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Tuckman Excerpt 39-41

Tuckman Excerpt 39-41

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Published by: wamu885 on Jul 02, 2012
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NARCO TROUBLE
39
measured by more than just the number of victims (most of whom werefound dead in the toilets, where they had fled from the guns, only to findthemselves caught by the fire and smoke in a building without adequateemergency exits); it was also associated with their primarily middle-classstatus – many of them elderly women out for an afternoon’s bingo. Thissection of the population had been targeted individually in extortionrackets, but it was not generally considered vulnerable to a massacre.Subsequent journalistic investigations also uncovered a morass of corruption that not only underpinned a recent explosion in the number of gaming houses in Monterrey, but also suggested links between these andorganized crime. The fire at the Casino Royale, and the reluctance of theauthorities to pursue the evidence of widespread corruption that it high-lighted, undermined the efforts of both the federal and the Nuevo Leónstate government to frame the drug wars as a straightforward battlebetween the good guys and the bad guys. Nowhere, however, were thelines between the dirty and the clean more blurred, and more complex,than in Sinaloa, the so-called cradle of Mexican drug trafficking.
F F F
Martín Ferrer builds tombs for a living – and he makes a reasonably goodliving out of it, too. His are no ordinary tombs, but are the kind of two-storey marble extravaganzas that make the Jardines de Humaya cemetery on the outskirts of Culiacán, the capital of Sinaloa, look like a wealthy suburb for the dead – the narco dead. ‘They pay well and on time, and they are good clients as long as you deliver what you promise’, Ferrer told meone afternoon, as he took a break from his current project. ‘If you don’t,they are not so happy.’ With his hand, he mimed putting a gun to his headand pulling the trigger. This was, he said, exactly what had happened to afriend a few months ago when he went over budget.Such mortuary luxury does not come cheap. The builder pointed to onemausoleum with five-metre high Doric columns and a sweeping curvedstaircase up to a second floor. It had cost 1.2 million pesos to build(around $120,000 at the time), he said, though he did not specify whetherthat had included the solar panels on the roof (to power the air condi-tioning and in-tomb entertainment) or the bullet-proof glass in thepicture window. ‘It’s so the family can get together and relax. They have tobe careful these days.’The view from where we were chatting suggested that domes werealmost obligatory, balconies common, and that the most popular
 
40
 
MEXICO
architectural inspiration could be loosely described as neo-classical. Gaudy baroque was also a favourite, and there was a smattering of modernistminimalism that Ferrer said was becoming all the rage.Drug trafficking has a longstanding tradition in many parts of thecountry, but nowhere is it as organically integrated into the political,economic, social and cultural bedrock as in Sinaloa. The state has many facets: it has industrialized agriculture and is one of the last redoubts of traditional pre-Conquest ball games; but the drug business lurks in thebackground almost everywhere you look.As well as being the bastion of the Sinaloa cartel, the country’s mostpowerful trafficking organization of the contemporary period, and of Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán, its most famous
capo
, the state is also thesentimental homeland of a good many other leaders of rival organizations.Though their strongholds may be elsewhere, they not infrequently end upbeing brought home for burial in the Humaya cemetery when their timeis up. The ageing mother of the Carrillo Fuentes brothers of the Juárezcartel continued to live in the state, at least up until 2011. She occasionally allowed journalists into her home, where she kept an altar dedicated to her various dead sons.Sinaloa was relatively peaceful at the start of the Calderón offensive,until a split at the heart of the Sinaloa Federation turned it into a majorfront in early 2008, at just about the same time as the Ciudad Juárezconflict got going. The spark came with the January arrest of AlfredoBeltrán Leyva, one of the four brothers whose organization had growninto one of the most powerful in the country within the Federation.The rumour quickly spread that Alfredo, picked up by the military in aCuliacán safe house, had been ‘given up’ to the authorities by Chapo.Others said that Chapo had not done enough to support an escape plan inthe immediate aftermath of Alfredo’s detention. The simmering tensionexploded into open warfare when one of Chapo’s sons was gunned downoutside a mall in Culiacán that May, reputedly on orders from the BeltránLeyva brothers still at large. In the conflict that followed, Ismael ‘El MayoZambada and the other major Sinaloa leaders sided with Chapo. TheBeltrán Leyva consolidated a budding alliance with the Zetas that may have been the root cause of the original split.The battle raged in all the states where the groups coincided, but wasmost intense in Sinaloa itself. Chapo and the Beltrán Leyva family wereborn in the same part of the sierra, were vaguely related, and had grownup together in the business, privy to each other’s secrets. They knew the

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