Musical Chairs

By Christopher Zoukis

Most of the Sinaloa Cartel’s gangbangers were from MS-13, Mara Salvatrucha.  In other words, they were rough boys from El Salvador and the Honduras.  With a reputation for brutal violence, MS-13 gangs were the baddest of the bad asses.  Only it turned out the Zetas were badder, making the MS-13 gangbangers look like three-year olds at a church picnic.  Using heavy weapons and military tactics, the Zetas chopped MS-13 into bits and pieces. 

The leader of the Zetas was Heriberto Lazcano, a twenty-eight year old former GAFE officer whose nickname was “The Executioner.”  Lazcano intended to hang onto his territory. 

The war was on.

Lazcano, realizing he needed more men, initiated a new recruiting strategy.  He advertised.  Banners hung from overpasses and bridges got right to the point:  “We offer you a good salary, food, and attention for your family.”  One advertisement stated:  “Join the ranks of the Gulf Cartel.  We offer benefits, life insurance, a house for your family and children.  Stop living in the slums and riding the bus.”  Photo courtesy vkb.isvg.org

It worked.  Soldiers and ex-soldiers flocked in droves to join up.  Lazcano recruited heavily in Guatemala, home of the Kaibil commandos, who really were the baddest of the bad.  The motto of the Kaibiles was:  “If I retreat, kill me.”  Recruiting wasn’t Lazcano’s only talent; he also had a head for business.  Zetas troops earned money for the organization through extortion, shaking down anyone and everyone:  marijuana growers, dealers, local businesses, restaurants, even car dealerships.

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Dark History: Mexico’s Drug Cartels, Part 1

Dark History: Mexico’s Drug Cartels, Part 1

 


By    |   Sunday, January 19, 2014


The Mexican government, appalled at the atrocities committed by the cartels during the late 1980s, began an investigation of the Mexican Cartels. The investigation revealed what was common knowledge: The police were corrupt. It was like cancer, spreading everywhere. Pressured by the DEA, the Mexican government decided to clean house. The Mexican army arrested Guadalajara Cartel drug lord Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo in 1989. Then they interrogated 300 members of the Culiacan police force. Seven officers were indicted for accepting bribes, while almost one-third of the rank and file police officers quit after being questioned.

Mexico would not extradite criminals to any nation where they could face the death penalty. Therefore, Gallardo was tried in a Mexican court. Sentenced to 40 years in prison, Gallardo continued to run his empire from behind bars, where he was allowed to use a cell phone. Still, because Gallardo was essentially out of the loop, his organization sank into the quicksand of rivalries and greed. Avaricious for money and territory, the Mexican Cartels eyed each other with suspicion and jealousy.

The Sinaloan Cartel didn’t like the hand they had been dealt. In effect, they had only two ways to move drugs into the U.S., through Tecate and Mexicali, neither of which led to lucrative markets, like southern California or Arizona. The Sinaloans took a look around and considered their options. To the east was Sonora, but the Sonoran Cartel had lots of men and lots of guns. The other option was Tijuana, controlled by the Arellano Felix brothers, whom the Sinaloans considered easier pickings. So they went to war with the Tijuana Cartel.

cartels

Benjamin Arellano Felix ran the Tijuana Cartel. His brother, Eduardo, ran the financial side of the business, taking care of the money laundering. Ramon, a younger brother, functioned as the Tijuana Cartel’s enforcer. The oldest brother, Francisco, paid off politicians and police officers. Francisco, who was an ostentatious cross-dresser, owned five houses and a discotheque called Frankie O’s. In his heyday, Francisco was greasing palms to the tune of six million dollars per month. The Tijuana Cartel was atypical in that many of their gang members were from affluent middle-class families. They dressed in expensive, stylish clothing, spoke English, and were educated. Most of them eschewed tattoos. They transported heavy weapons into Mexico and drugs into the U.S.

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Big Wheels

By Christopher Zoukis

So much cocaine was being moved by the Mexicans that they had difficulty storing the cash.  There were literally boxcars of money.  In other words, everything was just peachy.  But then Gallardo had an idea.  Rather than being paid in cash, he could demand payment in product, cocaine.  And that’s just what he did.  The Colombians didn’t balk.  They couldn’t.  They had no choice in the matter.  Florida was too risky.  The DEA was seizing shipments left and right. 

Overnight, Felix Gallardo and the Sinaloan gang became cocaine kings.  They weren’t just couriers anymore.  Now they were players, moving their own product as well as that of the Colombians.  The Sinaloans went from the minor leagues to the major leagues in a single leap.  In the drug trafficking world, Felix Gallardo transitioned from the role of supporting actor to movie star.  The DEA began keeping close tabs on Gallardo, elevating his position on their Christmas Wish List. 

Gallardo was a criminal, but no one had ever accused him of being stupid.  He knew the DEA lusted for him.  They wanted him dead or in prison.  Gallardo, attempting to lower his exposure, moved his family to Culiacan.  As soon as he arrived, he called for a high-level meeting.  All the Big Wheels of the various gangs in Guadalajara showed up.  Gallardo informed the gang leaders that he was stepping out of the limelight.  He was still the Boss of Bosses, and they still had to pay tithes.  Gallardo wasn’t giving up his rightfully due share of the profits.  Only now, instead of being both the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Operating Officer, he would simply be the CEO.  Day-to-day operations would be handled by territorial leaders.  In other words, Gallardo was delegating authority.

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Problems, Problems, Problems

By Christopher Zoukis Gallardo smelled a rat.  Something was fishy in Denmark.  A meeting was called.  All the major players arrived and discussed the situation.  Later, another meeting was held.  All evidence pointed to Kike. Kike and his pilot, Alfredo Zavala Avelar, were leaving the American consulate building in Guadalajara, when five gangsters attacked them, […]

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Rancho Bufalo

By Christopher Zoukis In reality, the Colombian Cartels, while certainly potent entities, were simply federations of gangsters. During the early 1980s, the Medellin cartel ran the bulk of its cocaine into North America through Florida.  It was nine-hundred-miles from Colombia to Florida.  Planes would drop water-proof loads of coke into the ocean off Florida.  Forty […]

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Cartels

By Christopher Zoukis The southern states of Mexico include Chiapas, Campeche, Quintana Roo, Yucatan, Morelos, Tabasco, Guerrero, Michoacan, Veracruz and Oaxaca.  Yucatan, Campeche and Quintana Roo profit from tourism, while the rest of the southern states, because of vast tracts of arable land, depend upon agriculture for their economic health.  For the most part, the […]

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Legends

By Christopher Zoukis Image courtesy mrzine.monthlyreview.org According to legend, Stanley Tookie Williams was the co-founder of the Crips.  The legend was nothing more than embellishment, encouraged by Tookie Williams.  The reality of the situation was this:  Raymond, wanting to expand the Crips to the west side of Los Angeles, approached Tookie Williams about running the […]

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O. G. Mack

By Christopher Zoukis

In 1993, O.G.Mack formed the East Coast version of the Bloods.  Mack called his organization the United Blood Nation, but most simply referred to it as the East Side Bloods. 

O.G. Mack, whose real name was Omar Portee grew up in the Bronx, where he was raised by his grandmother.  A member of a ruthlessly brutal gang called the One Eight Trey Gangsters, Mack was arrested in 1988 for armed robbery.  He was 16 years old at the time.  Mack spent the next three years in prison, Rikers Island.  After being released in 1991, Mack’s grandmother sent him to California to live with relatives.  Her goal was to separate him from the noxious influence of gangs.  It didn’t work.  Most of his relatives in L.A. were members of the Miller Gangster Bloods.  In no time at all, Mack was neck deep in the L.A. gang culture.  Although he never officially joined the Miller Gangster Bloods, Mack ran with the gang, whose members considered him a Blood.   O. G. Mack / Image courtesy thehoodup.com

Mack returned to the Bronx two years later, in 1993.  He immediately took up where he left off, re-uniting with the One Eight Trey Gangsters.  Impressed by Bloods’ culture in L.A., Mack wasted little time convincing his fellow gangbangers that they should become part of the Blood alliance.  The gangbangers liked what they heard.  The One Eight Trey Gangsters became the One Eight Trey Gangster Bloods. 

A few months later, O.G. Mack was arrested for attempted murder.  While awaiting trial, Mack was again held on Rikers Island, in the George Mochen Detention Center (GMDC), which was also called C-73.  Individuals in GMDC were considered problem inmates and were segregated from the general prison population.  On Rikers Island, where the prison was controlled by the Latino gangs, the independent black gangs found themselves fighting not only the Latino gangs, but also fighting other black gangs because of street grudges that carried over into prison.  Most of these independent black gangs were affiliated with the umbrella alliance known as the African Blood Brotherhood or the Almighty Blood Brotherhood.  Mack, realizing that the independent black gangs in prison needed a way to protect themselves from the Latino gangs, called for a meeting of independent black gang leaders.  Mack’s idea, which he presented to the leaders, was to unite as a set of the Bloods.  This unity would allow them to successfully defend themselves against the Latino gangs. 

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Blood Alliance

By Christopher Zoukis

Eventually, to protect themselves, the other gangs – the Compton Piru, the Brims near USC, the Swans, and the Bounty Hunters – formed an alliance called the Bloods.  The Bloods alliance was the result of the March 1972 murder of Robert Ballou, Jr.  It happened like this:  after a concert at the Hollywood Paladium, a rat-pack of twenty Crips assaulted a group of teenagers, robbing them of their wallets and jackets.  Robert Ballou, Jr. was one of the teenagers.  Ballou resisted, refusing to surrender his jacket to the Crips.  The Crips proceeded to jump him and beat him to death.   Image courtesy flickriver.com

The brutal murder of Ballou, who was a neutron – a person unaffiliated with a gang – incensed the Compton Piru.  The Piru went to war with the Crips.  Outnumbered, the Piru really had no chance against the superior forces of the Crips.  Realizing they needed help, the Piru approached the Lueders Park Hustlers about an alliance.  The Lueders Park Hustlers agreed to a meeting on Piru Street.  Not being shy, the Piru also invited every other gang that had grievances against the Crips.  One gang that had a grudge against the Crips was the L.A. Brims.  The Crips had murdered a gangbanger with the nickname of Lil Country, a member of the Brims.  The Denver Lanes and the Bishops sent representatives as well. 

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Bloods

By Christopher Zoukis

A Brief History

According to Julia Dunn, a gang “is an interstitial group, originally formed spontaneously, and then integrated through conflict.” Image courtesy pbs.org The term ‘interstitial’ refers to a culturally isolated or marginalized group of individuals, who, because of external circumstances (racism, lack of education, unemployment), have been left behind.  These individuals adopt a ‘strength through numbers’ attitude, assume collective standards of behavior, develop ad hoc structures of hierarchy and esprit de corps.  They identify with others of similar circumstances and exhibit territorial tendencies. 

After World War I, African-American enclaves sprouted up in the urban areas of major cities with the United States.  In the 1920s, Los Angeles encompassed large black enclaves, where unemployment was prevalent and poverty was the norm.  Within these enclaves, family members and friends banded together into loose, unorganized associations that were, for the most part, non-violent.  For lack of a better term, these associations came to be known as gangs.  The gangs of this historical time were non-territorial.  The primary function of such gangs was to present a ‘tough guy’ image and facilitate the accumulation of easy money by means of prostitution, forgery and theft.

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