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.

The Guadalajara Cartel Part II: Business and Prosperity

After Operation Condor, the Sinaloan mobsters found a paradise in capital city of Jalisco state and Mexico's second largest city. There they found a welcome committee of the Guadalajara elite and crooked government officials and cops. The rich Tapatios (natives of Guadalajara) with shady businesses on the side would introduce the kingpins to their friends in the city government: The notoriously corrupt DFS (Directorate of Federal Security) would use their agents to provide the fleeing gangsters safe houses, fronts for their illegal businesses and security.

The newly arrived capos quicky established the notorious La Langosta Sinaloa style seafood restaurant and El Yaqui restaurant, both mobster hangouts. They also acquired the Lebanese Sports Club, the Malibu, Americas and Holiday Inn Hotels, the Del Real Suites, the Salon Aztlan nightclub. They built Isaac's Restaurant, Marseilles Suites, and bought huge luxurious ranches: La Herradura ranch in Villa Purificacion, Jalisco; La Provincia ranch in Puente Grande, Jalisco and Villa de Guadalupe in Atequiza, Jalisco besides the huge 30 acre mansion on 1839 Acueducto Street in the posh San Javier Hills section of Guadalajara belonging to Rafael Caro Quintero.

The crooked DFS provided the gangsters with DFS badges, authorized and signed by DFS Chief Jose Antonio Zorrilla Perez, so that if any city cop or anybody not in the know stopped them, they could flash the badge and go on their merry way.

Among the drug dealers was up and coming pot dealer Rafael Caro Quintero and his partner and relative by marriage Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo "Don Neto". Fonseca had been in the business for years and was mentoring, along with Pedro Aviles before his death, Caro in the drug trade. Rafael was a fast learner and soon was a young millionaire with a penchant for women and gold. Another partner of Fonseca and Caro Quintero was an ex state cop and fellow Sinaloan named Miguel Felix Gallardo. Gallardo was a slick businessman and was rapidly setting up contacts in South America and specializing in trafficking tons of Cocaine from Colombia to the U.S via Guadalajara.

The trio soon after their arrival formed the so called "Guadalajara Cartel". Manuel Salcido Uzeta "El Cochi Loco" (Crazy Pig) also worked with Caro Fonseca and Gallardo. He provided muscle and was a drug kingpin in his own right, who owned hotels, restaurants and discotheques in the city and in the resort city of Mazatlan, near the hamlet of San Juan where he was born. Juan Jose Esparragoza 'El Azul" (Blue, nickname he earned for his complexion was so dark he was almost blue), Javier Barba Hernandez, lawyer turned gangster and a platoon of crooked Jalisco state cops served as bodyguards and protection.

Don Ruben Zuno Arce, son of an ex governor, brother of an ex First Lady and a native of Mascota, Jalisco, well known among the Mexican elite, served as a mediator between the drug traffickers and those high up in the government. Don Ruben sold Caro Quintero one of his mansions in Guadalajara and delivered payments and messages to the government officials who needed turn a blind eye to the cartel's illegal doings.

Rafael Caro Quintero, born in La Noria, Sinaloa, near Badiraguato was nephew of the late old time drug lord Lamberto Quintero Paez. He along with his brothers and other uncles, had huge pot farms in Northern Mexico. One huge plantation was located in Bufalo, Chihuahua, with other large farms in Sonora, Zacatecas and San Luis Potosi. He made the desert green, right under the governments nose. Caro and Fonseca invested millions of dollars in this new ranch at El Bufalo. Thousands of workers worked in the growing and cultivation of marijuana. Rafael would harvest the weed and send it up north in tractor trailers to several customers he had in the border states. At the age of 29, he was worth almost 400 million dollars.

With the money he bought hotels, restaurants and car dealerships in Guadalajara. He was also known to buy his crooked cop friends brand new Grand Marquis. Caro Quintero, who would dress in the finest cowboy gear and gold, would hold meetings with the local comandantes: Look the other way and be greatly rewarded. Be a pain in the ass and look down the wrong end of an AK-47. Most were smart enough to accept bribes or gifts in the form of brand new cars, or prized Arabian horses.

Through their contacts in the Mexican government the Central Intelligence Agency learned of the Guadalajara Cartel. The CIA was well aware of the cartels operations in Mexico and they really werent deemed a threat. Rafael Caro Quintero even lent out his remote ranches in Veracruz and Jalisco to the CIA so they could train anti Communist Nicaraguan guerrillas. Parties held by Caro, Fonseca and Gallardo, attended by government officials, Mexican and American alike, were not uncommon.

Miguel Felix Gallardo, born poor in Bellavista, Sinaloa was an ex Sinaloa state cop and bodyguard to the governor of the state. An intellectual with a knack for business, he soon started buying real estate, owning several legit businesses all over Mexico and partnering with a Honduran chemist named Ramon Mata Ballesteros. Through Ballesteros he made contacts in Colombia and soon established a pipeline of drugs with which he would flood the US with Cocaine. Felix Gallardos private jets, loaded with Cocaine touched down at Guadalajara international airport regularly.

Old lazy eyed Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo was an old time bandido. He had been trafficking for ages, coming from a family who was in the business for generations. He was married with dozens of mistresses and the father to many illegitimate children. A playful goofy man with his friends and terror to his enemies, he introduced his nephew Rafael Caro into the business.

Tall, fair skinned and blue eyed Manuel Salcido Uzeta "Cochi Loco' , had a reputation as a sadistic killer. Known to his friends and family as Crazy Pig, his mother had given him that nickname as a child; he wouldnt stay still and would run around the house like a crazy pig. Others contend that he earned his nickname by the way he took delight in murdering his rivals. Contradictions exist to Salcido's true nature: One day one of his pistoleros botched a job and staring down the barrel of an irate Salcido Uzeta's gun, he decided to be a smart ass one last time. "Boss, don't be mad, slap me a few times and I wont fail you next time". Salcido cracked a smile and lowered his gun, sparing his pistoleros life and seeing the man had guts, bought him a drink.

For years the Guadalajara cartel prospered, netting millions of dollars and practically taking over the city. In the early 1980's the U.S Drug Enforcement Agency's Guadalajara office would start to investigate the groups business and identify its leaders. With a handful of agents, the DEA track the Cartels movements and build up cases against almost everyone in the cartel. But the Mexican government didnt care and the Jalisco state cops were on the traffickers pay roll. Governors Flavio Romero de Velasco and his successor Enrique Alvarez del Castillo seemed uninterested in the thugs that actually ran Guadalajara.

Through the hard work and tenacity of the DEA agents, including one in particular, DEA Special Agent Enrique Camarena Salazar, they would bust one by one the cartel's operations and put the Mexican Federal Judicial Police to work for the first time ever against the mafiosos. In November 1984, the Mexican Army and Federales raided the huge marijuana farm at El Bufalo, Chihuahua thanks to Camarenas investigations. Other large but not as huge as El Bufalo, farms were raided in Sonora and Zacatecas. The Mexican Government denied such huge pot farms existed in the country and El Bufalo was a huge embarrassment. This cost the Cartel, and Caro Quintero himself millions of dollars in profits.

El Bufalo, along with almost 10,000 tons of marijuana burned down by the army, went up in flames.

Caro's and Fonseca's farms were being raided and destroyed. Gallardos planes were being detained and searched. Properties were being confiscated, money lost. Camarena was becoming a huge nuisance to the cartel's operations. Up to this point, the cartel had no knowledge of who the informant was but a crooked cop would soon betray Camarena to the traffickers.

Agent Camarena had to be dealt with. Something had to be done. And fast.

(Next: The Guadalajara Cartel Part III: The Torture and Murders of Camarena and Zavala and the fall of the Cartel)

The Guadalajara Cartel Part I: Birth of Organized Crime in Mexico

criIn the early 20th century, the rural areas of the northern Mexican states of Chihuahua, Sinaloa and Durango were desolate lands. Small villages dotted the Sierra Madre, isolated from civilization. Access to these backwater hamlets were by horse or by mule and trips that would take hours now by car, would take days back then. Their source of life was growing beans and vegetables. If it was a good crop, they would eat. If it was a bad one, they would starve. To eat meat, was a luxury.

After World War I, the Mexican government approached these humble ranchers with a proposition: Grow Opium Poppy on these fertile lands. The poppy is used to make Morphine, which was in dire need for the United States soldiers who came back wounded or the ones who just came back addicted. Poppy however, is also used to create something else much more nefarious and sinister:


The hill folk of the Sierra Madre who during Prohibition made some extra cash bootlegging liquor and sending it up north to the Hooch starved Gringo, now started to grow the Poppy flower. The mountain man of Sinaloa, Chihuahua and Durango soon learned that out of the sticky Opium gum, you can do this, and do that and presto: you have Heroin.

Another notorious herb grew happy and green in these fertile and warm climates: Marijuana. Soon the old bean farmers and bootleggers started growing opium and marijuana and through their kin, either by blood or by marriage, started smuggling the stuff north. Many of the entrepreneurial hillbillies made contacts with infamous mob bosses in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and all the border cities. Lucky Luciano and Bugsy were some of the famous clients of the Mexicans.

For years throughout the 1940s and 1950's up till the sixties, the boys from Sinaloa grew the pot and sold the pot up north. These poor peasants soon found themselves rolling in dough and left their poor crumbling houses in the mountain towns of Badiraguato and surrounding villages and migrated to the Sinaloa state capital city of Culiacan.

There the noveau riche drug kingpins bought ostentatious mansions, rolled around in armored Lincolns and Fords, shot it out with rivals at weddings and nightclubs, and held lavish parties that lasted days, with the finest Sinaloan brass bands of the time livening up the fiestas.

In the 60's Pedro Aviles Perez, born in Durango but Sinaloan at heart, was the man who controlled the drug trade in Mexico. He was untouchable and said to be a friend of Ol' Blue Eyes Frank Sinatra himself. Pedrito would be the man who would serve as mentor to many and most of Mexicos future notorious mafia bosses. Many of the men responsible for the illegal drug trade in Mexico now were snot nosed kids running errands for Aviles when he was king of "contrabandistas".

Many others ran the trade in the state of Sinaloa, violence was rare but not unheard of in Culiacan, all the men worked together, and if not, they at least respected each other. It was a man's business, families and women were not touched. That was taboo. Lamberto Quintero Paez was one such man, as well as Roberto Alvarado, Ruben Cabada and Lalo Fernandez.

Around 1975, the Mexican government was growing weary of the monster it had created. These Narcos were getting out of hand and something had to be done. They had too much power, and too much money, they ran the state of Sinaloa and much of the north like feudal warlords. Governors and Mayors were friends of the traffickers. The Mexican Government came up with "Operacion Condor".

Hundreds of soldiers and federal agents descended upon the "Golden Triangle" of Sinaloa, Durango and Sinaloa, beating up the farmers, whether they were pot farmers or legitamite, it didn't matter. They sprayed herbicides all over the lands so now not even beans would grow. Many were tortured and killed, thrown out of helicopters or simply "made disappeared" by the brutal soldiers. The brutal campaign lasted three years.

In January 1976, drug kingpin Lamberto Quintero was killed by rivals in El Salado. On September 15, 1978, big boss Pedro Aviles was set up and ambushed by Federales outside a roadblock in Culiacan. The heat was growing for the Sinaloan mafia with the violence and Operation Condor, they could no longer stay in Culiacan. They had to set up a new base of operations: