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

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Drop That Dime on a Hot Plaza–It’s Their Loss

by Inside the Border/Gary Moore
Dropping a dime
is like heating up the plaza:
You burn your villages on retreat...
In back-street English, “dropping a dime” on someone means snitching to the cops. But the drug war in Mexico adds a layer to this, because it’s not just a two-sided fight.

As Mexico’s cartel hit squads shoot at one another, they are also in conflict with the third leg in a war triangle: the not-always-perfect forces of law and order, represented by government troops and police. This means that snitching can be used tactically, as a weapon.

The result looks like three-dimensional chess.
Mexico’s triple-sided combat opens an extra dimension of possible moves for cartel players. Like an aerial dogfight, the action doesn’t just go side-to-side, but can shoot up vertically.

If Cartel A loses a chunk of turf to Cartel B, then Cartel A can, in effect, scorch the earth it is leaving. There are two ways to do this, both by luring law enforcement into the fray as Side C, and poisoning the spoils won by Side B.

The first way is the dime. You simply tell the cops (sometimes corrupt ally cops) where Cartel A is hiding out, to prompt a raid. But the second way is more subtle. There is a kind of jiu-jitsu called “calentando la plaza”–”heating up the turf”–if that turf is held by a rival.

This takes us back to the cartel dictionary. The ground won or lost is a “plaza”—a term nobody has been able to translate very well. It doesn’t mean a palm-lined village square. In underworld parlance in Mexico, a plaza is a geographical area of influence. Nor is it limited to border staging areas for drug smuggling. A plaza can be deep inside Mexico. It can be the size of an entire Mexican state, or a group of states–or just a city or county-sized area within a state–or only a section of a city. But the core meaning remains: a plaza is where you squeeze out profits. No other gang is supposed to move in (unless they pay “derecho de piso”—a user’s fee, or turf tax—also not translating very well).

Plazas are useful because, even if drug smuggling goes badly, you can turn to the ordinary citizens in your plaza and push some meth or marijuana onto the vulnerable. Or, more directly, you can extort the populace under threat, pulling in a monthly protection fee from the scared guy in the corner shoe store, maybe even the taco stand on the street. Cartel battles are fought over such captive areas, like medieval spoils. This is one of the open secrets of Mexico’s drug war: an uneven slide toward anarchy, with “taxes” collected by the boys down the block.

If a plaza is lost–if another gang comes in a bigger caravan of SUV’s and newly stolen quad-cab pickups–there is still the wild card: You can lure in “the heat.” Crime news from Mexico is laced with acccusations that one or another sour-grapes gang faction has been “calentando la plaza” (“heating up the turf”) by committing acts of violence. These may look random and pointless, but there is the hidden gain: they may force law enforcement to crack down by hitting the easiest targets, your surprised rivals.

Maybe you massacre a few civilians. This might pressure an embarrassed government to send in the Marines. If it’s a plaza you don’tcontrol anyway, what do you have to lose? The troop surge will keep your rivals from doing business. The word for this–“calentar” (“to heat up”)–equates law enforcement with a warm reception, like an old Chicago gangster flick with Joey or Louie musing: “We gotta lay low. Da heat’s on.”

But Joey or Louie were seldom so successful at dominating large swaths of society as to need the extra geographical word: “plaza.” The drug war has seen efforts to carve up Mexico like a pie (a Cuernavaca cartel summit in 2007 sounded like the dons in The Godfather carving up 1950s Cuba). There is something timeless in the idea of the plaza. Warlords in the Dark Ages might have called it a fiefdom.

Even the simpler form of 3-D cartel chess, the dropped dime, is an art. The throwaway cell phone rings up the confidential government tip line. The heat is sent directly to the victorious rival’s celebration party. Soon Mexican Marines are swarming the ranch or restaurant, backed by the grim thump-thump-thump of a U.S.-supplied Black Hawk helicopter. The spectacular mass arrest may be followed by a stern government press release, announcing primly: “The Marines acted upon information from a concerned citizen.” But was it really a heroic passerby–or a knife from Joey or Louie?

It can come thick and fast. At present the remnant Gulf Cartel, cornered in an urban strip of border Mexico just below South Texas, is dismembering itself so rapidly—in a feud between the R’s and the M’s (also not translating very well)—that police and soldiers practically have to use dump trucks to cart off the gunmen getting fingered by vengeful colleagues. Nearly every month—almost every week—some new plaza boss seems to get his birthday party busted—perhaps through shrewd intelligence work by the authorities. But perhaps also through that mysterious phone call.

Of course, such tactics are only a side issue. Dwarfing them are the overall effects of the gang conflicts.

For example, the small border municipio of Miguel Aleman (a municipio is akin to a combined city-county unit) has fewer than 30,000 inhabitants.But it has 12 miles of U.S. border frontage along the Rio Grande. Well positioned for smuggling, this municipio is said to define a “plaza,” or area of influence, for the Gulf Cartel. Their rivals, the Zetas, were also established here, but were largely driven out in the “New Federation” cartel war of 2010. The Zetas sometimes return on disastrous raids, “heating up the (lost) plaza.“

As a Gulf Cartel plaza, Miguel Aleman is watched over by a plaza boss, in charge of illegal profits. But who is this boss? The answer–or lack of an answer–reveals the chaotic nature of Mexico’s drug war. The line-up shifts quickly:

1. Eudoxio Ramos, arrested Oct 27, 2011, was said to have been plaza boss of Miguel Aleman in the past, presumably in early 2011 or before.

2. Gilberto Barragan (“El Tocayo”), arrested May 20, 2011, was called the plaza boss of Miguel Aleman at the time of his arrest.

3. Samuel Flores (“El Metro Tres”), a major regional operative, was found dead on September 2, 2011. At the time, he was called the plaza boss of both Miguel Aleman and much larger Reynosa next door.

4. Ricardo Salazar, arrested Oct 8, 2011, after an hours-long firefight killed ten gunmen, was said to be Miguel Aleman plaza boss at that time.

5. “Pepio” Muñetonez, apparently never apprehended, was reportedly named by Eudoxio Ramos, above, as the current plaza boss of Miguel Aleman at the end of October.
So who runs the Miguel Aleman plaza? The specifics are a blur.
Much of the Mexican violence can be seen only as a chaotic silhouettte.



  1. Mario Pelon ???

    R1 ???

    Another Cardenas JR. ???

    After these are gone there will be more. Just like the Zetas always losing "plaza bosses" and still growing. Back in the days it was all about Goyo in Reynosa and his bro Karis. They been gone and CDG still around. Mexico is always for sale to the highest bidder. Didn't Tormenta get picked up by the Marines days before his death? Guess he didn't have enough to pay up. Coss and R1 better have that paper for the law now that Christmas is around the corner.

  2. Bravo sir!! Very good article and what have I been suspecting all along, a lot of people see the drug cartel war as needless violence but it's really not.

  3. Thanks, Reporter Gary Moore. This raises more questions but accounts for a lot of what I thought was just chaos. Interesting. Brutal.

  4. The CDG 'breakdown' is fascinating, what is going on there? That's the most a hit I've ever seen a group take. There captains are just fleeing the battlefield....but from whom?

  5. Damn, Jack why don't just name them..ahem, cough, Buela.

  6. @8:35 LOL... Jack Shaw is a brave man. Buela has a large following on the forum. I always laugh when they say they "broke" the news first. They even compliment each other on the extremely difficult task of copy and paste!

  7. lmfao! talk about dropping dimes. isnt chapo the biggest dime dropper ever. he suppost to have turned in mr.coronel, el mochomo, el flaco, and a couple of more people, of his own team at that lmao.

  8. If the CDG was so "cornered" and in deep conflict within the organization, and the zetas so powerful, then how come the zetas haven't been able to take the plazas from the CDG. Nva. Cd. Guerrero a zeta stronghold is only about 6 miles from Mier, yet they (Z) can't seem to over take territory from a "weakend" CDG. That must mean the zetas themselves have been significantly weakend by all of the military operations taking place in those states. I personally think the focus of both groups has shifted into plazas like monterrey, and into all of the stuff taking place in Jalisco and veracruz. But we'll never really know. Borderlandbeat only reports whats given to them, and not whats really happening. IMO

  9. @ Jack Shaw and others, I don't know why you are complaining about people? Many blogs including News Web Sites and BB copy and paste news from other blogs or web sites.

    About the forum, none of us are reporters in reality nor we are competing with each other but we do share information about narco trafficking from other web sites, it is not as easy as to translate copy, paste and add videos or photos for you people to have something to read.

    I'm also a member of the BB forum, I'm not a reporter but I do time consuming translations and I do copy and paste, giving credit to the real reporters when the news article have their names.

    For the people who like my postings I will say thank you, for the ones that don't like my postings I will say I'm O.K with that, and for the ones who criticized me for trying to share information I will say you can kiss my ass.

  10. Awsome article . Post one about how the goverment practically wiped out (or atleast thought they did) Beltrans cartel & top people Comandante magana , el rojo & chalito , la barbie , compayito, el pollo , tuti, only ones left are Hector Beltran & Chapito Isidro & his people in Sinaloa & Sonora

  11. December 7, 2011 9:26 PM Why are you talking shit, the people in the forum are sharing drug related information with you people with out getting paid.

    What type of positive input do you share with us? Nothing

  12. Jack Shaw you said, you are a retired ICE agent right? What was your position? You just to criticized criminals?

  13. Do people really think CDG,has gone?Coss,R1,still around and they the people with the names and contacts,they fucked themselves up,but what do you do when you got a big fat rat in the house.Keep your head down and replenish,its funny but if the authorities made a real effort to kill or capture them two,it would be a huge hit.Anyway im out.

  14. @Jack Shaw
    What an ungrateful ass you are.
    10:35 is 100% correct. It takes time for a post especially when translation is required, which is why other blogs rarely do it.

    now a lesson:
    reporter is to report

    blogger also reports via blog or social network

    it does not have to be original investigative material that would be a journalist.

    90% of what you read on blogs is reposted, the goal is speed, getting the news to a specified pool of readers faster than whoever is competing for the same pool of interested readers.

    you sure like to read the posts don't you? why don't you go over on forum and tell them what you think of their work?

    and for all of you that may have missed jack shaws outstanding "reporting" him being a forum reporter wanna-be here it is

    He titled this "Why Was M3 Killed?"

    here is the body of the post;

    Does anyone have any intel or direct knowledge as to what really occurred to M3 and why he was killed and ultimately humiliated by pulling his pants down?

    Who really killed and why? Talking to my old buddies where I used to work and they are basically clueless to what factually transpired.

    end of post

    he follwed it with this comment;

    Jack S. Shaw wrote

    I am a former ICE special agent and even the guy I trained to take my place who is now my best friend doesn't even know. He told me theres only theories and rumors. Knowing what I know, I think it has to do with the capture of R-1s brother and his men or his brother El Negro doing some serious talking that lead to Metro Tres eating lead.

    from cuete;
    Please do us all a favor and shut the fuck up already be yourself not no fuckin "ICE Agent" seriously wtf is this Barney n Friends? Hes in a cartel he knew sooner or later he would be murdered or imprisoned simple as that

  15. @10:35: THAT IS RIGHT!

  16. Wow...Sorry Gary that the focus was redirected from a well written article of yours to me and or forum.

    Jack you have always been involved in forum discussions and have been very complimentary towards me, so this is surprising. (e.g. Buela, Ive been reading your commentaries and enjoy your insights. You share a great hatred for all cartels as i do do. 9.23.11)

    I do write original posts but I like others just want to bring information to english readers wherever that info may come from. It is not easy as copy and paste. Finding/researching tranlation etc thats quite a while.

    I am not going to apologize for anything but i will say when I went to forum it was pretty bad, a bunch of meaningless nosense being batted about, but a group of good people now contribute posts on vaired subjects of Mexico-US-CA and it greatly compliments mainboard.

    Paz, B

  17. @Jack Ass Straw-You are shamefully shallow,. Where do you get that the cut and pasters are in competition with one another? It benefits all of us, Jackass, if we get the stories translated early, add videos, pictures and hurry posting it. Your lack of appreciation is astounding. I apologize to Gary for adding to this distraction from your quality article. We are not all Jackasses.

  18. Drop a dime these cartels would just sell you 1 .... 5 - 7 grams is nothing to them

  19. Another BB tempest in a teapot. There is some good reporting going on BB. Nobody is asking you to like it.

    Wow that's a revelation. Govt agencies monitor websites and message boards.

    I notice whenever somebody jams Jack, he comes back with some info designed to elicit a sympathetic response i.e. had heart surgery, boss chewed him out, etc.

    On anonymous boards nobody knows who you are or who you were. Your posts stand on their own.

  20. B.B. is really pure plagerism; if you noticed
    all the Info: is "a Day Late and a Dollar short"!but I love to read it because it's
    condenced and it's pretty much word for word
    from the media it copys. That way just log on
    to B.B. and it's like that AT&T commercial where
    the texting is 5 minutes after the fact. I still
    read it!

  21. @ Jack Shaw,don't know what has got up his ass,but he is a bit of a idiot.But the people who contribute articles,well that is their prerogative,they are not getting payment,nor asking for it,so i don't know what the problem is.I think some can be quite snobbish over articles and people on BB forum,if you new to the forum etc.But a lot of forums are like that,it is better if a forum welcomes new people,whether they post or not.I also think a lot of people could contribute,but sit back and let other people post news and then read it,so as not to repeat the same story,but to attack the forum for its people posting news is quite pathetic,news is news,don't get jealous,envious,if you think you can do better,post articles?No,i didn't think so.
    As for members who post articles,just because there are a couple of bitter people complaining,,believe me there are many more,myself included who appreciate the articles and translations you take the time to do,so please don't stop,it is appreciated.

  22. Good article brother,petty good summing up of the situation,and insights into it.And bitches stop complaining about the posts,do you,who are whining actually post articles?No,thought not.Jackass Straw,we know its you posting all the negative comments,give it up,you crank.

  23. I forgot to sing my post on December 7, 2011 10:35 PM but like I said earlier it is not easy to look for news articles do translations copy and paste add photos and videos, I haven't been on the forum that much because I'm working 10 to 12 hrs a day 6 days a week, but as soon as I'm done I will be back doing all my postings once again.

    I will stop only if the administrator ask me too.

  24. whoa! Plagiarism ?

    stealing the work of another;

    process of copying another person's idea or written work and claiming it as original

    Who on bb does that? bb has integrity and always gives credit to the original source.
    and some of the reporters and even forum do write original articles in the mix, Gerardo write quite a few, Gary I believe posts 100% original work, Ovemex has done original articles, and people of forum. Look on twitter and see mainstream reporters and news outlets repost much of BB posts. everyone does and that is how news is packaged now. Print reporting is a white elephant it is all about "what" and "Where" and "who" as fast as one can post i know BB reporters may use an article but they most often either translate, reseach additional information, pictures, videos and so forth. link to the org source and often the two do not look alike.

    I really don't think you meant Plagiarism i think you meant reposting the stories of others. Right?

    then there are blogs who not only try to duplicate BB they actually do. i saw one yesterday that takes all of BBs and in same order but a day later and never gives BB credit. I mean EXACTLY the same, and in the same order check it out, they did give Gary credit they had no choice.

    pretty pathetic especially the ones that needed translation

  25. December 9, 2011 3:54 PM Plagiarism: stealing the work of another.

    I'm glad you post it this, I always try to give credit to the original reporter and post the source of the news article, but I also know sometimes I don't do it. From now on I will make sure I give credit to the original reporter and I will add the source including the ones I translate.


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