Nabbing the Drug Lords in Monterey, Mexico -- Are They Squealing on Each Other?
While news out of Mexico is being totally dominated by the Swine Flu scare—anything is better than the constant Drug War news, right?—I'm gonna go about a month back in time to tell you about the some of the high profile arrests that have been taking place.
Today I'll tell you about the capture of Hector Huerta Rios, a.k.a. "La Burra" or "El Junior." He is (now was) one of the 37 most wanted narcos in Mexico.
Before he was arrested on March 25, "La Burra" worked as a lieutenant in the Beltran Leyva cartel, which is based in Sinaloa. He was among the most badass narco bosses out here, and not long ago the Mexican Government put a $15 million pesos (that's a little over $1 million US dollars) bounty on La Burra's head. Well, not a bounty, exactly. More like a reward for anyone that comes up with information leading to his arrest. And it seems they got someone to talk, but the reward wasn't the motivating force.
He was grabbed in San Pedro, his dominion and the wealthiest district in all of Mexico. He settled there many many years ago and owned various residences. But then he was taken down in a surgical-precision army operation, led by soldiers dressed as civvies who didn't have to fire a single shot. They took Huerta and four other people into custody, confiscated various firearms including a Five-Seven "matapolicias" (a sicario's favorite sidearm these days), gold-plated pistols and other drug businessmen accessories.
The capture took place in Centrito Valle, in a luxury car dealership he owned called EuroDrive. Aston Martins, BMWs, Mercs and even helicopters were sold there. The lot also had a strategic position in San Pedro, being located only 100 meters away from the main nightclubs of Centrito. The car lot was also the only place without proper street lighting in this super-rich suburb, serving as an ideal distribution point for drugs.
Hector Huerta Rios arrived at the lot in a bullet-proof gray Chevrolet Suburban and was immediately seized as he entered his office, his bodyguards were all disarmed without incident. The perimeter of the car lot was surrounded by about 80 soldiers and some 200 special forces. All in all, the take-down was very well-planned and executed professionally, just like the capture of El Canicon. This means, without a doubt, that the army had some very good intel. The question is where did they get this information? It didn't come from planting bugs, I'll tell you that. There's only one possibility I can think of.
Remember how I wrote last month about the capture of El Canicon, the Los Zetas regional leader? His take-down was presented to the media as a huge blow to narco-trafficking in Monterrey and surrounding areas. And now it's coming out why it was such a score. During his interrogation, the Zetas badass started talking real quick. You can bet his interrogation included a lot of nasty torture methods. Who do you think came up with the tablazos? (Remember what I told you before, some of the founding father Zetas were former army men. The tablazo may sound like soft stuff, the lightest technique in the army handbook. But only Cheney would be an asshole enough to call not call it torture? What did he call this "soft" stuff? Harsh interrogation techniques?)
To all of you thinking, "oooh what a pussy he sounds like," I dare you to hold out from just one day of beatings without talking. This isn't some American crime hero that refuses to rat out his people because he's too proud. No Clint Eastwood Western-cowboy type bullshit here. This is real life. Everybody here in Mexico understood that with his capture another capo had to fall. EVERYBODY talks eventually. You can only resist so long. But maybe it wasn't Canicon. Maybe it was information from the executed bodyguards or maybe it was just luck or good intelligence work by the military. Who knows.
Main thing is that Huerta wasn't an ordinary drug man like El Canicon. Huerta's reach was bigger and he was more powerful. (They don't call him "El Burra," female donkey for nothing. The man can carry a heavy drug biz workload like nobody's business.) He was in charge of operations in the city of Monterrey (which is mostly Gulf Cartel turf) and had been operating there successfully and peacefully under a truce he helped broker between the Beltran Levya and the Gulf Cartel a few years ago. With a Gulf Cartel capo ratting out the Beltran Levya, now there's no telling what this betrayal will do to the violence around here.
A few weeks after Huerta's capture, two of his former bodyguards were sprayed with pistols of different calibers in San Pedro, part of the realignment process, I guess. They may have had something to do with the capture of Huerta himself but I no one knows yet…
For as long as I've been immersed in the world and stories of the Monterrey criminal underworld, Huerta has always been a powerful figure. To keep his security detail professional and effective, Huerto recruited many of his sicarios from the elite SWAT-like police force in San Pedro. I first heard about him in 2006 when the Army raided one of his houses. He escaped. The army found only his father—who was lying ill in bed, recovering from two execution attempts—and two bodyguards left behind to protect the old man. (In 1996, Huerta survived a hit when rival narcos sprayed his then-new Pontiac Trans Am. He was shot five times.)
Then the fun began in Monterrey when the Zetas arrived in force to take control of the city from the Sinaloan Cartel back in 2007. (Yes, there was a three-way battle between the Sinaloans, the Gulf Cartel and the Beltran-Levyas.) "El Chelelo," a high ranking Zetas leader, was welcomed to the city by a pack of Sinaloan sicarios who sprayed his Jeep Commader with bullets. The SUV got all fucked up, but because it had a level-5 bullet-proofing or higher, none of the bullets penetrated. El Chelelo and his cell escaped by stealing a car in the middle of the highway, GTA-style. The rest of his crew was picked up Zetas dispatched to rescue their stranded comrades.
Aaah! The memories! Well, after that, all kinds of hell unfolded on Monterrey. The carnage was really getting out of control, with running car chases and gunfights all over the city, lawyers executed outside their offices, high-impact executions in broad daylight, executados with icepicks to their chests holding messages, grenade blasts in clubs, etc., etc., etc. That's when Chelelo and La Burra started meeting to divide the city. The fun was getting out of hand and the plaza was getting too hot. On top of everything, they were forgetting about business. The two sides got tired of it all, and figured it would be better for everyone if things calmed down. The Sineloans were given control of the municipality of San Pedro Garza Garcia, the richest municipio in ALL of Latin America, and the Zetas got everything else.
That's how the non-aggression pact began in Monterrey, and after that life in Monterrey came back to normal, sort of. But after Chelelo was captured back in 2007, a lot of Zetas went rogue. There were a lot of criminals with no affiliation to the organization using the name to intimidate victims in extortion and kidnapping rackets. So the Zetas started "cleaning house" and giving it a fresh coat of red paint provided by all the impostors they gutted like fish.
f you're wondering what all the fuss over Monterrey is, you gotta remember that it is THE place to do business in Mexico. It's close to the border so you can use it to stockpile drugs before sending them up. And to the Zetas it acts like a buffer zone to further protect their strongholds in Tamaulipas. It also doesn't hurt that it is a pretty nice place to live, with tons of viewtiful mountain vistas, good neighborhoods, good shopping, good nightlife, wide drug selection (transit point, remember?) and slamming hot regias (regios, this is what you call people who are from Monterrey, like calling someone from New York a New Yorker or someone from Argentina an Asshole—not Argentinian ladies though), who are some of the most beautiful women in Mexico.
But I'm getting off topic here. The arrest of El Burro released some interesting drug trade trivia. As it turns out, he was the one that ordered the hit on Monterrey's Chief of Police Marcelo Garza y Garza in 2006 (which was a huge deal around here, by the way). The beef between the two went back to the 20 or so commandos the police chief arrested in Monterrey. The group was led by two characters named "El Tubi" and "El Capi," whose names still carry a lot of weight here in the city. The other big piece of info that came out of El Burro's capture was about cells of female sicarias (or hitwomen) working for the Zetas. These brutal babes called themselves "Las Panteras," the Panthers. Sexy, huh? Haha! If you could see these panthers, sexy would be the last thing you'd think of them.
So, what does it all mean? The recent arrests have potentially thrown the local drug equilibrium out of whack now the plazas are without command from any side. And that means we may have to go back to having a full-on dispute over the control of the state's drug business. And you don't have to be here to know how these little territorial disputes can get out of control pretty fast. Thanks, Army! Just when everything was getting calm, you have to go and jam your M-16 into a beehive.