Thursday, August 29, 2013

"Z40" Intel May have been Attained Through US Drones in Operation "Lowrider"

BorderlandBeat.Com
 Inside the Pentagon’s top secret spy plane operation against the Mexican drug cartel

It was one of the most gruesome periods of Mexico’s drug war. In the spring of 2011, Mexican authorities discovered a series of mass graves holding a total of 183 corpses near the southwest Texas border. The victims had been killed—some after rape and torture—by one of the country’s most brutal drug gangs. Weeks later, investigators exhumed more than 200 additional bodies buried hundreds of miles west.

As the death count climbed, the Pentagon decided to launch an unprecedented intelligence operation. Vocativ has learned that the U.S. military began a series of surveillance missions into Mexican airspace, using techniques and equipment refined in Iraq and Afghanistan. The goal: to track the cartels and their kingpins using aircraft with live pilots and crews, not just remotely controlled drones.

The operation was initially code-named "Lowrider," but officially known as the Northern Command Aerial Sensor Platform. And like so many military enterprises since 9/11, the contract was privatized: Without a bidding process, the government farmed it out to a large private defense company, Sierra Nevada Corporation, to provide the planes, pilots and crews for the classified missions.
For years, in response to the mounting violence, the U.S. and Mexican governments have been secretly sharing intelligence on drug traffickers. But the previously unreported spy-plane operation underscores how deeply involved the U.S. military has become in the war against the cartels, even as the general public has remained largely unaware of the extent of its operations.

In private, because of the classified nature of the program, insiders raise a number of questions, not just about the effectiveness of the missions, but also about the way a secret intelligence contract was awarded, and about the potential risks to American flight crews.
According to a source involved in the surveillance program, the manned spy planes take off from Texas and cross the border, flying deep into Mexico to conduct “pattern of life” reconnaissance missions. It’s a technique the U.S. military has used in the wars in the Middle East and elsewhere.
 
The pilots quietly watch from the air and learn the schedules and itineraries of America’s adversaries. Sources say this program employs just two aircraft, which are outfitted with sophisticated electronic-intercept technology and cameras capable of tracking a suspect from 6 miles away.
 
Drones (“unmanned aerial vehicles,” the military prefers to call them) can be useful for this sort of work, but they aren’t interchangeable with piloted planes. It may be relatively easy to fly drones out of a military field in Yemen or Afghanistan, but it’s far more difficult—if not impossible—to steer clear of civil aviation in more populated areas. Live humans can also notice things that the best remote-controlled cameras will never catch.
 
U.S Customs and Border Protection officers’ conduct an $860,995 outbound cash seizure this month at the Calexico West port of entry. The currency was hidden in a vehicle.
Yet manned flights can put pilots and crews in danger, and given the cartels’ military-grade weaponry, critics particularly worry about one of the planes, which uses a single engine. The program’s original contract, according to individuals who were involved, called for only twin-engine planes—and with good reason. If one engine fails, the other can still fly everyone home safely. With a single-engine plane, there is no backup. Any sort of engine failure could result in a crash landing somewhere in Mexico.

The fear is not merely hypothetical. In two separate incidents over the span of a month and a half in 2003, single-engine American surveillance planes on contract to the U.S. military crashed in Colombia. In the first incident, the engine failed and the plane was forced to crash-land. Marxist guerrillas killed the American pilot and a Colombian soldier aboard before taking the three U.S. crewmen hostage. Their captivity continued for more than five years until they were rescued. In the second crash, everyone died.
Given that history, it’s understandable that some acquainted with the Lowrider program aren’t entirely comfortable with its risks. “Especially after the lessons learned in Colombia, seems like they are doing the same thing,” says one source familiar with the Mexican operation. Another source who is also familiar with the program disagrees, saying despite initial concerns, the single-engine aircraft has worked well in this case.

An estimated 60,000 or more people have been killed since President Felipe Calderón declared war on the cartels in 2006. As the carnage ensued, the cartels made war not only against the government, but also against one another, setting in motion a cycle of violent turf wars and revenge killings. At times, enforcers for the cartels flaunted their brutality, killing police, torturing or beheading competitors, and occasionally posting the bloody evidence online.
For all the harrowing violence, the U.S. military overflights could be a touchy issue in Mexico, where the country’s sovereignty is never taken for granted. Most people in the United States may forget the two countries’ troubled past, but Mexicans know all too well how the southwestern U.S.—from Texas to California—used to be theirs.

 “Mexico’s military doctrine has posited that their number one threat is the United States,” says Adam Isaacson, who follows security developments in the Western Hemisphere as a senior associate at the Washington Office on Latin America think tank. “And it’s been that way since 1848.” On hearing about the Northern Command program, he says: “Traditionally, this would be a hypersensitive thing for the Mexicans.” A spokesman at the Mexican Embassy in Washington declined to comment on the program.  continues on next page

The U.S. military says that any operations in Mexico are conducted with the Mexican government’s invitation. But the Americans in the planes have no direct communications with Mexican officials. Any intelligence they collect is transmitted first to the U.S. military, which then provides Mexican authorities with whatever information they may need to conduct raids.
Some insiders say that efforts to target the cartels with the manned surveillance program have been frustrating. According to one source, the Americans have sometimes suspected that cartel figures were given advance warning of impending raids. Surveillance crews would watch helplessly as a kingpin they had monitored for days would suddenly leave the scene just before a raid. “It seems like they were finding out ahead of time,” the source says. “It was consistently like that.”

Another source familiar with the program says it has posted some real successes, not just nice tries. It’s unclear exactly when its intelligence played a role, but at least 10 cartel bosses have been caught or killed by Mexican forces since Lowrider began. Earlier this month, authorities in Mexico bagged Mario Ramirez Treviño, a top leader of the Gulf cartel. And July brought perhaps the biggest triumph yet, the capture of alleged Zeta cartel leader Miguel Angel Treviño—a man who was reportedly fond of incinerating his victims in oil drums and dissolving them in acid.
The Mexican marines who grabbed him seemed to have superb intelligence about his movements. There have been reports that the intel American came from the U.S. though it remains to be seen if the Northern Command operation was involved.
The secret nature of the Lowrider program makes its rough outlines difficult to trace. But one document obtained by Vocativ indicates that it began with a 2011 directive from the Pentagon’s Northern Command to the 645th Aeronautical Systems Group—a secretive U.S. Air Force office also known as Big Safari. That summer, Big Safari awarded an $18 million contract to Sierra Nevada Corporation for the Northern Command Aerial Sensor Platform. The company would provide the planes, integrated with the intelligence-gathering equipment, and the crews.

The privately owned company, based in Sparks, Nevada, and run by the husband-and-wife team of Fatih and Eren Ozmen, is little known outside defense-contracting circles, but it wields considerable influence both in the military-intelligence trade and on Capitol Hill. For years, Sierra Nevada has handled high-tech classified programs, integrating cameras for use on planes and drones deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. (The company is also working to develop a potential scaled-down space shuttle known as Dream Chaser for NASA.) A spokeswoman for Sierra Nevada has not returned Vocativ’s phone calls and emails.

Last year Republican Congressman Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania wrote to the Pentagon raising concerns about the military’s decision to award the contract to Sierra Nevada without putting it out for competitive bidding, as the law usually requires. Shuster didn’t specifically mention Mexico or refer to the Lowrider program by name, but his letter, obtained by Vocativ, alludes to an aircraft “currently operating in North America providing aerial surveillance and signals intelligence collection in support of Northern Command.” In response to Shuster’s missive, Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary Maj. Gen. Edward Bolton wrote back that there had been “urgent National Security requirements” to justify the contract award.
 “This mission is classified and extremely sensitive,” he wrote, adding his assurance that Sierra Nevada “has a proven track record.” Shuster’s office declined to comment on the exchange, and a Pentagon spokesman would not comment specifically on the Lowrider program.

To carry out the mission, insiders say that Sierra Nevada hired the Colorado-headquartered subcontractor PGI Aviation to provide pilots and crews for the program. Although PGI officials declined to comment about the contract or the operation, the company’s website lists this among PGI’s credits: Northern Command Aerial Sensor Platform pilots and operators.

More than two years after Lowrider began, the program’s future is an open question. Insiders tell Vocativ that the Sierra Nevada contract is scheduled to expire in September. Meanwhile, Enrique Peña Nieto, who took over from the staunchly anti-cartel Calderón as president last December, has advocated a more conciliatory approach to the drug war.
Early this month a Mexican court ordered the release of Rafael Caro Quintero, the old-time cartel boss responsible for the 1985 kidnapping, torture and murder of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena. Amid the ensuing outcry, Mexican authorities promised they would try to put him back behind bars, but so far they’ve had no success.




Source: Vocative-Aram Roston for Sneak Peek

58 comments:

  1. Not " may have" . IT WAS OBTAINED BY LOW RIDER--- STAY TUNE- THERES ALLOT MORE TO COME....ITS HOW THE D.E.A. AND THE AMERICANS ROLL.....!

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  2. 18 million is a box of corn flakes when it comes to defense contracts. I'm sure Mexico's top Naval Officers [quite trustworthy] know all about the program. Also, why does the Mexican govt continue to hush the fact that they also have drones?

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  3. DFL...you must have peeked over my shoulder and saw my first working title? :)

    actually I know and you know but I did not want the article to become a tug of war over the title.

    It has been the core of every big capture in Mexico and with the new model it will become an even greater tool. It has been used since early Calderon but I wonder if EPN will put the breaks on?

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  4. was it you that wrote the comment elsewhere about operation lowrider? I had just finished the post and was waiting to publish it today when I saw a comment about Lowrider and thought I accidently hit the publish button!

    paz

    chivis

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  5. The us government should worry about cleaning up its own country instead of always sticking their nose everywhere else....last I heard this country still has a lot of criminals running amuck,they should clean up their own mess before they do anything else.....

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    1. @1:55 a.m well the drug mess has already spilled over here and we DONT want it here.last i checked we dont grow coca leaves here so its coming from somewhere else.cant speak about the damn tweakers as they are just lowlifes.we do have problems here but it looks like mexico got worse ones.im for minding our own business and closing our borders and keep to ourselves!!!

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    2. 9:17 pm, and when are you going to join the US Armed forces to help close our borders? Have you ever been in uniform? Talking shit ain't going to fix anything.. Just serve in the military and do something.

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    3. @ 917 thats exactly what they should do,control their borders but y dont u think they do it? They dont do it because the us also profits from drug trafficking if they didnt chapo would b in jail by now...

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    4. @2:43a.m yes i have been in uniform the u.s army combat medic and would do it again if i wasnt the age i am so i think its the young folks turn

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    5. @ 2:43 pm y would I want to do that?! Im not in the habit of fighting made up wars for currupt hypocrite politicians....

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  6. I DID WRITE THE COMMENT!

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  7. Relax people they have been knowing el Z40 whereabouts for years it was just time to pay up its time for the Gulf and the Sinaloa cartel to take over mexico a move that has been planed by Mexican and U.s goberment since this whole war started the cartels are not going anywhere thats why they want only one controlling everything!!! Its and underground move more than a Lowrider move hahahaha thats how the corrupt roll here in America att el Fantasma

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  8. Who cares who or what method is used as long as these guys get caught.they have killed enough ppl already and i dont care if its mexico or the u.s or both as long as it gets done and they are caught!!!!

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  9. residente de tijuanaAugust 29, 2013 at 1:52 PM

    so why the fck havent they gotten chapo hes the one causing the wars may y add he escaped from prison chapo by him trying to take oter cartels plazas there wil be war we he was in jail everyone was more at ease yes alittle battle here and there but never youtube decapitations get chapo and trust me the war will end

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    1. Drones and those kind off planes are limited to aerial view, as long as they stay in the sierra they would never track them down because of all the trees. All the other bosses cruise in the city so they are pretty visible. Why do you think he never comes out of the sierra smart guy

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  10. drones being used against the cartels will be a game changer for sure. these pattern of life details allowed the marina to drop outta the sky on z40 when he was in a single vehicle in the middle of nowhere with no back up avail and nowhere to run or hide. the electronic surveillance capabilities allow these guys to be tracked when they have no clue anyone's watching. even chapo in hills is vulnerable to this type of surveillance. even with vast corrupt officials, one of these ops, that slips by his sources could bring him down.only if the stories about 300 bodyguards are true will he have a chance to flee, and even then theyll wait til hes the least defended thru pattern of life research

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  11. Hi Chivas,

    I've read many times, "Miguel Angel Treviño—a man who was reportedly fond of incinerating his victims in oil drums and dissolving them in acid." Do you know if there is undisputed evidence of Z40 doing this barbaric act personally and if so, where is the evidence/proof i.e. photos, video, snitch sicero on the record...

    It was disturbing to see that fat fuck Z40 waltzing through the police station no handcuffs after his arrest...bizarre.

    Canadian girl

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  12. The U.S. is so friggin good at what we do that we'll go into your country and find your bad guys for you. I love it!!!

    Now lets hear from the haters

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    1. You're right, but why aren't they that efficient with our own criminals that are running lose?

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    2. The u.s just gets in on everybody's business they get in yours mine and your neighbors they don't nothing else to do oh wait they do but rather not deal with it

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  13. What else is our gov. doing in secret, or with minimal media attention. and not telling us about?! With the Pentagon's military budget of $700 bil USD per yr., that's a lot of money to play with; thus, the awarding of $18 mil usd contract to a manned spy-plane contractor that has playing a crucial role in the apprehending of cartel kingpins in
    Mexico. I imagine this operation Lowrider has prevented many planned crimes by kingpins from being carried out. However, with this new technology the Pentagon is utilizing through contractors, who else are they spying on?! With the revelations that the NSA is spying on Americans communications through electronics - are they also watching are every move?! This straight out of the movies Terminator series and the 1984 novel - and yes definitely: BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING!! ha ha ha ja

    Chivas and BB, You might be interested in a documentary I saw on YouTube: Marcos Colombianos y Mexicanos : Titeres del Bildeberg

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  14. Rumor has it that z42 is going nuts. He can't handle the cartel and other Zs aren't to happy with him

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    1. What happend Sunday night in Nuevo Laredo? Heard road blocks and shooting?

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  15. No way! You mean the US is really behind these high profile captures? Those retards in the Mex millitary couldn't take care of it themselves? What a shocker.

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    1. El gran jefe EL CHAPO Guzman,owns that spy company,hows about that.

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  16. we all know mexico politics, we all know american politics. so dont act suprised when your polititians are too pusified to bring shit out of the dark,back rooms and your heavy duty crime gets too close for comfort. someone is going to keep an eye on your fuckers, mostly for our country's interest

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  17. Why wasn't this prick in cuffs? he looks more like a visitor than a prisoner.

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  18. What I don't like is the fact that these type of operations are being outsourced to private mercenary companies, that has got to raise some eyebrows given their history of war crimes like blackwater did in irak. All these privatization of intelligence operations can only lead to scandal and bad news, other than that all those worried about weather or not this is shared with mexican officials need to stop B.S. themselves. The less mexican officials know about these operations the better, the more likely the success.

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  19. They know where Mayo and Chapo is and all those guys. It maybe more valuable to drone them 24/7 with listening devices then actually apprehending them im guessing. Azul however seems to be the ghost of the mafias, where the hell is Azul lol.

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  20. My understanding between Chapo and Z40, you have to compare some of their areas. If Chapo is now in charge of Juarez and TJ, they are more quiet as they used to be under previous cartels. I heard people have started returning to Juarez and there is not much threatening business as before. He got rid of majority of some gang that was causing problems. What is said is about Chapo is that he wants the plazas quiet. It is the understanding that people report any extortionist and those are killed. More people are afraid to go into Zetas territories than Chapos. Plus the Pena Nieto wants to build and upgrade many roads and highways in Mexico. Would Z40 let the Mexican government improve the roads in his territory? Or Z40 want to get some if that money? Plus the powerful business people want Z40? How much money has it cost to businesses?

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    1. Ur an idiot chapo doesn't control juarez. And chapo started the war for his own personal greed. Juarez was quiet before chapo started this mess. & juarez has started to calm down because chapo has lost thats why whats left of his people there are getting caught even the big guys

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    2. "z40's family sells meats to the us"they had to put to good use their butchers.I wonder mix the choice cuts of pig and beef with choice cuts from the people they kill,and the same knives

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  21. maybe someone has a better understanding as to why, mexicans call heroin, chiva.? when i was looking at some pictures of the military narco museum, i saw what looked like a kilo of what was labeled Codiena and it was a dark reddish brown,and i know codiene is less refined than heroin, so are mexican narcos cutting heroin into a mix of codeine? and is this called chiva?

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  22. Canadian Girl,
    it's always shocking to see the "real" narco after capture or death, but 40 was the most shocking to me, he could have walked the Monterrey mall and no one could have recognized him IMO..

    About "proof", after the capture there was a great article in the Mexican press that was factual but also tongue in cheek how 40 was accused of every atrocity that has ever occurred in Mexico that he has transformed into a mythical character like sasquatch (that’s for you) or the chupacabra, that the large majority of horrific events attributed to him had no basis of fact. Oh yes, he did kill many but boiling babies? Doubtful.

    As for fotos, usually a photographer is not on site, so we have to take the word of “witnesses” many who have huge credibility issues.

    But then we have solid witnesses such as 40’s good friend Gordo Villarreal, who Mamito said in testimony in Texas, was ordered killed by his good friend Z40. Gordo's charred body was found in his car just outside Nuevo Laredo. But before the killing, there was an incident that Gordo relayed to DEA agents when he became an informer that Gordo was picked up and he thought that he was going to be killed, that 40 found out he was working for DEA, and he was taken in the woods at a Zetas camp, and he witness multiple killings. I think it was the first victim was killed and thrown in a barrel of boiling acid and Gordo got so scared it passed out only to wake up with 40 slapping his face and laughing his ass off because Gordo had fainted.

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    1. Point taken 'photographer not on site'...was thinking more of the selfies and home videos the vicious thugs take + post online. Thank you.

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  23. Wow, never thought my city Sparks would be mentioned on borderland beat, lol.

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  24. What good does it do for the USA to help in apprehending all these high value wanted criminals if the Mexican government and the courts are going to free them and the ones they don't free...ESCAPE?

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  25. wheres caro quintero it might take a while to find him with them drones and it might happen. you boast on bullshit though cause how many americans still get there crack thier meth. many of americas population is still being affected . so dont count chickens before the eggs hatch theres still a bigger issue at hand but everyone wants to sugarcoat it .and forget the real problem in your own backyard . como dicen el zorrio no se ve su fundio . lol

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  26. "It has been the core of every big capture in Mexico and with the new model it will become an even greater tool. It has been used since early Calderon but I wonder if EPN will put the breaks on?"

    Judging by all the recent big arrest during the EPN administration, I'd say it seems like EPN has figured how to put that intel to good use. z40, x20, as well as a number of plaza bosses. Then Mayitos capture, perhaps that was a bone to Chapo from the CIA to get rid of one of his deserters.

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  27. The question is why is Z40 still alive?? Kill him and go after the next leader of the Zetas,capture the new leader nd kill him too.Do this to all Cartel bosses that are captured,to hell with the info they might have.They show no mercy when they kill ppl so why should mercy be shown to them.

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  28. @10:10

    Z40, X20, Mayito, all those guys lived in or frequented border towns where it's much easier for both American and Mexican law enforcement to keep tabs on them (Nuevo Laredo, Reynosa, CD Juarez).

    Chapo, Mayo, Azul, Tuta, HBL, all those guys stay away from the US/Mexico border. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that some of these guys don't even live in Mexico anymore. It's too hot right now.

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  29. So much effort for such a failed cause.
    There is a whole industry dedicated to prohibition, keeps them doughnut eating chumps employed.

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  30. Why wasn't this prick in cuffs? he looks more like a visitor than a prisoner.
    August 29, 2013 at 6:35 PM

    A prick doesnt have arms and hands. A prick with arms would be a french tickler.

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  31. Al Queda + Zeta = Death to America

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  32. But everyone on BB says Chapo gave up Z40 and M10..I don't believe this article!! It's Chapo because he has enough money to own a satellite and oversee Mexico!! Lol

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  33. Canadian Girl...I was just teasing you about the photographer. The thing about 40 is he was always pretty careful about having proof tying him to killings. He was always in preparation for the capture.

    I remembered another big incident in Mty in 2011, well maybe 2010, anyway Zetas controlled this guy in Mty who had a large car lot, I think it was used cars. Anyway he had in the back of the showroom, lot and offices a huge area that looked like a junk yard, car parts various vehicles that probably used for parts and barrels, lots of barrels. Someone, I think from the facility called the authorities, PGR, in DF to go to the lot and look in the barrels. In the barrels was acid and bodies and body parts...lots of them. I am not sure if Lazca or 40 was conducting the "body farm" operation at the time, I think it was 40, but not positive. The owner did give up some info but disappeared.


    To the read commenting about 40 sans cuffs. I mean I don't see the big deal, he had no weapons, and was in a PGR building, where was he going to go? What could he do? If he ran I think the officers would not have minded shooting him in the ass as they did Lazca.

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    1. Ooops, forgot to say that in observing past presentations of 'alleged' cartel members it is telling that they are seldom cuffed. In fact I saw one video where the arrested ones where told and motioned by the police to cusp their hands in front of them for the appearance of being cuffed to the media. Here in Canada it is not uncommon to be handcuffed AND shackled to one's waist and ankles if considered violent. Quite a contrast. Canadian girl

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  34. I said all this stuff on this blog back when el Lazca got smoked after a "concerned citizen" called the cops on him at a baseball game.

    Then I got hated on by the bloggers about how I don't understand how things work in Mexico.

    You bloggers just don't know how things work in the U.S.

    I predicted also that Chapó would get murffed in his convoy, or be in U.S. custody by Christmas... I'm reaffirming that here and now.

    ~Spectator

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    1. The MATRIX is real, with corporations pulling the plug. CORP. makes the world go round.pura gente real

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  35. Shut up bunch of crack heads ! C.C.T governs !

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  36. Chapo snitched on Lazca

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  37. Hahahaha spectator ur dreamin bro nothing is like u think

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  38. @August 30, 2013 at 7:38 AM

    "Al Queda + Zeta = Death to America"
    Oh shit who woke this fuckin idiot up with his pertinent comment?Go back asleep we'll wake you up in 20 years,,no we wont !

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  39. "I predicted also that Chapó would get"murffed"(sic)in his convoy"

    Err dude,that's murked,as in"to kill"

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  40. Yep,discontinue low rider,notice how the planes are flying over zetas turf only...u wont see them flying over sinaloa state will ya..

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  41. operational rider send drums 2 La Serrania del Burro 2 miles away from Aqulla

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  42. I forgot and to Jimenez esta El Pollo he took over after the Mexican army killed Daniel menra aka El Malboro1 Del cartel Noreste el pollo is en Moral 20 minutes from jimenes I el comandate CUCO

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