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Ex-cartel member: Mexican gangs beating border zone battle with fear tactics

“I can tell you in one word how I know that the Mexican drug cartels now have so much more power on this side of border in Texas,” a former drug cartel member told the Examiner on August 17, 2013. “That one word is intimidation.”

A frightening trend of U.S. law enforcement finding more grenades and other high powerful weapons indicates the drug cartels are stepping up their efforts to smuggle.
Photo by David McNew/Getty Images
Edgar 'La Barbie' Valdez Villarreal, a Texas-born drug smuggler and leader in the Beltran Leyva cartel, laughed during his arrest in Mexico in 2010.
Photo by Daniel Aguilar/Getty Images

“They have been preparing for this for years and now they are using their intimidation tactics, these strategies to scare people, that they use against the police, families and businesses in Mexico,” the 30-year-old man, now living in San Antonio area stated.

Since 2009, there have been 86 occurrences in which shots fired by Mexican cartels at 112 law enforcement officers in Texas, according to state Department of Public Safety data.

Known as Carlos, because he maintains it would be dangerous to use his given name, the ex-Mexico drug member moved to Texas to escape cartel torture, death and “before they killed the only family I have left.”

“When I saw that the Mexico military might be involved by coming across our border and really shooting at our border agents I knew right then and there they were using their intimidation to scare us,” Carlos elaborated. “The common gang member doesn’t know how to get or make or use some of these high powered weapons they are using. That’s why I know the Mexican military has to be involved. Many men who used to be in the military, or who are still in the military are controlled by the cartels. The cartels are going to use every way they have to grow their power.”

“Those gangs are laughing at the Americans because you don’t think there is a war on you,” pointed out. "This immigration crisis is a dream come true for the cartels and they think Obama is doing nothing but helping them more."

“They recruit your kids in the schools, they take over your ranches, they even make your food costs go up,” Carlos said seriously. “They are buying up your policemen, your businesses, and laugh that you let it happen.”

Carlos said he also knew the cartels had become more powerful in the United States when he started hearing about ‘la cota’ as a common tactic and practice now being used in border cities along the Rio Grande River.

The cartels are so powerful now, that the practice of charging farmers, truckers and packers ‘la cota’ for “each truck they send out, is now happening in Texas” Carlos explained. “They have ways to get their drugs, weapons, vegetables, materials or whatever through their distribution and transportation systems and now they can charge this ‘la cota’ or tax to help pay the way to keep it strong. Besides money, there are other ways they enforce this ‘la cota’ too."

Carlos described what happens to anyone that doesn’t pay the tax.

“They call it Mexican insurance,” he said. “They tell you they know who your wife is, or your mother, or your daughters and you better pay or we will rape and kill them.”

“They are bringing in more high powered weapons and guarding their drugs with heavy guns, even grenades,” Carlos explained. “They buy off, usually by intimidation if people want to stay alive and protect their families.”

“It doesn’t matter who you are,” he continued. “If you own a businesses, or you are a politician, a policeman, a banker, own a car lot, or you work for immigration, they are going to intimidate and do what they can to own you. Where are they getting these grenades? It’s obvious. Grenades come from the military. ”

Just this weekend Fox News reported a growing trend in the use of grenades in what some experts have reported the “war zone.”
James Phelps, an assistant professor in the Department of Security Studies and Criminal Justice at Angelo State University in Texas told Fox News that “more heavily-armed drug shipments are coming into the United States.”

“With Border Patrol so heavily distracted doing paperwork and watching the mass flood of people coming into the country, they don’t have as much time to do what they used to do — drug interdiction,” Phelps stated to Fox News.

The Texas Department of Public Safety (TxDPS, DPS) now reports that since 2009, 5,174 weapons have been seized in Texas by participants in Operation Border Star. As of July, $204,645,231 of cash has been apprehended. Since April 2006, TxDPS reports 11,041,890 pounds of drugs have been seized as of July 2014. The street value totals $10,666,006,326.

“Since 2006, the U.S. Border Patrol has reported 3,951,788 illegal alien apprehensions along the U.S.-Mexico border, including 1,160,545 apprehensions in the Texas sectors of Big Bend, Del Rio, El Paso, Laredo, and Rio Grande Valley,” TxDPS indicates.

“Here is another way you can tell that the cartels are here,” Carlos pointed out. “Look for the messages. They will send messages to scare everybody.”

“The message might be a dummy, or even a real man, hanging from a bridge,” Carlos observes. “It will be in the gang painting (graffiti) in the neighborhoods. It will be in threatening letters or notes or signs. If your dog has its head chopped off, these things are going to scare you and your wife and your kids. It is very effective. It’s intimidation and they don’t care what you think.”

“And if you don’t think the local police or the businessman or even the other gangs who go against each other are not intimidated or scared about these messages, then you are crazy, because these gang members are crazy.”

“The worst thing the cartels do, in my opinion is ruin children’s lives,” Carlos shook his head and looked down. “They start recruiting kids early, very early where some kids think of the cartels as heroes. They even have music and families tell stories about how cool the cartels are. They see their brothers, cousins, uncles and even their fathers join the gangs so they have no choice.”

"The cartels teach the wives, sisters and children how to pack the drugs real tight," Carlos explained. "You start out learning to package and then you grow up to load, transport, protect, spy, recruit and intimidate. Remember intimidate is the key word."

The Texas border region represents 9.7% of the state’s population, yet since 2009 this region has accounted for 19.9% of the state’s juvenile felony drug referrals and 18.5% of the state’s juvenile felony gang referrals, according to DPS.DPS has reported apprehending a “12-year-old boy in a border county driving a stolen pickup truck containing more than 800 pounds of marijuana.”

“Mexican Cartels have corrupted nearly an entire generation of youth living in Northern Mexico and they seek to corrupt our youth as well to further their smuggling operations” said Steven C. McCraw, DPS Director in 2011. “The Mexican Cartels value Texas teenagers for their ability to serve as expendable labor in many different roles and they have unlimited resources to recruit our children.”

Hundreds of grenades have been discovered and the trend is growing. Fox News reported that one 2009 arrest of a man who sold almost 200 grenades to an undercover agent was a wakeup call to U.S. agents. Even grenade and rocket launchers have been found hidden on the Texas side of the border.

While the Obama White House and partisan politicians disagree that Texas border counties may be in a growing “war zone,” the impact of drug cartel violence and power in Mexico could be affecting American households in more direct means than generally believed.

For instance, avocados and lime costs imported into the U.S. from Mexico are subject to the drug cartel tax, or “la cota,” said Carlos.

“If you grow avocados you know before you ship them off that you are going to pay the cartels what they want, like a toll road,” Carlos observed. “We charged about 600 or 700 pesos for each truck about seven years ago, but I don’t know any more what it is now. It’s a common thing.”

“Americans think the drug gangs just make their money from the drugs, but they make money off of your food and imports that come from Mexico too,” claimed Carlos.

“Sometimes those terminals in Mexico and even here in Texas wait for the trucks to get there, but if the drug gangs don’t get paid, those trucks will not get there,” Carlos observed. “You ask any of them (distributors or terminals) and they will tell you this is more common than people think.”

Carlos said the distribution companies have attempted to change their routes to prevent stolen equipment and kidnapping, “but halcones (or mules, a Mexican term for lookouts) are always watching.”

“They even use GPS (and other tracking technology) to know where the trucks are all the time,” Carlos described. “They have hundreds of halcones here in Texas watching on highways like Highways 181, 37, 35, 59, 77, 281, 90, and 16. The halcones sit at the truck stops and gas stations and even the rest stations coming into San Antonio, Victoria, Corpus Christi, and Houston, all the time so they know where their drug shipments are and can tell them if the police or immigration are nearby.”

“They change their routes all the time based on what the halcones are reporting,” Carlos said.

Since 2007, various federal, state and local agencies have made numerous arrests of cartel members. These have included at least 137 from the Gulf Cartel, 9 from the Juarez Cartel, 165 from La Familia Michoacana, 109 from Los Zetas, 3 from the Sinaloa Cartel, and 1 from the Knights Templar Cartel.

Since 2007, there have been 40 incidents involving 43 homicide victims in Texas related to cartel criminal activity. This include murders in Dallas, Southlake, San Marcos, Houston and Austin, indicating this is not limited to the Rio Grande Valley.

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