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Better Dead Than Said?

30 November 2012

I know Malcolm Beith, who wrote an unauthorized biography of Chapo Guzmán (unlikely El Señor would be giving authorization)  thought I was out in left field when I’d suggest that perhaps it wasn’t by accident that the Sinaloans generally fared better in the “drug war” than the other so-called cartels for a reason.  And was considered by others to be hopelessly naïve — or overly legalistic — in questioning whether the general tendency of high ranking gangsters to not live long enough to appear in a court of law might not be purely incidental.

Most foreign observers, thought I was either out in left field, or simply playing devil’s advocate, for observing … as I did over the last few years… that Mr. Guzmán’s operatives were less likely to end up being attacked by government agencies than his rivals, and that it is not an uncommon belief in Mexico that the Calderón Administration had an understanding of some kind with the various narcotics distribution organizations.

Anabel Hernández (Los senores del narco), who also wrote something of a biography of the Sinaloan … um… entrepreneur… certainly has believed the rumors of government collusion with the narcos — by both the Mexican and U.S. governments.  But, that would muddy the already murky picture that both governments wanted to present of the quagmire they created in pursuing the “drug war”.  While not exactly from the most reliable of sources, Vincente Zambada Niebla, dubbed the “Yuppie Drug Lord” (for the simple reason he was wearing fashionable running clothes he’d been arrested in when he was perp-walked for the media), who was extradited to the United States, claimed he

… was working with the Drug Enforcement Administration, and that in exchange for intel on rival cartels, the U.S. government turned a blind eye as “tons of illicit drugs continued to be smuggled into Chicago and other parts of the United States.


Vicente Zambada-Niebla caught the attention of the Latin American press corps last March when he entered a plea of not guilty by reason of a pre-existing immunity agreement with the DEA. The two-pronged defense argued immunity and “public authority,” a specific kind of immunity that claims he acted under the auspices of the U.S. government. Zambada-Niebla asserts that U.S. law enforcement gave him carte blanche to coordinate the cartel’s smuggling operations into Chicago and throughout the U.S. and permitted the remittance of billions of dollars in cash back to Mexico. He further alleges that the U.S. was complicit in arming the Sinaloa cartel with semiautomatic weapons, which it used to wage war on its foes.

Indeed, the circumstances of Zambada-Niebla’s arrest raised eyebrows in Mexico. A mere five hours prior to the raid on his safe house, Zambada-Niebla had met with two special agents from the DEA in an upscale Mexico City hotel located across the street from the U.S. Embassy, according to court documents filed last year by both the prosecution and the defense. Zambada-Niebla attended the DEA meeting with Humberto Loya-Castro, a lawyer and adviser to the Sinaloa cartel. The defense argues that Loya-Castro had agreed to serve as an intermediary in the DEA’s communications with the cartel.

Now comes a second gangster, from a rival group, the U.S. born Edgar Valdez Villarreal a.k.a “La Barbie” with claims of Mexican government involvement.

[Valdez] was arrested in 2010 by Mexican authorities due to his criminal activity with drug cartels in Mexico, and today through a letter that he sent to “Grupo Reforma”, he made a public complaint against Mexican authorities and a group of individuals including President Felipe Calderon, where he claims of certain deals that they made with some criminals.

Valdez in his letter highlights the following: “I want to state first that I did not welcome the witness protection program, and in the same manner deny the accusations and statements that my captors have made regarding the way I was arrested, and that the truth of the matter is this: my arrest was the result of political persecution by the Felipe Calderon Hinojosa, who initiated a harassment campaign against me because I refused to be part of an agreement that Mr. Calderon Hinojosa desired with all organized crime groups, for which he personally arranged several meetings with these criminal groups.

Soon after, meetings were carried out through General Mario Arturo Acosta Chaparro, who met on the orders of the President and Juan Camilo Mouriño, along with two of the leaders of the “Familia Michoacana.” Then the General met with Heriberto Lazcano and Miguel Angel Trevino “Z-40” in Matamoros. Later, Acosta Chaparro and Mouriño met with Arturo Beltran Leyva, “El Barbas”, and also met with ‘El Chapo’ Guzman leader of the Sinaloa cartel.”


Valdez added that Genaro Garcia Luna, who is the head of the Ministry of Public Security, had received money from him and other drug traffickers.

For those with short memories, Genaro García Luna has never explained how, on a general’s salary, he acquired the lavish house he calls home.

General Mario Arturo Acosta Chaparro — who was responsible for over 150 “disappearances” during the so-called “dirty war” of the 1970s and later incarcerated on suspicion of ties to the Juarez Cartel, was gunned down in Mexico City last April.

Juan Camillo Moureño was killed in a plane crash along with Mexico’s chief prosecutor for narcotics crimes, José Luis Santiago Vasconcelos in November 2008.

The head of La Familia Michoacana, Nazario Meron Gonzáles, was killed by Federal Police in December 2010, and very few of its leaders are alive today.

Heriberto Lazcano, supposed founder of the Zetas, was killed by the Marines in October of this year.

Arturo Beltran Leyva, who was formerly allied with Chapo Guzmán, but had become a rival,  was killed by Marines in December 2009.

Dead men tell no tales.  The Zetas, under the surviving Miguel Angel Trevino have been said to work out a truce or at least an trade agreement with Chapo’s organization… so you tell me whether or not the rumors have legs.  Treviño, Guzmán and Felipe Calderón are still alive.

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