Thursday, April 08, 2010

Spillover: Is a Texas prison gang responsibile for half the violence in Juarez?

Members of a Texas prison gang are working as contract killers and may be responsible for the murder of three Americans including an El Paso Sheriff's deputy, as well as half of the drug-related slayings in Juarez, the Washington Post reported over the weekend ("New adversaries in Mexican drug war: Contract killers for Mexican cartels," April 4):
A cross-border drug gang born in the prison cells of Texas has evolved into a sophisticated paramilitary killing machine that U.S. and Mexican officials suspect is responsible for thousands of assassinations here, including the recent ambush and slaying of three people linked to the U.S. consulate.

The heavily tattooed Barrio Azteca gang members have long operated across the border in El Paso, dealing drugs and stealing cars. But in Ciudad Juarez, the organization now specializes in contract killing for the Juarez drug cartel. According to U.S. law enforcement officers, it may have been involved in as many as half of the 2,660 killings in the city in the past year.

Officials on both sides of the border have watched as the Aztecas honed their ability to locate targets, stalk them and finally strike in brazen ambushes involving multiple chase cars, coded radio communications, coordinated blocking maneuvers and disciplined firepower by masked gunmen in body armor. Afterward, the assassins vanish, back to safe houses in the Juarez barrios or across the bridge to El Paso.

"Within their business of killing, they have surveillance people, intel people and shooters. They have a degree of specialization," said David Cuthbertson, special agent in charge of the FBI's El Paso division. "They work day in and day out, with a list of people to kill, and they get proficient at it."

The special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in El Paso, Joseph Arabit, said, "Our intelligence indicates that they kill frequently for a hundred dollars."
Allegedly a retaliatory contract hit that killed three Americans including an El Paso Sheriff's deputy was ordered from the El Paso County Jail, the Post reported:

This week, authorities announced that Mexican soldiers, using information from the FBI and other sources, had arrested Ricardo Valles de la Rosa, an Azteca sergeant, in Juarez.

Valles's confession was obtained at a military base where he was allegedly beaten, according to his attorney, a public defender. He has not been charged in the consulate killings, though he is charged with killing rival gang members, including members of an enterprise known as the Artistic Assassins, or "Double A's," who operate as contract killers for the Sinaloa cartel. Sinaloa is vying for control of billion dollar drug-trafficking routes through the Juarez-El Paso corridor.

In his statements, Valles said he was told through a chain of letters and phone calls from Barrio Azteca leaders in the El Paso county jail and their associates that gang leaders wanted Redelfs, the El Paso sheriff's deputy, killed because of his treatment of Azteca members in jail and his alleged threats against them.

Valles said he tracked down Redelfs at the children's party and then handed off the hit to others. He said the killing of the factory supervisor was a mistake because he was driving a white SUV similar to Redelfs's.

El Paso County Sheriff Richard Wiles said in a statement that Valles was a career criminal and denied that Redelfs had mistreated inmates. Wiles stressed that the motives remain unknown.

There's much to say about this: Too much for a single blog post. If it's really true that gangbangers from the United States are responsible for half the killing going on in Juarez, maybe it's Mexico that should be pushing to build a wall! Unfortunately, the border economy is too intertwined for that to be a real solution. At a minimum, though, maybe TDCJ's gang unit should share its lists with Mexico's immigration authorities and enhance parole supervision for gang members in border regions.

It's become popular lately for politicians to speak of a possible "spillover" of violence from Mexico to the United States, so it's remarkable and disorienting to discover so much of the "spillover" is really in the other direction.

Relatedly, here's an excellent breakdown from Scott Stewart at Stratfor of the current who's who among the drug cartels and their shifting alliances over the last several years. In particular, he suggests the slaying of Americans may be an intentional provocation to draw us into the conflict and counter the Mexican government's alleged favoritism of a rival cartel:

the Gulf and Sinaloa cartels have joined forces with La Familia Michoacana (LFM) to form a new super cartel called the New Federation and are now allies in the struggle against Los Zetas and the BLO, which have teamed up with the Juarez cartel to fight against the New Federation. One constant in the violence of the past decade has been the aggressiveness of the Sinaloa cartel as it has sought to take territory from other cartels and organizations.

In the midst of the current cartel landscape, which has radically shifted over the past year, it is difficult for any type of balance to be found. There are also very few levers with which the Calderon government can apply pressure to help force the shifting pieces into alignment. In the near term, perhaps the only hope for striking a balance and reducing the violence is that the New Federation is strong enough to kill off organizations like Los Zetas, the BLO and the Juarez cartel and assert calm through sheer force. However, while the massed forces of the New Federation initially made some significant headway against Los Zetas, the former special operations personnel appear to have rallied, and Los Zetas’ tactical skills and arms make them unlikely to be defeated easily.

There have been many rumors that the New Federation, in its fight against Los Zetas, was being helped by the Mexican government. (Some of those rumors have come from the New Federation itself.) During the New Federation’s offensive against Los Zetas, federation enforcers have been seen driving around Reynosa and Nuevo Laredo in vehicles openly marked with signs indicating they belonged to the New Federation. While far from conclusive proof of government assistance, the well-marked vehicles certainly do seem to support the cartel’s assertion that, at the very least, the government did not want to interfere with the federation’s operation to destroy Los Zetas.

When pieced together with other observations gathered during the cartel wars, this also suggests that the Sinaloa cartel may have consistently benefited from the government’s actions. These actions would include taking out the BLO leadership after the Beltran Leyva brothers turned against Sinaloa and the government’s success against La Linea and Los Aztecas in Juarez. There are also occasional contraindications, such as the recent large-scale attacks against military bases in the northeast that appear to have been conducted by the New Federation.

Despite these contraindications, the cartels fighting the New Federation believe the government favors the group, and there have long been rumors that Calderon was somehow tied to El Chapo. The Juarez cartel may have recently taken some desperate steps to counter what it perceives to be a dire threat of government and New Federation cooperation. A local Juarez newspaper, El Diario, recently published an article discussing a Los Aztecas member who had been detained and interrogated by the Mexican military and federal police in connection with the murders of three U.S. Consulate employees in Juarez in March. During the interrogation, according to El Diario, the Los Aztecas member divulged that a decision was made by leaders in the Barrio Azteca gang and Juarez cartel to engage U.S. citizens in the Juarez area in an effort to force the U.S. government to intervene in Mexico and therefore act as a “neutral referee,” thereby helping to counter the Mexican government’s favoritism toward the New Federation.

Was the attack on Americans really bait to draw the United States more deeply into Mexico's cartel wars? It's possible. Sometimes it seems like cartel leaders are playing a complicated six-way chess game, while governments on both sides of the river are still playing checkers.


Anonymous said...

The feds should take immediate action to kill as many of these gangs memebers as they can.

CharityLee said...

No, the feds should take immediate action and legalize marijuana and decriminalize small amount of all other drugs. Nothing to fight over if it's legal and the government will reap huge amounts of money it so desperately needs.

A lot of these gang members are American citizens. Are you advocating the feds just go out and start assassinating its own citizens because they have committed a criminal act? Throw out our entire judicial system? Scary scary.

Anonymous said...

Posted by CharityLee......Are you advocating the feds just go out and start assassinating its own citizens because they have committed a criminal act? Throw out our entire judicial system? Scary scary.

Funny you mention that. That's what President Obama just ordered. From yestereday's Dallas Morning News...........
White House authorizes killing of radical cleric tied to Fort Hood suspect

Regarding spillover violence......

I hope the recent murder of Arizona rancher Robert Krentz finally opens the eyes of the powers that be in Washington. Both political parties have allowed this to go on far too long.

It's ironic that our Texas governor Perry has been calling on the Obama administration for weeks for deployment of the National Guard to curb border spillover violence and now John McCain, who has been flip flopping on the immigration problem, is now calling on the Obama adminsitration for help on the Arizona border as a result of the murder of Mr. Krantz.

Comments by the President 03/12/2009 a year ago.

“We’re going to examine whether, and if, National Guard deployments would make sense and in what circumstances they would make sense as part of this overall review of our border situation,” Obama told reporters yesterday, according to media reports. The White House confirmed his comments, made during a media roundtable session.

“I haven’t drawn any conclusions yet,” Obama said. “I don’t have a particular tipping point in mind.”

While emphasizing that he does not want to “militarize” the border, Obama called it “unacceptable if you’ve got drug gangs crossing our borders and killing our citizens.”

"I think if one U.S. citizen is killed because of foreign nationals who are engaging in violent crime, that's enough of a concern to do something about it," he said.

Ok, Mr. President, it just happened. We are waiting!

Anonymous said...

Prison gang members should be released.

Anonymous said...

Prison gang members should be killed! If they care so less of America...they should be killed. The country is more important than criminals/druggies/mexican idiots/and general users. Step up...kill a user/ anyone who undermines the USA.

Anonymous said...

I did not agree with the Nazi, however, when gangs are so terrible, the state should with all its resourses, insure that all gang members involved in this type conduct are iniliated. Their families that allow this should also be killed. America is more important than these thugs.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

What good exactly would the National Guard do to help the problem of AMERICANS committing mass murder in Mexico?

As for killing the drug runners, they can't even find the bigwigs to arrest them, much less shoot them. Good luck in your fantasy world.

Anonymous said...

Did you have a bad night, need glasses or what? I have no illusions about the NG being used as you say "to help the problem of AMERICANS committing mass murder in Mexico?" I don't even advocate that.

I do have hopes and am like one of many of the Arizona and Texas ranchers who need help on our side and the NG can fit that bill.

Been waiting for help for a long time on our side too!

Anonymous said...

Perhaps you have me confused with 11:39am. BTW, why are you opposed to helping Texas and Arizona border ranchers? Should the ranchers fend for themselves? What protection, if any, should the government afford border ranchers? None? Law enforcement? (Not enough to go around) Or yes, the National Guard?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

7:12, maybe you're the one who needs glasses because you clearly didn't read the post you're commenting on.

As for: "why are you opposed to helping Texas and Arizona border ranchers?"

I'm not. However, you'd have to show me how what you suggest would be "helping." Texas deployed it's National Guard on the border for a time and all the immigration complainers kept complaining while the drug wars escalated with violence. Some Guardsmen were corrupt and participated in smuggling. That strategy failed and there's no evidence replicating it in Arizona would be "helping" anyone. It's just a waste of money on politicized grandstanding. National Guardsmen can't secure the border checkpoints; it's just a non-solution searching for a problem.

Unknown said...


In case you haven't come across it this morning, the Houston Chronicle posted this story:

PirateFriedman said...

Want to reduce immigration?

First work to get rid of the public school system and government health care programs. In fact, eliminate all programs for the poor.

These attract illegal immigrants, because even if they aren't elligible, their children will become citizens and they will be elligible.

We've got to have some perspective. Before we spend a mess of money on guards and border enforcement, let's try to stop wasting money on programs the encourage them to come here in the first place.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Pirate, they mostly come for JOBS, not the welfare state. By your logic, the best way to reduce immigration is to eliminate those, too! And guess what? It works! Illegal immigration plummeted when the economy went to hell.

Slashing benefits to citizens today to harm the future children of non-citizens amounts to cutting off your nose to spite your face. It makes sense only when viewed through through a bizarre, narrow, and particularly angry lens.

PirateFriedman said...

"Slashing benefits to citizens today to harm the future children of non-citizens amounts to cutting off your nose to spite your face. It makes sense only when viewed through through a bizarre, narrow, and particularly angry lens."

No anger Grits. I'm a believer in capitalism. Our current system gives us a high standard of living because part of the economy is still free. We could be much more if we would eliminate the programs that hold us back.

Some of the conservatives in our state don't like immigration, I'm merely counseling them on ways to reduce immigration without spending money.

Anonymous said...

Posted by Pirate.....These attract illegal immigrants, because even if they aren't elligible, their children will become citizens and they will be elligible.

Illegal alien children are allowed to attend public schools because of the "equal protection clause" of the 14th amendement, you know Plyler v. Doe, or least said the SCOTUS. It does not matter that they are here illegally.

According to Justice Brennan,The “constitutional right” of illegal aliens to public schooling at Americans’ expense is one of the many “implied rights.”

Plyler was a class action suit brought on behalf of Mexican illegal aliens against the State of Texas, the Texas Education Agency and various Texas school districts. In its finding, the Supreme Court struck down a Texas statute withholding from local school districts any state funds for the education of children who were not legally admitted into the United States.

And so it will be to with and see.

Unknown said...

Is there any indication that some of the assassination contract and money might be outsourced to other ethnic gangs, including Anglos, and even corrupt prison guards, etc...?

CharityLee said...

"Funny you mention that. That's what President Obama just ordered. From yestereday's Dallas Morning News...........
White House authorizes killing of radical cleric tied to Fort Hood suspect." 8:07pm

I read that after I posted up here and I can tell you I think what the Feds just did is WRONG. If someone is an American citizen, the first course of action should always be capture then trial. Otherwise, we are no better than the USSR was. The Feds have not even asked for the assassination of Bin Laden.

The number of people on Grits who think the solution to every problem is killing people, locking them up forever, and treating them as scum are no better than the people who are committing these crimes themselves. You are all thugs-you just think you are right because you are on the side of the law...well, your morality should be dictated by your conscious, not the current criminal code, especially when the current criminal code has shown to be so ineffective at crime prevention.

Considering there are over a thousand (give or take) offenses in TX that can land you a felony charge and thousands more that will get you a misdemeanor it is probably safe to say many of you have walked around violating laws you did not even know existed. Better hope you don't get caught by someone as hardass and head headed as many of you seem to be.

The killing of another human being should be avoided at all costs. It is not our place to take what we can not give. For the Feds to allow the assassination an American citizen, without a trial, justs opens the gate on a slippery slope.

There are a group of people who will do drugs no matter what. Legalizing them is not going to create a generation or class of drug user that did not exist before. Prison populations would shrink, drug treatment programs would get more funding, and cops would have more time to catch people who are killing because the enjoy it, not because they are trying to make a fast buck or make a name for themselves in some gang.

The way to raise a human being's estimation of themselves and put a stop to some of this violence is to treat them like a human being, not a piece of trash and not as some stupid piece of flesh. If you want a bad guy so start acting like a good guy, treat him like one. And before anyone starts yelling at me, I am not advocating we give all criminals a hug and set them on their way. We can treat them decently while we have them though and maybe, just maybe, when they get out of prison, as most do, they will have a little more faith in the fact they are a good person capable of good things.

Anonymous said...

proof enough of this colusion between calderon and el chapo is the fact that many people surrounding his presidency have been openly talking about making a truce with the sinaloa cartel in order to "allow" them to run mexico-these last two weeks prior to the release of the "story" on the associated press that the sinaloa cartel had "won" the war in juarez-many were advocating the pact with sinaloa-coincidence i dont think so!! at least the people of juarez and el paso don't think so.