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

Monday, February 7, 2011

It Was Better to Just Shoot Them

It was Better to Just Shoot Them

Charles Bowden, writer and reporter specializing in the subject of narco-traffic and the author of the book “Murder City” interviewed a Mexican hitman over a five day period. These conversations were captured by the Italian director Gianfranco Rosi. The result is the documentary “El Sicario, Room 164” which has been shown in Europe and will be seen in New York this month, although no one in Mexico has dared to distribute it.

Sunday, February 6, 2010

WASHINGTON, DC.- “I remember one time when they sent us from Mexico to the other side, to the United States, me and a ‘compañero.’ The order was to abduct someone and hold them, and we came here, to this motel, and we stayed in this room. He was over there—he points toward the bathtub—three days, for three days we tortured him.”

Thus begins the documentary “El Sicario, Room 164” whose protagonist—a Mexican cartel hit-man—reveals how he began his career murdering, torturing, kidnapping, and trafficking drugs; he details the manner in which organized crime operates and speaks of the high level of corruption that permeates every level of Mexican government.

The 77 minute documentary was produced by Venezia Cinema 2010, Orizzonti-Competition, Robofilms, Les Films d’Ici, in association with Arte France-La Lucarne. It was filmed by Gianfranco Rosi during a five day interview with a “sicario” conducted by United States author and reporter, Charles Bowden..

“During the time I was here—continues his account—the order was to keep him alive; beyond that we don’t know what happened. In the majority of instances, even if the ransom has been paid, they still die.”

“There are no borders for the narco. Not in Mexico, the United States, Colombia, Costa Rica, or El Salvador. The narco can buy anything, pay off police, customs agents, border patrol. If they move tons upon tons of drugs, how difficult is it to move a single person?”
Room 164 of a motel along the US Border with Mexico is the scene for the documentary. The hit-man, tall, substantial, and dressed in black , has an accent originating from Chihuahua. Before speaking in front of the camera, he places a double layered black hood over his head to hide his face. Prior to detailing his “life as a professional hitman” he looks in the mirror to assure himself that the hood does not reveal a single feature of his face.
“I am going to tell you about twenty years of my life…twenty years of my life dedicated to the service of narco-traffic, to the cartel,” he says as the first part of the documentary gets underway.

“When you see the film, pay attention to one detail, the hands of the sicario and what he does with them during the interview, " Bowden told this reporter when he turned over a copy of the documentary which has already been shown in various places in Europe. Not in Mexico. According to the author of “Murder City,” two production companies refuse to present the film to the Mexican public.

The killer’s hands are large, strong, and do not stop moving during the course of the documentary. To calm them he keeps them always occupied: with a large black pen he draws in a notebook. “The sicario draws each of his narrations. He was a specialist at manual strangulation. He doesn’t even remember how many people he killed. Or maybe he forgets on purpose,” comments Bowden.

The killer states that in Mexico there are many myths surrounding those who serve the cartels; for example, a “true sicario” is one who delivers just one blow, a single knife wound or a single shot eliminates one person. “When a sicario is a professional, he doesn’t do what a random wannabe does,” the sicario comments as he draws an automobile in his notebook. “This is a car. The hit is driving and he has to be killed; a wannabe does this—with his marker he draws a bunch of dots on the car alluding to a burst of random bullets—he sprays the entire car,” he explains. He turns the page of the notebook to draw another car. “When a sicario works, he has the mark and he is driving. There are two very simple ways of going about it. Make a circle here, where the handle to the door is, or make a circle here in the window where the mark’s head is. That is a sicario, the rest are imitators.”

The profesional sicario, he continues, is someone who maintains anonymity, who doesn’t like to be identified with the spectacular nature of his work. “He could be at a park playing baseball with his kids, just like he could be at a meeting, in a council meeting with the mayor of a city.”

The training of a sicario, even his university education, in the majority of cases, is an investment that the leaders of the drug cartels make so that they can count on effective, discrete, and willing assassins at any point along the US/ Mexican border, as well as in any other country.

El sicario says he entered organized crime when he was a high school student. Without revealing who recruited him, he claims he was sought after so that he could move cars between Mexico and the United States, and visa versa. He never saw what was transported in the autos, in the trunk or in secret compartments, but he imagines that it must have been drugs and money.

He was paid in dollars and the cars were left at his disposal for as long as he wanted. He could also count on houses were there were women, alcohol, drugs, and firearms of all types. He worked in this way for three years.

“When I was in my fourth semester at the university, some acquaintances arranged for me to enter the police academy,” he says, explaining how he went from a ‘pasacarros’ to a professional cartel hit-man.

A the police academy you have to be of age, you have to have your military service card in order, preferably, you should be married, you have to pass a drug test and a physical exam. He claims he was a minor, he did not pass the drug test, and the only thing he did pass was the physical examine. But since he “came recommended,” he was accepted.

“Disgracefully, the Mexican academies—the special police, the investigative police, the military police, or the army—have served so that the narcos can use their people….that is why anyone who has passed through one of those academies is easily recruited by the narcos. With this [system] the narcos are not going to trouble themselves with having to show someone how to use a firearm, drive a car, patrol, how to read a license plate, or have to train them on how to look at a person so that they will never forget their face,” he emphasizes.

Two-hundred police graduated from his class. "Chihuahua is big: Juárez, Villa Ahumada, Parral, Camargo, Delicias, Ojinaga, and we border the states of Sonora and Durango. Of those 200 graduates, 50 are already being paid by the narcos; in other words, 150 will be distributed in different places throughout the state. But the other fifty will also be spread about the state: 25 will stay in Juárez, 5 in Chihuahua, 5 in Parral, 5 in Ojinaga, and so on and so forth.

“They distribute the police in such a way that when it is time to transport drugs from Sonora or Durango, at the state-lines there will always be someone tied up [with the narcos] so that they can circulate freely. Many times they use the police to transport the drugs.” The “clave” he adds, is to simply say that “the drugs are already blessed.”

Professional sicarios are in charge of abducting people who owe money to the cartel or who change sides (amongst them police, military people, informants or mistresses of the capos), and in some cases they have to bury people.

As he speaks of government corruption at the hands of narco-traffic, he sketches a diagram where he puts the President at the top and the state governments along the edges, and the secretaries of state at the bottom. “I can’t speak with certainty about the president, but the people below him…they are bought off by the narcos. Just as sure as there are safe houses in all of Mexico….where people from the judicial branch of government up to the secretary of government—who are the president’s strong arm--are aware that there are people buried there. Not one, two, three, or four, but more than, three or four hundred people,” he explains.

The documentary’s protagonist sustains that in Chihuahua dozens of kidnappings occur, and of all of the people kidnapped only five or six are found alive. He even claims he knows of various houses where hundreds of people are buried.

He reveals that the “narcofosas” that are “supposedly found by Mexican police” are “casas de seguridad” where FBI or DEA agents have been buried and that they are found because the US agencies implant them “with a chip in their body,” so it is very easy to locate them by way of a satellite locations system, or GPS.

The documentary can be classified by some as a torture, kidnapping, or assassination manual, to learn torture, because the sicario explains how narco-trafficking cartels carry out these activities. Even in his sketches, for example, he illustrates how the patrol cars should position themselves for a kidnapping or an abduction.

The sicario narrates torture techniques, including recreating certain cases. He relives the dialogue he exchanged with the victim and what it was like being with the perpetrators:
“[the victim] is completely naked and you cover him with a blanket, you douse it with gasoline or alcohol and you light it on fire, once it is burning, you pull it off and it brings with it up to three layers of skin. You can see the person’s spine…you throw a liter of alcohol on it…the suffering is enormous. There are interrogation techniques that you cannot even imagine.

"It is ugly seeing a woman tortured; it is ugly seeing how they are insulted because there are no scruples. It is not the same with a man…it is not the same to see a woman suffering, asking for mercy, to see her insulted by no just one but four, five, six, seven persons, and after making her suffer up until the point she loses consciousness, it was better in the end to just shoot them.
"One learns the ways in which the cartel or the cartels send messages by the way they leave a body. The orders are: ‘Dump it face up.’ This is a message. ‘Dump it face down.’ Another message. ‘Cut off a finger and stick it in the mouth.’ A message. ‘Cut off a finger and put it in the anus.’ Message. “Gauge the eyes out, cut the tongue off’ …one receives orders and attacks.”

There are exceptions, he says. Some people are not tortured, they are swiftly executed; it depends on the “patron’s” wishes. In another one of his accounts he says that not all of the people eliminated by sicarios are involved in narco-traffic.

He talks about a case of about 45 car thieves in Ciudad Juarez who were giving state authorities a bad image, so the authorities asked the cartel to abduct them, an event that coincided with the loss of 3,000 kilos of cocaine. The patron sent out the order that during thirty days not a bit of cocaine was to be sold, but about 70 drug dealers did not comply with the order. They were picked up and executed along with the car thieves.

Cartel sicarios were not the only ones who participated in this massive execution: the sicario says that a group of about 800 assasins was formed including municipal, state, and federal police to carry out the order.

“I remember one time: they heated up some 200 liter vats of water. They set up a pulley and hung the men by the shoulders from it and they lowered them little by little into the boiling water. When they fainted, they took them out. There was a doctor [present] who would revive them; they would cut off the parts that were already completely cooked…they would come to and they would lower them again, little by little….until they died.”

During the last part of the documentary, the sicario explains his transformation from “la vida loca” to a practicing Christian.

He flamboyantly narrates the reasons that led him to leave a life of death behind after, for reasons he cannot even explain, he decided to quit smoking, and using drugs and alcohol, which produced in him an attitude that within the cartel was viewed as a threat, so they decided to eliminate him…


  1. This is sum deep shit, wow. WTF, their are sum evil MF out ther.

  2. the coumentary has been out in the us since is in french..english and spanish

    buela posted the text to this in its complete form a few weeks ago it here on bordland beat somewhere

  3. anyone got a full documentary seems interesting

  4. WHERE CAN I FIND THIS DOCUMENTARY!? Ive been looking all over google and cant find a website to buy it from or stream it?

  5. The government will not protect you from people like this. Mexicans: Realize your duties to protect yourself, where your rights come from (God not government) and start fighting for your freedom.

  6. Resilient Tucsonian.

    what are you talking about?
    you throw freedom as if its a term with no meaning.
    Mexico is a free democracy, albeit in the midst of a drug war, throwing around Cliches is lame.

  7. You can find the documentary on Youtube. It is in Spanish with German subtitles.

      Go to setting and change the subtitles to German

  8. Full written El Sicario Room 164 documentary is here:


  9. Marc

    Y se corrumpio la tierra delante de Dios, y estaba la tierra llena de violencia. Y miro Dios la tierra, y he aqui que estaba corrumpida; porque toda carne se habia corrumpido su camino sobre la tierra. Prepara las cadenas porque la Nacion se ha llenado de sangre, y la cuidad esta llena de violencia. Dios pondra fin a la soberbia de los poderosos y sus lugares altos seran destruidos. Cuando la desesperacion los atrape en vano buscaran descanso. Una tras otra vendran las desgracias, al igual las malas noticias, no habra intruccion moral y los jefes del pueblo no les quedaran consejo. El rey hara duelo el pricipe se cubrira de tristeza, y temblaran las manos del pueblo [atterorizado]. Yo los tratare segun su conducta, Y los jusgare segun sus acciones. Asi sabrab que yo soy Dios. (Gensis 6:11-12, Ezekiel 7:23-27)

  10. So glad he found jesus and was able to kick his smoking habit, that's a load off my mind. What a sick f*ck. None of this explains why they torture and mutilate so much. This is the face of real evil. If there is an afterlife I hope he gets to re-experience every one of his adventures as the victim.

  11. This might have been how things worked when he was active, but now things have changed. Cartels don't invest in getting real sicarios, why should they? They have legions upon legions of Ninis waiting for their shot at becoming the next Tiburon or CH, I think this documentary might be outdated by about a decade.

  12. Do u actually believe this guys story?Is there any proof of what he committed thru out the years by fotos or videos with the cartel..I actually think he is all talk and he is just tryn to sell a movie!Real sicarios dont talk,they take orders and wait for the next orders 2come!........Game Recognize Game All Day Everyday!

  13. I read this guys account in 'Murder City', some of it does sound made up imo. All respect to this story and Bowden, but some of it sounds so over the top, and 'typical' macho narco braggadocio. I don't doubt that the guy is a killer though at all.

  14. People who commit these horrible crimes will be reborn into complete misery. Far worse than many of us can ever imagine.

  15. The Accent of this guy is not "Chihuahuño"
    sounds more "American" who has lived in Mexico.
    his spanish is "Pocho"

  16. Bowden is full of it, just like his last book that flopped. Think about it, this loser claims that FBI and DEA agents are buried with chips. What an exageration. How many FBI or DEA agents have you heard of that came up missing, and don't you think that we would have heard about this in the news. Think about one of our greatest heros, Kiki Camarena. That was all over the news immediately. This is just another way for these idiots (loser and Bowden) to get that almighty dollar. I live on the border and see what is truly happening and it isn't pretty, but definetly not like this loser is describing it.

  17. @anon recognize game? how bout we put you in a room with that guy alone and see how you come out of it if you don't believe him....also have you ever seen any ex-gang members who are against what they use to be/do?

    You can only be 'all day everyday' for so long before you wake up and realize we are but atoms of an insignificant(up to this point) lifeform with the mental capacity/potential to 'recognize' the totality of the universe and beyond.

    So, let's reach that potential instead of this BS game recognize game garbage.

    A man should recognize/know himself first and foremost before he seeks recognition from others.

  18. Marc

    Many commentaries posted here are incredulous to believe that such evil exist in the world. Many of the things he is describing - kidnapped people how they behave identical to the "Stockholm Syndrome" Many books and literature in torture and mind control and occultism i.e. satanism describes exactly what this man is describing. Just wikipedia on the Stockholm syndrome and you will understand his descriptions.

  19. He should be eliminated. I don't know why Bowden didn't do it. I don't know how he could sit and listen and then just go and type it up for his publisher. So he is born again, who cares? He's a poor, sick animal that deserves to be put out of his misery.

  20. In psychology, Stockholm syndrome is a term used to describe a paradoxical psychological phenomenon wherein hostages express adulation and have positive feelings towards their captors that appear irrational in light of the danger or risk endured by the victims, essentially mistaking a lack of abuse from their captors as an act of kindness.
    Stockholm syndrome is a psychological shift that occurs in captives when they are threatened gravely but are shown acts of kindness by their captors. Captives who exhibit the syndrome tend to sympathize with and think highly of their captors. When subjected to prolonged captivity, these captives can develop a strong bond with their captors, in some cases including a sexual interest.

    Psychiatrist Frank Ochberg, widely credited with Stockholm Syndrome's psychiatric definition, describes it as "a primitive gratitude for the gift of life," not unlike that felt by an infant.[7]

    According to the psychoanalytic view of the syndrome, this tendency might be the result of employing the strategy evolved by newborn babies to form an emotional attachment to the nearest powerful adult in order to maximize the probability that this adult will enable—at the very least—the survival of the child, if not also prove to be a good parental figure. This syndrome is considered a prime example for the defense mechanism of identification.[8]

    A person may not escape from an enemy even if they were treated cruelly. This is because they enter into a defense mechanism called Dissociation. This is a normal defense mechanism in persons exposed to trauma. When they enter a dissociative state, they can cope with the abuse they endure. Dissociation may be so much that they do not take their opportunities to escape when they have the chance.
    Mary McElroy was kidnapped and held for ransom in 1934 and released by her captors unharmed. She described the incident as a positive one and, when her captors were apprehended and given harsh sentences (including one death sentence), McElroy defended them. According to reports, she suffered from feelings of guilt concerning the case which compromised her mental and physical health. She took her own life in 1940.

    Patty Hearst was kidnapped by the Symbionese Liberation Army in 1974. After two months in captivity, she actively took part in a robbery they were orchestrating. Her unsuccessful legal defense claimed that she suffered from Stockholm syndrome and was coerced into aiding the SLA. She was convicted and imprisoned for her actions in the robbery, though her sentence was commuted in February 1979 by President Jimmy Carter, and she received a Presidential pardon from President Bill Clinton on January 20, 2001 (among his last official acts before leaving office).

    Jaycee Lee Dugard was abducted at age 11 by Phillip and Nancy Garrido at a school bus stop in 1991 and was imprisoned at their residence for 18 years. In August 2009, Phillip brought Nancy and Jaycee (who was living under the alias "Alyssa") along with two girls that Garrido fathered with Jaycee during her captivity, to be questioned by Garrido's parole officer after he noticed some suspicious behavior. She did not reveal her identity when she was questioned alone. Instead, she told investigators she was a battered wife from Minnesota who was hiding from her abusive husband, and described Garrido as a "great person" who was "good with her kids". Dugard has since admitted to forming an emotional bond with Garrido with great guilt and regret.[9]

  21. If anyone is interested, the documentary is available on YouTube... Unfortunately it is in Spanish with German subtitles. But here it is anyway... its in 4 part, this the first

  22. @ tiangera

    Giving you props. One of the best articles I've read. Inside the mind of a professional killer. I also thought that his stories were kinda exaggerated and outdated. But still a great story.

    Where's buela chivis?

  23. hey 4:52 P.M. el "pocho" mas bien eres tu, los Chihuahueños son caninos, el gentilicio es "Chihuahuense". Come on man, know your shit before you spit B.S.

  24. it sounds a little bit sensational to me ...
    and we all know that this type of exaggerated hyper violence sells...
    and then unfortunately maybe life imitates art/torture


  25. Hasta la madre y a chingar a la tuya,
    i never said i wasnt pocho either,
    come on man get off your wagon pendejo.

  26. Wow. I feel sick. It is one thing to image what torture might loom a vague threat, but to know what it is is another entirely. And then there is the deep-down hopeless feeling that this man speaks earnestly of the government "system".
    How did he ever get out alive?

  27. Brito you don't believe nothing happens in this world dog. Give it up hater.

  28. To 11:24; LA ROSA DE SHARON (DIOS), Ya esta pa vienier, ye con El va quemair todo lo que offende, ye por eso, me corrazon esta aliegre.!!!

  29. Just who tortures who and where?

    'The sicario narrates torture techniques, including recreating certain cases. He relives the dialogue he exchanged with the victim and what it was like being with the perpetrators:

    “[the victim] is completely naked and you cover him with a blanket, you douse it with gasoline or alcohol and you light it on fire, once it is burning, you pull it off and it brings with it up to three layers of skin. You can see the person’s spine…you throw a liter of alcohol on it…the suffering is enormous. There are interrogation techniques that you cannot even imagine.'

    But there's more about torture and who tortures who and just where??? at....

    'Late last year, former US President George W Bush recounted in his memoir, Decision Points, that when he was asked in 2002 if it was permissible to waterboard a detainee held in secret CIA custody outside the United States, he answered "damn right". This "decision point" led to the waterboarding of that person 183 times in one month. Others were waterboarded, as well.

    Waterboarding is torture. In the past, the US prosecuted and convicted Japanese officials who waterboarded US and allied prisoners. US Attorney General Eric Holder has unequivocally stated that waterboarding is torture.'

    taken from the beginning of 'George Bush: no escaping torture charges' from today's edition of Guardian, UK newspaper...

  30. @ any mouse

    au contraire dog knot..i believe a lot of shit happens in this world ..

    among those things hitmen padding the story and sensationalist authors going along with it to sell books...

    and stupid any mouse comments ....tater

    and uhrny...

    sorta puts water boarding into perspective dosen't it...thinking you are drowning...versus being burned alive ..or being slowly boiled alive...

    i think you have inadvertently. made bush's crew of torturers look not so bad

    sort of a ridiculous comparison there , don't you think ,"ol man"


  31. He found god! Good, now what does he want? His picture on the side of a candle? Or does this sick fuckk want to get paid again for all the shitt he did. What's next? La Barbie's book..



  33. Brito, you seem to have a hard time understanding the difference from torture 'lite' which you seem to support with all your heart and soul, and more brutal forms of torture. When the US government is trying to legitimize its own use of torture, of course they are not going to act like ZETAs, who have a whole different set of motives and uses for torture. That does not mean that water boarding is an insignificant event when used by a government, or that it is not a torture that often can turn into an outright murder.

    I'm sorry to be hard on you, but you are just the sort of shallow person who sees none of the real nuances of political coming and going ons even as you accuse me of such obliviousness.

    Many of these 'torture lites' can turn a person into a broken down human being for life when used on folk especially who never are charged and are never actually given a real trial. Don't let that bother leetle ol' American you though, Brito.

  34. yeap torture lite...versus torture extreme...

    i really don't support either..and i surely don't support American involvement in any other countrys business ..whether to save them or prop up or take down some govt...

    having said that reality even though it is not a good thing, humans do have conflicts, and they do bad things,

    if someone commited a crime against someone i cared for and i needed to extract information from them i would not hesitate to do whatever it took to get the job done

    all nations are guilty of transgressions, Mexico is still playing out the Aztec and Spanish past

    to harp on the USA and ignore all the other guilty nations is a bit shallow , shortsighted and narrow in focus

    I am an American ..i was born an American and will probably die an American, this is the only country i have ,and to try to tear down my own country while excusing or ignoring all the past , present and potential future wrongs committed by all the other nations on this earth is a simple minded and childish world view to me

    I am well aware of the many people wronged by the US govt both at home and abroad,, growing up in an extremely poor area exploited but otherwise ignored by the "govt"has always colored my outlook of our I have scars on my head to remind me of being beaten for my physical appearance and political involvement with AIM (American Indian Movement) almost got me killed ...

    believe me i do not condone any of the multitude of bad things done by the USA..but the comparison between what this maniac claims to have done , and water boarding is a real stretch

    what men do out of "patriotism" or a misguided sense of duty or for some ideology whether it is justified or not , is a far cry from torture to inflict pain for amusement or for financial gain...

    to me there is no comparison... especially between water boarding and being slowly boiled alive

    at every turn you attempt to get in a dig at the USA.... some of your jabs are more ridiculous than others ...this one is out of context and totally absurd

    this blog is about Mexcio..not the various crimes committed by the USA

    you should author THAT blog


  35. Sorry, LB, but there simply is connection between the US government's now overt torturing of POWs along with its long time covert use, too, of torture, and the use of torture by other governments (like the Mexican one) around the planet. Too mention it to you is to take a 'dig' at the US government which you support so whole heartedly. You want me and others to simply shut up for you so that you can go on feeling all great about the world society your own government is running. Not going to happen though, and you can just boil and bawl all you want to about it for all I care.

    These things all interconnect. Egypt's vice president who is the Mubarak regime's chief torturer, the US government wanting to slid him into the presidency/ dictatorship office there and Mubarak out, and events in Mexico done with US complicity and cover-up, too. Brito, you want to just scream and shout out about how some narco or other is a shithead and leave it at just that. You are shallow and nothing shows it more than this little statement just made by you...

    'what men do out of "patriotism" or a misguided sense of duty or for some ideology whether it is justified or not , is a far cry from torture to inflict pain for amusement or for financial gain...'

    Sure, you and Dick Cheney would like all of us to believe this but it's just crap to try to rationalize American government criminality away. I don't buy it, and neither do a whole lot of other people, too. With this 'standard' in place the US is creating another hellhole in Mexico.

  36. ok..somebody smack me ...

    what have i done into a pointless conversation with 'ol one note dogmatic uhrny...

    trying to have a discussion with someone as one diminsional as you is another kind of torture

    thats it ..enough barking at the dog


  37. The documentary is available in english subtitles and can be downloaded for a fee.
    Try Ajax to download.

    Yes, I indeed posted the link to the full Harpers article weeks ago. The Harpers article was the beginning of the docu. Here it is again, however it is NOT the full docu text.



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