforts to infiltrate the “command and control” ranks of the two groups.

One of those paid informants was the man who authorities say was approached last spring by a man charged in Iran’s alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador. Law enforcement documents say the informant told his handlers that an Iranian-American, Mansour J. Arbabsiar, had reached out to him to ask whether Los Zetas would be willing to carry out terrorist attacks in the United States and elsewhere.

Authorities would provide only vague details about the informant and his connections to Los Zetas, saying that he had been charged in the United States with narcotics crimes and that those charges had been dropped because he had “previously provided reliable and independently corroborated information to federal law enforcement agents” that “led to numerous seizures of narcotics.”

The Justice Department has been more forthcoming about the D.E.A.’s work with informants in a case against Jesús Vicente Zambada-Niebla, known as Vicentillo. Officials describe Mr. Zambada-Niebla as a logistics coordinator for the Sinaloa cartel, considered one of the world’s most important drug trafficking groups. His lawyers have argued that he was an informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration, which offered him immunity in exchange for his cooperation.

The D.E.A. has denied that allegation, and the Justice Department took the rare step of disclosing the agency’s contacts with him in court documents. The intermediary was Humberto Loya-Castro, who was both a confidant to the cartel’s kingpin, Joaquín Guzmán, known as El Chapo, and an informant to the D.E.A.

The documents do not say when the relationship between the agency and Mr. Loya-Castro began, but they indicate that because of his cooperation, the D.E.A. dismissed a 13-year-old conspiracy charge against him in 2008.

In 2009, the documents said, Mr. Loya-Castro arranged a meeting between two D.E.A. agents and Mr. Zambada-Niebla, who was floating an offer to negotiate some kind of cooperation agreement. But on the day of the meeting, the agents’ supervisors canceled it, expressing “concern about American agents meeting with a high-level cartel member like Zambada-Niebla.”

Mr. Zambada-Niebla and Mr. Loya-Castro showed up at the agents’ hotel anyway. The D.E.A. agents sent Mr. Zambada-Niebla away without making any promises, the documents said. A few hours later, Mr. Zambada-Niebla was captured by the Mexican police, and was extradited to the United States in February 2010.

Vanda Felbab-Brown, an expert on organized crime at the Brookings Institution, said that while some had criticized the D.E.A. for entertaining “deals with the devil,” she saw the Zambada case as an important intelligence coup. Even in an age of high-tech surveillance, she said, there is no substitute for human sources’ feeding authorities everything from what targeted traffickers like to eat to where they sleep most nights.

A former senior counternarcotics official echoed that thought.

“A D.E.A. agent’s job, first and foremost, is to get inside the body of those criminal organizations he or she is investigating,” the former official said, asking not to be identified because he occasionally does consulting work in Mexico. “Nothing provides that microscopic view more than a host that opens the door."

Charlie Savage contributed reporting

Marines vs Zetas on video

"Estamos en un enfrentamiento con gente de Los Zetas" - "We are engaged against Zetas" is what the Marine recording the confusion and noise of combat says early into the first of three videos that records a firefight against Zeta gunmen.

According to the Milenio Semanal weekly newsmagazine published Sunday, October 16, the squad of Marines engaged in battle in the dusk against a Zeta group belongs to Mexico's 7th Marine Infantry Batallion. The action took place in the vicinity of San Fernando, Tamaulipas, approximately 100 miles from the Texas border.

The exact date of the action is unknown but is probably recent. The casualties on either side are not mentioned.