Thursday, March 28, 2019

Back Home

Excerpts from Borderland Beat book - Chapter -Back Home


The key to surviving a hit from a cartel is to be prepared beforehand, take all necessary precautions and be armed to the teeth for a massive counterattack.  I also wondered if I was overreacting to things and was overthinking the situation.

This made me think of a situation that I came across in the desert on the west side of the city several years ago in a remote area known as Pajarito Mesa. This area is a popular place for people who dump trash and also, many people go there to target practice. I was driving around looking for interesting things to photograph. I could hear gunshots in the distance echoing in the canyon. Someone was target shooting. I though, it might be a cool idea to photograph someone actually target shooting. I drove to the sound of the gunfire. I saw two late model pickup trucks that were backed up against a hill and it appeared that about three men were armed with long guns. They were shooting at some paper targets and bottles propped up on a wooden pallet.

I immediately noticed that some of the men were nicely dressed in western wear, similar to what I have seen from men that are from the northern part of Mexico (Sinaloa, Chihuahua). Three of them had ak-47s. They saw me and smiled. They were Mexican nationals as they spoke to me in Spanish. They become nervous and they started putting their weapons away. The whole scene also made me nervous. I did not even ask if I could photograph them, I just greeted them in a friendly way and drove away. The scene just did not seem right to me, but I could not pin point what seem out of place at the time. This was an area where people go shooting all the time and I had seen my share of people armed with long rifles, including ar-15s and such. But this just seem different, I just could not figure it out.

Later on, when I started to learn more about Mexican sicarios and cartel members from Sinaloa, I wonder if they were cartel members? This possibility is not far fetched considering the proximity to the border and the large amount of the Mexican community living in the state. Based on what they were wearing, the late model pickup trucks, Mexican nationals and their behavior, just made me wonder.

Cartels would have no problem reaching out to me for sure.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

The Highway of Death

Excerpts from Borderland Beat book - Chapter -The Highway of Death


Highway 101 travels through the state of Taumalipas. The highway is a perilous journey that is used by Zetas to plant their seed of terror. People tell stories of mass killings of immigrants, primitive graves of people buried after being executed and buses getting hijacked only to have the passengers dragged out only to meet their ultimate ending in the most horrifying manner ever imagined. The road is so dangerous that no one dares travels at night and tourist had to be escorted by police cars.

There are many stories on Borderland Beat of people being killed after they got snatched from their buses and hundreds of decomposing bodies found in the area of Highway 101 in San Fernando, Tamaulipas.

Mexican authorities were constantly extracting bodies from mass graves in the state of Tamaulipas not far from the US Hundreds of corpses have surfaced following reports of passengers being pulled off buses in the area by gunmen and disappearing, state prosecutors said Thursday.

Most of all the bodies were found in pits along the township of San Fernando, Tamaulipas, where security forces located the graves while investigating reports of attacks on buses now blamed on the brutal Zetas drug gang.

During most of 2010, the San Fernando municipality had suffered from constant confrontations between Zetas and members of the Gulf Cartel. General Miguel Angel Gonzalez, Commander of the Eighth Military Zone based in Tamaulipas, said that this isolated town is very important because "it is a node where several highways, strategic for drug smuggling come together."

Los Zetas took control of the San Fernando region and imposed their rules. The group's high command, El Lazca and El Z-40, appointed Salvador Alfonso Martinez Escobedo, La Ardilla, as chief of the area. He in turn placed a former soldier, Edgar Huerta Montiel, El Wache, as lieutenant for San Fernando, along with Martin Omar Estrada Luna, El Kilo, who, in practice, acted as the area chief.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Mexico: Operativo Salim

Excerpts from Borderland Beat book - Chapter - Mexico: Operativo Salim



So here it was, possibly classified proof from the Mexican government themselves that perhaps the original story of an Islamic terrorist named Ahmed had indeed plotted bombings of the US embassy in Mexico City.

I spoke with Borderland Beat contributors Gerardo and Ovemex about the information we had obtained and we agreed to do further research with the full intent to go public on Borderland Beat. With their contribution, we went public, posting the information on Borderland Beat (BB) on October 13, 2011 under the title “Mexico: Operativo Salim” We also shared all the classified documents and suspect information we had obtained from Pedro.

“A couple of days ago we received information from an anonymous person telling us about information that this person wanted to share with us. Without giving it any thought we said sure.

We received some documents that appear to be official and did not appear to have been published anywhere else. One particular document that caught our attention was a Naval Ministry intelligence report stamped June 10, 2010. 

The Mexican classified documents leaked to me contained pictures and lists of objects found during a search warrant.

In addition to the above described document, we also received a copy of an official voter ID with the name of Arturo Hernandez Hernandez that appears to be the alleged Ahmed described in the document.

First and foremost, we want to make it clear that we have no way to confirm the validity of these documents, but we present it for the content it represents, readers must form their own conclusion as to the validity of such document.

However, other documents stamped Confidential Naval Ministry that were received from the anonymous source were shown to a member of Mexico's security establishment who confirmed their validity."


(The book provides further detail of the documents and further backlash from the outcome of the post on BB)
Needless to say, this post in Borderland Beat blog went viral in Mexico and started to make the rounds in main stream media in Mexico. Televisa had Millennuim news anchor Joaquin Lopez Doriga reported on television that the US government had actually leaked the information of "Operation Salim" and that it was confirmed to be false by the Mexican authorities. He failed to tell the truth, that in fact it had been exposed by Borderland Beat and the classified documents had been received by an anonymous person named Pedro as documented in the Borderland Beat Blog.

This was all over Mexico, making national news, being talked in social media and I am sure it got someone’s attention here in the U.S. from the federal government. I was an active law enforcement officer with the City of Albuquerque, and I started to think that perhaps I should let my chain of command know what was going on. I had confided much of the information to my associate and close friend, although he did not have much interest in the matter.

I decided to let my immediate supervisor  know that an unknown source had been sending me Mexican classified information about cartel activity.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Edgar Valdez Villarreal, La Barbie

Excerpts from Borderland Beat book - Chapter - Edgar Valdez Villarreal, La Barbie


Edgar Valdez Villarreal (born August 11, 1973) also known as La Barbie, is a Mexican-American, born and raised in the United States.

Valdez allegedly worked for several years as a cartel lieutenant before rising to a leadership position in an enforcement squad called Los Negros. Following the death of cartel boss Arturo Beltrán Leyva (BLO) in late 2009, Valdez was engaged in a bloody and protracted gang war for control of the BLO cartel, employing techniques such as videotaped tortures, decapitations of his adversaries, that resulted in over 150 deaths.

In August 30, 2010, he was arrested by the Mexican Federal Police at a rural ranch near Mexico City on charges related to large scale drug trafficking with the Beltrán-Leyva Organization Cartel. He was facing charges in both Mexico and the United States.

Based on the fact that his capture by Mexican federal police was completely without violence or casualties, there was a rumor that he made a deal to turn himself in and receive favorable treatment in exchange for providing intelligence on his rivals. On November 2010, the Mexican government agreed to extradite La Barbie to the US and was subsequently sentenced by the US government to 50 years in prison.

Today, Mexican drug cartels are splintered and spread out on a wider range as a result of in fighting and a power vacuum left by arrested or killed drug lords.

La Barbie" Hunting Zetas
This is what La barbie said about Los Zetas when asked during his arrest while being presented to the media: "(Yes the Zetas are a danger) they do not respect anyone, because the truth is they are filth, for me not even their mother wants them."

According to some the friends and foes of Edgar Valdez Villareal "La Barbie" who have given testimony to the PGR and also some that are in the witness protection program have said that La Barbie was one of the most efficient hunters of Zetas. La Barbie was described as a criminal master mind who had full control of airports and was also good in counterintelligence from within his criminal group to help him discredit public officials.

Those who knew him and later some who testified in legal proceedings with federal prosecutors of SIEDO gave information that sicarios under his leadership conducted routine executions, even of innocent people, without hesitation and some of which included the 24 farmers and masons from La Marquesa.

This video shows the moment La Barbie was arrested in a ranch near Mexico City on August 30, 2010


Saturday, March 9, 2019

Other Contributors

Excerpts from Borderland Beat book - Chapter - Other Contributors 


There were many other contributors that I know decided to move on to better things in life, recapturing their personal life, before it got snuffed by the dark side of reporting on brutal, violent narco life in Mexico.

The longest collaborator is Chivis, who has a huge knowledge of the Mexican Drug Cartels. She took over the management of Borderland Beat and is still active running the blog today.
El Semanario wrote this at the time when things were getting started on BB on the reporting of the narco world in Mexico in an article titled “Uncensored.”

“This dangerous empty space of information is being filled, for the good or for the bad, by the blogs. A former policeman and Texas marine, who conceals his real identity under the pseudonym "Buggs" (madman, in the slang of the lower class), is the founder of Borderland Beat (borderlandbeat.com). A popular blog that almost never censures anything and that mixes macabre videos and photographs with graphic information of main stream media sources. This weekend he posted the pictures of the alleged criminals from San Fernando that the Mexican press felts was too risky to report. For the American cyber audience that it has attracted because it's being written in English, unlike the Blog del Narco that is written in Spanish. (Borderland Beat) has become a source of must-read source for law enforcement, judicial officials, military and in particular the general public.”

The ride on working on the Borderland Beat Project had just began and it was going to be a bumpy ride, something that I never expected.



Friday, March 8, 2019

The Blog and the Contributors

Excerpts from Borderland Beat book - Chapter - The Blog and the Contributors


"So the drugs don't reach your children,
we are killing them for you,"
Federal Government.
Borderland Beat collaborators and staff devote a lot of personal time and effort in providing vital information about the Mexican drug cartels to loyal readers without earning a cent.

I have never personally met any of the contributors face to face, although I became good friends to some of them. Some I knew better than others. Everyone’s identity was hidden using a pseudonym name, but some confided to me in some of their personal information and I knew a little bit about them. For example, I would talk to Illiana, mostly about the drug cartels, but sometimes about our happiness and fears.

I remember when she covered a story where the military had shot at a family that went through a military checkpoint and killed two little boys in the state of Tamaulipas. They were on a vacation travelling to the beach to spend Easter ("El Día de la Coneja" for Two Little Boys). I remember her taking it really hard, and she did because it was personal. Illiana lived in the area where the incident occurred. She started her article by saying, “I cried today.” She went on to say:

“Well damn, it turns out the boys were actually killed by Mexican military forces, the same ones who are supposed to be here to protect us from the bad guys. 

This whole thing is so sad, especially because we are talking about innocent children, who were just looking forward to going to the beach to hide eggs for Easter. How can this be happening? 

This is not the first time Borderland Beat has covered the death of innocent bystanders killed by military forces, last month the Editor of this blog wrote a report entitled "The Mexican Drug War’s Collateral Damage." I really don't want to repeat a lot of what has already been said, but really, something needs to be done. 

Just so you know, La Jornada and El Milenio, which are national media sources, ran with the story, but the local media outlets did not publish shit, nada! They totally suck, who are they working for? 

The people should stop buying their worthless newspapers or watching their lame news on TV. 

God receive these two young boys in heaven because they have already been in hell for Easter Sunday! 

Today they are in the garden of God hunting for eggs on el día de la coneja. 

Shit!”

Thursday, March 7, 2019

A need for Blogs

Excerpts from Borderland Beat book - Chapter - A need for Blogs


In essence, the cartels are killing information by killing the messenger. Social media has played a huge role in reporting on the cartel violence in Mexico. This has resulted in organized crime targeting bloggers as well as those who try to remain anonymous for their safety. Borderland Beat has led this fight in reporting about cartels, and the contributors have for the most part remained safe by being anonymous. There were some bloggers from other blogs that were identified by the criminal element and ultimately executed in Mexico. This became an issue for some bloggers, especially the ones living in the Mexican crime regions. This was an item with some of the contributors on Borderland Beat:

After the discovery in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico on November 9, 2011 of the body of the fourth blogger to be killed in the space of a month, for posting online information about drug cartels, The Daily Dot, MSNBC and Der Spiegel each produced an article outlining the dangers such internet activity posed.

For comment, The Daily Dot and MSNBC turned to Borderland Beat administrator "Overmex," while Der Spiegel interviewed Borderland Beat contributor "Gerardo." In the interviews, the two bloggers reiterated their determination to continue reporting on the ongoing drug war, and not to be intimidated by the drug cartels' threats.

Quoting from an article in Bloomberg Businessweek: "To protect contributors, the editors of the blog Borderland Beat, which has a reputation as one of the most reliable sources of information on Mexico's drug violence, say even they don’t know the identity of some of the site's major contributors. Posts are often passed through intermediaries to protect secrecy. "They could be journalists, cops, politicians, maybe even cartel members themselves," says one of the blog's editors, who uses the nickname Buggs." 

For me personally, as the founder and main contributor of Borderland Beat, it was extremely difficult to maintain my anonymity. I was a little bit concerned, but for me it was not very personal or direct, like it was for the collaborators reporting from Mexico.

For one, I live in the U.S., although the cartels could very easily reach out and touch me, even in the U.S. if they really wanted to. But it was a little more complicated than that. I was an active law enforcement officer in the U.S. and was armed 24/7. There was one time, during the time all bloggers were receiving threats, when I did an interview with a media outlet that had discovered my identity. It was reported by KRGV News from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, and ultimately published in Borderland Beat on September 16, 2011 titled, “Cartels Threaten Social Media Users in Mexico.”

Bloggers and social media users in Mexico aren't letting the cartels intimidate them. They continue to blog, tweet, and post information about the drug war. Two people were found hanging from a bridge this week in Nuevo Laredo with a warning to social media users.

Alex Marentes, the blogger who runs a website called Borderland Beat, knows he and his bloggers in Mexico could be the next target. He says his mission is more important than the risk.

The pictures are brutal. The words are brazen. They're a warning to social media users and bloggers. The note mentions three blogs and signed with a Z, perhaps for Zetas. 

“This is the first time we've seen a direct possible tie to cartels targeting bloggers,” says Marentes.

Monday, March 4, 2019

The Narco Corrido Culture

Excerpts from Borderland Beat book - Chapter - The Narco Corrido Culture 



A Narcocorrido (Drug Ballad) is a type of Mexican music and song tradition which evolved out of the norteño folk corrido tradition. This type of music is heard on both sides of the US–Mexican border. It uses a danceable, accordion-based polka as a rhythmic base. The first corridos that focus on drug smugglers—the narco comes from "narcotics"—have been dated to the 1930s. Other music critics have compared narcocorrido music to Gangster Rap. 

Between 2006 and 2008, over a dozen prominent Mexican musicians, many of them connected to the narcocorrido genre, were murdered. The violence came in the midst of the Mexican drug war. Experts and musicians themselves say that the murders can be explained by many Mexican musicians’ proximity to drug traffickers.

The most popular musicians killed were Valentín Elizalde and Sergio Gomez, the lead singer of Chicago based Duranguense band K-Paz de la Sierra. On December 2007, both men were nominated posthumously for Grammy Awards in the banda category.

In the third season of The Shield, the episode entitled "Safe", a narcocorrido is found. It was a song about an unrequited love, and the man killed her. However, several bodies are found, from meth lab exposure. Later evidence proves that she is alive and living with the boyfriend, so the narcocorrido turned out to be fake. In real life. Detectives have used corridors lyrics to close cases from stories that are found to be true.  But many times, it is hard to establish if a corrido is a fable or something related by a narco from true accounts.



The second season episode, Negro Y Azul of Breaking Bad opens with a narcocorrido about events within the show's story played by Los Cuates de Sinaloa.

Creel in the Sierra Tarahumara Country

Excerpt from Borderland Beat book - Chapter - Creel in the Sierra Tarahumara Country  


The incident was recorded in the early morning of March 15, 2010 in Creel, Chihuahua Mexico where they have been previous major mass executions.

For over two hours heavily armed sicarios took over the town in a large convoy of trucks blocking streets and setting up road blocks. The video clearly records the faces of the thugs, even when they are using cocaine almost at hands full from a plastic bag. You can also see how they beat and terrorize passing drivers who happened to drive by in their vehicles by the crime spree.

Another portion of the video shows two gunmen intercepting a car and sequestering the driver. Later in the video, the men shoot two people in an SUV.

In the video, gunmen are shown approaching the passenger side of a vehicle to receive what appears to be an order for the killings. A man holding a large gun in the passenger seat also is seen taking a white substance and putting it in his nose several times.

In some of the most shocking footage, armed men are seen running across a field before reaching the doors of a housing complex and opening fire into the doors and windows of the residence.

All the details of the killing of tens of mercenaries on board a dozen trucks were recorded by the State Police and for good reason people questions why the authorities did nothing to pursue the murderers. The state authorities are moving and zooming the video cameras for 90 minutes while the sicarios walked around with long rifles and proceeded to terrorize the public and target people for execution, in the meantime the authorities watching all this did nothing to stop them.