Things That Matter

Former Drug Cartel Members Share Why The Drug War Will Continue To Fail And What Is Needed Instead

The strategy that the Mexican government has employed during the past 13 years, since then incumbent president Felipe Calderon Hinojosa basically declared national war against the global trafficking organizations operating out of Mexico, has been nothing short of catastrophic. More than 200,000 people have died and at least 60,000 have disappeared. Whole communities have fled their lands, other crimes such as sex trafficking and illegal organ harvesting, as well as kidnapping and financial fraud, have increased and morale is low in many regions of the country. 

We often get the government’s perspective in the media. Reports also focus on the effect that cartel violence has had in the individual and collective wellbeing of victims. However, save a few notable examples such as Everardo Gonzalez’ poignant documentary “La libertad del diablo”, the view of current or former sicarios is rarely shared. The Spanish newspaper El Pais has just published the doctoral findings of Karina Garcia Reyes, a woman from Northern Mexico whose city has lived dantesque levels of violence and who did a postgraduate degree overseas to find out what was the rationale behind cartel members’ actions and lifestyle. She is currently a Professor in Bristol, United Kingdom. 

Garcia Reyes interviewed 33 former cartel members and wrote their biographies.

Credit: El Pais

Garcia Reyes interviewed former cartel members in both sides of the border. Some belonges to the biggest criminal organizations such as the Sinaloa Cartel, the Zetas Cartel or the Gulf Cartel, although the majority used to belong to independent cartels. This speaks of the probable fear that former cartel members might experience and their reluctance to speak out. 

This is the first academic study that includes interviews with real narcos, in which they talked about their early years.

The study is extremely relevant and innovative, as Garcia Reyes did not make suppositions on what these men think or feel: she actually got them talking about drugs, alcohol, street violence and their entry into the criminal underworld. Chief among the findings is how narcos perceive themselves: there is a lack of self esteem that can lead to a life of violence and illicit livelihood. 

The study revealed that narcos do not see themselves as “victims” and that the “no other option” narrative is misleading.

One of the prevalent reasons given to the rise of cartel violence is the lack of opportunities and socioeconomic vulnerability. Media narratives indicate that young men are lured into the narco world because that is their only chance to make a living. The subjects interviewed by Garcia Reyes claim that, contrary to popular belief, they are not victims and they were making ends meet in the informal economy. They just wanted “more”. They wanted tu pursue a lifestyle that an everyday job would not give them. 

They feel they are “disposable” and that their life has little value, and that death is “a relief” sometimes.

Credit: J Bustamante / Reuters

According to the researcher, former cartel members don’t see themselves as monsters and reject the media depiction of them as bloodthirsty bad hombres. Instead, they see themselves as free agents whose life is dispensable.Sometimes, they said, death is a relief. 

Poverty is a constant trigger for cartel activity and a “survival of the fittest” mentality.

Through her 33 respondents, the researcher found that there is an Us vs. Them mentality among former cartel members when it comes to social class. As one of the participants argued: “I knew that I would live and die in poverty and I asked God ‘Why does it have to be me?’’. Poverty is seen as something that cannot be avoided and that determines your fate for life. A respondent called Rigoleto said: “I knew I was all alone, if I wanted something I would need to get it myself”. 

Gangs are seen as the only way to survive the streets and that is why the government is losing the war.

Credit: Alfredo Estrada / Getty

According to the men interviewed, there is a sense of inevitability when it comes to being a male in poverty-stricken Mexico. You will become an addict and you will be a victim of street violence. That is unless you become a gang member yourself. Gangs are seen as the only way to survive in a “kill or be killed” type of environment. 

Former cartel members believe they will die tragically so they want to live each day as if it was the last.

An overdose or a bullet, plain and simple. That is how former cartel members thought their lives would end and there was no other alternative. Because they have this pessimistic view of life, many cartel members want to live a life of excess and luxury. 

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Bad Bunny Is Set to Make His Acting Debut In the Upcoming Season of ‘Narcos: Mexico’

Entertainment

Bad Bunny Is Set to Make His Acting Debut In the Upcoming Season of ‘Narcos: Mexico’

Photo: David Becker/Getty Images for LARAS

There’s a new Hollywood actor in town and his name is Bad Bunny. That’s right, Netflix just announced that the Puerto Rican reggaeton artist is going to have a supporting role in the third season of “Narcos: Mexico”. Yes, we may still be sad over Diego Luna leaving the beloved Netflix franchise, but having Bad Bunny on screen is more than a good enough consolation prize.

Bad Bunny initially teased his involvement with the show when he graced the cover of “Rolling Stone” in May, saying that he would be a “supporting actor” in the upcoming season. Entertainment outlets have now reported that Bad Bunny will play Arturo “Kitty” Paez, a member of the “Narco Junior” gang run by Ramon Arellano Felix (Manuel Masalva). The role is supposed to be a relatively small one.

According to Netflix, the Narco Junior gang is made up of “rich, well connected kids from upper society who fell in with the cartel life for the money, drugs, and violence.” We can totally see Bad Bunny doing this.

The newest season is supposed to set in Mexico of the 1990s when the illegal drug trade started to really globalize. The series will follow “a new generation of Mexican kingpins” who fight for power after Felix Gallardo’s empire “splinters”. Sounds like juicy stuff!

Bad Bunny started shooting his scenes in Mexico right after he joined Shakira and Jennifer Lopez during the Superbowl halftime show in February. But shortly after he arrived in Mexico, production promptly shut down due to the coronavirus pandemic. For his part, Bad Bunny didn’t seem so sad about the delay, saying that he “needed the rest” after such an intense year. But thankfully for us, it appears the production finally wrapped and the show is headed for our smalls screens! We can’t wait to see if he’s as talented at acting as he is at music.

Naturally, Bad Bunny fans couldn’t help but stan over the news.

Some people were already huge fans of “Narcos: Mexico” and this casting announcement just cemented their love for the show.

As Netflix probably wanted, the announcement grabbed the attention of people who had never even seen the show before.

Tweets like this prove that this was a smart casting decision.

But other fans were suspicious, having been burnt before by so-called celebrity “cameos”.

This sort of reminds us when they hyped Cardi B’s role in “Hustlers” for weeks and then she only appeared for a few minutes.

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A New Investigation Alleges That Some Of Mexico’s Largest Tequila Brands Are Laundering Money For Drug Cartels

Things That Matter

A New Investigation Alleges That Some Of Mexico’s Largest Tequila Brands Are Laundering Money For Drug Cartels

Carlos Jasso / Getty

Thre have long been alleged links between Mexico’s drug cartels and legitimate businesses. Whether by pressure or choice, several companies have been proven to be working alongside some of Mexico’s most deadly cartels – whether it be laundering money, lobbying politicians, or paying off corrupt officials.

However, a new investigation has revealed just how far the cartels have gone to ensure a steady stream of cash directly to their pockets. And in the process, they’ve revealed that some of Mexico’s most iconic brands may be tied to some of its most dangerous cartels.

Working together with the U.S. DEA, Mexico has identified tequila brands that are allegedly laundering money for cartels.

On Tuesday, Mexican financial regulators unveiled details about companies they believe to be linked to movements totaling more than $1.1 billion related to the hyper-violent Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG). They also froze the bank accounts of nearly 2,000 people they allege are involved in the money laundering scheme.

The country’s anti-money laundering agency said it worked with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to identify the 167 companies caught up in the financial dragnet, dubbed “Operation Blue Agave.”

Blue agave is the plant used to make tequila, which is the signature drink of Jalisco, the cartel’s home state.

Drug cartels have a long history of using tequila to disguise their operations, dating to at least 2006.

Credit: Carlos Jasso / Getty

This isn’t the first time that criminal groups have used Mexico’s most popular beverage to advance their illegal activities – links between the tequila industry and drug cartels go back to at least 2006. That was the year the DEA first discovered a connection between tequila and drug trafficking in Mexico, the newspaper Milenio reported on Thursday.

Much like today’s report, it’s alleged that drug cartels are using legitimate – and sometimes totally fake – tequila companies to launder money.

In 2006, it was the Tequila Cartel – also known as the Arellano Félix organization – that was found to be using tequila as a front for illegal activities. the U.S. Treasury Department had alleged that the tequila company 4 Reyes had helped the Tijuana Cartel to launder the money it obtained from distributing drugs in both Mexico and the U.S.

So which tequila companies have been accused of working alongside the cartels?

Mexican officials so far are remaining pretty tight lipped about which specific companies have been accused of working alongside the cartels. However, from previous reports, links between the tequila company Onze Black have been discovered. The company was set up by Los Cuinis, a drug cartel with close ties to the CJNG, to help finance its criminal activities. The U.S. government added the company to an economic blacklist the same year.

Another tequila company, one owned by the actress Kate del Castillo, was investigated by Mexican authorities to establish whether it had any financial links to the former Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, currently imprisoned in the United States.

However, no illicit dealings between del Castillo’s company, Tequila Honor, and El Chapo were detected.

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