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

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Colima: Diary of a "Narco" state

Mexico's PGR has offered a 3 million peso reward for Oscar Ulises Mariscal Rios, a state police officer and alleged murderer of the former Governor of Colima, Jesus Silverio Cavazos

The most surprising aspect of the assassination of the former Governor of Colima, Jesus Silverio Cavazos, on Sunday the 21st of this month is that a crime of this magnitude had not occurred before. The killing of the former Governor underlines the moral breakdown in Colima, one of the first states to be infected by large drug cartels.

The infiltration of Colima’s institutions is in full view as the police are now implicated in the former Governor’s assassination

It took more than 20 years to go from the symptoms of deterioration to the current stage of putrefaction, while politicians and elites collectively closed their eyes and shut their mouths at the obvious.

Colima authorities were initially quick to deny that the murder was related to drug trafficking but they have now been forced to report the obvious as Mexican Army and Marine units have taken over security in the state capitol of the same name, Colima.

The military have set up road blocks and are patrolling the streets while they mount house to house searches for weapons and criminals including those responsible for the death of Cavazos, which President Calderon has vowed to solve.

Organized crime has permeated politics at all levels of the state. For several decades Colima has been the sanctuary for drug traffickers from Sinaloa who first entered the state during Operation Condor in the mid-1970s.

Operation Condor was a brutal military operation aimed at drug cultivation and traffickers in Mexico’s western Sierra Madre. Ten thousand soldiers under the command of General José Hernández Toledo, who had participated in the 1968 student massacre in Tlatelolco, were sent to the mountains of Sinaloa, Durango and Chihuahua to destroy illegal marijuana and opium poppy plantations, with little success and massive repression.

The most prominent Sinaloan to make Colima home during this period was Manual Salcido Uzueta, “El Cochiloco" , a top lieutenant of Mexico’s first modern drug lord, Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo.

Salcido arrived in the late 1970s and by the early 1980s had integrated himself into the social life and was influencing the political classes of the state.

By the time El Cochiloco was murdered in Guadalajara in 1991, Colima had become a major corridor for drugs entering Mexico through the port of Manzanillo.

The import of chemical precursors for synthetic drugs into Manzanillo and their manufacture had elevated a local family, the Amezcua Contreras and their “Colima cartel”, into the top methamphetamine trafficking organization in Mexico by the mid 1990’s. The Amezcua Contreras brothers were pioneers in the distribution and sale of methamphetamine into the U.S.

Trafficking by the Colima Cartel of large amounts of methamphetamine into the U.S. and its distribution by criminal networks such as prison gangs and outlaw motorcycle gangs in the 1990’s led to the “crystal meth” scourge of small town Midwest America.

The Amezcua Contreras brothers were finally convicted in the early 2000’s due to intense U.S. pressure and the Colima cartel was dismantled. Organized crime operations in Colima and drug trafficking through the port of Manzanillo then came under the control of the Sinaloa cartel and Chapo Guzman.

Massive imports of pseudoephedrine, a precursor of methamphetamine, entered through Manzanillo from China through front companies run by Zhenli Ye Gon, a Mexican businessman of Chinese origin and alleged member of the Sinaloa cartel who is currently free in the U.S. and fighting extradition to Mexico. In a 2007, Mexican authorities discovered and seized $207 million during a raid on a Mexico City residence belonging to Ye Gon.

The precursor chemicals were transported from Manzanillo to laboratories in the in the industrial areas of Guadalajara, where they were processed into methamphetamine in an operation run by Nacho Coronel that distributed the drug into Australia, Asia, the U.S., and Europe.

In Manzanillo federal officials were on the payroll of the Sinaloa cartel and allowed the shipments of precursor chemicals to enter the country.

Federal port officials including the port master of Manzanillo, Navy captain Jorge Castañeda Uscanga, have been arrested for corruption this year and large shipments of precursor chemicals have been seized in the ongoing offensive by the Calderon administration against Mexico’s drug cartels.

However, methampetamine manufacture and trafficking by the Sinaloa cartel continues.

It was the Amezcua Contreras brothers that created direct links with the families of local politicians during the rise of the Colima cartel and created a level of corruption among authorities that continues to this day.

The families of the late former Governor and his political protégé and current Governor of Colima, Mario Anguiano, are both linked to drug trafficking.

Rafael Cavazos, brother of the former governor, was arrested in 2003 when the PGR (Mexico’s Federal Attorney General’s office) took down a drug distribution ring in the municipality of Tecoman that transported drugs into Michoacan. Another brother, Francisco, was arrested in 2004 in an anti-drug operation.

Humberto Anguiano, brother of the current Governor, Mario Anguiano, spent seven years in prison for selling methamphetamine, and his cousin Rafael Anguiano Chavez was arrested in Los Angeles in 1997 where he headed an operation, connected to the Colima cartel, that distributed methamphetamine and cocaine from coast to coast.

Cavazos's murder is a symbol of the impunity that prevails when a murder of this magnitude is committed, it occurs because whoever ordered the attack is fully confident that he, or they, will go unpunished.

Unpunished crimes, impunity and lax attitudes against crime are what tears at the socio-political fabric and Colima has endured decades of this.

Organized crime in Colima has always been controlled by the same cartel and since the state was not disputed by rivals, the levels of violence and insecurity seen in other parts of the country were not apparent here, until now. Cells composed of remnants of the Beltran Leyva organization and Los Zetas are now active in Colima.

Dark clouds have engulfed Colima with the deaths of top cartel figures like Arturo Beltran Leyva and Ignacio “Nacho” Coronel. This year Colima has witnessed 120 executions linked to organized crime and 40 cases of people disappeared have been reported. The actual number of disappearances may be much higher.

Penetration of Colima by organized crime was a rather open affair, where the distinction between criminals and politicians became blurred, and society did nothing to prevent it.

Source articles:
El Sanuario del narco/ Raymundo Riva Palacio

Ofrece la PGR $3 Millones de Recompensa por el Asesino de Silverio/ Rubén TORRES|EL ECONOMISTA

Vinculos criminales/Jorge CARRASCO ARAIZAGA|PROCESO


  1. Excellent reporting.

  2. Too bad, because Colima is a very beautiful city and state.


  3. This story has no new news. Certain family members of both Silverio (former governor who was killed) and Mario (current governor) did have ties to the drug cartels. It is all brought out and rehashed every time there is an election in Colima.

    But it also doesn’t mean that, as governors, they were and are corrupt, and do business with the drug cartels. The efforts both governors have made in the last few years is admirable. For men supposedly in bed with the cartels, they have certainly accomplished a lot to stop them, as have our police and military.

    I have lived in Manzanillo, Colima for 21 years. I read the newspapers daily, and have many friends here who support our governor and mayor, and what they are trying to do. It is easy to just write about the negative, and alleged ties with the cartels. There are black sheep in every family--mine, too.

    Many people in this state are working very hard to make changes in the positive. Obviously, with Manzanillo being the biggest port in Mexico, the cartels are going to want to control Colima, especially the port. Our elected officials are doing everything they can to prevent that from happening.

    They are actually catching and locking up bad guys, buying new equipment for our police officers, getting them better training, and paying them more than any other police force in the entire country.

    The port of Manzanillo is also the headquarters for the Pacific Fleet, as well as the Mexican Army. Over the years, I have seen them do some amazing military maneuvers, and bust dozens of people for drug trafficking, weapons violations and murder. More criminals are caught and jailed than get away.

    Despite the negative impact of this article, most people who live here are not afraid. I never lock my doors, and I’ve lived in the same home for 10 years without fear. I have never paid a bribe to anyone and I have a business here, so I would know if any corruption existed within the government.

    I have written 2 articles about Manzanillo’s safety, ( and

    While Mr. Raymundo Riva Palacio made some very valid and true points in his article, he doesn’t live here and is out of touch with what is really going on.

    You can feel safe in Colima wherever you go. The people of Colima do not want the cartels here, and they aren’t afraid to call the police emergency number if they suspect someone. And guess what, the police will come—immediately. In fact, that’s the way many of the criminals are caught. We have a very good “neighborhood watch” program, even though it isn’t official. The numbers to call follow almost every article on the police page.

  4. Some of the things the Colima government, police and military have accomplished:

    1. Training of federal customs agents at the port on how to recognize and identify different types of drugs and their precursor chemicals;
    2. The secretary of education has initiated a new program in the secondary schools throughout the state, with more than 23,000 students participating in “Free of Addictions, You Learn More”;
    3. Former governor Silverio Cavazos invested 800 thousand pesos in equipment to detect drugs, arms, explosives and IEDs—specifically: black powder, ammonium nitrate, plastic explosive, black powder fuse, dynamite, amphetamines, methamphetamines, ecstasy, and Chinese, Czech and Russian semtex;
    4. At the port the PGR has found and destroyed 37 tons of the precursor chemical pseudoephedrine (Oct. 2009);
    5. Of the 32 states and the D.F., Colima ranks third to last in illicit drug consumption and the fourth to last with less people dependent on alcohol. According to the Encuesta Nacional de Adicciones, they reveal that Colima state has illicit drug use of 2.4% of the population between 12 and 65 years of age, only below Tlaxcala, with 2.2, and Chiapas, with 1.7%.
    6. Of the 32 states and the D.F., Colima ranks fourth to last in alcohol dependency. 3% of the population between 12 y 65, only below Chiapas, with 2.5%; Guanajuato, 2.3%, and Baja California, with 1.5%.
    7. In fulfillment to the Program of Destruction of Narcotics and Article 181 of the Federal Code of Penal Procedures, the general office of the judge advocate general of the Republic (PGR) incinerated almost 60 kilos of diverse drugs, related to 176 arrests. Before the presence of personnel of the Internal Contraloría of the PGR, 58 kilos, 555 gm, 900 mg of marijuana; 19 gm 400 mg of marijuana seed, 21 plants of marijuana, 294 gm 951 mg of methamphetamine; 203 gm 25 mg of cocaine; and 58 gm 100 mg of heroin. (Nov. 2009)
    8. The PGR of Colima incinerated 11 kilos, 58 gm of diverse drugs related to 54 arrests: 65 mg of marijuana, 4 plants of marijuana, 90 units of psychotropic drugs (LSD), 47 gm 513 mg of methamphetamine, and 8 gm of cocaine. (Jan. 2010)
    9. The PGR of Colima, incinerated diverse drugs related to 309 arrests: 91 kilos 522 gm 447 mg of methamphetamine; 12 kilos 943 gm 849 mg of marihuana; 154 marijuana plants; 3 kilos, 153 gm 900 mg of cocaine; 14 gm 300 mg of heroin; 100 mg of amphetamine; 100 mg of pseudoephedrine; 160 gm marijuana seeds; and 32 tablets of LSD. (March 2010)
    10. Working along with the PGR, Tecoman preparatory and university teachers and principals learn about the different types of drugs, what they look like, in case a student is seen with them, or unknown substances are found in a student’s backpack. (April 2010)
    11. In Colima primary schools this year, students are given an 83-question test to determine future problems with drug, alcohol and tobacco addiction, sexual orientation, sexual abuse and family violence. Of the students questioned, 15 were found to have drug-related problems.

  5. More things accomplished in the state of Colima:
    12. In June 2010, the PGR arrested 61 individuals on charges relating to possession and distribution of drugs, namely: 445 kilos, 800 gm of ephedrine; 49 kilos, 202 gm, 500 mg of cocaine; 12 kilos, 6 gm, 289 mg marijuana; 478 grams, 600 mg methamphetamine; 300 mg heroin; 4 marijuana plants, and a sheet of tabs of LSD.
    13. In August, 2010 in Colima, the Programa Nacional de Combate al Narcomenudeo, arrested 35 individuals for drug trafficking, and seized and destroyed: 9 tons of phenyl ethyl alcohol; 64 tons of phenyl acetate; 83 tons, 800 kilos of ethyl alcohol; 5 tons of phenyl ethanol; 3 kilos, 771 grams, 500 mg. of marijuana; 3 gm., 300 mg. cocaine; 15 gm., 600 mg. methamphetamine; 203 gms. 500 mg. of heroin; and 2 sheets LSD.
    14. Also in August in the Programa Nacional de Control de Drogas, 53 individuals were arrested, and seized were 2 kilos, 103 gm., 400 mg. of marijuana; 1 kilo, 721 gm., 930 mg. of methamphetamine; 200 mg. cocaine; and 50,000 pesos.
    15. For violation of the Federal Firearms Act, 20 pistols, 15 assault rifles, 2,789 bullets, 98 clips, and 3 grenades were seized and destroyed. (August 2010)
    16. This December, the PGR arrested Leonardo Lopez Vasquez, “El Leo” with an AK-47 assault rifle, clips and cartridges; a .38 pistol, clips and cartridges, and 1 kilo, 538 gm. marijuana.
    17. This December, two men, Isidro Ruelas Corrales y José Severiano De la O Mora, were arrested with the following firearms in their possession: IMI Galil calibre 7.62 mm; AK – 47, calibre 7.62 mm; AK-42, calibre 7.62 mm; Colt M-16, calibre 5.56 mm; M-16, calibre 5.56, equipped with a Grenada launcher; Winchester rifle scope; 1 9 mm Beretta pistol, 1 .38 Colt Super; calibre 9 mm; 1 S&W .22 mm, 4 grenades; 17 clips for AK-47; 2 clips calibre .223 mm; 2 clips calibre 308 mm.; 2 clips 9 mm pistol; 2 clips 38 super; 1 clip pistol .22 mm; 629 cartridges 7.62 x 39 mm; 93 cartridges calibre .223 mm; 23 cartridges calibre .12 mm; 26 cartridges calibre 38 Super; 15 cartridges calibre 9 mm.; 84 cartridges calibre 7.62 mm; 135 cartridges calibre 308 mm; 34 cartridges calibre .22 mm; short wave radio; a cartridge belt, a Dodge Ram king cab, model 2010 with Jalisco plates, and a Chevy Tracker, no plates.
    18. 100 Kilos, 220 gm. of cocaine was destroyed by the Mexican Navy this month. (Dec. 2010)
    19. The Mexican Army located and burned 3,000 sq. meters (0.741 acre) of marijuana Dec. 2 in Minitatlan. The density of the plants was 5/sq. meter, or 15,000 plants. Also found was 15 kilos of packaged marijuana, and 300 grams of seeds.

    Radio Levy ( has a police page (in Spanish) with much more than I’ve mentioned. You can feel safe in Colima wherever you go. The people of Colima do not want the cartels here, and they aren’t afraid to call the police emergency number if they suspect someone. And guess what, the police will come—immediately. In fact, that’s the way many of the criminals are caught. We have a very good “neighborhood watch” program, even though it isn’t official. The numbers to call follow almost every article on the police page.

    I stress this is not all--just some of what has been happening here in the past year or so.


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