In 2008, the homicide rate in Juárez dramatically increased as a result of Mexican counter-narcotics operations against the Juárez cartel. Although many speculate that the rise in violence was because another cartel was challenging the Juárez cartel for the lucrative drug corridor into the US it is important to note that former Mexican President Felipe Calderon had waged war against the cartels starting around 2006. Regardless, everyone, including officials in Mexico says that the violence was a result for control of the Juárez plaza but I disagree; I think it is more likely for control of the El Paso/Juárez plaza.
I have showed you some evidence that I believe begins to support my argument that local officials allow drugs through El Paso on to the rest of the nation. To me this is evidence that the plaza at play was the El Paso/Juárez plaza. Let me add more to my argument.
Through the mayhem that I have outlined, the publicly acknowledged crime rate in El Paso remained low while the drug trafficking through the city remained high as evidenced by the raging war in Juárez, the incidents of drug-related corruption continued and the cases of public corruption were too many to keep hidden from public view. Although the much-celebrated public corruption spectacle in El Paso placated some, I believe it is an indication of a culture of corruption permeating through the community. A culture has a driving factor that allows it to grow within the target demographic and in this case, I believe it has transformed itself into the impunity that is manifested in the city’s culture of corruption.
While the examples above played out through the community, and according to court testimony, the Barrio Aztecas went to work for the Juárez cartel and the Linea, the enforcement arm of the Juárez cartel. The gang rose from low-key drug trafficking to active participants in murder and fighting for control of the drug corridor through El Paso.
They grew and organized in El Paso, not Cd. Juárez.
In 2009, former El Paso police officer Jack Barrow abruptly resigned from the El Paso Police Department. It wasn’t until May of 2013 that the public learned of his alleged involvement with a cocaine drug trafficking ring involving at least 16 individuals. I have already showed you that as far back as the 90’s there were allegations of drug corruption within the police department. Two of the leaders at the police department at the time are now public officials within the county. Of course, if it was only these examples then it could be argued that within any organization exist bad apples.
However, I’m trying to establish a pattern that shows a culture of corruption, so I will continue with more examples.
As a reminder, in January 2010, as I have already pointed out earlier, Melissa O’Rourke’s business is raided by the IRS for financial improprieties. In March 2010, Arthur and Leslie Redelfs are murdered in Juárez. Those murders that were recently tried in court were linking to the Barrio Aztecas. Although the two examples are unrelated, I believe they show a pattern of drug trafficking related activities, in the case of Melissa O’Rourke her company pleaded guilty to an activity normally tied to drug-related criminal activity while the murders are obviously a result of drug cartel activity. Seemingly, unrelated activity will eventually link to activities that are normally associated to drug trafficking, although they may appear unrelated. Of course, criminality usually follows similar patterns so what a drug trafficker may do so would a tax-evader do as well. Taken in a vacuum it may look like that however let us add some more dots to the evidence.
In February 2012, then County Commissioner Willie Gandara Jr., was arrested for drug trafficking. He is currently in jail for drug trafficking. Gandara was an elected official when he was arrested, and in fact, had announced he was running for a statewide office.
As for the El Paso Police Department keep in mind that there are many recent cases of criminal and police brutality cases involving officers that have risen through the ranks when either or both Leon and Wiles were in command. These cases range from robbery by a police officer of a Walmart to a police officer stealing from a wedding party he had been paid to guard. Other allegations include sexual assault of an unconscious woman and another of a woman who had called police for help.
Are these just examples taken out of context, from an organization with numerous people in it, or is it a pattern? Remember that there are numerous cases of police officers currently under investigation, or who have pleaded guilty to official document tampering in an overtime payment scheme involving taxpayer-funded grants for law enforcement activities. This latest case involves at least eighteen police officers. Each of these cases demonstrate a serious lapse of personal integrity, an example, I argue of a culture of corruption.
When analyzing these examples of police department scandals together any reasonable person would conclude that there is a serious lapse of ethics permeated within the police department. In my opinion, this is a clear indication of a culture of corruption within the police department. A culture of corruption cannot exist within the security services without the complicity of the leadership either through participation, ineptitude or through both. Whatever may be the case the fact remains that there are numerous examples of ethical failure within the integrity of the police force and that, to me, demonstrates a failure of the complete structure in regards to the ethical enforcement of the laws.
The reader to my blog had also made an important observation about my post and asked a very important question; what should the city leadership do in response to the publicity of criminality in the city. The notion is that the city leadership should do what it is doing; creating the illusion of all is well and downplaying the criminality for the sake of the city’s economy.
I understand that for most El Pasoans the suffering in Juárez is a Juárez problem and that the duty of El Paso elected officials is to prop up the standard of living for those that they represent. An important component of that is building up the façade necessary to attract business activity to the city. On a strictly academic evaluation, devoid of humanity, I can understand that argument.
However, at what point does the body count in Juárez become unacceptable to the economic welfare of El Paso. Actually, the more important question is whether El Paso has a moral duty to do what it can to protect the innocent in Juárez.
Let us ignore that for argument’s sake and accept that El Paso has no duty, in terms of humanity, to Juárez. If my thesis is correct and El Paso allows the underlining problem, the lack of an unethical-based approach to governance to continue, how could that be bad for El Paso? I would argue that it would eventually metastasize out of control. In fact, I think it has already led to the development of the culture of corruption that I, and many others, believe exists in El Paso. In the 1970’s the mentality of corruption was generally limited to the acceptance of the flamboyant Chagra lifestyle. Many whispered and snickered about it and it was left unchecked.
As you can see by the many examples of the public corruption that has been exposed you will notice that it has increased since that period becoming more and more deadly each time. The murders may not be happening on El Paso streets but the underlining causes of them are a direct result of the drugs that make it into the US through El Paso. These drugs make it into El Paso and from there appear in cities across the US. If El Paso weren’t a lucrative transit point of entry then Cd. Juárez would not be either.
I didn’t just outline one or two case I have showed you many examples that happened during a significant period of the drug cartel growth in Mexico. The bottom line for the drug cartels is the money they make. If it is too expensive for them to make money, they simply shift to locations that are more lucrative. If El Paso based law enforcement was effective then why would Juárez continue to be a lucrative plaza for the cartels?
Drugs do not just simply disappear once they get across the border and reappear in other cities. They have to be in El Paso in order to be divided, organized and transited to the final selling point. The notion that the cartels are so afraid of US law enforcement is easily dispelled when I remind you of the battles in Miami that were being fought in the streets in 1980’s. Colombian cartels resisted at first and then adjusted their tactics as the cost to keep the conduit open overtook the profits they were making. They shifted through Mexico, unto El Paso and other border communities to the final destinations.
This brings me right back to the important observation the reader made and why I believe the Juárez battles are not about the Juárez plaza but rather the El Paso/Juárez plaza.
It has been documented that criminal organizations have, for many years, made pacts to control and reduce violence in order to maximize profits. The higher the violence the more expensive it is to profit from the drugs. Numerous examples of the Columbians doing this have been documented. Allegations of US and Mexican government deals with drug cartels to control violence continue to come up on a regular basis. Accepting that it is about the money it makes perfect sense that the criminal organizations no more want attention brought upon themselves by homicides and violence then the population wants it in their neighborhoods.
This is why it has been US policy to engage the drug cartels in other countries rather than in the US neighborhoods. More importantly, my reader commented that the “lie sealed in blood” is more about controlling the violence in order to keep the drug money flowing.
The reader is precisely correct. The reader points out that the gangs keep “their minions” under control and keep “petty crimes” out of the realm in order to keep the lucrative route open for the traffickers. This has been an established modus-operandi from the inception of organized crime. Rather than warring criminals, an organization distributes the “profits” through the association and the “profits” are higher when there is no attention brought upon the criminal activities. This has been going on for generations of criminal organizations. Simply stated, profits go down when the cost of war goes up.
Clearly, something is going on in El Paso in regards to the drugs that get over the border. I believe it is an accommodation to keep the violence and petty crimes out of El Paso. If this is true, then the quid pro quo is to allow the drugs to transit through. A conspiracy sealed in blood, if you will.
The question though is does this absolve El Paso of its responsibility to reign in lawlessness in hopes of it disappearing in the near future. Unfortunately, for Juárez residents the United States has been adept at keeping some control over the cartel criminal influence within US borders by fighting them extraterritorially. However, it comes at a cost.
For Juárez and Mexico, it comes at the cost of bloody streets and murdered loved ones. El Paso leaders may get to enjoy the fruits of a “conspiracy sealed in blood” by keeping the violence out of the community and illicit monies propping up a failed economy but it is a dangerous agreement that could result in out of control violence one day. For most El Pasoans this could be an acceptable “conspiracy sealed in blood” because the blood is someone else’s families, until the agreement is broken.
In addition, making a deal of this type eventually has unintended consequences as criminals do not stay within the conformity of any deal because if they did they would abide by the laws of the society rather than ply in the illicit trades. A culture of corruption is one example of the consequences. That culture will evolve, and if left unchecked it would manifest itself into a culture of impunity that could lead to unrestrained violence for control. El Pasoans may think today that violence in Juárez is acceptable in exchange for peace in El Paso, but what would happen if my theory is correct and it is a prelude to future unchecked criminality?
At that point, would the El Paso leadership throw up its arms and let the rest of Texas seal off the border communities out in order to keep the resulting violence out of the rest of Texas? Would El Paso then demand that the rest of Texas do what it needs to protect El Pasoans? The first step in resolving any problem is acknowledging a problem exists. Until a problem is recognized, it is not possible to develop a solution for it.
There is a reason that the El Paso police department is mired in unethical and criminal scandals and that multiple El Paso County officials are in jail for public corruption. Drug trafficking is the nexus and it is for that reason that I believe that the violence in Juárez was never about the Juárez plaza but rather the El Paso/Juárez one. It is a “conspiracy sealed in blood”.