Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The True Story of Lamberto Quintero Paez

The True Story of Lamberto Quintero

Lamberto Quintero Paez hailed from the rough mountaintop village of Badiraguato, Sinaloa, high in the Sierra Madre, where marijuana and poppy has grown for years.

He came from the famous Quintero clan, whose members formed part during the Mexican Revolution. His relative was Valente Quintero, known for his bravery and machismo, who died in a famous duel with Maj. Abram Elenes after a night of heavy drinking. This shooting was immortalized in a corrido.

Another relative was Eliseo Quintero, famous revolutionary leader in Sinaloa who later became Governor of the state in 1910. He was well known and beloved in Santiago Los Caballeros, where he had schools, homes and the town church built.

Lamberto Quintero and his cousin Pedro Paez Soto had rivalries with the Otanez Lafarga family, another powerful Sinaloa clan. Over drug trafficking, women, petty problems or just misunderstandings, no matter the cause of the feud, it would end in the total extermination of the Lafarga clan and the almost decimation of the Quinteros, over the period of one year.

The Otanez Lafargas came from the town of San Ignacio in southern Sinaloa. They descended from powerful land owners, called Caciques who acted like feudal warlords and ruled over the farmers and land with brute force and violence.

In the 1930's Cruz and Francisco Lafarga grew rich, selling gold they smuggled out of the El Tambor mines and dealing with livestock. Their sons, Alberto, Fortino and Cruz inherited the wealth, ranches and thousands of head of cattle, but the men were careless, wasting away their fortune in racous parties and women. They soon after entered the Drug Trafficking business.

Historians and witnesses to the bloody feud say that it started over a misunderstanding. The Quintero Paez family was already involved in a feud with the Vega and Payan families from El Tamarindo, Sinaloa. This feud originated in 1971 during a shooting at a soccer match in which a Payan was killed.

One day in late 1975, Quintero family members saw Ramon Otanez Lafarga talking to a judicial police officer on a street in Culiacan and opened fire, killing the cop. Otanez Lafarga,  thinking the bullets were in fact aimed for him, fired back, killed Macario Payan, a Quintero associate.

The Lafargas then suspected Pedro Paez of being behind the hit. His cousin Lamberto was surely also involved as the both were closely associated, both providing each other protection and money.

Then began the retributions. Back and forth. Lamberto and his cousin Pedro Paez got into the family problems and Pedro Paez was ultimately shot to death at the Culiacan airport.

On January 28th, 1976, Lamberto left the capital city of Culiacan with his nephew Miguel Quintero, bound for his ranch called El Varal, 3 miles from El Salado. He would always stop at a restaurant in El Salado, owned by Dona Chelita Zazueta.

On the way to El Salado, passing El Carrizal ranch, Lamberto noticed a pick up following them. Miguel also noticed and alerted his uncle who replied they would use their high powered weapons if they needed to.

Thus began a high speed chase. The truck was driven by men from the Otanez Lafarga family. The truck got parallel to Quintero's truck, prompting him to open fire with his AR-15 assault rifle, hitting David Manuel Otanez Lafarga, "El Chito", gravely wounding him. He was then taken to Ovalles Clinic in Culiacan where he died.

The now angry Lafarga's rounded up men and pursued Lamberto all the way to El Colonial restaurant. 3 hours later a white LTD Ford sedan drove around the place. Quintero was on the bed of his truck, casually talking to a friend, where he was ambushed with a volley of machine gun fire. He was taken to Santa Maria Clinic in Culiacan where he died of his injuries.

Two days later, on January 30th, Around 20 men died in a massacre in Culiacan. Quintero family members came under attack when a car full of Lafargas shot up mourners at El Carmen church during Lamberto's funeral and injured several people and bystanders. More pistoleros from the Lafarga clan surrounded Santa Maria clinic and engaged in a bloody shootout on Francisco Villa Street, where nephew Hector Caro-Quintero, the eldest brother of the notorious family of drug barons died.

Quintero gunmen, led by Manuel Salcido Uzueta "Cochiloco" (then a young pistolero working for Quintero Paez) attacked Chito Lafarga's funeral procession in retribution for the shooting at Lamberto's funeral. The shootout at the Culiacan cemetery killed and wounded several men and the day long orgy of blood culminated in a fierce shootout on a residential street in Colonia Lomas del Boulevard where Alberto Otanez Lafarga had a home. Several dozen men died in this confrontation, their bodies sprawled on rooftops, inside cars and on city streets.. Culiacan newspapers announced the crimes and Culichis were shocked that week at the number of wakes and funerals that the bloody feud had left.

The Sinaloa State governor ordered the military to patrol the city of 500,000 to restore order. Fortino and Alberto "Black Hand" Lafarga--having survived the violence-- fled to Mexico City. The wrath of the Quintero's followed them there; Tino died in a barrage of cuerno de chivo (narco slang for AK-47, nicknamed Goat Horn for its distinctive curved magazine) fire outside his home and Alberto was pulled from his truck, beaten with the butt of a AK-47 rifle and shot with a coup-de-grace to the head. The Lafarga family ceased to exist and the Quintero family emerged victorious in the feud.

Lamberto Quintero Paez AKA "El Bonito" (Pretty Boy) was ultimately buried in a concrete and crystal mausoleum at the Jardines de Humaya cemetary in Culiacan where many old time mafiosos have their tombs. His portrait, of him riding his favorite horse, christens the door to his crypt, surrounded by AR-15 shells surrounding his photograph. His cousins Pedro Paez Soto and Gilberto Caro Rodriguez also lie nearby.

The famous corrido Lamberto Quintero was soon written by famous composer and good friend of Lamberto's, Paulino Vargas and was heard on the radio soon after throughout Sinaloa, Mexico and the world.

Another corrido written for Chito Lafarga was also composed but the Quintero's, using their power, didnt allow that corrido to be broadcast anywhere in Sinaloa. Antonio Aguilar immortalized Lamberto's corrido and made a fictionalized movie telling Quintero's life story.

In almost a year, the Quintero Paez's and Otanez Lafarga's blew each other into the next world. Only their corridos, grainy photographs and tombs remain.

A portrait of Lamberto Quintero Paez "El Bonito"(L) and his brother Luis, painted post-mortem, at their graves at Jardines de Humaya cemetary in Culiacan, Sinaloa, Mexico

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Dark History of the DFS

The DFS was the Directoriate of Federal Security. Top Comandante, the Tiger of Colima, Florentino Ventura Gutierrez helped set it up in 1948. It would serve as Mexico's internal police, the Central Intellingence Agency of Mexico. Later on the agency would turn into something nefarious and sinister and the DFS would be synonimous with crime, murder, torture and corruption.

The DFS was responsible for investigating and controlling subversives in Mexico. They were the country's secret police, a band of men who formed the elite team of the Federal Security Directorate.

Under the command of several Comandantes, men who would prove to be shady and nasty, the DFS began controlling drug trafficking and vice in Mexico in the 70's. The top levels of Government, going down to the DFS, would control and administer the first drug cartel that was being born in Mexico: The Guadalajara Cartel.

In the 70's several rag tag families of Sinaloan descent ran the drug trafficking business in the north of the country. These families fought amongst each other and caused the capital city of Culiacan to be called Little Chicago, for its daily murders and shootouts and public places, reminiscent of 1920's Chicago.

The DFS approached these families and told them to stop the violence. To unite and form a conglomerate of power. When the Mexican government introduced Plan Condor in 1977 in the states of Chihuahua, Sinaloa, and Durango, the traffickers needed a new base of operations. What better place than Mexico's second largest city? Home to Tequila and Mariachis. Guadalajara.

The DFS agents relocated the traffickers to the city. The DFS provided protection and guns to the narcos. The DFS introduced the mafiosos to the municipal and state police; who needed to be paid off and how much. Using their cover as Mexicos top security force, they protected the narcos. In order to work freely and without problems the narcos would kick up 25 percent of profits to the DFS.

The DFS would then later distribute money to the top honchos in the PRI government. All the way up to the Secretary of the Interior and Secretary of Defense. The Defense Secretary would go after the little narcos but leave the kingfishes untouched. Large poppy and marijuana plantations would go "undetected" while small riverside drug labs got busted and the pictures put on Page One of the papers.

In the late 70s the DFS rented 700 tanker trucks used to ferry in Natural Gas from the US into Mexico. On the run north however, the trucks were loaded with bales of marijuana destined for Los Angeles and Phoenix. The DFS made millions, along with their narco friends. Many of the narcos had official DFS badges, which they flashed to other cops, to pull rank and work freely. No DFS agent could be arrested, fake or not.

In the 1980's the gig was up. The vast network of corruption was uncovered and the notorious DFS was broken up. Never in history had the world seen such a big police agency work so closely with the crime lords that ravaged to the country and with the top dogs in Government, all drinking out of the same bowl.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Double Life of "El Cochiloco".

In the late 80s a stranger arrived to the village of Coquimatlan, Colima. He bought lands around town, specifically outside of town, and built an impressive ranch. He named it Rancho Jayamita.

He built a modest two story home. Nothing ostentatious. His name was Pedro Orozco Garcia. Don Pedro was a successful engineer who owned construction companies in the city of Guadalajara, capital of neighboring Jalisco state.

His second floor bedroom had a huge window that wrapped around the whole room giving him a panoramic view of Jayamita. Access to the room, was through a narrow staircase that could be navegated one person at a time. His visitors thought of this to be odd.

Nevertheless they liked Don Pedro. Tall, fair, blonde, blue eyed, mustachioed and wearing smart glasses, he hosted parties at the ranch with Coquimatlan mayor and the governor of Colima as guests. 300 plus guests often wined and dined at his ranch where he regaled the guests with horse shows, where he would personally ride his white horse, El Colimote.

During town fairs and parades he presided, riding his horse and performing tricks. The mysterious generous rancher was beloved by the town. He gave away presents to the needy children and donated money to the town for public works. The Governor of Colima gave Pedro Orozco Garcia the title of "Benefactor of the State of Colima" for his phlanthropic ways.

So when in the fall of 1991, Don Pedro Orozco Garcia was ambushed and savagely murdered on a congested Guadalajara street, the town of Coquimatlan was shocked.

Who would want to kill Don Pedro? A generous rancher with no enemies?

And most importantly, why?

Thats why the entire town of Coquimatlan and the state of Colima was shocked to learn that Pedro Orozco was no engineer, nor a rancher. His name wasnt even Pedro Orozco Garcia.

He was Manuel Salcido Uzueta, "El Cochiloco". 42 year old Sinaloan from the village of San Juan, and boss of the Guadalajara Cartel. Lord of the Mazatlan and Guadalajara underworld and king of the drug trade.

Manuel Salcido Uzueta was born in the village of San Juan, Sinaloa in the 40's. As a child his mother nicknamed him "Cochi Loco", Sinaloan slang for "Crazy Pig" because he often ran around hyperactive like a mad piglet.

He began selling marijuana then quickly ascended to pistolero for local mafiosos then through friendships forged with fellow Sinaloans, he became a top capo. He worked alongside famous drug barons as Miguel Felix, Rafael Caro Quintero and Ernesto Fonseca. He became a top lieutenant of the Guadalajara Cartel in the 70's and 80s' and established himself in the resort city of Mazatlan.

There among the tourists and shady palm trees of Mazatlan he owned hotels, restaurants, movie theaters and night clubs. In Guadalajara he owned several Sinaloa style seafood restaurants, factories, hotels and car dealerships. He was a fair man to his friends but brutal to his enemies or anyone who crossed him. Bloodthirsty and ruthless was he, true to his nickname of "Crazy Pig".

One time, one of Salcido's pistoleros failed to do a job. Facing down the barrel of Salcidos gun, he managed to crack one last joke before being blasted. He told Salcido "Boss, just slap me one or twice and ill learn. It will never happen again".

The pistolero was lucky. Salcido cracked a smile and lowered his gun. He spared his pistoleros life.

In 1991, a boat moored at the port of Manzanillo, Colima was raided by the federales. The boat, the Chimborazo had come from Colombia and was destined for Long Beach, California. The federales found 3 tons of cocaine on the boat.

The owners of the boat in Colombia were irate. They were the Medellin Cartel. Another thing. The boat was carrying EIGHT tons of cocaine not three. Where had the other five tons gone? The blame was placed on Manuel Salcido Uzueta. Colima was his turf. He had to answer to the Chimborazo fiasco.

On October 9, 1991, during one of his weekly trips to Guadalajara from Coquimatlan, he was riding his white Ram Charger. His sidekick and driver, a Judicial Police officer named Obeso drove and his 20 year old daughter Monica was also riding in the truck.

At a red stop light on Avenida Obsidiana in the posh Residencial Victoria section of Guadalajara two cars, a Buick Century and a Mercury Topaz intercepted them, blocking their path Two men riding on motorcycles also rode up to Salcidos truck. Eight men descended from the bikes and cars, and pointed their AK-47's, AR-15s and Galil assault rifles at the vehicle.

Salcido, knowing what was about to happen, took out a hand grenade and attempted one last time to fend of the hitmen. He didnt get to pull the pin and toss it at them.

The eight men unleashed a fusilade of bullets at Salcido and his truck. Manuel Salcido Uzueta "El Cochiloco" was shot 85 times. His daughter was shot 15 times but managed to live. Obeso's body received 30 hits.

Thats how the criminal career of mysterious engineer from Coquimatlan ended. Pedro Orozco died ripped apart in a hail of bullets on a Guadalajara street.

And the people of Coquimatlan were shocked to learn their mysterious benefactor, neighbor and friend was none other than the ruthless and feared "Cochiloco".

Manuel Salcido Uzeta was buried in a crypt in his native San Juan with his guns, AK-47, favorite cowboy boots and jewelry in a funeral attended by most of Sinaloa's top capos.

The bloody and mangled body of Manuel Salcido Uzueta graces the cover of a Guadalajara crime tabloid magazine after his assasination on October 9, 1991. The headline reads: "The Mafia does not forgive: El Cochiloco is massacred !"

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Slaughter At The Tula River

In early 1982, Mexico City residents and Mexican society at large were shocked by a grisly discovery upriver, some miles north from the capital city. The evidence of a grisly crime, shocking at the time, tame by today's standards, nevertheless it was a gruesome occurance, that left more questions than answers.

The morning of January 14th, 1982, a peasant walking the riverbank of the muddy and polluted Tula river made his daily walk to the fields. He noticed something peculiar washed up on the bank. He bent down and picked it up and dropped it immediately in horror: It was a severed human head in advanced state of decomposition. Glancing towards a chute that spilled waste into the river he saw one body, then two, splash into the water. Soon there were more than 10 dead bodies splashing and bobbing in the dark waters. Scared out of his wits, he ran to notify authorities.

By the time the police reached the Tula, outside the town of Atotonilco, in Hidalgo State, curious villagers had gathered to watch the gruesome spectacle. The bound and gagged bodies of dead men, floating in the waters of the river. Authorities called a Red Cross diving team from Mexico City and they recovered the bodies. 12 in total.

All were men and were in different states of decomposition. All bodies showed signs of being brutally tortured. One body was decapitated. Another had its arms chopped off. Another was missing a leg. All had broken bones, bruises, and cuts. One had its belly slashed, perhaps with a machete. Another was shot ten times with an automatic rifle. All were blindfolded, gagged and had their hands tied behind their backs. All had the coup de grace: a single gunshot to the forehead or the base of the neck.

Who were these men? Victims of a drug deal gone wrong? Vengeance among narcos? Central American refugees killed by mercenaries? Various theories popped up in the media who were all over the story. Front page newspapers and alarmist crime tabloids showed the gruesome pictures on their covers. Mexican news media dubbed the crime "The Tula River Massacre".

Mexico City coroners stated the victims had not been murdered in Hidalgo. Mexico City's Great Sewage Canal and sewer system all ends up washing out to the Tula river. The victims could of been murdered in some dark place in the city and dumped to the sewer and ended up in the Tula.

The men were well dressed and didnt seem to be farmers or Mexican even. They were tall and had South American features and were dressed in clothing with "Made in Colombia" tags. Mexico City Police Chief Arturo Durazo quickly dismissed the case as simply "a fight among drug traffickers than ended up in a massacre". Out of his jurisdiction, Durazo appointed himself head of the Tula River massacre investigation.

Two weeks later, two more bodies popped up in the Tula. They were found to be part of the original group of massacred. This brought the total to fourteen men executed. Who were these men? Why were they killed with such savagery?

The notorious crime was quickly forgotten however. The investigation went nowhere. Killings among narcos, a simple massacre. The death toll stunned the nation however. 14 men slaughtered savagely and dumped into the sewer. But the case was declared close and the men were surely foreigners who ran afoul of the wrong person and ended up dead. Years later, that would prove to be right on the money.

Chief Arturo Durazo Moreno was arrested two years later on charges of corruption, bribery, drug and arms trafficking and just being a world class asshole/douchebag. Turns out "El Negro" as his friends called him, indeed was the worst Police Chief ever. A book written in 1983, by his main bodyguard Jose Gonzalez accused Durazo of being the mastermind behing the Tula massacre.

A group of Colombian and Venezuelans nationals were picked up by the notorious Mexico City vice squad the DIPD. Rather than get in trouble, they cut a deal with Jefe Durazo. They would rob banks and deal drugs, with the DIPD's protection and the lions share of the loot would go to "El Negro". They would operate in the city and other major cities in Mexico and they would be untouched. For 2 years the gang robbed various banks, often ending in violent shootouts that would claim lives, police and bystanders alike, nevertheless they were never caught.

Heists in Guadalajara, Jalisco and Zamora, Michoacan netted millions in pesos. A great portion of the money went up to Durazo and his cronies. Durazo was a greedy man, he wanted ALL the money. He had the gang and their Mexican getaway driver, a taxicab driver named Armando Magallon Perez rounded up and "arrested" in June 1981, by the same DIPD agents who protected them. The head of the DIPD, Francisco Sahagun Baca, a notoriously sadistic and mean spirited man and Durazo's right hand man held the gang in one of the city's "secret" jails.

There they were tortured and slapped around, trying to force them to give up the location of all their loot. Whether the DIPD got what they wanted and were asking for, is unknown. The men were later held at La Castaneda psychiatric hospital. There they were held for months, subjected to waterboarding, electrical shocks on their testicles, whacked with heavy rubber hoses and finally sometime in December 1981, the men were taken to a Mexico City sewer gate at a unknown location in the dead of night, the blindfolded and bound men were shot and slashed to death and tossed into the sewer.

Durazo was arrested and sent to Federal prison.Manuel Cavazos Juarez, one of the lead executioners was arrested in 2007 after being on the run for 25 years. Sahagun Baca went into hiding where he was said to have been killed by Federales in a shootout at his ranch in Sahuayo, Michoacan in July 1989. Some say that Sahagun, a cousin of ex first lady Martha Sahagun is still alive and enjoys protection from his wealthy and powerful cousin but the truth is not known.

Mexican news organization in 2004 reported that a peculiar name was found on a guestlist for a party organized by Martha Sahagun, then President Vicente Fox's wife.

The name? Francisco Sahagun Baca. A man who has been "dead" for 15 years.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Man from La Noria: From Peasant to Kingpin

A smiling Rafael Caro Quintero grants Televisa news crews a interview upon his arrest in 1985 at the Attorney General offices in Mexico City.
Rafael Caro Quintero, the eldest of 11 brothers and sisters, was born on October 24, 1952 at Rancho La Noria, Badiraguato Municipality, Sinaloa. He was the son of Don Emilio Caro Payan (RIP) and Dona Hermenegilda Quintero.

Don Emilio died when Rafael was 14 years old. He had worked in the buying and selling of land on the north coast of Sinaloa. They lived well but like all families had bad times. At age 17, Rafael abandoned La Noria, a village of about 50 homes and about 80 people at that time who mostly raised cattle, to find work to Culiacan, Sinaloa's capital.

He found work as a truck driver for a cattle feed company. This work did not last long as Rafael, who had only a 1st grade education, had cunning and intelligence. And so he devoted his time to cultivating marijuana. The protector and teacher of Caro Quintero, was the infamous drug boss and father of Mexican organized crime, Pedro Aviles Perez, a native of Durango.

Aviles Perez was the drug boss of Sonora, principally working in San Luis Rio Colorado. From him Rafael learned the business and soon began to grow marijuana on ranches in Sonora and Chihuahua. He began to bribe commanders in Sonora and Chihuahua states and was able to build his empire little by little.

When the Clave 7 government hit squad killed Pedro Aviles on September 28, 1978, Rafael was beginning to be a Capo in his own right. Together with his brothers Jose Luis and Miguel Angel, they bought ranches in Caborca, Sonora, and began to plant thousands of hectares of marijuana and poppy to use in the production of heroin. He had already met Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo "Don Neto" and Juan Jose Esparragoza "The Blue." With them they planted marijuana in the center and north of the republic and with his millions, they bribeds commanders, courts and agents of the Federal Judicial Police.

No plantations belonging to them would be destroyed, no government flights would fly over their businesses and ruin anything. That was the deal with the state and local governments. Rafael married to Maria Elena Elenes, sister of his friend and fellow kingpin Eleodoro Elenes "The Culichi." He had four children. At that same time, he began to create the world's largest marijuana growing complex: El Buffalo ranch.

The Buffalo Ranch near Jimenez, Chihuahua had methods of irrigation used in the Imperial Valley of California. Scientists and engineers used super modern methods, in the midst of desolate desert of Chihuahua, to grow thousands of hectares of sinsemilla marijuana. Peasants were brought from Oaxaca, Guerrero, Sinaloa and Sonora in Norte de Sonora buses at night and left in the desert to work in the harvesting.

With the Operation Condor in Sinaloa in 1977, many Sinaloa traffickers shifted their operations centers to the city of Guadalajara, Jalisco. Caro Quintero, along with Fonseca and his partner Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, settled in Jalisco and from there, they operated with little to no interference. Felix Gallardo brought the plane loads of cocaine from the Medellin cartel and Fonseca and Caro and were responsible for planting marijuana in Chihuahua,San Luis Potosi, Zacatecas and Sonora.

Caro Quintero also lent the Nicaraguan Contra rebels his ranches in Jalisco and Veracruz so they could train. The CIA was fully aware of this and did nothing. Perhaps they didnt care, Caro was training anti communist rebels and that was A-OK. Payment were made by Caro for public works, building schools, roads, and introducing electricity to remote villages up and down Sinaloa state.
To reach these isolated villages, nine in total with no access roads, Caro had to use helicopters to bring the poles. Using the same helicopters, the poles were hoisted into place and one by one, the towns of the Sierra Madre, had electricity for the first time ever.

He distributed money among the poor and according to Caro Quintero in his own words: "I did in a short time what the government doesnt do in 10 years". Caro was a true Sinaloan prodigy. But in 1984 the problems started. DEA agents, which had its offices at the American consulate in Guadalajara began to follow and track Caro Quintero, Fonseca and Felix Gallardo's businesses.
Rafael Caro Quintero was known by friends in Sinaloa as a fun-loving womanizer. Villagers would fondly remember when "Rafa" would come to La Noria, on horseback, hapilly firing his machine gun into the air, a Sinaloan Banda trailing behind him playing his favorite songs. They would play for days on end. He would organize parties and he would dance with all the girls.
He often travelled in a convoy of 15 luxury vans, filled with his friends and armen gunmen. One time in Culiacan, a young man crashed his car into Caro's convoy. Armed men threatened him but he tearfully explained that the car had been his friends, lent to him so he could go to work. Caro Quintero upon hearing the story reached into his van, pulled out a suitcase full of cash and gave him a fat wad of cash.
"So that you can buy your friend a new car. And also one for yourself.". The man later realized through the news, years later that his benefactor had been none other than Rafael Caro Quintero.
La Noria became a fortress. He had a house built for his mother, surrounded by a tall perimeteral wall. A lavish mausoleum, with 72 crypts, that would one day house his and his families' remains was erected three times. A very particular Caro would not like the outcome of the mausoleum and would have it destroyed, and rebuilt until the third time, he was satisfied.
He built a school in his hometown, so that children would enjoy an education he never had access to. He named it after his father, Emilio Caro.
In Caborca, his second hometown, he built a palatial home that looked like a castle in the middle of the desert. It was appropiately named El Castillo. The man was very fond of horses and through his younger brothers and other family members he financed various cattle ranches in northern Mexico.
He also bought seven mansions in the posh Jardines del Bosque area of Guadalajara, various ranches in the Altos of Jalisco, including La Herradura in Atequiza, and other homes in Michoacan, Sinaloa and Zacatecas. He also began an impresive project on Avenida Acueducto in Guadalajara. The three story home when completed would have a pool, private zoo and would take up an entire city block.
He laundered his money through legitimate businesses in the city of Guadalajara. He bought several Ford dealerships and was fond of giving away brand new Grand Marquis to his friends in law enforcement and the military. He also bought several Hotels and Motels including the Holiday Inn, along with several seafood and Sinaloan style restaurants.

Back in Guadalajara, the rumors began to surface that in the Chihuahuan Desert was a huge marijuana crop almost ready for harvest. Enrique Camarena Salazar, a Mexican American DEA agent , began to investigate the rumors and in November of that year flew over Buffalo. For the Mexican government of Miguel de la Madrid, the crops or any other, did not exist in Mexico, but the U.S. already had the evidence. Photos and maps indicated that the Buffalo, existed just below the flight path of the Guadalajara-Houston Mexicana Airlines route.

On November 9, 1984, the Mexican army raided El Buffalo and burned 10,000 tons of marijuana. Two other ranches in Sonora and Zacatecas were also destroyed. Hundreds of peasants were arrested but Fonseca and Caro and were nowhere to be found. The monetary loss was estimated in $2 billion dollars.

Felix, Caro and Fonseca met at a party in January 1985 and decided to give Agent Camarena Salazar a warning. On February 5, judicial police under the command of Caro Quintero abducted Agent Camarena in front of the US Consulate in Guadalajara in broad daylight. That same day at the Guadalajara airport, Alfredo Zavala Avelar, a pilot for the Ministry of Agriculture and pilot friend of Camarena who had flown him over El Buffalo also disappeared.
The two men were questioned about what they knew from the Buffalo, Caro, Fonseca and Felix Gallardo's drug businesses , and what Camarena knew about the director of the Mexican Federal Judicial Police, Manuel Ibarra Herrera. Everything was recorded and after two days of torture, they were executed and buried in the Bosque La Primavera forest outside the city.

On February 9 Caro Quintero and his gunmen were intercepted at Guadalajara's Miguel Hidalgo Airport by the Federal comandate, Armando Pavon Reyes, in charge of investigation of the Camarena case. With a greeting and hug, and the promise of 60,000 dollars, Pavon Reyes let Quintero fly out, along with his girlfriend Sara Cristina Cosio Martinez, niece of a high ranking PRI politician in Jalisco.
He flew to Mazatlan, then Caborca, with her and her friend Violeta Estrada. He spent the month of February in hiding and Camarena and Zavala were nowhere to be found. By pressure of the US government and the DEA, they requested Camarena be returned unharmed or at least his body. It was then the killings occurred at El Mareno.

Pavon Reyes, thanks to a mysterious unsigned note received on February 28, 1985, he found the bodies of Camarena and Zavala. They were at the Mareno ranch , municipality of Angostura, Michoacan. On March 2,the Federales entered Rancho El Mareno in search of Camarena and Zavala.

The federal version of the account as follows: upon entering the ranch, they were greeted with bullets by the ranch's owners, the Braves Cervantes, relatives of then governor of Michoacan Cuauhtemoc Cardenas. They were greeted by bursts of gunfire that killed a federal agent who was shot in the skull. The feds then were forced to open fire, killing Manuel Bravo and his wife Celia along with their handicapped son Rigo and 2 other sons who had arrived to help their parents .

The version of the DEA was that Bravo's family was massacred in cold blood, as several of the dead had been shot in the back and some were in their beds as if they had been surprised, and ultimately slaughtered . Zavala and Camarena were not found at El Mareno, but two days later a rancher found 2 black bags containing rotting corpses next to the Zamora - La Barca highway . They were identified as Enrique Camarena Salazar and Alfredo Zavala.

Caro Quintero at the time was in San Jose Costa Rica. He sought to move his business to Costa Rica and there he began to operate again the help of a cousin Jose Ines Calderon Quintero and his right hand man Jose Contreras Subias. On April 5, 1985, he was arrested by the Costa Rican military, with help from the DEA. When he was arrested it was estimated that Caro Quintero's wealth was around $ 650 million dollars, making him one of the richest person in Mexico and the world.

His teenage paramour Sara Cosio had called her parents from Caro's Quinta La California mansion to Guadalajara. DEA intercepted the call and so went the hunt for Caro. Florentino Ventura Gutierrez, commander of the Mexican Federal Judicial Police who replaced Pavon Reyes, was in charge of bringing Caro and his men to prison north of Mexico City where he would face justice.
His dream project on Avenida Acueducto became the focus of the media, and grew abandoned, taken over by the government who eventually tore it down. His homes were confiscated and turned into Drug Rehab centers. A rare one of a kind volcanic stone sphere, found at Quinta La California was donated to the Costa Rican government. Millions in gold jewelry, including his trademark diamond and gold "R-1" bracelet and handgun were kept by the Mexican government and DEA.

Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo was arrested almost by accident on April 10 on a ranch in Puerto Vallarta, owned by Commander Candelario Ramos, Police Chief of Ameca, Jalisco. The two faced charges for the murder of Camarena and were sentenced to 40 years in prison in 1989.

That year Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo was also arrested in his home in Zapopan, Jalisco. The Three Sinaloans, as they were called now by the press, began serving sentences of more than 40 years in Mexican prisons.

Caro Quintero's 4 year stay at Mexico City's Reclusorio Norte prison was not a bad one. He paid good money to have an wing built for 600 prisoners exclusively for himself and his cronies. He had access to private prison patios and fruit trees, had his own chef and didnt have to eat prison food. Only the best meals and meats for the 32 year old kingpin.

He was allowed access to televisions, stereo equipment, fine liquors, clothing and money. He had his own private clinic ready to treat any malady that afflicted Caro. He was also allowed to have lavish birthday parties where he brought the finest Sinaloan brass bands at the time, like Banda La Costena and Los Coyonquis.

Upon discovery of a tunnel leading to Caro's prison penthouse, his priveleges were cut and he was transferred to the new Almoloya de Juarez prison. There he remained until 2005 when he was transferred to Puente Grande prison.

On January 6, 2006, Guadalajara news stations broke the sensational news that the famous kingpin had escaped Puente Grande, as has fellow protege Joaquin Guzman Loera "El Chapo" 5 years before.

The news turned out to be false. CCTV images of a down looking Caro were issued by the prison to show that Rafael, was still indeed a federal guest at Mexico's number two prison. In 2008, he was transferred to Matamoros prison where he joined his brother Miguel Angel, arrested in 2001 in Los Mochis.

Movies about his life were made, books were written and dozens of corridos praising his exploits and career as one of Mexico's founding fathers of the drug trade. To this day, his four children, 2 girls, and 2 boys are in their mid to late 20's. Some are lawyers and the others accountants. According to a 2002 interview with a Mexican newsmagazine, Rafael Caro Quintero is a broken tired man who can only give one piece of advice to the youth of the world:

"Dont mess with drugs".

"Find yourself, build towards your future. If not, then you're worthless" - Rafael Caro Quintero

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Escape of the Century: 21 years later

It was 4 am when a prison guard walking down the halls of the Cereso prison in the resort city of Mazatlan, Sinaloa made a shocking discovery. All the inmates from Module 8 were gone. The alarm was sounded, the warden notified. 4 hours later the news astounded Sinaloa state, Mexico and the world.

97 prisoners had escaped through a narrow tunnel that barely made it five feet out of the perimeteral wall.

All was confusion at the Mazatlan CERESO (Social Readaptation Center in English) the morning of November 14th, 1989. Sometime during the night, ninety seven prisoners had escaped in what was already being dubbed "The Break of the Century" by the Mexican media. Almost immediately, Cuautemoc Conde Garcia, the prison warden, his brother a Judicial Police agent and all of the staff working the night shift was arrested. How had 97 inmates, most of them in prison for drug trafficking charges, had vanished so easily?

Upon inspection they found a small hole in the floor, under a cot inside Cell Number 20. Following the hole and narrow tunnel, they found it led to another opening, mere feet from the prisons walls. Then it was every man for himself, the inmates escaped into the surrounding foliage and hills.

Roadblocks were set up throught Mazatlan and Sinaloa state. One of the escaped was cousin of drug kingpin Rafael Caro Quintero, and others were related to Manuel Salcido Uzeta "Crazy Pig", drug boss of Mazatlan. 2 inmates were quickly recaptured. One was found drunk in the street, beligerently waving a bottle another one was arrested near the jail.

While the inmates sought refuge in the Sierra Madre, Warden Conde Garcia and his brother and other guards were being harshly interrogated at the Attorney General's Offices in Mazatlan. A desk was moved aside at Antonio Rosales de la Garzas office and a board set up on two chairs. On it, Conde and the 25 other guards arrested were tortured using "waterboarding methods". They told Conde Garcia they would drill a hole in his teeth and stick electrical wires to shock him unless he confessed to having being bribed to let the prisoners escape.

At Conde and his brothers home, police confiscated millions of Pesos claiming the brothers had been bribed in other to let the tunnel be built and allowing the escape. Conde vehemently denied this and publicly denounced his torture at the PGR headquarters. He had been shocked with cattle prods in his gums and on his testicles. On November 24, Cuahtemoc Conde attempted suicide by throwing himself off a staircase at the PGR offices. He survived with minor injuries and was taken to the Naval Hospital. There Mexican Navy officials protected him and prevented any further torture.

Months later, Antonio Rosales de la Garza and others were arrested for torture and other charges for the injuries inflicted on Conde and the others. They were sent precisely to the CERESO in Mazatlan.

Months after the escape, reporters for Culiacan newspaper Noroeste visited the prison and the tunnel. Some of the inmates that escaped were fat and robust and could have not fit inside the small openings and narrow tunnel. The reporters alleged that it was all a plot against Conde Garcia, the building of a fake tunnel, the liberation of prisoners through other means, all aimed at destroying Conde, who had been director of the CERESO for a few months. All orchestrated, by unknown Sinaloa state officials.

This claim is also supported by Conde, who to this day refuses to name the officials whom he says are still active politically and have the power "to kill him".

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Guillermo Carrillo Arena: Mass Murderer of Thousands

Architect Guillermo Carrillo Arena oversaw many new government projects that would revolutionize the capital city of Mexico in the 60's and 70's.

New projects that would create jobs, aid the poor, and provide shelter for poor and middle class families in Mexico City.

He oversaw the constructions of many tall buildings in downtown Mexico DF and the people were happy with the construction boom that provided so much for the 18 million people who called the valley of Mexico home.

In 1970, the dilapidated Hospital Juarez was renovated and a new 12 story "Hospitalization Tower" was erected on the corner of Jesus Maria and San Pablo streets, near El Zocalo. Built with two wings, it provided 500 more hospital beds, a maternity ward, surgery hall, and a helipad on the roof. This new hospital would provide care for the needy and poor families of the capital.

In the late 60's the huge Nonoalco Tlatelolco Housing Project was built. Huge apartment towers lumbered over ancient aztec ruins and the colonial church of Santiago near the Plaza of the Three Cultures. These housing units provided affordable shelter for working class families, with some towers providing luxury apartments and condos for well off families.
Across from General Hospital, he was a key architect in the ambitious Multifamiliar Benito Juarez housing project. More than a dozen new apartment blocks were built, all for the benefit of the middle class.

Carrillo Arena oversaw projects at the National Medical Center, and the building of Hotels and Condos in the crowded downtown area. He was so successful that he was soon named Minister of the Urban Development and Ecology Secretariat (SEDUE in spanish acronym Secretaria de Desarrollo Urbano y Ecologia) under President Miguel de la Madrid in the early 1980s.

Then on September 19th, 1985 the worst natural disaster to strike Mexico City in modern times, hit.

An 8.1 earthquake rocked the capital city for 90 seconds. Killing thousands of people.

The 12 story Hospitalization Tower at Hospital Juarez completely collapsed, killing patients, doctors, nurses and newborns. Around 500 bodies were pulled from the monstrous pile of rubble.

Two wings of the 14 story Nuevo Leon building at the Nonoalco Tlatelolco housing projects also came crashing to the ground killing more than 400 people, including 5 relatives of famous spanish tenor Placido Domingo

The Gynecology/Obstetrics tower at General Hospital, seven stories in all became a tomb for 100 new mothers, doctors and infants. Countless apartment buildings, hotels and office towers completely failed during the huge quake, which was followed by a 7.5 aftershock the next day.
Across the street the scene was equally devastating at the Multifamiliar Benito Juarez. 3 apartment blocks, the A1, B2, and C3, had completely collapsed, killing, injuring and emtombing dozens of people.

At the ruins of Juarez Hospital and General Hospital, rescue workers found that many of the support beams had unreinforced rebar in them. Many beams didnt even have rebar and most of the materials used were found to be of low quality. The walls in many of the buildings simply crumbled as if made of sand.

Shoddy construction methods, negligence and corruption had led to the failure of many of the buildings designed or whose building was supervised by Minister Carrillo Arena.

Many of the buildings had been weakened and damaged in previous temblor and nothing had been done to repair them. Money granted to make repairs simply "dissapeared.

The public was outraged. Visible corruption and abuse of power by Carrillo Arena and other officials caused the populace and survivors of the mega quakes to rally in the streets and demand his head.

Carrillo Arena attempted to satisfy the survivors needs by creating commisions to investigate and build new housing for those left homeless: only one catch. The housing was not going to be free. Those, left with nothing but the clothing on their back would have to fork over thousands of pesos for new housing designed and provided by the wonderful PRI controlled government.

After much public outcry and evidence of shady deals against him, Guillermo Carrillo Arena resigned as Minister of SEDUE in February 1986.