Monday, September 27, 2010

Proceso article

Proceso has a story this week about my book, The Last Narco, (as well as some of their own reporting on Chapo) but I thought I should mention that the lead statement in their story, that the US and Mexican authorities allowed Chapo to escape from Puente Grande, is wrongly attributed to me. Samuel Gonzalez Ruiz, the former SIEDO prosecutor, made this claim, and the DEA refutes it.

Just thought I'd clarify that.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Excellent story about US corruption

Washington Post has a great story about US-side corruption. Link in title of this post

Well said, Mr. Calderon

"I think the main thing we have in common with Colombia is that both of our countries suffer from U.S. drug consumption," Calderon said in response to Hillary Clinton's comments comparing Mexico to Colombia 20 years ago. "We are both victims of the enormous American consumption of drugs, and now the sales of weapons."

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Zetas and more

Apparently the military arrested a top Zeta in Monterrey on Aug. 29. Juan Francisco Zapata Gallegos, aka El Billy, was the jefe of the Monterrey plaza, or drug smuggling turf.

That's a pretty big bust, given the trouble Los Zetas have been causing in Monterrey of late. Of course, it doesn't mean they won't replace him, but it's still a good get. I didn't see it reported much, so thought I'd mention it now.

Incidentally, anyone know how much a jefe de plaza makes these days? According to a counter-drug official I talked to a while back, the jefe of the Ciudad Juarez plaza makes around $1 million a week. Not bad, if you can survive it for, well, a week or so. I welcome any input on what other jefes de plaza make if anyone knows.

Again incidentally, I am once again predicting that El Lazca, the head of Los Zetas, will be the next man to fall. I know I'm kinda all over the place with these unfounded predictions, but I'm guessing that I'm guessing right this time.

PS - El Universal has a piece on La Barbie's arrest, and the apparent story behind the officially concocted story. I wouldn't want to be in Garcia Luna's shoes. If he made up the story about the operativo, then I reckon he's getting a serious grilling from Calderon right now. Would be interesting if he were to survive allegations of cartel links only to be removed for taking credit for a raid that never happened.

more on la barbie

So the word on the street is that La Barbie was actually busted for speeding, and when asked by the police what he was doing and who he was, he admitted to being a drug trafficker -ie, he turned himself in.
More to come on this when I know more: if this is true, one would have to wonder where the story about more than 1,000 federal police storming his villa came from.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Apologies for those who are in Mexico and follow this more closely than I do, but I just stopped chatting to a Sinaloan friend, and was told that Jesus Vizcarra, the gubernatorial candidate who allegedly had ties to El Mayo Zambada, has left the country to a new life in San Diego.
This is news to me, in part, because I had no idea he had lost this summer's gubernatorial elections. I had simply assumed he'd won. While a lot of media attention was focused on the PRI falling in Oaxaca, I didn't see anything on the PRI being toppled in Sinaloa (Not that this means it wasn't reported, i just didn't see it). The PRI has never been out of power in Sinaloa, and as we all know, was responsible for the nice little behind-the-scenes arrangement with the local narcos.

Good for the people of Sinaloa, voting for change even if change may bring with it uncertainty and fear. As my friend says, "Where there's PAN, there's more terror. Where there's PRI, they make agreements with the narcos and there's less terror."

Monday, September 6, 2010

Pena Nieto the super hero

Prior to several of the videos about La Barbie's arrest on El Universal's web site, a short ad featuring Enrique Pena Nieto has been running. The effect of this is interesting. Even though I know full well that Pena Nieto had very little to do with the capture of La Barbie (it did occur in his state, however, so he may or may not have been notified of the operativo) I am left with the comforting thought that he and security are synonymous. Excellent ad placement, PRI, most excellent.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Top stories

the most-read stories on El Universal's site are unsurprisingly about drugs. Oh, and Paris Hilton and drugs.

"La guerra la comenzó El Chapo"
Paris Hilton, ¿esconde droga en su vagina?
Furor por hacer una película de La Barbie
Video: El Chapo inició la guerra del narco, dice La Barbie
Video: Cuando Arturo Beltrán estaba drogado me quería matar: La Barbie

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

More on La Barbie

So La Barbie is not only smirking, he's talking a fair bit. Apparently he met with Chapo, El Mayo, El Azul, Nacho Coronel, Arturo Beltran Leyva, El Lazca and a couple of other big shots late last year to discuss the violence and the possibility of a pact.

Most of what La Barbie is saying is probably minor fare and a bit of a diversion: he had cocaine contacts in Colombia, he didn't work for anybody, etc etc -- he's not going to say anything publicly that will incriminate anyone or dig his hole deeper.

But the meeting is quite interesting, as is the revelation that he suggested Arturo turn himself in. There would be no sense in Arturo turning himself in, as he well knew when he tried to shoot his way out of a Cuernavaca apartment in the face of a couple hundred marines. He would either face life in a Mexican prison or death. And Chapo was at the meeting, eh? Well I guess those claims made by counter-drug officials that Chapo can't move around outside of Sinaloa very easily these days are kinda unfounded.

La Barbie, on the other hand, appears to have been thinking of turning himself in, and may well have done so. As Michel Marizco notes on his blog, La Barbie had everyone on his ass, from the Sinaloans to Los Zetas, and his smile makes sense if you consider he may have cut a nice deal -- get deported to the US (not extradited, as Marizco notes) and face drug trafficking charges rather than murder in Mexico.

Other capos have tried to cut deals in the past -- Amado Carrillo Fuentes apparently desperately wanted to give up his crazy life for the six months or so before he died during a botched plastic surgery, for instance. But La Barbie cutting a deal is interesting. OK, so he's a Mexican-American, so he can go home now and serve his time and not particularly worry about the crazy heat he would face in Mexico for the rest of his life. I think he may have realized that he was in over his head, operating alone for the first time rather than having the backing of Chapo and the Beltran Leyvas. In the Mexican underworld, after all, he's a tourist, and always would be. In addition, he's young. He's lived like a king for some time in Mexico, effectively doing what a lot of gringos used to do in the 60s and 70s (except for the killing part) and basically living life in the fast lane. He can now do his time, get out and still eke out a living for the rest of his life. He might even just be smiling like some people do after they've had one hell of a run and finally get caught. It's kind of psychopathic, but i've seen that look on far more normal people's faces when they broke rules and finally had to own up to it (Bill Clinton springs to mind). What would he have become if he'd stayed in Laredo? Just another washed-up former high school football star working in the local gas station? I think he knows the jig is up, but the hell if he's going to hang his head in shame like most of the Mexican footsoldiers do. He always knew what he was doing was illegal, why would he be ashamed now?

Last but not least, the ranch where La Barbie was caught is mighty impressive. Take a look at the picture of the meeting room on El Universal's web site (link to the pics in title of the post) and imagine the top capos of Mexico sitting around that table discussing business. the most powerful boardroom in the country, without a doubt.

My latest

I just wrote a piece in The Sun, the Murdoch-owned UK tabloid, about Chapo, the Sinaloa cartel's growth, and warnings of Mexican influence in Europe. The stuff about Europe is meant to be a cautious warning, not fear-mongering hyperbole, and I hope this comes across in the piece. Beheadings won't come to Britain anytime soon, but there's little doubt Mexican drugs are already operating with local gangs there.