WikiLeaks highlight concerns about Juárez drug abuse, Mexican drug wars

By DIANA WASHINGTON VALDEZ | El Paso Times, Texas | Published: May 19, 2014

Drug addiction in Juárez represents a daily drug-trafficking market of about $2.3 million, according to files disclosed by online whistleblower WikiLeaks.

The leaked file cites a Mexican official who is referred to only as "MX-1." During a meeting with U.S. and Mexican officials, the official identified as MX-1 said "that Juárez has a drug abuse problem which amounts to about 30 million pesos a day."

"It's a 30 million peso a day market for Juárez, with anywhere from 2,000 to 2,500 individuals," MX-1 said. "He (MX-1) added, for example, they know that most of the people that are participating in the kidnappings are addicts," according to the leaked file.

At the current exchange rate, 30 million pesos is about $2.3 million in U.S. currency.

Guillermo Valenzuela, Aliviane Inc.'s director of community affairs, said he suspects that the number of addicts quoted in the leaked document (2,000-2,500) likely refers to heroin users, only because the total number of addicts is much higher based on other sources.

"My understanding is that Juárez and Tijuana now have the largest number of addicts in Mexico," Valenzuela said. "We can't provide a dollar figure for what the market for drug addicts represents in El Paso, because we've never had such a study funded."

Aliviane operates the largest rehabilitation center in El Paso.

Mexican health officials reported three years ago that Juárez had approximately 45,000 addicts, and about half of those abused illegal drugs.

During the Arturo Gallegos Castrellon drug and murder conspiracy trial in February, witnesses testified that a drug cell operating in El Paso handled millions of dollars in drug proceeds on a monthly basis.

Another witness in the trial said his group had amassed $11.8 million from drug proceeds, and that it took two days to count the cash.

According to trial testimony, gang members working for the Carrillo Fuentes drug cartel established their own drug rehab centers in Juárez, supposedly to help members cure their addiction. If gang members didn't stop using drugs, they would be killed because they were a liability to the organization, witnesses said.

Other facets of drug wars

Other information in the WikiLeaks Global Intelligence Files, some of which are based on high-level U.S.-Mexico discussions related to the Merida Initiative, mention arms-trafficking in El Paso and New Mexico, drug gangs, and the U.S. and Mexico's struggle to define "border violence."

The files, which are posted on the Internet, also said that:

•Mexico estimated it has 40 million illegal weapons in the country. The timeframe and sources of those weapons are not mentioned.

•One unidentified drug cartel "sold" a group of migrants traveling through Mexico to another drug cartel.

•A drug cartel kidnapped migrants that passed through territory that it controlled.

•Unprecedented U.S.-Mexico cooperation allowed a U.S. helicopter, and possibly also a drone, to fly into Mexican territory in pursuit of a suspect. "They located one of the perpetrators from the incident and ground troops from the U.S. and Mexico were able to make the apprehension," referring to an incident in the California-Mexico border area.

In other discussions, one of the officials cited a transcript of a 2009 Merida Initiative roundtable which stated that 120 grenades had been seized in Mexico since 2007, and that authorities had seen an increase in improvised explosive devices.

An unnamed Mexican official said that not all of the improvised explosive devices were made by people from Mexico. "He noted that recently, some that had been confiscated were made by the Faruque," the officials said. It is not clear whether Faruque refers to Middle Eastern natives or operatives or to an organization.

Also discussed is how drug cartels are double-crossing undocumented immigrants who they recruit and exploit a second time. A U.S. official identified as "Ambassador@," according to the leaked file, "stated that they have an unprecedented problem where they are being advised that the cartels are involved in human trafficking, the kidnapping of illegal workers. He said that what they do is get people from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, China and from Ecuador, and bring them to Mexico and then they kidnap them and start demanding ransom for them."

"This has been seen in two cartels, and they sold 57 undocumented migrants from Central America to another cartel," the official said. "There is proof that they are involved in not only arms, money and drugs, but also in human trafficking they have been able to establish that they have demanded ransom from families in Honduras or Guatemala or El Salvador."

A "Mr. 731" stated in the documents that in the "boot heel" area of New Mexico, Border Patrol agents are seeing more Hondurans, more people from El Salvador and there are one or two incidents of Chinese, which is unusual." "Mr. 731" also stated that "one of the things reported earlier was some of the drug smugglers are resorting to human smuggling, and what they're doing is they are using young females for prostitution and slavery."

Over the past six months, the Border Patrol has reported a surge in undocumented immigrants from Central American countries, many of them who arrive on the notorious "La Bestia" (the Beast) train and after crossing territory controlled by the Zetas drug cartel.

During the Merida Initiative roundtable, a U.S. official said drug cartels were targeting children from 10 to 15 years old to use as drug mules because it was harder for authorities to prosecute children for drug smuggling than adults.

The roundtable included Border Patrol, Mexican federal police, and Mexican military members, U.S. federal authorities and consular officials, among others.

The same official, "Mr. 731," said that gang members told law enforcement in New Mexico that one of the reasons that drug gangs are coming to New Mexico "is because our state laws are weak here and they know that they're going to get away with it."

After questions over how border violence is defined, a "Mr. 009" asked that if "Tucson and Phoenix are handling border violence, then where's the border? How far north, Flagstaff or Denver?"

In response, "Mr. 983" said that a definition had been agreed upon by 17 agencies in a working group at the El Paso Intelligence Center, and that border violence is considered "spillover" when U.S. interests are affected, according to the WikiLeaks file. "He noted that the border was defined region by region."

Criminal gangs including the Zetas, Mara Salvatrucha, Sur Trece, Hell's Angels, the Memphis Mob and Barrio Azteca were mentioned as organizations of concern, and that drug-trafficking is the "bread and butter" of gangs. The role of firearms in Mexico's escalating drug violence also worried the officials, according to the files.

Mx-1 said that Mexico's intelligence shows that weapons that brought into Juárez are bought at U.S. gun shows, arrive in vehicles, and are stored in stash houses.

Apart from the guns that are already in Mexico, MX-1 official said that during Joint Operation Chihuahua from March 2008 to March 2009, Mexican authorities seized 1,219 rifles, 1,052 guns and 120 grenades in Juárez alone. The operation was launched during President Felipe Calderon's administration to quell the drug violence in Juárez, which killed nearly 11,000 people over a five-year period.

The Sinaloa drug cartel and rival Carrillo Fuentes drug cartel were the main protagonists of the violence.

Diana Washington Valdez may be reached at 546-6140.

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