Saturday, November 10, 2007

Teen hitmen do cartel dirty work on US side of border

Those who consider violence by drug cartels a Mexican problem will want to read this Dallas News story ("American youths doing drug cartels dirty work," Nov. 10) describing how Los Zetas - a group of former US-trained Mexican military commandos who defected to join the Gulf Cartel as enforcers - hire and train youth as young as 13 to commit murders and perform cartel business on the Texas side of the border. Much of the public information about this shadowy network comes from the prosecution of Rosalio Reta, one of the teenage "Zetillas" prosecuted this summer for murders in Laredo on the US side. Reports the News:

By July 28, 2006 – one day after his 17th birthday – when Laredo police charged him with the contract killing of Noe Flores in Laredo, Mr. Reta had been involved with 30 murders, Mexican and Texas investigators believed. All were on behalf of the Zetas, the ruthless enforcement arm of Mexico's Gulf Cartel drug smuggling operation.

His trial last summer for the Flores killing offered tantalizing glimpses into the shadowy workings of the Zetas and the inroads of cartel violence into this border city.

Court records revealed a portrait of a group of young American killers who were well-paid to do one thing: kill people the Zeta leadership in Nuevo Laredo wanted dead. And they highlighted a group of young killers who followed orders from Mexican drug lords with ruthless efficiency while often behaving like teens with poor impulse control. ...

Laredo police had already identified Mr. Reta as one of three people responsible for the Flores killing. Their investigation had linked him to one of three three-member scicarias, or hit man cells, the Zetas had set up in Laredo.

They believed Mr. Reta was responsible for at least five killings in the city – either as a shooter or organizer.

This kid was taught the assassin's trade by a group led by commandos trained by US Special Forces at Fort Benning, Georgia. I bet, though, their US trainers didn't anticipate the anti-drug enforcers would flip sides become cartel enforcers instead, much less pass on their murderous skill set to punk teenage delinquents. So when we hear Reta may be responsible for 30 murders between his 13th and 17th birthdays, keep in mind it was American military personnel who trained his trainers. (Makes you wonder whether further "training" for Mexican police and military is a good idea without reducing police corruption, doesn't it?). Also keep in mind that Reta is an American citizen, putting the lie to claims that a "wall" or other border enforcement will prevent further violence:

For too long, people refused to admit that the drug-fueled violence that erupted for several years across the Rio Grande in Nuevo Laredo couldn't happen on the U.S. side, he said.

"That violence did slip across the border, and we have to understand, these weren't murders being committed by illegal immigrants," Mr. Guillen said. "These were executions, committed by American kids. They speak English, they play video games and they look just like any kid you'll see in the mall. They just chose to get into the life the cartel offered of money and drugs and violence.

Finally, the News offered several other vivid example of Gulf Cartel inroads into the United States, beyond Laredo up I-35 in the DFW area:

Below is a look at some cases in the Dallas area that were linked by police to the cartel or to the Zetas:

•In August, federal drug agents swept through Dallas and three other Texas cities, arresting more than 30 people believed to be affiliated with the narcotics distribution network of the Gulf Cartel, one of Mexico's most powerful drug smuggling organizations. Among 20 people arrested from the Dallas area was Sergio Maldonado, 33, of McKinney, believed to be the cartel's "cell leader" for North Texas. Mr. Maldonado was arrested without incident in Laredo and indicted on multiple counts of conspiracy, drug trafficking and money laundering.

Wesley Lynn Ruiz, 27, was arrested in March after shooting and killing Senior Cpl. Mark Nix following a short chase and a gunbattle. Mr. Ruiz, who faces charges of capital murder, aggravated assault and possession of methamphetamine, had been seen nine days earlier leaving the home of Maximo Garcia Carrillo, who is believed to be one of Dallas' leading drug traffickers and an associate of the Mexican drug enforcers known as the Zetas. Mr. Ruiz is awaiting trial.

Maximo Garcia Carrillo, 34, a fugitive whose last known address was a fortresslike home in north Oak Cliff, is wanted on a sealed indictment involving drug charges out of Laredo.

•A Lancaster man, Erasmo Arciba, was sentenced in March to three years and 10 months after pleading guilty to being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm. He was arrested by members of a U.S. Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives task force in September 2006 as part of an ongoing investigation into weapons sales to the Zetas, a group of mercenaries employed by Mexico's Gulf Cartel. His court-appointed attorney Carlton McLarty has previously said his client denies direct ties to the Zetas. Authorities believe Mr. Arciba used 21-year-old Angilita Ortiz of Grand Prairie and other "straw purchasers" to buy handguns and assault rifles in the Dallas area. She pleaded guilty to buying a firearm for Mr. Arciba.

Nicolas Monarrez, 30, is a fugitive believed to have abducted and killed a Dallas couple whose bodies were found under a bridge in southeast Dallas County in January. Police believe that the couple – Luis Campos and his pregnant girlfriend, Linoshka Torres – may have been set up as scapegoats after at least $40,000 in drugs and cash was stolen from the home of a man who could have ties to the Gulf Cartel, the notorious Mexican drug operation that has been increasingly active in North Texas in recent years.

Gilberto Lugo, thought to be the North Texas leader of a powerful Mexican drug cartel, pleaded guilty to federal drug charges in September 2005, ending a two-year investigation that chronicled the flow of cocaine from the violence-torn U.S.-Mexico border to the Dallas area. He was arrested about four months after a high-profile shooting at his home on Mimi Court in Oak Cliff in which a gunman walked up and began firing, killing one and injuring three others, including Mr. Lugo. Authorities seized 46 kilos of cocaine, semiautomatic weapons and more than $300,000 in cash from Mr. Lugo's two homes on Mimi Court. The shooting remains unsolved, but it is thought to be the work of the Zetas.

Such news reports of Mexican cartels establishing significant US-side infrastructure lead me to think recent (perennial?) claims of drug war success are overblown, mistaking tactical successes for strategic ones. There's always another hopeless teenager willing to take Mr. Reta's place, and since drugs come from a regenerative resource (plants), there's always more dope coming whenever large seizures are made. Does anybody think current strategies are really reducing the supply (or more importantly, the demand) for drugs?

4 comments:

Rusty White said...

Scott,

Many of your friends might enjoy the follow programs. We had the oppurtunity to openly discuss this failed drug war. The ex-head of the DEA for Texas and special agent in charge in Dallas, Phil Jordan is on the stage with me. His brother was murdered in El Paso to send him a message.
********************
Greetings just wanted to alert you that the McCuistion programs you joined us for : # 1625 The So- Called War on Drugs and Who Is Winning # 1626: Should Illegal Drugs Be Legal? air locally this Sunday, November 11th,( 1625) and next Sunday, November 18th,(1626) on KERA, Channel 13- Dallas Nationally, they will air on several PBS stations this month as well, and individuals need to check with their local stations for that information. If someone misses the programs they will be available at www.frtv.org starting 11- 12... Thought you might want to get notification to your groups. Thank you once again for your involvement. We very much appreciate it. Niki Nicastro McCuistion E.P./ Producer

Anonymous said...

As an employee of TYC I have been wondering when twelve to thirteen year-old Zetillas (aka Zetitas) would be adjuticated into the system.

Considering Spec Ops training often involves Survival Evasion Resitance Escape (SERE) instruction as well as how to kill people with weapons of opportunity, what would this mean to the TYC system and employees if this type of instuction is being passed to youth who may be taken-in to the system?

Just a thought and a question.

Anonymous said...

Rosalio Reta doesn't sound like Johnny Smith to me. Obviously, the only way to defeat drug cartels is for Americans to stop using drugs. However, a wall, more severe punishment for drug sellers/trafficers, helping the economic position of individuals likely to be lured by this lifestyle are real solutions. And while it may seem unjust or racist a smart country would be aware that huge amounts of drugs are brought into the country by way of Mexicans and plan accordingly. If Mexicans don't like the steriotype then they need to make it untrue.

Eula @ Turning Winds said...

If this is true, I'm worried that innocent teens often get involved in criminal acts because of the influence these adult law breakers. What would become of the world if criminals nowadays get younger and younger by the day.