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

Monday, June 18, 2012

How to Report on Cartels.....and Live

Borderland Beat

Adam Martin
It's been a big week for reporting on Mexican drug cartels in The New York Times, where reporters on two stories kept themselves safe by replacing direct danger with lots of hard work.
On Tuesday, Ginger Thompson broke the story of Zetas cartel leaders allegedly laundering money through a massive U.S.-based horse-racing operation. Then on Friday, a lengthy Times Magazine feature by Patrick Radden Keefe went live, exploring the structure, business, and leadership of the Sinaloa cartel, which dominates the drug trade along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Keefe, author of Snakehead, told The Atlantic Wire on Friday that he'd started reporting his piece in January, using U.S. court documents and trial transcripts to track down three people involved with the Sinaloa cartel, who would speak as sources: A pilot, a drug manufacturer, and a mid-level trafficker. "In a bunch of these cases the people were either doing prison time or had gotten out of prison, so I started tracking people down. A lot of them don’t want to talk. It’s kind of a low-yield form of reporting."
But through it, Keefe has put together a fascinating profile of an organization that rivals in scale the corporate giants of our time: "By most estimates, Sinaloa has achieved a market share of at least 40 percent and perhaps as much as 60 percent, which means that Chapo Guzmán’s organization would appear to enjoy annual revenues of some $3 billion — comparable in terms of earnings to Netflix or, for that matter, to Facebook." And we meet the Sinaloas' infamous leader, Chapo, who sounds like a cross between CEO and Bond villain: "From the remote mountain redoubt where he is believed to be hiding, surrounded at all times by a battery of gunmen, Chapo oversees a logistical network that is as sophisticated, in some ways, as that of Amazon or U.P.S."
Keefe opted not to go to Sinaloa itself, the seat of the cartel's massive operation. He knew he wasn't going to meet Chapo, so what would he achieve? "There was a cost-benefit analysis. Looking at the reporting from people who have gone to Sinaloa, generally what people come back with -- and this is gringo reporters who go up there and ask around -- they come back with color. You can describe Culiacon, the capital there ... And you might get some guy sitting in front of a restaurant saying 'we do not speak of the Choppo.' " But you're not going to get an interview with the man himself. "I decided against that for a number of reasons, primarily that a lot of journalists have been killed in mexico, most of them Mexican journalists." On Thursday, reporter Baez Chino was found dead in Veracruz  the country's 81st journalist killed since 2000.
So Keefe opted for a week in Mexico City, speaking with academics who follow the drug trade, and lots of time leafing through court documents. Eventually, he found a record of a 2006 trial in Arizona, at which Chapo's right-hand man, Miguel Angel Martínez, had testified. He tracked down the court reporter, who sent him a copy of the transcript. Amazingly, it had been untouched by reporters. "People have been writing about Chapo for years and years and they’ve poured over his biography," Keefe said. But here was a document that had never made it into the hands of a journalist or biographer. It included revelations such as Chapo's own use of cocaine, and what Keefe called "trival details," like the fact that he had his own private zoo in Guadalajara that contained tigers and bears. "It was gobsmacking for me to get my hands on this transcript, which has been out in the world and available if you’d found it, since 2006. And to realize nobody had found it."
Thompson, meanwhile, was reporting a much more sensitive story. As she explains in her report, she found out about the Zetas cartel's alleged involvement in U.S. horse racing in December 2011, and in the course of her reporting discovered that the U.S. Department of Justice was also investigating Zetas leader Miguel Ángel Treviño and his ranch-owning brother, José Treviño, which led to arrests this week. "The Times learned of the government’s investigation last month and agreed to hold back this article until Tuesday morning’s arrests," she wrote. But she worked on the story for a lot longer than a month, so how did she keep herself and her sources safe? She hid behind her own reporting, she told PRI's The World:
"I was never threatened. I think a lot of the reason for that is that I didn’t make it known that I was looking specifically at Jose Trevino. I did a lot of reporting that made it appear I was looking at something other than him directly. It was complicated and it took us a lot longer to finish this story because of that. But, yes, we thought about safety at every turn and not just for my safety but really for the safety of the people who spoke to me which is why so many people in my story are unidentified. It was mostly for the sake of their safety."
Thanks to the two reports' legwork, we know a lot more about the cartel situation on both sides of the border on Friday than we did on Monday.

Source-Atlantic Wire


  1. Chapo guzmans' nephew was killed along w/ 2 other cds members, right in downtown culiacan ...this happened on fathers day,sunday.

  2. Anon: 5:05AM
    Where is the link to that story or where did you hear about it?

  3. Miguel martinez is one lucky bastard, survived three attempts on his life. Surviving the grenade attack is nuts. That guy has some interesting life stories im sure.

  4. There are alot of articles in the presa de sinaloa that say the exact opposite of what we've been reading on the blogs. We never heard of the 5 members pf antrax that were murked in march? Also about the head police that were gunned down. Or the 12 murders that happened over this weekend. One pf those was chapos nephew what's really going on whatever happened top unbiased reporting ?? We deserve the whole story. One criminal is no better than the other. they all prey on pur people.

  5. Look at the media hysteria and bullshit?
    "From the remote mountain redoubt where he is believed to be hiding, surrounded at all times by a battery of gunmen, Chapo oversees a logistical network that is as sophisticated, in some ways, as that of Amazon or U.P.S."
    What a complete load of shit.This is by some middle class,white journalist who has probably never done any crime in his life.Talking to"3 people"it morphs into a great story.Exactly that,a great story.This is all believed by the sheep,the same way the sheep can be manipulated by politicians.Ye,i can see it,Chaps sittin there like Donald Trump.Sell,sell,sell.

    1. Hahahaha! You'r right. I agree 100%!

    2. I think so too, dey do tend yo exagerate to sell a story. a lot of it a wouldnt doubt is true . bit uf he really was that powerful. why os México a mess ? Maybe their trying the dame shit the mexican goverment , sell chapó as a Robin Hood. he dont even control half of his homestate. they give to much credit yo the employee of corrupt politicians and eventualy their fall guy,their patsy,un chivo expiatorio. el gobierno corrupto put him there they are the onés opening plazas for him wich turn into meatgrinders thats why the war in Juárez,Tijuana,Laredo,Guadalajara , Durango, and Now his Casa Sinaloa. Embellishment would be the Word. im not hating just a humble opinión.

  6. @ June 19, 2012 10:36 AM

    Hey bro the 5 antrax do you have a link?? The 12 that you say are not identified yet but from what I read on riodoce looks like they were Chapo Isidros men that got snuffed, again.Who knows we'll wait and see what the ministerial say about the i.d. of the vics. The nephew of Chapo is Ovied Cano Zepeda to distant to for you get all wet about.

  7. pinche vatos mamones dios no ama a esta miertha

  8. Chivis can you investigate in Laredo Texas at a nice hotel restaurant a masked guy entered and kill two person they must of been some one big

  9. I saw about the nephew of chapo but it was just confirmed today.

  10. He was gunned down Sunday... I read it on a blog yesterday.. anyways does that sign say "GOD LOVES YOU CHAPO GUZMAN". I didn't know God love murders,rapist,kidnappers and drug dealers

  11. it was in feb 22nd 2012 when those antrax were gunned down along with their boss el roque. look up asesinan a 5 antrax en sinaloa..el sol the sinaloa has alot of articles about all this. these people are all criminals there isnt any honor amongst them this isnt like it used to be all cartels broke the code. they became informants and cowards. you know the truth stop idolizing them. I just wanted you to see that ther isnt a clear winner they are all losing and eradicating themselves.

  12. How to report on cartels and live?
    Be white and from north of the border.

    That article is bullshit. It isn't difficult for foreign reporters to stay alive. It is tough though when your crime beat is the same neighbourhood you live in.

  13. The numbers don't add up....all credible sources estimate that the drug trade is a $40-50 Billion a year industry. If Chapo owns 40-60% of the market, that would equal $16-30 Billion, not $3 Billion as mentioned in the article

  14. June 19, 2012 9:21 PM .
    "it was in feb 22nd 2012 when those antrax were gunned down along with their boss el roque"
    Ye man,you right on there,Roque Antrax was a cell leader,or some shit.His face is all over the yard on metroflog,etc.I didn't really know they was some of his crew that got murked with him to tell the truth.
    But thanks for the heads up,its some tangled shit.Ey man,you talk grimy about Chaps,and you gonna get his suckers weally weally angwy.

    1. I hate all cartels. They kill our familias and celebrate like they accomplished something great. Fuck chapo fuck lazca fuck cdg they are all shit. They will all die along with as you put it theit suckers. Viva mexico libre de corrupcion.

  15. surrounded at all times by a battery of gunmen

    I cant believe that bullshit if is was a general of mexico I would send 5000 fully arm Mexicans marines plus at least 10 attack helicopter Gun ships and take care of any of those, ready to die for a guy that spits on you


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