Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Effects of the War on Drugs: How the U.S. triggered a massacre in Mexico

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Ginger Thompson reports in ProPublica:

We have testimony from people who say they participated in the crime. They described some 50 trucks arriving in Allende, carrying people connected to the cartel. They broke into houses, they looted them and burned them. Afterward, they kidnapped the people who lived in those houses and took them to a ranch just outside of Allende.

First they killed them. They put them inside a storage shed filled with hay. They doused them with fuel and lit them on fire, feeding the flames for hours and hours.

José Juan MoralesInvestigative director for the disappeared in the Coahuila State Prosecutor’s Office

THERE’S NO MISSING the signs that something unspeakable happened in Allende, a quiet ranching town of about 23,000, just a 40-minute drive from Eagle Pass, Texas. Entire blocks of some of the town’s busiest streets lie in ruins. Once garish mansions are now crumbling shells, with gaping holes in the walls, charred ceilings, cracked marble countertops and toppled columns. Strewn among the rubble are tattered, mud-covered remnants of lives torn apart: shoes, wedding invitations, medications, television sets, toys.

In March 2011 gunmen from the Zetas cartel, one of the most violent drug trafficking organizations in the world, swept through Allende and nearby towns like a flash flood, demolishing homes and businesses and kidnapping and killing dozens, possibly hundreds, of men, women and children.

The destruction and disappearances went on in fits and starts for weeks. Only a few of the victims’ relatives — mostly those who didn’t live in Allende or had fled — dared to seek help. “I would like to make clear that Allende looks like a war zone,” reads one missing person report. “Most people who I questioned about my relatives responded that I shouldn’t go on looking for them because outsiders were not wanted, and were disappeared.”

But unlike most places in Mexico that have been ravaged by the drug war, what happened in Allende didn’t have its origins in Mexico. It began in the United States, when the Drug Enforcement Administration scored an unexpected coup. An agent persuaded a high-level Zetas operative to hand over the trackable cellphone identification numbers for two of the cartel’s most wanted kingpins, Miguel Ángel Treviño and his ​brother Omar.

Then the DEA took a gamble. It shared the intelligence with a Mexican federal police unit that has long had problems with leaks — even though its members had been trained and vetted by the DEA. Almost immediately, the Treviños learned they’d been betrayed. The brothers set out to exact vengeance against the presumed snitches, their families and anyone remotely connected to them.

Their savagery in Allende was particularly surprising because the Treviños not only did business there — moving tens of millions of dollars in drugs and guns through the area each month — they’d also made it their home.

For years after the massacre, Mexican authorities made only desultory efforts to investigate. They erected a monument in Allende to honor the victims without fully determining their fates or punishing those responsible. American authorities eventually helped Mexico capture the Treviños but never acknowledged the devastating cost. In Allende, people suffered mostly in silence, too afraid to talk publicly.

A year ago ProPublica and National Geographic set out to piece together what happened in this town in the state of Coahuila — to let those who bore the brunt of the attack, and those who played roles in triggering it, tell the story in their own words. They did so often at great personal risk. Voices like these have rarely been heard during the drug war: Local officials who abandoned their posts; families preyed upon by both the cartel and their own neighbors; cartel operatives who cooperated with the DEA and saw their friends and families slaughtered; the U.S. prosecutor who oversaw the case; and the DEA agent who led the investigation and who, like most people in this story, has family ties on both sides of the border.

When pressed about his role, the agent, Richard Martinez slumped in his chair, his eyes welling with tears. “How did I feel about the information being compromised? I’d rather not say, to be honest with you. I’d kind of like to leave it at that. I’d rather not say.”

S SUNDOWN APPROACHED on Friday, March 18, 2011, gunmen from the Zetas cartel began pouring into Allende.

Guadalupe GarcíaRetired government worker
We were eating at Los Compadres, and two guys came in. We could tell they weren’t from here. They looked different. They were kids — 18 to 20 years old. They ordered 50 hamburgers to go. That’s when we figured something was going on, and we decided we’d better get home.

Martín MárquezHot dog vendor
Things began happening in the evening. Armed men began arriving. They were going house to house, looking for the people who had done them wrong. At 11 at night there was no traffic on the streets. There was no movement of any kind.

Etelvina RodríguezMiddle school teacher and wife of victim Everardo Elizondo
My husband, Everardo, usually came home between 7 and 7:30 at night. I was waiting for him. Time passed — 7, 7:30, 8, 9. I began calling him. The phone was not in service. I thought maybe he was at his mother’s house and his battery had died. I called his mother. She told me that she hadn’t seen him and that maybe he was out with friends. But that didn’t make sense to me. He would have called. So I went out looking for him.

The atmosphere felt tense. It was nine at night, which was not very late, not on a Friday. The town was completely deserted.

A few miles outside of town, the gunmen descended on several neighboring ranches along a dimly lit two-lane highway. The properties belonged to one of Allende’s oldest clans, the Garzas. The family mostly raised livestock and did odd contracting jobs, including coal mining. But according to family members, some of them also worked for the cartel.

Now those connections were proving deadly. Among those the Zetas suspected of being a snitch — wrongly it turns out — was José Luis Garza, Jr., a relatively low-level cartel operative, whose father, Luis, owned one of the ranches. It was payday, and several workers had gone to the ranch to pick up their money. When the gunmen showed up, they rounded up everyone up they could find and took them hostage. After nightfall, flames began rising from one of the ranch’s large cinder-block storage sheds. The Zetas had begun burning the bodies of some of those they’d killed. . .

Continue reading. There’s lots more.

The War on Drugs, brought to you by Richard Nixon, perpetuated ever since, and Trump and Jeff Sessions plan to dial it up to 11. Success is not the issue (obviously). I think it’s about being powerful—”We can do what we want”—plus there’s a lot of money sloshing around. Plus taking another tack would implicitly acknowledge failure—the failure is obvious, but it’s currently the elephant in the room that many try not to notice and over which the DEA is frantically pulling a sheet to hide it.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 June 2017 at 12:10 pm

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