Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Guadalajara Cartel Part I: Birth of Organized Crime in Mexico

criIn the early 20th century, the rural areas of the northern Mexican states of Chihuahua, Sinaloa and Durango were desolate lands. Small villages dotted the Sierra Madre, isolated from civilization. Access to these backwater hamlets were by horse or by mule and trips that would take hours now by car, would take days back then. Their source of life was growing beans and vegetables. If it was a good crop, they would eat. If it was a bad one, they would starve. To eat meat, was a luxury.

After World War I, the Mexican government approached these humble ranchers with a proposition: Grow Opium Poppy on these fertile lands. The poppy is used to make Morphine, which was in dire need for the United States soldiers who came back wounded or the ones who just came back addicted. Poppy however, is also used to create something else much more nefarious and sinister:


The hill folk of the Sierra Madre who during Prohibition made some extra cash bootlegging liquor and sending it up north to the Hooch starved Gringo, now started to grow the Poppy flower. The mountain man of Sinaloa, Chihuahua and Durango soon learned that out of the sticky Opium gum, you can do this, and do that and presto: you have Heroin.

Another notorious herb grew happy and green in these fertile and warm climates: Marijuana. Soon the old bean farmers and bootleggers started growing opium and marijuana and through their kin, either by blood or by marriage, started smuggling the stuff north. Many of the entrepreneurial hillbillies made contacts with infamous mob bosses in Los Angeles, Las Vegas and all the border cities. Lucky Luciano and Bugsy were some of the famous clients of the Mexicans.

For years throughout the 1940s and 1950's up till the sixties, the boys from Sinaloa grew the pot and sold the pot up north. These poor peasants soon found themselves rolling in dough and left their poor crumbling houses in the mountain towns of Badiraguato and surrounding villages and migrated to the Sinaloa state capital city of Culiacan.

There the noveau riche drug kingpins bought ostentatious mansions, rolled around in armored Lincolns and Fords, shot it out with rivals at weddings and nightclubs, and held lavish parties that lasted days, with the finest Sinaloan brass bands of the time livening up the fiestas.

In the 60's Pedro Aviles Perez, born in Durango but Sinaloan at heart, was the man who controlled the drug trade in Mexico. He was untouchable and said to be a friend of Ol' Blue Eyes Frank Sinatra himself. Pedrito would be the man who would serve as mentor to many and most of Mexicos future notorious mafia bosses. Many of the men responsible for the illegal drug trade in Mexico now were snot nosed kids running errands for Aviles when he was king of "contrabandistas".

Many others ran the trade in the state of Sinaloa, violence was rare but not unheard of in Culiacan, all the men worked together, and if not, they at least respected each other. It was a man's business, families and women were not touched. That was taboo. Lamberto Quintero Paez was one such man, as well as Roberto Alvarado, Ruben Cabada and Lalo Fernandez.

Around 1975, the Mexican government was growing weary of the monster it had created. These Narcos were getting out of hand and something had to be done. They had too much power, and too much money, they ran the state of Sinaloa and much of the north like feudal warlords. Governors and Mayors were friends of the traffickers. The Mexican Government came up with "Operacion Condor".

Hundreds of soldiers and federal agents descended upon the "Golden Triangle" of Sinaloa, Durango and Sinaloa, beating up the farmers, whether they were pot farmers or legitamite, it didn't matter. They sprayed herbicides all over the lands so now not even beans would grow. Many were tortured and killed, thrown out of helicopters or simply "made disappeared" by the brutal soldiers. The brutal campaign lasted three years.

In January 1976, drug kingpin Lamberto Quintero was killed by rivals in El Salado. On September 15, 1978, big boss Pedro Aviles was set up and ambushed by Federales outside a roadblock in Culiacan. The heat was growing for the Sinaloan mafia with the violence and Operation Condor, they could no longer stay in Culiacan. They had to set up a new base of operations:


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