Dark History: Mexico’s Drug Cartels, Part 1
By Christopher Zoukis | 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.
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.