Patricia Davila (Translated by un vato of Borderland Beat)
From Sunday, June 17, to Tuesday, June 19, the Porras Gonzalez family saw how two of it members were murdered and how the mafia took all their businesses and homes in Villa Ahumada, one of the last redoubts of La Linea, the group of Juarez Cartel killers. After the executions, death threats were made against the remaining family members. From Texas, where they are waiting to be granted asylum, the Porras family tells Proceso about their tragedy, for which they blame the federal and Chihuahua governments. The worst part is that, to this day, they have no clear idea what triggered this rage against them.
San Antonio, Texas. Proceso. 8-3-2012. "We aren't prepared for this. There's no way to help you. You're leaving in 10 minutes. Get ready!" so said Cesar Augusto Peniche Espejel, delegate of the Procuraduria General de la Republica (PGR) in Ciudad Juarez, once Attorney General Marisela Morales gave her approval for an operation in which federal, state and municipal police cordoned off streets and avenues through which a convoy escorted the four vehicles carrying the 20 members of the Porras Gonzalez family, threatened with death by La Linea.
The caravan got to the Mexican side of the Santa Fe International Bridge. From there, the Porras family continued by themselves to the U.S. side, to El Paso... and went directly to immigration officers to ask for political asylum.
Today, the Porras live in San Antonio, receiving help from by some neighbors in this city, waiting for their request for asylum to be resolved.
The Porras family is originally from Villa Ahumada, a municipality considered by the United States government to be one of the few redoubts in Chihuahua still under control of La Linea, the group of hired killers (sicarios) for the Juarez Cartel. Villa Ahumada is under the control of Jesus Salas Aguayo, El Chuyin, 35 years old. The United States government accuses him of ordering the murder --on May 15, 2009-- of Jose Daniel Gonzalez Galeana, former member of the armed group, who lived in El Paso and was a protected witness for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
According to ICE, El Chuyin mistrusted Gonzalez Galeana and blamed him for the arrest on May 13, 2008, of his fellow countryman Pedro Sanchez Arras, aka El Tigre, who was third in command of the (Juarez) cartel under Vicente Carrillo Fuentes .
Villa Ahumada is famous for being the land that gave shelter to Juarez Cartel leaders such as Rafael Munoz Talavera, head of the organization with Rafael Aguilar Guajardo and Amado Carrillo Fuentes. Then El Tigre came out and, after his arrest, Salas Aguayo assumed command, even after after people stopped mentioning the name of Juan Pablo Ledezma, El JL, and after the arrest of the Juarez organization's chiefs, like Gonzalo Garcia Garcia, El Chalo; Jose Rodolfo Escajeda, El Rikin, and Antonio Acosta Hernandez, El Diego.
According to ICE, El Chayin became the La Linea strongman for the Villa Ahumada, Buenaventura, Galeana, Constitucion, Flores Magon, Juarez and Chihuahua region, where he controls between 300 and 400 criminals who sell marijuana and cocaine and carry out kidnappings, murders and extortion, and who have finished off entire families.
This is the place where the Porras Gonzalez's tragic story began.
The first execution
"Last Sunday, June 17, my nephew Carlos called me on the phone; he told me that apparently his father, Rodolfo, had had an accident or had been killed by somebody. I immediately went to pick him up to go to the Municipal Police. There, an officer told us that he (Rodolfo) was dead, to go to the police at El Valle, where a female official told us he was murdered and (for us) to go to Le Baron to see the State Police. At that place they told me somebody had reported a rollover and that they would deliver his body the next day after the autopsy. An hour later, that same officer told me to go for my brother's (body); they filled out the autopsy certificate in my presence," narrates Jorge Porras, the brother of Rodolfo, the man who was murdered.
He goes on: "While we were transporting my brother, on the 160 km drive from El Valle to Villa Ahumada, several pickup trucks cut in ahead of us, with men who threatened us with their weapons. At last, we got to town and buried Rodolfo on Monday, June 18. I told my brothers and nephews that we should go to work like normal on Tuesday. My nephews got up to open the businesses, I fell asleep. Suddenly the phone rings: it was my nephew Cesar, another son of Rodolfo.
"'Listen,' he told me, 'It looks like they killed my brother Jaime at the cemetery.' I couldn't believe it. If it was already a nightmare, we were now living in horror."
When he left his house, Jorge found his mother, Ana, and his sister; he told them what had happened to Jaime. They went to the cemetery to look for his body. They found him lying on the little mound of dirt that covered Rodolfo's grave, which he had gone to water early that morning.
"He was an innocent 18 year old. He wouldn't hurt anybody. I got angry. I took off my shirt and covered him. I didn't let my mother and my sister get close, I took them back to the pickup, I told them we should go to the ministerial police so they could pick up the body. At the entrance to the cemetery, my sister in law, Jaime's mother was coming in. We found out later that she met up with two sicarios. She confronted them, she asked them to return her son to her. 'It wasn't us. Get the hell out of here, you old bitch,' they answered," Jorge recalls.
The ministerial police refused to pick up Jaime's body.
Here, Hector Porras, older brother of the murdered Rodolfo, interjects: "Jorge argued with the police, although their attitude was not unexpected because we know that in Villa Ahumada they're involved with La Linea. One of my sisters in law went to the federal police quartered in the town, but they didn't pay attention to her, either. Then, in an Oxxo gas station, Jorge ran into some federal patrols assigned to Colonia Le Baron, in Galeana, who by coincidence were driving through the town. He told them what was happening.
In Villa Ahumada, the Porras own some businesses: three creameries, a shoe and clothing store, a beer store, a car wash and an insurance company. While Jorge was trying to convince the federal police, the sicarios began to loot all those businesses. Finally, the federal police agreed to assist, they asked the family to get together at Rodolfo's, the murdered brother's, ranch, while they waited for other patrols to relieve them.
At the ranch, Rodolfo's son, Cesar, received threats on his cell phone from the criminals: "The first call came on June 19, at 1:30 p.m., after they killed my brother. They said I was next, to get out of town; in another call, that I and all my family would be next; in one more call, to get out or leave town. Five minutes later, my uncle Jorge gets another call, telling him that the next one would be his mother, that is, my grandmother Ana Maria. She's 67 years old. My dad, Rodolfo, would have been 50 on July 22," he says.
When the sicarios found out that three federal police vehicles were at the ranch, they said: "Tell those pussies to get out of there because if they don't, it will get worse. The police couldn't protect us for long so they asked us to leave the town quickly. They were afraid that the gang would regroup and kill all of us at the same time. Just before that, they asked for back-up from Ciudad Juarez. Forty minutes later, two units showed up. An hour after we met up with them at the Oxxo gas station, we were on our way to Juarez with whatever we were wearing. It was 3:00 in the afternoon," says Hector.
They tried to get the military to help them, because the federal police were scared, too. They called the emergency number for the Department of Defense in Mexico City; there, they gave them the numbers for the 5th Military Zone, but nobody answered. By them, in addition to the businesses, the sicarios had also taken possession of the Porras family's seven homes.
"When the federal police back-up from Juarez got there, a commander told me: 'I'll get your family to Juarez. I swear. Tell me where to leave you.' I asked them to take us to the international border crossing or to the 5th Military Zone, wherever we would be safer. Twelve adults and eight children traveled in four of our vehicles. We left the town. We left Jaime lying there in the cemetery. We left our possessions. We didn't have any money, no documents, no nothing. Finally, they left us at the PGR (offices)," says Jorge.
At the PGR office, only Jorge was allowed to enter. A female official of the Ministerio Publico (prosecutor's office) met me and filed the complaint. Outside, afraid, the family asked for protection and to be allowed to enter.
"They agreed to protect us. They put us up right there. We slept in an office that was being repaired. We had one blanket per person. During the day, they let us out into a garden, we would sit down on the grass, we would eat there. The PGR provided the food, other times it was the state government," recounts Jorge.
--Did you at any time meet with the PGR delegate, Peniche Espejel?
--The day after we got there he talked with us. He told us that the PGR was not prepared for situations like ours. That they had never had a case like this and that there was no way to help us.-- responds Alejandro, another of Rodolfo's brothers.
He continues: "With him, we would talk about how they were going to protect us and about what the federal government could offer us. He said that the only option was a shelter in Mexico City, but that it was a genuine prison, that we could not go out for any reason. That the federal government lacked the capability to take over this type of case. In view of that, we asked him to transport us to the international border crossing so we could ask for asylum. He refused. However, a social worker and the public ministry officer who attended us when we got there gave us a business card with the phone number for Attorney Carlos Spector, of El Paso. They said he would help us."
--We would see Licenciado Peniche every day and every day he would tell us the same thing: that nothing could be done, that he was not the one to make the decision... There came a time in which he told us to do whatever we wanted to, that it was impossible for them to transfer us elsewhere. On Saturday, June 23, he told us that Attorney General Marisela Morales Ibanez was aware of our case and that, furthermore, on Monday, June 25, she would go talk to us. It made no sense to wait for her. We couldn't wait. We demanded that he transport us to the (international) bridge-- added Cesar.
The family called the media to tell them about their case. They also spoke with a priest, a human rights activist with a non-government organization (NGO), Paso del Norte, that, along with a letter to the (PGR) delegate, also sent patrol vehicles to protect them:
"Under pressure, the delegate decided to help us. On Saturday the 23rd, he said they would close Lincoln Avenue and all its side streets so we could get to the bridge. We left at noon. He told us to hurry. He said he was afraid and that he didn't want more people to know they were going to take us away," he remembers.
Alejandro adds: "He told us: 'We can't escort you all the way to the bridge because it would look very bad for us to deliver you to the United States, but we will organize a security operation and nobody can infiltrate on the route you take."
No clear motivesBefore they left, Jorge complained to the delegate: "We lost everything from one day to another and the sicarios are not even worried, they drive around the town in my brother Rodolfo's car. I keep asking myself , why are they still free? I think about the way they threw us out, how they are brazenly selling off our possessions. What's going on? Why don't you do anything to them? He answered: 'Leave all of that behind. Be satisfied that you're all together and safe.' That's the last time we saw him."
--Why did they kill Rodolfo and his son Jaime? Why are they after you?
Attorney Spector, who is helping them with the asylum request, intervenes: "This is a PAN (Partido Accion Nacional) family. Hector has served as councilman, in Villa Ahumada, he was the secretary of the Accion Electoral (elections committee) of the PAN, secretary general, president of the Municipal Committee, the same with his brother Rodolfo. The case of the Porras family is unheard of because this case merges political persecution with drug trafficking.
--Was belonging to the PAN a factor in their persecution?
--We cannot confirm it but neither can we dismiss it. The PRI governs in Villa Ahumada, in the previous administration, the PAN was in (power), but they have always been under the control of La Linea. But now El Chuyin is related to the wife of the current mayor, Fernando Vasquez-- responds Hector Porras.
He adds: "We know who killed them, but we don't know why. Some say that it was because he exclaimed "Good!"when he learned that a brother of Chuyin committed suicide; others think the it was because he refused to pay some extortion."
The case file that's in the PGR office in Ciudad Juarez notes that Jaime was killed by two men, known by their aliases La Roberta and El Pacman, because someone in the Porras family attributed Rodolfo's death to a person by the name of Adrian Barron. Apparently, Adrian Barron is a member of La Linea. In addition, the night before his death, Barron invited Rodolfo to a celebration at Ejido Constitucion, where he was murdered.
"I'm asking the President of the Republic, Felipe Calderon and the governor of Chihuahua, Cesar Duarte, to accept their responsibility in this case. They are responsible, directly or indirectly, for what is happening in Villa Ahumada, because impunity is part of the inefficiency of the government. Ours is not the only family that has fled after their loved ones were murdered: there were also the Munozes and the Marrufos," declres Hector.
Dona Ana, the family matriarch, tells Proceso that she left everything: the house her husband left her seven years ago and, above all, her dead. "It has been tremendous. I'll never feel at peace. When we received those calls with their death threats, I told everybody: Let's go! Let's go! They've already killed two of mine, I don't want them to kill anybody else. I was terrified.
"My grandson Jaime was left lying there in the cemetery. Because of the fear we had, we left him there, as if he had no one. I know the town priest buried him, and I'm grateful with all of my heart, with my soul. Yesterday they burned down my son Rodolfo's ranch. Everything is dismantled. In town, everybody is terrified. I was not afraid because my husband taught my sons to work, to start from the bottom so they would never get involved in bad things. That's what they did. And, look, what good was it? Material things are the least (important), but my dead sons..."
Dona Ana tells about the torment that the trip from Villa Ahumada to Juarez turned into when they were escorted by the federal police. "It was tremendous. My son Rodolfo's wife, the mother of Jaime, kept fainting again and again. Losing her son was terrible, but leaving him lying there in the cemetery, in those conditions, without burying him, that's something that you cannot live with. A mother cannot stand it. The pain is too much."