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

Thursday, July 14, 2011

El Equipo Cost Federal Police in Excess of Ten Million Dollars

By: NY Times, TIME and Universal
In a country where nobody trusts the police, can you make a routine cop show?

Mexican prime time is stuffed with melodrama and comedy, variety shows and even historical mini-series, but no police based novelas of any kind. But in May the Mexican incarnation finally arrived. The show, “El Equipo” (“The Team”), does not try to resolve the contradiction between what citizens here think of their police — incompetent at best, criminal collaborators at worst — and a sympathetic portrayal on screen. Instead it opts for “24”-style bluster. The show turns on the exploits of the members of an elite crime-fighting team so heroic that its members don’t even need last names.

"What do you think about before you go on a raid?" the slim, beautiful wife asks the handsome Mexican federal police officer after he's just busted 23 tons of cocaine. "That they don't kill me," the dashing federal replies as emotional music kicks in. "That I don't kill someone who doesn't deserve to die. And lately, that nothing happens to you." The couple embraces and stare love-locked into each other's eyes.

The show showers the usual touches of Mexico's wildly successful soaps, or telenovelas, which are popular from Argentina to Azerbaijan. Sexily dressed women court macho men. The narcos are nacos (uncouth), fat, ugly and badly dressed.

Produced by the world's largest Spanish-language broadcaster, Mexico City–based Televisa, Mexico's new prime-time soap opera, El Equipo which portrays courageous federales dodging bullets, buzzing around in helicopters and outwitting evil drug traffickers.

Its makers say it's right to paint Mexico's federal police as heroes risking their lives fighting vicious narcos who are armed with rocket-propelled grenades, assault rifles and, most recently, homemade tanks. If the U.S. can glorify its police — think of cop dramas from The F.B.I. to CSI: Crime Scene Investigation — then why, they ask, can't Mexico burnish the image of its officers, who are often depicted as paunchy, gold-chained bribe takers if not as outright moonlighters for drug cartels?

In spite of Mexican President Felipe Calderón's laudable efforts to clean up the constabulary, many federales continue to be accused of working with drug traffickers, extorting businesses and killing civilians during his nearly four-year antinarco offensive. Last year 465 officers were arrested for corruption, including four high-ranking commanders in the violent border city of Juárez. "The public just does not buy this bread and circus," Congresswoman Leticia Quezada of the leftist Party of the Democratic Revolution says of El Equipo. "You cannot wash an image of bad police with a telenovela.

To be fair, Mexico's federales, many of whom have been killed in the legitimate line of duty, do have a cleaner, more professional reputation than the country's hopelessly criminal state and local cops. But that's a relative compliment — which is why El Equipo's detractors call it disingenuous if not laughable to present the federal police in such a flattering light.

But as soon as the series began it collided with the real-life politics of Mexico’s fight against drug traffickers. One of the centerpieces of Calderón’s strategy against organized crime is the creation of an effective national police to take over from the military. The man in charge of building the federal police, Genaro García Luna, the secretary of public security, has become a polarizing figure in the drug war as the death toll mounts and violence spreads to states that were formerly peaceful.

The Mexican press immediately branded “El Equipo” an infomercial for the federal police, which gave Televisa extensive access to its facilities as it was filmed. Legislators in Congress demanded that Mr. García Luna give an accounting of how much police money was spent to support the filming and how many hours real officers spent working as extras.

But soon it would be learned that El Equipo is a media production made possible through funds from the pockets of Mexicans.

The creation of the television series "El Equipo" cost the Public Security Secretariat (SSP) federal police 118,116,880 pesos (or roughly $10,052,243 USD) for 13 series, according to the contract signed between the federal police and Televisa. The Federal Police secretary Garcia Luna had been gathering the resources since 2010.

Mr. García Luna does enjoy the theatrical side of his job. In one famous case in 2005, when he was the federal police chief, he admitted to staging the arrest of an alleged kidnapping ring so morning news broadcasts could show a “live” police action. In security circles it was an open secret that Mr. García Luna wanted to see a police show on television modeled after a long-running series in Spain, “El Comisario” (“The Commissioner”).

“In principle there is no problem with an institution promoting itself,” said Ernesto López Portillo, one of Mexico’s leading experts on police reform. “But the image and the reality don’t coincide.”

“I think it’s an excess,” he continued, contrasting “El Equipo” with the HBO series “The Wire,” which acknowledged the shortcomings of what the police can do. “It’s an abuse of the resources that television gives you to construct an image. Nobody believed the program.” How could they? “El Equipo” investigators spend a lot of time sneaking into drug lords’ houses disguised as delivery men or waiting tables in cafes where sex traffickers discuss business. Some critics found the officers’ behavior so foolhardy that the program ended up blackening the reputation of the federal police instead of polishing it.

The majority of real cases are solved with information from the public, Mr. López Portillo said, explaining that unless people trust the police, they won’t report suspicious activity. “The most advanced police forces try to win people’s confidence,” he said. On the television show, “if they don’t appear talking to people, it’s a complete fantasy.”

Several telenovelas feature criminal protagonists, including the hit La Reina del Sur, which follows a beautiful trafficking queen. El Equipo's producers say they're trying to show a jaded Mexican public that police should be looked up to instead. Officers "are not only people who serve the community," El Equipo actor Alfonso Herrera said. "They also have families and personal problems. It shows this human side."

Those sides of Mexico's police should of course be appreciated. But until the all too prevalent dark side is reformed, it will take much more than a telenovela to convince Mexicans that their cops are the good guys.


  1. Good for them. Let someone actually portray cops in a positive manner for once. Its fking tv. Not like the narcos havent been unrealistically glorified for years. Negative people will always find something to bitch and moan about.

  2. Anon @ 9:30: yeah but a telenovela shouldn't cost taxpayers money.

  3. Every one want more funds and attention given to the treatment of drug abuse and they want more money spent on drug abuse prevention. Then Why is not acceptable to create a platform for the "Good Guys" to be Heroes. If more kids see the cops and people stand up for law and order and against drugs and lawlessness maybe it will give them a alternative view in life> I think it is tax dollars well spent. It is all about reprogramming a generation.

  4. @July 14, 2011 9:50 AM

    In this case it's good that people can even imagine about good cops. So maybe that on mind it's ok to pay from taxes, at least part of it. :)

  5. A TV program such as this might perhaps reach the right minds. I'm sure it will convince some kids at home to cheer for the police force rather than the narco kings.

  6. www youtube com / watch?v = GG-XXybHgcg&feature = related

    The Team in real life. Must see it

  7. Yes, spend money making a show that portrays in a positive light a corrupt organization.. Did the show include an episode where the Feds picked up a group of immigrants and dropped them off with the Zetas?

  8. Come on 11:02, There will always be a corrupt factor in everything, law enforcement, religion, politics, even the Press, you name it But if you still make the statement that "There Are Good Guys out there", and it is Better to do Good than Bad things. Let them know that our heroes are NOT NARCOS.

  9. @ 11:02 BAHAHA, i agree 100% with you. instead of portraying a fantasy, maybe the federal police should practice what they portray on the show. they can make all the shows they want, but if the behavior is not the same on the street, most Mexicans will never trust the cops.

  10. Hahahaha wow is this what it's come to calderon!!!!!! Haha what an embarrassment .everyone can tell reality from fiction and this total bullshit why don't you put the truth that they all work for a carteL

  11. He'll no it won't ppl that grew in Mexico specially in la Sierra or town that are real poor know that it's the drug lords that brought jobs and food not the Mexican government who doesn't give a shit about no one but themselves. Haha but nice try Calderon you might fool 2 or 3 ppl.

  12. Hey i watch this show! I only wish it was actually a true story and the law enforcement was as genuinely interested in public safety as the ones portrayed in this show!
    i also love fabian robles and alberto estrella <3

  13. @ anon 11:02 - ya in episode 2 the team stands guard while some local sicarios put up a narco banner. Episode 4 they lend their police uniforms and cars to some narcos. I don't think its till the season finale that they actually kidnap anyone

  14. @ July 14, 2011 11:27

    Come on the municial police and federal police don't ALL work for the cartels. There are SOME that are honest and just want to work at putting away the bad guys and trying to make Mexico a safer place but yes this seems dumb spending money and spewing out some TV bullshit when Mexico has a SERIOUS problem.

    I do think people think ALL police and federal agents are corrupt but no I mean yes a good number are but not ALL.

  15. Hey it's a fucking tv show. Relax. Why not? They put all kinds of other shit on tv, so why not a little glory for the PF?

    You guys criticize everything as if the future of the free world depended on it. It's a tv show. If you don't like it watch some other soap opera.

    Give Garcia Luna credit for trying something different, for trying to help in a different way. When your criticism is always negative no one listens anymore.

  16. All i can say is that Zuria Vega is hot.

  17. I bet the people in juarez are gonna love this!Are they gonna all the innocent people they really kill?

  18. Well my bad that I'm criticizing it!!! I just think that it's a pretty dumb idea why not waste all that money in something better? Like idk maybe new equipment for these officers they're always complaining about how they're weapons and body armor are no match for the cartels sophisticated weapons and gear.

  19. Shits pretty stupid, wasting all that money on a soap opera rather than equipment for their force, but of course they went all out on the soap with equipment there army/marines can only dream of. But that's government propaganda for you, they are losing the peoples. So they start getting desperate and start shoving this show into their people's minds. Hoping they believe they're doing a good job, because the other entertainment media's are kicking there asses. Even though they banned any coverage of the drug war on there Nation wide tv shows and newspapers, but the internet and certain newspaper are the enemies for covering the drug war. Because it scares people and start to find out that the government is the real enemy.

  20. Believe it or is as strong a force as any. Television has shaped millions of minds in the US and if used in the same manner can shape millions of
    Mexican minds. Hate it or love it this is long over due. For too long now Mexican television has been nothing more that overly dramatic actors and big breast.
    For the record. I have nothing against big breast (love primer impacto)

  21. It is clear that Anonymous 9:30am, 10:30am, 10:31am and 10:57am don't have a fucking clue what's going on in Mexico. The federal police ain't worth squat,the security of public safety, Genaro Garcia Luna, is a murderer and corrupted person.

    And it only goes too show the deals that exist between televisa and the federal goverment.

    Mexico needs alot of fixing and it's a shame how these dumbass'es spent million's of dollars of tax money on this crap.

  22. @9:47 What tax money?! Nobody pays taxes in Mexico.

    The easiest and most worthless criticism is to cry that they should have spent the money on something else. Like what?

    The starving poor, the crippled children, the orphans of dead sicarios, the children of fired corrupt police, the disadvantaged readers of BB and their brain-dead spouses?

    It's the easy way out that you love so much. Just stick your heads back in the sand and try to stay out of your own way.

  23. Anonymous 9:47, what the hell do you mean by nobody pays taxes in Mexico?, they stick taxes on anything like the "tenencia vehicular" where you have to pay thousands of pesos every year, just for car plates.

    And every month they increase the cost of the gas, food , electricity, water , etc. We also got the slowest internet connection in the world with the highest cost of this service.

    What they should of done with that money and other misused tax money is the following:

    - Create more job opportunities by supporting small and medium companies and provide all the services neccesary for the foreign companies to settle in Mexico.

    - Increase the minimum wage.

    - Increase the wages of the mexican soliders and police officers.

    - Invest more in Eduacacion.

    - Invest more in scientific research. Believe it or not there are alot of mexicans with great ideas and only need money to make there ideas come to life, we should'nt always depend on foregin tecnology, we have the skills to develop new tecnology. But unfortunately our politicians does give a dam about science or anything else that don't involve them making millions of dollars off of it.

    - Alot of towns need alot of remodeling too do.

    And the list goes on, so you can see that Mexico need's alot of fixing, we just need the correct people in office (goverment).

    People that live in the USA really don't know the actual situation in Mexico. You don't realize how troubled this country is until you actually live here.

  24. Many of us do live here in Mexico and we get it! Doesn't mean we're not sometimes frustrated. And before you say it, it's too easy and lame to tell us to go home. It's past that point. No one would be on this forum if they didn't want to learn. So, chill and help the cause by explaining as you did the errors of misconceptions. The show blows by the way.

  25. Shows like CSI, Cold Case, Law and Order etc., are all nothing but government propaganda that condition the American sheeple into accepting the police state: illegal searches, illegal surveillance, evil institutions like Child Protective Services who've been caught many times running sex-rings, the ATF who conducts illegal manhandlings at airports, these are shows that also reinforce the idea that international terrorism is real when it is not. Not only are they brainwashing the masses into believing all of this but it is also blatantly racist against all white-anglo-saxon-people. Look at all the antagonists and you'll notice they're all played by light brown haired to blond white people while the protagonists are mostly played by either minorities or brunettes who are clearly not anglos. Oh, and yes, from the news media to every other form of entertainment, the government has had insiders working in all aspects behind the scenes: writing staff, production, talking points lead by so-called former government experts. It's all a sham and it will do you much good to just turn off your television. That's why it's called the boob-tube. As a kid I once asked my mom why in novelas the protagonists never called the cops on the bad guys...she just stared at me like I was from outer space or something. Our U.S. government spends billions of dollars pitching ideas to and funding our sweet and lovable Hollywood producers. They need to drill it into our thick skulls that we need our government on our asses, that we need them to tell us how to raise our kids, what kinds of foods to eat, what wars to support, what laws against our civil liberties we must's nothing new. During WW2 it was illegal to teach german in schools. But this is about mexico, it's a different situation you say. They need this conditioning you say. People need to be contolled you say. Hah. This human race isn't worth shit if you ask me. The last of greatest potentials has been extinguished for quite some time. Yes, Mexico is fucked but so are we. Look through the history pages and you'll see that man has never been free, neither in Mexico or here. It's all make-believe, we're all playing pretend, only some have been told how to pretend better than others.

  26. Correction: The TSA, not the ATF conducts illegal searches at our airports.

  27. In the seris, does it show when they were going on house to house stealing anything they wanted, like personal jewelry or money ppl have saved or anything they liked, when they had that long firefight back in dec 2010, with la familia michoacana? I bet Garcia Luna paid Half of that money with the million dllrs he would get a month from Heriberto lazcano for protection for him and Los zetas, that's y they been at war with LFM and LCT


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