Things That Matter

It Took The FBI, Homeland Security, And the DEA To Bring This El Paso Man To Justice

“They conspired to kill Ruth Sagredo because, if she was killed, she would not be able to testify in that case,” Special Agent Thomas Salloway said.

Back in January of 2005, Samuel Velasco Gurrola of El Paso, Texas, was indicted by a grand jury, alleging he had sexually assaulted a child. If convicted, Samuel faced up to 99 years in prison. The victim had spoken of the incident with Samuel’s wife, Ruth Sagredo Escobedo, and so Ruth’s testimony looked as if it could put him away. Ruth had no sympathy for Samuel, as she had already separated from her husband. Taking justice into his own hands, Samuel hired two relatives, supposed crime boss Emmanuel Velasco Gurrola and Dalia Valencia, to help him in a murder-for-hire plot against his wife to keep her silent.

What happened next was straight out of a movie.

CREDIT: NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN / MIRAMAX 

In October 2008, right before the trial was to begin, Samuel Velasco Gurrola and his murderous relatives decided to kill Ruth’s father Francisco Maria Sagredo, who lived in Juárez, Chihuahua. The plan was to lure Ruth to Mexico to attend her father’s funeral, where they could then kill Ruth, as well. At the time, Juárez was steeped in violence, and the trio hoped they could make it look like an unrelated cartel hit. When Ruth did not attend her father’s funeral, the trio turned their focus to Ruth’s sister, Cinthia Judith Sagredo Escobedo, who also happened to live in Juárez. They murdered Cinthia in front of the Posada San Nicolás hotel, where she worked. This plan worked, and two days later Ruth was killed while riding in her sister’s funeral procession. According to witnesses, two trucks pulled along side and blasted several rounds from AK-47s into Ruth’s 2004 Kia Amanti. Ruth died in the attack, along with her friend Roberto Martínez, the man who had warned her not to attend her father’s funeral.

With no witnesses left in the sexual assault trial, Samuel Velasco Gurrola was a free man. Almost.

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CREDIT: KFOX 14

Now, 41-year-old Samuel Velasco Gurrola is facing a mandatory life sentence thanks to his involvement in the murders. He’s been formally convicted of conspiracy to cause foreign travel for murder for hire and conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country. His relatives involved in the case were also convicted of similar conspiracy counts and are facing life sentences, as well. Though his cousins tried to make it look like a cartel hit, many people were able to see through their plan. Within a few weeks, Stephanie Sanchez at El Paso Times had already published a piece questioning the cartel connection, highlighting that Ruth’s lawyer, Edward Hernandez, outright denied it. Stephanie even touched on Ruth’s domestic troubles with her husband, Samuel Velasco Gurrola, a more likely suspect. Samuel’s eventual arrest came from the collaborative efforts of the D.E.A, Homeland Security, and the F.B.I.

Though she didn’t live to see justice served, Ruth would more than likely feel vindicated by the recent conviction. “She was very adamant about getting this person (Velasco) prosecuted and have him pay for what he did,” Eduardo Avalos Sr, Ruth’s first husband, told CBS.


READ: This Is The Real-Life Narco Queen Who Inspired “La Reina Del Sur”

[H/T] VN: How One Family’s Drug Trafficking, Kidnapping, and Murder Charges Turned a Texas Teacher Fugitive

New Statistics Show A Sharp Decline In Violent Crimes In Sinaloa, Mexico

Things That Matter

New Statistics Show A Sharp Decline In Violent Crimes In Sinaloa, Mexico

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Despite reports in recent months concerning violence, Sinaloa officials revealed positive news this week that show a drop in homicide rates. At a press conference on Tuesday, Sinaloa Public Security chief Cristóbal Castañeda Camarillo told reporters that the number of homicides in the Mexican state was down 17 percent last year compared to 2018, 937 murders were recorded in 2019. In comparison to the beginning of the decade, there has been a 58 percent overall drop in homicides, 2,250 in 2010. 

According to Mexican officials, these huge declines can be credited to coordination between all three levels of government, state and municipal police forces in Sinaloa and the armed forces. Led by a plan by Governor Quirino Ordaz Coppel’s office, the forces worked together in being part of a “historic decrease” in not only overall homicide rates but taking down a range of other crimes in Sinaloa over the last 10 years. 

Homicide rates aren’t the only thing dropping in Sinaloa. Mexican officials say robberies, car thefts, and kidnappings have also seen declines since 2010. 

Mexican officials have praised the efforts of authorities that have contributed to these yearly declines in overall violence in Sinaloa since the start of the decade. The numbers show things are moving in the right direction as vehicle theft dropped 55 percent to 4,222 cases last year in comparison to 9,401 cases in 2010. In regards to declines from 2018 and 2019, vehicle theft dropped 28 percent, robberies fell 7 percent to 986 cases and kidnappings decreased by 25 percent to nine cases.

While homicide rates have continued to drop in Sinaloa, there is no doubt that drug cartels still have power in the region. One with the most notoriety is Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán’s old cartel group that still wields much power.

These new numbers paint a different picture than what many still believe is a dangerous region. If there was any clearer evidence that shows that it came back in October when the Sinaloa Cartel responded retaliated to an operation to capture Ovidio Guzmán López, the son of notorious drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán. The incident left 13 people dead when the Sinaloa cartel seized control of the northern city of Culiacan in what was a successful effort to force the release of Guzmán’s son.

Iván Archivaldo Guzmán, another one of El Chapo’s son, was behind these efforts to stop the arrest of his brother. Guzmán López was being extradited on a request from Washington when law enforcement was met with an attack from armed cartel members. The incident came to a close when Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador made the decision to release Guzmán López, a move he said was made to save lives. 

That decision was widely criticized by many that had pointed to the Mexican government as basically giving in to organized crime, reinforcing the notion that cartels still have much power in the country. While data shows there has been improvement since the days of Guzmán overseeing the day-to-day operations of the Sinaloa Cartel, there is still work to be done. 

Many see these new released numbers in a different lens given they were released on the same day that President López Obrador claimed that ‘El Chapo’ once had “the same power” like his predecessors.

On the same day that Castañeda Camarillo’s report was released, President López Obrador made comments that raised some eyebrows. In a video message from the city of Palenque last week, he recapped his administration’s triumphs and some of the continued challenges ahead. He noted that much of the corruption involved from previous administrations was gone.  

“There was a time when Guzmán had the same power or had the influence that the then-president had … because there had been a conspiracy and that made it difficult to punish those who committed crimes. That has already become history, gone to the garbage dump of history. That will never occur.” López Obrador said.

But while issues like corruption seem to be fading in Mexico, violence is still prevalent and the number show it. The country is still on track to see nearly 35,000 homicides in 2019, which would break last year’s record of 33,341. While there have been declines in violence in once dangerous states like Sinaloa, there is no denying that Mexico still has a long way to go. 

READ: Mexico’s President AMLO Just Said ‘El Chapo’ Had As Much Power As The President And That’s A Big Deal

The Cartels In Mexico Are Taking Over The Avocado Industry By Any Means Necessary

Culture

The Cartels In Mexico Are Taking Over The Avocado Industry By Any Means Necessary

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Mexico has always been plagued with violence, but the new government under Andrés Manuel López Obrador implied things would be different. The violence in Mexico seems to be getting worse. One minute the cartel is blocking authorities from arresting El Chapo’s son, and the next, an entire family is ambushed and killed. The cartels in Mexico do not seem to be slowing down one bit. Now it looks like they are taking over the avocado industry. 

A group in Mexico that goes by the Viagras cartel is illegally taking over land in order to plant avocado trees.

Credit: @Faby_Nava77 / Twitter

According to reports by the Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press, a small group of armed people known as the Viagras cartel is infiltrating parts of Mexico. They are allegedly taking land that is not there’s, and that is, in some areas, protected land, and setting up avocado trees in order to produce avocados and sell them. 

“The threat is constant and from all sides,” Jose Maria Ayala Montero told the Los Angeles Times. According to the outlet, Ayala Montero works “for a trade association that formed its own vigilante army to protect growers.”

Local police are attempting to do something about it, but they basically have their hands tied

“They’ve done everything – extortions, protection payments. They’ve flown drones over us,” a local police chief told the AP. “They come in and want to set up (drug) laboratories in the orchards.”

The tension is not just coming from the Viagras cartel that wants to set up shop on land that is not theirs, but also from rival gangs that also want a piece of the multibillion-dollar pie. 

Credit: katelinthicum / Instagram

According to reports, in the state of Michoacan alone, the avocado export business brought revenue of $2.4 billion last year. We always knew avocados were hot, but not that kind of hot.  

“If it wasn’t for avocados, I would have to leave to find work, maybe go to the United States or somewhere else,” Pedro de la Guante said to the AP. De la Guante makes a good earning as a guard for a small avocado orchard. 

The demand for this coveted fruit has been growing considerably in the last decade. As the Associated Press reports, “It was only in 1997 that the U.S. lifted a ban on Mexican avocados that had been in place since 1914 to prevent a range of weevils, scabs, and pests from entering U.S. orchards.”

Here is why avocados in Mexico are in such high demand.

Credit: Unsplash

Aside from avocados being people’s favorite indulgent e.g., guacamole, avocado toast, it’s actually tough to grow avocados. Mexico’s temperatures make it ideal for growing avocados compared to anywhere else in the world. 

According to SFGate Home Guide, Mexican avocados “contain the highest oil content and taste the creamiest,” while avocados from the West Indies “have the least amount of oil but grow to the largest size. Now, Guatemalan avocados are also ideal because they are a combination of both Mexico and the West Indies. So according to that methodology, Mexico’s avocados seem to be the healthiest kind to eat. 

Lastly, Mexico’s weather is perfect for growing avocados because they “stand up to the coldest winter temperatures.” So you can see why there’s so much demand to get those Mexican fruits.  

People definitely have feelings over the violence and illegal tactics of the cartel who look to get those avocados by any means necessary.

Credit: @Eeeeeeemonster / Twitter

If the cartels succeed in hijacking the avocado industry in Mexico, it won’t be long till some of the avocados bought will benefit and fund the cartels.

The fight over avocados speaks to a larger issue of the food industry and how it’s affecting not just the economy but sustainability and the environment.  

Credit: @tsalagip / Twitter

While the cartels might be vying for the “green gold,” the matter of taking over land that does not belong to them and using it illegally on protected land shows how dangerous these tactics are hurting people’s lives and the environment. 

The fighting seems to be taking over all industries.

Credit: @elizabethgilcel / Twitter

It’s not just about drugs at all. 

How will the government deal with this issue if they can’t even handle the violence over drugs?

Credit: @brianeha / Twitter

If government agencies in the U.S. or in Mexico stop trade because of the illegal means to export avocados, it could have a drastic effect.

READ:  Apparently There Are Three Feet Long Avocados Called Long Necks And Like Please Take All My Money