Open Thread September
[visual mood supplement by bif]
The people I grew up with—and the ones you grew up with too, unless you were rich and on the coast somewhere–were all pissed off about something, but it wasn’t freedom. It was the Blacks at first, the riots and the muggings and all that Civil Rights noise. Then it was the Mexicans driving wages down and not picking up their trash. Then it was the Liberals, even though nobody’d ever spotted a live one in the city limits. They didn’t want freedom, they wanted the people they hated bashed, the harder the better.
Brushing aside the official explanations and excuses, when you look at what Operation Fast and Furious actually accomplished – the arming and consolidation of a military force currently fighting Mexico’s armed forces – the conclusion that we are actively involved in destabilizing the Mexican government is hard to avoid. It is a simple statement of fact.
It turns out that the arms benefited the Sinaloa cartel, led by a chap known as “El Chapo,” another indication that the “entrapment” explanation is a cover story, and a not very believable one at that. If the idea was to entrap Mexican drug lords in a “sting” operation, then why focus on the Sinaloa gang to the exclusion of all others?
An American Drug Lord in Acapulco
How a high school jock from Texas rose to the top of one of Mexico’s most powerful and ruthless cartels
Barbie and the Beltrán brothers were enraged. They knew there was only one person with the motive and the means to take down Alfredo: Chapo, their longtime ally in the Sinaloa cartel. Chapo was reportedly displeased with the growing power the Beltráns and Barbie held over Acapulco. “Chapo doesn’t run a very hierarchical cartel – his allies are more like a loose federation of warlords, like in Afghanistan,” says Scott Stewart, an analyst with the intelligence firm Stratfor. “He isn’t always looking over everyone’s shoulder, but whenever someone starts to get too big for his britches and pose some sort of leadership challenge, that person suddenly seems to start having problems.”
Chapo’s perceived move against the Beltráns sparked an all-out war. A few months later, Chapo’s 22-year-old son was killed by multiple gunmen on the same day that assassins ambushed Mexico’s new federal police chief. Soon, corpses were turning up all along the Pacific coast. President Felipe Calderón sent in thousands of troops, but more than 580 people, including 64 policemen, died in the dispute.
If the Beltráns had a strong leader, they could probably have withstood Chapo’s attack. But Arturo, the head of the cartel, was becoming more and more erratic, partying at all hours and reportedly even dabbling in cannibalism. “I was friends with Arturo,” Barbie would later report. “But when he was on drugs, he wanted to kill me. And when he wasn’t, everything was cool.” On the verge of a paranoid break, Arturo retreated to his house in Cuernavaca, where he sat by the pool, lazily flicking $100 bills at girls he hired to entertain him. One night in December 2009, he hired 24 strippers and a Grammy-winning norteño band to come over for a party. Barbie was there too, keeping an eye on the two dozen or so bodyguards with gold-and-diamond-studded pistols who roamed the property. But just as the party was getting started, Mexican special forces suddenly stormed the house. As chaos erupted and the girls scrambled to hide from the gunfire, Arturo fled with his most trusted men to a nearby condo.