July Dogs

Tag: Drug Wars

Dying for another high-rise in Austin..

410w

Some of us are illegal, and some are not wanted,

Our work contract’s out and we have to move on;

Six hundred miles to that Mexican border,

They chase us like outlaws, like rustlers, like thieves.

We died in your hills, we died in your deserts,

We died in your valleys and died on your plains.

We died ‘neath your trees and we died in your bushes,

Both sides of the river, we died just the same.

–‘Deportee’, Woody Guthrie and Martin Hoffman

The grisly murders of a 9-year old girl and her father in Arizona’s Pima county just north of the Mexico border grabbed headlines this weekend due to the alleged killers involvement in the extreme anti-immigration Minutemen movement. See my posting  from yesterday.  More details can be found  in a  big takeout this morning at Everett, Washington’s Herald

Much noise will be made by Minutemen and other anti-immigrant activists (including nativist airhorns like Lou Dobbs) over the murdered father reportedly dealing dope for Chapo’s Sinaloa cartel. That’s the main media frame on things Mexican these days. Working the game for the cartels in the US is a high-risk job for immigrants, but so is legit employment–and for much less money.

3 dead after construction accident in Austin

06/14/2009

Associated Press

The three men killed when part of a scaffold collapsed and plunged them several stories down were immigrant construction workers with families in Latin America, friends and family say.

It was unclear who employed Raudel Ramirez Camacho, 27; Wilson Joel Irias Cerritos, 30; and Jesus Angel Lopez Perez, 28, the Austin American-Statesman reported Saturday.

The men died Wednesday afternoon while working on a high-rise apartment project, said Harry Evans, a battalion chief with the Austin Fire Department. Officials say two of the workers fell 11 to 13 stories while a third fell a shorter distance onto the roof of a seven-story parking garage.

Irias and Lopez were from a rural town in Honduras and had been in Austin for less than a year after a stint in Florida, said their neighbor Ruben Flores.

“They were paisanos,” Flores said. “They were very hardworking. They would leave every morning at 6 a.m.”

Ramirez had a wife, a 2-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son in Queretaro, Mexico, said his father-in-law, Arturo Miranda, who lives in Austin.

“My daughter is destroyed,” said Miranda. “I haven’t been able to stop her from crying by telephone. She keeps asking me to tell her it’s not true.”

Since 1995 the on-the-job death rate for Mexican workers here in the US  as compared to native-born laborers has almost tripled–going from 30% to 80% more likely to die.

- Deaths among Mexicans increased faster than their population in the U.S. Between 1996 and 2002, as the number of Mexican workers grew by about half, from 4 million to 6 million, the number of deaths rose by about two-thirds, from 241 to 387. Deaths peaked at 420 in 2001.

- Though their odds of dying in the Southeast and parts of the West are far greater than the U.S. average, fatalities occur everywhere: Mexicans died cutting North Carolina tobacco and Nebraska beef, felling trees in Colorado and welding a balcony in Florida, trimming grass at a Las Vegas golf course and falling from scaffolding in Georgia.

- Even compared to other immigrants — those who historically work America’s hardest jobs — what’s happening to Mexicans is exceptional in scope and scale. Mexicans are nearly twice as likely as the rest of the immigrant population to die at work.

‘Dying to Work’, an Associated Press investigative report..

Emily Timm at the Workers Defense Project in Austin today told a local TV reporter:  “That sort of story is always shocking and very upsetting, but based on what we found in our study, these abuses are widespread.”

142 construction workers died on the job in Texas in 2007.

Timm: “That’s nearly twice as many deaths as any other state in the country. And, those statistics exist because regulators are not doing their jobs, because we don’t have strict enough policies to make sure employers are doing their part to ensure the safety of their workers.”

Full story at News 8 Austin. For an in-depth report on the perils of construction work in Texas,  go to Melissa del Bosque’s  feature in this week’s Texas Observer.

And if the risks are high for immigrant workers, the pay is not. Consider the new Orlando Magic venue  construction..

City officials have accused one of the biggest contractors working on the new Orlando Magic arena of underpaying more than 100 workers — and angry union leaders say the company is also hiring undocumented workers to build the team’s home court.

Orlando officials overseeing the construction of the $480 million city-owned venue say Capform violated city policies meant to ensure that workers in the construction trades are paid a fair wage. The city requires contractors and subcontractors to pay their workers the local ”prevailing wage” for the job they are doing.

Capform was awarded a $19.8 million contract to build the concrete superstructure of the new arena. It began work in October and will be largely finished this month.

After city officials notified the company of the violations, some workers were given back pay. Jim Renaud, vice president of the Carrollton, Texas-based company, said Capform resolved all of the problems, which he called ”clerical errors” resulting from workers being transferred from other job sites with different pay scales.  –Miami Herald

As for the three dead young workers in Austin–Raudel Ramirez Camacho, Wilson Joel Irias Cerritos and Jeus Angel Lopez Perez–I wonder if the future occupants at the 21 Rio condo will know their names or how much they sacrificed for the view.

NarcoGuerra Times-Obama’s Rebranded War

USMPiLAaC

On May 28, President Obama’s “drug czar” Gil Kerlikowske had an exchange with the National Journal..in which the former Seattle police chief said,

“We should stop comparing this to a war and be much smarter about how we are dealing with it–and in a much more comprehensive way. I’ve ended the war on drugs.

…Reducing the demand in the country is absolutely critical if we are not only to improve our own safety and security but also that in other countries”

Sounds promising. But it’s just rebranding. Happy horseshit for the hopeful.  The proof is in the pudding–and the pudding in Washington is always colored green.

According to the White House National Drug Control Strategy FY 2010 Budget Summary billions more  will be spent on “supply reduction” than “demand reduction.”

In 2010 nearly twice as much federal funding will go the “war” that Kelikowske says is “over” than to drug treatment and prevention programs–$9.9 billion for the cops and military, $5.167  for the demand side.

That’s a 2.7% bump for military and law enforcement, a 0.8% reduction for Obama’s  much touted prevention/treatment course.

And that’s just part of the Big Picture.

There are many many billions more heading into various counternarc0tics, counternarcoterrorist programs squirreled away within  DOD, State, Homeland Security, DOJ.  I am still wading through budgets and reports and can’t begin to pull a full expenditure together. One thread that runs steady through them all is the Pentagon.

From what I’ve seen thus far–despite the unease the Obama administration may have with the word—it’s definitely a war.

And its expanding.

More to follow.

* Map circa 1999.

NarcoGuerra Times- “Parallel State” Update

 bandera de los zetas

“I would say Mexico is a state with a parallel power in its drug cartels. It’s not a narco state yet; we still have a government. But they have true power, beginning with the right to tax (protection money).  I would say we are in great danger (of becoming a narco state.)”–Victor Clark Alfaro, narcotraficante expert at San Diego State University, June 3 2009 

Alfaro was speaking to Linda Diebel, reporter at the Toronto Star. She has a commendable piece out today–one that cuts through the bullshit bodycounting and fear-thumping generalizations the major US media coughs up on a daily basis.  Read Diebel’s piece here.  Note the happy horsehit the Mexican ambassador to Canada shovels out at the end of the article….like doing deep kneebends in the void.

Two weeks ago I posted on the parallel state model that Alfaro refers to–new readers can find that here.  For further reading I suggest venturing to  Ivan Briscoe’s The Proliferation of the Parallel State.  

Based on a close study of Pakistan and Guatemala, as well as a number of other cases ranging from Fujimori’s Peru to contemporary Guinea-Bissau, this Working Paper sets out to define the novel concept of the “parallel state”. It explains the emergence of these states in contexts where democracy and open markets have recently been installed, and analyses the ways in which political leaders and the public connect with entrenched criminal groups.

Briscoe’s  timely analysis can be downloaded as a pdf (English or Spanish) at FRIDE,  Fundación para las Relaciones Internacionales y el Diálogo Exterior 

 

* That’s Los Zetas bandera at top

NarcoGuerra Times: More on The Faith-Based Cartel

jesus with gun

“La Familia doesn’t kill for money, doesn’t kill women, doesn’t kill innocent people. It only kills those who deserve to die. Everyone should know this: Divine justice.”–message left with five severed heads on the dance floor of the Sol y Sombra nightclub in Uruapan, Michoacan, September 6, 2006.

A week ago today–May 27–a Mexican army squad was patrolling along the Michoacan side of the Rio Jeronimo across from the state of Guerrero. They rumbled into Riva Paldo, a little town about 300 klicks west of Mexico City, and rolled up on a black Nissan Xterra parked on a side street.

Inside the SUV, the soldiers found thirteen rifles, eleven pistols, four fragmentation grenades, 5,000 rounds of ammunition, scales and nine copies of bestselling Christian author John Eldredge’s Savaje de Corazon, (Wild at Heart). According the army report, the books were signed “El Mas Loco”–The Craziest One– AKA, Nazario Gonzalez Moreno, La Familia’s evangelizing jefe whose self-published La Familia handbook is packed with Eldredge quotes. A particular favorite is this dashing call to arms:

Todo hombre desea tener una batalla que pelar, un aventura que vivir una bella rescatar.

Every man wants a battle to fight, an adventure to live and a beautiful rescue.

La Familia’s bulk-buying and give-aways of Eldredge’s book doesn’t seem to jibe with George W. Grayson’s take on the the cartel’s religious bent. In his detailed overview published in February–La Familia: Another Deadly Mexican Syndicate–Grayson links La Familia to an decades-old apocalyptic traditionalist Catholic town in the Michoucan sierras:

La Familia’s current leaders, Bible-toting fanatics Moreno Gonzalez and Mendez Vargas, may have direct or indirect ties with devotees of the New Jerusalem movement.

Mexico Religious Cult

Grayson didn’t mention La Familia’s connection to the Muscular Christian prosyletizer Eldredge, likely because nobody had wind of that outside of Michoacan and the Mexican federal intelligence agencies until last week. Even though Moreno flogs a Protestant evangelical’s book, that doesn’t preclude La Familia from recruiting in New Jerusalem…

…a theocracy where soccer balls are illegal, John F. Kennedy is a saint, freedom of religion doesn’t exist and the end of the world is just around the corner. It is the largest and longest surviving of a string of traditionalist Catholic colonies that have sprung up around the world.

More on New Jerusalem from The Arizona Republic’s Chris Hawley.

NarcoGuerra Times: The Faith-Based Cartel

La Familia corpse

The drug cartel La Familia Michoacana is, as one Mexican intelligence analyst put it, “unique.”

From all available information so far, it appears that La Familia has developed into a faith-based right-wing populist social movement emanating from and orchestrated by an organization that happens to be a well-armed, well-financed violent criminal enterprise.

La Familia has branched out from the production and transport of drugs, diversifying into counterfeiting, extortion, kidnapping, armed robbery, prostitution and car dealerships. They’ve gone so far beyond bribery that people in Michoacan are paying mony to La Familia in lieu of taxes to the government. According to the recent Mexican federal police report on La Familia, there are 9,000 members of the La Familia “sect.”

The federales are now viewing La Familia as more of a guerrilla group than a straight-foward drug cartel. Unlike other cartels, La Familia goes beyond the production and distribution of marijuana, meth, cocaine and heroin and into the political realm. The report goes on to say that La Familia has “created  a cult-like mystique and developed pseudo-evangelical recruitment techniques that are unique in Mexico.” 

Federal intelligence officers in Mexico described La Familia leader, Nazario Gonzalez Moreno–El Mas Loco (The Crazy One)–as a “religious zealot” who totes around his self-published book of “aphorisms” based on the Bible and writings of US evangelical author and former Focus on The Family writer, John Eldredge. In the searches and arrests targeting La Familia across Michoacan, the one common denominator federal forces found, along with assault rifles, grenades and drugs, were copies of Eldredge’s Wild At Heart. (Salvaje de Corazon).

La Familia is strongly pro-family (and all that that implies) and requires its members to abstain from alcohol and drugs. There is an indoctrination program all La Familia recruits must go through that inculcates ” personal values, ethical and morlal principles consistent with the purposes of the organization.”  Last year La Familia brought in  two motivational speakers to lecture its members. The group is hierarchic and maintains a strict top-down emotional control of its members.

Think of Jim Jones’ People’s Temple, only with more money and firepower and you get the idea.

 La Familia presents serious implications for the July 5 state and elections and not just in Michoacan. The federal intelligence report warns that   La Familia “represents a serious risk to penetrate political, social and religious structures in Michoacán and increasingly in other states of the country as Guanajuato, Mexico and the State of Jalisco.”

More to follow from La Familia writings, messages and banderas.

Narcocorridos: Prime Time TV, plus… a Cartoon!

I share the view that AMC’s meth-framed series,  Breaking Bad is the most innovative, relevant, subversive, best directed, acted and filmed drama to hit  televison since the departure of  The Wire. If you haven’t seen it, I’m not taking the time to file a synopsis of the past two seasons–go here.

Last month Breaking Bad opened an episode with a music video featuring a narcocorrido specifically written for the show by Los Cuartes de Sinaloa that references one of the main characters, a strung-out dealer in Albuquerque who goes by the slyly apt street moniker–Heisenberg.

The title Negro y Azul refers to the blue-colored supermeth crafted by Breaking Bad’s protagonist,the beleagured Walter–a high school chemistry teacher heading for the grave via terminal cancer who decides to provide for his wife and cerebral palsy-stricken son by cooking high-quality crank and by default, a major norteno narco.

In an interview at the show’s blog, Los Cuates de Sinaloa’s Gabriel Berrelza explained the corridistas’ role: 

“We don’t encourage crime. There are a lot of corridos that have a message, warning the public about the harm that drugs can do. What we do is report the news. Drug traffickers are everywhere and we’re just giving people information about who’s on top, what they’re doing, the trouble they get into. It’s the nightly news set to music.”

It’s also sometimes a surreal goof.

Check this Ralph Bakshi-influenced cartoon set to  Jesus Palma’s “Corrido de Los Ovnis (UFOs)”  featuring a cerveza-soaked contrabandista, his pneumatically-breasted blonde moza and a pair of  little green space aliens who make a trip in their saucer to Sinaloa and go crazy for the coke.

Hilarity and  a new market ensue.

 To understand where all this is coming from, I emphatically recommend obtaining Elijah Wald’s 2001 Narcocorrido

Narcocorrido cover

An Old School roots music historian, Wald took off from Boston in the late 90s with his guitar strapped across his back and hitchiked his way across northern Meico– through Sinaloa, Michoacan, Culiacan, the Baja–interviewing the major bandas and corridistas along his hejira. It’s an outstanding piece of journalism.

Much has happened in the eight years since Wald’s book was published–especially since Calderon launched his military campaign. The narcoguerra wasn’t nearly as bloody and chaotic back then as it today.  But Wald’s book still holds up as the best English-language account of the music, the musicians and the culture that spawned them.  To learn more on the narcocorridos (and his other books) hit  his web site.

 

NarcoGuerra Times- Los Zetas Raise their Game

May hasn’t been festive for Mexican President Felipe Calderon. With a miserable economic forecast, a nationwide influenza outbreak and an increasingly abusive  military war on drug cartels, its been a bad month since he met with President Obama in Mexico City in April.

Despite weekly televised perp walks of captured cartel “kingpins” featuring pallets of confiscated cash, coke, weed and weapons–Los Zetas, the Special Forces of the narco trade, keeps bringing it.

On May 15 Los Zetas operators hit the prison in Zacatecas and, with the compliance of scores of prison guards, sprang 53 inmates–including seventeen midlevel Zetas. The smoothly executed operation was captured on surveillance cameras. I like this one from The Guardian because there’s no news reader twaddle to distract.

Note the orderly insertion by the black-clad Zeta team and the speed with which they moved the inmates down the corridors and out of the prison.

Imagine this happening at a prison in the United States.

You can’t–because the correction officers here are paid well enough. That’s not the case in Mexico–not for the prisons, not for the federal and state police, not for the army–not even for Calderon’s own cabinet.

The Zetas aren’t limiting their business to illegaladdictive substances like meth and coke–they also have oil for sale.

Last week the Mexican attorney general’s office–the Procuraduria General de la Republica–said that for the past two years Los Zetas was tapping some 80,000 gallons of diesel a week from Pemex lines in Veracruz and then selling the fuel to 70 distributors in central Mexico through a company called AutoExpress Especializados Teoloyucan (AETSA).

Interesting footnote to this:

After taking office in 2006, Calderon, an ardent privatizer in the Bush mold, had Pemex contract SY Coleman in Arlington, Virginia to provide security for the pipelines and fields in Veracruz. Since then the Zetas have been draining the lines with impunity. According to Pemex, illegal extraction of fuel tripled between 2006 and 2008, going from 136 incidents in 2006 to 396 three years later.

Coleman, a subsidiary of big dog defense contractor L3 Communications, was headed by Rumsfeld crony Jay Garner until he took a leave-of-absence in 2003 to run the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Aid in Iraq. The Texas-based tech provider L3 also happens to have the contract for the high-tech fence going up along the US/Mexican border.

Given L3’s track record with the pipelines in Veracruz–I don’t expect their super-surveillance barrier is causing the Zetas and other cartels to lose sleep.

[I am putting together a detailed page on Los Zetas, including their core training at Ft Bragg, Ft Benning and Ft Huachuca, their recruitment of the kaibiles, Guatemalan special forces, and their expansion south into Guatemala, Honduras, Costa Rica. This is drawn from work I've been doing over the past six months for an old friend at an intel/analysis shop in NYC. I hope to have some of it up later this week--]

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