Wednesday, May 22, 2019

JW Raw

JW RAW with M&M Ep. 85 - Borderland Beat Author Alejandro Marentes

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Robert J Bunker Book Review

SWJ El Centro Book Review - Borderland Beat: Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War

By Robert J. Bunker


Borderland Beat: Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War
Alejandro (Alex) Marentes
Morrisville, NC: Lulu, April 2019
232 Pages
$19.04 Paperback; $6.99 eBook

The work Borderland Beat: Reporting on the Mexican Cartel Drug War represents the first book (& ebook) to be published by this blog site. Borderland Beat is an informational and collaborative English language blog (drawing upon US and Mexican contributors) reporting on the Mexican narco wars. The blog is a contemporary raw feed of unassessed information. The Borderland Beat blog focuses on non-professional (volunteer) Spanish to English translations with less journalistic interpretation and/or detailed analysis linked to the contributions. The work joins in the same ‘digital blog/online journal to book’ publishing trend as seen with SWJ—El Centro (since 2012) and Blog del Narco (in 2013). 

The book is written (compiled) by Alex Marentes—a former active duty and reserve Marine and a thirty-year Albuquerque Police Department officer (retired)—who was born in Ciudad Ju├írez and lived there for the first ten years of his life. To his fans at the Borderland Beat blog, which he founded and owns, he is known by the pseudonym “Buggs” (in reference to Buggs Bunny the Looney Tunes character). The author was recently interviewed at Borderland Beat by the female blogger Chivis concerning the work, his past experiences, and motivations to initially create the blog.

The Borderland Beat book focuses on more organized narco violence taking place in Mexico during the 2008 through 2013 era before the later cartel fragmentation due to kingpin targeting—when Alex Marentes was more directly involved with the blog. It draws its material via the site’s blog posts and the author’s professional (rather than academic) directed research. The book cover is Mexican skull art based with elements of violence—bullet rounds, revolvers, barbed wire, pills, fire, and brass knuckles—combined together to create a narcocultura inspired skull. The work is 232 pages long and devoid of page numbers.  It provides no references, citations, or notes, other than one or two URLs, but is supported by the author’s website which has some sources and videos. The work contains numerous images of drug war violence (not sourced) and is divided into the following listing of impressionistic and interpretive themes (with somewhat more structure evident at the end of the work related to specific cartels and timelines). The titles of these themes (which follows an ad hoc capitalization protocol) are as follows:

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Tale of bus passengers forced to fight to the death

Excerpts from Borderland Beat book - Chapter - Tale of bus passengers forced to fight to the death 

In 2011 I posted a very controversial post in BB that got a lot of attention. The Zetas were known to hijack buses and execute the passengers. Police found hundreds of "narco graves" of people that had been executed and buried. Most of these deaths were people that had been abducted from buses. This was happening in the so called "Highway of death," Highway 101 in the state of Taumalipas. This highway travels from Cuidad Victoroa and Brownville, Texas, on the side of Mexico. The story started to make it's rounds on main stream media in both Mexico and the US.

This was published by the Houston Chronicle and Atlantic Wire:

"The cinematic nature of one reporter's take on violent new extremes in Mexican drug wars begs for scrutiny. Prefacing a Senate call to reduce arms trafficking to Mexico by a few hours, the Houston Chronicle's Dane Schiller described the chilling account of a member of the Zetas cartel who asked only to be referred by the apparent pseudonym "Juan" that combines Scarface, Saw and, unexpectedly, Gladiator:

If what he says is true, gangsters who make commonplace beheadings, hangings and quartering bodies have managed an even crueler twist to their barbarity. Members of the Zetas cartel, [Juan] says, have pushed passengers into an ancient Rome-like blood sport with a modern Mexico twist that they call, "Who is going to be the next hit man?"
"They cut guys to pieces," he said. 
The victims are likely among the hundreds of people found in mass graves in recent months, he said.

Over the past few weeks, authorities have discovered a number of mass graves in and around San Fernando in the northern Mexican state of Tamaulipas. The road between the state capital Ciudad Victoria and Brownsville, Texas runs through San Fernando, and locals now call it either "the highway of death" or "the devil's road." The highway is often empty now as many bus companies cancelled routes after repeated kidnappings from buses hijacked by the Zetas and other cartels. 

According to Juan's account and local authorities, the kidnappings served as a means for recruiting new gang members, but intimidation techniques have gotten out of hand.

Houston Chronicle’s Dane Schiller points to Borderland Beat, a blog run by a former law enforcement officer in the Southwest United States, who published a more detailed account of the death battles in April. We talked to the blog’s founder, Alejandro Marentes, who explained that a writer sent him the story which had been published on a blog in Spanish, and Marentes translated and republished it on Borderland Beat. After the post got some pickup on the internet, Marentes added this editor’s note: “To this point we have not been able to confirm its validity, we publish it for information purposes and for you to formulate your own conclusions.”

It's easy to see why some readers might find the story unbelievable. From the post on Borderland Beat:
With that he ordered several of his men who were sitting inside another SUV to bring the sledgehammers and the men gave a sledgehammer to each man. "Ok listen up assholes, the trick is this, we are going to pair you in twos, and you are going to fuck up each other with the sledgehammers, and the one who survives will join us in our work and you get to live, while the one who does not survive, well you get fucked," he said sarcastically making his men laugh out loud.
The passengers were stunned by the instructions from a narco who resembled more a nazi than anything else, they could not believe this was happening to them. Everyone grabbed their sledgehammer and took their position with their pair. They stared at each other with a look of pure fear. "Ok, fuck each other up," ordered El 40. […]
[After the fight] Comandante 40 gathered all the Zetas and said, "that is all for fun and game for tonight cabrones. Bring me all the winners" and they brought all the men who had killed their partner with the sledgehammer and El 40 said," Welcome to the Special Forces of the Zeta, the other military."
It’s hard to get any type of confirmation from anything that’s happening there,” Marentes told The Atlantic Wire. “We have some people in Mexico that have good contacts, but many times we have a hard time.”

Marentes continued by describing a lack of journalists on the ground in the San Fernando area. Most journalists don’t dare enter without police or military protection, but even then, many are threatened if not attacked. We contacted Dane Schiller, the Chronicle reporter, to find out more about how he found his source, he asked not to be interviewed. “I don’t want to make the story about me and my efforts,” Schiller said in an email.

However, the original report is written like fiction. Victims from bus kidnappings–many of whom are illegal immigrants passing through Mexico to the United States–have reportedly been rescued from gang members, but there’s no indication that the post’s author was one of them. (Besides the fact, that they survived the tell the tale, if it’s true.)

We asked Marentes, who’s been covering the cartel wars for years, his gut feeling on whether the reports of gladiatorlike battles could be true based on precedent in the Mexican drug wars. “The story’s realistic,” Marentes said. “All you’ve gotta do is look at what’s going on with the brutality of the violence over there–I can see that happening very easily over there.”

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