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

Monday, March 28, 2011

VIP Addicts

By: Samuel Mayo
For Milenio Semenal

CUERNAVACA, Mor.- In the world of illicit drugs, there is always an opening for someone with everything to lose. Daniel (ficticious name) had just received his degree in international business; the board had offered him a good job in Villahermosa and he planned to start a new life alongside his girlfriend and the child they were expecting, until cocaine quit being a pastime and it pushed him to the edge.

Before he knew it, this 24 year old young man had lost his girlfriend.

He hadn’t showered in days, his kitchen table was cluttered with beer cans, drugs, and weapons. “It got to the point where I smoked crack with my baby in the car. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t regret it.” Sitting in the garden at a rehabilitation center in Cuernavaca, Daniel tries to justify the four year long nightmare that included his consuming 20 doses of crack a day.

He had grown up attending private schools, he was a good athlete, and he wanted for nothing. “I think a lot about the neglect that has always accompanied me. I remember my stepfather and how he tried to buy my affection, but at family get-togethers, I was alone,” he affirms with his eyes shaded by the bill of his white baseball cap.

Neglect and money are words that go hand in hand amongst the hundreds of upper class young people like Daniel who fall victim to drugs. They are the main buyers of the more than four tons of meth-amphetamines and the 300 million dollars worth of cocaine that is consumed annually in Mexico, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, but they draw little suspicion: they live in upscale neighborhoods, they attend private schools and wear designer clothing.

During a meeting of foreign correspondents in Mexico City last January, the Health Secretary, José Ángel Córdova Villalobos, declared that in the last six years, cocaine consumption [in Mexico] has doubled. In this same period 2.5 percent of the Mexican population, in other words, nearly 3 million of the total population of 110 million, has consumed cocaine, a statistic reiterated by the secretary of Public Health, Genaro García Luna, during the meeting of the Comisión Permanente del Congreso which took place this past January.

The narcos have found in these upper class young people an excellent potential market for marijuana, crack, and synthetic drugs. “We all start out with the first one free,” says Daniel. From there it’s a rapid decline toward ruin, the destruction of the family and one’s physical and psychological well-being.

Daniel left Mexico City behind to embark upon a university education in Villahermosa, spending thousands of pesos exploring the “excesses” of the nightlife. “I tried cocaine at a party. At first it was good to counter the effects of alcohol,” he says. But doing lines of cocaine ruined his nose, so he started doing crack, also known as “piedra” or rock, a combination of cocaine and ammonia that, when smoked, is even more powerful and addictive. From that moment, he lost control of his life.

He put a price on his body and began prostituting himself out to men and women alike to make money to calm “the beast,” he remembers, “It got to the point where my arms were paralyzed.” The twitching of his muscles scared him, but addiction does not understand fear.

A client offered him drugs in return for sex, a mix of crack and marijuana, a concoction that nearly caused Daniel to lose consciousness, even though he could still make out the blurry face of the man pulling his pants down in front of him. “I don’t know how it came to that extreme. The drug addict hears, but doesn’t listen,” he says during the interview.

It seemed nothing mattered to him: the portrait of his son, his girlfriend’s words, nor his heart beating at 120 beats a minute every time he inhaled cocaine. But hell was a little further away and it had a name: Los Zetas. His dealer offered him easy money for a simple job: to spy on business executives and upper class people and to pass along their addresses and information regarding their daily routines.

The drug distributors formed part of the Zetas’ criminal pyramid, people dedicated to local drug dealing who were high enough up in the hierarchy of the organization to be armed, and Daniel had entered the business of robbery, kidnapping and extortion by passing along information in exchange for a few grams of cocaine. After four years, there wasn’t a sign left of that young man with a promising future.
Youth and narco are words that routinely go hand in hand when describing social strata submerged in poverty, from gang members with no real alternatives, to sons of farmers bought for 500 pesos who learn how to cultivate marijuana and heroin poppies from the age of 12 because growing corn provides no hope for the future.

But when we talk about consumers of drugs, the Mexican government points the finger at the United States where the market for cocaine is valued at 50 billion dollars annually, a figure that diminishes the significance of the [Mexican] domestic drug market.

With five million habitual marijuana, cocaine and crack users, according to the Secretary of Public Health, the Mexican drug market is not the most lucrative for traffickers, but it is a significant market for some “specialized” dealers, as evidenced by the battles waged by the cartels in certain areas of the country.

“Violence does not just exist on the northern border, there are confrontations in other places where before it was unheard of, such as in Aguascalientes. Mexico has ceased to be just a trafficking corridor, and the cartels are struggling to take hold of certain territories. They don’t just seek to dominate those spaces by dealing drugs, but their business also includes extortion, kidnapping, and human trafficking,” says the coordinator of the Analytic Entity of Social Violence of the UNAM, René Jiménez.

Well off university students with an image to protect make up a large clientele for domestic dealers in Mexico. They are the vanguard of Mexican society. On the other side of the coin we have people like Daniel. “They are the most vulnerable population because they are in the throes of adolescence walking a tightrope with no safety net, juggling between good and bad,” says Dr. Cuevas, director of the Quinta Satori rehabilitation center that has, amongst its patients, a large number of men and women from the upper classes who are addicted to alcohol and/or illicit as well as pharmaceutical drugs.

In Cuernavaca alone there are six private rehab centers and that is not enough. Each admits an average of 8 to fifteen persons per month, most of them from Mexico City. The cost is anywhere from 40 to 50 thousand pesos per month (about $3,300 to $4,100 USD.)

The intersection between the young upper class and “el narco” has a long history that Carlos Antonio Hurtado, 42, is familiar with since he has spent a third of his life in rehab centers trying to kick his addiction to crack. Adopted in “el DF” (Mexico City) by an upper class Argentinian woman, Carlos began consuming cocaine in the hallways of the Liceo Franco-Mexicano.

A publicist and a painter, Carlos’ addiction took hold in the 1990’s when his paintings gained notoriety in different galleries in the country and he made friends within the “political class.” “At one point I spent 10 thousand dollars on cocaine in a single week so I could get high with the kids of well known Mexican politicians. That’s how I got to be friends with El Güero Palma’s brother. He offered me crack for the first time and that was my undoing.”

Cocaine, crack, and methamphetamines whose daily consumption in the 1980’s was concentrated in locales on the northern border such as Tijuana or Juárez, is now easily accessible in more than a hundred cities in the country. In the face of the results of a National Poll on Addiction (Encuesta Nacional de Adicciones), President Calderon admitted last June that a fifty percent increase in drug use over the last six years is a worrisome phenomena and he urged a campaign be waged to stop the demand for illicit drugs.

But in an interview with M Semenal (Milenio’s weekly magazine), the adviser to the United Nations Organization (Organización de la Naciones Unidas) and a security expert, Edgardo Buscaglia, doubts the effectiveness of the federal government in combating drug use. Buscalia considers the social investment made by the government and private organizations limited in scope and, in the face of the structure of “el narcotráfico,” severely weakened.

 “There is no [effective] form of government control and the cities are a boiling pot and criminal groups act on this.” Young people,” claims Buscaglia, “are victims of the very abandonment that organized crime takes advantage of in order to gain power.”

Daniel knows this territory well. “In Villahermosa my friends had money and could get drugs. When addiction sets in you start using when you are all alone, not just when you are out in the clubs. Right away you learn who to look for when you want drugs and you jump in a taxi and head straight to the places where they are sold, even though the place always changes so as not to stir up suspicion.”

Efraín worked for the phone company, Telmex, in the morning, and was a compulsive crack user in the afternoon. He remembers his record well: 60 doses.

When he had gone through the drugs, his addiction drove him to desperately sniff the soda cans he used to smoke the crack in. “A lot of the taxi drivers didn’t want to take me to buy [the drugs] because they were really shady places. I would pay them 200 pesos and they would go along. There were three or four crack houses where I’d buy and the dealers would fight to sell to me because they knew I bought in large quantities.

When I went to work, I’d put on my sunglasses like a mask and wait to finish my shift so I could go out and buy more drugs.” During a three day period, Efrain got high with his own son this, according to the medical specialists who are treating him, is the picture of addiction. “To this day I am very confused. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t crave the drugs,” says Efrain, covering his face with his hands.

Ninety-thousand high school students claim to have consumed drugs at least once. You need very little money for a single dose and the narcos have done their part to narrow the gap between the social classes by cheapening the drugs by cutting them with chemical additives such as gasoline, kerosene, acetone, and baking soda. The health consequences are devastating.

“During the 1970’s, cocaine was considered the champagne of all drugs due to its high cost, but today’s cocaine is only made up of 15% pure cocaine.” Before it would take five years for the health effects to be seen, now it only takes three,” explains Dr. Gerardo González, medical coordinator at the Monte-Fénix Center for the Study of Addiction .

According to the earlier mentioned National Poll on Addiction, 43 percent of young people between the ages of 12 and 25 are exposed to drugs. Bruno was amongst them. This 24 year old young man remembers the days when he used crack cocaine from eight at night to eleven in the morning when he would go to sleep until the alarm of addiction woke him up again.

“I took crack until I was rolled up into a ball and couldn’t open my fists.” His parents worked for the Federal Electricity Commision and owned a couple of businesses. They were very close to him. “I couldn’t hide my addiction so I told my mother about it. She sat down on a bench, cried, and said, I am going to take you to buy some more.

She would take me out to buy and I would use at home. How low had I sunk that I would risk my own mother’s life?”


  1. Drugs suck.
    If you have kids, sit down with them and watch the Montana Meth Project at
    It's a rough website with a strong and effective message: "Not Even Once".
    NOTHING is cool about drugs.

  2. Great story and it shows how Mexicos drug problem is the same as anywhere else, most of the drugs are consumed by the ones selling them, 15% is very low content of coca, it's the demand for drugs that keep the machines running and destroying lifes, as long as people look to escape reallity it will never end, God help us.

  3. Good story, but what happened with Daniel working for Zetas in Morelos? Did he aid in kinappings? Seems like there is more to that story. So, Beltran and Zetas are def. together in Morelos?

    Also, the information about cocaine is a little inaccurate and misleading. That 15% number is not accurate at all, for the US, in the majority of major cities, esp. border towns. There is def. some 15% out there, but it's not the norm. Maybe it's more diluted in Mexico, but I suspect it's probably similar to here. Also, cocaine is not cut with acetone, kerosene, or gasoline, they are all used to process the coke, some at higher stages then others. And, baking soda is a cut found in most cases only at the very bottom of street level dealing. I don't know why this 'fact' is perpetuated to this degree. Baking soda is not an efficient, or even decent cut, and it's not used by anybody but the most desperate amateur.

  4. Oh booo him...A spoiled Chilango abandoned by his father selfishly partying without regard for personal responsibility. The only thing I gather from this story is one more bit of proof, the Mex gov needs to stop blaming the USA for all of it's problems.

  5. Same story rich priveleged and poor,the rich spend the familys $ the poor rob steal, smae in the US,all the time we in the middle work every day,pay our taxes,and are forced to tolerate the drags on society. At this point globally I am much more interested in descriminating against druggies,and supporting all the responsible productive citizens. It seems that eversince the international civil human rights campaign that personal responsibility has gone out the window drug use has exploded around the world,and standards of conduct have decined radically.How can this trend be reversed,when global social nets(Socialism)support unproductive behavior. I can remember when Mexico had almost no drug problem,you didn't work,you didn't eat,NOT ANYMORE.

  6. i remember my dad telling me how in the 70's he and his friends just hated the pot smokers, now my dad and his friends were known as bar brawlers and just a tough crowd all around, but even they had low regard for drug seems society as a whole saw marijuana and cocaine use as shameful. i guess now its more accepted.

  7. 15% is definitely not accurate, and the most common cut seems to be Levamisole - 90% of all cocaine seized in the US is contaminated with it - a veterinary antibiotic that can cause a sharp drop in ones white blood cell count. Baking soda would be a byproduct of cooking it into crack.

  8. @porno March 29, 2011 2:22 PM

    I came of age in the 70's and I remember perfectly well guys like your Dad and his friends. They were the one always trying to start fights for no reason at parties because people were smoking pot. Mindless senseless violence, remind you of anyone? The pot smokers just wanted to smoke and listen to music and chill out, you know, peace love dope, we didn't know any better back then.

    And trust me when I say that it was far more acceptable back then to smoke pot then it is today.

  9. levanmisole is a source cut, it comes from where the cocaine is made, and it's not in 90% of the cocaine in the US. It was a big panic in 2009, I doubt anything much has came from it since, probably some chemists great idea gone wrong, I'm sure they have since corrected.

  10. my dad never started fights with drug users, he and his friends just didn't think highly of them, thats all. maybe in the big cities it was more accepted but my dad was from a rural area. i guess more traditional.

  11. "They are the main buyers of the more than four tons of meth-amphetamines and the 300 million dollars worth of cocaine ... they draw little suspicion: upscale neighborhoods .. private schools .. wear designer clothing"

    So, there's a massive amount of 'drugs' being consumed, and yet it's really difficult to spot most of the users. Doesn't this say something to anyone vaguely attentive?

    If it's almost impossible to spot such massive use then that can only be because it has almost no noticeable effect.

    This implies that it isn't doing the massive damage the propagandists would have us belive and that users do NOT automatically end up looking like the caricature photograph at the top of the page.

    The one big problem that is genuinely caused is the criminality that goes along with it all, the preying on the rich, the massive turf warfare and so on.

    And what causes this criminality? (the only major problem?)

    There's a clue in the word.

    If you turn anyone who wants to play with their own body into a criminal then you can't be surprised if there's a rapid increase in 'criminality' ! :-)

    Regards, Dave J

    Of, and 'crack' isn't a combination of cocaine and ammonia, it's a purer version of cocaine produced using baking powder. Unfortunately although purer it now contains carbon dioxide which adds greatly to the 'rush' (rapidity of effect) and makes it even more psychologically addictive.

    'Freebase' (a totally pure version of cocaine) is produced with ammonia, but getting the ammonia out again (to make it usable) is a vital and time consuming step. So 'crack' is nowadays the standard tool of hedonistic self-destruction.


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