Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

The Cocaine Highway

Thursday, June 21, 2012 |


By ACI for Borderland Beat

It all begins in the steamy mountains of Colombia, up mist covered hills, hidden under the lush canopy of forests; a plant is being cultivated.  The farmer growing the plant knows little of the journey his crop will take.  This is an examination of that journey.


Every day from his humble one room shack nestled in one of Colombia's many rural departments, he waters and tends to his crop.  If he is lucky enough to survive the weather or the fumigation from government planes he is able to harvest.  After he harvests his crop he must go through the laborious and time consuming effort of converting the leaves into what is known as coca base.  After his work is through he looks at his harvest and thinks of how lucky he is.  This should provide just enough money for his family survives till the next crop is ready. 

He meets a man known locally as El Leche at local village, El Leche is a known as a go between for the farmer and the FARC.  He meets with the farmer and pays him his salary for his work.  He tells the man he will be sending some of his people to collect the base and that they will speak again soon. 

Later at the man’s farm, a small armed group shows up at his shack to collect their payment.  They are all young, dressed in military fatigues, worn out boots and rifles rusted from the humid jungle heat.   They look tired and dirty, the result of living in the forest and moving from camp to camp.  These are the front line troops of one of the armed wings of the FARC.  The look tattered, paranoid and scared, they take the paste from the farmer and leave, vanishing back into the forest.


The small group consisting of both young men and women trek through the forest, each one listening for the nightmarish low thumping sound of helicopters in the distance.  They all seem on edge, they have spent too much time in the forest, moving from location to location, unable to enjoy the small luxuries we all take for granted.  If they stay in one spot for too long they may not see tomorrow.  So they trek on for what seems like miles.  After days of hellish hiking through dense and rugged terrain they approach a clearing; they have reached their destination, a large scale laboratory which sole purpose is refinement of the coca base into cocaine. 

As the walk up to the compound it is easy to see the many guards standing around with their assault rifle at their sides.  The group drops off their merchandise and once again vanishes into the mist of the jungle.  This factory is run by the Rastrojos, a group which was formed out of the now defunct AUC.  These labs are known as high value targets for the Colombian Government and are often targets of the US/Colombian effort to eradicate the production of cocaine.





Once the coca base has been converted in to what most would recognize as cocaine it is pressed into blocks and loaded on to a beat up, rusty truck.  Smoke pours out the back as the truck is barley able to turn over its engine.  Loaded up with its precious cargo, the overworked truck rumbles down the precarious road towards the mangrove swamps to the north. 
There waiting for them in the cover of the mangroves is what could only be described as a testament to the shear will of the traffickers; a fully submersible submarine.  The ship has a crew of 3 and they are all waiting on this payloads arrival.  Everyone starts packing the cramped space with as much cocaine as would fit.  The journey ahead for these sailors will not be easy.   They will be out in the open ocean for days with no one but themselves to insure delivery of the product.  In this cramped space the men will have to navigate the thousand mile journey to Guatemala, their final destination.  

After docking in a remote region of Guatemala the shipment is unloaded to group who works for a family known as the Lorenzanas.  The Lorenzanes are intermediaries whose sole purpose is to move the product from one end of the country to the other.  Guatemalan Soldiers provide them with security.  This is generally the smooth part of the operation with little risk due to the deep ties the family has fostered within the government.  Once the shipment has been moved, contact will made with a coordinator of the Sinaloa Cartel, one of the largest cartels in Mexico.  Arrangements will be made to move the contraband into Mexico.

 
Once inside Mexico, our shipment will traverse the country, making several stops along the way, all the while being broken up into smaller parcels and given to different plaza leaders.  The broken down shipments are then housed in safe houses until they are ready to be moved towards the border with the US.  These leaders are responsible for ensuring the distribution of the product along the various parts of the border which the Sinaloa Cartel controls.
 
Various methods will then be utilized to move the product across the border and into the United States.  Each area has a variety of ways of managing this; some techniques are locally based while others are used throughout the border region.  In the area of Arizona, where our shipment has arrived; has been using an innovative way of crossing drugs; remote controlled toy airplanes.  They are too small for radar to pick up and can been flown for some distance, it is a highly effective method of smuggling.  Our Kilo is taped to the bottom of one of these planes and flown to spotter on the other side.  GPS is often used to locate the planes once they have crossed the border.  Throughout this whole process those responsible watch in the shadows making sure everything runs smooth.  They know that if a load doesn’t make it, they will be left with the bill.  Spotters and decoys are used to throw off law enforcement and further the odds of success. 


Once a load has successfully crossed the US border the shipment is then taken to safe houses located in regional distribution points.  In the case of our load it ended up in Nogales, Arizona.  Given its close proximity to the border and national highway system, Nogales makes for a perfect place to stash this shipment.  From here the shipment is further divided and sent to different regions, each run by cartel distributers.  The kilo we have been watching eventually ends up in Chicago.  It is sold to someone who only deals in bulk, several kilos or more.  It then gets broken down further and sold to street gangs which then sell to the end users.
 
 
This is the journey of how one kilogram of cocaine makes on its way to the consumer.  It involves the effort of thousands and the complicity of many more.  Its journey led through multiple countries; it flew, floated, was driven and carried; it traveled through jungles and seas, mountains and deserts, all to reach a consumer who doesn’t have the slightest idea of the blood that was split along the way, same as the farmer who grew it.  The illegalization of narcotics lead to all the blood in-between the two.  The farmer never wanted to shed blood, he just wanted to feed his family, and neither did the consumer who was just looking for a good time.  Both are blind to the destruction.  But those that are really blinded are those who think prohibition is worth the blood stained soil from which their policies stem from.  Only through truth can one clearly see the entire picture, we as world citizens need to weigh the cost verse benefits of our policies, for good intentions often come with unintended consequences.


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32 Borderland Beat Comments:

Trialdog said...

A very powerful article. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

It's spelled Colombia.

Anonymous said...

great read, at the end it almost sounds like the writer wanted it legalized. It is pretty bad blood is being shed over it. But if these people took it like any other business. Sometimes ya lose, sometimes you have competition. But the cartels are making it worse for them, as well as others for the stupidity they continue to commit. Sink so low over a dollar, when there is still millions being made. Enough for the guy at the very bottom to make a dollar. They waste more money on killing then anything. Going this route there taking will only destroy mexico and its people.. With that said, I almost want to thank you.

Anonymous said...

So after reading this article Im wondering why Mexican Govt didnt just focus their resources on the transportation into their country from Guatemala, instead of this fragmented attack on cartels. i would think concentrating on that shallow entry point would bleed them of cocaine and then focus their interior efforts on meth production. Forget entirely about Marijuana since it isnt that big of a money maker.

Anonymous said...

Thank.you for.reminding.us Prohibition simply won't work

Anonymous said...

informative well written never mind the spelling colombia explains from beginning to end the cycle of the product 1 mind as well look at the picture and it is self explanatory great job again well written

Gizzle said...

A+ very good

Gizzle

Anonymous said...

That last part is a bunch of hippie B.S. Just because it is illegal doesn't mean you have to commit murder. Thats just greed. Pendejo! All businesses want exclusive control over a product and the market. It's about profit margins! Enough with the humanitarian b.s. statement. You want some soda? Just go buy it. Its already there waiting for you.

Anonymous said...

WOW.... One of the best articles ive read on BB.

Anonymous said...

all that to fly 1 kilo in .comeon ''chivis'' that sounded like fantasy .living here at the border we kno it goes through the river and once on the other side its tranported in hidden compartments but its bigger shippments going through

-tyrone-

BigBend said...

There's been a lot of articles lately on BB by ACI....and they have been some of the best reads to date. Who is this organization or group, and is it more than one writer, etc.? Thanks for any info.

Anonymous said...

One of the best articles I've ever read on here

PUEBLO said...

@10:09 AM you are an idiot. when an industry is illegal, how do you think they settle disagreements? they can't sue them for loss of a Coke load. if people want to stay in the game, they have to show their rivals and partners that they are not to be messed with.

Anonymous said...

By far one of the best articles written on BB. Thank you once again.

Anonymous said...

I fly giant remote controlled helicopters and airplanes that have large gas engines or very powerful electric motors and can fly at over 150mph. They have a wingspan of 12 feet plus. I live right on the border and was approached at a gas station by three obvious stereotype drug smugglers who were very interested in the plane I had. (it hangs out the back) My house is 4 miles from the border. For three grand I can make a plane or heli that can take off, fly to a certain altitude, fly to a specific spot and land without any problem at all. I already have heli's that can lift 20 pounds of camera gear and can fly by GPS. To make a large one is no big task at all. The FAA has been up our ass because of this new wave of technology coming out of China for dirt cheap. The good GPS receivers would cost a few grand just for the telemetry, software, and hardware; but I could take as much as 75 pounds worth of cash in one trip. These guys have already tried it, but it take a geek like myself who can put it together, but I fear jail! I know Mexicali has some good pilots though....

Anonymous said...

BRAVO!

Anonymous said...

Very informative, great article. Congrats!

Anonymous said...

I remember u telling us bout this a while back a good while back u should've became a advisor it something to them jk maybe think about it y be the only guy on ur block out the loop ur mayor law officers and local cbp do it. Peace Loks

Anonymous said...

No doubt a decent article, but you lost me at legalize it. Leave the propaganda out and u have a very informative article. No pulitzer prize winner, but decent for informing the novice narco reader.

Anonymous said...

Legalizing coke and heroin is just stupid it would just take the taboo out of drug use and the country would have way, way more addicts and social problems. Legalizing marijuana does make sense because it is not as harmful and can be grown all over the place so efforts to combat it will never have any success. Legalizing pot will eliminate the need for a large portion of the cartels business and cut down on some of the bloodshed.

Anonymous said...

We is the people who filmed this......you wrote a review....

Anonymous said...

Is that a bicycle brand sold at Wally world.

Anonymous said...

It was just an example of the many ways shipments get past the border. Of course there are larger loads going thru. Most likely nothing more then a hundred birds at a time.

Anonymous said...

To the idiot who plays with toy planes and heli's...

I wouldn't be scared of jail as much as I'd be scared of who reads this and who will be following you home the next time you decide to fill up at one of your local gas stations. Why you would ever want to be involved in helping smugglers is beyond me.

But, now that you've shown your interest, I wish you all the best. I truly hope people like you get the opportunity to work with the underworld and you eventually get what you so desperately want. MONEY..... then death....

My bet is it won't be a nice death but I will sleep well knowing another peice of shit who thinks helping these guys is off the planet.

Wait... your one of those smart "geeks" that will probably out wit the cartel... You'll be ok....

Anonymous said...

Another great article. Thanks, ACI!

~Chimera

Anonymous said...

Could you guys cool it with the complaining about the typo mistakes?! Shit its hard enough to get some of these articles translated without picky assholes disecting every sentence. Look at the translation for blog del narco its all fu*ked up

Anonymous said...

He said he wasn't interested or maybe he is and is acting like he isn't.

Anonymous said...

I've asked the same question three times no answer bro!

Anonymous said...

Good info. However do you think legalizing it will make the violence go away. Will the cartels just lay the guns down and get a job?

Hey Arm Chair, how about telling us what you think we should and how it will affect us. I am tired of all these people saying we should legalize something but nobody wants to look any furthur.

Will the drug cartels turn to human traffiking. I bet the child molesters will pay a lot of money to rape a child.

Legalizing drugs will not solve any problems. These monsters that sell and transport the drugs must be stopped. If not drugs they will just find some other illegal way to make money. The violence will not stop.

Anonymous said...

June 21, 2012 10:09 AM = douchebag!
June 23, 2012 6:05 AM: do the economics! drugs provide billions in revenues to the cartels. money = power to corrupt civil servants, power to corrupt poor and ignorant people, power to buy equipment (incl guns from the US). take away those billions (i.e. legalize it!) and the cartels are weakened significantly so that THEN they can be beaten. Is that so hard to understand ... DUH!

Anonymous said...

If you were informed you would probably concede that legalization and control of narcotics is the only answer to this mess. Prohibition has never worked. When you have a product in high demand you cannot keep people from consuming it without creeping into police state territory. All you can realistically accomplish is to control the supply...somebody will inevitably.

Anonymous said...

12:24 AM Get a clue dude, you think you are so superior? Most of the people who are helping the Narcos are senior cabinet members of Obomba Administration. The rest are feds. Probably that means you. In the morning you ship machine guns down to the narcos, in the afternoon you log on BB and get all superior in the comments section.

Might as well legalize it. Narcos are moving drugs and guns. Fed agencies are moving drugs and guns. Why even pretend it's illegal? It is all one big giant farce. Also note, it's the police doing most of the kidnap/murder action too. Now on film...

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