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

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Rocky Top 2: US Busts Large Web of CDS Halcones in Arizona

Yaqui for Borderland Beat from: Milenio y El Pais
By: Adyr Corral and Juan Alberto Vásquez 

The US government dismantled an extensive network of Sinaloa cartel hawks that crossed drugs, mainly marijuana, from Mexico to the United States through the Tohono O'odham Nation, south of Arizona. It operated with 'mules' and guards in the indigenous highlands.

On November 25, the 18 arrested drug traffickers pleaded guilty to "conspiracy to possess with the intention of distributing a controlled substance in the US".

Among those apprehended is José Ángel Félix Ramírez, leader of the criminal network. District Judge Cindy Jorgenson was in charge of issuing a sentence, which ranges from one year 10 months to three and a half years in prison.

According to the report of the US Department of Justice, published on November 29, the criminal organization delivered “the necessary supplies” so that the hawks could remain in “strategic locations”, for example the top of a mountain, for prolonged periods.

“To move large quantities of marijuana from Mexico to the US, the drug trafficking organization relied heavily on a sophisticated network of explorers (hawks) on top of the mountains using binoculars, radios and high-power cell phones to guide backpackers (mules) around law enforcement officers who work in the area, ” the Arizona prosecutor explained in an information card.

The mules had to walk through large stretches of the desert area belonging to the Tohono O'odham reserve, which in their language means "desert people" and also have a presence in Mexico, in northern Sonora, where they are known as Pápagos.

The operation that disintegrated the Sinaloa cartel cell was called "Rocky Top 2" and various US agencies participated, including the DEA (Administration for Drug Control) and the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation).

Authorities identified and dismantled specific locations of the sophisticated hawk network, although no further details were given; they also seized two tons of marijuana, the Department of Justice reported.

One of the main conclusions of the operation is that those sentenced exploited "the remote location (between Sonora and Arizona) and extended the border between the US and Mexico within the Tohono O'odham Nation." National Security Investigations (HSI) also collaborated, which is a branch within the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE), the Office of Indigenous Affairs and tribal authorities of the reserve. 

The area is one of the red dots that the DEA has detected along the entire border between the two countries and which it calls "areas of high intensity in drug trafficking" (HIDTA). In fact, the agency will focus its resources next year on HIDTA in Arizona, New Mexico, San Diego and Texas, as MILENIO reported last November. 

Scott Brown, a special agent in charge of the HSI in Phoenix, said that “the portion of the desert west of the border poses several environmental challenges, however, when federal, state, local and tribal security forces unite, we send a message to the cartel: you will not operate on the border with impunity. ” 

A dangerous border:
The Arizona-Sonora border is one of the biggest entry points for drugs into the United States, and the Tucson border patrol is one of the busiest units, with eight stations covering most of Arizona, from New Mexico to Yuma County. Its agents typically seize around half of the marijuana that enters the country along the 350-kilometer border, says Vicente Paco, the spokesman for the Tucson border patrol.

The gangs operating here not only oversee the drugs trade, but also control the gun and migration routes, Paco says. “Any person who wants to enter the United States illegally has to join organized crime. They have to pay the organizations and if they don’t have money they are used as mules.”

One of the most dangerous areas along the Arizona-Sonora border is the Great Desert of Altar, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, where temperatures can reach 50ºC. Its inhospitableness makes it attractive to the drug traffickers, says the border patrol. A common way to transport drugs is to send the mules in groups of up to 15 to make the 15-day journey through the desert with 20 to 25 kilograms of marijuana strapped to their backs.


  1. Designate as terrorists. Build that wall and shoot the invaders.

    1. Terrorists claim they have some agenda, ie. religious, but if you dig deep it's just all about money, politics, and power.

  2. That is alot of days walking through the desert, where do they start?

    1. highway 8...load up in gila bend. Usually about 7-8 day trip depending on time of year

    2. Actually a lot of weight moving from Sonoyta over border to Lukeville, disguised as American tourists coming from Puerto Penasco.

  3. Make America Mexico again...I guess🤦‍♂️😒

  4. I passed through that land once and I ran out of gas, an Indian guy was super friendly and gave me a ride to get gas.. Cool people, those natives


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