Mexico

A Washington Narrative Meets Reality

During his visit to El Paso in May 2011, President Obama mocked calls for border security. After declaring that sufficient measures had been taken to stem illegal crossings, he joked that his critics would always demand more, perhaps even calling for alligators in a moat. While the line drew howls from the national media, local residents did not laugh. The quip revealed only ignorance or callousness to the escalating dangers that are part of their daily life. Since that time the administration has repeatedly declared the border more secure than ever while simultaneously making it more vulnerable with executive pardons for whole classes of illegal aliens and calls for a mass amnesty that have triggered an exponential increase in human smuggling.

We got a local perspective of the situation during our recent tour through south Texas. Led by Jerry Kammer, our group followed the Rio Grande from Del Rio to Brownsville on an itinerary that covered more than 1,100 miles. In meetings with various people along the way, common themes emerged: Illegal crossings are soaring, violence and exploitation are routine, and area residents are increasingly alienated.

A group of ranchers who manage game lands about 70 miles from the border told us that they have seen a 500 percent increase in illegal-alien traffic since last summer. In past years the flow has fluctuated with the seasons, but there has been no recent cessation. Nearly every day they encounter groups of illegal aliens who have been left by smugglers to wander the vast landscape. Sometimes they find dead bodies or loads of drugs. The Border Patrol can take hours or even days to arrive because of staff limitations and the agents will not come at all if the number of illegal aliens reported is deemed too small. It is estimated that only 10 percent are detained.

The continuous flow of human traffic requires constant vigilance from the ranchers, who must devote considerable time to managing the dangers and disruptions. Another group we spoke to agreed with this assessment and is working closely with the county sheriff, the state’s Department of Public Safety, and volunteers in attempts to stem the flow.

Throughout the region people told us that illegal crossings have increased significantly. These observations parallel recent trends in Arizona. Just south of Laredo we stopped for a few minutes beside the Rio Grande and happened to see Border Patrol agents apprehend a group of Honduran illegal aliens who had just crossed in the middle of the afternoon. The incident occurred on private property belonging to a couple who told us that foreign nationals cross through their land on almost a daily basis.

A woman we visited near Brownsville told us that the commotion from people crossing regularly wakes her at night. She advised against driving down to the river, which is only a few hundred feet from her house, even though it was midday. She said that a local golf course has recently lost business and that the University of Texas at Brownsville has had to relocate student parking because of gunfire coming from the border.

Two of Mexico’s most notorious gangs, the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel, are headquartered just across the river in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas. Their influence has been so devastating to civil society that some observers say Tamaulipas is a failed state. A couple years ago, authorities found the bodies of 72 Central and South Americans who were slaughtered en masse after refusing to work for a drug gang who had intercepted them on their way to America. The violence has eroded any sense of community. Jim Kuykendall, the former head of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s office in Guadalajara, told us that public events such as festivals and rodeos no longer take place.

A young woman who manages a motel in Rio Grande City said that her family owns a house just across the river. They have been unable to collect rent from their delinquent tenant for four years because they will not risk venturing into the area, which she describes as a ghost town. Not one person we spoke to in the entire region still travels into Mexico.

The people who live on this side of the Rio Grande say that the cartels are always monitoring their property in order to funnel drugs and humans into the country and that theft and vandalism are rampant. Dob Cunningham, a retired border patrolman who was born and raised on the border, claims that the behavior of the crossers has fundamentally changed. Decades ago most illegal aliens came from rural parts of Mexico. They were tough young men who came on their own, respected property, and offered to do the most menial tasks in exchange for assistance. Cunningham says that illegal aliens now arrive from all over the world. They pay smugglers exorbitant fees to get them into the United States and are ruthlessly exploited, oftentimes kidnapped, raped, or forced to carry loads of drugs.

Recently retired Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez has spent more than 30 years enforcing the law in Zapata County. He served his last 16 years as sheriff after his predecessor was indicted for drug smuggling, an offense that is now routinely committed by law enforcement officials along the border. The sheriff told us stories of nihilistic violence as he showed us around San Ygnacio, Zapata, and Falcon Lake.

He said that the Mexican side is patrolled by young gang members armed with automatic weapons. The cartels, always looking for ways to shock and intimidate competing organizations, have resorted to gruesome methods of execution. Severed torsos and bodies that have been boiled to death have been found. The violence is mostly meted out on rival syndicates, but sometimes innocents get caught in the struggle. This is what Gonzalez alleged happened in the highly-publicized murder of David Hartley, who was sightseeing on Falcon Lake with his wife. Mexican authorities later arrested a Zeta member in the case.

Sheriff Gonzalez explained that spillover violence in Zapata has typically been home invasion burglaries. Wealthy border residents with no apparent connection to the drug trade have been targeted. What is more prevalent, however, is a type of capitulation along the border. While showing us around downtown Laredo, Kuykendall explained how vibrant and exciting the city was in his youth. Those days are gone as fancy shops and hotels have been replaced with thrift stores and rundown housing. Days before we visited, three grenades exploded feet from the U.S. consulate across the river in Nuevo Laredo. Such incidents have had a depreciating effect on local enterprise. Longtime border residents have witnessed dramatic changes. Kuykendall says that there are so many illegal aliens in Laredo nobody really makes a distinction. Two nations have become one. This includes the influence of the cartels, which employ a growing number of people on this side of the border.

In the midst of all this, residents are alienated. Mexican authorities have proven incapable of combating the cartels and they actually encourage illegal immigration. But more frustrating than the corruption there, is the political environment here. Despite his years in the Border Patrol, Cunningham emphatically stated that he fears being prosecuted by the United States federal government more than being harmed by foreign nationals. He knows several people who are serving lengthy prison terms for trying to stop illicit activity.

The perception that federal prosecutors are focused on diplomacy and accommodation rather than law and order also applies to the Department of Homeland Security. Most of the people we spoke to have good working relationships with their local Border Patrol agents. But climbing the political hierarchy brings disillusionment. Washington has repeatedly made decisions that undermine enforcement, so much so that the Border Patrol unions devote a considerable amount of time fighting management to retain their stated responsibilities. Swaths of the border go unmonitored due to inadequate numbers and agents who do their job face political obstacles. This has led Sheriff Gonzalez to believe that the only way to secure the border is through local control.

Recent declarations that the border is secure are intended to encourage congressional passage of a mass amnesty. The politicians and activists who are pushing this couch their efforts in humanitarian terms, questioning the morality of those in opposition. But what they do not understand is that amnesty benefits human smugglers. Their business of exploiting the desperate booms every time a careless politician or commentator starts self-righteously talking about a pathway to citizenship. Such talk creates chaos on the border and undermines the rule of law.


 


 

Be at the Capitol - Tuesday, Feb. 26 - DRUG WARS: Silver or Lead screening

Alert date: 
2013-02-22
Alert body: 

If you couldn't make it to the showing of DRUG WARS: Silver or Lead last month, you're in luck.

Tuesday, February 26 from 9-11am, OFIR will be showing the documentary again at the Oregon State Capitol Building - Room 257.

Every concerned citizen should attend and find out what's really happening. This is not an issue confined to the US-Mexican border. Like a cancer, it's spreading throughout the entire US. Citizen APATHY is one of the greatest tools used by drug cartel operatives. Now, they want our drivers licenses!

Your attendance is encouraged! Before or after the event, please plan to visit your Senator and Representative. Tell them about your concerns. If they aren't available, make an appt. for a later date (or make one before you come).

The Capitol is YOUR building and the people inside should be working for Oregonians. Your Legislator has regular visits from lobbyists and advocates working to advance the agenda of illegal aliens. Have they seen you? If not, you should introduce yourself and tell them YOU are a constituent. Thank them if they are working to protect Oregon jobs and American sovereignty.

NOTE: Bring quarters for the meter (75 cents an hour). Plan to stay at least the first hour and a half...the last half hour will be Q&A. The documentary is 1 hour and 21 minutes long.

Hope to see you there!

Mexican drug war topic of film

Showings of “Drug Wars: Silver or Lead,” a 2008 documentary about drug trafficking in Mexico and its implications for the United States, will be sponsored by Oregonians for Immigration Reform.

One showing will start at 1 p.m. Wednesday [February 20th]; the other will begin at 9 a.m. Feb. 26. Both will be in Room 257 of the Capitol. The film runs 82 minutes.

The group has been critical of federal immigration policies and hopes to influence state legislative debate on related issues.

— Peter Wong

 

Man sentenced in 1995 fatal crash

A man sought for 17 years as the driver in a 1995 fatal car crash in Marion County was sentenced Wednesday to 10 years in prison.Jose Luis Sanchez, 38, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and driving under the influence of intoxicants. Marion County Circuit Judge Gregory Foote sentenced Sanchez to 10 years in an Oregon Department of Corrections prison, one year in the Marion County jail and three years of post-prison supervision.

Sanchez was returned to Oregon in December, almost a year after being arrested on federal charges for illegally entering the United States from Mexico, according to the Marion County District Attorney’s Office. Since being taken into custody in Arizona, Sanchez was held in federal custody and pleaded guilty to federal charges, officials said.

The crash Sanchez was involved in occurred at 1:20 a.m. Aug. 7, 1995, six miles west of Idanha. The car Sanchez was driving went around a curve too quickly and hit several trees, according to the Oregon State Police.

A passenger, Jesus Gonzalez-Sanchez, 22, was pronounced dead at the scene. Sanchez, who was 21 at the time, was seriously injured and taken to a Portland-area hospital. Both men lived in Prineville at the time of the crash.
 

Convicted drug courier suspected of cartel ties

Federal prosecutors believe a man recently convicted of hauling 15 pounds of high-quality methamphetamine up Interstate 5 was involved with a Mexican drug cartel.

According to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Medford, Francisco Hernandez-Figueroa, 29, of San Rafael, Mexico, had entered the country illegally with the purpose of delivering a load of meth on the streets of Seattle.

An Oregon State Police trooper stopped Hernandez-Figueroa's Acura on March 20, 2011, near Medford and found the meth hidden in an intricate compartment system cut into the vehicle, documents show.

Hernandez-Figueroa pleaded guilty to the charges in state court and was sentenced to five years in state prison. Federal prosecutors decided to prosecute him a second time on the same charges, partly because of the man's alleged connection to a cartel.

"You have to be involved with a drug-trafficking organization to attain the amount of pure methamphetamine (Hernandez-Figueroa) had," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Byron Chatfield.

What was most disturbing to prosecutors, aside from the amount of meth hidden in Hernandez-Figueroa's car, was its quality.

Lab tests confirmed the meth was "99.5 percent" pure, with an estimated street value of $873,546, documents show.

The U.S. Department of Justice reports that meth purity levels are on the rise, with average levels reaching 88 percent purity in 2012, up from 53 percent in 2000. Prices, however, appear to be dropping.

The agency reports that a gram of high-grade meth sold for an average price of $123 in 2012, less than the $239 average a meth user paid for a gram in 2000.

The cost figures were collected from across the country, the Justice Department said.

An interesting aspect of this case, according to prosecutors, was Hernandez-Figueroa's attempt to avoid a steep federal prison sentence by quickly pleading guilty to state charges in Jackson County Circuit Court.

"It is very uncommon for a defendant to plead guilty to serious charges with little discovery," Chatfield said. "And that's what happened here."

Documents show that Tanya Morrow, a federal public defender in Medford, read about Hernandez-Figueroa's arrest in the Mail Tribune and contacted Justin N. Rosas, Hernandez-Figueroa's state public defender, and advised him that it would be better for the suspect to plead quickly to state charges before federal prosecutors could take the case.

The defense attorneys apparently believed it was unlikely that federal prosecutors would pursue federal charges once the case was adjudicated in state court, documents show.

Chatfield said his office does not often take cases that have been settled in state court. But federal prosecutors will step in when they feel that a large drug case does not adequately punish an offender.

"In this case, because there was such a large amount of narcotics involved, we believed the federal interest was not vindicated," Chatfield said.

A suspect can be tried for the same crime twice as long as the case is pursued in two separate jurisdictions, Chatfield said.

The state and federal courts operate in their own jurisdictions, which allowed Hernandez-Figueroa to be tried twice for his crime.

According to court documents, Hernandez-Figueroa's defense lawyer told him it was possible for federal prosecutors to charge even after he pleaded guilty to the crimes in state court.

Hernandez-Figueroa rolled the dice and pleaded guilty, a gamble he lost.

He was given five years in state prison, but his federal sentence was 10 years. These sentences will be served at the same time, which means Hernandez-Figueroa will serve five years in a state prison and then be moved to a federal pen to serve five more years, Chatfield said.

Film delivers gritty look at drug cartels

About 80 people and several uniformed police officers attended the showing of “Drug Wars: Silver or Lead” on Saturday afternoon at Salem Public Library.

Hosted by Oregonians for Immigration Reform, the showing was originally scheduled to have the film’s director, Rusty Fleming, on hand. But Fleming was called away to Oklahoma City due to a family issue.

The Salem Police were in attendance, however, with several officers on site following threats of disruption, according to OFIR’s Jim Ludwig.

The movie delivered a pointed message that suggested Mexican drug cartels, abetted by corrupt military, law enforcement and border patrols, are delivering a virtually unstoppable stream of drugs into the United States. Gangs within the states are coordinating the efforts locally, lured by money, power and glamour despite the dead-end and potential life-ending inevitability of the trade.

The film stressed the brutality of the cartels, portrayed as criminal organizations that use murder, torture, kidnapping and bribery as modus operandi. Fleming was quoted throughout the film, which was primarily sourced by pundits, peppered with a few anonymous press people, victims of cartel and/or gang crimes and a few television clips.

“(This film) is live, it’s true, it’s gruesome, it’s brutal,” OFIR President Cynthia Kendoll forewarned before the showing.

Kendoll cited apathy as a huge part of the drug problem, and brought the issue home with a photo of Jorge Ortiz-Oliva, whom she said is currently serving 30 years in prison for major drug distribution crimes, and his base of operations was in Salem.

Fleming noted that the “silver or lead” in the title comes from the Spanish “plata o plomo.” The reference, he said, was to cartel bribes: take our money or take our bullets. He said there was hardly an institution in Mexico that was untouched by corruption, in large part because the cartels spend 50 percent to 60 percent of their earnings corrupting the people who can keep their drug-running operations streamlined.

Legalization as a combative method was brushed upon in the movie and in the ensuing discussion. OFIR officials, for the most part, dismissed the tactic. Ludwig referred to legalization as making a pact with the devil.

OFIR’s overriding recommendation to those on hand was to contact their local representatives to air their concerns about drug cartels and illegal immigration’s part in it.
 

Great turnout for DRUG WARS event

OFIR extends a warm, sincere thank you to all those who chose to give up a rainy Saturday afternoon and join us to view the chilling, but true, documentary titled DRUG WARS: Silver or Lead.  Well over one hundred people decided it was time to get educated about drug cartels and the damage they are wreaking on our society and the danger they pose to our children.

The OFIR Board will consider the adamant suggestions of many that attended to schedule another showing soon.  We will keep you posted!
 

Cocaine Incorporated

Cocaine Incorporated;

How the World’s Most Powerful Drug Traffickers Run Their Business

By Patrick Radden Keefe

in The New York Times Magazine,  June 15, 2012

 

[Following is the first part of a lengthy, detailed description of how Mexican drug cartels operate.  To read the entire shocking account, see illustration and map, view the article on the New York Times website.]

One afternoon last August, at a hospital on the outskirts of Los Angeles, a former beauty queen named Emma Coronel gave birth to a pair of heiresses. The twins, who were delivered at 3:50 and 3:51, respectively, stand to inherit some share of a fortune that Forbes estimates is worth a billion dollars. Coronel’s husband, who was not present for the birth, is a legendary tycoon who overcame a penurious rural childhood to establish a wildly successful multinational business. If Coronel elected to leave the entry for “Father” on the birth certificates blank, it was not because of any dispute over patrimony. More likely, she was just skittish about the fact that her husband, Joaquín Guzmán, is the C.E.O. of Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel, a man the Treasury Department recently described as the world’s most powerful drug trafficker. Guzmán’s organization is responsible for as much as half of the illegal narcotics imported into the United States from Mexico each year; he may well be the most-wanted criminal in this post-Bin Laden world. But his bride is a U.S. citizen with no charges against her. So authorities could only watch as she bundled up her daughters and slipped back across the border to introduce them to their dad.

Known as El Chapo for his short, stocky frame, Guzmán is 55, which in narco-years is about 150. He is a quasi-mythical figure in Mexico, the subject of countless ballads, who has outlived enemies and accomplices alike, defying the implicit bargain of a life in the drug trade: that careers are glittering but brief and always terminate in prison or the grave. When Pablo Escobar was Chapo’s age, he had been dead for more than a decade. In fact, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration, Chapo sells more drugs today than Escobar did at the height of his career. To some extent, this success is easily explained: as Hillary Clinton acknowledged several years ago, America’s “insatiable demand for illegal drugs” is what drives the clandestine industry. It’s no accident that the world’s biggest supplier of narcotics and the world’s biggest consumer of narcotics just happen to be neighbors. “Poor Mexico,” its former president Porfirio Díaz is said to have remarked. “So far from God and so close to the United States.”

The Sinaloa cartel can buy a kilo of cocaine in the highlands of Colombia or Peru for around $2,000, then watch it accrue value as it makes its way to market. In Mexico, that kilo fetches more than $10,000. Jump the border to the United States, and it could sell wholesale for $30,000. Break it down into grams to distribute retail, and that same kilo sells for upward of $100,000 — more than its weight in gold. And that’s just cocaine. Alone among the Mexican cartels, Sinaloa is both diversified and vertically integrated, producing and exporting marijuana, heroin and methamphetamine as well.

Estimating the precise scale of Chapo’s empire is tricky, however. Statistics on underground economies are inherently speculative: cartels don’t make annual disclosures, and no auditor examines their books. Instead, we’re left with back-of-the-envelope extrapolations based on conjectural data, much of it supplied by government agencies that may have bureaucratic incentives to overplay the problem.

So in a spirit of empirical humility, we shouldn’t accept as gospel the estimate, from the Justice Department, that Colombian and Mexican cartels reap $18 billion to $39 billion from drug sales in the United States each year. (That range alone should give you pause.) Still, even if you take the lowest available numbers, Sinaloa emerges as a titanic player in the global black market. In the sober reckoning of the RAND Corporation, for instance, the gross revenue that all Mexican cartels derive from exporting drugs to the United States amounts to only $6.6 billion. By most estimates, though, Sinaloa has achieved a market share of at least 40 percent and perhaps as much as 60 percent, which means that Chapo Guzmán’s organization would appear to enjoy annual revenues of some $3 billion — comparable in terms of earnings to Netflix or, for that matter, to Facebook.

The drug war in Mexico has claimed more than 50,000 lives since 2006. But what tends to get lost amid coverage of this epic bloodletting is just how effective the drug business has become. A close study of the Sinaloa cartel, based on thousands of pages of trial records and dozens of interviews with convicted drug traffickers and current and former officials in Mexico and the United States, reveals an operation that is global (it is active in more than a dozen countries) yet also very nimble and, above all, staggeringly complex. Sinaloa didn’t merely survive the recession — it has thrived in recent years. And after prevailing in some recent mass-casualty clashes, it now controls more territory along the border than ever.

Read the rest of the article here:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/17/magazine/how-a-mexican-drug-cartel-makes-its-billions.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&

 


 

OFIR President spells out cartel danger

How many Oregonians know that Mexican drug cartels seek to addict U.S. grade-school children to cheap, potent new drugs?

How many know cartels’ technology is 10 years more advanced than the U.S. Border Patrol’s and that cartels even track border patrol movements by satellite?

And how many know that cartels are entrenched in Oregon, distributing heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine through major hubs in Portland, Salem and Eugene?

Late last year, I learned this and more from the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Joe Arabit, former FBI agent Richard Valdemar and other experts at the National Sheriffs Border School in El Paso.

Read the entire guest opinion Kendoll: Drug cartels pose a huge threat  here.


 

Meth traffickers aren't able to dodge federal penalties

A pair of large-scale methamphetamine traffickers arrested in Jackson County last year could not escape steep federal prison sentences after attempting to rush plea deals through state court that carry shorter incarceration terms, officials said.

The suspects were arrested while driving on Interstate 5 in March of 2011. The two were arrested by the Oregon State Police in unrelated incidents, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

On March 16, an OSP trooper stopped Jamie Eugene Muniz, 28, from Sacramento, on the freeway near Ashland. A search of his car turned up 10 pounds of meth wrapped in eight packages and hidden in a secret compartment in the center console. The estimated street value of the meth was $600,700.

The meth was destined for sale in the Portland area, officials said.

Four days later, an OSP trooper stopped a car driven by Francisco Hernandez-Figueroa, 29, of San Rafael, Mexico, on the freeway near Medford.

A search of the car found that it had been wired with an electronic activation system leading to two hidden compartments located behind the side panels in the rear passenger compartment. A switch hidden in the steering column opened the secret compartments, revealing 16 packages wrapped in black duct tape.

A total of 15 pounds of high-quality meth, with a street value of $870,000, was packed in the compartments.

Troopers also found $4,500 in $100 bills, believed to be proceeds from drug trafficking. The meth was bound for Seattle, officials said.

Law enforcement found that Hernandez-Figueroa had illegally entered the country with the intent of selling the large haul of meth.

Within a few days of their arrest both men demanded to plead guilty to the drug charges in state court. Their defense attorney advised them to do so to avoid a possible longer federal sentence, officials said.

The U.S. Attorney's Office had not reviewed the cases by the time each entered guilty pleas in state court, officials said.

Both were sentenced to nearly five years in Oregon prison, officials said.

However, this did not stop federal prosecutors from pursuing drug-trafficking crimes against the men. U.S. District Judge Owen Panner then sentenced Hernandez-Figueroa to 10 years in federal prison, while Muniz received five years of federal time.

The sentences will be served concurrently with the state convictions, officials said.

"These were some of the largest seizures of nearly 100 percent pure methamphetamine in Southern Oregon," said Amanda Marshall, U.S. Attorney for Oregon, in a news release. "The Department of Justice authorized our prosecution because the state convictions and sentences did not adequately vindicate the interest the United States has in prosecuting major drug traffickers."

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Mexico