Cartels, Conspiracies, and Camarena

An in-depth analysis of the 1985 murder of DEA Agent Enrique Camarena and the various conspiracy theories relating to his death, as well as the rebuttal to many of those theories in the newly published true crime novel Someone Had to Die. Subsequent seasons will also discuss other conspiracies, historical anomalies, and peculiar events and occurrences.

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Sunday May 19, 2024

The efforts of Mexican cartels to launder the hundreds of millions of dollars in illicit profits in the U.S. have been a focus of law enforcement and regulators on both sides of the border.  In this Episode, I discuss an analysis of those laundering efforts published in the Journal of Illicit Economies and Development.  
The article, among other topics, details incidents of corruption at the highest levels of the Mexican government. The article also discusses the money laundering statutes in the United States. 
The article provides a case study of money laundering by Los Zetas through the quarter horse racing industry in the U.S.  The authors then present several examples of systemics corruption in the Mexican government at the state level. 
Finally, we discuss the six proposals for reform the authors suggest might assist in stemming the flow of illicit funds into the U.S.  

Sunday May 12, 2024

Last week, the DEA presented its annual National Drug Threat Assessment (NDTA). In this Episode, I discuss some of the more significant observations in the NDTA. 
Specifically, I look at the NDTA's description of the Sinaloa and Jalisco Cartels, including their leadership structures, drug trafficking patterns, international presences, and other illegal activities.
I also present the NDTA's findings on the illegal drug threats in the United States, identified by seizures and overdose deaths.  

Sunday May 05, 2024

The use of social media has become an integral part of the operation of Mexican cartels and has expanded their reach and influence in new and profound ways.  
In this Episode, I look at the narrative themes in the cartel's social media presence, as well at the specific operational strategies and objectives fueled by social media. 
I also examine the Combating Cartels on Social Media Act of 2023, a bill currently pending in Congress.
Finally, I discuss current trends in cartels' social media use, and the propaganda "boosts" often unintentionally provided to cartels by news and other media outlets.

Sunday Apr 28, 2024

This last week, news reports highlighted the arrest of Abraham Oseguera Cervantes (alias "Don Rondo"), the older brother of CJNG leader El Mencho.
In this Episode, I discuss not only Don Rondo's arrest but also the arrest of other relatives of El Mencho, including another brother (El Tony Montana), his son, daughter, and wife.
Specifically, I discuss the often overly dramatic and misleading press reports surrounding these arrests and I examine the utility of this approach, one that has been used by the U.S. and Mexican governments, as well as those in other Latin American countries.  

Friday Apr 19, 2024

Earlier this month, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced the implementation of Operation Border Spike, which it called the next step in the CBP's strategy to combat fentanyl and other synthetic drugs.  Operation Border Spike begins with a focus on the Nogales, Sonora plaza and the plaza's boss.  
In this Episode, I give a brief overview of the city of Nogales, and then focus on the elements of Operation Border Spike, as announced by CBP.  I then provide a brief history of the man at the head of the Nogales plaza -- Sergio Valenzuela Valenzuela.   In particular, I look at Valenzuela's rise to power and his close relationship with CDS leader El Mayo Zamabada.  

Friday Apr 12, 2024

One of the more profound impacts of the Cartel wars has been the focus on the violence in many areas of the country, and corresponding diminishing attention to Mexico's rich and diverse history, culture, and economy.
In this Episode, I look at this concept through the lens of Ciudad Juarez. Specifically, I examine the city's fascinating history, as well the rise and fall of the Juarez Cartel.  Next, I look at the current Cartel battles for control of the city and the economy in Juarez today.
Finally, I put a human face on the cartel influences in Juarez by looking at the tragic impact the violence has had on the children of Juarez, their education, and their families.   

Friday Apr 05, 2024

I frequently get asked what I the major issues in the fight against the Mexican cartels and the fentanyl crisis.  In response, in addition to other issues, I often talk about the demand for illegal drugs in the United States and elsewhere and the economic realities in much of Mexico that precipitate participation in the cartels. Recently, I read two interesting and compelling articles that add to the analysis, and I discuss each in this Episode.
The first article presents five policy areas Presidential aspirants should address in connection with the fight against the cartels.  Those policies points are foreign policy changes, strategies to deal with the cartels, southern border strategies, declare the cartels narco-terrorists, and a uniform domestic anti-narcotic strategy.  I look at and discuss each of these policies.  
The second article discusses the Mexican military's unique role within the Mexican government and the risks to democracy presented by that role.  In this Episode, we look at the critical features of the Mexican military highlighted by the article and the ways in which those features impact the war on fentanyl and efforts by both Mexico and the United States, separately or bilaterally, to combat the cartels.   

Friday Mar 29, 2024

Last week, while on a spring trip road trip with my daughter, we passed by the town of Florence, Colorado and ADX Supermax, the most secure prison in the country, housing our most dangerous and notorious prisoners, including infamous former cartel leader, El Chapo Guzman.
My curiosity spurred, this Episode discusses the impetus for the construction of Supermax, the prisoners placed in Supermax, and how they are segregated within the prison.  Next, we look at the cells and daily lives of prisoners at Supermax face.  Finally, examine some litigation and complaints regarding the prison, including those from El Chapo who says he endures inhumane and unfair conditions.  

Friday Mar 15, 2024

May 5 marked 39 years since the tragic discovery of the bodies of Agent Camarena and Captain Zavala.  Since there is a significant amount of disinformation about the discoveries and surrounding events, this Episode provides facts to set the record straight.
Initially, we discuss Commandante Pavon Reyes and the kidnapping of Captain Zavala, identifying the widely disseminated false narratives. Next, we describe the massacre at Bravo Ranch and the subsequent discovery of the bodies of Agent Camarena and Captain Zavala.  Finally, we examine the reasonable inferences of a conspiracy arising from the Bravo Ranch facts.

Sunday Mar 03, 2024

In an early January episode, I discussed the just-released reports that claimed the DEA had investigated information that drug traffickers had funneled millions of dollars into the 2006 presidential campaign of current Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.  In that discussion, we questioned the impact of those reports could have on bilateral relations, especially in light of speculation that they have been leaked by U.S. actors or agencies.
In this Episode, I look at recent claims that the reports in fact have impaired cooperation between the two countries, including pausing a planned operation to capture and arrent CJNG leader El Mencho.
I also look at reports that Genero Garcia Luna, a key figure in the administrations of Presidents Vicente Fox and Felipe Calderon, took a multi-million dollar bribe from El Mayo while serving as the director of the Federal Investigative Agency in the Fox administration.


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