The following is a guest post by Rob Cea. In a conversation we had, he told me has a passion for the people of Mexico. People are dying there – being slaughtered – beheaded, shot, burned, de-limbed and often dropped into mass graves. As a former New York City narcotics detective who has spent considerable time in Mexico’s Chihuahua area, Mr. Cea is uniquely qualified to offer insight into today’s deadly environment there. The story of Marisol Valles, the young police chief of Praxedis, drew Rob to this story. She and her baby son fled to the U.S. a few days ago and now are seeking asylum here. Marisol is one of the “She-roes” Cea discovered in his investigation. If you think you know of the extent of the horrors south of our border, you probably do not. I did not. Just a short drive over our border and hideous things are happening to the everyday people in small towns. I hope you will read Cea’s work and understand what is undoubtedly readying to explode into the U.S. See Rob Cea’s bio below.
Not since the Mexican Revolution of 1910, has so many of its countrymen been so senselessly slaughtered, unbelievable, but true.
by Rob Cea
Recently I sold a television documentary to the cable network – Discovery ID – regarding Mexico’s drug war and its slow, deadly tide of greed, terror and evil, ebbing its way into the United States, specifically our border towns. I became interested in this – perfunctory war – after reading an article about, Marisol Valles Garcia, the pretty 20-year-old college student who had taken over as Police Chief in her own, drug ravaged, smallish (2.1 kilometers) – lawless town – Praxedis, G. Guerrero, which is tucked into the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua, bordering Texas to its north and east.
It seemed like an amazing story to me, Shakespearean almost. A 20-year old – barely young adult – takes over as a top-cop in a town in which its last Police Chief was kidnapped, tortured and killed. Interesting story, his brazen killers, after days of torture, beheaded the Chief, then for supreme effect, placed it on the doorstep of the precinct. Its protracted message resonated throughout the community, throughout the country – point well taken – there were no offers, by any man, to take over as Police Chief in Praxedis, that is until this courageous ray of sunshine stepped up, in a big way. The Spanish newspaper El Pais has adorned her with the title: “The Bravest Woman in Mexico”. The world, and this humble ex-cop/writer, applauds her courageousness, intelligence and her philosophy.
I, being a retired New York City narcotics detective, became uber curious as to whom this ballsy ‘super cop’ was. After all, I’d worked in the area of Chihuahua during the early 1990’s while assigned to an NYPD/DEA joint task force, we were tasked with trying to decipher the cagey Mexican’s circuitous smuggling routes which – at the time – were used to transport Colombia’s most profitable export, nope, not emeralds nor coffee beans – cociana, perrico, toot, blow, Medellin marching powder – COCAINE.
Yes, I knew the geography, it’s dusty flora, the towns low, cinderblock bungalows; the dark, smoky ‘nighttime cantina’s’, strung and lit with red jalapeño lights twinkling through a low hanging gray haze of Newport’s, decent cigars, and Marijuana smoke; the cantina not only sold excellent tequila, but it also sold primo – nearly pure – grams and 8-balls of blow, right over the counter, so cooled out and chill about it, it was as if the bartenders were handing out bowls of beer nuts and pretzels; oh yes, I knew Praxedis’ ever transient and deadly inhabitants, and I especially knew all about its highly prized and sought after location and its main thoroughfare – the cracked two-lane ribbon of asphalt running right through the middle of it – Federal Highway 2 – that one, I knew… very well. Federal Highway 2 runs parallel to the very porous US border, particularly, US Interstate 10, which runs east to west and is the main artery, once on it, gets you anywhere in the United States you want to go – smuggler’s paradise.
Praxedis, was never a warm and fuzzy place to find yourself living in, let alone working in, especially in any type of law enforcement capacity, so I got jazzed about this, certainly – ‘too-young-to-drink’ – top-cop, (I do believe the legal age for drinking in Mexico is 21) and I was all about meeting her, and telling her fascinating story to the entire world through the power of television. So I started to do the normal pre-production work that we do on any of our television shows, documentaries, even the books I’ve written. I scoured through every piece of information I could find, and the story just kept getting better, squeezing tighter around my heart, more so than I had ever anticipated, and not in a creepy gratuitous way, no, it happened behind the knowledge I’d gained that there were more Marisol’s, all taking on these cowardly, though extremely vicious, drug gangs and clans, commissioned by even more cowardly drug cartel personnel. If Marisol’s courage grabbed my heart, the rest of these women, these female heroes – SHEroes – now owned my soul.
What I’d began to learn, through my course of investigating this story, started to eat away at my very fabric, first as an ex-law enforcement official, then as a citizen of – not only the United States – but of the world, then as a father – and lastly – a man. I started to make inroads with some American journalists down there who started me off by giving me a crash course on the cartels, their members and associates, and what exactly their auspices were.
These clan members are evil, evil men, without any regard for human life; slaughtering whole towns, first by killing off every ‘lawful’ cop that won’t cooperate with them, in other words, a cop they can’t corrupt, then, once they own the police departments, they own everything.
At night, I began to understand, which, by the way, is the worst time to find yourself wandering in a small town, or for that matter, large city in Mexico, these roving bands of drug gangs simply roll into ‘their’ towns in stolen SUV’s, some with 40 caliber machine gun turrets assembled to the backs of the cabs (does Taliban ring a bell), they get high, and for goofs and giggles, they, with blinding terror, speed and extremely armed to the teeth – AK47’s, RPG’s, hand grenades, and many other types of assault weapons, go door to door, kicking them in and subsequently beat, rob, murder, and rape anyone in their path, whole towns have been decimated.
Now if that doesn’t get your blood boiling as a citizen, how can it not as a simple law abiding man or woman? Just the thought of knowing that these roving bands of killers exist should – you would think – elicit even the meekest of man or woman to, at the very least, speak out, ask for help, or, band together to fight back.
Then I received cursory stats of the murders behind this ‘drug war’, and I emphasize the words – drug war – because the further I dug the more I learned of the complicity to which – government officials, federal police, local municipal cops – and sadly – many of the Mexican citizens (the real victims) – all play a part in this alleged war on drugs.
Corruption runs at both, the highest and lowest levels, and I suddenly realized, this is a war that will never be won. Why? The stats of those, minimal perps arrested, and intelligence gathered by the federal police, say that 90% of these roving gangs are young adults – barely over the age of 18 – my journalist friends tell me the average age of these shooters, kidnappers, killers and extortionists, are of an average age between 15 and 16-years-old. This game of kill and take is all they know. And, it’s real quick money, plus the ancillary crime that goes along with their day-to-day gigs with these cartels is a bonus of being well-armed when perpetrating crime against terrified citizens.
And why shouldn’t these citizens be terrified? The impotent, half-a-man, Mayor of Praxedis, Jose Luis Guerrero, asserted, “We accept our weakness. We can’t combat the Narcos”. What does that tell, first, the law-abiding citizens of Mexico, and second, what’s the message to these marauding bands of heavily strapped thugs with nothing on their mind except getting high, making money and creating anarchy?
Now there’s more to this, these kids just didn’t wake up one day and decide, this is a good career choice – Mexico’s lack of academic opportunity for its very young generation, coupled with the other 50 million Mexicans living in poverty, and of course without any real sports structures and policies in place to help guide these kids – what choices are available to them, who’s going to benefit from that, the cartel infrastructure and their recruiters. I learned that anyone with a ten dollar bill in their pocket can grab up one of these kids, off any street corner, and have him – or her – assassinate any man, woman, child, clergy, activist, journalist, cop, soldier or mayor; the meaning of life has been distilled down to a small amount of pesos – this generation of young adults – is gone, long gone.
Here’s some starling numbers to back this up, and to place it in perspective. The governments official numbers of those murdered, attributed to this massive drug sweep, enacted by Felipe Calderon’s administration since taking office in 2006, are approximately 32,000. What isn’t taken into account with these numbers are the tens-of-thousands that are missing – presumed dead – buried in mass graves all over the interior of Mexico.
But, there’s worse, I learned of a gruesome ancillary Narco – side-business – where ‘soup kitchens’ are set up, in far off mountainous locations and not so far off locales, all over Mexico; their responsibility, to completely eradicate any trace of a once human organism. These soup kitchens, as my sources tell me, are everywhere. They might appear to be little storage shacks on someone’s backyard property inside a quaint little town, or they might appear to be a hunters lean-to, used for shelter and warmth, but they’re far from storage shacks or lean-to’s; they’re set up as macabre little labs, replete with cast iron tubs, rubber gloves and aprons, gas masks, iron rakes, hoes, shovels, and of course, 45 gallon drums filled with Hydrochloric and Sulfuric acids, specifically the kinds of chemicals that will eviscerate the human body in less than two days. After the remains, which appear to be nothing more than a muddy black sludge, dries, it is then carted off in burlap and mesh sacks and sold off as a type of farming mulch – everyone on the side of the cartels, benefits, and gets paid. So the 32,000 confirmed dead, rings truer to the tune of over 150,000 and some say nearer to 200,000 dead.
The biggest question I have, and it resonates daily as I have become obsessed with informing the world of this story, is where have all the men gone in Mexico. The hard working, decent, God fearing family men; the proud Mexicans whose rich history of struggle and self correction, where are they in the fight to save their country, their economy, their country’s view to the rest of the world, but most important – their own children? I’ve spoken to some of these men, very few, because they’re afraid to talk and afraid to admit the truth – they’ve given in – but there are hundreds of women, regardless of consequence, that have stepped up, women willing to die to have their voices heard, not unlike, Marisol Valles Garcia. These women seem to be the backbone of an uphill and bloody struggle to elicit their impotent government to fight back, with and by any means possible, to break the back of these cartels, all in an effort to take their country back.
Here are but just a few of these SHEroes.
· Judith Galaraza, she’s an antiviolence activist with a huge target on her back as it’s her life’s work to demonstrate and hold vigils for the thousands and thousands of slain all over Mexico. She holds demonstrations all over all over the country; in front of State Capitals, municipalities, city halls, and town squares. Her hundreds of female contingency consist of victimized mothers and wives whose husbands and children have fallen victim to the cartels.
· Maricela Escopedo, became an activist, after her beautiful, full of life, 20-year-old daughter, Ruby, was targeted – falsely – by an obsessed cartel member for being a snitch. Ruby was beaten, mutilated, doused with gasoline, set ablaze and dumped in a trash bin. Her killer was caught and subsequently confessed, but within months – surely behind a corrupt prosecutor, and judge – was let free. Maricela, obviously beyond consolation, stepped up her efforts to bring justice for her daughter. While standing vigil in front of the Governor’s Mansion, a man, in full view of state police officers, closed circuit security cameras, and dozens of bystanders and supporters, calmly walked up to Mrs. Escopedo, she, after realizing he was not there to praise her, ran towards the police, after a short chase, again in full view of cops, was shot by this assailant point blank in the head, killing her instantly. He calmly walked away, no police gave chase, and regardless of the multitude of cameras that filmed this coldblooded murder, he was never caught.
· Isabel Miranda de Wallace, born in 1951, schoolteacher by profession, became an activist after her son was kidnapped July 11, 2005. She’s the brave founder of Alto al Sequestro: Stop the Kidnappings’, and winner of the 2010 National human rights award (given by President Calderon). It is said Edgar Valdes “”El Barbie”” sent hit-men from Durango to kill Mrs. de Wallace in Aug 2008. Due to her security detail, the hit men were unable to execute their contract. These teens went back to Durango where they were beaten unmercifully for failing to hit their target and were eventually executed on Nov 9, 2008. Their execution wasn’t as simple as a bullet to the back of the head – a message had to be sent to the rest of the street soldiers – while being filmed (I saw the gruesome tape) their arms were cut off, and while still alive, watched as two lions were fed their limbs, then they were thrown into the cage, and were eaten alive.
· Maria Santos Gorrostieta, mayor of the town, Tiquicheo, and a mother-of-three, was first attacked on October 15, 2009 as she drove through the town of El Limone with her husband, Jose Sanchez Chavez. A group of heavily armed professional killers ambushed her vehicle, surrounded the car, and with perfectly timed semblance and calm cool order, lit up the vehicle with machine gun fire. The mayor – their intended target – was hit numerous times, while her husband José Sánchez Chávez was killed. Despite her near fatal wounds, she was determined to undermine these attackers. After extensive rehabilitation, returned to work making remarkable physical progress. However, in January last year, she was once again ambushed by armed and masked-men. This time her injuries were even worse. She’s had to have a colostomy bag surgically affixed to her for life, thus suffers constant pain. She is back to work as vigilant as ever.
· Erica Gandara, literally the last police officer standing – and by default – Chief of her department in Guadalupe, a small town in, Chihuahua, Mexico, because every man, out of fear and terror, quit the job, leaving her alone to protect her town while under great siege from these drug smugglers and cartel members. On December 23, while sound asleep, these cowards dragged her from her home, threw her in the back of one of their SUV’s and allowed her to watch as they burnt he home down to the ground. This She’roe has never been found. The town, a lawless un-policed border town, is now, completely owned by various cartel members.
These are but a few I’ve chosen, there are hundreds more. How can a group of armed, punk kids, overthrow, not only towns, states, and admittedly, a country – how is this possible? Where have all the proud Mexican men gone? And how do we save this next generation of kids. We, America, Mexico’s solvent big brother, must do everything in our power to help these poor decimated people fight back, because its just a matter of time before these brazen, well funded militias, expand their empire, full throttle, to create the exact anarchy here as they’re so successfully doing there. We did it in Nicaragua, we did it in Colombia, and now we must help our brethren in Mexico – I for one, a small voice, thousands of miles away, will do everything in my power to disallow these women to have died in vein, I hope we all do the same.
Rob Cea was a highly decorated New York City detective throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s, he’s worked on many high profile cases in units ranging from plain clothes robbery units, major case narcotics – to – narcotics homicide squads. After an early retirement from the police department he went on to writing best selling books and screen plays, and is currently the owner of a successful television production company, Killer Bunny Entertainment/Sugar Hit entertainment, in New York City.