Friday, September 1, 2017

Book review: Martin Corona, "Confessions of a A Cartel Hitman"

This is the first of two parts...

Much appreciation to former Special Agent Steve Duncan for advancing a  copy of "Confessions". When Steve offered to send me an advance copy, I knew that at BB we had someone who could do the review justice, Borderland Beat contributor “J”. J grew up visiting Tijuana often including the violent years of the city.  He was able to put a personal element in his outstanding review.  Any of you who followed the Tijuana cartel/AFO need not an introduction to Martin Corona. Before becoming a teen he began dealing drugs, beginning his criminal career.  He became a sicario leader of an elite group of enforcers for the Tijuana Cartel.An example of Corona’s killings, is that of the sisters of a target named Ronnie Svoboda. One sister, Luz, was pregnant, the other, Ivonne, was a Paris fashion model, both are shot, Ivonne took 3 bullets in the head.  Luz’ 9 yr old daughter watched all the horror from the back seat, but was physically unhurt.  Amazingly the sisters survived but notunscathed, as Ivonne suffered brain damage.  Just a month later, the little girl would see Corona once again, when he and notorious sicario, David Barron, arrived at the grandfathers Tijuana home to beat her father to death.  He is now remorseful for his ghastly deeds,  From a Boy Scout to an effective, ruthless killer, Corona now asks for forgiveness. After the arrest of Javier Arellano-Félix in 2006, Corona played a key role in the downfall of the cartel when he turned state's evidence. The book also is an excellent source to exemplify how seamless cartel criminality flows from border cities like Tijuana to their U.S. counterpart, in this case San Diego County.  Many affluent Mexican nationals, wealthy by legitimate and/or organized crime endeavors, reside in San Diego cities such as Chula Vista. -C.M.-                                          
***

"As far as first hand documentation of the way of the gun in Tijuana, the brutality, the killings, the Arellano Felix brothers, their top lieutenants, there are few books like this."


Confessions of a Cartel Hitman by Martin Corona with Tony Rafael:

Review by Borderland Beat Reporter "J"

I grew up going to Tijuana, and seeing the wanted posters of the Arellano Felix brothers as we crossed through San Ysidro, thousands of cars in the night, in the gridlock of the border.  I used to stare at them, stare at the Federales with rifles walking above, and between the cars.  I asked my Mom once, who these men were, why were they wanted.  "Bad people", she had replied, "Bad men".  I wanted to know where they were, "But, Mom where are they"?  At 10 years old or so, I thought they were close by.

In a sense, they were.

It was 1997, and the Arellano Felix brothers still ran Tijuana. And Martin "Nite Owl" Corona, was soon to be running with David Barron Corona and Ramon Arellano Felix's team of killers, who lived in Colonia Chalupatec, the Beverly Hills of Tijuana, in mansions converted into safe houses and training facilities.  His story, and his involvement is one of a limited amount of direct knowledge about those days and times, who is willing to talk, willing to reveal, to confess, to purge, to heal.   If you are interested in the Arellano-Felix brothers, the Tijuana of that time, the socioeconomic and psychological conditions of a killer, you'll have to read this book.

I am conflicted however, because I had to read this book as well,  to review it or not, I would have read it. I have read many of these books, and they do not always feel the same as they did when I was younger. From psychological Cosa Nostra gangsters who flipped, to Sammy Gravano's tell all, to Hells Angels exiles, I have read these stories of men who lived to tell the story. They all share similar sentiments and personalities, which I suppose is to be expected. They are often extremely self aggrandizing, and at times lack a certain self awareness. Corona's book very much follows this pattern.

I believe he is sincere in his remorse, I believe his handler, Steve Duncan of the DOJ, who writes the intro. I don't believe he would say Corona was repentant if he wasn’t. Yet, as Corona launches into stories of apparently many sexual encounters, girlfriends, and younger glory days, which by far exceed the latter portions of the book, it does beg the question, if not of sincerity, but of delivery. He's done horrible things, and I have no doubt the trauma of that upon his psyche, not to mention the victims is a heavy burden, the stench of death, blood in the depths of the closest, the recesses of his mind. He is in the Witness Protection Program now, long from Tijuana, which will exceed 1200 killings by the end of this year, which is probably four times what it was when Corona was on the team.


It is the nature of the gangster to be self congratulatory and larger than life in many of his stories, but simply from a narrative perspective, you realize there is less than 100 pages left by the time he is in Tijuana.  There are some stories that are fascinating to read, Corona, Kitty Paez, (Arellano Felix partner, and the first to cooperate) and another enforcer driving around San Diego, in a van, planning a killing.  There are stories of life in the safe house, trips to Zona Norte's Red Light District, and providing security for a Colombian contact in Rosarito Beach. These stories aren't told with the detail I would prefer, which is perhaps a minor complaint. The book abruptly comes to a close, I didn't understand in the way I wanted to, of how it all worked out.

Nevertheless, as far as first hand documentation of the way of the gun in Tijuana, the brutality, the killings, the brothers, their top lieutenants, there are few like this. 'Twilight on the Line" has a chapter on the killing of the Cardinal in 1993, which does a really good job of painting the picture of Tijuana and Barrio Logan in the 90's. Beyond that, Benjamin wrote a book in 2015, which is in Spanish.  Eduardo Arellano Felix, is unlikely to pen a memoir. Francisco Arellano Felix was killed in 2013, Fernando Sanchez Arellano is in Altiplano fighting for his freedom, his mom, Endenina Arellano Felix is a shadow, a whisper in the dark.

The gunners, the boys, are all dead, though Bat Marquez (receiving an unflattering dressing down here) remains in federal prison for the rest of his life.; They went out in Tijuana, or San Diego, a long time ago.  Some may still survive, working construction, haunted, or perhaps not, by the memories of another life. To read, to picture, what no one else will say, you'll have to read this book, if that is a journey you want to take, you'll have to decide the cost.


The second part of this review will be posted tomorrow.  It includes excerpts and interview questions of Agent Steve Duncan.

48 comments:

  1. The only reason he's sorry is because he got caught, hit man turned snitch.. If he was still out he would still do the same thing

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    1. Agree, and lucky he is not doing life. Book would be a waste of $$$.

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    2. Very true. After they get caught, they now haveremorse and are looking for the U.S. to help them

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  2. You guys should do a review on cartel wives, the flores twins wives book. Its really good

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  3. It sounds quite interesting.

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  4. CAF was structurized like an original Mafia. No other mexican cartel has ever came close to the paramilitary and entrepreneural organization that the AF rooted deep in the northwest border.They were going above their pay grade and the American government had to nip in the bud. They are still active but not with an iron fist like before.

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    1. The us gave orders to Vicente fox to dismantle t.j now he is living nice in Beverly hills its impossible for an organization to fight the us authority plus Mexican government and enemy competition

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    2. the US arrested the would be owner of las Vegas jorge hank rohn, and stole his narco-visa, operation White Tiger, but as far as money lundering from texas banks to califas and maybe others, on top of drug and arms trafficking nothing was said, the hank rohn mayor of tijuana had to go back to mexico city like some india maria farcasada y panzona, to live on from his usual criminal life with his brother carlos and their buddy jaime camil garza among other luminaries of mexican impunity, the cafos were his gatos.

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  5. I love j's writing and perspective - comes through even in a book review.

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  6. I agree with the reviewer about the self-aggrandizing that occurs in these sorts of books. I have read various autobiographies of different murderers from different walks of life, and I wonder that they can still somehow glorify their deeds when it encompasses the murder of innocent and unarmed women. I guess it speaks to the animal potential to adapt in order to survive. What a terrible species we humans are.

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    1. Wow kill defenseless women. They toke mi sobrino and the girl next door. Never heard from them again.

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  7. These books are no diffrentbthan books written by cops that Infiltrated the mob, the motorcycle gangs and the cartels. Self glamorizing authors who sacrifed their family and loved ones for their self fulfillment. These criminals or cops are nondiffrent than the CEO that runs a major Corporation. All humans sacrifice whtat tgey are willing to obtain self fulfillment. The line between good and bad is very thin

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    1. not even the same as you describe. scrape 20 bucks together and come back and make sense. It is an excellent book if you are interested in TJ and the violent years and so forth, all the better

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    2. What are you saying fool, either it's a book that appeals to you or not, make sense and move on

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    3. Its like the person who sells their soul to the devil and then wants it back. You've just gotta show him what you have to offer him and he will make a deal. All humans are like this, cartels are just more organized and follow the corporate model. Any human can be ruthless though even some mothers turn on kill their kids.

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  8. I'm sure he thinks about his victims everytime his tears hit his whiskers, or when he crawls out of his sewer for a nibble on some moldy cheese. I'm sure he is loving Omaha, Nebraska or Des Moines, IA. Wherever this fat rat calls home.

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  9. DOJ Retired Agent Steve Duncan is a stand up guy. He has spent his career investigating high level AFO Cartel cases. He was not only a great investigator, he was also an outstanding human intelligence expert. He was able to turn and befriend several high level targets whom became government witnesses. Agent Duncan has and continues to take use his kindness to expose weaknesses.

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    1. He is! He is the type of agent that one wishes they all would be. He is sincere, wanting to make a difference, dedicated, efficient and strives to do the best with any task before him. He is so knowledgeable. I love learning from his experience and getting that Birdseye view into investigation.

      The second part to this review is great. one questions I asked about is his opinion regarding "sweet deals" I wasn't expecting the answer I received. It is SO good! We have been communicating for sometime now. I am lucky to have good back and forth with agents from all agencies and fed prosecutors.

      That said. when I begin to go soft regarding people like Corona, I re-read details of his crimes and find it impossible to get the pom poms out. I would have to know him as well as Steve to make any other determination.

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    2. Thank you for your insight Chivis and kudos to Agent Duncan. Lest we not forget that Duncan's parent agency has zero transparency. In every organization there are some bad apples and when they carry a gun and have powers of arrest, they can abuse innocent people. Unlike the federal enforcement agencies which are bound by FOIA, the California agency hides its bad apples...in instance where the case has not been adjudicated. I am talking about dirty cops and dirty searches and bogus seizures. The organization needs to do more to purge its ranks of the dirty cops who are lining their pockets by moonlight as P.I., etc. We criticize this type of corruption in Mexico, but believe me it is happening in the land of honey and milk. Yes, it is a small minority, but it is a very ugly problem.

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  10. I really want to hear all about Z40 life in the Zetas, they need to transfer these cartels boss to GitMo, they will sing like birds in love and give you every detail, if the CIA gets their hands on these guy.

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    1. There are 2 book reviews on Zetas coming up in the next two weeks. and The books ARE SO GOOD. Possibly 3 reviews on Zetas, all different from each other. Next is BLOODLINES reviewed by siskyou_kid and the other is BONES which is being made into a film. I will write the review for BONES. Channing Tatum will star in the film produced by the guy who did Miss Bala.

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  11. Fuckin killers are all just a bunch of lonely lost souls. They know they are not worth shit yet carry on as though they own world. A killer cannot ever go back to being what he or she was once before. They are worth nothing. They are nothing in the scale of glamour much less humanity. Better to be poor than a waste of human life. At least a poor person has some dignity left, these guys would know nothing about this word.

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    1. Amen, well put. Right on the nail, this guys should be dispossed off as soon as caught.

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    2. Just lost. Individuals who have no perspective of life. Moreover, the meaning of living.
      With no spiritual guidance and knowledge due to a defective gene that permits him rational behavior.
      Disappointing!

      E42

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  12. CAF got some of their dope from Montesinos, chief of intelligence in Peru. they favored real estate in Coronado,ca near the ferry landing. Some are still there.

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  13. Sounds like an interesting read, thanks for the review.

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  14. I wouldn't trust this guy with my pet rattle snake

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  15. The book is more than worth reading. Details of actual events are not sugar coated. Particularly interesting to me, working in the juvenile justice system, was how a kid with a good family, Godly home, little leaguer, boy scout, become a killer on command? These issues must be explored. He says within the cartel he felt accepted, respected, loved and a part of a family in a way he never felt before. He described the YA system as the breeding ground for young criminals and indoctrination into the life. He says, leaving YA as graduates of criminality, earning a degree in professional crime methodology.

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    1. Interesting! If what you are stating is true about his upbringing? Definitely something looking into why such a transformation. Misguided emotions, ect.
      Like many individuals I will presume who fall into a life of criminal behavior.
      Social behavior study is necessary to combat further loss of our youth in our societies.
      Thank you for your input.

      E42

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  16. Pinchi Rata no tienes valor

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  17. To Clarify is he free? I know witness protection sometimes even locks up criminals but changes their name. Is this guy locked up, or free in WP?

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  18. Hopefully not like The Cartel Wives. An autobiography from the wives of the Flores brothers. Such selfish,self centered and phony sympathy bullshit. Appearing to be victims rather than culprits of the garbage they flooded our communities for a decade.
    Furthermore, an unjust system from the government not to press charges and forfeit their bank accounts.

    E42

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    1. Good Lord dude hop off their nuts that's all you talk about.

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    2. No nut hugging here! Associates who they turned on! While they remain free with ill gotten fortunes.
      Expressing discontent! Suggest you read more clearly before you make a remark.

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  19. Selling drugs is one thing. Killing people who didn't deserve to be killed is beyond me. This guy is just an uneducated piece of human garbage. I'm sorry, but I question the mans sincerity for repentance. This dirt bag just needed a source of income, so he writes this book. F@*k this snitch! He killed, but was afraid to be killed. Don't become a monster if you can't handle being killed by another monster.

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  20. Part of the problem with the arellano Felix family was that they only promoted family members to run the operations even if they did not know how too run the show. That's what started the problems with muletas not getting his promotion & him teaming up with teo & the cds.

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  21. Hey chivis, thanks for the idea of reviewing books on this subject, some of us enjoy reading about this kind of stuff enough to where we'd drop money on books about it. Just not shitty ones cuz there's plenty of them out there. I've read a bunch in Spanish (Tijuana, Sinaloa, zetas) but it's nice to find them in English also recommended by you guys

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  22. Hopefully it is written from jail!?

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  23. This was not included in the posts about this book...but since the subject came up on comments..maybe it will be added.

    The California youth authority was founded in 1942 having only one detainee that year. By the time the fifties rolled around, the state began using “camps” and “schools” to house the juveniles. With an agreement with the California Forestry and military, the detainees worked alongside civilian personnel. Sometimes detainees sustained serious burns or injuries and loss of life in the process. Their work made the camps self-sufficient. The population was heavily weighted by children of color. And they were being sent to camps for all sorts of reasons, some having nothing to do with crime. Good intentions aside, the YA camps and schools became breeding/educational grounds for budding criminals> below an excerpt from Corona's book:

    “Just like in the California prison system, the YA system, the YA system has two sets of rules imposed by the authorities. And then there are the more important rules established by the Sureno (Southern California gangsters) hierarchy and the EME (the Mexican Mafia). The house rules essentially don’t matter. If you break the house rules, all they can do to you is give you more time in custody and fatten up your inmate jacket. Breaking the EME or Sureno rules however, is extremely dangerous to your health. And EME has eyes and ears everywhere in the California Department of Corrections (CDC) and YA. Once you’re in one of those institutions, you can’t hide from them.

    The YA system is basically the farm team for the Mexican Mafia. YA is where a future EME member begins to make a reputation for himself. The carnals (full blown EME members) are always scouting for new recruits. They enhance their power, status, money-making ability in the prison system by being able to issue orders to solid, reliable, soldiers on the outside and in the prison system. An EME member with a crew of twenty guys who do what he tells them is a powerful man. If those twenty guys can control an entire neighborhood like Posole or Logan Heights, that EME carnal is the monarch of a kingdom. He literally has the power of life and death.

    So for a carnal to stay in business and keep the drug money flowing into his prison bank account, he’s got to keep an eye out for up-and-coming talent. If you want a career as a criminal, YA is the place where you start making your bones and establish yourself as a soldado."




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    1. Wait wait wait that's not how they sell prison reform on tv?! Haha sarcasm. Good work guys!

      Delete
  24. Definately gonna sit down and read this book. Part two on this is excellent as well with the back and forth with Steve Duncan. Really appreciate the work you guys do on BB.

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  25. Dear reader, you know who you are. He/she who continues to send us something we can’t use…because it would be illegal along with unethical. We do not want any part of it. Thanks but no thanks

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  26. Many of these criminals meet in prison.

    About the book. I will only buy it if it is cheep enough. No disrespect but they all about the same thing.

    Also, the guy in the picture of the book looks familiar.

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    About

    “America’s War on Drugs” is an immersive trip through the last five decades, uncovering how the CIA, obsessed with keeping America safe in the fight against communism, allied itself with the mafia and foreign drug traffickers. In exchange for support against foreign enemies, the groups were allowed to grow their drug trade in the United States. The series explores the unintended consequences of when gangsters, war lords, spies, outlaw entrepreneurs, street gangs and politicians vie for power and control of the global black market for narcotics – all told through the firsthand accounts of former CIA and DEA officers, major drug traffickers, gang members, noted experts and insiders.

    Night one of “America’s War on Drugs” divulges covert Cold War operations that empowered a generation of drug traffickers and reveals the peculiar details of secret CIA LSD experiments which helped fuel the counter-culture movement, leading to President Nixon’s crackdown and declaration of a war on drugs. The documentary series then delves into the rise of the cocaine cowboys, a secret island “cocaine base,” the CIA’s connection to the crack epidemic, the history of the cartels and their murderous tactics, the era of “Just Say No,” the negative effect of NAFTA, and the unlikely career of an almost famous Midwest meth queen.

    The final chapter of the series examines how the attacks on September 11th intertwined the War on Drugs and the War on Terror, transforming Afghanistan into a narco-state teeming with corruption. It also explores how American intervention in Mexico helped give rise to El Chapo and the Super Cartels, bringing unprecedented levels of violence and sending even more drugs across America’s borders. Five decades into the War on Drugs, a move to legalize marijuana gains momentum, mega-corporations have become richer and more powerful than any nation’s drug cartel, and continuing to rise is the demand for heroin and other illegal drugs.

    Get it here, Now!
    https://thepiratebay.org/search/americas%20%20war%20on%20drugs/0/99/0

    Featuring EX DEA Celerino Castillo III, EX DEA Michael Levine, EX DEA Phil Jordan, Ryan Grimm (Huffington Post, INTERCEPT), Nick Schou (OC WEEKLY editor, Kill the messenger author)

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    Replies
    1. 2:29 nice choice, other "patriots" object to your treacherous anti-patriotic rant and conspiwacy theories,
      you must keep up with what you are doing, raise hell!

      Delete
  28. I liked the book. It's was a fast read, and interesting. I liked reading about YA, having been there myself. It was also interesting to learn stuff about emeros, I've been following in print, for a long time now. Martin was around, and related to, some heavy hitters in California prison politics. From everything I'd read in the past, Bat always seemed very unlikable and low class. Popeye, or CH, always seemed like a straight killing machine, but the book humanized him in ways I'd never read about, before reading this. Thanks BB for putting me up on a good read. How did Tony Rafael die?

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  29. Trust me he's not sorry. He's still shooting heroin and bragging about his crimes. He's loves the attention. His ego. is unbelievable He a con a liar and a fraud and cares only about his self. I know this man personally and he belongs in hell

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