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

Sunday, December 18, 2022

To Live And Die In Tijuana - Part 2 of 3

“Mica/DrivingMSSQL” for 

Part 1 can be read here enjoy!

Chapter 2
The Journalists

The text message came from a source in the local police: A car was burning along the Tijuana highway that traces the Pacific Ocean. There was a body in the back seat — another apparent homicide.

Inés García Ramos received the tips multiple times a day as the editor of Punto Norte, one of the city’s only independent newspapers. She chronicled the drumbeat of violent crimes carried out not just to kill, but to impress and intimidate. It was as if the murderers of Tijuana were competing against one another to see who could commit the most gruesome acts.

García, 33, was born in Los Angeles, but grew up here, the daughter of a hairdresser whose clients were the wives and girlfriends of the city’s drug-trafficking elite. Making sense of Tijuana’s spasm of violence became her central journalistic objective.

“Is there anything else you want to do?” García’s mother pleaded.

There still wasn’t.

And so, just before sunset, she drove toward the burning SUV. She parked on the side of the highway. Then García inched closer, until she could make out the charred body in the back seat. She took out her cellphone and began broadcasting on Facebook Live.

“This is the 1,569th murder this year,” she said.

Her viewers shot messages back asking for more details. Some of them had relatives who had disappeared and were wondering if the victim might be their loved one.

“So far we don’t have any details on the deceased,” García told her audience.

What she didn’t say: Most likely, she never would. The killing would almost certainly not be solved; only about 2 percent of crimes in Mexico are each year.

But García had her own explanation for the city’s soaring homicide rate. She had watched as the spike in violent crime mirrored the surge in the trafficking of synthetic drugs. She had written about how large quantities of fentanyl remained on this side of the border, too, turning swaths of the city into open-air drug markets.

The violence and the drugs — she was sure they were connected. For over a year, she had been looking for a way to document that link. García dispatched Punto Norte photojournalists across Tijuana to investigate the city’s wave of crime.

Arturo Rosales and Margarito Martínez Esquivel photographed the city nearly every night, chronicling the nonstop violence after sunset.

Martínez was Punto Norte’s first photographer. He started shooting crime scenes by accident in 2003, snapping a few photos of a killing he happened upon. It was a natural fit: Martínez quickly became the heart of the city’s press corps, his camera always in the passenger seat. Rosales was a taxi driver who learned from Martínez, publishing his photos on Facebook until he got his own contract.

In January, at 49, Martínez was killed. He was gunned down while he sat in his beige Ford Escort outside his home. Witnesses saw a man shoot him and flee the scene. Martínez’s wife and teenage daughter found him lying on the ground.

The slaying marked the beginning of another year of historic violence for Mexican journalists. Since 2019, 50 journalists have been killed in Mexico, making it the most dangerous country in the world for media workers.
The day after the killing, García and her colleagues gathered in their unmarked newsroom above a shop selling quinceañera dresses. An undercover security guard monitored the perimeter.

They decided they needed to find out who was behind Martínez’s death.

Their run of coverage began in January when García and her colleagues published a story about the gun used to kill Martínez, tracing it to several other homicides across the city.

“The 9mm pistol that took his life had been used in various crimes related to territorial disputes between drug dealers,” the Punto Norte team wrote, “and used by criminals who had been detained over and over again, but were set free to continue committing homicides.”

In Martínez’s slaying, the journalists saw a concrete example of how drug trafficking, drug use, and soaring violence were all linked.

In March, at the first hearing in Martínez’s case, García was the only journalist in attendance. The prosecutor read aloud the text message exchange between the men who allegedly ordered Martínez’s killing, a criminal network that reported to David López Jiménez, known as “El Cabo 20,” who had been affiliated with the Arellano Félix and Jalisco New Generation cartels.

“I need a soldier to commit murder,” José Heriberto, one of López Jiménez’s affiliates, said in a message. “He’ll be paid 20,000 pesos [about $1,000].”

Listening to the messages, García noticed that the men ordering Martínez’s killing kept two conversations open at the same time. One was about the homicide, and the other was about drug dealing.

“Today is Saturday, a good day for sales,” Christian Adán, another member of the group, wrote to Heriberto, referring to their local drug business.

Then the conversation immediately returned to the killing.

“Send me Margarito’s location,” Heriberto responded.

García stopped taking notes and sighed.

“It just shows you how closely these two crimes are linked,” she said. “Selling drugs and killing people.”

She had seen more proof of that link in February, when Mexican authorities arrested 10 suspects in the case. In the same raid, they also seized a stash of drugs that included cocaine, heroin and methamphetamines.

López Jiménez, she learned, had been detained and released six times before he allegedly arranged Martínez’s killing, a case study in the way the judicial system cowers before powerful criminals. Four of those arrests were related to selling drugs, including a charge that he had operated a drug laboratory in central Tijuana. He was arrested in August for arms possession; prosecutors later said he was responsible for Martínez’s killing.

There was something both satisfying and heart-rending about getting to the bottom of the crime, García said. It happened so rarely in Mexico. Prosecutors appeared to take Martínez’s case more seriously because of the amount of attention it received, including from the U.S. government.

The case is ongoing, but the court dates are infrequent. García’s days are once again consumed mostly by routine crime coverage, like the story of the charred corpse in the back of the SUV.

After she ended her Facebook Live segment, the waves crashing behind her, García ran through the possibilities of what happened to the victim in the back seat. Maybe it was the violent end to a lover’s quarrel. Or a drug dealer deposing his rival.

She would try to follow up with her sources the next day. She would try to get more details on the crime.

But by then, she knew, there would be another homicide to cover; another alert on the police scanner of an overdose death; another load of synthetic drugs seized at the scene of another violent assault, never to be solved.


  1. Mica going all out as a BB reporter.
    Good job Mica.

    1. Yes
      It’s not a copy and paste

    2. And yet Haters still read and post the same comment 100 times a day…

    3. It’s a 4 part series I already read the whole thing on the Washington post

    4. 7:08
      Well that's nice to know.
      You win a Hersey's chocolate chip bar.
      Now run along and catch up on your 4 page essay for extra credit worth 20 points.

    5. If you read the entire thing already, then why would you take your time to come here and comment anonymously about? That’s the stupidest comment ever!

    6. 9:23 yes 7:08 wins the dic award of the day. Sure if one would read it all, you would think, he would give a two paragraph comment on what he read, bunch of dorks in here lately.

    7. Reading about shit here is an award, because most of us never read the sources.
      And the sources won't let us comment, usually.

  2. Very interesting article. And I’ve said it before. Meth makes people psychotic kind of like how coke does you but worse. Automatic weapons and meth are a very dangerous combination. The drugs fuel the violence. It’s not the money like most people think. It’s the hard drugs. Not weed and fentanyl or heroin, but coke and meth.

    1. What? Let's say there us no money from selling drugs,you think ,not all,a lot of those violence will still be there?

    2. I see your point and yes money plays a part , but I am an old school pot head. We use to get the Mexican “ brick weed”. But I’ve also gotten some very good weed as well. Things weren’t like it is now. Remember the cardinal that got killed? I do. It was a hugh deal. Now violence is so normalized they don’t even report on it anymore in a lot of places in Mexico. Back before Mexicans got into cocaine the violence was very low key and nothing like it is now. You worried about law enforcement more than cartels. But you bring the hard drugs into the equation it adds a level of violence that you see today. It’s from the psychosis cause by the hard drugs. Moral of the story. If Mexico would have stuck to weed and poppy the violence wouldn’t be anywhere near the level it is today.

    3. 08;36 no it's not the weed and fentanyl it's all the pure LSD and MDMA that causes the violence in Mexico

    4. Murdering don Pedro Avilés was all about the money, murdering Ché Guevara was about starting the cocaine business, even Fidel Castro got his own franchise for his help and when caught, fidel did not hesitate about murdering Cuban air force general Arnaldo Ochoa, a war hero from Angola like El Che, right away the false War on Drugs started in Bolivia.
      In México, the government murdering of the Copreros was not the first time, or the last mass murder, Tlatelolco was to follow, and the Halconazo and Guadalajara student wars, all created by cartels originated by CIA and their puppet DFS full of mexican military turned federal police but many trained in Fort Bragg or their franchise Schools.of the Americas, not the Guadalajara cartel members they used to "represent" and to be their Fall Guys.
      Still, drugs never fueled the addictions and violence like the war on drugs of garcia Luna and the FECALATO helped by US weapons merchants' greed for drug trafficking money

  3. Everyone have a choice. They can always choose not to get involved with drugs.

    1. That is true. But then there are those kids who were in that recent mock interrogation video. They're obviously being influenced by what's around them. It's no different for adults who can just as well be misguided by the wrong people.

    2. Yes and it’s really hard to go all the way against the grain when you grow up in a culture like that. Mexico and the United States are both ground zero for most new drugs. We both have a drug culture or narco culture. It’s in our music in our books and television. So it’s hard to just say NO like Nancy tried to get people to say. By commenting something like that is a sure sign someone grew up in a sheltered environment. All drugs are is a sign of a bigger problem.

    3. 05:40 you're a crackhead. Not everyone has a choice

      You sound like a privileged white American

    4. 7:53 don't bother showing us your ignorant racist words. The Americans don't owe you shit.

    5. 5:40 never scene real poverty. Some times you don't have a choice you ever scene a kid beg for food

    6. For the amount these cartels move it's not about the money as far as leadership goes how do you make so much money you can't even spend power is very inticing having someone killed just cause it crossed your mind

    7. Talk about the influence corridos have on young kids. They are played at carne asadas to Quinceñeras. The kids see the adults get excited "the Mexican yell" over a Alegres del Barranco jam. What do you expect???

    8. 5:40 if u have lived in mexico or have family there then u would know that u don't always have a choice, poverty n hunger are bigger than fear of being killed

    9. I:30 banks and some people love money they can't spend and everything else can go to hell, then everybody wants to rob and steal from them, like the british bank, Barclays(?)
      Soros and the Rothschild never saw a coin they didn't need, compounded with chinese and US avarice and waste.

  4. @7:53am. Me 5:40 am happened to be Mexican born in Mexico City. I was addicted to drugs for 17 years. At first it was every now and then. Later on just on the weekend and at the end the last 4 to 5 years every time I could. It is a real shity process but we do this to ourselves. I was addicted and I know what’s up. I lost a lot because of drugs. But there’s always a solution if you quit. You just need to have balls to do so.

    1. 9:39 Real Addicts never quit.
      Woke people don't lose any sleep about drugs or pushers friendship that need to be located and sent to a penal forced labor colony gulag or concentration camp, prolly in China where free people get paid less than a dollar a day.
      On the US, law enforcement is too used to getting a 100 dollars an hour, they have nightmares about tipping the apple cart, mexican cuicos have to have a lot of pushers working for them to make half decent Mexican peisos with their check but for some reason, BIG BANKSTERS have been caught laundering trillions of dollars and they have paid billions in fines, but never pay with prison.

    2. Well I would have wish to be only 10% addict instead of an addict or real addict. I wasted many years on destroying myself. I don’t have anything good from my experience as an addict. In the world of addiction and drugs there is no friends or loyalty. Is a dark world.

    3. 8:09 congratulations!
      You get una de burro as a prize.

  5. In Mexico it's stupid Narco corridors that kids get excited over and want to imitate like that idiot Beto Quintanilla and in the states it Rap music.and those kids are our future? And their loser parents are the same showing the example Parents used to be honest straight strict and hard working giving good examples living within their means Now they don't care how they get things as long as they have it all Materialistic Bum parents not even around for parent teacher meetings at their kids schools to help them graduate Now they are all dropouts.

    1. 9:48 con Beto Quintanilla no te metas gûey...
      Vete a bailar tu pinchi pasito duranguense con La Chimuela de La Chupitos.

  6. The 3 Guys from CDS arrested for the Margarito Martinez killing were laughing and joking in court. 2 pled guilty and 1 is taking it to trial.

    1. 11:11
      2 of the guys came to court farting.

    2. 11:11 when was he killed?

  7. Great job as always guys. Thanks for your hard work. Very interesting stuff for sure. Can't wait for more! Feliz Navidad!!

  8. @“Mica/DrivingMSSQL:” Superlative second chapter. A few years ago, Netflix had an original series titled TIJUANA which covered the same thematic elements as you do in this piece, only this is the genuine article rather than a dramatic piece. Journos south of the border must have nerves of steel, especially the photojournalists who really capture the visceral, venal nature of the violence on the streets. Job well done.


    1. Yeah that show is about Carlos Hanks son. And the newspaper that used to catch hell in Tijuana I believe it’s actually Zeta now. Season 2 will be out March next year.


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