Saturday, December 19, 2009

One Last Call

November 9th, 1999

The man milled about the Uruapan, Michoacan airport terminal. He was uneasy. A Strange feeling inside him. Thoughts racing through his head. He had recently had a fight with his wife. He felt really bad. He would soon board a flight to Mexico City but he would soon return.

Before boarding his flight he summed up the courage to call his wife. Forget the problems, forget the fighting. Start anew. He dropped some pesos into the phone and dialed the number. No answer, just the machine.

So he left the message: "Baby, its me. Sorry for everything thats happened.I feel like working things out. I dont know, I feel strange. Dont know why. Just wanna call you and say I love you. Ill be back in Uruapan in a few days. I miss you. Love you.

Minutes later Transportes Aereos Ejecutivos S.A (TAESA) Flight 725 from Tijuana landed in Uruapan. It had a layover in Guadalajara where 83 passengers had descended. In Uruapan only he and a few others boarded the DC-9 bound for Mexico City.

He thought about his wife and how they would soon start anew upon coming back from Mexico City. But the strange feeling didnt leave him. He boarded Flight 725 and buckled up. The jet taxied down the runway and took off.

5 minutes later and 14 kilometers from Uruapan airport, Flight 725's captain declared an emergency. The planes slats on the right wing had stuck.

"Slats...slats...slats, slats!" were the last words on the Flight Data Recorder of TAESA Flight 725.

The DC-9 with 18 passengers and crew aboard rolled over on its roof and plunged, crashing onto an avocado orchard and exploding near La Tzararacua, Michoacan. There were no survivors.

The wife watched the report on the disaster on the late news that night. She had heard her husbands final, heart wrenching message on the answering machine.

Stunned and in shock she sat down. She couldnt help but cry.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Deadly New Years in Guadalajara

Juan woke up in the middle of the night. His stomach hurt. He had drank countless times before but this time he felt strange. "Man, I need to stop drinking" he thought as many of us have thought when a horrible hangover assaults us.He remembered the previous night's New Years party where he and friends had consumed bottle after bottle of tequila. He went back to sleep.

He awoke again almost at dawn. His stomach hurt even more. Now it burned horribly and when he got up he vomited. He couldnt see straight. He awoke his wife "Vieja, something is wrong, please take me to the clinic".

His wife rushed Juan to Guadalajara's Number 6 Clinic in the Polanco neighborhood. Upon reaching the clinic, he collapsed on the tile floor. Juan was dead.

Juan's mysterious stomachaches were not the only ones reported at Clinic Number 6 that New Years morning. 5 more people had been there before Juan, and after Juans death, 10 more people came in, complaning of burning, vomiting and horrible stomach cramps. 4 of them died.

That New Years Day morning in 1968, the city of Guadalajara's hospitals and clinics in the southern neighborhoods had dozens of people reporting the symptoms, which pointed to mass poisoning. The first cases, were of people staggering blindly into police stations or talking incoherently. They were tossed into the drunk tanks, where later they were found to be dead.

More and more people would die on January 1st and 2nd. Dozens were hospitalized the first week of January as city and state authorities scrambled to find the source of the mass poisoning.

Upon investigating they concluded that all the persons affected had one thing in common. They had all consumed cheap homemade tequila. Unbeknown to Guadalajara city authorities, more cases of poisoning were being reported throughout villages and towns in Jalisco, Michoacan and Guanajuato states. The death toll mounted. 40 persons were now dead by the end of the first week of January 1968.

Authorities soon found out most of the victims had purchased bottles of homemade hooch at the small neighborhood store Tendejon La Rosita, in the Polanco neighborhood. The owner was questioned and he told authorities that the vendor of the poison tequila was a man from the country whose name he could not remember.

City authorities quickly raced throughout the city streets using loudspeakers and bullhorns and warning residents to not drink any tequila purchased from La Rosita.

The man was found and arrested and charged with negligence and homicide and illegally brewing tequila, a major crime in Jalisco state, home of the Tequila liquor, which manufacture and distribution is heavily regulated by the Tequila Regulatory Commision.

The man, an illiterate peasant told police he had made the hooch in a still at his home using cans he had found at the city dump, which he assured, he had washed and cleaned thouroughly.

Unknown to the man, one of the discarded barrels he had used to make the moonshine, had been used in a factory to store a highly poisonous and corrosive industrial chemical, which then mixed with the booze. To make matters worse he added deadly methyl alcohol to give his brew a special "kick". The consequences were fatal.

The man, who cried and lamented the horror and death he had caused by wanting to earn a few pesos during the holidays was sentenced to several years in prison.

His fate after that is unknown. But the memories of Guadalajara's painful and deadly New Year celebrations of 1968 are still remembered by those who lived through them.

Inferno and Horror on Ramon Corona Street

Christmastime was in full gear that gray December afternoon. Thousands of Mexico City residents thronged the narrow street stalls surrounding the sprawling La Merced Market, east of the Zocalo. Many shopped for Christmas present, others for candles and fireworks in honor of the Day of the Virgen of Guadalupe, celebrated every December 12th, which would be the next day.

La Merced market is a huge complex of different markets east of the downtown area in the seedy and notorious La Merced neighborhood. Prostitutes and pickpockets abound. The market is divided into several areas: The Meat market, the vegetable market, the flower market, the herb market and the Ampudia Market, which is mostly candy and toys.

None of the unsuspecting people crowding Ramon Corona Street, next to Ampudia Market, imagined the hellish horror that would be unleashed that day.

Illegal Fireworks are often sold in the city and throughout the country. Though forbidden, fireworks form a part of Mexican life and culture. Illegal or Legal, they are easily found hidden under the candy stalls in Ampudia Market. Stashed in a corner, hidden in the countless boxes and crates that crowd Merced market, people fear them but also turn the other way. Improperly handled, they can unleash a holocaust of death and fire. On December 11th, 1988, tragedy rocked Ampudia Market.

Nobody to this day knows how it started, but a fire broke out at a candy stall on Corona Street. A fire that quickly reached a box of illegal fireworks, which then began to burn and detonate. Dozens of people ran terrified at the sound of the exploding fireworks and gunpowder, which started a flash fire that quickly raced down the stalls, incinerating everything in its path: people, paper, candy and more fireworks.

More fireworks exploded as the screams of the victims burning alive were heard all throught La Merced market. Then came the huge blast.

The fire reached a warehouse in a building in Ampudia Market and exploded. Pounds of gunpowder, used in the making of the fireworks, blew up, killing dozens of people. The fire still raged inside the Ampudia building, spreading to apartments on the upper floors. Dozens were trapped behind the iron roll up doors of the market storerooms where they sought refuge from the fire and explosions. These storerooms proved to be deathtraps as many contained even more fireworks, which then exploded.

Red Cross ambulances and firefighters quickly raced to La Merced market and extinguished the fire on Corona Street. The toll was grim. 72 persons had been killed in the blasts and fire, including 12 children and 25 women. 83 more persons were injured or burned and required treatment.

The day after, The Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mexico City mayor Manuel Camacho Solis toured the fire-ruined area. Dozens of relatives of the dead mobbed him demanding justice. Vendors who lost everything tossed down soggy and burned cardboard and debris at the mayor demanding those responsible for the negligence and corruption of allowing clandestine fireworks to be sold in such a populated area.

He declared the sale of fireworks illegal in the Federal District and the Valley of Mexico (Mexico City greater area). None of the vendors responsible for the tragedy had valid permits. Rarely any ever do.

It wasnt the last fireworks related disaster at La Merced or in Mexico. Fires routinely break out at the market, but none have been as devastating as the one on December 11th 1988.

In 1999, a market exploded in Celaya, Guanajuato, due to the burning of an illegal cache of gunpowder and fireworks. 65 were killed. On New Years Eve 2002 the Veracruz city market burned, killing 32.

In 1998, in Tultepec, an illegal fireworks shop blew up, devastating 5 city blocks, and killing 20.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Pilgrimage of Death

Every March, the festival in honor of the Holy Virgin of the Rosary gets started in the tiny mountaintop village of Talpa de Allende in Jalisco state. Hundreds of Roman Catholic pilgrims walk to the shrine of Our Lady of Talpa or crowd the aging Dina buses that make the perilous trip down the winding narrow road through the mountains. In 1980, the festival was marked by tragedy, a tragedy that sadly would be repeated throughout the years.

Our Lady of the Rosary is a small figurine made of old maize and corn paste, dating back to the 16th century. Legend has it that one day, the bishop of the nearby town of Mascota ordered the Virgin of Talpa to be sent to the Mascota town church instead of the crumbling basilica in Talpa.

The next morning, the statue of the Virgin of the Rosary was gone. Down the main aisle of the church tiny little foot prints could be seen. Upon inspection at the old church in Talpa it was discovered that the statue was once again on its pedestal at the main altar.

Surely the work of pranksters the Bishop declared. The Indians who lived in the area cried miracle. Once again the statue was taken to Mascota. This time with guards outside the locked doors of the church. Once again, without explanation, the statue would be in Talpa by morning. Talpa is about 20 miles from Mascota and in the 16th century that was a long distance to travel in such few hours.

Every March, a week long festival is held in the village of Talpa de Allende in honor of the virgin. Pilgrims from near and far visit Our Lady at the basilica, the third most visited Roman Catholic shrine in Mexico.

The morning of March 20, 1980, an aging Mexican made Dina bus left Guadalajara packed full of Roman Catholic pilgrims headed for Talpa.

They didnt know they would soon meet their death.

The bus was travelling at high speeds on the curvy, rain slicked road. Right near Cruz de Romero, a sightseeing spot in the mountain, topped with a huge concrete church, the bus driver lost control of the overcrowded bus. The bus smashed into the rock wall on the side of the highway and flipped over, tossing passengers to and fro inside the metallic coffin on wheels. The bus then plunged off the highway into a rocky wooded ravine, falling 600 feet.

Bloody broken bodies, pieced of seat and luggage spilled out all over the ravine and the bus practically disintegrated into a pile of smashed steel. The few motorists on the dangerous road who witnessed the tragic accident quickly notified the Federal Highway Police and authorities in town. Talpa de Allende, being a small isolated village and lacking a proper hospital, phoned in Red Cross ambulances from Mascota and Ameca, 4 hours away.

Paramedics and police upon arrival at the accident in ravine found a gruesome scene. Bloody muddy corpses of men women and children strewn around the rocky ravine. Candles and rosarys, mixed with pictures of the Virgin and bibles littered the ground. 43 persons had died. Another 15 were injured.

Police Commander Jorge Zamudio of the Federal Highway Police via phone interview with local news informed the horrendous accident was due to "excessive speed and lack of precaution in the rain". 43 persons had died in the terrible pilgrimage of death.

Tragically as cranes were being used to lift the bus' wreckage out of the ravine, a big rig carrying watermelons also lost its brakes going down the Cruz de Romero curve. The tractor trailer hit 2 ambulances and a police car, tumbling down the same ravine as the bus, hitting rescue workers and policemen working the first accident. Three were killed, and 2 more required hospitalization.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Plan Of Extermination at Oblatos Penitentiary

Oblatos Penitentiary in Guadalajara in the late 1970's

In the 1970's guerrila warfare was strong in Mexico. Groups like the 23rd of September communist league took hostages and planted bombs all throughout Mexico, fighting the authoritatirian PRI government. Many such guerrillas ended up at the Oblatos Penitentiary in eastern Guadalajara.

Many of the guerrillas arrested banded together in the overcrowded, squalid Jalisco State penitentiary. They slept in the same dormitories and helped each other out against agressions. Many "comrades" would be stabbed and killed in the prison's patios and hallways. The guerrillas were seen as friends by most of the inmate population but in 1977 the sinister Federal Security Directorate devised a diabolocal plan to exterminate all the guerrillas in Mexico.

The DFS would recruit goons in prison and pay them a sum of money to kill the guerrillas and stage "riots". In the faux riots, the guerrillas would be murdered, in the perfect environment. Casualties of a prison riot.

One day in September 1977 one of the guerrilla leaders imprisoned at "The Castle" as Oblatos was called, asked to speak to Warden Pedro Parra Zenteno. He denounced the conditions at the prison and asked for protection for a group of inmate trustees nicknamed "The Jackals" had been extorting the general population and abusing the inmates, stealing, beating and raping the inmates wives and sisters during visiting hour. The leader, as he spoke to the Warden, noticed 3 men in suits, sitting near the Warden, staring at him intensively. He later realized the men were DFS agents.

Warden Parra's answer was simple "Get the fuck out of my office."

The leader now realized something bad was amiss. Their days were numbered. The guerrillas took turns sleeping while others stood watch all night, in case someone should sneak in and try to stab them in their sleep. In early October 1977, the leader of the "Jackals"Reynaldo Arellano showed the guerrillas a fistful of pesos.

"Look what they've paid me to kill all of youse. Stupid boys!" he said with a cackle and walked away.

The night of October 9th, 1977, the guards at Oblatos Penitentiary were told to go home. Some guards made it to Dormitory "I" where the guerrillas stayed and out of their gun holsters, took out some shanks and gave them to the group of prisoners.

"Here you go boys, God protect all of you." said one of the Guards.

At dawn on October 10, 1977 the guerrillas noticed the Jackals and several other prisoners outside at the patio. It was 5 am and the population did not go out to the yard until late morning. Something was up. The Jackals, armed with sticks, knives, machetes and other tools rushed the guerrillas. The Guerrillas fought back and were chased all the way back to the dormitory.

Thats when the Jackals and DFS plan of extermination went awry. The general population, seeing how the Dormitory "I" boys were being attacked, counterattacked and rushed the "Jackals".

The hunters were now the hunted.

More than 500 inmates went after the Jackals, and beat them mercilessly. One locked himself in a cell. The inmates showered him and the cell with fuel and tossed a match. The Jackal trustee ended up blackened, bloody mass of charcoal.

One of the Jackals, the one responsible for the rapes of their sisters and wives, received the most cruel treatment of all. His genitals were cut off with a rusty knife and shoved in his mouth. His eyeballs were poked out of his socket and a steel bar was driven through his skull. His body was chained up to a wall for all to see.

As the bloody riot raged on at the Jalisco state penitentiary, the remaining prison staff ran for the exits. The inmates were massacring each other. One by one, the bodies of the trustees were piled up at the gate leading from the administration building to the jail. Laughing, one of the inmates would bring a wheelbarrow and dump a bloody corpse at the door.

Riot police assembled outside the prison and the Mexican military surrounded Oblatos. At night, the riot police in full gear entered with electric nightsticks and shields and quelled the riot. The rioting inmates issued a statement to radio and TV saying what they had done was not murder but "justice".

17 inmates died in the bloody riot, the worst riot in Jalisco state penal history. Dozens more were injured. Many of the inmates say the death toll was much higher, perhaps 50. The horrible riot marked the end of The Castle. Oblatos State Penitentiary was closed down and all inmates were transfered to the new Puente Grande Maximum Security prison south of the city. The Castle was bulldozed and is now a park.

One of the survivors, recalling the 1977 riot thanks the general population of Oblatos for their survival that hellish Autumn day.

"The "Rancho" (gen pop.) saved us. They served as a barrier protecting us from the Jackals. If it weren't for them, we would all be dead. The DFS would of gotten away with it."

The Miner and the Phantom Hitchhiker

In 1983 a huge gold vein was discovered near the village of Guachinango in Jalisco state, 2 hours east of Guadalajara by road. The Barqueno mine soon opened up, providing hundreds of jobs for the people living in the western part of the state.

One cold night in December 1983 a mine worker who lived in the city of Ameca, an hr from El Barqueno was driving on the lonely dark dirt road that leads from the main highway to the village of Guachinango. Locals would tell tales of apparitions and ghosts on the dirt road late at night but most dismissed them as tall tales. That night in December among the fog in the night, the tales would prove reality.

As the worker was driving, nearing midnight he saw a man on the side of the road. Feeling bad at that the man was walking at this late hour he stopped and offered him a ride. The man came in his pick up and sat and buckled up and they drove off. Further down the road his radio became static and shut off. Then his truck lights shut off. Then the truck shut off completely.

This frightened the miner who asked his passenger what could possibly have happened and in the darkness he couldnt see the mysterious man anymore. The seatbelt was buckled but NOBODY was sitting next to him anymore. At the moment he realized in horror that he was all alone in his truck, the truck lit up, radio came back on and it started again.

The miner in fear, accelerated his truck and didnt stop until he reaching Guachinango's main square where he ran into city hall and told police what had happened. The man, in shock, fainted and had to be taken by ambulance to Guadalajara.

Before the land was cleared to make the dirt road connecting Guachinango to the Guadalajara-Ameca-Mascota highway, the strip of land was the site of a massive battle in 1914 during the Mexican revolution. Hundreds died in the battle between revolutionaries and the Mexican Federales. Again in the late 1920's there was another bloody battle, this time between Catholic guerrillas and government troops during the Cristero War that ravaged central Mexico. Dozens more died there during that skirmish. Some bodies were said to have been buried near the road, and in the 1950's 8 skeletons were found, presumibly victims of either the 1914 or 1928 battles.

To this day, the miner, who still lives in Ameca will not discuss the incident as to not attract spirits, benign or evil, for he doesnt want another ghost to get into his vehicle ever again. El Barqueno mine is now closed and reports of ghosts on the isolated dirt road to Guachinango still come up time and time again.

2 College Dropouts And A Christmas Heist

An empty display case after the 1985 heist at the Natl Anthropology Museum in Mexico City

On Christmas Morning 1985, Mexico City newspapers rolled out a sensational story. 140 priceless artifacts from 7 display cases at the city's National Anthropology and History Museum had been stolen.

At 8 o clock on the morning on December 25th, the morning shift of security guards entered the National Anthropology Museum in sprawling Chapultepec Park and were shocked to see the Maya Room of the Museum virtually empty. Several display cases were empty. Nearly 140 Aztec, Mayan and Zapotec pieces had been stolen overnight.

The media and society immediately blamed an inside job. The night security guards, who were supposed to visit the rooms every hour on the hour were arrested and interrogated. Due to lack of evidence they were freed. Focus turned on international thieves. The problem was that the artifacts were so famous and well known that it would be virtually impossible to sell them off. Several pieces were from the Palenque and Chichen Itza archaeological sites in southern Mexico. One was the famed "Murcielago" Zapotec God mask. One US expert said trying to sell the items was like trying to "hock the Mona Lisa".

Three years later investigators caught the real culprits of the daring multi million dollar heist at the Anthropology Museum: Two college dropouts with an obsession for archaeology. It wasn't a gang of professional international art thieves as previously thought and how they did it wasn't that difficult either. They were certainly no Danny Ocean.

On Christmas Eve 1985, they scaled a fence at the museum. Then they broke in through an air duct. Once in the Mayan rooms they pried open the cases and stole about 100 priceless artifacts (not 140 as previously thought). Then they drove off with the loot.

First they wanted the artifacts for themselves but then decided to sell them off. They met in Acapulco with a drug dealer and supposedly established a "1 billion dollar" deal. They would trade the items for Cocaine. Before this could happen, authorities closed in on them and some accomplices, arrested them and recovered most of the stolen loot. The Murcielago Mask had been cracked and had to be repaired but most the artifacts were indeed recovered.

Far from being sophisticated, 2 amateurs with a fetish for history committed one of the most expensive museum heists in the world one Christmas Eve in 1985 and stole irreplaceable and priceless objects important to Mexican culture and heritage.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Christmas Slaughter: The 1988 Riot and Assault at the Tepic Jail

All seemed normal during visiting hours late in the evening of December 20, 1988. Christmas was approaching and many families made the visits to the Nayarit State Penitentiary "Venustiano Carranza" in Tepic the state capital to visit their loved ones who would sadly spend their holidays in the squalid prison.

The otherwise tranquil visiting time was soon interrupted by a group of inmates brandishing guns. Six men with firearms caused pandemonium prompting the women and children there to flee for their lives. The prison's guards confronted the armed inmates and a shootout ensued. Their escape attempt had failed

273 adults and almost 200 children were now trapped in the prison, as the rebellious inmates took guards, prison staff and the prison's warden Samuel Alvarado Alpizar hostage. Other employees at the penitentiary fled and hid inside offices, stacking tables and file cabinets against the doors to keep the inmates out. Soon about 50 more inmates joined the six armed prisoners and a riot ensued.

The inmates demanded armored cars so they could flee the prison and more weapons. During the 38 hour standoff with Nayarit State authorities, police and army soldiers who surrounded the prison, Warden Alvarado was shot dead, along with 2 other hostages. The morning of December 21st, police managed to free the more than 400 hostages trapped in the prison, using ladders and bringing them out through the prison's administration buildings windows.

As the riot and standoff grew longer, Nayarit State officials declared themselves incapable to deal with the situation and requested aid to Mexico City.

On December 22, 1988 a government plane landed at the airport in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, about an hour from Tepic. Inside the jet was the Mexican Federal Police's elite SWAT team Los Zorros (Foxes). Mexico City had sent Los Zorros to quell the rebellion at Tepic jail.

Later that day the 130 men strong Zorros team formed outside the penitentiary and blew open the gates. The team, armed with assault rifles faced off the inmates, and engaged them in a bloody shootout in which the Zorro leading Commander, Jorge Armando Duarte was shot in the forehead and killed by one of the inmates as he tried to negotiate with them into surrendering. The rioting inmates, numbering about 50 were subdued and the remaining hostages were freed.

National and International news crews gathered outside the prison were allowed entry and an NBC crew filmed 5 of the inmates, laying face down and being questioned by the police commando team. Then something strange happened

A hard faced man, one of the Zorro commanders yelled some orders to his men and his group once again assembled outside the prison. Only this time, instead of batons, they were handed machine guns.

"Reporteros y chismosos! A chingar a su madre ! Vayanse!" "News crews and nosy people, get the fuck out of here!" was the harsh command given by the Comandante to the journalists and family members gathered outside the jail after the storming of the prison.

The Zorro team once again entered the Tepic Penitentiary, when all seemed in order and the inmates controlled. Shots were heard.

For about 20 minutes, the cracking of machine guns could be heard inside the prison. When it was over, more than 35 inmates were dead. Bloody and shot up bodies were scattered throughout the now destroyed administration building. Some bodies of the prisoners had marks of execution and the coup de grace. Some showed evidence of having been shot as they fled or as they had been on their knees. The inmates filmed by NBC, subdued and controlled, were among the dead.

Days later, Nayarit state officials denied knowledge of the prisoners filmed alive who would later be found dead. A spokesman for the Nayarit state government said "I cannot explain this to you, no we have no information on the matter". Seemed like no one with authority knew what had happened inside the Venustiano Carranza prison

Prison clerk and hostage Patricia Castillo told reporters after the massacre; "The Zorros entered the prison angry because their commander had been killed. They began shooting indiscriminately".

Weeks later, the men participating in the assault on the prison were reprimanded and some were jailed for their brutal actions.

Vengeance by the Zorros for the death of their commander? Excessive use of brutal force? Senseless agression? Or all of the above? What was known was that nearly 40 inmates had been killed or rather executed on that cold December night in 1988 when Christmastime was stained by blood and bullets at Tepic penitentiary.

The "Zorrazo". "Fox Attack". An event that the victims families or the people of Tepic, Nayarit would never forget.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Gas Explosions at San Juanico: 25 Years Later

Hell On Earth: On Nov 19, 1984 a Pemex plant exploded killing nearly 600 people.

San Juan Ixhuatepec is a suburb of Mexico City, north of the capital just past the Periferico beltway. Middle class homes mixed among brick and tin shacks of low income families, living in the shadow of the huge Petroleos Mexicanos LP Gas Storage Facility. 6 Huge Spherical tanks holding thousands of liters of pressurized Liquid Petroleum gas loom in the horizon. Next to the huge spheres is a cylindrical tank farm holding even more gas. Next to the PEMEX installations is the Unigas Gas Distribution Center. 12 Gas Storage Facilities dominate the area of "San Juanico", including Gasomatico, Unigas and Gas Vela.

Since 3 AM on the morning of November 19th, 1984, there was a leak in an 8 inch pipe leading to one of the Pemex spherical tanks. The tanks had been nearly empty a day before and were now being refueled via pipeline from the Tula, Hidalgo oil refinery. For almost three hours, the gas cloud lingered throughout the facility.

Even some people living near the plant awoke from their sleep due to the strong smell of gas. At 5:40 am, the gas cloud reached a point of ignition, a spark from a delivery truck or a flare at the plant, the source of what was to happen to this day is unknown. What is known is, that the gas cloud reached a point of ignition, causing a blast and fire that destroyed 10 homes.

6 minutes later, at 5:46 am, a raging hell was unleashed on San Juan Ixhuatepec.

The fire from the first minor blast reached 4 of the 6 spherical tanks,which were filled to 75 percent capacity, all four exploding almost at once in one huge catastrophic BLEVE blast. The tremendous blast was recorded on Mexico City seismographs and the huge mushroom cloud of fire reached 500 meters into the dawn sky.

The monster of fire devoured everything around the plant, instantly incinerating homes, people still asleep in bed, pets, livestock and vehicles. 5 city blocks were virtually razed by the hellfire and people, sleeping in their beds still on getting ready to go to work or school, were practically vaporized by the furnace like heat and fire. The fires and explosions also spread to the Unigas and Gasomatico plant, spurring more explosions.

After the 12 huge blasts that followed, the survivors of San Juanico were assaulted by a wave of heat and light. As if the sun had fallen on San Juan Ixhuatepec. Naked people or others, simply in their underwear and pajamas ran throughout the shattered glass and debris that littered the streets.

The blasts and fire seemed to come from everywhere. Flaming droplets of liquid petroleum gas rained upon the fleeing survivors causing horrendous burns. People on fire ran throughout the neighborhood, the oxygen fanning their flames until some, reaching the nearby Los Remedios river, threw themselves into the dirty waters to douse the fire that ate at their flesh.

The bodies of one family of many who were killed in the blasts and fire litter the ruins of their home.

Charred bodies littered the street. Burned survivors, dazed and in shock wandered throughout the street, the acrid smell of burned hair and flesh hanging over the town. The huge roar of the LP gas burning could be heard miles away. The huge flames at the plant, reaching 500 meters, could be seen from miles away in central Mexico City.

The curious inhabitants of the capital wondered what was happening behind the hills of Tlanepantla, marveling at the yellow/orange glow behind the hills. Many wondered if a warehouse was burning, or the Tula oil pipeline had perhaps caught fire, nobody knew. What was happening was a huge disaster that forever changed the lives of thousands.

At 6 am, the first fire trucks arrived into San Juan Ixhuatepec, ready to battle the huge conflagration. Shortly after all access into San Juanico was cut, causing huge traffic jams. Only ambulances, paramedics and firefighters were allowed into the ruined town that now resembled World War II Dresden. The first reporters to the scene covered their noses as the horrendous stench of burned bodies blew with the wind. The roar of the fire and more explosions could be heard. 30 ton steel Gas tanks flew through the air like rockets, one falling miles away and crushing a 2 story home, killing those inside.

Dazed burned survivors sit on the sidewalks of San Juanico after the infernal blasts

After hours of firefighters battling the blazes, the toll was staggering. At least 503 people were dead most reduced to charcoal or scorched bones. At least 600 more were reported missing. More than 900 were injured, 60,000 were made homeless, most of the homeless and injured were housed temporarily at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, a famous shrine. The charred bodies, mostly just unrecognizable piles of charcoal were placed in plastic bags and taken to a huge warehouse for Identification. Most of them were burned beyond recognition, impossible to tell their sexes much less who they had been in life. The Mexican Army now patrolled the streets to prevent looting. Almost 100,000 people had been evacuated from the area on city buses and taken to shelters.

After the blasts, Mexican society demanded to know what had happened at San Juan Ixhuatepec. Pemex issued a statement blaming Unigas Co., who had a storage facility next to the Pemex plant. They said an explosion in a tanker truck unloading gas at the Unigas plant had produced the catastrophe. Evidence pointed to the disaster originating at the Pemex plant. Surviving workers at the Pemex plant said a gas leak had been detected but nothing could be done, it had been detected too late. The gas cloud would soon reach the plant's flare so most just ran for their lives uphill, away from the blast zone.

Petroleos Mexicanos, after admitting its fault, promised money and shelter to those affected by the blasts.

On November 20 and 21st, most of the bodies were buried in three mass graves. Priests holding buckets of holy water sprinkled the huge tranches that would hold the 300 plus bodies that were never identified.

A year later, in November 1986 President Miguel De La Madrid promised aid and new homes, food and clothing to the survivors. Most would need surgeries and therapy to help with their burns. All the promises were later forgotten. A "Polygon of Security" was designed in San Juan Ixhuatepec to prevent more dangerous businesses to establish in such a densely populated area. The Mexico City government promised to relocate and banish the gas plants from San Juanico.

To this day, November 2009, 6 Gas storage areas remain. Including the Pemex facility which was rebuilt as the Satelite Norte plant. New gas stations and flammable materials storage warehouses were built inside the so called "Polygon of Security" ignoring a 24 year old Presidential decree. 14 businesses are classified as "dangerous to the community" with 12 of them being at risk of an explosion.

Survivors are still waiting for the money and aid promised by Petroleos Mexicanos 25 years ago. They are forced to work however they can, or beg for money on corners, covering their burned faces and limbs in shame, others not caring and living their lives, knowing they survived one of the worlds worst industrial disasters, that according to some, probably killed more than 1,200 people.

According to a El Universal newspaper poll, only 30 percent of people ages 18-25 know what happened on November 19, 1984 in San Juanico.

After the blasts, as is common after disasters, inappropriate and morbid "jokes" were made up by Mexico City residents.

Question: "How can you fit 500 people from San Juanico inside a VW Bug?"

Answer: "You put them in the ashtray".

Friday, October 30, 2009

Las Poquianchis: The Macabre Case That Shocked Mexico

A mob awaits eagerly to lynch Las Poquianchis (foreground, in black) as theyre escorted by police.

Chain smoking Maria de Jesus and Delfina Gonzalez Valenzuela shortly after being jailed in 1964

- In the first weeks of January 1964, Catalina Ortega went to the Judicial Police office in Leon, Guanajuato and told a macabre tale. Visibly shaken, scared and showing signs of abuse and malnourishment, Ortega told the police officers that in nearby San Pancho, the Gonzalez sisters held a sort of concentration camp/ brothel. Thus began the most scandalous and sordid tale of prostitution and murder, the most shocking in annals of Mexican crime history.

Delfina, Maria de Jesus, Carmen and Maria Luisa Gonzalez Valenzuela were born in El Salto de Juanacatlan, Jalisco in poverty. Their father, Isidro Torres was an abusive and authoritarian man. He formed a part of the Rural police, during the Porfirio Diaz days, in charge of riding thru town and making sure everything was ok. A violent man, who often abused his power, he shot and killed a man during an argument. When his young daughters wore makeup or "risque" clothing not to his liking, he would lock them up in the town jail to teach them a lesson.

After shooting the man and gaining many enemies, Isidro Torres, his wife Bernardina Valenzuela and their daughters relocated to the small village of San Francisco del Rincon, Guanajuato, called San Pancho by the locals. As the Gonzalez Valenzuela sisters grew older, their constant fear of poverty made them open up some businesses in town. Together with some money they had they opened a saloon in San Pancho, and this bar, although it didnt bring in loads of money, it gave them enough to eat.

Later on they would venture into prostitution. The sisters would bribe local officials with money or the sisters would "bribe" them using their sexual skills. Nevertheless they opened up clandestine brothels in San Francisco del Rincon, Purisima del Rincon, and Leon in Guanajuato state other bordellos in El Salto and San Juan de los Lagos, Jalisco and another one in San Juan del Rio, Queretaro state, near Mexico City.

Carmen, Delfina and Maria de Jesus "Chuy", operated the whorehouses in Guanajuato and Jalisco while Maria Luisa "Eva the Leggy One" ran her bar/brothel near the Mexican border. The sisters bought a bar in Lagos, Jalisco from a gay man nicknamed "El Poquianchi" . The nickname was passed on to the sisters, who were now called Las Poquianchis, a nickname they hated.

They would prowl the countryside, hitting the nearby ranches in Guanajuato or venture into rural Jalisco and Michoacan states and look for the prettiest young girls. They would offer them jobs in Guadalajara or Leon, as maids or waitresses. The poor young peasant girls, with dreams of life in the big city and money, would be happy to oblige. Other times the Gonzalez sisters, with the help of an Army Captain/Henchman and Delfina's lover, Hermengildo Zuniga, would simply snatch the young girls, never to be seen again. In the late 1950's Carmen died due to cancer.

At their "Guadalajara de Noche" and "Barca de Oro" Bars, the young girls would be put to work. The prettiest virgins were saved for later, awaiting patrons with fat wallets, who would pay top peso for an untouched girls. The others would be raped, intimidated and showered with ice water as initiation. The girls would have to buy their clothes and makeup strictly from the Gonzalez sisters.

The girls, held against their will, never being allowed to go outside were controlled by the sisters and Zuniga "The Black Eagle". Delfina's son Ramon Torres "El Tepo" also served as muscle, keeping the girls in line. For years the sisters made tons of money selling booze and whores to soldiers, councilmen, cops and horny villagers.

When one of the girls got pregnant, she would be beaten and forced to abort, the fetuses dumped in the back yards of the brothels or buried at the sisters main ranch that resembled a concentration camp, Loma del Angel. If a girl got too sick, due to malnourishment or an STD or due to an impromptu abortion, she would be locked in a room, starved to death or the other girls would be forced to beat her to death with sticks and heavy logs. "The Black Eagle" and the sister's chauffeur handled the bodies, burning them to ashes or burying them in mass graves. Johns with a lot of cash would also be murdered and their bodies buried, and their cash stolen.

in 1963, Ramon Torres "El Tepo" got into an argument with Lagos de Moreno, Jalisco cops and was shot to death inside one of the Gonzalez' sisters brothel. The police closed down the place and its said that Delfina, Tepo's mother, in a fit of rage ordered Hermenegildo Zuniga to track down the cops who killed her son and kill them on the spot. And kill them he did.

In January 1964, one of the Gonzalez sisters "whores" managed to escape Loma del Angel through a small opening in the wall and fled. Zuniga and his cronies searched for Ortega to kill her but they could not find her throughout the countryside. Ortega managed to get ahold of her mother and together they went to the Leon, Guanajuato police to file a complaint. She was in luck, the cops she talked to were not on the sinister sister's payroll. They soon got a search and arrest warrant against Chuy and Delfina Gonzalez and on January 14th, 1964 they raided Loma del Angel ranch.

Las Poquianchis being taken to their sinister ranch, Loma del Angel, on January 14, 1964

There the sisters, still dressed in black, mourning El Tepos death and wearing shawls were herded throughtout the ranch, while angry villagers gathered outside demanding to lynch the sisters. Police and reporters found a dozen emaciated and dirty women at the ranch, locked in a room. As police and reporters explored the ranch, some of the girls pointed to spots in the ground and told them thats where they would find "the bodies".

2 girls stand near a mass grave as curious villagers look on at Rancho Loma del Angel

Angry and shouting obcenities at their new accusers, the Gonzalez Valenzuela sisters could do nothing but watch as their chauffeur, also arrested, was forced to dig. There authorities found decomposed bodies and the bones of at least 91 women, men and fetuses.

Under heavy military guard, the sisters were taken to a jail San Francisco del Rincon, but seeing as how the whole town wanted to lynch the women, a judge sent them to squalid Irapuato City Jail. A week later, Maria Luisa Gonzalez Valenzuela went to a Mexico City police station and turned herself in, fearing being lynched. She thought she was immune, a judge had granted her immunity from the charges her sisters faced but upon arriving in Irapuato she too was arrested. There began the hectic interrogation and sensational trial of the century.

A girl points an accusatory finger at Delfina Gonzalez Valenzuela as Chuy looks on.

Dozens of ex prostitutes accused the sisters of rape, murder and extortion. The women accused "The Poquianchis" as the women were dubbed by the media, of dabbling in Satanism, forcing the women to practice sexual acts on animals, and killing and torturing dozens of young girls and johns. They accused Delfina, Maria Luisa and Maria de Jesus of corrupting and bribing local and state authorities, who were also regulars to the sisters bars and brothels. The chaotic trial, peppered with insults and yelling back and forth from the Gonzalez sisters and their accusers was short and a judge sentenced the 3 sisters to 40 years in prison.

A Police Officer readies an unhappy Maria de Jesus Gonzalez for her mugshot in San Francisco del Rincon, Guanajuato.

Delfina Gonzalez Valenzuela, the oldest "Poquianchi" went mad, fearing she would be murdered in jail. On October 17, 1968, while she screamed and ranted, workers doing reparations above her cell in Irapuato jail, looked down to catch a glimpse of the notorious woman and accidentaly dropped a bucket of cement on her head, killing her.

Maria Luisa Gonzalez Valenzuela "Eva the Leggy One" died alone in her cell at Irapuato jail on November 19, 1984. Her body, already being eaten by rats, was discovered a day later.

Maria de Jesus Gonzalez Valenzuela, the youngest of the "Poquianchis" was the only one to be freed. It is unknown why or when she was freed, but legend has it she met a 64 year old man in prison, and once both were outside, they married and lived their life in obscurity, finally dying of old age in the mid 1990's

In 2002, workers clearing land for a new housing development in Purisima del Rincon, Guanajuato, down the road from the notorious Loma del Angel ranch, found the remains of about 20 skeletons in a pit. Authorities said the victims were probably buried there in the 1950's or 1960's, victims of Las Poquanchis.

If this is true, it raises the number of murders past 110 people.

(Authors Note: An aunt of my mothers was one of the girls duped into working for the infamous Poquianchis. Out of Guadalajara she was recruited by one of the sisters, either Delfina or Chuy, I forget, but my mother's aunt had luck. She was never forced to prostitute herself but she did help around in one of their seedy bars in Guadalajara. She said the women never really mistreated her other than not paying her enough for her work. Its a subject she doesnt really discuss for obvious reasons)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Carnage on the Highway: The Belize Air Crash of 1987

Charred debris litters the Toluca-Mexico City Highway after the crash of a Boeing 377 cargo jet.

July 30,1987
4:55 pm
east of Mexico City.

The Toluca-Mexico City highway, east of the sprawling Mexican capital was full of commuters at this time of day. Weekend was approaching and many people and families took advantage to leave the capital for outings in the surrounding countryside. A light drizzle fell in a cloudy sky.

None of the people traveling on that particular road at that particular time thought about the infernal horror about to fall on top of them from above.

Near Kilometer 16 of the six lane highway, a small diner/gas station called El Tras Lomita was full of regulars, eating a meal or having a drink at the bar. People outside filled their tanks and headed off.

Mexico City International Airport
5:00 pm

An old World War II era Boeing 377, Belize Air International four engined jet bound for Miami, Florida took off from Benito Juarez airport. Inside were 8 people, 2 American pilots and the rest riders and owners of prize racing ponies. The ponies were unusually agitated that afternoon, moving about the jet, as the trainers tried to calm them. The jet slowly climbed up into the cloudy skies.

Five minutes after takeoff, trouble started on Belize Air International. The jet wasnt gaining altitude as it now flew over downtown Mexico City. The altimeter was failing, the horses moving was rocking the huge cargo plane back and forth. The pilots struggled to pull up the jet as it flew directly towards one of Mexico City's tallest skyscrapers: The Mexicana Airlines Headquarters tower.

The people inside the skyscraper gasped in horror as they saw the antiquated jet fly straight for them and them last minute dodge the building. Disaster had been averted.

Another tall building loomed ahead. The Hotel de Mexico. The jet once again dodged the building, averting huge disaster but it was now certain something was terribly wrong with the flight. The could not risk turning back to the airport and risk losing control of the jet and smashing into the downtown area's heavily populated neighborhoods. 7 minutes after take off, they saw a possible landing area up ahead.

The Mexico City-Toluca Highway.

By this time, a problem with the plane's landing gear caused a short circuit and small fire. All was panic aboard the jet, as the horses lost their cool and caused the jet to rock even more. The pilots decided with a heavy heart to bring down the jet on the congested freeway.

Witnesses on land saw the huge silver bird lose altitude, trailing smoke, going down rapidly. The plane's engines roar was deafening. People ran outside to see what was happening and watching in horror as the jet came down.

One of the jets wings struck a high tension tower showering sparks. Amazingly it flew under a pedestrian bridge spanning the highway and hit some chainlink fences. By now the plane slammed belly first on the highway, raining fire and sparks and smashing into vehicles, killing some motorists instantly and horribly injuring others.

The jet skidded down the highway smashing into cars, trucks and vans, squashing them like mere metallic insects, bursting into flame and smoke. Up ahead, in the path of the out of control jet: The crowded Tras Lomita restaurant.

The jet broke in two. The tail section slammed into a three story home on the side of the highway. The rest of the plane headed straight for the Tras Lomita, slamming into it and exploding. The huge fireball enveloped the already stricken area, killing those who had been injured by the jet's crash-landing.

The scene was something out of Dante's Inferno. Burning smashed up cars, charred bodies and plane wreckage littered the highway. Others ran to help those injured.

Minutes later, firefighters and Red Cross paramedics aided the injured and picked out the bodies from the rubble. Almost all of those aboard the jet had miraculously survived the infernal crash. Out of 18 horses on the cargo jet, 16 were decimated, dead horses littering the road. 2 horses barely alive, limped about, and had to be put down due to their injuries.

Almost 50 people had died in the disaster. Dozens more injured and hospitalized. The American pilots were detained by Mexican authorities and questioned about the crash and the cause but later set free. The cause was determined to be overloading and a problem with the old jet's landing gear. A short circuit had affected the landing gear and prevented the jet from gaining altitude and almost smashing into buildings downtown.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tarugadas Modernas En Mexico

Que vil pendejada. Ver la juventud de Mexico desprestigiar la nacion. Bola de revoltosos. Aplaudo su deseo de protestar las injusticias que se viven en su jodido y bello Mexico. Digo "Su" porque soy Americano de nacimiento pero Mexicano de corazon, de papas nacidos en esa torturada patria. Pero lo que mas me choca son las abismales babosadas que hacen los mocosos cuando protestan.

Primeramente, cada 2 de Octubre, haciendo desmadres en el DF, segun recordando los muertos de la matanza de Tlatelolco. Quebrando ventanas, grafiteando Mc Donalds, gritando babosadas. Vaya merecido homenaje a los cientos que cayeron muertos bajo la lluvia de balas y bayonetazos en la Plaza de Las Tres Culturas. Andando de cholo vago haciendo desmadre. Se nota que esta bola de holgazanes desorganizados no conocen lo que fue vivir en el 68. Cuando ser un "revoltoso" te ganaba un putazo de los granaderos, una santa madriza de los Halcones, o peor, un balazo del ejercito, o aun peor, te hacian desaparecido la DFS o la Brigada Blanca.

Ahorita ya no existe todo eso. O si existe? Quien Sabe. Tengra grupos de choque Calderon? Hablando de Calderon, o FeCal como lo llaman... se nota que la juventud que lo cataloga a el de "peor presidente", se nota a leguas que son mocosos chillones nacidos despues de 1989 o 1990.

Ignorantes al no conocer las atrocidades de Diaz Ordaz. Mejor dicho atrocidad, la de Tlatelolco. El que se deshizo haciendo cabronada tras cabronada fue su ilustrisimo sucesor, Luis Echeverria Alvarez, autor d Tlatelolco...y no conforme con eso, autor del matanza de Jueves de Corpus de 1971.

Cuando el ser un estudiante con ideas, era la peor cosa en Mexico. La peor amenaza. Las torturas en los campos militares. Los viajes sin retorno de muchos por helicopteros del ejercito. El boleto sin regreso hacia el fondo del Golfo d Mexico o del Istmo de Tehuantepec. Cuando te volvian "minero" o "submarino" enterrandote en la arena hasta el cuello en las Islas Marias, dejando que la marea se encargara de ti. Los tehuacanazos y toques electricos de los Judiciales, todo en el sexenio de Echeverria y de los que lo siguieron.

Siguio el Licenciado Jose Lopez Portillo(1976 - 1982). Ahora si pensaron Echeverria fue corrupto, vaya este Perro. Poniendo a su cuate el Negro Durazo de Jefe de Policia en el DF. La corrupcion impero. Poniendo gente pendeja y sus conocidos en puestos publicos. Saqueando al pais. Matando, Robando, Asaltando, mientas Lopez Portillo se hacia pendejo segun "defendiendo el peso como un PERRO!" GUAU GUAU! La Matanza del Rio Tula en 1982. Las matanzas de campesinos en Puebla, Veracruz y Guerrero. En fin, pura muerte y tortura.

Ahora nos trasladamos a Los Pinos en tiempo de Don Miguel de La Madrid Hurtado (1982 - 1988). Cuando no solo uno, si no DOS devastadores terremotos sacudieron al territorio nacional y desmadraron la Ciudad de Mexico el 19 y 20 de Septiembre de 1985, al Presidente le valio madre. Fueron 10,000 muertos y miles que quedaron sin hogar. O fueron 6 mil los muertos? o 4? mil? o 20 mil? Quien sabe. "Mexico sigue de Pie" dijo De La Madrid la noche del 19. "No queremos ayuda extranjera, Mexico sabe sobrevivir solo". Si como no. Cuando el Regis se quemaba. Cuando los bebes lloraban en las ruinas del Juarez, del hospital General, del Centro Medico Nacional, cuando los estudiantes gritaban bajo las lozas del Conalep, mientras la gente rezaba esperando una muerte rapida bajo el derrumbado Edificio Nuevo Leon, tuvo el cinismo de decir Mexico Esta de Pie. Le valio madre un sismo de 8.1 grados en la escala de Richter.

Despues dejo la ayuda extranjera entrar al pais. No sin antes detener los equipos de rescate, con todo y pico y pala en las aduanas del AICM. Hasta que pasaran inspecciones. Que poca.

Nos remontamos al ano de 1988. 6 de Julio de 1988 cuando el presidente Cuauhtemoc Cardenas Solorzano...*ahem* digo...el Presidente Carlos Salinas de Gortari "gano" la eleccion. Se cayo el sistema por un buen rato pero ni hablar, el PRI salio triunfador. O LO DUDAN, CANIJOS?

Este fue considerado y es considerado por muchos el peor de los presidentes. Un verdadera lacra. Asesino de Criadas, Hermano amigo y socio de narcos. Saqueador del Pais. El Cardenal Posadas murio en Guadalajara, el Candidato Colosio cayo en Tijuana y Jose Francisco Ruiz Massieu quedo abatido en la calle de Lafragua en el DF. Y Manuel Munoz Rocha? Diputado desaparecido. Ni sus luces. Ratero de orejas grandes, el Casi Sin Grenas. Ya todos conocen la triste historia de su sexenio negro.

La devaluacion del peso llego con Ernesto Zedillo Ponce De Leon. Cosas turbias que pasaron durante su sexenio que han salido a la luz y otras tantas que aun no. La Matanza de Acteal, la de Aguas Blancas en Guerrero.

Y la gente, mas bien la ilustre juventud de hoy dice que FeCal es el peor. Ponganse a estudiar saben lo que es bueno. Lo de Luz Y Fuerza del Centro, lo de la lucha contra el narco y las supuestas "cortinas de humo" que fueron el secuestro de Aeromexico y el supuesto atentado en el que murieron Mourino y es nada. Lean un libro de historia negra y veran que tantos mas en el pasado si se desenpenaban como verdaderos ojetes, al mando de la nacion. Eduquense antes de decir que "OH! FeCal es Lo Peor". Concretense a mirar novelas churras y escuchar a Belinda y RBD.

Asi que mientras gritan babosadas en el Zocalo o pintan paredes aludando al Che Guevara, espero que no les aparezcan los fantasmas de Diaz Ordaz y Lopez Portillo y les den una buena "calentada". O que no les salgan los granderos de un rincon oscuro y les den una paliza. O que se aparezcan los espectros de los "Halcones" con sus palos de bambo, dispuesto a tundir al que se le ponga en frente. O que salgan los de verde con sus ametralladoras y bayonetas y sus tanques mortiferos.

Esperen nunca ver unas bengalas en el cielo, anunciando sus muertes iminentes mientras protestan....

Asi es Mexico Lindo Y Querido.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Crash of Mexicana de Aviacion Flight 940

A Mexicana Boeing 727 like this one crashed near Maravatio, Michoacan Mexico on March 31, 1986 killing 166 people.

The morning of March 31, 1986, the passengers waiting to board Mexicana de Aviacion Flight 940 milled about the Mexico City gate. As it was Easter weekend soon many of them would take sunny vacations in the Pacific resort cities of Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta, 2 of Flight 940's stops that morning before heading off to Los Angeles.

During maintenance the Boeing 727 that would be serve as Flight 940 was being serviced. Its tires needed air. The ground crew quickly filled the jet's tires so it could be on its way.

The passengers boarded the jet and took their assigned seats and got ready for a routine flight. The 158 passengers and 8 crew members didnt know that their jetliner was already doomed and below them was a ticking time bomb.

As the jet left Mexico City airspace and entered Michoacan state airspace, some 5 minutes after takeoff, things began to go wrong. As Mexicana 940 reached the altitude of 22,000 feet, one of the front landing gears exploded.

The tire's blast severed important cables and crippled the plane's navigational system. A blaze soon erupted in the undercarriage.

The plane began to lose altitude. The only signs of trouble were the Pilot requesting Mexico Air Control Center permission to lower their altitude. Then the plane started to lose pressure. Thick, acrid smoke was starting to waft up from under the jet and into the cabin. Passengers quickly started to panic as stewards tried to calm them.

At 9:05 AM, Captain Carlos Guadarrama quickly radioed to Mexico City:

"Mexico ACC, Emergency. Mexicana 940. Request return to Mexico (City)"

Mexico Tower acknowledged their request. "Descend to 200, Mexicana 940. Turn Right, direct to Mexico VOR".

Guadarrama confirmed "Mexicana 940, direct right to Mexico VOR".

Those were the last words from Flight 940.

At 9:09 AM Mexico Tower radioed MX940: "Mexicana ACC, Mexicana 940, answer if you hear this..."

No Response.

Something was happening over the skies of Michoacan state near the town of Maravatio. Shepherds and farmers on Pomoca Ranch near El Carbon Mountain saw the White and Gold livery jetliner quickly plummet, flames and smoke trailing from the back.

Inside the cabin, all was panic. Passengers in desperation tried to seek refuge in the cockpit.

The jetliner exploded in a roar, before the eyes of stunned eyewitnesses. Two flaming pieces falling on 9,000 ft. El Carbon Mountain, the Tail section and the severed cabin crashing in flames into a ravine, exploding once again, scattering wreckage, luggage and bodies all over the mountain.
A man climbs over the wreckage of Mexicana Flight 940

The first people on the scene were Michoacan state highway police who reported "No survivors". Charred bodies and body parts littered the landscape. The crash had started a few small brush fires and a plume of white smoke marked the site of Mexico's worst aviation accident to date.

Red Cross teams soon began the gruesome task of recovering the bodies. Due to the rugged terrain, a special platform had to be built uphill so that rescue choppers could land. Volunteer farmers and paramedics would tediously carry the bodies in plastic bags and stretchers up to the choppers where they would be flown to Maravatio and then transported in ambulances to the state capital of Morelia for identification. 166 persons in all, among them 9 Americans had perished.

The bodies, ID'd and covered in lime inside three hangars at the Morelia airport, would be flown in coffins, ironically in another Mexicana jet, back to Mexico City to be claimed.

Four days after the crash an obscure Lebanese terrorist group issued a letter claiming responsability for the "bombing of Mexicana 940". They claimed they had blown the jet out of the sky with a suicide bomber out of their beef with the United States. Why they had chose a Mexican jetliner on Mexican soil was a big question. On April 1st, TWA 840 had been bombed in Athens, killing 2. The group also claimed responsibility for that attack. The claim was soon dismissed as hogwash.

Then there were more rumors. Israeli spies had been on Mexicana 940, booked under fake names. That the Miguel De La Madrid administration had bombed the jet deliberately to distract public attention from the countries woes. The real cause of the accident was a fatal mistake traced back to Mexico City airport.

Before departure, the planes tires had been filled with pressurized air. Airplane tires must be filled with Nitrogen, not pressurized air which causes tires to burst when they reach certain altitude.

Negligence had contributed to the deadly crash of Mexicana Flight 940

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Death of "Doctor" Fonseca And His Tricked Out Car

The night of November 19th, 1984, Jose Antonio Fonseca Iribe took out his wife Dora Amalia Elenes de Fonseca out to dinner. They had been recently married so they and some friends went out to eat to a Chinese restaurant. Fonseca Iribe, "El Doctor" was Guadalajara Cartel leader Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo's "Don Neto" nephew and his wife was a relative of Rafael Caro Quintero's wife.

After their meal "El Doctor" Fonseca argued with a waiter. A fight ensued and an irate Fonseca took out his AK-47 assault rifle and proceeded to shoot up the place in a fit of anger. This prompted the restaurant staff to call the police. Fonseca Iribe and his wife, 2 sisters and a friend left the place and hopped aboard "El Doctors" custom tricked out armored Ford Grand Marquis.

It was already early the morning of November 20th, when a Guadalajara Police officer, snoozing in his squad car noticed the peculiar car driving down Manuel Acuna Avenue and awoke his partner. The two cops decided to check out the strange looking Grand Marquis, 1984 model, license plate number XARO-59, with pitch black tinted windows. The tailed the car and flashed their lights. The response from the Grand Marquis was a burst of automatic gunfire.

The two city cops opened fired with their pistols but their shots did not perforate the car. It was armored. They quickly radioed for backup. By now the car was shooting oil out of the back and a thick curtain of smoke, attempting to hide the fleeing car. The cops shot out the tires but now the car was racing down the avenue on its rims, amid a shower of sparks.

The car finally crashed into a curb near Casa Jalisco, the official residence of Jalisco State Governor Enrique Alvarez del Castillo. Seeing as how November 20th is a national holiday, the Day of the Revolution, people sleeping nearby thought the gunshots were due to someone celebrating early with fireworks. They paid no attention.

At this point, the cops were mortified to see that the car's headlights dissappeared and now 2 machine guns popped out, shooting in almost perfect 360 degree angles. One of the cops reached the car but quickly realized the car doors had no handles. He pried open the door somehow and was quickly shot down. By now a handful of police cars had surrounded the mystery car and were shooting at it to no avail.

Jose Antonio Fonseca Iribe left the car and sprayed the cops with automatic rifle fire from his AK-47 but was quickly cut down by the bullets of the law. His wife Dora Amalia Elenes was also shot and killed as was Fonseca's friend Luis Cota Morales "El Pollo".

As the three lay dead, 2 well dressed and beautiful women emerged from the car, also firing AK-47s and AR-15s. They were wounded and quickly arrested. They were sisters of "El Doctor" and Don Neto's nieces, Carolina Fonseca Iribe and Mercedes Fonseca Morales.

The death of "El Doctor" Fonseca, bodyguard and hit man for his uncle Don Neto, was immortalized in a corrido by Los Tigres del Norte called "El Corrido del Dr. Fonseca" which chronicles the famous shootout in which he and his young wife lost their lives.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Nightmare at Balderas Station

Esteban Cervantes (white) grapples with gunman Luis Castillo (center). Note man in blue shirt rushing to aid Cervantes before he too was shot.

On the evening of September 18, 2009, all seemed normal at Mexico City's busy Balderas subway station. Commuters crowded the platform and watched a metro train arrive in direction to Indios Verdes station. Unknown to them, pissed off Jalisco farmer Luis Felipe Hernandez Castillo who had recently arrived in the capital with 500 dollars had an agenda. He hated the government, whom he believed was responsible for the countries woes. He believed the Calderon administration responsible for Global Warming and believed a famine would soon ravage the nation in 2012.

With a permanent marker he started to write the words "This Government of Criminals..." on the wall at Balderas station, ignored by the commuters. Police Officer Victor Manuel Miranda saw Hernandez defacing the wall and approached him and told him to stop and drop the pen or he would write him up.

Hernandez quickly scuffled with Officer Miranda and pulled out a .38 caliber revolver out of a small black leather bag and shot at him. The crowd on the platform soon scattered and fled in terror as Hernandez shot an unarmed and fleeing Officer Miranda, killing him.

Inside the train that had just pulled up to the station, Hernandez' wild shooting was being observed by the terrified passengers. One such passenger, a construction worker named Esteban Cervantes Barrera reacted instinctively. He hated injustices and always stood up for others. Without thinking and without saying one word to his friend who accompanied him on the train, he darted out of the metro doors and lunged at Hernandez.

Cervantes and Hernandez struggled for a minute as Cervantes sought to disarm the crazed gunman. Hernandez shot at Cervantes, who slipped several times trying to tackle the shooter. A third man approached Hernandez and attempted to also stop him, receiving a gun shot wounds in the hand. The man walked away, to tend his wounds as Hernandez and Cervantes continued to struggle, their fight being watched by stunned onlookers who opted to do nothing and offer no aid to Cervantes, who was now on the floor.

Hernandez then, seeing he had the upper hand in the fight, without hesitating shot Esteban Cervantes point blank in the head, in front of the Metro's Surveillance Cameras, taping the entire incident. Cervantes body slowly grew limp.

As the bodies of Officer Victor Miranda and Esteban Cervantes lay dead on the platform amid scattered sheets of paper and bags, Luis Felipe Hernandez Castillo walked into the stopped train and kept shooting out at the platform at approaching Judicial Police officers. He yelled out to the people on the train that "his beef was not with the people but with the government". He also said "he was doing God's work". Then he said "This is all fucked up", referring to himself having being shot in the right shoulder by a Judicial Police officer who was quickly reaching the train.

Several plainclothes and uniformed cops rushed the train and tackled Hernandez Castillo, stopping the madman's shooting rampage, an event unheard of in the city that usually, has seen everything (An Aeromexico jetliner having being hijacked on Sept 9, by another deranged man claiming to also be doing God's Work) They arrested him and sent him to Reclusorio Oriente prison. 10 people were hurt in the rampage.

After the tragic events at Balderas station, one thing was certain. Two modern day "heroes" had died that day. One in the line of duty, and another acting on instinct. Without a doubt, Esteban Cervantes' attempt to stop Hernandez, gave time for the rest of the people on the platform to flee. His selfless action cost him his life. Only sad thing is that among the hundreds of people at Balderas, and witnessing the events, Cervantes seemed to be the only one brave enough to take action.

Several other able bodied men only watched as Cervantes and Hernandez fought for control of the gun. They watched, and didnt act, as Cervantes fell four times, almost catching a bullet every time he fell, nevertheless getting up each time and rushing the gunman. One final headshot, finally stopped the brave Cervantes.

In a city of 18 million. In a station crowded with several hundred. Only one man had enough balls to rush a man randomly shooting. Esteban Cervantes left behind 5 children.

As of September 21, 2009, the Mexico City Metro System announced they had created the Esteban Cervantes Award for Bravery, a medal that would be given to any citizen committing a heroic act. People in Mexico City also suggested to the city government they rename Balderas to "Heroes of Balderas" station in honor of the two men who died that day trying to stop a deranged farmer with a gun.

A well deserved honor indeed.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Murder of Cardinal Posadas Ocampo: Accident or Conspiracy?

Cardinal Posadas lies slumped in his car with his driver after the gunbattle at Guadalajara's International Airport on May 24, 1993.

On the morning of May 24th, 1993, Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo, the archbishop of Guadalajara and Number 2 man in Religious importance in Mexico, held mass at the diocese. He noticed three men standing in the back, who stared at him all throughout the ceremony. These are not average law abiding, church going citizens he thought. He thought right. A few hours later he would be dead, and his death would mark the beginning in one of the darkest crimes in modern Mexican history.

After the mass he ate and got dressed. Later that afternoon his driver, Pedro Perez would take him to Guadalajara's Miguel Hidalgo airport to pick up the Vatican nuncio in Mexico, Girolamo Prigione. Cardinal Posadas had interesting information to give him. Incriminating information that many in power in the government and in the countries drug mafias, did not want made public.

Parallel to these events, Jalisco Highway Policeman Jose Zamudio responded to a automobile crash on the Chapala Highway, leading from the city to the airport. Upon leaving the scene of the accident, which turned out to be nothing worse than a fender bender, he noticed a red Mercury Grand Marquis with two men inside, parked under an overpass. He circled around them, but they didnt prove too suspicious. He then decided to grab a bite to eat at one of his favorite fast food eateries, The Red Baron, located inside the domestic terminal at Miguel Hidalgo.

As he got to the airport he noticed a lot of police action. He saw four armored trucks. What looked to be several Judicial Policemen in dark uniforms, wielding assault rifles patrolling the airport. Inside, when he sat down to eat, he noticed other men, sporting buzz cuts, dressed in plaid shirts, western jeans and cowboy boots, carrying fancy looking portfolios. The portfolios didn't match the men's aspect, and these mystery men walked about, agitated and talking on two way radios. Perhaps they were undercover Judicial policemen. He thought nothing more of it and proceeded to finish his meal.

At the same time, Joaquin Guzman Loera, "El Chapo", boss of the Sinaloa Cartel, got into his custom, armored green Buick sedan, driven by his driver and 2 bodyguards. He went to the Holiday Inn where he had some business to attend, then his armored car got onto the Chapala Highway, airport bound. Guzman Loera would catch a flight to Puerto Vallarta later that day.

Joaquin Guzman "El Chapo", possible intended assassination target on May 24th

Perhaps in the wost timings ever, or perhaps a deliberate event, as these events simultaneously unfolded, "El Chapo's" one time partners turned arch enemies and rivals in the drug trade., the Arellano Felix brothers from Tijuana, were about to catch a flight, Aeromexico 110, to Tijuana.

Ramon Arellano Felix, the cartel's hitman and Number 2, along with his crew of several San Diego gang members, had been scouring the city of Guadalajara for weeks now, searching for El Chapo. The plan was to assassinate him. Since their search had been fruitless, they were now on their way home, not realizing (or realizing, depending on who you talk to) that their enemy was closer than they thought.

At the time, the Arellanos were on the plane, El Chapo had pulled into the front of the airport terminal and Cardinal Posadas' white Mercury Grand Marquis had pulled into the airport parking lot .A man wearing a airport parking lot attendant vest waved to the Cardinals car to make a left turn. A car with armed men awaited .

At that time, four men descended a tan Dodge Spirit and shouted "That's Him!" and fired a volley of AK-47 fire into the air. The men ran up to the Grand Marquis, 2 men shooting AK-47s at the driver, one man firing into the back of the car, and yet another pulling up to the passenger side door, where Cardinal Posadas had been trying to get out. The gunman held the door and shot the cardinal in the ankle then proceeded to fire 14 shots of automatic gunfire into the prelates chest, stomach and legs.

As the shooting started, El Chapo, thinking he and his men were under attack, opened fire on the gunmen, who according to witnesses were dressed in police uniforms. Several shots hit the armored car, and 2 of El Chapo's gunmen were shot dead in the parking lot. In the crossfire, a woman and her nephew fell mortally wounded at the terminal door. One of the men firing on Cardinal Posadas, then noticed a blue Buick Century, driven by the mayor of Arandas, Jalisco's chauffeur Martin Alejandro Rivas Aceves and opened fire on the cars winshield, striking Rivas in the face and killing him instantly. His car then rolled to a stop and crashed into some parked cars.

Martin Rivas Aceves lies dead in his car after the shootout. The gunmen killed all witnesses near Posadas' car.

All was pandemonium inside the airport and out. Travelers ran to and fro, trying to escape the rain of bullets that seemed to come from all directions. El Chapo Guzman by this time had sought refuge behind a Aeromexico ticket counter and fled through the baggage claims, where he and one of his men flagged down a taxi and spend off to a safe house in Zapopan. The driver of his armored car had fled the airport and had been engaged again at the airport parking lot's toll booth, which ended up shot up by the gunmen.

After approximately 10 minutes of shooting, seven people were dead. Cardinal Posadas had been hit 14 times, Pedro Perez his driver had been hit 10 times. Martin Rivas Aceves, the innocent driver; 2 of El Chapo's gunmen, Jose Rosario Beltran Medina and Ramon Flores; and Francisca Rodriguez and Manuel Vega, the 2 bystanders at the terminal door had bled to death.

Quickly after the shooting, the Airport was shut down by the Mexican Army and the Judicial Police already at the airport swarmed the crime scene, collecting bullet casings. The government later that night had said that the shooting had been the result of a "confrontation between rival drug traffickers which culminated in the accidental shooting of Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo".

The Government alleged the Cardinal had been caught in the cross fire, and his car, had been confused with one of El Chapo's many luxury cars. El Chapo was reported to own a new white Mercury Grand Marquis, same as Posadas. An hour after the shooting, amazingly an unidentified man, presumibly high up in the federal government, called Mexico's Attorney General from Guadalajara and informed him that El Chapo and the Arellano Felix brothers had shot it out at the airport.

He even described how El Chapo was dressed that day. While the investigation was barely beginning, how did they know who had been involved? Why were there known drug traffickers and policemen mixed among the crowds at the airport?Many questions quickly surfaced.

The reports of a accidental shooting were quickly questioned however by Guadalajara's coroner Mario Rivas Souza who examined Posadas body and said that he had a great amount of GSR (Gun Shot Residue) on his body and clothing. This meant the gunman shot Posadas from no more than 3 feet away. No way the assassin could of confused Posadas for El Chapo. El Chapo was dark haired, 5'6, and had a mustache. Posadas Ocampo was 6'1, heavyset, more than 60 years old with glasses and gray hair, dressed in his clerical garb with a pectoral cross. Indeed Cardinal Posadas had been the target.

Then came reports from eyewitnesses that the gunmen had popped open the Grand Marquis trunk after killing Posadas and his driver, and one of the shooters had fled with what looked to be a portfolio or manila folder under his arm, while the rest of the men shot it out. What were the contents of this seemingly valuable manila folder? Contents and information that perhaps had cost the Cardinal his life and started a shoddy cover-up.

After the shooting, federal forces shut down the airport. They confiscated the airport parking lot surveillance videos, which never resurfaced again. Several of the parking lot attendants had been told to go home a half hour before the shooting, something very unusual. Then there were reports that a Mexican Attorney Generals Office jet had landed at the airport, prior to the shooting and was waiting on the tarmac until after the shooting.

There were also the reports of heavy security and police presence at the airport since early in the morning of May 24th. Who were the men in civilian clothing, looking visibly agitated and talking on walkie-talkies, seen by Officer Zamudio ? Why was there a heavy police presence at the airport since early that day yet they failed to prevent the shooting? The Mexican public cried foul and suspected a "conspiracy".

There were 3 theories of what had happened: One stated that unknown forces, perhaps in the police or government, conspired to have El Chapo and the Arellanos meet and face off at the airport so they could kill each other. Another theory was that Cardinal Posadas had been the intended target, the Arellanos and Chapo shooting it out, while a mystery 3rd person hit team approached Posadas and eliminated him, blaming his death on the shootout. The third was, that indeed Cardinal Posadas had suffered terrible luck and had been at the wrong place at the wrong time.

After the murders, The Arellano Felix's issued a statement to the government, via Vatican envoy Girolamo Prigione (the very man Posadas was to pick up that fateful day at the airport), that the Arellanos HAD been at the airport, but had already boarded their plane, when the shootout started.

Chapo Guzman was arrested in June 1993, a month later and he too told authorities, that he had already been inside the terminal when he heard shooting, prompting him to flee through the baggage carousels and outside, flagging down a taxicab and leaving the airport. None of the men blamed for the act claimed responsibility. Perhaps they were scapegoats and Posadas had been slain by a mystery hit team intending to silence him.

According to some men arrested in the later years after the airport gun-battle, the whole operation had been a hit. The Arellano Felix had placed 2 Chevrolet Pick Ups full of guns, grenades and ammo, in front of the terminals before the supposed hit. The two Guzman associates killed that day, were actually prisoners of the gunmen, held in a car at the parking lot, used as bait for Chapo, or used to ID El Chapo's car. The 2 men were later disposed of and shot ,left lying the car park. The supposed Judicial Policemen at the airport were actually Arellano hit men dressed as cops waiting for the arrival of a white Grand Marquis.

When they Grand Marquis arrived they opened fire, thinking they had bumped off El Chapo. But El Chapo was in a different car, a few yards away. This action prompted El Chapos men to fire on the Cardinals aggressors, while El Chapo made his getaway. After the assassination-gone-awry, Ramon Arellano and his men ran to catch Aeromexico 110 which had been held 20 minutes for them. Upon arriving in Tijuana they were met by crooked policemen who ushered them out of the T.J. airport and provided them shelter. El Chapo too, feeling the heat, fled to Guatemala, where he was arrested a month later.
Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo - 16 years later his murder remains a mystery

Cardinal Posadas was a outspoken man. He had been arguing lately with President Carlos Salinas de Gortari. He had also received death threats prior to his murder and some men had broken into his home in Tlaquepaque a few weeks before the shootings. According to some in the prelates inner circle, Cardinal Posadas had important information about the ruling party and the president's involvement with organized crime figures and shady deals. He had planned to meet with Girolamo Prigione who would not give the info to anyone in the Salinas administration, but to Pope John Paul II himself.

That never happened. The mysterious folder and contents were gone and their contents remain a matter of speculation to this day. Several airport employees and witnesses went missing or died under mysterious circumstances in the years after.The Attorney General's plane's presence at the airport and "in-the-know" information about the shooting was never clarified. Was the murder of Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo deliberate or an accident? Ordered by those high up in the government to shut him up or killed by accident by drug mafias?

16 years later, the case remains a mystery.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Guadalajara Cartel Part III: The Abduction and Murders of Camarena and Zavala and the Fall of the Cartel

Camarena and Zavala's bodies arrive in Zamora, Michoacan after their discovery- 3/5/85

On the afternoon of February 7, 1985, Special Agent Enrique 'Kiki" Camarena Salazar left the DEA office inside the US Consulate in downtown Guadalajara and walked to his pick up truck for a lunch date with his wife.

He never made it.

Before reaching his truck, outside the Consulate, a light colored Volkswalgen 4 door and a black Grand Marquis with a siren stopped camarena. Some men, known to Camarena as Jalisco state cops got out and told "Kiki" that "El Comandante wants to see you". Camarena told the men he would have to notify his office as was protocol but the men pushed him into the car where the men threw a jacket over his head and beat him with pipes while holding him at gun point. The cars rapidly sped away and got lost in the city traffic.

Almost at the same time, Mexican Ministry of Agriculture pilot and a friend of Camarena's, Alfredo Zavala Avelars plane had touched down at the city's airport. Zavala had taken Camarena on some flights over the Bufalo ranch and other pot farms. Besides a government pilot he was a frequent DEA collaborator. As he worked at the city airport all the time, he would spy on Felix Gallardo's and Caro Quintero's planes and he would report back to Kiki.

That day he had brought home a group of businessmen from Durango and the men offered Zavala a ride home. Shortly after leaving the airport on the Chapala highway to the city, a brown Ford LTD sedan intercepted them and two men armed with AR-15 assault rifled got out and forced Zavala out and into their car. The gunmen took out the businessmen's keys out of their vehicle and threw it into a field. The car sped off with Zavala

The next day after his wife informed the DEA office he had never shown to the lunch date or to the house later that night, Enrique Camarena was declared missing. The DEA agents also quickly learned of Alfredo Zavala's abduction and soon started combing the city for the missing men. They asked the Jalisco state police for assistance and were met by Director Carlos Aceves Fernandez's stonewalling and uninterested attitude. Governor Enrique Alvarez del Castillo also did not call the Consulate and offer assistance in searching for the missing agent.

After their abductions, Camarena and Zavala were taken to Rafael Caro Quintero's home on 881 Lope de Vega street in Zapopan, a Guadalajara suburb. The plan was to have a talk with Camarena and Zavala and find out exactly how much they knew about the Cartel's operations and their partnerships with the state and Mexican government.

While Kiki and Zavala were held at the house, Ernesto Fonseca "Don Neto" came to visit and saw a lot of armed men at the house. When he was informed about Camarena's presence by Caro Quintero, he told Caro he felt ill: too many lemon spirited tequilas had triggered his allergy to citrus and he needed a nap. He would question Camarena after he awoke. After Don Neto had awoken from a drunker stupor, he noticed more armed men at the house, men he didn't recognize as his own or Caro's. By then he didn't feel like talking to Camarena at all and went home.

When he returned on the morning of February 8th, he found Camarena to be barely conscious, he had been the victim of severe torture and was near death. An unknown dead man lay in a laundry room. One of the armed men told Fonseca that the unknown dead man had been a "snitch". Seeing A US agent tortured to near death infuriated Fonseca, who reprimanded Rafael Caro and almost slapped him prompting Caro's men to raise their weapons and Fonseca's men to raise theirs. Fonseca, feeling the repercussions of what had happened and what was about to come, left the house.

Enrique Camarena had been savagely tortured for an entire day. Several times he had passed out from pain and was near death and each time he was revived by shots administered by Dr. Humberto Machain. An unknown military man interrogated Camarena for a day and a half: What did he know about Caro Quintero? Gallardo? Fonseca? What did he know about the Secretary of Defense Juan Arevalo Gardoqui?

A barrage of questions peppered with insults and beatings with fists, sticks and pipes and non fatal yet painful stabbings with ice picks, all of it being taped by his tormentors. Zavala was considered a mere snitch. He had been tortured but killed almost right away. Camarena was the one they wanted.

Sometime on the morning of February 9th, Agent Enrique Camarena Salazar was killed when a tire iron was driven into his skull. The two bodies, in their underwear, bound and gagged and placed in plastic bags were driven out to Primavera Park, a huge forest outside Guadalajara and buried in a pit.

While Camarena lay dead buried in a shallow grave outside the city, his DEA friends searched for their missing colleague. On February 8th, They requested help to Mexico City and Mexican Federal Judicial Police director Manuel Ibarra Herrera. Ibarra then told Comandante Florentino Ventura to commision Primer Comandante Armando Pavon Reyes to be in charge of the search for Camarena and Zavala. Pavon, along with Comandante Lorrabaquio were in the hills of Colima searching for some thugs and would not be available until the following morning

Comandante Pavon Reyes and his contingent of Federales arrived in Guadalajara from Colima state on the morning of February 9th. They had picked up a trace from Felix Gallardo and Caro Quintero saying Felix would deliver money to the Guadalajara airport. The Federales and several DEA agent sped to the airport to catch the narcos.

Upon arriving at Miguel Hidalgo airport, the Federales saw several armed men surrounding a private Falcon business jet preparing for takeoff. After a brief standoff between the armed strangers and the Federales, Comandante Pavon Reyes met with the man seemingly in charge, a tall mustachioed man with thick curly hair, in black cowboy gear and wearing a lot of gold. He flashed Pavon a badge and the two men walked around the jet and talked, the man in black looking back and smiling at the DEA agents who watched incredulously.

Comandante Pavon soon shook hands with the man. Several of Pavon's men also walked over and greeted the man in black. When questioned by the DEA agents who thought surely the man was a trafficker, Pavon told them that the man had been Pedro Sanchez Parra, not a drug trafficker but a DFS agent. His badge had identified him as such.

As the Falcon jet taxied out to the runway, the man in black and wearing gold stuck out his head from the plane's open door and waved an AK-47 to the Federales and DEA agent and shouted: "Next time my children, bring better weapons, not toys!" The man then waved a champagne bottle, took a swig and went back inside the jet and closed the door. The man was Rafael Caro Quintero.

Rafael Caro Quintero had promised Comandante Armando Pavon Reyes, 60 million pesos and had fled Guadalajara to Culiacan where he picked up his teenage girlfriend, Sara Cosio Martinez, niece of a prominent Jalisco PRI politician. They later flew to Caborca, Sonora where Rafael had a huge ranch and waited for the heat to die down.

The entire month of February the investigation went nowhere and Camarena was nowhere to be found. Seeing as how Comandante Pavon had probably already been compromised, the DEA agents asked Mexico City to send top Comandante Florentino Ventura Gutierrez to aid them in the search for their missing comrade. Federales chief Ibarra Herrera denied their request. Pavon's raids on empty mansions and abandoned ranches yielded no results. The arrest of Tomas Morlett Borquez, a crooked cop, was deemed pointless as he and 2 others were quickly released.

A man resembling the bearded and be-speckled Morlett had been seen by eyewitnesses in Lopez Cotija, a Guadalajara suburb inside a black car, beating a man in the back seat around the time of Camarena's abduction. The witness had then later been visited by the same man resembling Morlett and told to keep his mouth shut about what he had seen. After Morlett's release, a photograph of Enrique Camarena had been found at a home belonging to Miguel Felix Gallardo, plates of half eaten food and drinks bearing testament of people who had left the house in a hurry right before the arrival of the Federales. Someone in the Feds was tipping off the traffickers. The DEA agents grew more and more frustrated.

On February 28th, Comandante Pavon Reyes produced a letter, postmarked in Los Angeles, CA, saying that the letter informed his office that Agent Camarena was being held at a ranch in neighboring Michoacan state. Thousands of notes and letters had been sent, all of them phony. One said Camarena was being held in Yahualica, Jalisco. Another that Camarena was being held in an abandoned mine in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon. Pavon however, seemed eager to pursue this particular lead. He informed the DEA agents they would raid El Mareno ranch near La Angostura, Michoacan at 9 am 2 days later on March 2nd, pending further investigation and surveillance. The DEA agents were invited by Pavon to participate in the raid.

At 9 am on March 2nd the DEA agents were surprised and angered to find out the Federales, led by Comandante Alfonso Velazquez Hernandez had left the city to Michoacan three hours prior. The Americans quickly hopped on cars and sped to El Mareno ranch, a two hour drive from Guadalajara.

Upon arriving at El Mareno they were met with a horrible scene. Six people were dead. According to the Federales, as they arrived at the ranch they were met with gunfire from the people living at the ranch. Federal Agent Manuel Esquivel had received 13 shots from an AR-15 and the Federales were forced to open fire and engage the attackers.

What followed was a half hour shoot out in which all 5 members of the Bravo family had been killed. Manuel Bravo Cervantes, owner of the ranch, had shot at the Federales. His wife Maria Luisa Segura Vazquez along with their handicapped 11 year old son Rigoberto and their 2 grown sons Hugo and Manuel Bravo Segura had all been armed and refused to surrender and thus had to be killed as well. 2 women were in custody along with 2 other men, believed to be Mrs Bravo's brothers, accused of having arriving in a stolen car full of ammunition.

The four survivors of the massacre at El Mareno told Michoacan state authorities and the news media that the Federales had cut down the family in cold blood. The DEA agents, piecing together the events according to the women, who were the now widows of Hugo and Manuel and a local villager boys eyewitness account the real story went something like this:

The Jalisco Federales had arrived in Michoacan without informing the Michoacan state authorities and had raided El Mareno early the morning of March 2nd. Rigoberto Bravo Segura, the mentally retarded 11 year old son of the Bravos, who slept in a downstairs room, was awakened by men breaking into the house. He shouted to his father, who slept upstairs that armed men were breaking in. The armed men, who were Federales, took Rigoberto hostage, pointed a gun to his head and demanded that Manuel Bravo surrender and come down.

Manuel Bravo, not believing them to be real Federales, saying that he had many enemies, asked to speak to police in the nearby city of Zamora or Vistahermosa, officers he knew personally. His request was denied. Bravo then shot at the men and engaged them in a brief shootout in which Agent Esquivel was killed, probably by friendly fire, before Bravo finally surrendered and came down with his wife. Manuel Bravo and his wife were then promptly shot in cold blood, Maria Luisa receiving shots in the back as she tried to flee. Rigoberto was also killed, his body left on the patio.

Upon hearing the shooting, Maria Luisa's brothers, who lived on the property, had called Hugo and Manuel to their homes in Zamora and the two men raced to El Mareno to aid their parents and brother. They also had their children spending the night there with their favorite uncle, Rigoberto. The two men left to El Mareno while their wives summoned help at the Michoacan state police office. Hugo and Manuel arrived only to find their parents and brother dead and were soon captured by the Federales and slapped around only to be also shot in the head point blank. When their wives arrived with the Michoacan state cops, the women were arrested and the cops told to lay down their arms.

Quickly after the massacre, Comandante Armando Pavon Reyes produced some ammo, some shot guns and assault rifles along with cocaine supposedly found at the ranch. The guns' incomplete serial numbers were given to the US agents when they requested them and the drugs seemed planted at the scene. The whole scene looked like a hit rather than a police action. The Bravo Segura family was billed in the media as a family of drug dealing cop killing kidnappers. A search of the lemon orchards of El Mareno, where the anonymous letter said Camarena would be found buried was delayed pending Agent Esquivel's funeral and burial.

On March 4th, Michoacan state governor Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, who just so happened to be a distant relative of Manuel Bravo Cervantes, received a call from an official in Tanhuato, Michoacan informing him that the La Barca- Zamora highway next to El Mareno ranch was again shut down by Jalisco state authorities. The Guadalajara anti-riot police was at El Mareno and men were digging in the orchards looking for Camarena. Once again Jalisco state police had done another unauthorized search at the ranch away from their jurisdiction.

A very angry Governor landed in his helicopter near El Mareno and was not allowed entrance by the Federales, prompting him to voice a complain to the Jalisco state government. The search at El Mareno turned up nothing.

On the afternoon of March 5th, 1985, a rancher walking on a footpath next to El Mareno ranch was assaulted by the strong odor of decomposing flesh and flies buzzing around. He followed his nose to a field, a few yards from the entrance to El Mareno, and found two plastic sacks, one with rotted human legs jutting out. The other had a head sticking out, its mouth wide open and face grimacing in horror. He quickly ran to the nearby village of La Angostura and summoned the constable who hopped on a tractor and headed to to the scene of the grisly discovery only to find several villagers already crowding the bodies and trampling the crime scene. The bodies were placed on a the bed of a pick up truck and transported to the coroners office in Zamora.

A few hours after the discovery of the two badly decomposed and unrecognizable bodies, the Mexican media was already saying that the dead were indeed Enrique Camarena and Alfredo Zavala. The DEA agents in Guadalajara found out through the television about the find, no one had informed them and once again they raced for Zamora. Upon arrival at the Zamora town square, they were met by a huge crowd of people, curious to glimpse at the body of the dead American agent. The US forensic experts after several hours of autopsy and using dental records, finally ID'd the bodies as those of Camarena and Zavala. Both men had been brutally tortured and buried somewhere else and dumped at El Mareno. Both had been dead about a month.

The body dump went awry. The man delivering the bodies to be planted at El Mareno was surely late and seeing the activity at El Mareno, could not dump the bodies in the orchard and opted for leaving the corpses near the footpath near the ranch. The night of March 5th, Comandante Pavon Reyes reportedly told Comandante Everardo Ochoa Bernal to hurry to Zamora, Michoacan because "Camarena would soon be found". Upon arriving in Zamora, Comandante Ochoa found that the bodies had already been found, picked up and transferred to the town morgue.

After the discovery of the bodies, Comandante Pavon Reyes was arrested by Comandante Florentino Ventura who was now in charge of the Camarena investigation on charges of corruption, bribery and obstruction of justice. Ventura also rounded up 13 city and state cops, one of whom, Gabriel Gonzalez, died during interrogation. Ventura said he had died of a hemorrhage, Gonzalez's wife said he had been beaten to death.

Quickly he was piecing together that Camarena had been abducted by local cops paid off by Caro Quintero and Fonseca Carrillo. All of the cops arrested denounced torture and denied knowing anything about the Camarena abduction.

In early April, DEA and the Federales picked up a call from Rafael Caro Quintero's teenage girlfriend Sara Cosio to her parents. The call came from San Jose, Costa Rica. Florentino Ventura and his team quickly flew to Costa Rica and on April 4th, 1985 raided Quinta La California near the airport in San Jose and arrested a group of Mexican nationals and Sara Cosio. One of the man ID'd as Marco Antonio Rios Valenzuela was indeed none other than Rafael Caro Quintero. Caro and his cronies were put on two Mexico Attorney General jets and flown to Mexico City in less than a day, one of Costa Rica's fastest deportations ever. Sara Cosio was returned back to her parents and Cosio announced to the press she had not been abducted but was in love with the married drug lord and was pregnant.

By coincidence three days later, on April 7th, cops responding to a bar fight in the Pacific resort city of Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, followed a group of thugs to a villa and were engaged in a shootout. The municipal cops quickly subdued the thugs and found money and weapons at the home, that belonged to Candelario Ramos, the chief of police of Ameca, Jalisco. They also found a lazy eyed old man who ID'd himself as Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo, Don Neto.

Don Neto and his henchmen were put on Norte de Sonora buses, escorted by 14 Army trucks full of soldiers armed to the teeth and driven to La Mojonera air force base in Zapopan where a plane awaited them to take them to prison in Mexico City.

In Mexico City, both Rafael Caro Quintero and Ernesto Fonseca were tortured and forced to confess by Florentino Ventura's men. They were forced to sign confessions but later recanted when they were paraded before the news cameras. Yes, the two men alleged, they were drug traffickers, but they knew nothing of the abduction and murder of the American agent and his pilot. Fonseca contended that he and Caro had been at 881 Lope de Vega, but had left, at the same time a group of unknown armed men arrived at the house. What happened to Camarena after that was unknown to them.

A married Caro Quintero regaled the press with stories about his love for his teenage girlfriend Sara Cosio whom her family had alleged, had been kidnapped by the Sinaloan in March. the Caro-Cosio love affair became media fodder for months. The Mexican public grew enamored with the country boy from La Noria, who had made millions before his 29th birthday and helped out the poor.

"I love to help out the country people, because they are a pure and noble people as I am, and as Ernesto (Fonseca) and his people are, we do things for them the government doesnt do in 10 years. We do it not to get recognition, but because it makes us feel good to help them" Caro told the press after his arrest, while Fonseca clowned around with a pair of sunglasses and flashed photographers a peace sign

Both men were convicted and sentenced to 40 years in prison. There the duo shared a living area designed for 600 prisoners, and made their own penthouse, complete with nice beds, TV's VCRs, liquor, music and good food. They didnt have to wear a prisoners uniform they could wear what they wanted. During their four year stay at Reclusorio Norte, their stay was a good one. Every year on his birthday, Caro Quintero would bring the finest Sinaloan bands to play for him and his friends at the prison all with the director's blessing.

Javier Barba Hernandez, the Cartel's lawyer turned gangster was shot down by soldiers in Mazatlan in November 1987. Tomas Morlett Borquez, a suspect in the Camarena kidnapping was slain outside a Matamoros bar in 1988. Comandantes Pavon Reyes and Alfonso Velazquez, responsible for the disastrous "raid" at El Mareno were both sent to jail for 25 years.

The head of the DFS and a possible Camarena interrogator and torturer, Antonio Zorrilla Perez was also sent to jail after being arrested in Spain. Ramon Mata Ballesteros, Felix Gallardos Honduran partner was jailed in 1986 and extradited to the US where he now incarcerated in Colorado's Super Max penitentiary.

Dr Humberto Machain, responsible for keeping Camarena alive during his brutal interrogation was also arrested in Guadalajara and illegally transported to the US by American agents. Don Ruben Zuno Arce was also tricked into entering the US where he was arrested for his alleged role in the Camarena kidnapping. He was sentenced to life in prison in San Diego. To this day he maintains his innocence.

On September 17, 1988 Comandante Florentino Ventura, who arrested Rafael Caro Quintero was found shot to death at his Mexico City home along with his wife and wife's friend. Authorities said Ventura went into a cocaine fueled rage and shot his wife and her friend before turning the gun on himself. Others say its was the narcos' revenge from behind bars.

Miguel Felix Gallardo, the cocaine kingpin and co founder of the Guadalajara Cartel was betrayed by his friend Comandante Guillermo Gonzalez Calderoni, Ventura's successor on April 8, 1989 and taken into custody at his home in Zapopan, Jalisco. Felix Gallardo also denied any participation in the Camarena kidnapping and was sentenced to 40 years in prison.

Manuel Salcido Uzeta, "Cochiloco", Kingpin of Mazatlan and last leader of the Guadalajara cartel was ambushed and shot to death on October 9th, 1991 by a 8 man hit team at a red light on Obsidiana Street in Guadalajara. He, his daughter and his driver were shot more than 80 times. He reportedly pulled out a grenade to fend off his attackers with but was killed before he could throw it at them.

Juan Jose Esparragoza "El Azul" was arrested in the late 80s and imprisoned in Reclusorio Sur and was freed in 1992. With the ex leaders of the Guadalajara cartel in prison or dead, he left and partnered up with Ismael Zambada and others where he is now considered one of the leaders of the violent and infamous Sinaloa cartel made up of descendants and proteges of those who ran the old Guadalajara cartel. "El Azul" keeps an extremely low profile, not much is known about his life or modern day activities

The Camarena kidnapping and murder and its messy aftermath sealed the fate for the once powerful Guadalajara Cartel. Its remnants are now seen as coming together and forming the poweful Sinaloan Alliance, the Sinaloa Cartel, led by Felix Gallardo protege turned nemesis Joaquin Guzman Loera "El Chapo"

What was then a "Mans Business" made up by a few peasants from Sinaloa with a lot of business savvy, later turned into a ultra violent billion dollar industry that claims the lives the innocent men, women and children every day in Mexico. Criminals and Law Enforcement officials alike fall dead every day, victims of a seemingly never ending drug war where broken rival factions of a once strong united alliance, fight it out each day for control of Mexican territory.