Abecedario de Juárez: An Illustrated Lexicon 9781477325025

Southwest Book Awards, Border Regional Library Association (BRLA) Uses key words and striking images to explore violence

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Abecedario de Juárez: An Illustrated Lexicon

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Abecedario de Juárez

Abecedario de Juárez

an illustrated lexicon jul ián cardona and alice leora brig gs

Translations by Alice L. Driver         Illustrations by Alice Leora Briggs

Introduction by Howard Campbell

University of Texas Press     Austin

The authors thank Alice L. Driver for generously granting permission to use her translations in the narratives in this text. Text copyright © 2022 by Julián Cardona and Alice Leora Briggs Illustrations copyright © 2022 by Alice Leora Briggs Original translation copyright © 2022 by Alice L. Driver Introduction copyright © 2022 by Howard Campbell All rights reserved Printed in the United States of America First edition, 2021 Requests for permission to reproduce material from this work should be sent to: Permissions University of Texas Press P.O. Box 7819 Austin, TX 78713-7819 utpress.utexas.edu/rp-form ♾ The paper used in this book meets the minimum requirements of ANSI/NISO Z39.48-1992 (R1997) (Permanence of Paper). Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Cardona, Julián, 1960–2020, author. | Briggs, Alice Leora, 1953–, author, illustrator. | Driver, Alice L., translator. Title: Abecedario Juárez : an illustrated lexicon / Julián Cardona and Alice Leora Briggs ; with translations by Alice L. Driver ; illustrations by Alice Leora Briggs. Other titles: Abecedario de Juárez : an illustrated lexicon Description: First edition. | Austin : University of Texas Press, 2021. Identifiers: LCCN 2021022956 ISBN 978-1-4773-2407-3 (cloth) ISBN 978-1-4773-2502-5 (PDF) ISBN 978-1-4773-2503-2 (ePub) Subjects: LCSH: Violence—Mexico—Ciudad Juárez—Dictionaries. | Violence—Mexico—Ciudad Juárez—Slang—Dictionaries. | Violence— Mexico—Ciudad Juárez—Pictorial works. | Persons—Mexico—Ciudad Juárez—Interviews. | LCGFT: Engravings. Classification: LCC HN120.C85 C35 2021 | DDC 303.609764/4—dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2021022956 doi:10.7560/324073

Remembering Julián

Authors’ Note


he people of Ciudad Juárez who tell their stories in these pages are neither composite nor fictional characters. A few gave permission to publish their first and last names. Others are identified by nicknames known only among their friends and families. A small number wanted to remain nameless. They all share memories of their experiences from 2006 through 2012, years when the streets of their city exploded with violence, years when President Felipe Calderón sent ten thousand federal forces into Ciudad Juárez. A new lexicon that rose out of Ciudad Juárez during this six-year period is the core of our project, an investigation of the language and framework of a primary growth industry in this border city: crime. The following pages reveal that the Mexican State sponsors much of this crime. When not committed by the State, the government’s policy of near impunity condones the crimes of others. As with any attempt to capture slang, our efforts became history before these pages were bound. Some years after the drug trade’s parallel economy rode into town, it was followed by thousands of soldiers and federal police. President Felipe Calderón implied that the resulting deaths of Juárez citizens were equivalent to an extermination of cockroaches. If ever there was an occasion for speechlessness, this was it. But in this city where Spanish and English collide, the streets exploded with words invented and adjusted to describe a world Juarenses had never seen. Narratives based on Julián Cardona’s interviews introduce individuals who speak a new dialect and provide firsthand accounts of the staggering collateral damage of “business as usual” in Juárez. Alice Leora Briggs’s drawings reveal this environment as

unique but parallel to many instances of greed, torture, murder, and other abuses that decorate darker corners of human behavior. Between 2008 and 2010, Briggs created her first renderings of Abecedario de Juárez, a mutable theater of tortures and executions, a pictorial Spanish alphabet in thirty-two panels. This homage to Juárez and Hans Holbein’s Alphabet of Death sharpened her interest in the new vocabulary rising out of Juárez. She started to gather and study narcotraficante, gang, and street slang, as well as to create a visual record of the city. Her work is grounded by time spent in Juárez beginning in 2008. Cardona, a resident of Ciudad Juárez since early childhood, conducted his initial interview in 2008 with crime victim Pastor Socorro García. She was present when masked gunmen entered a drug treatment clinic, opened fire on a religious service, and killed eight men. Cardona continued to conduct interviews to record the experiences of victims and perpetrators of Juárez crime. He also collected slang terms from the citizens of Juárez, including drug dealers and traffickers, professional killers, kidnappers, crime victims, government officials, reporters, human rights workers, and former police agents. Examples include an elementary-school boy from a poor barrio who understands the liabilities and assets of his dream career as a professional killer; a preteen who divides and packages drugs for retail sales; a woman who wakes to the news of the day: her dinner guest from the night before is a decapitated corpse displayed on an overpass in the center of Juárez. Briggs and Cardona worked independently of each other until late 2012, when writer Charles vii


  Authors’ Note

Bowden pointed out that they had been conducting research on different facets of the same project. In retrospect, it is difficult to believe that it took a third party to point this out. An unusually open collaboration grew out of a Las Cruces meeting with Bowden. Cardona shared a number of photographs that Briggs used as reference material for drawings. Briggs and Cardona wrote and rewrote a burgeoning catalog of slang terms and Cardona’s interview-based narratives over a period of ten years. In 2020 there are some changes in the facade. Procuraduría Federal de la República (Federal

Attorney’s Office) is now called Fiscalía General de la República (Attorney General’s Office). The Policia Federal (federal police) was disbanded at midnight on December 31, 2019, and on February 28, 2019, Mexico’s congress approved creation of the Guardia Nacional (National Guard). There are now 100,000 members of the Guardia Nacional deployed throughout the country.1 Moreover, the first commander of this force, Luis Rodríguez Bucio, and all other commanders of the Guardia Nacional are former members of the armed forces.2

Abecedario de Juárez

Introduction Howard Campbell

Si algo existe, uno le da un nombre. (If something exists, you give it a name.) Gabina Burciaga, Juárez activist and Gestalt therapist


ulián Cardona was a journalist, photographer, and writer who was born in Zacatecas but spent most of his life in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, Mexico. Cardona grew up in an impoverished northwestern barrio of Juárez and had an intimate knowledge of the vast city. Alice Leora Briggs is an artist, writer, and 2020 Guggenheim Fellow, originally from West Texas. Juárez became a focus for her drawings in 2005, and she began to regularly travel to study border society in 2008. Briggs’s inquiries into human frailties have generated thousands of words, drawings, woodcuts, letterpress books, broadsides, and architectural installations. They have been exhibited in major collections in Europe and the United States, and widely disseminated. Her drawings intersect with the colloquial words of Juarenses to describe and to question forces that contributed to the unraveling of this border city during the 2006– 2012 administration of President Felipe Calderón. The two authors’ collaboration has been long and complex. Cardona conducted the interviews and collected the slang expressions, while Briggs created the art, but much writing and research was handled jointly over an eight-year period (2012–2020). Their harmonious collaboration produced this stunning new study of crime and violence in Juárez, one of the most dangerous cities in the world.3 Any new book on Juárez must, from the outset, confront the monumental work of the late great border writer Charles Bowden, with whom Cardona collaborated for nineteen years.4 Bowden’s writings about Juárez have profoundly shaped understandings of Juárez in the popular, literary, and academic public of the world. Bowden’s mystical, stream-of-consciousness narratives, in such

books as Juárez: The Laboratory of Our Future and Murder City, depict Juárez as a city of rape, death, and destruction. Though ostensibly grounded in on-the-spot reporting and ably supported by Cardona’s decades of field experience and vast web of sources, Bowden’s creative nonfiction veered into terrain similar to the works of Hunter S. Thompson and Truman Capote.5 Above all, Bowden created lyrical, mythopoetic meditations on death and horror in which aesthetics often triumph over strict fact or academic constraint.6 Despite the profundity of Bowden’s insight, his work sometimes takes up too much space in the public understanding of Juárez. There is ample room for other perspectives, especially those of a more seasoned Mexican observer of Juárez, such as Cardona, and an artist and writer such as Briggs. Cardona, who was even better informed than Bowden, regularly produced fresh insights into the evolving Mexican drug violence and published photographs of the urban landscape and people of Juárez for American, British, and Mexican news media, and has for several decades. Cardona organized the seminal Nada que ver (Nothing to See) photo exhibit (1995) in Juárez, which served to provide the photographs for Bowden’s Juárez: The Laboratory of Our Future. Additionally, Cardona’s work has been exhibited in important venues and is a part of collections in Europe, Latin America, and the United States. The powerful team of Briggs and Cardona has here assembled a remarkable document that is equal parts street dictionary, ethno-documentary of crime and violence, and artistic representation of brutality and evil.7 Briggs’s eclectic technique, involving medieval engraving techniques and 1


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the sgraffito method,8 produces sharply detailed black-and-white images of hallucinatory intensity. Although Briggs has learned from the great European printmaking masters such as Pieter Bruegel the Elder, Albrecht Dürer, and Hans Holbein, as well as the death-obsessed Mexican political satirist José Guadalupe Posada, and even the common Mexican lotería card, her Juárez images are distinctive and of the twenty-first century. Briggs collaborated with Charles Bowden for nine years, most significantly in their beautiful, troubling Dreamland: The Way out of Juárez. Bowden himself makes a cameo appearance in the Abecedario images, and portraits of Cardona populate the pages. Todo lo que existe en una sociedad se refleja en su lenguaje. (Everything that happens in a society is reflected in its language.) Julián Cardona

The ingenious alphabet of Mexican criminal argot and Cardona and Briggs’s encyclopedic command of the vocabulary and imagery of corruption and violence shine throughout the book. Additionally, Briggs’s deftly rendered imagery provides graphic insight into this milieu of brutality and suffering, all the while skewering the hypocrisy of the powerful. See, for example, Briggs’s ribald send-up of “C” for (Felipe) Calderón, the Mexican president who takes the most blame for drug war violence, and the stunning illustration of clavo, a secret hiding place for drugs.9 The Abecedario’s construction is reminiscent of Borges’s imaginative etymological categorizations and of the morbidly cynical yet amusing Devil’s Dictionary of Ambrose Bierce. Moreover, there is no getting around the fact that Briggs and Cardona’s conception of crime, brutality, and murder is informed by an ancient Mexican tradition of staring death in the face, and either mocking it in Rabelaisian fashion or simply dancing with the devil.10 Unlike Anglo-American intellectuals and scholars, for whom a too-intense focus on death is considered to be bad form and a nihilistic “pornography of violence,” Briggs and Cardona directly confront this Dante-esque lexicon of mayhem and

killing employed by the Juárez criminal/corrupt police underworld. The result is a striking dive into that “heart of darkness” that is the mind of its sicarios, kidnappers, and torturers. Briggs’s soulful illustrations—such as that of the down-and-out street person in basura social or the somnambulant prisoners of montado—pound home the message. Every oppressive, inhumane, and ruthless social system, whether it be Nazi Germany, the former Soviet Union, Trump’s America, or Communist China develops its own particular vocabulary of distortion and manipulation, a fact George Orwell understood only too well. As the anthropologist Michael Taussig put it: “The space of death is important in the creation of meaning and consciousness, nowhere more so than in societies where torture is endemic and where the culture of terror flourishes. We may think of the space of death as a threshold that allows for illumination as well as extinction.”11 However, as extreme as the Juárez language may be, the Abecedario is no postmodern literary exercise designed merely to shock and titillate but a hyperrealistic journalistic tour de force culled from Cardona and Briggs’s decades of street prowling, interviews, and field observations. Indeed, the gritty words and phrases used to describe beating, shooting, abduction, and torture come to us from the victims and the contrite perpetrators themselves who want their stories to be told. The double and triple meanings of this rancorous wordplay reflect the realities of Mexican life today: a modern economy, democracy, and legal system—on the surface—shrouded in the language and practice of obfuscation, improvisation, mistreatment, and lies. The euphemisms of Juárez criminal and police slang, when examined closely, rather than hide the ugliness of cartel and government violence, tend only to accentuate and make it even more macabre. A few examples suffice: achicharrado as a description of a burned body inevitably evokes images of butchered chunks of meat sizzling in lard; encobijado—to be wrapped in a blanket—that is, to be executed, then rolled in a cheap blanket or bloody sheet before being thrown into a dark alley or an irrigation canal, or dumped in the desert; carne asada—to be killed—brings to mind a diced human being tossed on a fiery grill and later consumed


on fresh tortillas with spicy salsa. In other cases the almost bureaucratic blandness, simplicity, and banal beauty of the words cover up a whole universe of addiction, abuse, and pain: blanca for cocaine, negra for heroin, cristal for methamphetamine; “uno o dos”? (Do you want one or two bags or bindles of cocaine or heroin?);12 un anexo (an annex)—no, it is not some generic office building or storage facility but a horrific drug rehab center, a place more prison than hospital (see Briggs’s dark evocation of such places in la anexada); la cuota for extortion money (if you don’t pay la cuota, you are killed or your business is burned down); “El Cherry” (from el CERESO), the acronym for the Juárez prison full of hardened gang and cartel members, rapists, and drug addicts; Artistas Asesinos—the Artistic Assassins, a notoriously brutal gang whose aesthetic talents seldom transcend stylized tattoos and the gruesome staging of corpses at murder scenes. Most emblematic perhaps is the word jale, from jalar, “to pull” or colloquially to do a job, which in this context means to kill, as portrayed in starkly revealing fashion by Briggs. Indeed, the intentions of Briggs and Cardona go far beyond whatever postmodern ironies may be found embedded in the Juárez criminal argot. Nor are they humorists à la Eduardo del Rio a.k.a. Rius, Mexico’s legendary cartoonist/political comedian. The drawings, in particular, are similar to Leon Golub’s radical South African political art. Although an astute reader will decode the black humor that pervades popular criminal speech, the author’s concerns are deadly serious. Dar agua, dar cuello, and dar piso are not just metaphorically potent but refer to acts of extreme cruelty and massacre. Moreover, in addition to discovering the various ways to dismember and dispose of bodies—embolsar, empalar, encajuelar, encobijar 13—and the other arcane linguistic details of the border criminal world, the reader will also learn from this dictionary/encyclopedia how the blended criminal and government corruption business actually works at the ground level. To wit: I have seen no better description of the inner workings of the extortion racket than Cardona’s interview of Luis Javier Martínez under the headings of derecho de piso and estado paralelo. The language is powerful:


derecho de piso is “the right to operate in a certain location.” In this distorted society, who is it who now grants that right and collects the corresponding fee? The gangsters, of course, tolerated or supported by the corrupt police and the military who always receive their “cuota” or simply take it directly from the pockets and homes of citizens. Little by little, the language of the streets reveals an illicit world that is tightly interwoven with the government and its representatives on the ground: police, soldiers, and politicians. El lenguaje te sirve para condicionar, para ocultar, y para dirigir discuros. (Language functions to shape, hide, or direct discourse.) Julián Cardona

Here is just a brief sample of how the authors’ investigative work and lexical compilation illustrate other core elements of Juárez drug crime and violence: Baja collateral /falsos positivos /La Gente Nueva define how innocent (and not so innocent) individuals are captured by gang members, cops, or the military and then tortured, murdered, framed, and scapegoated. Borrar defines how hit men are hired and sent to kill. Cero barrio and punto/puntero define how Juárez is divided into smaller and smaller territories with clearly defined and controlled drug-selling spots. Colgado defines how the murdered are hung from bridges, often along with a narco-banner containing written insults and threats. Cinta canela defines how torture is conducted (see Briggs’s corresponding depiction of a bound individual juxtaposed with a more common image of canela [cinnamon] in Mexican hot chocolate). Cuidador/dora /elemento define how the kidnapping business functions (see Cardona’s spellbinding interview with Toby, the leader of a gang of teenage kidnappers, and check out Briggs’s alarming re-­ creation of the twisted body of a kidnap victim). Etc. Ultimately, through Briggs’s and Cardona’s deep and lengthy interviews, and the electrifying


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drawings that exemplify them, the reader gains a feel for the bizarre magical realism of Mexican criminal slang, as well as the underlying political structures and organizing principles of crime, corruption, and violence in Juárez. Behind the headlines and broad generalizations about cartel wars and corruption lies an amazingly intricate world of customs, slang, and practices whose linguistic manifestations form the content of the book. Thus, the Abecedario’s innovative criminal glossary will have great value for scholars who attempt to dissect the causes, cultural forms, and expressions of urban violence and the “drug war.” Ultimately, the challenge posed by the Abecedario, however, is not the need for more linguistic deconstruction or semiotic interpretation. Instead, it is time for a rebuilding of Ciudad Juárez and the border society of which it is a part, so that so many thousands of lives are no longer lost in the ongoing “war for drugs” and the war on people. To that end, Cardona and Briggs’s remarkable lexicon and field studies of crime and violence can help us understand from where the city has come and the obstacles that lie ahead.

REFERENCES Adame, Ramon. Tecatology: A Treatment Perspective concerning the Chicano Tecato. El Paso, TX: Tierra del Sol, 1975. Bowden, Charles. Murder City: Ciudad Juárez and the Global Economy’s New Killing Fields. New York: Nation Books, 2010. Coltharp, Lurline. The Tongue of the Tirilones: A Linguistic Study of a Criminal Argot. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1965. Delgadillo, Willivaldo. Fabular Juárez: Marcos de guerra, memoria y los foros por venir. Ciudad Juárez: Brown Buffalo Press, 2020. Lomnitz, Claudio. Death and the Idea of Mexico. New York: Zone Books, 2005. Taussig, Michael. “Culture of Terror—Space of Death: Roger Casement’s Putumayo Report and the Explanation of Torture.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 26, no. 3 (1984): 467–497.

abatir: To kill, euphemism used by the Mexican Army. “Fold down criminals in hours of darkness”14 is a strategy that calls to mind countless Juárez kidnappings, executions, and massacres in the dark of night or the gray hours near dawn. Soldiers understand unwritten orders to kill civilians, orders

that are delivered by word-of-mouth with vague synonyms. On July 2, 2015, Centro de Derechos Humanos Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez A.C. (Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center), a Jesuit human rights society based in Mexico, released a document issued earlier by the National Defense 5


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Secretariat. This written order to the chief military officer in Tlatlaya stated, “The troops must operate aggressively at night and reduce activity during the day, in order to abatir criminals in hours of darkness.” According to the Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos (National Human Rights Commission), among the deaths of twenty-two people in Tlatlaya on June 30, 2014, twelve to fifteen were ejecuciones extrajudiciales committed under orders. The Mexican Army claimed that these deaths resulted from an enfrentamiento, but news reports asserted that no confrontation had occurred, that the dead had been executed. Literal meaning: To bring down; to fold down; to bite the cable. Related terms: dar piso, ejecución extrajudicial, ejecutar, enfrentamiento abrir: To open an area for sicarios, a police dispatcher dismisses officers from their sector and orders them to respond to false reports in another district. Literal meaning: To open. Related phrase: no te acerques, va a haber baile

until dead or a corpse that is burned after death/ to be burned. Literal meaning: Meat that has been fried too long/ overheated. Related terms: calcinado, calcinar, chamuscado, chamuscar, incinerado, incinerar, quemado, quemar acostarse: To die. Literal meaning: To go to bed. Related terms: dar cuello, dar piso, quebrar, sembrar, tumbar acribillado/acribillar: Someone or something riddled with bullets/to shoot many holes into something or someone. Literal meaning: Someone or something full of holes/to puncture until someone or something resembles a sieve, to molest, to torment. Related terms: acuchillado, acuchillar, agujerado, agujerar, balaceado, filereado, filerear, rafagueado acuchillado/acuchillar: Person with single or multiple stab wounds/to stab once, to stab repeatedly. Literal meaning: Slashed one/to slash. Related terms: balaceado, fierrazo, filereado, filerear

abrirse: To give in to torture or a threat of torture; agua celeste: Transparent liquid solvent that is used to stop fighting and to start cooperating. as an intoxicating inhalant. Literal meaning: To open oneself. Related terms: dedo, hocicón, peinetón, poner dedo, Literal meaning: Holy water. Related terms: garrazo, gasorbiente, Pega Rey, Resisponlo de pecho, soplón tol 5000 acartonado: Dessicated corpse, often a homicide victim’s body dumped in the desert, eventually aguaje: Place where heroin and other drugs are mummified by the sun’s heat; a corpse with skin sold, primarily to foreigners; in common use until the 1960s. that resembles cardboard. Neighborhood “bouncers” maintained peaceLiteral meaning: Corpse with a cardboard-like ful, relatively crime-free zones around aguajes in appearance; stiff or reserved person. order to facilitate sales, a practice that continues Related terms: encobijado, entambado near contemporary sales locations. The best-known acelerado: A person who lives the “fast life,” using aguaje was located near the intersection of Ignacio Mejía and Plomo Streets, operated by La Nacha or selling drugs. (Ignacia Jasso), who launched her business in ColoLiteral meaning: Fast one. Related terms: agua celeste, arponazo, chiva, cristal, nia Bellavista in the 1920s. cristalazo, lineaz, loquear, morena, mota, narizazo, Literal meaning: A reliable watering hole. Related terms: picadero, punto nieve, Pega Rey, piedra, uñazo achicharrado/achicharrar: Person burned alive

agujerado/agujerar: One who is full of holes,



possibly knife wounds, most often bullet holes/to shoot full of holes; to stab repeatedly. Literal meaning: Pierced one/to pierce. Related terms: acribillado, acuchillado, acuchillar, balaceado, filereado, filerear, rafagueado

ahogado/ahogar: A victim of drowning or suffocation/to drown or to suffocate Literal meaning: Same. Related terms: ahorcado, ahorcar, asfixiado, asfixiar, estrangulado, estrangular

Águilas Nocturnas, Los Bélicos: Alternate names for a secret group within the Thirty-Fifth Infantry Battalion based in Casas Grandes. One member of this group, Colonel Elfego José Luján Ruiz, was convicted of torture, murder, and clandestine burial in January 2016 and sentenced to thirty-three years in prison. When Jesús Alberto Campos Moreno and Jorge Alejandro Yánez were abducted and murdered on October 18, 2009, Luján Ruiz ordered subordinates to bury their bodies in a pit just off the road to Agua Prieta, Sonora, near El Berrendo.15 Ruiz’s participation is also presumed in the December 29, 2009, disappearances in Benito Juárez of José Ángel Alvarado Herrera, Nitza Paola Alvarado Espinoza, and Rocío Irene Alvarado Reyes, and in the torture and murder of soldiers Mario Alberto Guerrero León and Mario Alberto Peralta Rodríguez. The two men allegedly deserted the Mexican army to join La Línea and reappeared as burned remains in a road near Ascensión.16 On April 26, 2018, federal prosecutor Mariana Colín Ayala confirmed the existence of this group when questioned by Ruth Fierro Pineda, a representative for alleged victims, during an Inter-American Court of Human Rights public hearing (Alvarado Espinoza et al. versus Mexico). Literal meaning: Night Eagles or The Hawks. Related terms: abatir, crimen uniformado, cuestionario de la muerte, desaparición forzada, Directiva para el Combate al Narcotráfico, ejecución extrajudicial, pelotón de la muerte

ahorcado/ahorcar: A person who dies from hanging, strangulation, or suffocation/To hang, to choke, to suffocate Literal meaning: Same; a guessing game that is usually played with paper and pencil (ahogado or hangman)/ Same Related terms: ahogado, ahogar, asfixiado, asfixiar, colgado, colgar, estrangulado, estrangular ajuareado: Someone who succeeds in a legal or an illegal business transaction; a lottery winner; a person who enjoys a sexual relationship with a highly desirable partner, etc. Literal meaning: Related to ajuar (trousseau); dressed for success. Related terms: enjaulado, jando, logrado, transa al alba: To stay alert. Literal meaning: At the crack of dawn. Related terms: halcon, Lencho, pitazo, poste albañil: Prostitute. Literal meaning: Construction worker, bricklayer. Related terms: hacer cuarto (to build a room), a reference to taking a client to a room, lupanar

alineado: An individual or group integrated into the parastatal criminal economy; Alineados pay cuotas to the police, mostly state and municipal police agents; individuals and groups that work under the protection of law enforcement agencies. Some consider the term alineado to be the origin, ahijada/ahijado: Affectionate term for a patient in Chihuahua, of the name La Línea. The regional released by the director of a rehabilitation center police force “aligns” criminals by tracking and monfollowing successful treatment; the rehabilitated itoring their activities in order to collect the largest addict may invite visitors to the center, and the possible cuotas from them. The officers in turn pay up director can be confident that these guests are not the ladder to elected government officials. in the drug business. Literal meaning: One who is aligned, linked to a Literal meaning: Goddaughter/godson. certain ideology. Related terms: anexado, anexar, anexo, Cristoterapia, Related terms: arreglado, La Chota, la cuota, estado quebrar paralelo, los feos, La Letra, La Línea, la sica, madrina


Abecedario de Juárez

amarrarse: To refuse to give in or to cooperate when tortured; to tie yourself up; short for amarrarse un huevo (tie up a testicle, be a man). Literal meaning: To tie; to lace up. Related terms: bolsa de plástico, calentar, la chicharra, trabajar

fifteen days of detox. The only amenities are food and water. Then he/she is allowed to spend time during the day with other inmates in a common area and to receive a maximum of fifty pesos from family members to purchase candy or cigarettes in the rehab center store. After one month in residence, patients are allowed to receive 150 to 200 pesos. This anexado/anexar: Person involuntarily committed tough-love regimen costs 7,000 pesos ($380 USD). by a family member or the police to ninety-day Few complete the ninety-day treatment. treatment for recovery from drug addiction Belief in a supreme being is considered an or alcoholism/to be involuntarily committed to essential part of therapy, so religious worship and ninety-day treatment in a drug or alcohol rehabil- instruction are woven into rehabilitation. All faiths itation facility. are accepted, but instruction by volunteer Christian Literal meaning: One who is fastened/to fasten. evangelicals predominates. Related terms: basura social, Cristoterapia, la limpia, Anexos have been repeated targets for mass limpieza social, quebrar, servidor shootings. On the night of September 15, 2009, as Juarenses celebrated Mexico’s independence, ten anexo: Rehab facility or mandatory ninety-day patients were executed at Anexo de Vida. rehabilitation treatment. Literal meaning: (A place of ) dependency. Upon arrival, inmates are stripped of personal Related terms: ahijada, ahijado, basura social, Crispossessions and held in solitary confinement for toterapia, la limpia, limpieza social, quebrar, servidor



arena: Cocaine. Literal meaning: Arpón (harpoon) + azo (superlaLiteral meaning: Sand. tive suffix for something quick and unexpected). Related terms: aturrado, aturradote, candy, cocodrilo, Related terms: chiva, filerazo, morena nieve, onza, papel, pase, perico, pinto, soda Artistas Asesinos: A Juárez gang that often uses armas largas: Automatic or semiautomatic rifles. the corpses of its victims along with masks and toys Literal meaning: Long guns. to create gruesome public displays. Also called AA, Related terms: comando armado, cuerno de chivo, Doblados, Doble, Doble A. matraca, El R Literal meaning: Murder Artists or Killer Artists, Doubled, Double A. arreglados/arreglado: Members of law enforce- Related terms: familia, ranfla ment or the military who receive payments to ignore crimes or to protect criminal operations; asfixiado/asfixiar: One who is smothered or asphyxindividuals who make these payments are also iated/to smother or asphyxiate. called arreglados/someone who is intoxicated, usu- Literal meaning: An asphyxiated person or an ally with cocaine. individual who has serious economic problems/ Literal meaning: Those in agreement/fixed up. to cause death by asphyxiation; to have difficulty Related terms: alineado, estado paralelo breathing due to heat or lack of oxygen. Related terms: ahogado, ahogar, ahorcado, ahorcar, arponazo: Shot of heroin. estrangulado, estrangular


Abecedario de Juárez

atorado/atorar: One who is arrested/to arrest. Literal meaning: One who is stuck/to obstruct. Related terms: arreglado, aturrado, torcido, torcer

released from prison and deported in the early 2000s, the organization surfaced in Ciudad Juárez neighborhoods. The life and times of Manny Carrizales Ríos aturrado/aturradote: Someone who is extremely provides a portrait of the gang’s trajectory. His intoxicated/too stoned to stand. story is told by journalist Jordan deBree in the Fall Literal meaning: One who is dazed/to be stupefied. 2009 issue of the VQR (Virginia Quarterly Review). Related term: loquear, pacheco DeBree writes, “When US Marshals flew him to El Paso [in 2001] and unshackled him at the aventando/aventar: Selling or dealing drugs. Free Bridge leading into Juárez, they were turning Literal meaning: Throwing, flinging, dispersing/to Manny loose on a city of opportunities.” throw, to disperse. By 2005 Los Aztecas had expanded into a Related terms: conectar, diler, motero, movido, pun- transnational criminal organization. Many memtero, punto, pushador bers, including Manny, were killed in 2008 when President Felipe Calderón sent federal forces into Los Aztecas: A gang, originally called Barrio Juárez. Azteca, that formed in 1986 within the Mexican Literal meaning: The Aztecs. American population of jails in El Paso, Texas. Related terms: Artistas Asesinos, estado paralelo, According to “Background: Barrio Azteca Gang,” familia, hermanos, Los Indios, ranfla El Paso Times, October 3, 2011, it took two decades for Los Aztecas to spread across the Texas prison The following narrative is based on Julián Cardona’s system. When members of Barrio Azteca were interview with “El Oso” on November 7, 2013.


In the summer of 2012, the Mexican government spread the fiction that La Línea hardly existed, if at all, but on the street, punteros knew otherwise. The heads of La Línea and Los Aztecas quietly cooperated to organize the neighborhoods of Juárez. They ordered gang members to stop interfering with operations outside of their own territory: no fighting among neighborhoods, no carjacking, no extortion, no kidnapping. From that moment on, only the criminal elite could authorize kidnapping, extortion, or murder. According to El Oso, a retired punto, “If you fuck things up, the guys who work with the puntero


or the puntero’s boss will kidnap you. They will fuck you up and tell you, ‘If you fuck this shit up again, we are going to kill you.’ That is the only chance they will give you.” Since 2012 each puntero administers justice in their territory when they have the blessing of their superiors. This narrative continues below cero barrio. los azules: Federal police. Literal meaning: The blue ones. Related terms: los feos, La Placa, la tira

baja colateral: Innocent civilians killed during former President Felipe Calderón’s “war on crime”; first used in Mexico by Calderón. When relatives of some of the murdered and disappeared met with Calderón in Mexico City on June 23, 2011, they objected to the use of this term to describe their dead family members. Calderón 12

responded that he did not regret sending federal forces into the streets and denied that the ensuing violence was due to their presence. The English equivalent for this euphemism was likewise used by the US government to dehumanize noncombatants during the Vietnam War. Literal meaning: Collateral damage.


Related terms: falso positivo, sexenio de la muerte The following narrative is based on Julián Cardona’s interviews with “Esther” on May 14 and May 22, 2012. At the end of her workday, Esther cooks a big pot of cocido. Her sons, Adin and Édgar, arrive around five with Sergio, a close friend of the family. Earlier that Wednesday, all three young men had driven into New Mexico through the Santa Teresa port of entry with Esther’s ex-husband. He buys cars and auto parts from online auctions and frequently employs Sergio and his sons to travel to the United States to help import them into Mexico. Esther first knew Sergio as an exuberant fiveyear-old who attended kindergarten with Adin. Although the boys were enrolled in different high schools, Adin and Sergio became close friends in their teens. They bought a sound system and advertised a DJ service for parties, and were thrilled when they cleared $32.00 at their first gig. This was just one of several small businesses Sergio engineered as a teenager. Adin and Sergio also remained close to six other classmates from kindergarten. Through the years


all eight young men gathered at parties, holiday and birthday celebrations, and other special events held by friends and family. Though meaningful, these friendships did not approach Adin and Sergio’s familial intimacy. When Sergio’s wife, Mayra, gave birth to their daughter, Adin was beside them in the delivery room.

* * * Esther and the boys finish their cocido around 7:00 p.m. and Sergio gets ready to leave. Esther still mothers all three young men even though they are in their twenties, so she has to ask, “Where are you going, son?” “Home.” “How are you getting there?” “I’m walking.” “Wait just a minute, and Édgar can give you a ride. You need to be careful these days.” “Don’t worry about me, Señora. I’ll be fine.” Despite Sergio’s protests, Esther enlists Édgar to give Sergio a ride. And when Édgar returns home, she asks her son if Sergio got home okay. “No, he wanted to see his daughter. I dropped him off at his ex-wife’s place.” “Sergio doesn’t understand what’s good for him!” She doesn’t think about it again until around 11:00 p.m., when she receives a call from Sergio’s


Abecedario de Juárez

worried mother, Blanca. Esther assures her that Édgar gave Sergio a ride to Mayra’s to see his daughter. “We can’t find him,” Blanca sighs. “We’ll keep looking. Maybe he is still with Mayra.” “Let me know what happens.”

the night before, is now a headless corpse swinging from an overpass in the center of Juárez. “Sergio Arturo Rentería!” She runs to the phone to call her son Adin. “What were you and Sergio involved in?” “What’re you talkin’ about, Mom?“ “Tell me what you were doing, what you were * * * Blanca doesn’t call again, so Esther goes to bed. As involved in?” she readies for work in the morning, she turns on “Why are you asking me this? What’s wrong?” the television. Channel 44’s early morning broad“Someone killed Sergio! Turn on the TV. Somecast usually repeats the previous day’s news, but one murdered him!” not today. Instead, a reporter describes a decapiAdin flips on the news, then immediately rushes tado discovered at daybreak hanging from puente to his mother’s house. Esther asks again, “What’s al revés. The hanged man wears an orange shirt, going on, Adin? Tell me what you and Sergio were jeans with a black belt, and white sneakers. His involved in, so I can help you.” back is covered in blood. Esther looks closely “Mom, I don’t know what you’re talking about.” at the pants on the screen. They remind her of She asks her son about a man named in the nothing specific yet seem familiar. The reporter’s narcomanta that hangs near Sergio’s body, Lázaro announcement that a man named Arturo Rentería Flores, the owner of Las Anitas, a convention and has arrived at the scene cuts through the blur in event center. her head. “What did you guys have to do with that man?” “I know a man named Arturo Rentería!” “I don’t know him. Who did this to Sergio? And The TV cameras capture the tear-stained face why? I don’t know, Mom. I don’t know.” of the hanged man’s father, and Esther realizes Esther is dumbfounded. “What could that boy that her son’s best friend, her dinner guest from have done for someone to kill him in this gruesome


way? I have known him most of my life. He wasn’t capable of hurting anyone.” Because Sergio and Adin are usually together, Esther is afraid that the killers will come for her son, but Adin is as bewildered as his mother. Four hours later the story appears on the cover of PM newspaper and sells at major intersections throughout the city. The article includes misinformation about twenty-three-year-old Sergio Arturo Rentería Robles. PM reports that Sergio lived in Chihuahua City and misidentifies his birthplace as Sinaloa.17 In fact, Sergio was born in Chihuahua City on December 15, 1984, and lived most of his short life in Ciudad Juárez.18 Newspaper articles also incorrectly report that authorities received a call at 4:30 a.m. and arrived two and a half hours later, and that Sergio and his father had been visiting the border to see a relative. Within hours, news of the headless corpse hanging from a bridge in Ciudad Juárez spreads around the world, inaccuracies intact. Sergio’s family sees the live reports on TV and rushes to puente al revés. By the time they arrive, a white cloth drapes Sergio’s mutilated corpse. They ask reporters to show them video footage in order to confirm his identity. When Sergio’s father, Arturo, speaks with reporters he vows, “No se la van a acabar” (“They will regret this”), then drives off. Soldiers and police cordon off the area for half an hour while firefighters use a ladder and ropes to lower Sergio’s body.


spent a year in a US prison for driving a carload of drugs over the border. As far as her friends and family know, Mayra learned from her youthful recklessness. This mistake is the only known link that might connect Sergio to criminals. Esther doesn’t know if Mayra keeps in touch with the drug traffickers who employed her years ago, and even if she does, such a relationship doesn’t explain Sergio’s brutal murder. Esther is fairly certain that Sergio never had anything to do with his ex-wife’s old friends. She also has no reason to believe he ever had a connection to Lázaro Flores, the businessman named in the narcomanta or to La Línea, the criminal organization that supposedly wrote and signed it. She doubts even more that he had any connection to the men associated with cártel de Sinaloa who are named on the banner as GARDUÑO Fierro BroS; DE LA O And the fucking Mayitos.19

* * * When Sergio’s missing head appears at Plaza del Periodista ( Journalist’s Square), its placement is interpreted as a threat against journalists. Seven days later one of El Diario de Juárez’s leading crime reporters, Armando Rodríguez, is executed in his driveway as he warms up his car. Sergio had no association with forty-year-old Rodríguez or any other reporters. This narrative continues below colgado.

balaceado/balear: An individual who has been * * * Adin repeats once more, “I have nothing to hide, shot one or more times/to shoot one or more times. Mom. I’m sure I’ve done nothing wrong and don’t Literal meaning: Same. Related terms: acribillado, acuchillado, acuchillar, owe anything to anyone.” agujerado, agujerar, rafagueado * * * Shortly after Sergio arrived at Mayra’s house, they went out with their three-year-old daugh- balacera: A shoot-out. ter. When they stopped at the light on Avenida Literal meaning: Shooting. Tecnológico, four men pulled Sergio from the car Related terms: tiroteo, topos and ordered Mayra, “Get down, or you’re dead!” She heard them beating Sergio but kept her face balconear: To expose a person or their actions to pressed to her knees. When the blows finally the police or rivals. stopped, Mayra raised her head. Sergio was gone. Literal meaning: To observe from a balcony or other elevated place; to sneak a peek. * * * Mayra studies psychology at Teresiano, a Catholic Related terms: dedo, delator, poner dedo, ponlo de school, and works in a hospital; however, she once pecho


Abecedario de Juárez

bañarse: To steal money, drugs, or other merchandise that one has been temporarily entrusted with. Literal meaning: To take a bath. Related terms: clavarse, embolsar

victim is near death and in many cases repeated numerous times; waterboarding; to torture in general; to beat with a rifle butt; used by the Mexican Army. Literal meaning: To baptize. Related terms: calentar, marionelas

basura social: According to Channel 44 reporter Hugo Argumedo, this derogatory term is often used among businessmen to describe the disen- blanca: Cocaine. franchised or those deemed useless to society. Literal meaning: White (feminine). Literal meaning: Social garbage. Related terms: arena, aturrado, aturradote, candy, Related terms: cucarachas, limpieza social cocodrilo, nieve, onza, papel, pase, perico, pinto, soda batear: To continually receive bribes (in reference to traffic officers); to repeatedly move drug shipments (in reference to drug traffickers). Literal meaning: To bat. Related terms: capo, el poder de la cruce, el poder de moverla por las carreteras, el poder de la pasada, El Señor bautizar: To submerge a victim’s head in a toilet, a bucket of water, a river, or whatever liquid might be available; submersion is prolonged until the

Blog del Narco/www.elblogdelnarco.net: A blog that claims to expose a “hidden Mexico,” drug trafficking, related violence, vigilante activity, and other facets of Mexico’s underground economy. Sources of Blog del Narco’s content are unknown. Literal meaning: Narco’s Blog. Related terms: narcolenguaje, narcomedia, PM, La Polaka bolsa de plástico: Interrogation method favored by the military and the police; a single-use plastic


grocery bag is used to partially suffocate a suspect who is reluctant to provide desired responses to questions. A victim’s hands are restrained, and a plastic bag is pulled over their head. To prevent knuckle marks, interrogators often wrap their fists with wet towels before punching the detainee in the stomach. A reflex gasp sucks the thin plastic into the victim’s mouth and nostrils, blocking air passages. In a “gentler” variation, the plastic bag is tied tightly around a victim’s neck. When suffocation is imminent, the knot is loosened for interrogation. Sequences of tying and untying are repeated until death or the desired information arrives. Literal meaning: Plastic bag. Related terms: bautizar, calentar, la chicharra, marionelas, Los Mecánicos, montado, Los Químicos, El Taller


The following narrative is based on Julián Cardona’s interviews with a retired sicario on June 11, 2010, and October 8, 2010. This sequence of events characterizes executions that began to occur in Juárez in early 2008.

Cuernos de chivo and Rs roar just blocks away. Pedestrians and street vendors crouch, throw themselves to the pavement, or sink into corners. Someone reports the shooting, and police sirens fill the air. Throughout the city, journalists and police agents lean closer to scanners. After the gunfire dies, the police arrive. Traffic brakes on nearby streets and avenues. Stalled drivers watch forensic experts snap photos and place numbered yellow cones next to spent cartridges that might number in the dozens or the hundreds. Parents carry their children or lead them by the hand around the perimeter of the spectacle. Who boludo: Helicopter; term used by the military. can say why? Perhaps they present the slaughter as Literal meaning: Ball-shaped. a cautionary tale. Dogs edge closer. In the end, a Related term: Rino bagged corpse is carried to la celular, and the crowd breaks apart as the van pulls away. borrar: To kill. An anonymous mana states that death is trigLiteral meaning: To erase. gered by a phone call.20 He sits motionless, hands Related terms: cerrar, dar cuello, dar piso, quebrar, clasped, forearms pressed on denim-clad thighs. One can’t be sure of the color of his eyes behind tiro de gracia, tumbar


Abecedario de Juárez

dark glasses. A faint string of words unravels between rows of broken teeth.

regions of the country. Most often they are all professional killers.

In this line of work, it is necessary to have a phone with different chips [SIM cards]. We use area codes from several locations around the country. If our contact is in Juárez, he inserts a chip that makes his call appear to originate somewhere else. We know who is calling by checking the area code. If the chip se calienta, we throw it away.

This narrative continues below elemento. bote: Prison or jail. Literal meaning: Can, small boat. Related terms: El Cherry, tambo

El Bueno: A person in command of a small group of criminals, liaison. Literal meaning: The good one. A recruiter calls the hit man to offer him a job. Related terms: capo, conectar, El Señor This broker serves as a go-between for hired assassins and whoever requires an ejecución extrajudi- los buenos: Criminal bosses. cial. If it is a big job, the recruiter enlists fifteen Literal meaning: The good ones. to twenty people. They might or might not know Related terms: El Bueno, capo, El Señor one another. If the mission is unusual, difficult, or dangerous, assassins are recruited from different buitres/butchers: Alternate names for those who


chop up living or dead individuals who have been kidnapped or arrested; “Bye, buitres!” is an order to dismember a person once their interrogation has been satisfactorily completed. Literal meaning: Vultures/those who cut up and sell meat. Related terms: embolsado, hacer carnitas, macheteado burra: Truck or SUV used to smuggle marijuana into the United States. Literal meaning: Bus, donkey (feminine). Related terms: cinta canela, ladrillo, mariguanero, motero, movido burritos: Marijuana packaged for retail sale. A subcontractor for maquiladoras who now lives in El Paso regularly rides Juárez ruteras (city


buses) and often sits behind the driver. He reports that buses sometimes pull over next to a man who announces, “Here are your burritos,” then hands a package to the driver. A Juárez ex–state transport officer, who resigned due to widespread corruption, affirms that ruteras are used to transport drugs throughout the city. Literal meaning: Flour tortillas rolled or folded around a filling, e.g., meat, beans, cheese, potatoes, chile relleno, red or green chile. Related terms: latas, tanda burro: A person who transports drugs across international borders. Literal meaning: Donkey (masculine). Related term: mula

calaveras: The dead; commonly describes the fate of someone who has killed several people: “Él debe varias calaveras (He must pay for several deaths).” Literal meaning: Skulls. Related terms: dar cuello, dar piso, quebrar, tumbar calcinado/calcinar: A person who has been burned to death/to burn someone to death. Literal meaning: Something destroyed by fire/to blacken or scorch. 20

Related terms: achicharrado, achicharrar, chamuscado, chamuscar, incinerado, incinerar, quemado, quemar calentar: To torture. Literal meaning: To heat up. Related terms: bautizar, la chicharra, cobija electrica, montado calilla: Thin marijuana cigarette. Literal meaning: A long, thin cigarette; skinny boy. Related terms: gallo, ladrillo, mota, pinto



camellar: To work. Literal meaning: Same, derived from camel. Related terms: talon, talonear

ment of the root word; also used to denote a hit or blow. Related term: reventar

campana: To ambush someone; to leave someone in the lurch; possibly related to bell jar. Literal meaning: Hood or bell. Related terms: cantonazo, la punta, reventar

capo: The head of a cartel; probable origin is US Mafia slang “the boss of all bosses.” Literal meaning: Crime boss. Related terms: batear, El Bueno, El Señor

la camper: Historical term for police truck or paddy wagon; Juárez police no longer use trucks equipped with campers. Literal meaning: A vehicle outfitted with a portable dwelling, usually for temporary use when camping or traveling. Related term: la farola

carga, cargamento: Illicit cargo. Literal meaning: Cargo. Related term: clavo

candy: Small amount of cocaine for personal use; sometimes also used to describe small quan­tities of crack cocaine, amphetamines, and depressants. This term was mentioned in a Wednesday, August 6, 2003, Department of Homeland Security memorandum, a debriefing of ICE informant Guillermo Eduardo Ramírez Peyro (also known as Lalo). This written record, created the day after the first murder in the House of Death, describes a killing allegedly supervised by Lalo. According to Lalo, his coworker Alex García asked Fernando Reyes Aguado for some candy just before he and two Chihuahua state police agents wrapped Reyes’s head in duct tape and bludgeoned him to  death. Literal meaning: Sweet food made of sugar. Related terms: chispazo, cookear un speedy, línea, lineazo, narizazo, nieve, ocho, pericazo, perico, uñazo

cargado/cargar: One who is framed for trafficking drugs or weapons; someone who transports drugs/ to plant false evidence in the course of an arrest or criminal investigation. Literal meaning: One who is laden/to load. Related terms: montado, plantar, sembrar carjacker/carjacking: Someone who uses force or the threat of force to steal an occupied car/the act of using force or the threat of force to steal a vehicle from the owner, passengers, or whoever is using the vehicle at the time. Literal meaning: Same. Related terms: housejacker, housejacking This narrative is based on Julián Cardona’s interview with “Toby” on May 23, 2011.

A native son of la frontera, Toby is born in the United States and spends the first leg of his childhood in Sunland Park, a small New Mexico town at the foot of Mount Christo Rey. Along with his mother, brothers, and sisters, he is a legal resident of the United States. His mother cleans other peocantonazo: Federal police practice of breaking and ple’s homes during the week, and the family spends entering premises without a warrant, to ransack weekends in Juárez with Toby’s father. When violence tears through Juárez in the and steal whatever might be available; property is seized from private residences, stash houses, and spring of 2008, dozens of nightclubs in the city businesses. This term surfaced on August 7, 2010, center are demolished, nightlife dwindles, and when 475 federal police officers revolted after Toby’s father, an undocumented waiter, loses his learning that their commanders were cutting deals job. Choices are few, and the family needs only one residence, not two. With her five children, Toby’s with local criminals. Literal meaning: Hitting a house; cantón means mother moves south against the tide of Juarenses territory, slang for home or house + azo, a re­in­force­ fleeing into the United States. In Juárez, she takes


Abecedario de Juárez

pride in supporting her family with forgotten artistic skills, assembling and varnishing picture frames and sometimes even painting the scenes within the frames. Now the kids are in their teens and early twenties. Toby’s featureless memories of New Mexico are no match for his new life in Old Mexico, where he parties with friends late into the night.

* * * When his cell phone rings and wakes him, Toby remembers the plan. At 7:00 a.m. he jumps into his friend’s car. Who knows, maybe it’s a stolen car? Some other guy is driving, and Toby figures that if his friend of eight years trusts this guy, he can too. From Toby’s working-class neighborhood, they head into another barrio, and the driver pulls up to a grocery store. He flatly states, “You’re going in with us, and you’ll grab whatever I tell you to grab. I’ll take care of the rest.” Three young men enter the store under the shade of baseball caps and dark glasses. Toby’s friend threatens the cashier with a gun while Toby and the other guy grab money and merchandise. In his first armed robbery, Toby scores $25, several packs of cigarettes, a handful of candy, and some bags of chips. Sometime before raiding the tienda, Toby had

noted his friend’s fresh wads of cash and near-new Honda Accord. When Toby finally asks about the source of his income, his friend lays out the fringe benefits of armed robbery and carjacking. “You make good money! I have a car and lots of other stuff.” Toby and his friends pull off a string of armed robberies. They target grocery stores, candy shops, pharmacies, neighborhood hardware stores, and other businesses that have cash on hand. Toby learns to use weapons and to tie up business owners and their employees. He becomes one of many young men who simply take what they want. This narrative continues below cuidador. carnales: Los Aztecas, hermanos, Los Indios. Literal meaning: Brothers. Related terms: AA, Artistas Asesinos, ¿Cuál es tu ranfla?, ¿Con quién estás puesto?, Doblados, Doble A, enrranflado/da, familia, ganga, Los Mexicles, ranfla carne asada: To kill, torture, and bury someone, often a kidnapped victim. Literal meaning: Grilled meat or “cook out.” Related terms: Las Acequias, House of Death, Lalo, levantado, levantar, milifosa, narcofosa


Abecedario de Juárez

carro bomba, coche bomba: Car bomb. On July 15, 2010, news of a municipal police agent’s murder at the intersection of Avenida 16 de Septiembre and Bolivia is reportedly broadcast over law enforcement radio frequencies. When paramedics and police arrive, a car loaded with twentytwo pounds of C-4 plastic explosives is remotely detonated with a cell phone. There are conflicting reports of events and the number of persons injured or killed, but confirmed fatalities include a federal police officer, a doctor, a paramedic, and the corpse in the wreckage, later identified as a civilian dressed in a police uniform. Federal police agents and a Channel 5 cameraman are among the injured. The federal police also claim that a car at the scene crashed into two of their trucks. Ten miles away on a cinder-block wall in the southeast sector of Juárez, a narcopinta threatens more carro bombas. Authorities hold La Línea responsible for the bombing, and about a month later, on August 13,

the federal police parade five supposed perpetrators before the media in Mexico City. Relatives of the accused claim that their family members had confessed after five days of severe torture. Lawyers from Colectivo contra la Tortura y la Impunidad (Collective against Torture and Impunity) and of Centro de Derechos Humanos Paso del Norte (Paso del Norte Human Rights Center) represent the accused men. Four years later they are released. Literal meaning: Car bomb. Related terms: colgado, decapitado, desmembrado cártel de Juárez: This criminal enterprise has reportedly controlled some of the drug business in Ciudad Juárez and throughout the state of Chihuahua for many years. Mexican secret police agents Rafael Muñoz Talavera and Rafael Aguilar Guajardo, known as Los Rafas (short for the Rafaels), are the purported founders of cártel de Juárez. According to people who knew them, these men


socialized openly but did not seek celebrity status. Like the police, they demanded la cuota but made no other attempts to exert control over drug traffickers; they attended to their own lucrative business. Since their reach did not extend to el poder del cruce, they hired middlemen to move their product across the border. Their comparative advantage was their huge network of collaborators within the Mexican government. In 1993 Amado Carrillo, a.k.a. “Lord of the Skies” and subsequent leader of the cartel, reportedly ordered the murder of Aguilar Guajardo in Cancún and took over his share of the market. Carrillo preferred air transport and anonymity, and allegedly had the cooperation of state government and major newspapers. When Carrillo’s planes landed at the Juárez airport around midnight, city officials assisted with his smuggling operation. According to a former traffic commander, traffic was diverted to Avenida Manuel Gómez Morín when Carillo needed exclusive use of Avenida Tecnológico, a south-to-north artery leading directly to the airport. Street executions were banished during Carrillo’s reign, so Juárez appeared to be peaceful if you did not scratch too deeply. However, Carrillo relied on several assassins: ex-federal police officer Arturo Hernández González, a.k.a. El Chaky, his primary hit man; a state police officer who cannot be named at this time; and three others (names and credentials unknown). When the work of these five men produced corpses, they were discovered on the city’s outskirts. Possibly hundreds more were buried in clandestine graves throughout the city, even in wealthy neighborhoods. Anyone who falsely claimed to be part of Carrillo’s enterprise or who stole money or merchandise belonging to Carrillo’s organization quickly disappeared. Actual or potential breaches of Carrillo’s privacy were also fatal. A lawyer who knew Carrillo confirmed the veracity of stories published in La Jornada on November 28, 1998, and in Proceso on August 10, 2003, after Carillo’s death. Citing an FBI report, La Jornada’s article stated that Amado’s jeweler Tomás Colsa McGregor testified in court that the “Lord of the Skies” was annoyed by former PAN


governor of Chihuahua Francisco Javier Barrio Terrazas’s continual requests for cash. El Chaky killed this talkative jeweler on July 7, 1997, three days after the legendary trafficker’s death. According to former national defense secretary General Gerardo Clemente Vega García, El Chaky preferred to entambar his victims. Vega García stated that El Chaky used this method to dispose of three surgeons who worked on Carrillo’s failed facial reconstruction on July 4, 1997. Accompanied by acid and concrete, the doctors’ remains were found in three sealed barrels on the Mexico-­ Acapulco Highway. When Carrillo’s attempt at facial reupholstery killed him, his brother Vicente, also known as El Viceroy, inherited and led this drug empire for seventeen years, until his arrest in Torreón, Coahuila, on October 9, 2014. Literal meaning: Juárez Cartel. Related terms: cártel de Sinaloa, entambado, hoyo negro, poder del cruce, poder de la pasada cártel de Sinaloa: Government and media reports claim that this organization has engaged in turf wars to control drug trafficking in seventeen Mexican states for over two decades. According to Guillermo Valdés, former head of Mexico’s top domestic intelligence agency (CISEN) and Columbia University researcher Edgardo Buscaglia, cártel de Sinaloa operates as a multinational corporation in over fifty-four countries; some reports maintain that the organization has a presence in 70 percent of the world. Academics, officials, and pundits estimate that cártel de Sinaloa’s annual income is some $3.2 billion. Despite being continuously at war, the business and finances of cártel de Sinaloa remain buoyant, a notable exception to war economics. In 2015 Dirección General de Aeronáutica Civil (Directorate General of Civil Aeronautics) reported that cártel de Sinaloa’s estimated 599 aircraft outnumbered the 357 planes operated by Mexico’s commercial carriers Aeromexico, Interjet, and Volaris. Six hundred planes require considerable storage and air space; however, no one seems to know the flight plans of these aircraft or where they are parked when not in use.


Abecedario de Juárez

Cártel de Sinaloa was allegedly led by El Chapo ( Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera) and a covert partner, El Mayo (Ismael Zambada), until Guzmán Loera’s January 8, 2016, arrest. A year later, Guzmán was extradited and imprisoned in the United States. Some believe El Mayo has always been the true CEO and currently struggles for power with Chapo’s sons (Los Chapitos), Iván Archibaldo Guzmán, Alfredo Guzmán, and Ovidio Guzmán, and Chapo’s brother, Aureliano. Literal meaning: Sinaloa Cartel. Related terms: cártel de Juárez, poder del cruce, poder de la pasada

penny; someone who is willing to work for very little compensation; one who collects pennies. Related terms: chayo, chayotero, choya cerrar: To finish an execution, a final blow or shot; to give the coup de grâce; to pass and then block the path of a car that contains a person targeted for execution; to block off a street to stop a fleeing target. Literal meaning: To close. Related terms: cuerno de chivo, el dibujo, El M, El R, tiro de gracia

cero barrio: I am from nowhere; I don’t belong to casa de seguridad: Stash house for drugs; res- any gang. According to “El Oso,” a retired street corner idences where hostages, migrants, or extralegal detainees are temporarily held; temporary lodging dealer: for hired assassins. If you want to buy drugs outside of your own Literal meaning: Safe house. neighborhood, nobody will bother you. SomeRelated terms: cantonazo, ejecución extrajudicial, one will just ask, “¿Qué barrio?” and you will levantado, pollo respond, “Cero barrio.” This signals that you

will buy and then leave the neighborhood. la celular: A white van used to transport corpses Almost all of the puntos have the same boss. from crime scenes to the morgue; these ambuThere is a pecking order: the puntos, the punlances for the dead were originally provided by teros, and the owners of the merchandise who Funerales Ríos, a Juárez funeral home; las celulares supply punteros—the real bosses. And they conare now owned and operated by the State of Chitrol large areas. There is no way your friends can huahua; this term is used by police and journalists tell you, “You can’t buy there. They will kill you.” at crime scenes, occasionally published in news You can buy wherever you want. stories. Literal meaning: Cellular, composed of cells. Related terms: various kinds of “cell collections” Literal meaning: Neighborhood zero. include acartonado, descabezado, descuartizado, Related terms: Los Aztecas, La Línea, Leyzaola, pladesintegrado, desmembrado, destazado, embolsado, cazo, ¿Qué barrio? encajuelado, encobijado, entamalado, entambado, filereado, hacer carnitas, X-39 The following narrative is based on Julián Cardona’s interview with “El Oso” on November 7, 2013. células mixtas: Temporary patrol groups composed of personnel from state police, municipal According to El Oso, a retired puntero, the illegal police, traffic police, and sometimes federal law drug market grew peaceful after the army and the enforcement or military personnel. federal police left Juárez. Literal meaning: Mixed cells. * * * Related terms: halcón, Lencho, El Merengue, pitazo Neighborhoods in the city have been absorbed into interdependent clusters of compound territocentavero: Journalist who exchanges information ries. Evidence of the current truce is obvious in the for money. sector of the city that includes barrio Díaz Ordaz Literal meaning: A reference to a centavo, or and its former rivals barrio La Gema and barrio


El Noveno. In this same area, barrio Triste once fought with Los Pimenteros until punteros from Los Aztecas negotiated with La Línea to end these disputes. Now narcomenudeo is organized into large constellations of neighborhoods controlled by individual punteros. They say that the police have cut back on the violence, but it isn’t true. They just cover the violence with lies. They arrest innocent people and se quitan la muleta. I have a friend, El Chicken, a montado who was jailed by the municipal police. They blamed him for the death of several police officers and said that he had drugs and cuernos de chivo in his possession. He was a construction worker on the Camino Real [highway]. He was getting off work one day, and they grabbed him, kidnapped him. But the punteros are still free, as always. So, violence has not decreased. Here in Juárez the police simply mask the pedo (stink).

This narrative continues below los feos. cifra negra: Number of unreported crimes, including homicides, kidnappings, forced disappearances, housejackings, carjackings, and extortion. According to Dr. Leticia Chavarría, a member of


the Comité Médico Ciudadano (Citizen Medical Committee) and Mesa de Seguridad (Security Table), 95 percent of these crimes are not reported to authorities because citizens have no faith in the judicial system. Literal meaning: Black number, dark figure. Related terms: delitos de alto impacto, hoyo negro La Cima: Well-known location for selling and using drugs in Ciudad Juárez; located on the west side of the city, close to the US/Mexico border, its name may refer to “getting high” and to this area’s slight rise in elevation. Literal meaning: The top or summit. Related terms: aguaje, El Cherry, conectar, La K-13, picadero, punto cinta canela: Light brown plastic packing tape used to blindfold, restrain, gag, or smother; and to package drugs. Literal meaning: Cinnamon tape. Related terms: cobija eléctrica, cuestionario de la muerte, levantado, marionelas, narcofosa, teipeado, teipeadote The following narrative is based on Julián Cardona’s interviews with “Valo” on August 25, 2010, September 26, 2010, and May 24, 2013.


Abecedario de Juárez

Saturday night in Juárez, October 2009. Twentyone-year-old Valo and his friends enjoy a few beers in the Las Fuentes Drive-In parking lot. At 11:30 Valo, Omar, Alejandra, and Maricruz move their conversation to a downtown nightclub. Moments after they enter the clamor of Chess discotheque, they retreat to the relative peace of the sidewalk on Avenida de Juárez. Valo decides to use the club’s bathroom while his friends wait in the car. As he steps back outside to rejoin them, soldiers greet him. They conduct a pat-down and find nothing, but this detail hardly matters. They throw him face down onto a truck bed crowded with other men. Soldiers stand on his legs and back as they roar through the streets. Finally, they pull past a checkpoint into a fenced compound. Valo feels sure that they are on the Juárez army barracks. A soldier drags Valo out of the vehicle and into the dark, orders him to shut his eyes, and pull his shirt over his head. Later, the soldier wraps cinta canela around his head, covering his eyes. He takes Valo’s ostrich skin belt, phone, wallet, and ID. Other soldiers lead Valo into a room, strip him where he stands, and strike him hard, three times on the ass with a wooden plank. “Consider this our introduction, fucking son of a bitch! Which gang do you work for?!”

“I think you’re confusing me with someone else.” “Don’t be stupid. We know things. We even know where you live, but did we pick you up there? Why drag your mother into this?” Valo’s voice and the voices of his tormenters echo off the walls of the room. Valo is a teipeado, so he cannot know for sure, but believes there are three Mecánicos. One soldier bombards him with obscenities and demands. Two others punctuate his interrogation with face slaps, kicks, and punches in the ribs. Over and over, they strike him with the wooden plank. Over and over, Valo denies various crimes. His ten-minute beating stops as abruptly as it started. Soldiers move Valo to another part of the barracks and shove him naked onto a mattress. They suffocate him with a plastic bag, throw buckets of cold water over him, cover him with a wet blanket, and introduce him to cobija eléctrica, one of many tortures on the Mexican Army’s menu. Again and again, they shock him in the chest, feet, penis, and testicles. When these torments end, they dress him and drag him back to the truck, where he crouches as soldiers lead other victims, one by one, from the truck to El Taller and back again. When the last prisoner has been interrogated, beaten, and returned to the truck, the teipeados are taken


to another barracks. Soldiers strip them to their underwear. With his hands cuffed from behind, Valo waits out a sleepless night listening to the moans of his fellow prisoners. At sunrise soldiers move Valo to a neighboring room, throw a blanket over a wet floor, tie his feet together, and pitch him on his face. A soldier steps on his back, crushes his ribs and spine. Another covers Valo’s head with a plastic bag. They bark questions and demands: “Let’s hear it, asshole! Who do you work for?” When they pull the bag off, Valo stammers, “Let me breathe and I’ll tell you.” “So, you are ready to talk?” “No, yes, yes—,” Valo struggles to answer. They shout again, “Who do you work for, cerdo?” “My uncle . . . an appliance dealer . . . he’s been in business for thirty-five years.” This response does not please Valo’s hosts. They pull the plastic back over his face and turn on the voltage. When he refuses to confess, they toss him back into the room where he spent the previous night. Valo asks to use the bathroom, and they lead him like a dog, a rope tied around his neck. The layers of packing tape that blind him do not block the moans and screams of other men’s torture. A soldier arrives and dresses Valo in pants, a belt, a worn shirt, and shoes. He warns Valo, “Son of a bitch, you better not say anything about what happened here, or things will get much worse!” The soldier guides him to the truck. As he gets in, men question him, “Who arrested you?” “You guys—soldiers.” “We aren’t soldiers.” “Well, soldiers arrested me.” “Did you steal something?” “No.” The truck bed drops as several men leap onto the bumper. The ride is short. Valo is sure he is still in the barracks when the vehicle stops. Soldiers pull him from the truck, lead him to a room, remove his handcuffs, and strip him yet again. Someone is at his side. A voice asks, “What happened here?” Valo remembers the warning and replies, “Nothing.” Someone pulls off the cinta canela that has


covered his eyes for more than twenty-four hours. In the glare, he sees the silhouette of a man in a surgical mask. Like the soldiers, he barks, “Shut your eyes!” Valo closes his eyes during an examination that takes about thirty minutes. Afterward, a soldier dresses him in the same worn clothes, cuffs his hands in front, covers his eyes with a blindfold, and returns him to the truck. Following another short drive, men strap a bulletproof vest around his torso, move him to another vehicle, and replace his blindfold with a black hood. Through its sheer fabric Valo sees the lights of Juárez beyond passing headlights, and two soldiers, one at each side. The truck stops at the Procuraduría General de la República, PGR (Attorney General’s Office). After escorting him inside, they remove his hood and handcuffs, and Valo notices that the man on his right holds a chorizo. It is unzipped to reveal thirteen bricks and twenty bags of marijuana, twelve pounds total. They also pull out fifty doses of piedra. Officials inform Valo that he is under arrest for drug possession. In his statement to the PGR, Valo maintains his innocence and states that soldiers have tortured him since Saturday night. At trial a public defender represents Valo, and a federal judge hands down a five-year sentence for aggravated narcotics possession with intent to sell. For the media, the military creates pageants with arrests like Valo’s. Handcuffed prisoners are dressed in fluorescent yellow-green jumpsuits and photographed with elaborate displays of drugs and weapons. These tabletop tableaux bear an uncanny resemblance to tribute payments in illustrated Aztec codices, restoring a pre-Conquest tax system to the life of contemporary Juárez. This narrative continues below montado. clavado: Someone who has a lot of money, gained legally or otherwise. Literal meaning: Nailed; someone who has something hidden; someone who nails (steals). Related terms: jando, transa clavarse: To die (due to violence or natural causes); to steal or to hide; to be addicted.


Literal meaning: To dive. Related term: acostarse


Literal meaning: Coconut, cocoa nut, bogeyman. Related terms: aturrado, aturradote, cocodrilo, pericazo, perico

clavo: A hiding place or the object or person hidcocodrilo: Cocaine addict; also refers to desomorden in that place; a cache of money. phine, a morphine derivative that can easily be Literal meaning: A nail. cooked at home with accessible ingredients such Related terms: burro, chorizos, mula, pasador as gasoline, paint thinner, matches, and over-thecounter medications. This drug first appeared in clica, clika: Band or gang. Russia in 2002 and arrived in the United States Literal meaning: Clique. in 2013. La Línea allegedly banned manufacture Related terms: placazo, ¿qué barrio? and distribution of this injectable brew in Juárez, cobija eléctrica: Electrical current applied to a possibly because of its potential to develop into detainee who is wrapped in a wet blanket, a torture a cottage industry that would disrupt established profit margins. used by the army. In July 2008 José Heriberto Rojas Lemus was Literal meaning: Crocodile. subjected to cobija eléctrica in Ojinaga, Chihuahua, Related terms: aturrado, aturradote, coco, pericazo, under the direction of Mexican general Manuel perico de Jesús Moreno Aviña. When repeated shocks killed Lemus, Moreno Aviña ordered soldiers to cohete, cuete: Handgun, most often a revolver or secretly burn his corpse. The general was tried in an automatic pistol. April 2016 and sentenced to fifty-two and a half Literal meaning: Rocket, to be drunk. Related terms: ensillado, fusca, montado, trueno, XK years in prison. Literal meaning: Electric blanket. Related terms: bautizar, calentar, la chicharra, mar- cola: Last truck in a convoy of four trucks used by ionelas, Los Mecánicos, montado, Los Químicos, El hitmen carrying out a contract murder. The men in the lateral support the killers in the two central Taller trucks in case of unexpected situations. cobrador: An individual who collects extortion Literal meaning: Tail. Related terms: abrir, cerrar, el dibujo, lateral, llamapayments. miento, El M Literal meaning: Debt collector. Related terms: la cuota, cuotero, extorsión, extorsiocola de zorrillo: A pungent marijuana strain that nador, la sica was developed in the 1970s; for some smokers, cobracuotas: An individual who collects extortion “skunk” is a generic term for cannabis. Literal meaning: Skunk tail. payments. Related terms: calilla, gallo, ladrillo, mota, pinto Literal meaning: Fee collector. Related terms: cobrador, la cuota, cuotero, derecho de colgado/colgar: One who is hung in public, usually piso, extorsionador, la sica from an overpass/to hang either an entire corpse or a portion of a corpse. coca: Cocaine. Literal meaning: Plants in the family Erythroxy- Literal meaning: Someone who is hung/to hang. Related terms: ahorcado, ahorcar, narcomail, narcolaceae, native to western South America. Related terms: candy, coca, cocodrilo, ocho, onza, papel, manta, narcomensaje pase, perico, pinto The following narrative is based on Julián Cardona’s interview with “Arturo” on May 14, 2012. coco: Cocaine addict.


At half past seven, Arturo leaves his house nestled in an aging residential area among commercial districts and industrial parks. On the way to his teaching job in an elementary school, Arturo picks up Esteban, a fellow teacher who waits at an ice cream shop near puente al revés. Crowded with busloads of maquiladora workers each morning and evening, this bridge is one of the most heavily traveled overpasses in Juárez. During this Thursday morning rush hour, November 6, 2008, Arturo peers up through his windshield. Rather than the usual swarm of traffic, there is only one vehicle on the overpass ahead. And it is parked. Arturo lifts his chin and arches his eyebrows to reinforce his words. “When I saw a young man’s body hanging in mid-air, I grabbed the steering wheel and yelled, ‘Oh, fuck!’ I think they had just dropped him over the edge, because he was still swaying at the end of the rope.”


next to a red bus. When he looks up again, he sees armed men on the bridge and steps out of their line of sight. He reads the narcomanta, carefully stenciled in red and black capital letters, precisely aligned and spaced. In his stupor he scans the punctuation for errors. It is for the most part correct. YO, LAZARO FLORES APOYO A MI PATRÓN EL MONTA PERROS. ATENCIÓN GARDUÑO HNOS. FIERRO; DE LA O Y LOS PUTOS MAYITOS ATTE. LA LINEA. I, LAZARO FLORES SUPPORT MY BOSS The Dog Fucker. ATTENTION GARDUÑO Fierro BroS; DE LA O And the fucking Mayitos Respectfully LA LINEA

* * * The sun rises. Dark silhouettes move along the sides of a large van or SUV, possibly a Suburban or an Econoline. Two men remain near the dangling A man stands at each end of the bridge. One corpse. To their left, two others hang a narcomanta. directs traffic with an assault rifle, signaling drivArturo drives two more blocks to reach the ers to move to the only open lane. A second truck bridge. At the ice cream store, he pulls off and parks partially blocks this narrow artery, bringing traffic


Abecedario de Juárez

to a crawl. Drivers edging their way between the trucks brush against one of the most emblematic crimes in the history of Ciudad Juárez. While the men complete their work, hundreds of cars and thousands of people creep by. Mothers walk their children to school. Students on their way to Tecnológico de Juárez step off buses, other passengers clamber on. Juarenses gather at a bus stop in front of a pawnshop. Some walk under the bridge to pass beneath the gruesome spectacle. Many behave as though it is just another busy weekday morning. Others scatter. From his vantage point, Arturo takes in small details. The men above him wear jeans and black shirts with rolled-up sleeves. They are tall, slim, and fit. Their movements are disciplined. Those hanging the narcomanta conceal their faces with black hoods. Three simply wear caps. An imposing man with short-cropped hair and glasses stands just above the swinging corpse, speaking matterof-factly with a coworker as he scans the people and cars below. Due to the angle of the morning light, Arturo can’t tell if the men above him are white or brown or some color in between. As the hooded men finish hanging the narcomanta, the guy directing traffic carries his assault rifle to one of the trucks. The men all look toward the man wearing glasses as he strolls over to inspect the gruesome installation one last time. When he raises his arm, they climb into their vehicles. They drive south, following their apparent leader’s black truck, its tinted windows rimmed in silver. This entire operation takes about ten or fifteen minutes. When the trucks left, it felt like the end of a hard rain. Many people who were hiding came back out into the street. People even stood on the median and approached the entrance to the bridge.

audience, his arms are pulled across his back and cuffed at the wrists. I get out of the car and walk to the ice cream shop. I stare up at the corpse and wait for Esteban. After ten minutes I realize he is beside me. He says, “Let’s get a closer look.” We stare stupidly at the headless body hanging from an upper arm. A trickle of blood drips to the street. He was probably decapitated somewhere else. The pool of blood is small.

Arturo remains at the bridge for half an hour. When we left, the police still hadn’t arrived. During this entire time, no patrol car ever passed by, no siren sounded. Nothing. It’s a very busy intersection, and it sure seems like it would be easy to get the attention of the municipal police.

Thousands of soldiers and federal police had seized control of Juárez seven months earlier. When men hang a mutilated corpse from puente al revés in the center of the city during rush hour, none of these federal forces race to the scene. In conversations that Arturo had later with other witnesses, he discovered that a third truck blocked traffic in the southbound lane during the operation. He also heard that the convoy returned within ten minutes, traveling from north to south below the bridge, as if to ensure that everything was in order. The trucks then made a U-turn and drove through the area from the opposite direction. After passing under their work a second time, they disappeared into the teeming traffic on Avenida de la Raza heading west toward the city center. Sometime later, at Plaza del Periodista ( Journalist Square), the head of the colgado was discovered in a black plastic bag at the foot of the cast metal statue of a newspaper boy.

Drivers passing under the bridge slam on their brakes when they see the body of a man dangling overhead. He swings from a metal band strapped This narrative continues below falso positivo. to his left shoulder, ten feet from a Rotary International emblem that marks the center of the bridge. comando armado: Armed men who travel in conDecapitated and turned away from his stunned voys; term used by the media.



Literal meaning: Armed commando. the same contact, the former “Zeta” arrived in Related terms: Comando Ciudadano por Juárez, Juárez in September 2008, met with local milihombres fuertemente armados, housejacking tary commanders, purchased previously seized weapons from the army garrison, and made Comando Ciudadano por Juárez: Reportedly an themselves available to the army for extrajudicial independent vigilante group. executions.21 According to US consul Raymond McGrath, Literal meaning: Juárez Citizen Command. a disturbing email circulates throughout Juárez Related terms: armas largas, comando armado, homduring the week of January 11, 2009. It claims that bres fuertemente armados, housejacking a new locally funded group, Comando Ciudadano por Juárez (CCJ), is going to “clean [the] city of conectar: To contact a drug dealer, to make the criminals” and “end the life of a criminal every 24 connection between a seller and an addict. hours.” City and government officials argue that no Literal meaning: To connect. evidence of vigilante activity exists, and that narco- Related terms: diler, pushador mantas allegedly created by CCJ are a hoax. A US consulate contact suggests in the press conecte: An individual who serves as a link for varthat the CCJ is a self-defense group composed ious criminal activities. of eight former “Zetas” who have been hired by Literal meaning: Adjustment of conecté, first-perfour Juárez business owners (including 1998 PRI son past tense of conectar (to connect). mayoral candidate Eleno Villalba). According to Related terms: conectar, enganchador


Abecedario de Juárez

congelarse: To allow an illegal shipment to move unimpeded through the city. This is accomplished with an order to stand down, broadcast by a dispatcher from the emergency number 066 (now 911). This term was heard on August 7, 2010, when 475 federal police officers demonstrated against the corrupt practices of four of their commanders. Literal meaning: To freeze. Related terms: abrir, cantonazo, carga, cargamento, no te acerques, va a haber baile, va a haber party

Mexicans to serve as polleros to escort pollos across the border. Literal meaning: Coyote. Related terms: pasador, pollero, pollo, visa láser cri-cri: Crystal meth; original source for this term is a fictional singing cricket named Cri-Cri, created in 1934 by Francisco Gabilondo Soler for his musical radio show on Mexico’s station XEW; also used to denote a twin-engine Colombian plane. Literal meaning: Vocal imitation of a cricket. Related terms: cristal, cristalero, foco, piedra, piedra morada

cookear un speedy: A dose of heroin and a dose of cocaine heated together with a syringe full of water. After the resulting hot liquid is sopped up with a crimen autorizado: Term used by El Paso immigracotton ball, the needle is inserted into the wet fibers, tion attorney Carlos Spector and some of his clients pulled into the syringe and injected. This combi- who request political asylum in the United States. It nation of a stimulant and a depressant induces an originates with Pepe Medina, a friend of Spector’s, who once told him: “Mira, pendejo, no hay crimen extremely risky push-pull reaction. Literal meaning: To cook a fast one; known as a organizado, es crimen autorizado” (Look, asshole, there’s no organized crime, it’s authorized crime). “speedball” in the US. That is, in Mexico criminal activities are sanctioned Related terms: arponazo, chiva, morena, nieve, pinto and supported by the State. Literal meaning: Authorized crime. coqueada: Coke party. Literal meaning: From coquear, to flirt; to chew Related terms: crimen organizado, la plaza, la sica coca leaves to extract the stimulating juice (popular crimen organizado: Organized crime. meaning in Argentina). According to “El Pelos,” a former drug trafRelated terms: aturrado, aturradote, lineazo, narificker (1980s), “There is no organized crime; there zazo, uñazo are agreements among groups for mutual benefit.” corbata: An executed victim whose tongue is pulled After paying his wholesaler for a marijuana shipout through a slit in the throat until it protrudes ment, El Pelos bore full responsibility for the merlike a necktie; an alleged message from the killers. chandise. He stored the product, moved it to El Paso, and delivered it to clients in El Paso or other Literal meaning: A necktie. Related terms: ejecutivo, elemento, encajuelado, US cities. The producer/distributor in the mountains had no information beyond his sale to El Pelos. punto, teipeado, X-39 The retired trafficker says that it would be coyote: Someone in charge of a smuggling ring impractical for one person to control all necessary that leads or transports immigrants from Mexico transactions within Mexico’s drug business from start to finish. “It is impossible!” into the United States. In April 2005 the US Border Patrol detained Literal meaning: Same. a man for providing a ride to an illegal immi- Related terms: crimen autorizado, delincuencia grant. Since the driver was heading south toward organizada the Mexican border, he was released and subsequently interviewed by Julián Cardona and Scott crimen uniformado: Police and the military; term Carrier. He claimed that most coyotes are Mexican used by citizens who see branches of law enforceAmericans and legal residents of the US who hire ment as active participants in la malandrada.



Literal meaning: Crime in uniform. Literal meaning: Christ therapy. Related terms: azules, crimen autorizado, La Chota, Related terms: ahijado, anexado, anexar, anexo, La Placa, sardos, los verdes padrino, quebrar, servidor cristal: Methamphetamine. Literal meaning: Crystal. Related terms: cri-cri, cristalero, foco, piedra, piedra morada

cuadro: Area surrounding a punto’s drug sales venue; puntos are responsible for keeping the peace in their territory by reporting to police if anything disturbs business. Literal meaning: Square, to keep things square. cristalero: Someone who uses or sells crystal meth. Related terms: Lencho, picadero, pushador Literal meaning: Glazier; one who works with glass. cucarachas: Term used by Felipe Calderón during Related terms: cristal, piedra, punto a December 14, 2011, breakfast with Mexico’s marines. He compared alleged criminals of MexCristoterapia: Rehabilitation based on belief in a ico to cockroaches and vowed that his government Supreme Being; Christianity’s New Testament is would “clean the house.” the primary instruction manual for transforming Literal meaning: Cockroaches. drug addicts, alcoholics, sicarios, and various crimi- Related terms: la limpia, limpieza social, operativo nals, into law-abiding citizens. All religious organi- ciego, operativo negro, paramilitares, personal califizations are welcome to proselytize in rehab centers. cado, personal de limpieza


Abecedario de Juárez

cuerda: The practice of transferring inmates from one prison to another, within the same city or to a distant facility. Literal meaning: Rope; clockwork mechanism. Related terms: El Cherry, El Tribilín

blended easily with the general population, thus many innocent civilians were detained and questioned. Thousands of disappearances and deaths are attributed to the Mexican Army’s brutal interrogation methods. On August 28, 2020, Movimiento Nacional cuerno de chivo: Nickname for an AK-47 assault por Nuestros Desaparecidos en México (National rifle; one of the standard weapons favored by pro- Movement for Our Disappeared in Mexico) estifessional assassins. mated that 75,086 Mexican citizens had disapLiteral meaning: Goat horn. peared. Over 97 percent of these disappearances Related terms: fierro, matraca, El M, El R, sicario, occurred between 2006 and 2019. Most desaparecitrueno dos were from Tamaulipas, Jalisco, Estado de México, Chihuahua, and Nuevo León.22 Literal meaning: Death questionnaire. cueros de rana: Dollars. Related terms: bautizar, cobija eléctrica, desaparición Literal meaning: Frog skins. forzada, Directiva para el Combate al Narcotráfico, Related terms: clavo, jando, wato montado cuestionario de la muerte: One hundred mandatory questions for individuals detained by the army cuidador: One who oversees kidnapped victims. during Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua; this ques- Literal meaning: Caretaker. tionnaire, included in Calderon’s Directiva para el Related terms: levantado, teipeado, teipeadote Combate Integral al Narcotráfico (Directive for the This narrative is based on Julián Cardona’s Comprehensive Combat against Drug Trafficking), interview with “Toby” on May 23, 2011. 2007-2012, is described in a report in Proceso, edition no. 2102. The French school of counterrevolutionary war After observing their huge profit margin, Toby joins tactics dominated interrogations during Calderón’s his friends in the ransom trade. When the boys militarization of the country. Drug traffickers jump out of a car to threaten victims at gun­point,


many immediately cooperate, but others must be forced. Kidnapping requires courage, and Toby likes the way a gun feels in his hand. In his first levantón, he and the guys abduct a pharmacy owner’s teenage son. They divide his $40,000 ransom equally. When the crew accepts cars as part of a negotiation, division of the profits becomes more complex, but they figure out how to split proceeds fairly.


lawyers, and business owners. Even so, families of their victims don’t always have ransom money. When death threats and other negotiation tools fail to produce the asking price, they release their hostage. Like many successful businessmen, they know when to cut their losses. On one occasion they initiate negotiations with the girlfriend of a hostage, and she answers their threats with, “Go right ahead, kill him!” Toby and his friends have no rejoinder. They release the man. For a slice of the profits, informants someAs their kidnapping operation grows, so does times provide facts and figures about the financial their overhead. A percentage of their earnings is resources and routines of possible targets. Often, allocated for rental of casas de seguridad, gas, and the young kidnappers assemble between nine and other expenses. They continue to divide their profeleven in the morning, grab guns, and drive around its equally among the eight members of the group. looking for potential marks. They tail expensive When Toby and his friends deliver a hostage cars through the city’s militarized streets, and if to a casa de seguridad, they lock them in a wina driver turns into a residential area and stops in dowless room. Three or four of the guys remain as front of a nice house, they make their move. cuidadores while others negotiate and collect the Toby and his friends take care to abduct people ransom. Even if the kidnapping drags on for sevwho are more likely to have funds: maquiladora eral days, cuidadores stay with the hostage to prosupervisors, truck drivers, bus drivers, accountants, vide food and water, and sometimes even cigarettes


Abecedario de Juárez

and medications. Occasionally, a levantado pleads with the guys to reconsider their business plan, but they dismiss such appeals. Toby dresses well and buys expensive shoes with his hard-earned money. He buys clothes for his more principled friends and takes them out for pizza. Cash flows quickly in and out of his pockets. Since he and his partners kidnap someone almost every week, Toby loses count of the number of people he exploits. Toby pretends to have a job, but his mother soon understands the source of her son’s wealth. When Toby offers to contribute funds to the household, she refuses to take them and tells him what she thinks of his “career.” Her shame and concern multiply when her twenty-year-old son, El Gordo (Abraham López), joins Toby’s crew.

Guerrero) invites his girlfriend to move into the top floor of a safe house. She soon stumbles into her lover’s business partners guarding a hostage on the first floor. When she questions El Gary about what Toby, El Gordo, El Chaneke (César Alejandro Nevares), and El Titis (Ricardo Sáenz) are doing with the guy downstairs, he locks her in their bedroom. This precaution is hardly necessary, since high fences surround the residence, and the kidnappers control access electronically through two garage doors. Détente falls over the household for twelve hours; then El Gary takes his girlfriend to a motel on a Friday. When the couple returns on Saturday, they find Toby and El Gordo still guarding the hostage, and the young woman overhears El Titis’s negotiating his ransom and release over the phone. As agreed, the guys drop their levantado in front of a convenience store on Sunday morning. This thriving extortion start-up, built on the It isn’t long before El Gary shares everything backs of the city’s workers and business owners, with his lover. He tells her he has been working begins to crumble when El Gary (Edgar Alfonso with Toby for some time, that he jumps out of


cars and grabs victims. El Chaneke drives, El Titis negotiates, and El Tru (Raúl Sánchez) and El Cuaco ( Jaime Guadalupe Chavira) buy weapons. After witnessing several kidnappings, El Gary’s girlfriend manages to flee and contact authorities. Soldiers and state prosecutors arrive at a casa de seguridad to interrupt the lives of five of the young predators, among them Toby and El Gordo. They arrest the remaining three at other safe houses. At midday, April 16, 2010, eight young men in fluorescent yellow-green jumpsuits parade before the media accompanied by soldiers. Law-enforcement officials omit the young woman’s role in the arrests and instead, with much fanfare, credit an intelligence operation, a tactical group that resolved twenty-three kidnapping cases (eighteen concluded and five planned), seized $6,000, three weapons, a shipment of marijuana, and seven vehicles. Although Toby and his friends are no enrranflados and consider themselves to be a disorganized group of malandros, law enforcement officials view them differently. They classify the young men as a gang and select their collective


name: Los Cuacos (The Horses), the plural of Jaime Guadalupe Chavira’s nickname. Ten days after Toby’s arrest, a judge sentences him to eight years in prison.23 His charges include kidnapping, transporting weapons, and drug possession. The court also cites Toby’s February 2010 participation in the kidnapping, transport, and confinement of a woman, for which he and his friends had collected a $20,000 ransom. Fifteen-year-old Toby serves only three years in a juvenile detention center and is freed on his eighteenth birthday, but his adult brother, El Gordo, receives a twenty-year sentence. This narrative continues below the entry for no enrranflado. cuitear: To quit the business; to quit drugs; to die. Literal meaning: To leave something behind. Related terms: acostarse, clavarse la cuota: Extortion payment; quantity of “protection” money that extortionists demand from


Abecedario de Juárez

businesses; usually paid on a schedule that can be adjusted without notice. Together, three brothers own eight butcher shops and eighteen refrigerated trucks. With over one hundred employees, they supply meat to the majority of Juárez maquiladoras and several supermarkets. That is, until the extortionists arrive. As a warning in 2008, four stores and the entire fleet of trucks are torched. After this initial attack, one brother decides to pay la cuota; another goes bankrupt. Huge losses are compounded by employee

layoffs, payments to creditors, and pressure from tax authorities in the depressed market of a global recession. Only two of the butcher shops remain. Literal meaning: Quota. Related terms: cobrador, cuotero, derecho de piso, extorsionador, la sica cuotero: A person who collects extortion payments. Literal meaning: Same. Related terms: cobrador, la cuota, derecho de piso, extorsionador, la sica

chamuscado/chamuscar: One who is burned, alive another whenever it serves their advantage; chapuor dead/to burn a corpse or to burn someone to lines often die in the midst of business transactions. death. Literal meaning: Grasshopper (genus Sphenarium) Literal meaning: Scorched one/to scorch or singe. commonly eaten in Oaxaca and other regions of Related terms: achicharrado, achicharrar, calcinado, Mexico. calcinar, incinerado, incinerar quemado, quemar Related terms: borrar chapulín: An individual who has no loyalty to a single criminal organization or political party; they habitually jump from one business opportunity to

charola: Official credential, e.g., police badge, journalist’s press card; a form of identification used to assert power or privilege. 43


Abecedario de Juárez

Literal meaning: Badge. Related terms: chayo, chayote, chayotero chayo, chayote: Bribe money received by some journalists, usually a monthly payment. Government officials pay journalists to write articles about certain topics, to slant their writing in a particular way, or to refrain from writing about specific events or individuals. In the early 1990s, federal police made monthly payments to journalists, but as the domestic market grew, state police funded this payola system. In the early 2000s, an email circulated among journalists listing the names of reporters and photographers and the amounts of money they allegedly received from state police. Literal meaning: Chayote is an edible plant belonging to the gourd family; chayo is a shortened version of chayote. Related terms: centavero, charola, chayotero, derecho chayotero: Journalist who accepts favors or bribes to write about specific topics or to avoid covering other topics; or one who sells information, including reportage that colleagues are writing about or researching.

Journalist Carlos Denegri was as brilliant as he was corrupt. Multilingual and the stepson of prominent politician Ramón P. Denegri, Carlos had a wide network of national and international contacts. He interviewed many influential mid-twentieth-century world leaders and wrote “Miscelánea política,” a front-page column for the national newspaper Excelsior. He wrote first-person chronicles during World War II, hosted the television program Miscelánea Denegri, and wrote two other news columns, “Arsénico” and “Fichero politico.” The Associated Press considered him to be among the world’s top ten most influential journalists. Meanwhile, he collected money for mentioning people in the media and for remaining silent about others. The rise or fall of politicians was sometimes attributed to his accolades or criticism. Known as “Mexico’s Reporter,” Denegri was the unofficial spokesperson for several presidents of the Republic. In his office he displayed photographs of himself in the company of five Mexican presidents. Born in 1910, Denegri was also known as a womanizer, misogynist, liar, anti-Semite, homophobe, and alcoholic, with a violent streak. According to the New York Times, at 1:00 a.m. on January 1, 1970, after only


eighteen months of wedded bliss, Denegri’s third wife, Linda Mendoza Rojo de Denegri, celebrated the new year by pumping a bullet into his brain. Literal meaning: One who accepts bribes. Related terms: centavero, charola, chayo, chayote, derecho


Literal meaning: Hot chip. Related terms: llamamiento, sicario chispazo: A line of cocaine; to snort a line of cocaine. Literal meaning: Spark. Related terms: línea, lineazo, narizazo, pericazo, uñazo

El Cherry: Centro de Readaptación Social, or Juárez prison; known as the largest picadero in the city. Literal meaning: The Cherry, derived from the chiva: Heroin. acronym CERESO; cereza is the Spanish word Literal meaning: Nanny goat. Related terms: arponazo, cookear un speedy, morena, for “cherry.” Related terms: bote, La Cima, montado, picadero, picadero, tecato pónganse la sotana, tambo, va a haber party chivo expiatorio: A person who is framed by la chicharra: Electrodes such as those on the end authorities to take the blame for someone else’s of a cattle prod; used to administer shocks in order crime(s). Literal meaning: Scapegoat, stooge. to extract confessions. Related terms: la chicharra, montado Literal meaning: Cricket or cicada. Related terms: baultizar, calentar, cobija eléctrica, marionelas, Los Mecánicos, montado, Los Químicos, chorizos: Olive drab duffel bags issued by the Mexican military. El Taller Literal meaning: Seasoned link sausages, usually chinche: Individually wrapped drug dose packed made from pork, often dark red; a green version is in a condom with multiple doses of the same drug, made with chiles and cilantro. either heroin, crack, or cocaine; one unit in a batch Related terms: burro, mula, pasador, pollero of drugs prepared for retail distribution. La Chota: The police, usually municipal police; Literal meaning: Bedbug. Related terms: grapa, huevo, ladrillo, papel, pase, “Chinga La Chota (Fuck the cops).” Literal meaning: Multi-purpose term of derision. tanda Related terms: Los Judas, La Ley, La Placa, la tira chip caliente: Refers to the ability of authorities to track cell phones; until recently a phone needed chutameros: Poppy field workers; poppy and herto be thrown away if tracking was detected or even oin producers; marijuana producers; synonymous suspected. Now there is an app available called with “drug traffickers”; more common in ChihuaBurner. This works for IOS and Android devices hua mountains but also used in Juárez. to provide the user with a temporary, disposable Literal meaning: Same. phone number from any area code, and the sup- Related terms: chiva, morena, mota, narco posed ability to anonymously make and receive calls.

daño colateral: Innocent civilians killed during former president Felipe Calderón’s “war on organized crime”; first used in Mexico by Calderón. According to a number of sources, the English version of this term, “collateral damage,” originated during the Vietnam War. Its purpose is to neutralize the culpability of governments. 46

When relatives of some of the murdered and disappeared met with Calderón in Mexico City on June 23, 2011, they objected to his use of this term to describe their dead. Calderón responded that he did not regret sending federal forces into the streets and denied that the rise in violence was due to their presence.


Literal meaning: Collateral damage. Related terms: baja colateral, falso positivo, sexenio de la muerte dar agua: Waterboarding; to interrogate a victim while intermittently pouring water over their towelwrapped head. When brothers José Luis and Carlos Guzmán Zúñiga fell into the hands of the Mexican Army on November 14, 2008, they learned the meaning of dar agua. One died as a result. The bodies of both men were subsequently found on a road near Villa Ahumada, where the surviving brother had been executed with two shots.24 Literal meaning: To give water. Related terms: bautizar, Felipe Calderón, calentar, cargado, ejecución extrajudicial, enfrentamiento, General Felipe de Jesús Espitia, marionelas, Los Mecánicos, El Merengue, montado, Patrulleros, pelotón de la muerte, Los Químicos, El Taller


Literal meaning: Same. Related terms: degollar, descabezar dedo: Snitch, a finger pointer, someone who places blame on another. Literal meaning: Finger. Related terms: delator, empinar, hocicón, peinetón, poner dedo, ponlo de pecho, soplón degollado/degollar: One who is beheaded/to behead. Literal meaning: Same. Related terms: decapitar, descabezar delator: Informant; a person who covertly accuses others. Literal meaning: Informant, traitor. Related terms: dedo, hocicón, poner dedo, ponlo de pecho, soplón

delincuencia organizada: Legal term for a charge dar cuello: To kill. against three or more individuals acting as a group Literal meaning: To give (it to them in the) neck. to repeatedly commit serious crimes, including terRelated terms: abatir, carne asada, dar piso, quebrar, rorism, drug trafficking, counterfeiting or altering sembrar currency, sexual abuse and exploitation of children, money laundering, amassing firearms or arms trafdar piso: To kill. ficking, trafficking undocumented persons, and Literal meaning: To (put someone on the) floor, to organ trafficking. ground, to plant. Literal meaning: Organized crime. Related terms: abatir, carne asada, dar piso, quebrar, Related term: crimen organizado sembrar delitos de alto impacto: Violent crimes that destroy decapitado/decapitar: One who is decapitated/to familiar, balanced dynamics of a society, especially decapitate. when they become routine; e.g., daily homicides,


Abecedario de Juárez

kidnappings, forced disappearances, housejackThis narrative is based on Julián Cardona’s ings, carjackings, and incidents of extortion, that interviews with Luis Javier Martínez on occurred in Juárez when President Calderón sent May 23, 2015, and July 14, 2015. the army and federal police into the city. Literal meaning: High-impact crimes. The voices of two opposing economic forces echo Related terms: cifra negra, hoyo negro through the telephone lines. Criminal enterprises force private enterprises to play a game of holedenuncia anónima: Anonymous tip; many arrests and-corner deals. A man known as El Junior speaks and property searches by the army or federal first. The second voice, on the receiving end of this police are supposedly prompted by anonymous conversation, is usually Luis Javier Martínez, but speculation. on occasion his employees and other representaLiteral meaning: Anonymous denunciation. tives speak for him. Together, they all participate Related terms: dedo, delator, poner dedo in an illegal system of taxation, a protection racket enforced by impunity. derecho: A journalist who does not accept bribes. There are sixty-five Auto Value Stores, forty in In August 2008 Luis Horacio Nájera, a reporter Juárez, seven in El Paso, nine in Chihuahua, and for Grupo reforma, wrote about alleged military one each in Ascención, Cuauhtémoc, Ojinaga, and and state police involvement in the slaughter of Coahuila. Most belong to Martínez. The remainder patients in CIAD #8, a drug rehabilitation facility. are franchises. He also spent a month investigating human rights A second, even more successful, Juárez enterviolations, illegal house searches, kidnappings, tor- prise trades in well-known secrets and closes its ture, and murders, reportedly committed by sol- business deals with bullets and money. Its employdiers in Ciudad Juárez and throughout Chihuahua. ees speed-dial Juárez businesses to collect la cuota or He learned through a federal agent that the mili- derecho de piso. These illegal taxes are levied despite tary knew of his research, even though it had not Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua, the deployment been published. Afraid for his family’s and his own of more than ten thousand soldiers and federal safety, he fled with them to Canada, where they police agents to Ciudad Juárez. were granted political asylum.25 * * * Literal meaning: Right, straight. On Friday morning, October 2, 2009, the teleRelated terms: centavero, chayo, chayotero phone rings at the Juárez Auto Value store on Parajes del Sur. An employee answers. The caller derecho de piso: An archaic legal term once demands that the owner of the auto parts chain call used to describe city permit fees that commerce within an hour to a number he provides. If not, the inspectors collected from street vendors; the right caller will send his personnel to burn stores to the to operate in a certain location; derecho de piso was ground and to kill employees and customers. The once commonly known as la plaza. store manager instructs his staff to hang up if they Both terms have been hijacked by criminals. receive additional phone threats. During President Felipe Calderón’s military interMartínez does not follow the caller’s instrucvention in Juárez, derecho de piso became more tions. Menacing calls are received at other branches. widely known as a term for extortion paid by Martínez cuts phone service to his forty stores in legal enterprises, mainly to the federal police. La Ciudad Juárez. Three hours later four men show up plaza now connotes a fee that criminals pay to the at the Parajes del Sur store. The only casual thing police or government in order to operate without about them is their wardrobe. Their faces are covinterference. ered; they bring guns and another ultimatum: if the Literal meaning: The right to the floor. owner doesn’t call within an hour, they will begin to Related terms: cobracuotas, cobrador, la cuota, kill Auto Value clients and employees. When this extorsión, extorsionador, quitar, la sica armed quartet carries the same message to three


other stores, the company closes all Juárez locations for the rest of the day. On Saturday afternoon men shoot at the Parajes del Sur storefront from a passing vehicle. The store closes. Mid-morning on Sunday the Rancho Anapra store at the other end of the city receives a threatening call. Within fifteen minutes a man passes a photocopy of a handwritten note to an employee at the Durango store in southeast Juárez. Moments later someone fires shots at two other stores, one on Búfalo and Tularosa, the other on Avenida de las Torres and Hacienda del Sur. Auto Value again closes its doors for the day. On Monday, October 5, gunmen shoot up the store at the intersection of Avenida de las Torres and Calle José Reyes Estrada. Employees at four additional locations receive calls that include additional ultimatums. At 5:30 p.m. bullets shatter the window of the branch on Avenida Manuel J. Clouthier and Calle José Mateos Torres. On Tuesday a man drives up and passes a note through his car window to a mechanic working outside the store on Avenida Carlos Amaya and Calle Nahoas. It is a warning to pay la cuota before the situation gets worse. On Wednesday men drive by and shoot at the storefront on Bulevar Independencia. The management closes the store, and the company


installs panic buttons that provide a direct line to the municipal police. Shooters arrive later that afternoon in the same vehicle to target the Auto Value on Paseo de la Victoria and Calle Capulín. During each incident store managers call the Police Immediate Response Center, equivalent to 911 in the US. Most of the auto parts stores under attack are in commercial areas surrounding the municipal police headquarters, yet no officers come to their defense. In one instance extortionists fire on a store without interference, while five police cars park nearby. In initial attacks bullets are directed upward. As time goes on, the line of fire drops to three feet above the floor. When six auto parts stores are sprayed with bullets and still la cuota has not been paid, the extortionists add new incentives. Around five in the afternoon on Wednesday, employees of the branch on Avenida de las Torres and Hacienda del Sur—a location that had been attacked three days earlier—receive a call advising the owner to get in touch or stores will be burned to the ground and noncompliant employees shot. Seven minutes later employees of Auto Value #30—where a threatening note had been left the day before—receive a follow-up call promising murder and arson. Thursday morning one of the extortionists phones to say that he represents La


Abecedario de Juárez

Línea and enjoys police protection. He claims they have three hours to pay, or he will begin setting fires. A glance at a city map reveals that attacks on the auto parts stores follow a line from southeast to northeast through “ghost districts,” commercial areas that have been extorted out of existence. In the Pronaf tourist area, along Avenida Abraham Lincoln, near the United States border, dozens of bars, discos, restaurants, doctor’s offices, and other businesses are abandoned. A few remain open by paying la cuota. A year and a half into Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua, there are more than a thousand complaints against the army and the federal police, but the majority of extortion victims don’t file complaints. On Friday, October 9, a week after the first intimidating phone call to Auto Value, and two hours after the start of an unofficial citywide curfew, the store on Avenida Jilotepec and Calle Iztaccihuatl burns to the ground. The following night the store on Avenida de las Torres and Calle Hacienda del Sur goes up in flames. Luis Javier Martínez now understands.

* * * An acquaintance, an insurance agent, reminds Martínez that his policy held by a global company headquartered in England includes coverage for extortion. Soon British adjusters arrive in Juárez and conclude that refusing to pay la cuota has increased the risk level for Martínez and his associates. They recommend that Martínez “go to the authorities, but be careful because we don’t know if they are involved.” Reports of the burned auto parts stores appear in newspapers and on TV. Another acquaintance calls Martínez to say, “The state attorney is interested in your case.” Together with other businessmen, Martínez meets privately to discuss his case with the state police and other Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua authorities. The meeting is led by the PGR (Attorney General’s Office) and Procuraduría de Justicia del Estado (State Attorney’s Office), represented by attorney Patricia González. She advises them to pay la cuota. “Currently, we can follow them, we can get them. But they would be charged with attempted extortion and quickly freed. I can’t tell you to do

something illegal, but if you are willing, if you want us to take this seriously, you could agree to pay for a while.” “For how long?” asks Martínez. González responds, “In less than three months, we should be able to arrest them.” Martínez hires a security consultant, Señor Macías, to pose as an Auto Value employee and negotiate the first weekly installment of la cuota. On Monday, October 12, Macías accompanies Martínez to the Lucerna Hotel bar to meet with state police to discuss a delivery arrangement for extortion payments. Although the group agrees on the hotel as drop location for the first payment, the extortionists demand that the money be delivered the following day in Río Grande Mall, one block away. The state police assign three undercover officers to wait outside in unmarked cars until the security consultant hands over la cuota. Then the officers will make arrests. On Tuesday, October 13, the operation is aborted when a shopkeeper in Río Grande Mall notes that Macías has a weapon, then contacts the army. At 9:00 the following morning, someone calls to inform Martínez that Macías has been arrested. He learns later that soldiers tortured his consultant during the night. The unpaid extortion money is handed over as evidence to Deputy State Attorney Alejandro Pariente, and the state police and army decide to work together on the case. The military releases Macías, and he negotiates an agreement to turn over la cuota to the extortionists that same day. Unfortunately, the cobradores send Molotov cocktails rather than instructions for delivery. The auto parts store on Avenida 16 de Septiembre and Berkelio burns to the ground in forty-five minutes. Meanwhile, authorities investigate Macías and remove him as negotiator for Auto Value. When the police take his place, Macías does not ask questions. He leaves the city without his paycheck. On Wednesday fire guts a store in another auto parts chain, Refaccionarias Jiménez. By Thursday the owners of three auto parts chains meet twice with authorities. The head of one parts company recounts, “We asked for the support of the Mexican Army, and they responded that they defend the sovereignty of the nation, not private businesses.”26


Abecedario de Juárez

Martínez listens in on telephone negotiations between the police and the extortionists. As punishment for informing and colluding with authorities, the extortionists double the weekly cuota for the three auto parts companies—$3,850 instead of the $1,925 initially demanded. Each of the three companies agrees to pay a fixed portion of each extortion payment. Juárez auto parts businesses employ approximately 1,500 people in about eighty stores, and given its greater share of the market, Auto Value contributes over half of the total, about $2,000. The cuoteros ask the business owners to deliver the money in a cardboard carton, so they pack it in a brake pad box. An employee from Auto Value drops it off near the ruins of one of the stores and observes a cuotero retrieving it. When the extortionists receive their payment, they seem delighted by the packaging and ask that future payments be made in auto parts boxes.

* * * Three months of threats and attacks leave three Auto Value stores reduced to ashes, and twenty-two blasted with bullets. During the same period, fifteen Refaccionarias Jiménez stores are shot up, and three are burned down. Sometimes the extortionists shoot from moving vehicles. On other occasions they park, get out, and walk to the front of a store before opening fire. Security cameras record these attacks. Martínez provides authorities with stills from the videos, but this proves to be a waste of his time. After counting and packing the bills for each payment, Martínez shoots pictures of la cuota. In many of the 470 photos turned over to authorities, 1,000, 500, 200, 100, and 50 peso notes fan out across a scarred wooden table, with their serial numbers in view. In some photos bundles of bills are fastened together with rubber bands, topped with a Post-it note listing the number of bills of each denomination and the total amount: 1–1000 = 1,000 30–500 = 15,000 119–200 = 23,800 102–100 = 10,200 50,000

After about a year of collective payments, the three auto parts companies reach an agreement with the extortionists for individual payments. Although these cuotas are offered in exchange for “protection,” teenagers begin to rob auto parts stores several times a week in different areas of the city. They strip customers and employees of cell phones, cash, and wallets. Auto Value issues a memo prohibiting employee wallets, IDs, or jewelry on the sales floor and designates a secure location in the storage room for these items. Martínez informs his extortionists about the robberies. They tell him not to worry, but the robberies continue. Not long after he speaks to the extortionists again, someone shoots a young man as he exits a pharmacy in the Zaragoza district, on the east side of the city near Auto Value #9 on Calle Ramón Rayón. Curious onlookers stare down at his body sprawled on the pavement. A man at the crowd’s edge says, “Oh, that was the guy who was robbing the auto parts stores.” By the time the police arrive, the stranger has disappeared. The robberies stop. For a while Martínez’s British anti-extortion insurance works, but once the policy expires, the adjuster explains, “When extortion is a single event, we can put an end to it, but here it is modus vivendi. There is no way we can underwrite your company’s losses when extortion is endless.” In early July 2012, after filing for bankruptcy in the United States and Mexico, Luis Javier Martínez decides to stop paying la cuota. Authorities claim that the cuoteros will no longer bother him, but on July 23 and 24, extortioists shoot up nine of the fourteen auto parts stores that remain open. This comes after a three-year struggle, one year of resistance and two of payment, which for a time reaches $7,700 weekly. Luis Javier Martínez has had his fill of terror, violence, and economic hardship. There has been a 40 percent drop in sales in his Juárez stores, and the company is burdened with a payroll of four hundred. He lays off most of his employees and turns ten stores over to Auto Value executives, hoping to preserve the jobs of sixty employees for whom he has no severance pay.


This narrative continues below Estado paralelo. desaparecido/desaparecer: One who is disappeared/to disappear. On August 18, 2018, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights declared Mexico guilty of the forced disappearances of Nitza Paola Alvarado Espinoza, José Ángel Alvarado Herrera, and Rocío Irene Alvarado Reyes. The Alvarados were last seen in Ejido Benito Juárez (a town in the northwest portion of the state of Chihuahua) on December 20, 2009, during Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua. Literal meaning: Same. Related terms: desaparición forzada, Directiva para


el Combate al Narcotráfico, feminicidio, levantado, levantón desaparición forzada: Forced disappearance committed by the State or officials representing the State. One or more persons are arrested or abducted, transported to an undisclosed location, and denied contact with relatives or anyone else outside of the group or agency that has seized the individual. Although the persons responsible for these abductions represent the State, such abductions are extralegal. A victim of desaparición forzada has no protection under the law. Literal meaning: Forced disappearance.


Abecedario de Juárez

Related terms: desaparecer, desaparecido, Directiva other human rights violations committed by the para el Combate al Narcotráfico, feminicidio, levan- Mexican Army and federal police in Juárez. During President Felipe Calderón’s military intervention in tado, levantón Juárez, an estimated 230,000 people were displaced descabezado/descabezar: A decapitated corpse/ to other states in Mexico and to the United States. Literal meaning: Forced displacement; forced to decapitate. migration. Literal meaning: Same. Related terms: decapitado, decapitar, degollado, Related terms: crimen autorizado, desplazado, exiliados, Mexiliados, Mexilio degollar descuartizado/descuartizar: A corpse that has destazado/destazar: A dismembered corpse/to cut a corpse to pieces. been cut to pieces/to dismember a corpse. Literal meaning: Same. Literal meaning: Same. Related terms: desmembrado, desmembrar, destazar, Related terms: descuartizado, descuartizar, desmembrado, desmembrar, embolsado, hacer carnitas embolsado, hacer carnitas Diana la cazadora de choferes: A bus passenger who appeared to be a middle-aged woman with dyed blonde hair shot and killed two Juárez ruta 4 bus drivers (forty-five-year-old Roberto Flores Carrera and thirty-two-year-old Fredy Zárate), on two desintegrado/desintegrar: A body dipped in acid consecutive mornings in late August 2013. La Polaka, El Diario de Juárez, and other news to accelerate disintegration/to disintegrate a body outlets received an email from dianalacazadoradein acid. Literal meaning: Disintegrated person/to disin- [email protected] claiming to represent the women of Juárez. It is not known if the killer and tegrate. the author of the emails are the same person. The Related term: entambado writer stated that they were exacting revenge for desmembrado/desmembrar: One whose limbs murdered women who worked graveyard shifts at have been cut off/to cut off the limbs of a corpse maquilas and rode buses late at night: “We were victims of sexual violence from bus drivers . . .” or living person. It is not known if the murdered drivers abused Literal meaning: Dismembered person/to women or were randomly selected to pay for the dismember. Related terms: descuartizado, descuartizar, destazar, abuse of others. Another line of investigation suggested that they had refused to transport burritos or embolsado, hacer carnitas other drugs on their buses. None of these theories desplazado: Displaced person, generally refers to were pursued by law enforcement.27 someone who has fled Juárez in response to death Literal meaning: Diana the Hunter of Bus Drivers. threats, threats of violence, kidnapping, or extor- Related terms: burritos, feminicidio tion; or after having been a victim of these crimes. Literal meaning: Same. el dibujo: A pattern of bullet holes in a window, Related terms: desplazamiento forzado, exiliados, a car door, or other surface, created in the course Mexiliados, Mexilio of an execution; a tight pattern indicates a more professional job. desplazamiento forzado: Forced to flee one’s Literal meaning: The drawing. home or residence; to abandon a job or business to Related terms: cerrar, la cola, lateral, llamamiento, avoid execution, extortion, kidnapping, torture and El M, sicario deshuesadero: Illegal car stripping business; US slang equivalent is “chop shop.” Literal meaning: Junkyard. Related terms: carjacking, carjacker, yonke


El Diego/Dientón/Diez/Blablazo: Alternate names for José Antonio Acosta Hernández, former commander of the antikidnapping task force within the State Judicial Police. In the midst of his new career as leader of La Línea, Acosta Hernández was arrested in Ciudad Chihuahua on July 29, 2011, and extradited to the United States. On April 5, 2012, the US Department of Justice published a press release (updated September 14, 2015) to confirm that thirty-four-year-old Acosta Hernández admitted to directing or participating in over 1,500 murders since 2008. He was sentenced to seven concurrent life terms for seven counts of murder and for weapons possession in connection with the triple murder of US consulate employee Leslie Enriquez, her husband Arthur Redelfs, and Jorge Salcido Ceniceros, husband of another US consulate employee. He was also convicted for racketeering, drug trafficking, and money laundering. Literal meaning: Given name/big teeth/ten/someone who talks a lot (an adjustment of Bla Blazo, a televised quiz show based on popular culture,) Related terms: José Reyes Feliz, Los Judas, La Línea, Paty Gaga, secuestrador


operations of federal forces. The army completed this “war guide” in March 2007 and distributed it to garrisons throughout the country in late 2008. Bullet points for this thirty-seven-page classified document were: Harass. Capture. Neutralize . . . a euphemism for “kill.”28 Literal meaning: Same. Related terms: abatir, bautizar, cobija eléctrica, desaparición forzada, marionelas, El Merengue, montado, sembrar This narrative is based on Julián Cardona’s research and an April 9, 2009, Televisa Juárez report by Agustín Hernández Olivas and Jorge Trujano, Las Noticias (channel 2).

Two twenty-one-year-olds, Sergio Fernández Lazarín, a US citizen, and Eduardo Rosales, a citizen of Mexico, were abducted and tortured. Sergio speaks with a reporter from his hospital bed. Eduardo is dead. Sergio Fernández Lazarín: We were kidnapped by federales on Tuesday—Monday or Tuesday. They diler: Drug dealer. hooded us and took us to a house. It was a normal Literal meaning: Dealer (Spanglish). house, bigger than average, and seemed to be far Related terms: meneado, movido, puntero, punto, away. It was used for torture. We remained there pushador for a few days. Agustín Hernández Olivas: Who? [Who was Directiva para el Combate al Narcotráfico: with you?] President Felipe Calderón instructed Secretary Sergio Fernández Lazarín: A friend and I. But of National Defense Guillermo Galván to super- more guys arrived later. We never saw the sun or vise production of guidelines to coordinate the anything else. We wore hoods the whole time.


Abecedario de Juárez

Agustín Hernández Olivas: (voice-over) Sergio Fernandez Lazarín a twenty-one-year-old US citizen, was taken from Infonavit Casas Grandes, along with his friend Pilo. Agustín Hernández Olivas: Think carefully. My next question is very important. How do you know they were federal [police] and military? As you know, criminals also wear [military] uniforms. What evidence do you have that they were really military? Sergio Fernández Lazarín: Because when they stopped to search us, I could tell they were federal officers. Federales searched us initially. Agustín Hernández Olivas: How do you know? Sergio Fernández Lazarín: Because the words “federal police” were printed [on the vehicle], and two other trucks arrived with federales, and instead of putting us into passenger seats of the police car, they hooded us and put us into the trunk. Agustín Hernández Olivas: Which trunk? Sergio Fernández Lazarín: The police car’s trunk. Agustín Hernández Olivas: (voice-over) The men who beat them demanded that they reveal the exact location where drugs are sold in their neighborhood. Sergio Fernández Lazarín: Then when we thought we’d be taken to that location, they led us out to

the hills. Soldiers delivered us to federales, and the federales tortured us in the hills. Agustín Hernández Olivas: What did they do? Sergio Fernández Lazarín: They used wooden planks, the longest ones they had. They hit each of us fifty times on the legs and on the back. Then they stripped us to our boxers. They poured water on us and shocked us. Agustín Hernández Olivas: (voice-over) After walking half naked all night [to reach his home], his family sent him to the hospital. The doctor here confirms his injuries. Doctor: He has multiple contusions around his nose and has chest pain. Also, he has bruised thighs, numerous lesions around his knees. He has edema and bruising and says he has not eaten since Tuesday. Agustín Hernández Olivas: (voice-over) On Tuesday morning this young man was accompanied by twenty-one-year-old Javier Eduardo Rosales [nickname Pilo]. They remained together throughout this ordeal, but he claims that his friend Pilo did not survive. Sergio Fernández Lazarín: At the end they said, “Take off your shoes, we want you to run over the hill.” And the hill was covered with cactus, thorns and stuff. They threw stones at us, and we ran. They had not fed us on any of the days we were there



A familiar phrase was delivered in the television news coverage of Sergio and Pilo’s abduction: “The men who beat detainees demanded that they reveal the exact place where drugs are sold in their neighborhood.” It is worth noting that Operativa Conjunto Chihuahua was rumored to have casas de seguridad where citizens were tortured to death after being arrested by street patrols. Likewise, accounts of brutal interrogations within the army barracks were corroborated by many who survived them. Immediately following President Felipe Calderón’s tight and dubious victory in the 2006 election, he dispatched a military contingent to his home state, Michoacán, the first among several military operations that he initiated in different regions of the country. On January 3, 2007, in Apatzingán, Michoacán, Calderón wore a military jacket and cap emblazoned with five stars, the emblem of commander in chief of Mexico’s armed forces. While visiting Military Zone No. 43, he paid tribute to an audience of approximately 250 soldiers, marines, and federal police. Mexican presidents do not usually wear army uniforms. This public military display signified the leading role that armed forces would play in Calderón’s war against organized crime.29 Soldiers throughout the country would later be forced to take responsibility for all that went awry with Calderón’s plan. The president set the stage for massive abuse when he commissioned Directiva para el Combate Integral al Narcotráfico and ordered General Galván to fly to Coahuila to distribute this combat manual to military commanders. The Directiva contained cuestionario de la muerte, one hundred questions to ask detainees in the field before delivering them to military barracks for further questioning.30 Recipients of the manual included Major General Mario Marco Antonio González Barreda (Commander of Military Region XI in Torreón) and General Felipe de * * * That afternoon relatives of Javier Eduardo search Jesús Espitia (Commander of Operativo Conjunto the hills but do not find his body. At night they go Chihuahua). to the State Attorney’s Office and the State Del* * * egation of the Attorney General, but these agen- The search for the body of Javier Eduardo resumes cies refuse to acknowledge the family’s report of on Friday, April 10, at 10:00 a.m. They find him at a missing person or abuse by the military. Family noon. His buttocks have been shattered by mariomembers plan to resume their search the next day. nelas, bashed fifty times with a plank. His mother [and gave us] no water. My friend and I found a bottle of water, but who knows how long it had been there. We took a few sips, and my friend began to feel bad. They thought he was Azteca, because of where we were arrested, plus he had some tattoos. He suffered more torture [than I did] and did not even resist, and so . . . there we were, lying there, I was trying to calm him down, but he began to feel worse and worse. Then he couldn’t fight any more. Agustín Hernández Olivas: Your friend died? Sergio Fernández Lazarín: Yes. I was there with him. I thought he was kidding when he said he was ready to go, but it was no joke. Agustín Hernández Olivas: (voice-over) After learning Sergio’s story, Pilo’s mother immediately went to the foothills, but military personnel suggested it would be better for her to stay away, to wait at the hospital. She did not obey. It was her son. We located her by phone. Margarita Rosales: [Inaudible] police, and they went to look for him while I went to FEMAP [the hospital] to find the lady [Sergio’s mother] to learn what had happened. I’ve been in communication with the commander. He has called me, but he says they did not find anyone. Agustín Hernández Olivas: Did you go to the state police [to open a formal investigation]? Margarita Rosales: No, I asked, “What do you want me to do, sir?” He said, “You better go with the lady [the other mother] to FEMAP.” But I cannot stay there; I told him that I’m going with my family to look for my son. I cannot stay there [at the hospital]. Agustín Hernández Olivas: (voice-over) However, we know nothing about any men and women who have been kidnapped and held in these safe houses by supposed soldiers. The whereabouts of Sergio’s young friend who accompanied him that morning are also unknown.


Abecedario de Juárez

collapses as family members and friends cry and shout out, “Soldier murderers!”31 In 2008, the year Javier Eduardo Rosales dies, at least 460 men under twenty-five are killed.32 With his death, this twenty-one-year-old hospital radiographer becomes one more juvenicidio. Because his friend Sergio survives to provide a televised account of the events that led to Eduardo’s death, the army is publicly incriminated.

* * * Soldiers from Garrison Ojinaga were later prosecuted for the torture, murder, and clandestine burial of three suspected drug traffickers. They testified that Calderón commanded Secretary of National Defense Guillermo Galván to disseminate Directiva para el Combate Integral al Narcotráfico, the president’s orders to use harsh tactics against drug traffickers. During judicial proceedings against him, Brigadier General Manuel de Jesús Moreno Aviña

(Commander of the Garrison Ojinaga), stated that prior to the Coahuila summit, he informed General Espitia that soldiers in his garrison were seizing vehicles from alleged criminals, then repainting and labeling them with the army’s official color and insignia. He also reported this innovative practice to the secretary of national defense during the Coahuila summit. Moreno Aviña was no doubt confident that his tactics were considered admirable. The written orders that Galván delivered in Coahuila and elsewhere were accompanied by verbal commands to use whatever means necessary to secure victory in Calderón’s war.33 Lieutenant colonel of infantry José Julián Juárez Ramírez, one of the Ojinaga soldiers accused of belonging to pelotón de la muerte, said he was included in a meeting held between September and October 2008 at a Chihuahua military airbase. During this gathering, attended by several generals, including Felipe de Jesús Espitia, the secretary of


national defense restated Calderon’s order to use a hard line against drug traffickers. Several years later in an August 8, 2012, court hearing, Major Alejandro Rodas Tobón confirmed that the army in Chihuahua adhered to directives issued by the president of the Republic and the secretary of national defense. “All orders that are received should be fulfilled [as] coming directly from the supreme commander of the armed forces. When I have been given an illegal order, I am not obliged to comply. But when an order comes from [President Felipe Calderón], it is not to be questioned.” Another accused soldier requested that Calderón, Galván, Espitia, and Moreno Aviña be called before the court.34 Federal authorities, including the secretary of national defense, refused his request. In a complaint submitted to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Major Rodas, Lieutenant Huesca, and Corporal Roque claimed that when these events occurred (in 2008 and 2009) and soldiers were accused and arrested, the chain of command was as follows: 1. President of the Republic, Felipe Calderón 2. Secretary of National Defense, General Guillermo Galván Galván 3. Commander of the Eleventh Military Region in Torreón, Coahuila, Major General Marco Antonio González Barreda


4. Commander of the Fifth Military Zone in Chihuahua, Brigadier General Felipe de Jesús Espitia. 5. Commander of the Garrison Ojinaga, Brigadier General Manuel de Jesús Moreno Aviña.

Rodas stated that General Galván made a concerted effort to acquit himself and his agency of human rights violations committed during Calderón’s war. He ordered evidence to be fabricated and issued commands to torture accused soldiers.35

* * * On February 20, 2008, city spokesman Jaime Torres alerted Juárez citizens about “fake checkpoints” manned by armed groups wearing police uniforms. Two weeks after the start of Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua, on April 9, General Galván’s agency, SEDENA, an acronym for Secretaría de la Defensa Nacional, issued a press release to advise citizens of Ciudad Juárez of an impending threat: The Secretary of National Defense informs the general population that we have intelligence indicating that the “Carrillo Fuentes Organization” is using uniforms similar to those worn by the military and intends to carry out criminal acts in broad daylight, using civilian vehicles painted with Mexican Army insignia.


Abecedario de Juárez

illegal drugs were planted on police officers, and three female officers accused the military of sexual abuse. Fearful of being attacked or arrested by In reality, SEDENA’s warning accurately portrays the military, half of the municipal police stopped military actions from March of that year and earlier. patrolling, and only one in three carried a weapon. Federal forces occupied and operated the Com- During this period the National Commission of munication Center, Command and Control, and Human Rights received only eleven complaints monitored security cameras installed throughout against the army for cruel or degrading treatment, the city. The army and its Operativo Conjunto arbitrary arrests, and illegal detentions. The State Chihuahua ruled a city divided into six sectors, Commission received only ten.38 each headed by a colonel.36 Vehicles loaded with men carrying assault rifles roamed nightly through doblado/doblarse: Heroin user who has overJuárez, a city with an undeclared, yet adhered-to, dosed/to die. curfew. A clash between these men and the “real” When possible, fellow addicts attempt a life-­ soldiers patrolling in official vehicles never occurred, saving measure, an injection of saline solution, usubut many residential cantonazos and arrests of citi- ally table salt mixed with water. zens were conducted in the middle of the night or Literal meaning: One who is bent, broken/to near dawn. double or fold over. Beginning in January 2008, Juárez headlines Related terms: acostarse, chiva, morena, tecato were often dominated by daily executions of municipal and state police officers and command- Doblado, Doble: Synonymous with AA, Artistas ers. Military vehicles, some with obscured license Asesinos, Doblados, Doble A. plates, systematically attacked police. Within Literal meaning: Double. a week of Operativo’s start, at least thirty-one Related terms: Los Aztecas, ¿Cuál es tu ranfla?, municipal and state police officers were detained, familia, Mexicles, ranfla tortured, and humiliated by the military.37 Often, Their intention is to carry out gang rapes during alleged raids on houses, shops and nightclubs.

efecto cucaracha: Term invented by the Mexican government to portray the military and federal police as successful forces in the “war on drugs”; Mexican authorities claim that criminals scatter to other regions of the country after a military crackdown. According to a March 13, 2009, US State Department cable published by Wikileaks, law enforcement officials assess that, contrary to what Mayor José Reyes Ferriz says, criminals stay in

Juárez. There is no hard evidence that criminals avoid the armed forces, and there is significant documentation that the military and federal police routinely collaborate with criminals. For example, the August 7, 2010, revolt of 475 federal police officers against their commanders revealed that the commanders cut deals with local criminals. Literal meaning: The cockroach effect. Related terms: baja colateral, daño colateral, enfrentamiento 61


Abecedario de Juárez

ejecución extrajudicial: A homicide committed by representative(s) of the State on behalf of the State. Literal meaning: Extrajudicial killing. Related terms: fusilado, fusilar, la limpia, limpieza social ejecutado/ejecutar: One who has been executed/ to kill. Literal meaning: Same. Related terms: ejecutivo, fusilado/X-39, XK ejecutivo: One who has been executed. Literal meaning: The executive. Related terms: ejecutado, fusilado, X-39, XK

responsible for most violent crime in Mexico, but there are no reliable means to determine whether or not this is accurate. Investigations are rare. Prosecutions are compromised. One of the most accurate homicide counts for Juárez, as well as Mexico as a whole, is kept by Molly Molloy, retired Research Librarian for Latin America and the Border at New Mexico State University, and the creator and administrator of the Frontera List (http://groups.google.com​ /forum/?hl=en#!forum/frontera-list). Literal meaning: Execution meter. Related terms: abatir, baja colateral, daño colateral, ejecución extrajudicial, enfrentamiento, la limpia, limpieza social

ejecutómetro: A daily count of the executions allegedly carried out by organized crime in Juárez and the rest of Mexico, initially kept by the news- elemento: A person targeted for assassination. paper Reforma. Literal meaning: Element. The government claims that drug cartels are Related terms: objeto, punto


The narrative below is based on Julián Cardona’s interviews with a retired sicario on June 11, 2010, and October 8, 2010. If the request for an assassination is urgent, men fly to a designated town; if not, they arrive by bus or car. They carry no weapons and aim to pass unnoticed among other travelers. In the years before their killing seized daily headlines, they stayed in hotels. Now a crew of hit men separates into small groups and lodges in several casas de seguridad. They remain housebound for two days while los guías (guides or locales) study the routines of the elemento, collect and prepare weapons, and plan routes for the attack and retreat. On the third day, the assassins finish the job. If a suitable location for the execution hasn’t been set up by then, we have to go to the elemento’s home. For example, if he hasn’t left his house by the third day, that is where it ends. We have to finish our work. We have never taken a job that ended with “Not now.” Most of the hit men are drug addicts, and many want to use drugs on the job. Sometimes our employer says this is okay, but only while the operation is being organized. When the killing


is done, the workers need to be sober. That’s for the best. In this line of work, you have to be at 100 percent. If you fail, death is the consequence. We only use high-powered weapons, cuernos de chivo, El Rs, and 9 mm pistols. If a trigger gets jammed during the execution, you have to know how to handle yourself [how to immediately fix a mechanical problem or switch weapons].

An execution can be civil or vestido (conducted either in civilian clothes or in official uniforms). Whatever the attire, hoods are provided to conceal the killers’ identities. The person who contracts our services determines the nature of the operation. For surprise hits, we dress like civilians, carry handguns, and wear masks made of thin fabric, well suited for their purpose. They fold easily, so we stuff them in our pockets on the way to the job. [If those who commission the execution want it to appear legal], los guías (guides or locales) provide police uniforms. These could be from any branch of law enforcement. It is very difficult work, but [when] we dress like soldiers or federal police agents, everything is


Abecedario de Juárez

under control. People aren’t afraid of us, because they see us as those who represent the law.

On the appointed day, the sequestered men receive the llamamiento. We still don’t know who the victims are. They simply tell us, “Está puesto (it’s on)! It’s time. Get ready. Let’s go!” They show us a photo [of the victim] and give us any information needed to avoid mistakes.

Locales arrive to escort the killers from safe houses to the job. The assassins climb into four trucks. There are always four. They are always new. They are always eight-cylinder, four-wheel drive, and stolen. There are always four assassins in each truck. The first truck is la punta. La punta’s crew prevents any potential ambush or picks off an elemento’s bodyguards. The men in the middle two trucks carry out the execution. The fourth truck, the lateral (or cola), supports the central trucks in unexpected situations. During the ride to the execution site, los puntos provide ongoing reports to keep the armed men informed about movements of the elemento, the terrain, and whether or not the area is clear of law enforcement. When the area opens up, [the execution] takes a matter of seconds. We are already nearby. We arrive, they point out the target, and we spare nothing. Everything gets done whether or not law enforcement is present. If it is not a government job, law enforcement officers at the

site will not have been warned. Then we have to use different methods. The first time I did a job, I was on drugs. And yes, I was desperate, afraid, sweating. As time passes it becomes normal. You become numb. I don’t know how to explain it. You don’t feel anything anymore. We are professionals. If you shoot from the top of the truck, it’s faster. If you have to get out, you have to be accurate. You deliver a tiro de gracia with a 9mm to be sure the work is 100 percent done. It is best not to retreat or return. The goal is to do it right the first time. Some people do return, but this doubles the work and multiplies the danger. Some very difficult jobs require executing people who are always armed. For these jobs you must fire three times. With a cuerno de chivo, you shoot six shots in a row and mark a four-to-five-inch circle. The timing is: six shots, pause, six shots, pause, and so on. In certain confrontations it is necessary to shoot in a burst, but you always have a backup, a 9mm or an Uzi. An AR-15 fires in bursts of fourteen shots. In Mexico [commanders, politicians, and businessmen] aren’t the only ones who have power. There are many powerful people no one knows about. If an elemento has bodyguards, they might leave him unprotected. We know in advance when bodyguards are bought. That is how we reach our target. There is always someone on the inside, even in banks. [The hit man refers to bank employees who provide account balances to kidnappers.] Everything is infiltrated. You never move blind. They always give



you a photo so that you can do your work. And that photo always comes from the inside.

Related terms: los azules, bautizar, La Chota, cobija eléctrica, marionelas, trabajar, los verdes

At the end of the job, we don’t know anything about the locales, and they don’t know anything about us. I could have killed for El Chapo or anyone else and never have known. I only know who my contact is. Beyond that, nothing.

empinar: To reveal hidden information about someone’s illegal or unethical activity to rivals or police. Literal meaning: To force someone into a supine position, to bend (fuck) them over. Related terms: dedo, hocicón, Judas, peine, peinetón, poner dedo, ponlo de pecho, soplón

Seventeen days following Cardona’s interview with the assassin, the PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institucional or Institutional Revolutionary Party) candidate for governor of Tamaulipas, Rodolfo Torre Cantú, was ahead in the polls. Six days before the election, he was executed on the Tamaulipas highway along with two companions and three bodyguards. Although the candidate normally rode in an armored vehicle, it had been sent to Valle Hermoso in advance of his arrival. A maneuver by assassins to stop the politician’s unarmored vehicle and a second vehicle carrying his bodyguards took only thirteen seconds. The entire operation involved at least sixteen men in eight vehicles. The assassins knew Torre Cantú’s planned route to the airport, arrived at the execution site an hour before, got into position, and waited for their target to pass. Only forty-three seconds elapsed from the moment the killers reached the politician’s campaign trucks, executed him and his entourage, and dispersed. The circumstances of Torre Cantú’s murder closely resemble descriptions of ejecuciones extrajudiciales that the assassin provided for this story.39

Empresarios Unidos: El escuadrón de la muerte: On June 14, 2008, YouTube subscriber pepeton44 uploaded a music video, (www.youtube.com/ watch?v=rR9M4s_xp_g). In this 1-minute, 28-second presentation, a supposed vigilante group named Empresarios Unidos declares that they will protect their property by retaliating. Threats, spelled out in red letters, scroll over a black ground originally accompanied by a symphonic rock version of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Sometime before June 2016, the soundtrack was revised to include a portion of a heavy metal track, “Are You Ready?” by Creed. When this music video was posted, extortion was not yet widespread in Ciudad Juárez, but the federal police conducted extortion operations that targeted bars, restaurants and dance halls at the inception of Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua in March 2008. Literal meaning: United Impresarios: Death Squad. Related terms: Comando Ciudadano por Juárez, los feos, la limpia, limpieza social

embolsado/embolsar: A corpse in a plastic bag, usually a trash bag/to put a corpse in a plastic encajonar: A two-vehicle procedure in which the bag. first vehicle passes and blocks the path of a car that Literal meaning: Something in a pouch, pocket, or contains a person targeted for execution; a second bag/to put money into one’s pocket; to earn money vehicle blocks the car from behind so the immobior to steal things. lized target can be executed with greater ease. Related terms: desmembrado, destazado, entambado, On March 13, 2010, two executions appeared to be hacer carnitas coordinated attacks. Hit men killed Arthur Redelfs, thirty-four, a detention officer from the El Paso empalado/empalar: A person who has been County Sheriff ’s Office, and Lesley Enriquez, thirimpaled in the rectum/impaling someone in the ty-five, a US consulate employee. The couple’s threerectum. month-old daughter survived the attack. Within Literal meaning: Impaled one/to impale. minutes in another area of the city, killers boxed in a


Abecedario de Juárez

second car along with other vehicles and shot dead Literal meaning: Blanketed one/to be blanketed. Jorge Alberto Salcido Ceniceros, t­hirty-seven, hus- Related terms: crimen uniformado, entamalado band of a Mexican employee of the US consulate. Literal meaning: To box in, to encase. encubierto: Municipal police officer who works Related term: cerrar undercover as a convenience store employee, most often in Del Río stores, where the majority of encajuelado/encajuelar: A corpse or levantado alleged thieves have been killed. These officers also stuffed into the trunk of a car/to stuff a corpse or a guard similar chain stores, including Rapiditos Bip kidnapped person in the trunk. Bip, Extra, and Oxxo. During Operativo Conjunto Literal meaning: Enclosed one, boxed in. Chihuahua encubiertos often shot would-be robbers Related terms: cuidador, encobijado, levantado, and contributed to the murder rate. levantar In an August 4, 2014, El Diario de Juárez article, municipal police offered the services of police encapuchados: Persons who wear hoods made agents as encubiertos and individual bodyguards to from thin fabric, or other means of concealment, raise revenue for city coffers, in direct competition that allow them to see but not be easily identified. with private certified security companies. Literal meaning: Hooded ones. Literal meaning: To be hidden, undercover. Related terms: La Chota, ejecución extrajudicial, La Related terms: armas largas, comando armado, Placa enmascarados, hombres fuertemente armados encobijado/encobijar: A murder victim whose enfrentamiento: An armed confrontation; term body is rolled in blankets and dumped in Juárez used by the army when reporting civilian deaths. or the desert outskirts of the city/to roll a corpse According to a May 27, 2016, New York in blankets and dump it. Some Juarenses believe Times article, “Mexican Military Runs Up Body that encobijados are tortured by police in motel Count in Drug War” (by Azam Ahmed and Eric rooms. When they do not survive the ordeal, they Schmitt), Paul Chevigny, New York University, are wrapped in blankets to avoid soiling official cars. School of Law emeritus professor, describes the



Mexican military’s kill rate as an indicator of “summary executions.” Four decades of studies by the International Committee of the Red Cross found an average ratio of four injured to one dead in combat events. In Mexico the dead-to-injured ratio, obtained from official sources, is reversed as well as multiplied. The army reportedly kills eight people for each injured combatant. For the nation’s elite marine forces, the discrepancy is even more pronounced: their data indicate that they kill roughly thirty combatants for each one they injure. Literal meaning: Confrontation. Related terms: abatir, cuestionario de la muerte, denuncia anónima, ejecución extrajudicial, sembrar

es tu ranfla? (In which car are you riding?)” is to inquire about someone’s affiliation. If stopped by police, an enrranflado provides a code or nickname and is often immediately released. Literal meaning: A passenger in a car. Related terms: ¿Con quién estás puesto?, la lista, Los Mansos, la sica

enrranflado: Member or associate of a gang or “family,” or one who works for, reports to, and is protected by the police or military. To ask “¿Cuál

escuadrones de la muerte: These groups include deserters from the military or special operations units within the military.

ensillado: Someone who is armed with either a 9mm pistol or an automatic. Literal meaning: One who is “saddled up.” Related terms: fierro, montado, trueno, XK

entamalado/entamalar: Corpse rolled in a blanket/to roll a corpse in a blanket. Literal meaning: Wrapped or rolled one/to wrap enganchador: A middleman who connects differ- or roll up (like a tamale)/a taco variation, steamed ent aspects of criminal enterprise; historical defi- in a rolled flour tortilla. nition: one who lures others into military service Related term: encobijado with coercive techniques such as kidnapping and entambado/entambar: A corpse in a barrel; an threats of violence. Literal meaning: Someone who hooks in or on to inmate/to stuff a corpse in a barrel; to lock someone up; to incarcerate. someone or something. Twenty-eight-year-old Rocío Agüero Miranda, Related terms: conectar, conecte, pasador owner of Top Capos Nightclub in Juárez, was enjuague: Concealed plan of action made by one or perhaps the first entambada in Mexico. Children more people; can apply to criminal or legal objectives. discovered her remains on July 30, 1996, in a 200Literal meaning: A rinse, a flush, mouthwash. liter barrel filled with acid. With the exception of Related terms: movida, transa her feet and hands, her body had dissolved. Seventeen armed men had kidnapped her a week prior enjaulado/enjaularse: One who robs a residence to her partial reappearance. According to a man when occupants are away/to be inside of a resi- who knew Agüero Miranda, her guard dog repelled dence conducting a robbery. attackers in an earlier attempt. The nightclub owner Literal meaning: One who is enclosed/to be shut in. had a two-month-old daughter fathered by a sevenRelated terms: jaula, la sica, tecato teen-year-old who had been executed after a truckload of cocaine went missing. Additional settlement enmascarados: Police officers, soldiers, or gang for this shortfall is a probable cause of Agüero members who wear ski masks to partially conceal Miranda’s kidnapping and murder. She was identheir identities. tified by the serial number on her breast implants. Literal meaning: Masked ones, those who are Literal meaning: Someone sealed in a barrel/to be disguised. trapped in a barrel. Related terms: armas largas, comando armado, enca- Related terms: bote, cártel de Juárez, El Cherry, puchados, hombres fuertemente armados tambo, El Tribilín


Abecedario de Juárez

Nationwide operations of these groups were exposed by Mexican Congressman Ricardo Monreal. Permitted and possibly endorsed by Calderón’s administration, these death squads have been denounced by Juárez activists. In a story published by the Guardian on September 16, 2009, reporter Ed Vulliamy recounts the experience of Gustavo De La Rosa Hickerson, the Juárez ombudsman for the Human Rights Commission of the State of Chihuahua, Mexico. “I’m not saying,” he insisted, “that the army is directly killing these people. But I kept a map and watched how these squads move across the army checkpoints without hindrance. Until I was told to stop.” Literal meaning: Death squads. Related terms: Empresarios Unidos: El escuadrón de la muerte, narcoinsurgencia, narcoviolencia, operativos ciegos, operativos negros, pelotón de la muerte, personal calificado, personal de limpieza estado paralelo: Alleged parallel “government” that controls and profits from criminal enterprise in Mexico, composed of officials in the highest political, military, judicial, and law enforcement positions; entrepreneurs and civilians; a structure that operates nationwide and is replicated regionally with local politicians, military, police commanders and gangsters. Literal meaning: Parallel state. Related term: pacto de impunidad This narrative is based on Julián Cardona’s interviews with Luis Javier Martínez on May 23, 2015, and July 14, 2015.

to burn down your stores.” And they burned them down. The guys that burned down the stores are experts, because when they do it, they destroy everything, including the cash registers. When they told us, “By dawn tomorrow two people will be dead,” we started to negotiate. At one of the stores, soldiers arrived first, in official uniforms and vehicles. They cleared the area and moved people to the periphery. Just outside of the store there was a street vendor selling tacos, and they moved him too. The soldiers left, and minutes later other men arrived. They were dressed like civilians but had short military haircuts and appeared to be from southern Mexico. They broke windows, and I am almost certain they entered the store, set it afire, and burned everything. In another incident at store #15 on Avenida de las Torres, a guy who was just closing his nearby business saw federal police parked on the street as he was leaving. He turned the corner and saw more federal police. Their trucks were present block after block, and federal police trucks were positioned on each side of the store. Minutes later someone burned it down. When they shot up the stores, generally there were between six and ten rounds per event, mostly 9mm. Sometimes [the bullets were from a] cuerno de chivo. A friend of mine who worked with us as Auto Value’s director of operations accompanied me on one occasion when someone told us they had discovered ÁGUILA bullets.

ÁGUILA (Eagle) is the headstamp on cartridges El Junior conducts most negotiations for the extor- produced for the Mexican military and law enforcesionadores who collect a weekly cuota from Luis ment. Since civilian use of firearms is extremely Javier Martínez. Martínez, owner of Auto Value, restricted in Mexico, Martínez calls this to the a chain of auto parts stores, describes El Junior as attention of authorities. They reply that criminals an educated, articulate man who carefully parses reload shells. his words. Extortionists use intimidation as leverage. They issue threats. Violence. They tell you, “If you don’t do this, this is what will happen to you.” They told me, “We are going to shoot up your stores.” And they shot them up. “We are going

I think the extortionists are well prepared. I spoke with them personally. When I was in meetings with the authorities, they told me, “No, they are pelados (uneducated, foul-mouthed guys), who didn’t even go to elementary school.” In the note [in which they demanded la


cuota]—unfortunately, I don’t have it anymore, but it was written by a person who went to school. His penmanship and grammar are good. He is educated. He is a person who knows how to negotiate and who is good at getting what he wants. There was one guy that was a little rougher, but I think this was his role. I think he was the boss. After everything, I think that El Junior was much more capable than he wanted me to believe. These men don’t negotiate by instinct. They use techniques. I know El Junior had a lot of authority, but he made it seem otherwise. He said, “I need to consult someone.” I believe he just played a role. I think he ranked much higher in the organization. [Negotiations] became very complicated, because [the extortionists] assumed an extremely intimidating position: “If you do this, I won’t kill you, or I’m going to kill that guy, if you don’t do it.” It is more complex, but it is still a familiar technique. When they said, “Let me see,” you realized that it was truly for effect. Someone dictates what role their negotiators will play, or perhaps they determine this role themselves. We were going to begin paying $1,925 a week. They quickly doubled it to $3,850 after the first delivery. Two months passed and they raised it to $7,700. We began to understand that [payment amounts] were negotiable and questioned the terms of our agreement. They lowered payments to $5,775 and later to $3,850, and it remained there for a while until we decided not to pay them at all. When you spoke with them, you could hear the pages of a notebook turning. They wanted to give you the impression that they were recording transactions on paper. Of course, it was a hoax, because given how prepared and organized they were, they surely used computers and databases. When you speak with people who have been extorted, they talk about the sound of turning pages.


day and time on a payment schedule. One day of the week, cuoteros collected funds from hardware stores, on other days from auto parts stores, and so on. We bought a cell phone that we used just for their calls. We named it el celular de los martes (the Tuesday phone), since they always called on Tuesdays.

Each week the extortionists designated a place to turn over la cuota, usually within a kilometer radius of the headquarters of the state attorney and state police. Once the drop site was determined, they said, “I’ll send my nephew,” to imply that it was a small family business.

[Drop sites] were somewhere between Avenida López Mateos and Eje Juan Gabriel: in the Coloso store, around the corner by López and Casas Grandes, in or near the Bip Bip parking lot, or in the shopping center just down the street. The “nephews” were never nephews.

Young couples would be waiting in modest, unremarkable cars at the drop sites when they arrived. Sometimes they brought along a baby or toddler. Martínez recorded license plate numbers, GPS coordinates, makes, models, and colors of cars. He shared this information with authorities, but the investigations of Chihuahua State Attorney General Patricia González went nowhere. The army, federal police, and attorney general of the Republic also failed him. Meanwhile, the extortionists whined about their own misfortune. They said that they belonged to La Línea, but maybe this was not true. They told me that they also were extorted and claimed that they had to give two million to los verdes and a million and a half to los azules. They said they did not have much left!

By 2008 and 2009, extortion was endemic. Busi- Martínez accommodated as well as resisted the nesses were grouped in categories and assigned a extortionists. It was a rite of passage, like going


Abecedario de Juárez

down a rabbit hole into a warren of alternative truths. If you throw a kid into water when he doesn’t know how to swim, he struggles to keep from drowning. That is what happened to me. Since the authorities weren’t investigating, we began to protest. We went to Mexico City to meet with General Felipe de Jesús Espitia, commander of Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua. We petitioned different officials, knocking on every door we could find. We met with Fernando Gómez Mont, the secretary of the interior, who left office a few weeks later. I think the authorities provided information about us [to the extortionists]. It is best to understand that [the extortionists] know everything about you, that they know how to find you at any moment. I had private meetings with authorities that none of my employers knew about, only my wife and myself. Even so, the extortionists always found out. When I asked the officials why, they replied that “your employees must have leaked the information.” Many of these meetings were one-on-one, so the officials had to be providing information to the extortionists. [The extortionists] told me,

“Don’t think that [you are going to get rid of us] just because you met with los azules or los verdes.”

Martínez moved up through the hierarchy within the federal police until he met with its top officials. The secretary of public security, Genaro García Luna, and the secretary of the interior, Gómez Mont, sent an emissary to Juárez. Martínez met this envoy, a police commander from Mexico City, at the Mesa Grill in El Paso. It was just he and I, and his two bodyguards. That time, I didn’t even tell my wife about the meeting, not my family, not any employees. I was the only one who knew. The extortionists called me the following day at 10 a.m.

A group of businessmen, including Martínez, met privately with General Espitia, Luis Cardenas Palomino, chief of the Regional Security Division of the federal police, and Chihuahua state prosecutor Carlos Salas. Not long after this group gathering and his “private” consultation at the Mesa Grill, Martínez had new doubts about both meetings. In late November 2012, Edgar Valdez Villarreal, drug trafficker and US citizen, known as La Barbie, gave heft to rumors of corruption that


Abecedario de Juárez

operations for us, the extortionists said, “I don’t plagued Palomino. La Barbie sent a letter to the want to do business with you anymore. I’m Reforma newspaper, claiming that Palomino and not even going to send people to you anymore. his superior, Genaro García Luna, were “receiving Now you are going to deposit money directly money from organized crime and from me,” and into bank accounts.” were “part of the criminal structure of the country.” Palomino subsequently posted his resignation on Facebook, effective December 31, 2012. When the extortionists call to confirm that the first electronic transfer is successful, Martínez and General Espitia seemed very intelligent. He his associates go straight to the Attorney Generdidn’t participate in discussions [about my al’s Office. The businessmen inquire about tracking ongoing extortion] but listened and took notes. the extortionists through their bank accounts, but At the end, he made a few pointed observations. delegate César Augusto Peniche claims that Officials make you feel like they are taking care of you when their real strategy is to wear you out. Because I persisted, I had the opportunity to see the whole cycle. You explain your case to an official. They refer you to another official. Then the process begins again. Or they change the director of an agency. I think these are their means to discourage complaints. You know that authorities use theater. If they want to transmit terror, they know how to do it. If they want to communicate calm, they know how to do that also. It’s not that they can’t resolve these situations, these cases. It just isn’t convenient for them. We participated in an operation with the state police. We gave them the information: the car, the place, the time, everything their [undercover officer] needed to follow the extortionists. The next day, the state police said that an army checkpoint allowed the extortionists’ car to pass through, but the police agents following them were detained so the army could inspect their weapons. That’s how they lost track of our money. The funny thing is that we carried out the same operation with [the roles of the military and police reversed]. Army personnel followed the extortionists to a state police checkpoint. The extorsiónadores passed through the checkpoint without a problem. The soldiers were detained and asked for identification because they had weapons. If you heard these two accounts, you would think that they were the same event. What theater! When we began to push back and asked [the state police and the army] to conduct these

the bank’s confidentiality must be respected. We reply, “You have the authority to demand that the bank provide the names of these people who opened accounts and justification to identify their addresses.” “Yes, it’s true,” he responds. “Good idea, we need to do that.” After four meetings, it was never done. Never. There is a person who opens the account and a person who takes money out at the branch. There are cameras at the bank. It is not nuclear science. It is only the willingness to do it. This brings us back to the beginning. I’m convinced, after all that has happened, after observing it and documenting it, that these groups wouldn’t exist without the participation of the government on some level. I think el narco is a franchise the government grants. I put the facts together, but it isn’t my idea alone. Look at El Chapo. The cártel de Sinaloa is at war with cartels throughout the Mexican Republic. Let’s forget about money. What about the structure needed to maintain seven wars? Sun Tzu said, “To maintain a war outside of your territory exhausts your treasury.” So, maintaining seven? How could that be possible? Even if it were true that there are seven simultaneous wars from Michoacán to Mexicali, how can El Chapo manage this alone? There is only one constellation that has this capacity, [the State], the army, and the federal police.

El Chapo, of course, doesn’t confine his simultaneous wars within Mexico. According to a wellworn narrative, he is engaged on several other


fronts. Cártel de Sinaloa maintains operations in fifty-four countries on different continents, earning three billion dollars annually.40 I see three circles. The first contains what I know. The second, what I don’t know. The third holds what I don’t know I don’t know. I think we live in a national, staged montage. Everything is intended, but we do not perceive the hidden purposes that serve certain interests. You only find out later. For me, there is no El Chapo. They never arrested him. Perhaps they are going to kill him, or perhaps they need him to provoke a breakdown. They need him. Everything is calculated—there are real strategies that make sense. At first we don’t understand it, but time will tell. The authorities are magicians, masters of the art of make-believe. They plant a reality, then another, up to five different ones perhaps, so that even when you find the truth, you don’t know if you can believe it. Among so many lies, if the truth were revealed, no one would believe it. And what is the structure that extortionists work within? In the business world, some companies aspire to become a series of interacting cells, because this structure has greater efficiency. It is estimated that not even 2 percent of businesses in the world achieve this. It requires fully independent cells for buying, for selling, and for storing inventory. Each cell has the capacity to resolve its own problems but interacts with the others to achieve common goals. It surprised me when I began to see narcotráfico operate as cells. I have spent a lot of time studying these types of organizations, and [traffickers] do not manage their cells with the same goals that we have in private enterprise, but rather to achieve secrecy. The moment these cells become independent, nobody knows who is in charge. The extortionists themselves use these terms: células de secuestradores (cells of kidnappers), células de extorsionadores (cells of extortionists), células de tiradores (cells of marksmen), células de quemadores (cells of arsonists). Independent teams are set in motion by a phone call, but no one


knows anything beyond the call. We need to find out how money laundering actually works. The only thing left is to connect the dots, to see if they have a cell structure in their financial operations. It would be almost impossible for them to have a different kind of structure in upper levels of their organization. Really, they should have separate cells to manage finances, to move money, to buy weapons, and people who specialize in each of these tasks. I think they are businessmen, obviously government men. I can’t say that they are all members of the government or that all of them are businessmen. What I do know is that it is very difficult to nail down who is who.

Throughout the country, criminal activity motivates municipal police, state police, federal police, the army, and the Marines. Everyone demands a cut. Fees assessed by various security forces push criminal gangs to diversify. I think that extortion is a product, and kidnapping is another product. Drug trafficking, sex slavery, smuggling illegal immigrants, these are products. Finally, there is money laundering. That is of a different order, part of another sophisticated system. Criminals have areas, and for some reason they work the same districts utilized by the municipal police. They have exactly the same boundaries. When we had to take care of matters related to certain stores, the police told us, “Another district manages this.” And we saw that different extortionists operated in different areas. You begin to put everything together— certain police and certain criminals are in the same district. The people who attacked stores in one district were not the same people who attacked businesses in another area. They were part of the same system, but they moved more by territory than by task. [Each district] had specialized personnel, but I don’t know the division of labor. There were people who went to funeral homes, others to restaurants and bars. You see, the cartels use the same district divisions with the same radio frequencies, the same


operational structure as the police. Where is the line that separates them? If I were a criminal organization, why would I make it so easy for the authorities to read me? One thing that helped us put many things together is that two years before El Diego’s name was published in the papers or anywhere else, we heard his name in conversations with other businessmen. We told the authorities, and they responded: “Let me check on who this is.” They told us, “This is a real person, but he doesn’t live here.”41 They never provided any information about his identity.

Martínez and his business partners eventually learn that El Diego, a former police commander and alleged leader of La Línea, is in charge of extortion operations in the state [of Chihuahua]. They begin to realize that extortion has a corporate structure that mirrors the political organization of the country. As Martínez sees it, the extortion system is composed of business managers: those in charge of sectors of Juárez, one in charge of the city, another in charge of the state, and finally the head of a cártel.

* * * Money, power, and impunity weave through a police system laced with real and implied threats. Fingerprints of each police agent, handwriting samples, DNA tests, socioeconomic information, address registries of parents, children, sisters, brothers, in-laws, aunts and uncles, and more are integrated in a national database. Every officer is identified with a personal code. Along with the police officer’s service history, this code allows authorities throughout the country to access a reservoir of personal information. This same ID system holds and controls data of personnel in the army, navy, and federal police. When a police commander directs his subordinates to commit crimes, they can be coerced if they do not participate voluntarily, since family members of less pliable police agents are potential hostages and subject to retribution.42 Corruption streams from top to bottom, and of course the money rises from the bottom to the top. Elected officials sell plazas to drug traffickers, and command posts to high-ranking officers within law


enforcement. An elite group of criminal police officers enjoys the trust of their chief. Fewer than 10 percent of police officers profit significantly from la polla. Everyone gets something, but those close to the chief enjoy far more money, power, and impunity. They collect cuotas and have connections with the most important criminals in their city or state. An agent in such a position serves as a mouthpiece for pesados or their partners and mediates agreements between their police organization and various criminals. If someone disrupts this system, they must be disappeared, so these agents are also responsible for las limpias. A police chief who heads one of these elite groups has four trusted subordinates. Likewise, each of these individuals has four underlings who do their bidding. These cells integrate successively into a system of cells that is divided geographically to maintain secrecy and strength. Within limits, most officers on the street are allowed to supplement their incomes, to daily extort from workers, students, the homeless, alcoholics—essentially anyone with petty cash. If they mistakenly attempt to extort the wrong person or call too much attention to themselves, their superiors order their arrest and expose them as corrupt. Municipal police officers know and guard the locations of drug warehouses and sites of other illegal activities. These officers are the first to arrive at crime scenes and routinely determine the outcome of investigations, whatever is most convenient for them or for their superiors. A select group within the municipal police works for the chief in charge of a city’s street operations. They don’t collect money or commit crimes without the blessing of the city’s police chief, who likewise must get clearance from his superiors. This protocol is followed in municipalities, states, and the federal government. To generate revenue, this parastatal structure identifies, controls, organizes, protects, and divides illegal activities, including drugs and weapons trafficking, prostitution, pedophilia, human trafficking, extortion, kidnapping, robbery, and carjacking. People who engage in these activities pay la cuota. They are alineados. Corrupt police groups rule jurisdictions, granting authorizations (or not) for criminals to work. They arrest or kill no enrranflados. Each elite group


Abecedario de Juárez

and its corresponding chiefs are subject to selective killings within the ranks when government officials change positions. Although homicides within police forces are commonly attributed to drug cartels, these limpias are often internal struggles for control over revenue streams from criminal activity. Most of the chain of command within the state and municipal police in Juárez and nearby regions was destroyed in 2008 during the first phase of President Calderón’s militarization program, when federal forces seized ownership of criminal enterprise. In Mexico’s state and national scheme, command posts along with their jurisdictions, in any ministry or public agency, are for sale, and impunity is granted when punctual payments are made to superiors. This system of exclusivity is rooted within political groups as well. Officials reserve government positions for a tight inner circle and negotiate development plans with wealthy patrons that undermine public policy. Files obtained by US agencies through application of Mérida Initiative programs reveal that the Mexican State’s strong ties with organized crime are not limited to a few corrupt public servants in local jurisdictions. They include officials at every level of the government, military officials, and federal investigators.43

* * * Luis Javier Martínez understands that criminals and the municipal police work side by side to divvy up the city and even use the same accounting system. He compares his experience to that of a man with a large dog on a leash. “Suddenly you don’t know who is following who. Is the owner walking the dog, or is the dog walking the owner?” This is more than a personal theory. I’m not an expert on the subject, but based on what we have experienced, I think conflicts occur when one arm of the government makes deals with a cartel, and another arm makes a deal with a different cartel. That is where the conflict begins. If political forces were aligned, there would be no war. For me, those characters [like El Chapo] are a myth. The real ones—we don’t even know.

While disheartened by systemic corruption, Martínez acknowledges and admires the bravery of his employees and managers: “The truth is, I respect them.” Martínez and his workers had an in-house black joke. If the [extortionists] called us up and told us that a store was being shot up, we went there. It seemed that when the police got a report, they ran in the opposite direction. When an attack occurred, the managers and I really went there. The managers were very brave. Some employees were victims of attacks; their heads were covered with plastic bags, gun barrels were pressed against their temples, they were beaten, stripped naked, and locked in the bathroom together. In general, employees were disturbed by these things but more frustrated than scared. I respected them. I was criticized by several close friends, even my own family, for my decision to resist. But in truth, we were a team, and I will always be proud of us. We were blessed to have a great team, and that was what made us a great company. We couldn’t have done anything else. Fighting was the only decision for us. I started the business in 1981, in a shed on the patio of my house, in the Villahermosa neighborhood. My daughter, who was seven, sometimes helped us answer the telephone. Neighbors called us “those people in the little house.” From 1981 to 2007, we grew to sixty-five stores, five distribution centers in two countries, and in four different states. We were in El Paso, Texas, in Chihuahua, Juárez, Torreón, Coahuila, El Bajío, and in Queretaro. By 2007 the business grew from just my wife and me to nearly four hundred employees. I knew of people who developed extraordinary relationships with authorities, and others who didn’t, but they were hurt much more than I was. So, I think that someone involved didn’t want to hurt me, because they could have done a lot more damage. Other people, aside from losing their businesses, lost family members, or they experienced traumatic kidnappings, even


Abecedario de Juárez

the death of employees in some cases. Many businessmen didn’t resist extortion. They calculated [extortion payments] as if they were just one more employee salary. In any case, extortion came home to roost with all of us. One person told me, “Your error was in seeing extortion as a question of principle, and it is a simple business decision. Apply economics. How much does it represent of your sales?” We had annual sales of around $36 million. It really wouldn’t have put a dent in sales. It was cheap, and the extortionists knew it. I have to accept that I made a mistake. I wanted to achieve something beyond my capabilities, beyond what was possible. My initial thinking was, if I give them money, I am helping them to do this to my brothers, my colleagues, and my friends. I am helping them to subjugate us. And I am entering into a system where I have no idea of the outcome. I refused to do it. Now, after everything that we experienced, I tell myself, it would have been simpler to do what my friend recommended.

Successful companies in other regions of Mexico refuse or embrace unasked-for “protection.” Either way, they pay. In Apatzingán and Lázaro Cárdenas, Michoacán, extorsionadores demanded la cuota from Sabritas sometime during the night between May 25 and 26, 2012. When it was not paid, unknown parties set fire to company property located in these two Michoacán cities. Sabritas, a subsidiary of PepsiCo, suffered major losses, including three warehouses and thirty company vehicles.44 Around the time that President Enrique Peña Nieto’s administration was installed, Mexico’s largest construction companies—ICA, Carso, and the cement company Cemex—claimed that their operations were undermined by extortion. I really believe that we don’t need so many changes or so many laws to make things function better in this country. Make legal things easier, and make illegal ones harder. It is a simple principle. If we analyze the history of

politics in this country, of our legislation, I think we are going backwards. Doing things legally is very difficult. Doing them illegally is much simpler and cheaper. It isn’t because the authorities can’t do it. It is because it is not in their interest. We are starting over again, thank God. Of the four hundred people we once employed, now, a year and a half later, ten of us remain. But the market is doing well. It has accepted and welcomed us. We strive to be professional in all that we do.

estrangulado/estrangular: One who is strangled/ to strangle. Literal meaning: Same. Related terms: ahorcado, ahorcar, asfixiado, asfixiar exiliados: Mexicans in exile due to Felipe Calderón’s “war on drugs,” most often residing in the United States. Literal meaning: Exiles. Related terms: desplazados, desplazamiento forzado, éxodo, Mexiliados, Mexilios éxodo: When President Felipe Calderón sent nearly ten thousand troops to Juárez in 2008, it became the most violent city on earth. Thousands of families fled. According to a study conducted by Juárez University, 230,000 Juarenses fled to the US and southern Mexican states between 2008 and 2011. Literal meaning: Exodus, a departure or emigration, usually of a large number of people. Related terms: desplazados, desplazamiento forzado, exiliados, Mexiliados extorsión/extorsionador: The use of force or threats of force to coerce a business or individual to hand over money or property; extralegal taxes that are paid on a scheduled basis; payments that supposedly assure a business or individual “protection” against assault, robbery, or extortion from another entity/one who enforces extortion. From the start of Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua, extortion spreads like wildfire throughout


Abecedario de Juárez

Ciudad Juárez. Giros negros are the initial targets. In March 2008 the first news reports of murdered bar owners and managers are published. On October 27, 2009, an anchor on Televisa’s morning news show announces that more than ninety bars, nightclubs, and cantinas have closed; fourteen are liquidated; and seven are shuttered. Seventy-one of them fold permanently. Managers and owners of Juárez auto parts stores file thirty-five official complaints of extortion, the majority against the federal police for amounts ranging from $200 to $1,400. Yonkes denounce ongoing abuse by authorities, including extortion by los azules and los verdes. In the first stage of commercial extortion, la cuota is imposed on businesses related to liquor, drugs, or sex; then on pharmacies, stationery stores, and clothing stores; then on yonkes, auto parts stores, hardware stores, and bus drivers. A fourth group of businesses includes lumberyards and funeral homes;

and finally taxi drivers, barrio grocery stores, food stands, and street vendors must pay. Funeral homes enjoy brisk business from high numbers of homicides, and extortionists eye their profit margins. On October 26, at 9:30 a.m., men fire a battery of weapons at Latinoamericana Recinto Funeral,45 near the city center on Paseo Triunfo de la República and Lago de Pátzcuaro. The barrage includes 10mm semiautomatic pistols, .223 semiautomatic rifles, and cuernos de chivo, fired 142 yards from the entrance to a military housing compound with soldiers on watch 24/7. Three days later, at 1:30 p.m., extortionists fire on Refrigeración Lozano. At 8:00 p.m., men drive up in several trucks, douse the refrigeration business in gasoline, and set it afire. Police and soldiers arrive twenty minutes later. Literal meaning: Extortion. Related terms: alineado, cobracuotas, la cuota, derecho de piso, la sica

fábrica: Location where large quantities of mari- and civil society to describe the murders of innojuana are pressed into bricks. cent civilians in Colombia during President Alvaro Literal meaning: Factory. Uribe’s administration. Primarily from 2002 to Related term: narcomaquila 2008, soldiers under pressure to produce “positive results,” passed off sprees of extrajudicial killings falsos positivos: Mexico’s dead who are identified as combat casualties in a war against guerrilla as criminals without supporting evidence. subversion. Historically this term was used by the media Literal meaning: False positives. 81


Abecedario de Juárez

Related terms: abatir, baja colateral, daño colateral, ejecución extrajudicial, enfrentamiento, la limpia, limpieza social

head to the city’s main industrial park, but no one appears to object to these proceedings. The men aren’t in any hurry despite the fact that fifty meters away are a school, a police station, and a fire station. The following narrative is based on Julián Cardona’s A large faction of the public swallows the interviews with “Esther” on May 14 and 22, 2012. intended message without chewing: There is an ongoing war between cartels. The narcomanta hung Two days before her son’s best friend, Sergio, is alongside the ejecutado is a memo from one cartel murdered, Esther drives to the day-care center to a rival, and the victim is a member and thus a where she works. With one block to go, two trucks criminal, a cucaracha.46 pass her and block the street near a busy intersecEsther assumes nothing. She knows that many tion. Two of her coworkers pull up alongside her people have died in Juárez, leaving questions that as six men in civilian clothes circle nearby cars, will never be answered. randomly pointing guns at drivers. A young man is pulled from a truck and handcuffed to burglar Whether guilty or not, for some reason they killed that guy. Only [the killers] know why. bars framing a window. His outstretched arms The way they killed him leaves a question: Por form a wide “V.” His tormenters do not bother to que? (Why?) And every time it happens, we cover their faces but jerk a rubber pig mask over realize all over again that many innocent people the shackled youth and hang a narcomanta beside die discredited. As for Sergio, they didn’t just him. A sicario pulls out a pistol, utters words only end his life. They cut into the lives of his entire the victim can hear, then pumps two bullets into family and community. his head. Another of Esther’s coworkers steps off of a bus and faints on the spot. The men climb into Three years later, Esther still broods over possible their trucks and drive away. This execution takes place in the same area of motives for Sergio’s murder. the city as Sergio’s, but this time the narcomanta “Maybe Mayra had a relationship with one of shrouding the body is signed “El Chapo.” At those so-called powerful guys. Maybe [Sergio’s this intersection and hour, thousands of workers


Abecedario de Juárez

murder] was used to intimidate citizens or criminal groups in a turf war.”

felones: Criminals. Literal meaning: Felons. Related terms: malandrín, malandro, malandrote

Then she suggests a more ominous possibility, that a headless corpse strung from a bridge could feminicidio: Congresswoman Marcela Lagarde’s be state-sponsored terrorism. As more time passes, adjustment of “femicide” or “feminicide” to describe increasing numbers of women murdered in Juárez Esther is more and more certain of one thing: beginning in 1993; Lagarde promoted inclusion of “Sergio was innocent.” Perhaps he is among Mexico’s many falsos positivos. feminicidio in the Federal Penal Code. The General Law on Women’s Access to a Life Free of Violence familia: Corporate gangs such as Los Aztecas was passed in Mexico on February 2, 2007. While the murders of women in Juárez have that extend their power by creating alliances with smaller gangs, enlisting them to act as “franchises” received much attention around the world, 90 percent or more of Juárez casualties are male. for “corporate headquarters.” Defining the murders of females as separate from Literal meaning: Family. Related terms: Los Aztecas, ¿Cuál es tu ranfla?, Juárez homicides in general is a common point of Doble, enrranflado, hermanos, Los Indios, Mexicles, debate in some circles. It remains that feminicidios are g­ ender-based murders, essentially hate crimes ranfla directed at victims who are viewed as less than la farola: Police truck; refers to the flashing light human by perpetrators. In 2009, sixteen years after widespread on top of the cab. gender-related violence arrived in Juárez, the Literal meaning: Streetlight or lantern. Inter-American Court ordered the Mexican State Related terms: la camper, La Chota to pass legislation to punish the perpetrators. After Fecal: Pejorative term for former Mexican right- other Mexican states approved laws to address wing president Felipe Calderón; invented by critics feminicidio, Chihuahua Congress, on September who contend that Calderón stole the 2006 presi- 12, 2017, unanimously designated feminicidio as a dential election from left-wing candidate Andrés criminal offense, to be punished with up to eighty Manuel López Obrador. years in prison. Literal meaning: A conjunction of the first syl- Literal meaning: The intentional killing of women lables of Felipe Calderón’s given and family names, and girls. an indication that he is a “shit;” in American slang a Related term: Diana la cazadora de choferes “shit” is someone who is malicious or highly offensive; excrement; fecal material; from the Latin faex los feos: Derogatory term for the Mexican federal and faecis, meaning the dregs, sediment. police, Los Federales. Related terms: Felipe Calderón, desaparición forzada, Citizens of Ciudad Juárez are aware of wideejecución extrajudicial, la limpia, El Merengue, nar- spread corruption within the federal police and coinsurgencia, narcoterrorismo, narcoviolencia, Opera- know that filing complaints against them can be tivo Conjunto Chihuahua, sexenio de la muerte dangerous. However, on August 7, 2010, 475 uniformed federal police agents revolted. Standing Federico: Federal police officer. before television cameras, they spoke directly to Literal meaning: Proper name that shares its first the people of Mexico about the duplicity within five letters with the word “federal;” also used to their organization. They revealed that federal describe an unattractive person. agents, assigned by President Calderón to fight a Related terms: los azules, La Chota, los feos, Los war against organized crime, were actually profJudas, La Ley, La Placa iting from organized crime. Armed and masked


Abecedario de Juárez

agents spoke openly about deals that their commanders cut with local criminals and denounced them for numerous felonies, including drug trafficking, extortion, kidnapping and murder.

* * * From 2008 to 2010, when the army takes charge of security in Juárez, puntos stop selling on street corners, but narcomenudeo continues in barrio kitchens and bedrooms without much interference. Barrio Triste, a neighborhood near where retired punto El Oso lives, is controlled by federal police. He claims to know an Azteca puntero in the barrio who reports to La Línea and the federal police. El Oso contends that, “When new feos are assigned, they don’t know about previous agreements, so they revientan [break into] the punteros’ houses.”

* * * On December 9, 2019, Genaro García Luna, former head of Mexico’s federal police, was arrested by US federal agents in Dallas, Texas, and charged with “three counts of cocaine trafficking conspiracy and one count of making false statements.”47 On July 30, 2020, the US Attorney’s Office, Eastern

District of New York filed a superseding indictment, “offenses involving importation and distribution of massive quantities of dangerous drugs into the United States.” “According to the new indictment and other court filings by the [US] government, from 2001 to 2012, while occupying high-ranking law enforcement positions in the Mexican government, García Luna received millions of dollars in bribes from the Sinaloa Cartel in exchange for providing protection for its drug trafficking activities.”48 J. Jesús Esquivel conducted an interview with former US ambassador to Mexico Roberta Jacobson (Proceso magazine, May 2, 2020). The former ambassador claimed that the United States government has information confirming that President Felipe Calderón’s administration knew of García Luna’s ties to drug traffickers. It is doubtful that Calderón will ever admit to any wrongdoing. Literal meaning: The ugly ones; the hideous ones, the dishonest ones. Related terms: los azules, La Chota, Los Judas, La Ley, La Placa



fierro: Term used by the military for a 9mm pistol or an automatic weapon; an ice pick or other sharp object used as a weapon. Literal meaning: Steel, iron. Related terms: ensillado, fusca, montado, trueno, XK

foco: Meth pipe made from an incandescent lightbulb; sometimes also used to smoke crack. Literal meaning: Lightbulb; focus, point of convergence. Related terms: cristal, piedra

filereado/filerear/filerearse: A corpse full of holes/ to stab someone with a knife or other sharp object/ person who injects themselves with heroin. Literal meaning: Someone who has been filleted/ to fillet/ one who fillets themselves. Related terms: acuchillado, acuchillar, agujerado, agujerar, arponazo, fierrazo, filero

Los Fresas: 1990s Juárez gang with middle-class origins; first gang to arise from the south or southeast side of the city; main activities were drug dealing, robbery, and assault. The term los fresas was first used in the 1980s in Mexico to describe superficial youngsters from middle- or upper-class, educated families. It is now used to describe any shallow young person. Literal meaning: The strawberries. Related terms: Los Gatos, Los Ortiz, placazo, ¿qué barrio?

filero, fierrazo/filerazo: Variations of the same term; ice pick or other sharp object used as a weapon/to injure someone with a sharp object; to inject heroin. Literal meaning: Same. fusca: Handgun. Related terms: acuchillado, acuchillar, agujerado, Literal meaning: Pistol, firearm. agujerear, arponazo, filereado, filerear Related terms: cohete, trueno, XK


Abecedario de Juárez

fusilado/fusilar: One who is executed by firing specifications is restricted. This confidentiality squad; sometimes used by media to describe those helps Mexican soldiers to distinguish between who are lined up and shot/to line people up and weapons of federal security forces and those of shoot them. criminals. On September 2, 2009, a comando armado Not long after the Mexican military deployed entered a rehab center on El Aliviane in Bellavista FX-05 (September 16, 2006), a German arms comand shot eighteen addicts, eighteen fusilados. pany, Heckler and Koch, announced that it was a Literal meaning: From fusil, a Spanish word for pirated copy of their G36. According to La Jornada, rifle. General Alfredo Oropeza Garnica was dismissed Related terms: ejecución extrajudicial, la limpia, as a result of this accusation. Heckler and Koch limpieza social later inspected the weapon more closely and admitted that their G36 did not serve as a blueprint for FX-05: An automatic assault rifle, dark green or the FX-05.49 desert bronze, designed and manufactured by the Literal meaning: A shortened version of the ofMexican Army and used by Elite Forces in the ficial name for the Mexican military’s automatic army, marines, and paratroopers. assault rifle, FX-05 Xiuhcóatl. Unofficial pictures of this weapon can be Related terms: cuerno de chivo, ensillado, El M, viewed online, but release of official pictures and matraca, montado, El R, XK, Xiuhcóatl

gallo: Marijuana cigarette. Literal meaning: Rooster. Related terms: calilla, pintito, pinto, toque gancho: A bicyclist who, in exchange for tips, guides the cars of foreigners to restaurants, markets, or other attractions of interest in tourist areas; used in mid-twentieth century and some years later.

Literal meaning: Hook. Related terms: aguaje, giros negros, lupanar ganga: Gang. Literal meaning: Same. Related terms: Los Aztecas, cero barrio, clica, Cristoterapia, Doble A, Los Fresas, Los Gatos, La K-13, Mexicles, Los Ortiz, placazo, ¿qué barrio? 89


Abecedario de Juárez

Based on Julián Cardona’s interviews with garrazo: The act of inhaling vapor from a cloth “El Güero’s Aunt Peggy” on March 18, 2013; soaked in glue or solvent. July 16, 2016; October 21, 2016; Literal meaning: To hit something with a cloth; and October 24, 2016. garra = cloth; azo = a reinforcement of the root word; can also be used to denote a hit or blow; if you wash your car with a cloth, quickly and not In March 2011 Wikileaks publishes a diplomatic cable signed by Raymond McGrath, US consul in completely, you say, “I gave it a garrazo.” Related terms: agua celeste, arponazo, chispazo, gas- Ciudad Juárez. It reads: orbiente, narizazo, Pega Rey, Resistol 5000 gasorbiente: A solvent sold in hardware stores that is used as an inhalant to induce intoxication. Literal meaning: Hybrid of gas and absorbent. Related terms: agua celeste, arponazo, chispazo, garrazo, narizazo, Pega Rey, Resistol 5000 Los Gatos: Early 1990s gang from Colonia Hildago, a Juárez district near the Rio Bravo (Rio Grande). A war between Los Gatos and Los Ortiz resulted in numerous homicides and directed international attention to the rise of Juárez gangs. Authorities claimed that gangs committed 40 percent of all homicides during this period, as they began trafficking drugs and firearms. Literal meaning: The Cats Related terms: Los Fresas, La K-13, Los Ortiz, placazo, ¿qué barrio? La Gente Nueva: The New People; a group allegedly formed in Chihuahua by El Chapo to fight cartél de Juárez; this designation appeared on banners next to corpses in Juárez and throughout the State of Chihuahua. On November 25, 2008, when this term appeared on a narcomanta next to seven men allegedly executed by the federal police: SOMOS LA GENTE NUEVA A CARGO DE LA PLAZA (WE ARE THE NEW PEOPLE IN CHARGE OF THE PLAZA), any reference to “The New People” was excluded from media coverage. When subsequent narcomantas signed by La Gente Nueva appeared, the term was published widely by media sources, who interpreted it as a synonym for Chapo Guzmán and cártel de Sinaloa. Literal meaning: The New People. Related terms: cártel de Juárez, cártel de Sinaloa, La Línea, mantamanía, narcomail, narcomanta, narcomensaje, narcopinta

While consulate officers have not yet been able to determine whether Yonkeros Unidos (United Junkyard Owners of Juárez) or the CCJ (Comando Ciudadano por Juárez, a self-appointed group that supposedly watches over Juárez) exist as new and independent organizations, it is the absence of effective law enforcement that creates an environment in which vigilantism could take root, along the lines seen in Colombia with the “Pepes” in the early 1990s.

When Yonkeros Unidos allegedly executes seven men, the consul took notice. Their massacre clinched a chain of escalating events. ONE: Early on Wednesday, November 19, 2008, federal police officers break into a house on Nuevo León Street in Polo Gamboa, a neighborhood on the southern outskirts of Juárez. They find 4,200 pounds of market-ready marijuana pressed into blocks and wrapped in black plastic. Within hours, Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua’s federal agents parade Fidel Barrera and Elías Armengol before the media. TWO: At 4:00 p.m. the following day, on a main thoroughfare ten miles to the north, cuernos de chivo jut from two late-model trucks, one red, one white, as they drive through the intersection of Paseo Triunfo de la República and Avenida del Charro, and fire on the Chula Vista Hotel, where federal police are lodged. Officers standing watch shoot back, injuring at least one attacker. In minutes the site is crowded with additional federal, state, and municipal police officers, and military personnel. No casualties or injuries of officers or hotel staff are recorded. One federal police officer chalks up the attack as retaliation for the marijuana seizure the day before: “It hurt them. . . . It hurt them.”


THREE: In an effort to identify their attackers, federal forces invade two IMSS hospitals and conduct exhaustive but unsuccessful searches for gunshot victims. Hours later and 12.5 miles away, on the city’s southeast side, authorities find a white armor-plated 2000 Ford Excursion peppered with dents, blood splattered across one seat. FOUR: About four miles southwest of the Chula Vista Hotel, a woman watches a televised report of the shooting and recognizes one of the trucks. Phone calls among family members ensue. Before long, an aunt is certain that her nephew has been shot in the back. She calls her sister’s house, but the voices of her injured nephew and his mother are calm. A bullet had only grazed El Güero (Blondie), but it shot a big hole in his family’s trust. A kidnapping a few days before had reinforced their long-held suspicion that the young man’s new cars and abundant cash were dirty. A neighborhood boy claimed he had seen El Güero among men who abducted the son of a local grocer, and the distraught parents of the levantado had notified El Güero’s grandmother. On Sunday, November 16, El Güero’s grandmother cooks menudo. As they sit down to eat, she asks why he owns so many new cars, a question with a built-in defense. “I’m a car salesman.” On Monday his Aunt Peggy reheats the menudo and revisits the subject.


“Wise up.” “I’m not doing anything wrong.” “Think of your children.” El Güero again swears, “I’m not doing anything wrong.” But at 9:00 p.m. Thursday night, El Güero speaks to his abuela as he leaves to take part in the attack on the federal police at the hotel. “I entrust my children to you, take care of them. I love you so much. I love you.” This is their last conversation. FIVE: At 8:00 p.m. the next day, El Güero and his friends head for Palmeiras Motel in a commercial district, near the intersection of Avenida Reforma and Bulevar Municipio Libre. They arrive in several vehicles with two young women who frequently party with the group as well as single out potential kidnap victims for them. At about 11:00 p.m. El Güero calls to invite his friend Pepillo (Little Joe) to join the party. But when Pepillo arrives around midnight, El Güero and his crew are no longer there. The two young women tell him that federal police agents had entered their rooms just ten minutes before, ordered them to lie face down on the floor, and took all of the men. Immediately, Pepillo phones El Güero’s mother to tell her what’s happened. The police also took the men’s cell phones and cars, except for El Güero’s BMW. Oddly, they left their IDs, cash, and a motorcycle with the women.


Abecedario de Juárez

Pepillo takes the BMW keys and drives the women home. Early Saturday, family members look for El Güero in hospitals, army barracks, and police stations, and at the PGR’s (attorney general’s). At noon El Güero’s wife and Aunt Peggy go to the Palmeiras Motel to ask for their security camera recordings. The staff confirms that federal police arrived and ordered everyone to lie face down. The maids, receptionists, the janitor, and everyone else obeyed. No one saw what happened. Even so, the women beg the nervous manager, “We don’t want to put you at risk. We just want to collect evidence. We just want proof that it was federales.”

But it was impossible for him to comply, “It’s not that we don’t want to give you footage. The cameras don’t work.” There is no communication between families of the missing men as the search for El Güero continues on Sunday and Monday. His family hires a lawyer who recommends filing an amparo (legal recourse that protects citizens’ rights against acts of the State in a federal court). The attorney assures them that he will fax the amparo to all military and police units, and they will have to release him. “Don’t worry, we’ll find him early tomorrow.” SIX: At 6:00 p.m. on Tuesday, reporters hear narcocorridos broadcast over police radio frequencies. Nine minutes later the same frequencies announce


the discovery of seven dead men on Camino Viejo at San Jose, near Instituto Educativo Sierra Madre, a private school near the US consulate. One of El Güero’s uncles sees a news report about seven executed men and heads to his sister’s home. They hope their nephew is not among the dead, but they get in the car. Meanwhile, El Güero’s wife, mother, and brother also drive the six miles from their neighborhood to a site now cordoned off and guarded by soldiers and federal police. A soldier asks Peggy, “Do you have a missing relative?” “Yes, my nephew.” “May God grant [that he is not here], that this is someone else.” Seven corpses are loaded into la celular. El Güero’s wife, mother, and an uncle follow the van as it travels toward the morgue, its chassis just a few inches off the ground. After identifying El Güero’s body, the women walk arm in arm. When his waiting brother asks his uncle if El Güero is dead, he drops to the floor with the answer. Peggy knows it cannot be avoided but dreads delivering this horrific news to El Güero’s grandmother. PM newspaper’s latest issue, dedicated to broadcasting the massacre, is selling on the street. In the right foreground of the cover photo, the hands of a reporter reach through a cyclone fence to snap pictures with a cell phone. The photo displays multiple gunshot wounds and dark bruises spanning El Güero’s lower back. He lies on his right side, wearing jeans, white socks, and a white polo shirt with thin black stripes. Bound together with packing tape, his hands have come to rest on the ground in front of him. The positions of all seven fusilados indicate that they were killed on site, each with a coup de grâce. El Güero was shot in the face. The PM headline, “Masacran 7; Dejan mantas (7 Massacred; Banners Left),” refers to narcomantas placed at the feet of the dead, but only two of three banners are published on the cover of the newspaper. One of the banners reads, “De parte de gente nueva a cargo de la plaza (From the new people in charge of the town),” and a PM reporter writes, “With the bodies there were three banners with messages to rivals.” In subsequent banners, messages, and videos,


the term Gente Nueva is linked to El Chapo’s supposed turf war with cártel de Juárez. The dead are laid out in plain view, but the banner text is pixelized in the initial print edition of PM and in El Diario de Juárez’s online report. Even in an uncensored photograph of the banners, some words are blurred or disappear into wrinkles in the fabric. The photo’s oblique angle renders other portions unreadable, but below is a partial translation of the banners’ stenciled text: FROM THE NEW PEOPLE IN CHARGE OF THE TOWN FOR THOSE






The second banner extends beyond the edge of the photo and is even more difficult to decipher but includes familiar names—Vicente Carrillo, State Attorney Patricia González, and La Línea: [illegible] THERE WAS [illegible] THAT [illegible] NEITHER POLICE BECAUSE








As PM hits the streets with news of the execution, Mayor José Reyes Ferriz summons Héctor Lozoya, city representative in the Zaragoza sector of Juárez and leader of Unión de Yonkeros (United Junkyard Workers). When Lozoya arrives, Reyes is waiting with an Attorney General (PGR) liaison


who opens a folder to reveal three 8 × 10 photographs. They provide views of seven dead men lined up on the edge of a street. Three stenciled banners lie at their feet, signed by their alleged executioners, Yonkeros Unidos. The mayor questions Lozoya, but the leader of Yonkeros Unidos replies, “I am as surprised as you are, if not more so.” At 11:24 p.m., the El Paso Times website publishes the names of six of the victims: Miguel Humberto Pera Carrillo, 25; Carlos Campos Ramos, 41; Raúl Humberto Cázares Flores, 30; Héctor Arellano Medina, 26; Iván Ramírez Huerta, 28; and Sergio Gerardo Cuevas Vega, 20. In this article reporter Daniel Borunda cites writer/filmmaker Gary A. “Rusty” Fleming Jr. regarding Mexico’s narcoviolencia:50 “We saw it in Nuevo Laredo. We see it in Tijuana and throughout the interior. They are generally retaliation hits.”51 Tales of wars among cartels are deeply embedded in the imaginations of so many; hence, other sources of extreme violence are not often considered. Even so, Fleming’s use of the word “retaliation” is apt in the case of El Güero. The criminal organization that is probably responsible for leaving a row of seven fusilados on the curb next to a school has many names. But whether you call them La Chota, Federicos, los feos, La Ley, La Placa, Los Judas, or by some other name, they are still the federal police.


for ten doses (10 grams). Balloon colors also designate retail areas. For example, if a vendor has merchandise packaged in blue balloons and is stopped by police in a “green balloon area,” this person will likely have a problem if they have made unauthorized sales. Literal meaning: Balloon. Related terms: arponazo, chiva, cookear un speedy, grapa, morena, papel, papelito, picadero, piedra, tecato gorilas: Derogatory term for bodyguards. Literal meaning: Gorillas. Related terms: guarros, guaruras grapa: A drug dose. Literal meaning: Staple or clamp. Related terms: arponazo, chiva, cookear un speedy, morena, papel, papelito, picadero, piedra, tecato

Grupo Jaguares: Elite undercover police group of approximately twelve men, composed of police agents and ex-military personnel, who kidnapped and tortured targeted victims, then delivered them to the DEA, the FBI, and other US agencies; used official police cars with obscured numbers along with a Suburban and king cab truck, both dark blue. According to lawyer Federico Solano, who represented a victim of Grupo Jaguares, they conducted Special Operations ordered by Police Chief Julián Leyzaola with the full knowledge of Mayor Héctor Murguía Lardizábal.52 This narrative continues below narcomantas. Other attorneys denounced Grupo Jaguares anonymously to protect themselves and their cligiros negros: Legal businesses dedicated to night ents, relatives of levantados who had received life; establishments that serve alcohol but also death threats from this police group. Although function as sales floors for sex and drugs. several media sources indicate that they were Literal meaning: Black businesses. instructed to remain silent, many citizens were Related terms: albañil, cobracuotas, cobrador, la cuota, aware of Grupo Jaguares operations. cuotero, derecho de piso, extorsión, extorsionador, los At the end of Murguía’s term, Grupo Jaguares feos, hacer cuarto was reportedly disbanded. Literal meaning: Jaguar Group. globo: Gram of cocaine or heroin in an uninflated Related terms: calentar, levantado, La Placa, revenballoon; different balloon colors designate specific tar, la tira amounts of product: blue or green is used to package one dose, or 1 gram; red and yellow are used for guarros, guaruras: Terms originally used to “bulk packs”—red for five doses (5 grams); yellow describe personal bodyguards for wealthy citizens


Abecedario de Juárez

and high-profile criminals; these bodyguards sometimes moonlighted as police officers; more recently government officials use police officers as bodyguards. Literal meaning: Bodyguards. Related term: gorilas

guerra entre cárteles: War among cartels; used by Mexican authorities to explain widespread violence; this term obscures their own incompetence, corruption, involvement, or all of the above. Literal meaning: Same. Related terms: cártel de Juárez, cártel de Sinaloa, la plaza, las rutas, trasiego de drogas

hacer carnitas: To chop a corpse into pieces or, in hacer olas: To stir up unnecessary trouble. some instances, to cut someone up while they are Literal meaning: To make waves. still alive. Related terms: hocicón, meneado Literal meaning: To make carnitas (little pieces of meat). halcón: A lookout; a street-level informant who Related terms: buitres, butchers, carne asada, decap- watches for potential interference with an ongoing itado, decapitar, embolsado, hacer carnitas, macheteado robbery, execution, or other illegal activity; according to authorities, halcones can be children, taxi hacer cuarto: To sell sex for money or drugs. drivers, street entertainers, street vendors, etc. Literal meaning: To build a room. On June 28, 2013, Chihuahua State Congress Related terms: albañil, lupanar criminalized the activities of halcones who spy on 97


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security forces or public officials to support criminal activities. Penalties range from two- to five-year prison terms. Literal meaning: Falcon, hawk, buzzard, bird of prey. Related terms: Lencho, pitazo, punto Heróica Ciudad Juárez: On May 18, 2011, the Congress of the State of Chihuahua changed the name of Ciudad Juárez to Heróica Ciudad Juárez to recognize the 100-year anniversary of the capture of Juárez and the strategic role the city played during the Mexican Revolution, mainly during the Madero Revolution, which facilitated the overthrow of dictator Porfirio Díaz. For some, Heroic City is an ironic term, since this designation was also a response to increasing insecurity in the city and a means to divert attention from human rights violations by federal forces occupying the city. La Polaka’s website included “Cronicas de Heroes (Hero Chronicles),” featuring stories about citizens who demonstrated kindness, bravery, and generosity. Related terms: carjacking, crimen autorizado, cuestionario de la muerte, derecho de piso, desaparición forzada, desplazamiento forzado, Directiva para el Combate al Narcotráfico, ejecución extrajudicial, falsos positivos, Fecal, feminicidio, housejacking, juvenicidio, Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua, Mexilio

hocicón: One who talks too much or reveals confidential information; one who says things that should not be said. Literal meaning: One with a big snout; a bigmouth. Related terms: empinar, Judas, ponlo de pecho, puesto, soplón hombres fuertemente armados: A generic term frequently used in electronic and print media to describe a group of attackers. Literal meaning: Heavily armed men. Related terms: armas largas, comando armado, encapuchados, enmascarados, levantado, levantar hormiguero: Hiding or meeting place where those who carry drugs across the border on foot pick up merchandise and receive instructions for their trip. It is believed that there is an hormiguero in Colonia Anapra, a barrio near the border on the west side of Juárez. Literal meaning: Ant hill. Related terms: Los Aztecas, carnales, Los Indios, prospecto House of Death: A mass grave discovered in 2004 beneath a patio at 2633 Parsioneros in Las Acequias, a middle-class Juárez neighborhood. Between August 2003 and mid-January 2004, a dozen men were murdered and buried beneath the


Abecedario de Juárez

back patio of a condominium with full knowledge of US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Although an informant who was on their payroll provided them with a recording of the first murder and apprised them of eleven more homicides, US authorities did nothing until a US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agent was targeted.53 A member of the Asociación de Familiares y Amigos de Personas Desaparecidas (Association of Relatives and Friends of Missing Persons), Lorenza Benavides de Magaña once kept a list of missing persons. In January 2004, when authorities unearthed twelve bodies from the House of Death, Benavides checked the 914 names on her list, and none of the dead found under the patio at 2633 Parsioneros were on it. Like many neighborhoods in Juárez, Las Acequias became a gated community due to the rising incidence of housejackings and kidnappings during President Calderón’s military intervention. Literal meaning: Same. Related terms: candy, carne asada, Los Judas, Lalo, lechada, levantado, levantar, milifosa, narcofosa, rancho La Campana, teipeado

hoyo negro: A vacuum into which Ciudad Juárez citizens vanish; term invented by Jaime F. Hervella, head of the Asociación de Familiares y Amigos de Personas Desaparecidas (Association of Relatives and Friends of Disappeared Persons); first appeared in print in Hervella’s self-published book Ciudad Juárez, Residencial Narcofosas (2006). Hervella writes (p. 12) that he sent letters to the El Paso Times to protest their failure to report on disappearances: “One of my numerous criticisms of the El Paso newspaper stated that just south of the United States we have an hoyo negro, a “black hole” phenomenon, like those dark holes discovered by astronomers, where everything falls in and vanishes. Anyone can disappear in Ciudad Juárez without anyone ever knowing what happened, as if they had been consumed by a black hole.” Literal meaning: Black hole. Related terms: cifra negra, desaparición forzada, comando armado, los feos, Los Judas, levantado, levantar, rancho La Campana huérfanos: Children who have lost one or both parents due to the high numbers of homicides during President Calderon’s “war on organized crime”; according to an October, 6, 2010, article by Catherine Bremer of Reuters, “Veteran human rights lawyer Gustavo de la Rosa, an investigator for the Chihuahua state human rights commission that covers Ciudad Juárez, analyzed a pool of 5,000 drug war dead in the city, only separated from El Paso, Texas, by a wire fence and the dry river bed of the Rio Grande. Based on data showing Mexican men aged 18-35 have an average 1.7 kids, de la Rosa estimated they left 8,500 orphans behind.”54 Literal meaning: Orphans. Related terms: Fecal, feminicidio, Heróica Ciudad Juárez, juvenicidio

housejacker/housejacking: Armed robbers who break into homes when residents are on the premises or scheduled to arrive/the forcible entry into a home by armed men who subdue the residents, then steal their money and belongings. The first published record of this word appeared in an April 6, 2011, El Diario de Juárez news article by Lucy Sosa, “Armarse legalmente es una opción vs housejackers.” The term was invented by Lucy Sosa and Martín Orquiz. These aggressive home invasions allow criminals to acquire information that increases the value of stolen items, e.g., instructions for complex electronics, passwords for computers, and debit card PINs. Victims are instructed by housejackers to avoid filing police reports. Some victims who ignore this advice report that they have received death threats huevo: Condom filled with either 300 doses of shortly after registering official complaints. heroin, 100 doses of crack, or 200 doses of cocaine. Related terms: cantonazo, carjacker, carjacking, Literal meaning: Egg. reventar Related terms: globo, ladrillo, tanda

Los Indios: Alternate name for Los Aztecas. Literal meaning: The Indians. Related terms: Artistas Asesinos, Los Aztecas, carnales, ¿Cuál es tu ranfla?, enrranflado, la familia, hermanos, Mexicles

incinerado/incinerar: One who is burned to death/to burn a corpse, or a living person to death. Literal meaning: Cremated one/to cremate. Related terms: achicharrado, achicharrar, calcinado, calcinar, chamuscado, chamuscar, quemado, quemar 101

jale: Work, legal or illicit; a gig. jaula: Robbery of an unoccupied residence. Literal meaning: Pull. Literal meaning: Cage. Related terms: camellar, dar cuello, dar piso, sembrar, Related terms: chiva, enjaulado, enjaularse, mulón, sicariar, talón, tirar tecato jando: A significant amount of money. Literal meaning: Same. Related terms: clavo, cueros de rana, wato 102

José Reyes Feliz: La Polaka’s satirical name for José Reyes Ferriz, mayor of Ciudad Juárez (2007–2010). In office during the first two years of Operativo



Conjunto Chihuahua (2008–2012), Ferriz repeat- militarization in Juárez (2008-2011), to describe edly insisted that the police force he inherited from the horrific murder rate of young men. Mayor Héctor Murguía (Teto) was entirely corrupt. In 2010, Adrián Fuentes, an activist and graduLiteral meaning: Happy José Reyes. ate in Communication at the Autonomous UniverRelated terms: General Felipe de Jesús Espitia, El sity of Ciudad Juárez (AUCJ), stated, “We live in a Merengue, Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua, Paty war that nobody wants and which we are immersed Gaga in daily. We believe there is a real juvenicidio.” He noted that there is “a war against the lower strata of Juaritos: Term of endearment for Ciudad Juárez. society, particularly against young people in Juárez. Literal meaning: Little Juárez. The poorest young people are used as cannon fodRelated terms: Heróica Ciudad Juárez der. And the ‘Ciudad Juárez Experiment’ is spreading to the whole country.” More than 80 percent of Los Judas: Historical term for branches of law the dead had a daily income ranging from less than enforcement that include the word “judicial,” e.g., five dollars to ten dollars. state and federal judicial police. In November 2015 AUCJ professor Jesús AbraLiteral meaning: Reference to Judas Iscariot, who ham Martínez Montoya completed his doctoral according to Christian literature betrayed Jesus for thesis, “El desafío del Estado en sus aspectos thirty pieces of silver. legales y sociales por las ejecuciones por Drogas Related terms: los feos, La Ley, La Línea, madrina, en Ciudad Juárez, 2008–2011: La indemnización mulón, La Placa de las víctimas indirectas” (The Challenge of the State in Its Legal and Social Aspects Due to Drug Judas: Someone who deceives or double-crosses Executions in Ciudad Juárez, 2008–2011: The others, or points out potential victims for criminals Compensation of Indirect Victims). He reported or law enforcement officials. that 85 to 90 percent of those killed in Ciudad Literal meaning: Reference to Judas Iscariot, who Juárez in 2008–2011 were between eighteen and according to Christian literature betrayed Jesus for thirty-five years old. Twenty-five was the average thirty pieces of silver. age of death. Related terms: dedo, delator, empinar, hocicón, peine, Literal meaning: Juvenile murder victims. peinetón, poner dedo, ponlo de pecho, soplón Related terms: Fecal, Felipe Calderón, General Felipe de Jesús Espitia, El Merengue, Operativo Conjuvenicidio: Term invented during the height of junto Chihuahua

La K-13: 1990s gang from the west side of Juárez; entrepreneurial pioneers who put twenty-four-hour dealers on street corners; among the first contract killers in Juárez. 104

Literal meaning: Unknown. Related terms: chiva, La Cima, ganga, Los Gatos, Los Ortiz, picadero, tiendita

ladrillo: Brick of marijuana; sometimes refers to a Lalo: Guillermo Eduardo Ramírez Peyro, a former kilogram (2.2 pounds), but the size varies. Mexican cop who allegedly rose within the ranks Literal meaning: Brick. of the Vicente Carrillo Fuentes organization and Related terms burra, cinta canela, cola de zorrillo, simultaneously worked as an informant for Immigrafábrica, mariguanero, mota, motero, movido, movidote, tion and Customs Enforcement (ICE). He particinarcomaquila, tanda pated in killing at least one of twelve men who were 105


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murdered and buried in the backyard of the House of Death between August 2003 and mid-January 2004. Because he provided a recording of the first murder to US authorities, they were aware of these killings but did nothing to stop them until a US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agent was targeted. In December 2014, some years after his uncoupling from the US government, Lalo drove a $250,000 red Ferrari 612 Scaglietti to Joplin, Missouri, for a night at the La Quinta Inn. After he fell asleep, an estranged girlfriend who had accompanied Lalo on this adventure called the police to report that she had been kidnapped. He was arrested without protest and served fifteen months in a Missouri prison. As of April 24, 2020, Ramírez Peyro faces federal charges in Florida for conspiring to purchase and distribute cocaine. He was jailed without bond. Bill Conroy continues to keep Lalo’s story alive on his website, narconews.com. Literal meaning: Common endearment for Eduardo. Related terms: Las Acequias, carne asada, House of Death, Los Judas, lechada, levantado, levantar, narcofosa, rancho La Campana

lechada: Calcified lime that is sometimes poured over corpses in clandestine graves to hide their odor and supposedly to hasten decomposition. To make identification more difficult, clothing is removed before applying lechada. Since calcified lime heightens soil’s pH, lechada can mask the presence of mass graves from forensic experts who test for acidic soil, an indicator of organic decomposition. Literal meaning: Lime-based grout. Related terms: cártel de Juárez, House of Death, hoyo negro, llévatelo a terreno, narcofosa, levantado, levantar, milifosa, el paciente, rancho La Campana, sembrar Lencho: Lookout who aids a punto by keeping watch for the police. Literal meaning: Nickname for Lorenzo; also refers to lente (lens). Related terms: conectar, cuadro, diler, halcón, pitazo, puntero, punto, pushador

La Letra: Alternate name for La Línea. Literal meaning: The letter. Related terms: alineado, arreglado, La Chota, la latas: A bundle of small marijuana packages pre- cuota, estado paralelo, Los Judas, La Línea, la sica pared for retail sales. Literal meaning: Cans. levantado/levantar: A kidnap victim, usually held Related terms: burritos, tanda for ransom but often executed even when payment is made/to kidnap, generally for ransom. lateral: Last truck in a convoy of four trucks used Literal meaning: One who is lifted/to lift. by hitmen carrying out a contract murder. The men Related terms: cinta canela, cuidador, desaparecido, in the lateral support the killers in the two central desaparición forzada, encajuelado, llévatelo a terreno, trucks in case of unexpected situations. teipeado Literal meaning: Same. Related terms: abrir, cerrar, la cola, cuerno de chivo, The following narrative is based on Julián Cardoel dibujo, elemento, la limpia, limpieza social, locales, na’s interview with “Dr. C” on December 13, 2011. no te acerques, va a haber baile, punta, el R, sicario A late-model Ford Tempo stops in front of Dr. lavadólares: According to an anonymous ex–drug- C’s car. Two men pile out of the dark sedan while dealer, this term describes a person who launders another sits behind the wheel. The doctor has just money for drug traffickers. Within this criminal finished his afternoon shift and calmly loads a few milieu, these financial experts have an unusual things into his trunk. His life is one medical emercombination of traits: honest, loyal, respectable, gency after another, so he waits for the familiar religious, and family-oriented. request for help. Literal meaning: Dollar washer, money launderer. Instead, two men with bandana-covered faces Related terms: los buenos, capo, cueros de rana, El rush toward him. They are in their late twenSeñor ties, maybe thirty; one is short, a chilango (from


Mexico City). They say nothing as they thrust a pistol in his face. The driver jumps out, and all three men drag him to their Tempo and shove him into the backseat. A knee stabs him in the back, and his face smashes into upholstery. They tie a bandana over his head, then wind duct tape tightly around it. When they start to bind his arms, he protests, “I’ve had surgery on my shoulders and can’t put my hands behind me.” They bind his arms in front but strap the tape so tightly that his hands soon grow numb. It is a fast and productive business. Aside from the doctor, the men have two other abductions on their afternoon rounds. They radio an associate, “Dr. C was papitas.” “How is it going with the guy in the used car lot?” “He’s on board.” “And the liquor store?’ “We’re heading there now.” At 6:30 p.m., Monday, May 11, 2009, Dr. C realizes that he will not be home for dinner. * * * “Doc, calm down. Behave well and nothing will happen. My boss doesn’t want your life, just your money.” He doesn’t know exactly where his kidnappers take him, but


to say they kidnap me in thirty seconds is not much of an exaggeration; two laps around the block, two stops, and they pull me out of the car. They throw me on the floor and ask if I take any medications.

Although he replies that he takes medication for his high blood pressure, they never provide it. Instead, they push him into a hot, airless room that reeks of dog piss. He lies on hard concrete without a blanket or pillow. “Don’t do anything stupid,” they warn him. “Doc, give me your phone.” “Why me? I don’t have money.” “If your family pays, we’ll let you go today.” Dr. C points out his brothers’ names and numbers in the two cell phones they take from him. The kidnappers call to warn each brother not to cause problems, not to report anything to the media, or else there will be a death. One brother, an attorney, tries to prevent local television and newspapers from publishing any information about Dr. C, but within minutes the medical association Colegio Médico posts online news about their abducted member. “It seems like this is going to end soon, Doc.” They make it clear that they have been studying


Abecedario de Juárez

him, that they know his daily routine and his family’s habits. “Your wife’s hair is short, and we know her truck.” The doctor feels ridiculous but desperate. He tries magical thinking, silently entreating his wife: Leave the city. The cuidadores are instructed to avoid speaking to him. They utter only what is required to aturrarse (get stoned). “Pass me that shit, güey (dude, dummy).” He listens to them snort coke all night, one to each side and one in front of him. Since he is blindfolded, he concentrates on the soundtrack of his abduction. Bullets slide into clips as the men reload weapons. From his stint in the navy, eight years as a marksman, Dr. C guesses that a 9mm and a .45 are nearby. When sirens wail, the men run to grab their guns. Otherwise, he hears the familiar sounds of traffic on Bulevar Zaragoza and tells time according to plane landings at the airport. He knows exactly where they are holding him, since he has always lived in this area of the city. He listens to the shouts of one of his patients, a street vendor selling elotes (grilled corn on the cob). He knows what time the vendor passes through the neighborhood and on what streets. The next day, the laughter of children from the kindergarten next door bolsters him. “Why me?” he asks again. “I don’t have money. I just want you to answer the question. I help a lot of people.” “Look, Doc, even the most fucked guys have people who love them, and they must talonean (be on their feet and working) for money. Shut up, already.” His nightmare: It is four in the morning, and I dream that they tie me up and blindfold me. They’re going to kill me. I wake up afraid, believing my dream is true. That’s when I cry. I try not to cry out loud. I don’t want to bother them, to give them the smallest excuse to beat me. I drink tap water and pee on a wall. As a doctor, I know things. I try not to eat anything solid, so I won’t have to defecate while handcuffed and blind.“Do you want some pizza?” they offer.

“No, thanks. Can I just have a gelatina (gelatin dessert)?” Long hours of silence follow. “Dr. C, who else can we ask for money? Your family is not cooperating.” “The clinic is all I have. I don’t have anything else.” “What do you mean, you don’t have anything? Look at the size of your clinic!” “It is my life’s work. Take it! It is all that I have. I have debts, not finances. I invest everything in my work at the clinic.”

Dr. C is about 5’5”, slim with light brown skin, brown eyes, a pencil mustache, straight thinning hair, now mostly white. At fifty-seven, he has enjoyed the pleasures and satisfactions of growing older with his wife and watching his four children become educated young adults. In 1977 he graduated f rom Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara, specializing in surgery, and soon after joined the navy in Manzanillo. Later, he worked on a federal health system project to open medical dispensaries and clinics. This work brought him back to Juárez, where he founded several dispensaries in different areas of the city to serve his many patients. He has cared for the needy in the poor neighborhood where he founded his clinic thirty years ago, treated abandoned children in an orphanage, and the elderly in several nursing homes. He has even cared for members of his church free of charge. He has ministered to the mentally ill as well, in a shelter that lacks basic necessities. They die often. I have sewn them up by lamplight. With God’s help, I have washed them as best I can. There is no electricity or water. But I am happy at these times.

Although he was born in Anáhuac, near the city center, his father ran a pig farm in El Granjero and later built a house there, the house where Dr. C grew up. Dr. C knows this ground well. He finally settled in this same Juárez colonia and treated some seventy patients a day. Everyone knew him, and it was peaceful until enormous parcels of undeveloped land became populated with warehouses filled with cargo containers of drugs.



The kidnappers become more talkative on occa- physicians were released following ransom payments, sion and offer a glimpse of the occupational adjust- some indicated that although they were tied up and ments that have contributed to the 2008 increase in blindfolded, they heard their kidnappers’ chilango kidnappings in Ciudad Juárez. accents and saw their military boots below the edges of duct tape wound across their eyes. Some doctors “What happens after this?” Dr. C asks. “Can I observed that kidnapping and extortion arrived in work? What am I going to do?” Juárez when the army and federal police entered the “Doc, you can continue your work. We usucity, and many claimed that their kidnappers were ally don’t do this, but we have to survive. We federal police agents. And when the government have to make money somehow. But you, once instituted Médico Seguro, a Juárez program to prowe free you, once your family pays, we won’t tect doctors, physicians said they were more afraid of bother you again. We never messed with citithe federal police than of the criminals. When they zens before, but they have forced us. Now we were called on to attend to gunshot victims, they have no choice.” preferred to provide their own transportation, rather than be escorted by the federal police. As part of President Felipe Calderón’s campaign Other members of the medical community, against crime, 7,500 soldiers and 2,500 federal including nurses, orthodontists, radiologists, anespolice55 patrol the city. Soon after the 2008 military thesiologists, and representatives of pharmaceutical incursion, Juarenses begin reporting to the media companies, also grew wary. Doctors replaced their that the army conducts illegal searches and burglar- brand-new cars, leather shoes, and business suits ies of their homes, and that their friends, coworkers, with clunkers, sneakers, and casual clothes. They and family members are desapariciones forzadas. In no longer passed out business cards. They removed concert, federal police extort businesses and orga- signs from their clinics’ entrances, doors were nize kidnapping rings. barred, gates and security cameras were installed, Survivors of the rigors of the first year of un­ and, when possible, guards were employed. Many declared martial law become multitalented, multi­ doctors closed their clinics and left the city or tasking workers: pushadores, kidnappers, sicarios, abandoned practices they had built over two or halcónes, cuoteros, muggers, carjackers, and house- three decades, to work in the relative safety of jackers. Meanwhile, 300,000 jobs are lost,56 many hospitals. The more daring doctors treated the sick of them in maquiladoras, as a recession hits the secretly, and only by appointment. In one instance, United States. Recently ousted from the drug trade, a doctor set up a makeshift clinic in what appeared the gang that abducted Dr. C explores new crim- to be an abandoned house. He slipped in the back inal frontiers. door to treat patients already known to him. Kidnapping becomes a means to resolve disputes. Those who remained in private practice were Family members and colleagues kidnap one another. assaulted multiple times, tied up, and beaten in Employees or ex-employees kidnap their bosses; their bathrooms. women and men kidnap their boyfriends, girl* * * friends, spouses, and ex-spouses. Since la cifra negra Dr. C’s kidnappers could be local narcos or even cloaks an estimated 95 percent of crimes, statistics police agents displaced by President Calderón’s for this epidemic of abductions are not reliable. war. He is never insulted or beaten, and although Dr. Leticia Chavarría, a founding member of some of the men are aturrados and play with their Comité Médico Ciudadano (Citizens’ Medical weapons, the apparent leader offers encouragement. Committee) provides the following account of “Everything will turn out well,” he whispers. difficulties that Juárez physicians have confronted But then the man in charge receives a call and beginning in 2008: begins to argue into the phone: “You know what? Of the thirty-five doctors abducted between 2008 He behaves well. You will make me feel like shit if and 2011, two were killed by their kidnappers. When you make me to do that. Come and do it yourself!”


Abecedario de Juárez

Hours pass. At about 2:00 p.m., Dr. C hears someone walk toward him, stop short in front of him, and load a cartridge. Then voices: “¿Qué onda? (What’s going on?)” “Shhhh!” their boss cuts them short. “Shut up!” Dr. C feels a pounding heat shoot through his body. He starts to pray but forgets the words to the Lord’s Prayer. He begins again and cannot finish. He envisions his mother, his nursing home colleagues, patients and people at his wake and funeral. Even so, he is still a doctor. He leans to one side, shifts an arm to uncover his heart, and prepares for a quick death. Standing at point-blank range, the man in front of him suddenly fires words instead of bullets. “Give me that shit,” he orders his companions. The doctor hears several loud snorts. The kidnapper steps away, sits down, and rests his gun on a table. The others ask, “What’s up?” “No way, motherfucker, dude. I’m not going to do it.”

The men move across the room. He hears a confusing argument. Then: “Get him up. We’re going to tirarlo (throw it away).” Dr. C tries to remain composed but falls apart completely. He weeps. Having lived in Juárez for years, he knows well the meaning of tirar. He has seen the photographs of encobijados, teipeados, and achicharrados, over and over on TV and in newspapers. And now he will become one. “You told me you weren’t going to hurt me.” “We aren’t going to hurt you. We’re going to let you go. Give him his things,” instructs the leader. “Even the car keys?” “Them too.” Dr. C quietly offers them his extra-flat Bulova, a gift from his wife that the kidnappers have missed. “You mean you let him keep his watch?” They snatch it away, and the leader of the group orders them to send for the unidad, to check and clear the road and to mark the planned route.



that he heard them mention a few moments after he was abducted, the owner of a liquor store and the owner of a used car lot. Their businesses are just a block from his clinic. The first victim’s family paid $67,000, and the family of the second paid $47,000. Both dead men were his patients. On the block where his clinic sits, almost everyone has been kidnapped, including the owner of the hardware store and the guy from the bloquera (cinder block factory) who was held hostage for eight days, his legs and ribs broken with metal pipes, his finger cut off. The list goes on. The electrical supply store owner was held for six days and badly beaten with a baseball bat; and there is the baker’s father who was killed; the daughter of the barbecue stand owner, a seventeen-year-old whose father was kidnapped after her release; and the woman who worked at the tienda on the corner who was abducted two weeks after Dr. C. Because he knows what it means to be a levantado, the store owners come to him for advice. The kidnappers want $38,000, even though their store is barely a store. They sell bread and milk and rarely have more than twenty cans of food on the shelf. Eighteen hours pass, and when it is clear that the store owners have no money, their employee is severely beaten and abandoned at a dump. It is impossible to know anything for sure. Dr. C recently watched a news program that claimed that 70 percent of kidnap victims survive, and 30 percent are killed. He thinks they have their statistics reversed. During the period when he was a levantado, he thinks the ratio was closer to 80/20. After his experience, he believes that those who scream or cry a great deal are disposed of. He thinks kid­ nappers are probably malandrines or aturrados under pressure. But there are many hazards. Sometimes one of the kidnappers belongs to the victim’s social circle, and, of course, the victim will be killed if they become aware of this betrayal. Or the hostage might lie to the kidnappers about assets. This hap* * * After twenty-six long hours, Dr. C returns home pened to one of the doctor’s patients. He gave them for a tearful reunion with his family and colleagues. $15,000 and claimed that he had no more. But they Almost immediately his son coaxes him into his had studied him and knew better. They ripped off truck and drives to El Paso. Once there, the doctor his blindfold so he would fully understand the foul cannot stop crying. smell in the room. He was surrounded by slaughNext day, still in El Paso, he reads the newspaper ter. The bodies of three men lay strangled and disand learns that his kidnappers killed two levantados membered. A fourth man was hanged, a plastic bag When a Hummer-like vehicle arrives, with squealing electric windows, they guide the doctor to a door and put him inside. “Look, Doc, you are a good person. We are going to release you, but your family has behaved badly.” When the leader instructs his second-in-command to give the doctor money for la ruta (the bus), he is provided with two 10-peso coins. “Don’t do anything stupid, Doctor!” his captor shouts. “I didn’t do anything foolish when you grabbed me, and I won’t when you free me. You are going to let me go, right?” “Yes, we’re going to drop you off. Count to fifty, then you can remove the blindfold and tape from your eyes. If you pull them off before then, we’ll bring you back here and kill you.” They leave him on the street. He counts to 100 and beyond: 101, 102, 103, 104. . . . When he thinks they are gone, he tugs at the bandana, then the tape. Some hair and skin come off with it. He can’t stand up. The sun blinds him. A taxi stops beside him before he can pull the adhesive from his face. “Look, they kidnapped me. They just let me go. Take me home.” The alarmed driver apologizes. “I’m picking up another passenger, but I’ll send for someone to get you right away.” A second taxi arrives, but this driver doesn’t seem eager to help either. “I was kidnapped. Take me to my house right near here. Do you have anything to cut this?” “No, I don’t. They kidnapped you like that!? They also kidnapped a doctor from here, from El Granjero.” And he shows the PM newspaper to Dr. C. “That’s me.” “You are Dr. C?! You are my kids’ doctor! I didn’t recognize you because my wife is the one who always takes them to see you.”


Abecedario de Juárez

pulled over his head. Farther away lay the corpse of Now he lives with his wife in a simple but coma dismembered girl. He emptied his pockets. fortable home in east El Paso. He sells their furniDr. C survived, he thinks, by cooperating with ture and cars to pay expenses, and with the help of his kidnappers. And one of his brothers helped. his children and brothers, he covers the monthly Even now he doesn’t know how much his brother rent of $400. His days are boring, and he regupaid for his release. larly steps onto the patio to stare back into Mexico When they saw one another again, he asked, and weep. Ruined lives surround him. His Juárez “Tell me how much, and I will pay you back. I owe neighbors have been displaced by violence: the you my life.” engineer who built his house in Juárez; the owner His brother kindly replied, “Why do you want of the restaurant where he once ate; the burrito to know how much they took from me? You have stand vendor; the florist from whom he ordered experienced something terrible, something you will flower arrangements for his wife; the refrigerator never be able to forget. Leave it be.” repairman; even his barber. * * * Dr. C returns to Juárez a week after his release. He Never, never! I have never been a coward, but I have never seen the faces of the men who keeps his clinic open for a year and a half longer threatened me. I don’t know if they are dead and establishes a nursing school with sixty students. or alive, but they know my face well. Even if an The kidnappers keep their word until October 2010, angel came to me and said, “Those who threatwhen he begins to receive threatening calls. Men ened you are dead,” how could I ever believe it! visit his clinic armed with cuernos de chivo and demand la cuota, $5,000 per month. Because he Dr. C never learns the identities of his kidnapfears they might burn down the clinic and kill or injure nursing students, he closes down and takes pers, but he does learn that a levantado can never return home to Juárez. refuge in the United States a second time.


La Ley: Police. Literal meaning: The law. Related terms: los azules, la camper, La Chota, la farola, los feos, Los Judas, La Placa Leyzaola: Lieutenant Colonel Julián Leyzaola was appointed Cuidad Juárez Chief of Police (March 2011–October 2013) under Mayor Hector Murguía; credited by some people for decreasing violent crime in Juárez; accused by police officers in Tijuana and citizens of Juárez of human rights violations. Literal meaning: Surname. Related terms: Grupo Jaguares, Teto la limpia: In vernacular, la limpia is a series of extrajudicial killings in an area or territory that is reportedly administered secretly by one or more authorities such as the president of the Republic, state governors, mayors, or police chiefs. According


to many citizens, their goal is to remove alleged criminals operating in the area in order to replace them with more pliable contractors. Literal meaning: The cleansing. Related terms: cucarachas, limpieza social, operativos ciegos, operativos negros, la poda, personal calificado, personal de limpieza The narrative below is based on Julián Cardona’s interviews with a retired sicario on June 11 and October 8, 2010. It is like a tree. I have worked inside and outside of the government. You leave [a banda], you take what you learn, and you form your own group. That’s how the roots of the tree extend. I used to be a leader. I had people under me but also depended on someone above me. You work with someone, and they see how you work, that you are decisive, and they later recommend you.


Abecedario de Juárez

You build networks, make contacts, and get to know more and more people. You never know who is who. We could be here talking, and some person nearby, the person I least suspect, could be a kidnapper or a murderer.

The assassin claims that there are government-run military training camps and that he was schooled at Santa Gertrudis in Chihuahua. Yet even with extensive State-provided weapons training and his experience as an assassin, joining a paramilitary group is not an option for the hit man. Paramilitary groups form an elite branch within the army. They don’t operate by first or last names. Instead, they use codes and numbers that constantly change so they can’t be identified. They don’t work for cartels, even though cartels allow them to say that they do, so that people think [the cartels] have powerful support. But it isn’t true. Paramilitaries are an exclusive arm of the government.57

He may be speaking about Special Operations Forces, highly trained units within the Marines and army who are said to conduct operativos negros or operativos ciegos. When an ejecución extrajudicial is ordered, these soldiers wear black fatigues with fluorescent emblems on their left shoulders, emblems that are selected moments before an operation. According to the sicario, killing is rewarding, and high-profile executions are often just a means for a powerful person to rid themselves of an annoyance.

I was well paid. They paid 100,000 or 150,000, 200,000 pesos (ten, fifteen, or twenty thousand US dollars), for each execution. When the work was done on the border, they paid in dollars. If a person is bothering someone, those who want the job done don’t scrimp. As a rule, I worked for the best. We killed the heavyweights. Our banda was well prepared. We went big time! The best! We loved money! So, we trained to be ready for whatever was needed. If it meant killing people with bodyguards, we showed up and did the job. When you kill someone, there are decisions to be made. You cut off a finger of someone who puso (see poner dedo); for speaking too much, you cut off the head—and there are several ways of doing it. Or you cut off arms to punish them for things they did that they shouldn’t have done. No matter how bad someone might have been, these images [of what I did] still burn in my head.

The hit man was born thirty-eight years ago in Santiago Papasquiaro, four hours from the city of Durango in the heart of Mexico’s heroin production. Like Tepehuanes and Guanaceví, Papasquiaro is a celebrated narco town. These communities are gateways to the Sierra Madre, where many mountain trails lead to roads used to transport drugs. In Santiago Papasquiaro there are many kinds of businesses: dance halls, hotels, auto parts stores.


There is a plaza, lights, and paved roads thanks to the narcos, mainly the legendary patriarch, Jaime Herrera Nevárez. He was the founder of the midcentury Herrera clan and enjoyed immense political influence in Durango. During the time that the assassin lived in Papasquiaro, drug traffickers invested a lot of money in the city, “and it was easy to tell which things were built with narco money.” He grew up at the center of his family, the fourth of seven children, four boys and three girls. His father had several jobs in the mountains, and his mother took care of their home and family. As a child I was a hellion. I spent my time hanging out. I remember good things and bad things . . . the majority bad. [My parents] let go of the reins, [I] did what I wanted. We weren’t poor. We didn’t lack anything. I was always in a private school, but I was often suspended. I was supposed to finish at twelve, but I think I graduated when I was fifteen. My mom said, “Just give me that diploma, and then you can do what you want.” [At sixteen] I traveled with my friends from the mountains, actually my older brother’s friends. There, you get involved in the drug trade at a very young age. I grew up seeing people die, but I managed to survive. I thank God that I’m alive. My childhood friends are dead. My sisters’ boyfriends were killed. Their bodies were dragged through town by horses or trucks and served as warnings that we were trespassing into [other narcotraficantes’] territory. In the mountains, the line between country life and criminal life is not easy to define. Planting corn is not sustainable, so farmers rent their land to narcos who grow marijuana and poppies. Ranchers usually carry loaded rifles. And so, you learn how to handle [guns]. Later [the narcos] call on you, and they give you a more powerful weapon, and that’s how you begin. Doors open. They often need people to do jobs. It doesn’t matter if you’re not very good with weapons—all that matters is that you have balls. There, everything depends on having balls. If you run with the biggest motherfuckers, the


ones with the most money—if you are a motherfucker, you’ll be right there with them.

At first he worked with other young men. Together they drove large farm trucks through a military zone to the city of Durango. The trucks were loaded with marijuana yet passed easily through a checkpoint. Before leaving Santiago Papasquiaro, our bosses had already paid off the military. . . . I was sixteen years old when I started driving. I was afraid the first time. You don’t know what to expect. You are armed, and you have to pass by the army. The soldiers see that you are armed but let you pass. There were six of us, four in the back and two in the cab. We had 9mm pistols and shotguns. We approached the checkpoint at a specific time, so that a specific soldier would be on duty to acknowledge our signal. There were no cell phones then. We signaled with a flashlight—two flashes and he responded. When we moved forward, he let us pass.

The retired killer’s father decided to move the family to Durango to cut his son’s ties to the drug trade, but unfortunately the city offered even greater prospects for young criminals. My grandfather worked for the Comisión Federal de Electricidad (National Electric Company) and got my father a job there. We had opportunities, our parents educated us, but we didn’t follow the path they laid out.

From Durango, the malandro moved to Mazatlán, Sinaloa, to begin his career in earnest. He claimed that he managed three areas with other friends, and that he progressed to torture, kidnapping, and murder. When his banda wanted the benefits of an undercover member within the state police, he enlisted for a year as an agent in the Polícia Judicial del Estado de Durango (Durango State Judicial Police). If I noticed someone else [within the police


Abecedario de Juárez

force] who was undercover from another banda, I reported him, and los de mi banda lo tumban. I did the routine work of a state police agent. I never tried to climb higher. There was no reason to advance, because other infiltrated officers worked above me. My mission was to prepare myself. The bosses in my banda handled information about court cases or any other matters related to the state attorney that concerned them.

Formal training at a state police firing range increased his confidence. He learned to fire and care for high-powered weapons for the first time. We handled the cuerno de chivo, the R, 9mm, .38, .22, and a rifle with a telescopic sight. The rifle was what I liked the most, because I wanted to do jobs accurately.

He moved constantly, remaining in one place for a year at most, traveling wherever and whenever his

banda required it. He lived in Sonora, in Mazatlán, and near the mountains where poppies are cultivated. I also worked in poppy fields near Cuilacán. I moved from Durango to Parral, from Parral to Jiménez, from Jiménez to Delicias, from Delicias to Chihuahua City. I was in Juárez twelve or thirteen years ago.

By then, Amado Carrillo had reportedly died in Mexico City from botched plastic surgery. The assassin never revealed whether he participated in the wave of executions that crashed through the streets of Juárez following Carrillo’s death. He only said that the life of a hit man must be reserved. You socialize as little as possible. The worst thing you can do is to have a nice truck, because an assassin can’t have things like that. A narco, yes, because a narco is in charge. An assassin definitely isn’t. His life is very different.



Once you are in the business you can’t get out. It’s A big corridor has been created that encompasses Durango, Chihuahua, Juárez. This strip not that it’s difficult to leave. You simply can’t. “The of land is a gold mine for anyone from any carbetter you are, the more they will want you with tel. And you know which cartel we are talking them, always.” about. I can’t say it, because I can get into After years of constant killing, his assignments trouble, but that is why they are fighting. dwindled. “I got married. I have been married for ten years. I don’t have children, because that is how it has to be.” Scarce work and his wedding led him Later, he amends this explanation with words comback to Juárez, where he began to bulletproof lives monly spoken on the street. rather than shoot holes in them. He made a reasonable salary customizing armor for vehicles and safes. The government is doing la limpia so that “person X” [a certain leader of a certain cartel] can Banks also hired him when their vaults required take control of Juárez. maintenance. When my friends found out about my new job, they asked me to armor their vehicles. I learned to open safes, and agents of the Polícia Judicial del Estado (State Judicial Police) called our shop to open safes taken from houses that they reventaban (forcibly entered). We always went to [these jobs] guarded by armed men. We opened the safes, and the police kept most the money but gave us a cut. They said, “Take it, you did a good job.” The transa was always cut before their commander arrived. Since the state police pocketed most of the money, they presented only small sums as evidence. I also worked as a bodyguard for the Zaragoza family, but I don’t want to talk about them. They are very powerful. I drove a truck with a camper to move cocaine through Campestre [a wealthy Juárez neighborhood] to a mansion owned by a noted businessman. No one stopped me. In Campestre there are many warehouses, and I was one of several people transporting cocaine there. I worked for many of the wealthy people of Campestre . . . the ones behind the business in Juárez. They are the ones with the most power here.

Two years after President Felipe Calderón militarizes Juárez to combat organized crime, drugs are still plentiful on city streets, and crime has surged. Job qualifications for sicarios drop along with the pay. For $100, an assassin can be hired on almost any corner. The professional assassin who got his start in Papasquiaro was trained to do “clean jobs” and considers the current state of his profession sickening, especially since the days of sparing wives and children are now over. Now it’s a fucking mess. Nobody respects anything. The assassins are from somewhere else. We are from Durango, and we aren’t gang members. In Juárez people run in gangs. They are small time. We aren’t. We are bandas from Durango and Sinaloa.

When targets are low profile, the assassins “are little guys from Juárez—Los Dobles, Los Indios, Los Mexicles.” Now there is a banda of kidnappers in every Juárez neighborhood, and that represents a lot of money. Kidnapping has grown because there are new groups. Soldiers and federal police came to Juárez to sell drugs, kidnap, and run extortion rackets.

Based on his expertise, the hit man reasons, “Executions carried out in Juárez . . . there have been many skilled jobs. The majority have been done by well-trained people. And the most welltrained people, the best, are in the government.” At the beginning of our interview, the assassin The assassin mentions that he participated in endorses the notion that the extreme violence is numerous executions in 2008 but stops short of due to guerra entre cárteles: providing details.


Abecedario de Juárez

Is he telling the truth, so far as he knows it? Did he witness and participate in a secret state-sponsored operation? Answers to these questions are the whole point, but when pressed, he says nothWithout directly implicating himself, he offers ing. Did he work for the army and participate in la a description of how efficient the killing business limpia in Juárez in 2008? “Not directly.” But what was in Juárez in 2008. does that mean when he also says that he worked “through other people.” Around that time, people came to Ciudad When asked if he knows how many bandas the Juárez to execute la limpia. Government peoarmy employed at that time, he does not answer. ple did a good job. They sent many puntos in But it is clear that his banda, along with others, did advance to collect addresses and identities of most of the killing in Juárez. These bandas did not many people. Why so many executions in a necessarily always adhere to the careful choreograsingle day? Because when the sicarios arrived phy, covert travel, and safe houses that the assassin to do a hit, the next job was also lined up and operated within for high-profile hits. I can’t mention them, but . . . I had a lot of work in 2008. I was in Chihuahua City, in Juárez. I had several gigs per day.

ready to go. If we asked, “And the other punto, is it ready?” [someone would always reply], “It’s ready.” This is why there was so much death in Juárez. Many sicarios came, many really good ones, who did their job to excess.

There were many executions every day, at all hours. The bandas came from outside, from Durango, Sonora, Sinaloa. One time at the checkpoint to enter the city, I saw three vans packed with


Sinaloans and their rifles. After handing a paper to the soldiers, they were allowed to pass. They were assassins from Sinaloa. They didn’t get in line. They came to the front with a code they had been provided, flashed a paper, and went on their way. The soldiers allowed them to pass because they had come to work for the military. And that’s how it was. We came to kill only the biggest fish. The war was between people with money who dressed it up with “El Chapo stories.” It’s not like that. What happened is that there were already many gangs moving drugs. However, in reality la limpia gave the government control of the territory.

And when the federal police replaced the army, “it was the same. It was an exchange of one rabid dog for another.” Silence spreads between the next question and the hit man’s answer. Did they exchange prisoners with the army? In this limpia, he says: [Soldiers] made exchanges with us frequently. Sometimes it wasn’t possible for the army or for us to capture someone, and so exchanges [increased efficiency].

When asked a final question, as to whether his contact was ex-military, there is another long pause, but finally he answers, “Yes.” He admits that the man who contracted him to carry out executions was a state-sponsored paramilitary who coordinated with the army. From sources unknown, the ex-military middleman received an order to eliminate an inconvenient person. He made a quick call to the sicario who sits across from me, a professional killer who claims, “We never failed.” This narrative continues below la poda. limpieza social: Systematic class-based killing that targets Juárez citizens who are deemed undesirable, including but not limited to drug addicts, residents of drug rehab centers, street clowns, petty criminals, sex workers, and the homeless. Literal meaning: Social cleansing.


Related terms: basura social, ejecución extrajudicial, guerra entre cárteles This narrative is based on Julián Cardona’s interview with Socorro García on August 27, 2008, videotaped by the Utah-based filmmaker Lisa Miller. Pastor Socorro’s husband, Pastor Noé, usually directs religious services at the rehab center, but today she will guide the fellowship. As they enter the worship area of the Center for Drug and Alcohol Integration (CIAD) #8, she senses unease in her fellow believer, Joel Valles. Joel turns to her, “Sister, I can preach.” “Yes, brother, Pastor Noé said that you would.” “I’m only going to preach a little. I feel nervous.” “Brother, preach what God puts in your heart. If your sermon is too brief, I will finish it for you.” Every Wednesday afternoon a group of evangelicals travel to CIAD #8 in southwest Juárez to hold a religious service for addicts determined to quebrar through Cristoterapia. Patients’ ages range from thirteen to sixty-something, but most of the twenty to thirty men and women who attend have yet to celebrate their twenty-fifth birthdays. The cement-block rehab center is topped with a concrete roof. Alcoholics and drug addicts are housed in the east wing, where they sleep in narrow bunks made from metal tubing. The second floor includes more dorms and a storeroom for food staples, mainly pasta. In the west wing, separated from the dorms by a cement courtyard, a plain room with folding chairs is marked with the word ENFERMERÍA (Infirmary). An office faces the street, and a locked iron gate separates the facility from the rest of the world. CIAD, headquartered in Cananea, Sonora, is among several organizations that operate rehab centers to serve the city’s recovering addicts. From the many possible options, Socorro and her husband choose to minister to the residents of CIAD #8, located a few blocks from their church. Each Wednesday they bring whatever they can gather for the patients: burritos, sodas, cookies and other sweets. The visiting evangelists see new faces at CIAD #8 each week, all searching for relief from their addictions. Those sent to rehab by their families


Abecedario de Juárez

sometimes escape, but others immediately replace them. There is no shortage of drug enthusiasts in Ciudad Juárez. Today, eleven evangelicals have promised to attend the service, but only six keep their word. Pastor Socorro, Brother Joel, Brother Jobito, Brother Rodrigo, Brother Chebo, and Sister Lucero file into the infirmary that serves as a worship area. At 7:00 p.m., thirty downcast patients wait in the thirteenby-twenty-foot room painted soft tangerine and white. Socorro greets them and tries to cheer them. “Why are you sad? What’s wrong?” “Nothing, Sister.” “You seem different today. Maybe you don’t want us to preach here anymore? If you don’t want us to return, raise your hand.” No hands go up. “Raise your hand if you want us to come.” Every addict raises a hand and responds at once. “Don’t leave us, Sister. We want you to keep coming.” “Good, then cheer up! Let’s sing.” Brother Rodrigo plucks the strings of a guitar. As voices rise in a song of praise, Joel comes forward to preach the gospel. “Brothers and sisters, I feel nervous. I feel nervous every time I preach, but today I feel more nervous

than usual.” A rehabilitated addict, Joel grounds his message in hard-won hope. He reminds the addicts that life is unpredictable and brief and urges them to seek out God but falls silent after only a few minutes and turns to Socorro. “Sister, I have nothing more. Please, can you take it from here?” As Joel retreats to the back of the room, Socorro begins. “Brothers and sisters, you need to seek God. Are there any brave souls who want to accept Christ into their hearts? Is there anyone here who abandoned their faith when they fell into drugs? Do you want to be reconciled with God?”

When a few raise their hands, Socorro asks them to come forward. A red Chevrolet Avalanche and a Chevrolet Suburban pull up outside and neighbors watch as armed men climb out. Seven or eight wear military uniforms and some wear the red berets of Mexico’s Brigada de Fusileros Paracaidistas (Parachute Rifle Brigade), a rapid response team created in 1969. As repentant patients edge toward the front of the small congregation, gunfire explodes in the courtyard entrance and Socorro embraces the nearest brother and begins to pray.


“Brothers and sisters, ask God for forgiveness. Tell God that you repent for your sins! Ask Him for a chance at life!”

In a loud chorus, they pray with hands raised as four men enter, armed with assault rifles and automatic pistols. They fire in all directions, commanding everyone to get down on the floor. The men and women at the front cry out to God, while the rest lie sprawled across the tile. Socorro raises her eyes and hands to heaven. “Lord, send your angels to take care of and protect us! Lord, look at what is happening! Brothers and sisters, cry out to God! Ask God to save us!”

Four more men take random shots as they move toward the east wing to enter the courtyard and dorms. The attackers remove some patients from the shell-shocked worship service, usher them to the patio, throw them to the cement, and shoot them at close range. A patient who serves as a security guard witnesses the arrival of ten heavily armed men in three luxury SUVs and trucks. As the shooting begins, he spots a patrol car and two state police passing by. He abandons his post, climbs the back fence with several other patients, and runs toward nearby houses that abut a cement factory. A white Ford Lobo (F-150) remains parked ­fifty-five yards from the rehab center gate until the gunfire ceases. Moments later it races off. The massacre is a flash of guns and pitiful cries. Socorro sees an old man fall to the floor, his gaze lost and uncertain. Gun in hand, ready to fire, an attacker scans the room, then points it at her. She doubts she will ever see her husband or anyone else again but is prepared to meet her God. He looks at me, and I look at him. He doesn’t shoot. He stands there looking at me, and I look into his eyes. He turns around and walks out of the room with the other three men. I don’t know why he doesn’t shoot me. I am in front of him, and he has already killed many people. What


would one more mean? But he doesn’t shoot. Why doesn’t he shoot? Perhaps God won’t allow him to shoot? I don’t know. Perhaps it is God? Why? So that we can keep on preaching?

Socorro pushes on. She returns her attention to the old man, whose last moments are spent bleeding out on the tile floor asking for God’s forgiveness. She tries to help the other wounded but finds only the dead. When another member of the church tells her that Brother Joel has been killed, Socorro steps to his side. She touches his cheek. She shakes him and shouts his name, but Joel is no longer in the room. Another brother advises her to leave with other parishioners, so she searches for her belongings. I couldn’t find my cell phone. It was somewhere under the bodies. When I picked up my purse, it was full of blood. The blood of those massacred. I removed my voter registration card and bank card, threw my purse and the rest of its contents in the trash, and we walked out.

Just steps away from where Socorro praised God, a chip near the corner of a ceramic floor tile marks the spot where a patient was shot to death. Runnels of blood move down a nearby wall. Five people die in the worship service. Among these is the director of CIAD #8. He falls dead on Sister Lucero Favela, who is sixteen weeks pregnant. Favela and five others are taken to Hospital General. Two die en route, but she is among the survivors. Luis Angel Gonzalez, a young man who had been in CIAD’s care for less than two weeks, is found lying dead in a nearby intersection.58 The slaughter takes eight lives, although the local media reported nine or, in some cases, ten. Of several massacres that occur in Juárez rehabilitation centers, this remains the most lethal for only a month. On the night of September 15, 2009, an armed commando executes ten patients at the Anexo Life Center, and on the night of September 3, 2010, men armed with assault rifles enter El Aliviane Center and execute eighteen. * * * The local media reports the alleged presence of military at the site of the massacre at CIAD #8.


The next day, the inspector of the State Human Rights Commission, Gustavo de la Rosa, gathers testimony supporting neighbors’ statements to the media. He files a report. Socorro listens to the neighbors’ assertions that the military participated in the massacre. This and her own observations disturb her. As she recounts the whole story two weeks later, she tries to reconcile the real and the impossible. They told me that there were two military convoys. I don’t know how far they were from the rehabilitation center, but people say they were there. That horrifies me. Aren’t the soldiers here to help us? I don’t know. People say they were there, so it might be true. They were dressed like soldiers. Their bulletproof vests were visible, their masks, their boots. . . . They wore everything that soldiers wear. I don’t know, maybe they were disguised as soldiers because sometimes we think . . . no, they can’t really be soldiers, they are just dressed like soldiers.


Of course, there must be many [dead], because at the massacre there were eight. Who knows how many more men are running around killing people! God told me to speak about this, to continue praying and praying and praying. I know that as long as I am alive, I am not going to stop praying for Ciudad Juárez. I am from Veracruz, but my God has given me a mission to pray for this city. Why? Because I got married here, God gave me a ministry here, and I am serving God. I love this city.

The Mexican government indicates that drug producers and distributors are attacking and eliminating their customers. This myth entirely collapsed on August 13, 2008. After eight people were slaughtered at CIAD #8, neighbors told journalists that they saw soldiers protecting the killers.59 At 7:30 p.m. on September 2, 2009, twelve armed and masked men forcibly entered the El Aliviane Rehabilitation Center, on Dalias and Estaño Streets, in the Bellavista neighborhood, a dozen It is foolish to question the actions of the mili- blocks from Paso del Norte, an international bridge tary in President Calderón’s war. It is more conve- continuously guarded by soldiers. Their attack connient and much safer to accept the absurdity that tinued for at least fifteen minutes, killing seventeen drug cartels are killing their best customers. patients. Three days later, soldiers detained José Rodolfo Escajeda, a.k.a. Rikín, alleged member [Now] the members of Socorro’s church are of cártel de Juárez, and attributed the El Aliviane fearful. Sometimes when I arrive at nine in massacre to him. Twenty days following the attack, the morning to pray, members that live nearby soldiers arrested five alleged members of cártel de are already waiting for me. When I don’t come Sinaloa and claimed they committed the killing.60 out, they come in and ask, “Sister, are you here?” Members of rival cartels worked together to When I assure them that I am, they respond, slaughter recovering drug addicts in the midst of a “Oh! It’s just that we saw the door open and . . .” guerra entre carteles? Such dynamics can be difficult They are afraid. Of what? That I will be killed? I to parse. know that God took care of me in that moment, From 2008 to 2012, at least 108 patients were and if he took care of me then, he will continue killed, and 44 were injured in twelve different to take care of me. I am not afraid because, like massacres in rehabilitation centers in northern the Bible says, more of them are with us than Mexico.61 against us. I’m not afraid. We need to pray for our city. Violence has exceeded every limit. Every day there are more corpses. And if you pay attention to the news, the people who are doing the killing are masked. They walk around dressed like soldiers. If you look closely, they are the same people.

línea/lineazo: A line of cocaine set up to snort; pulverized to the consistency of talcum powder, four inches or longer, depending on tolerance/line; + azo = a super snort. Literal meaning: Line. Related terms: narizazo, nieve, chizpaso, pericazo


Abecedario de Juárez

La Línea: parastatal constellation that controls criminal activity in Ciudad Juárez and the state of Chihuahua and that receives political patronage from powerful state and municipal politicians. Members include current police officers, former state and municipal police officers, and civilians, including business owners. According to one of his bodyguards, Amado Carrillo formed La Línea in early 1994 after losing a shipment of cocaine. Carrillo’s purported intent was to alinear (line things up to facilitate a tax system) drug traffickers and other criminals in order to compensate for future losses. In the early days, new code words were created every twenty-four hours and distributed to gang members in various districts of Juárez at six o’clock each morning. If enrranflados were stopped, the correct code word

served as identification, protection, and proof that their activities had the blessing of La Línea. Since its reported formation in Juárez in the mid-1990s, this criminal structure has metastasized throughout the state of Chihuahua. Max Leon Moorhead asserts in The Presidio: Bastion of the Spanish Borderlands (University of Oklahoma Press, 1975) that the term La Línea was introduced in Mexico after Marqués de Rubí was sent in 1765 to northern New Spain to conduct a three-year investigation. He recommended realigning the presidios, spacing them about a hundred miles apart to create a line of defense from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean to protect the northern territories of the Spanish Crown from raids by Apaches and other Native American groups. His proposed line of defense closely resembles the


current border between Mexico and the United States. Rubí’s investigation of the presidios uncovered corruption among officers; for example, captains inflated the prices of wheat, soap, tobacco, and horses when selling them to soldiers under their command. Likewise, in Juárez, on August 7, 2010, some 475 federal police officers accused their commanders of forcing them to pay for their own vacation time and personal days. Literal meaning: The line, an alignment of order. Related terms: La Chota, General Felipe de Jesús Espitia, José Reyes Feliz, Los Judas, La Letra, El Merengue, Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua, Paty Gaga, La Placa, Teto, la tira la lista: A directory of police officers who collect money from “retail drug outlets” or bigger drug trafficking operations. Literal translation: The list. Related term: Los Mansos lista negra: A list of individuals who have been targeted for execution; possible candidates for this list include those who did not perform a trafficking


task successfully, stole money or drugs, betrayed colleagues, or were suspected of these things, or for any number of other reasons. Literal meaning: Blacklist. Related terms: abrirse, chapulín, dedo, poner dedo, ponlo de pecho locales: Local guides (usually in law enforcement) who assist out-of-town sicarios by making necessary preparations for a hit. Literal meaning: Locals. Related terms: burra, cola, dibujo, elemento, lateral, llamamiento, punta, sicario loquear: To become intoxicated with alcohol or drugs. Literal meaning: To get crazy. Related terms: acelerado, agua celeste, arponazo, chiva, cristal, cristalazo, lineazo, morena, mota, narizazo, nieve, Pega Rey, piedra, uñazo lupanar: Brothel; used in mid-twentieth-century Juárez. Literal meaning: Whorehouse; den of she-wolves Related terms: aguaje, albañil, hacer cuarto

llamamiento: Call to action; request by local operators to meet with hired killers to show them a photograph of their target before proceeding to an execution. Literal meaning: The call or summons. Related terms: abrir, cola, dibujo, elemento, lateral, locales, matraca, no te acerques, va a haber baile, punta, punto, El R, sicario, X-39 126

llévatelo a terreno: To bury someone in a clandestine grave; term used by the military. Literal meaning: Take it (the corpse) to a field. Related terms: bautizar, dar piso, levantado, levantar, milifosa, narcofosa, sembrar

El M: Mercenary or hit man. Literal meaning: Abbreviation for “mercenary.” Related terms: abrir, cerrar, no te acerques, va a haber baile, ponlo de pecho, sicario

Literal meaning: Same. Related terms: buitres, butcher, decapitado, desmembrado, hacer carnitas

machín: Someone who is powerful. macheteado/machetear: Someone who has been Literal meaning: Possibly a hybrid of the words attacked or dismembered with a machete/to attack “macho” and “machine.” or dismenber someone with a machete. Related terms: El Bueno, macuco, McKlein 127


Abecedario de Juárez

macuco: Someone who is powerful. Literal meaning: Same; possible origins: Chile and Bolivia (a sly and cunning person whose first priority is their own well-being or comfort; in El Salvador, Perú, Bolivia and Colombia: a robust, muscular or tall person). Related terms: El Bueno, machín, McKlein, perrote madrina: Historical term for an individual who was “deputized” by federal police agents working for the attorney general; most often these unofficially appointed individuals assisted the federal police with illicit business transactions, unauthorized arrests, torture of detainees, and other extralegal tasks. Madrinas were often called agentes meritorios (meritorious agents). Literal meaning: Godmother, possibly also related to madriza, a severe beating. Related terms: chayote, los feos, Los Judas, la sica malandrada: The criminal universe. Literal meaning: Derived from mal (bad, evil); the suffix -ada has several meanings in Spanish but in this case serves as the English equivalent of “-ful” (to be full of ). Related terms: crimen uniformado, familia, ganga, La Línea

malilla: Heroin addict; small-time criminal. Literal meaning: mal (bad, evil); -illa, like -ito, is a diminutive suffix. Related terms: arponazo, chiva, enjaularse, globo, morena, picadero, tecato la malilla: Withdrawal sickness; dope sickness. Literal meaning: Same; diminutive of malo (bad, evil). Related terms: arponazo, chiva, cookear un speedy, Cristoterapia, globo, morena, picadero, quebrar, tecato Los Malos: Term used by residents of the Nicolás Bravo and Madera regions of Sierra de Chihuahua to describe neighboring farmers who cultivate drug crops. Literal meaning: The bad ones, the evil ones. Related terms: chiva, chutameros, morena, mota, narco, los verdes Los Mansos: Municipal police officers who are not on the payroll of drug traffickers. Literal meaning: The meek. Related terms: La Chota, La Ley, la lista, La Placa, la tira

mantomanía: Instances when numerous narcomantas appear simultaneously in Ciudad Juárez; term invented and used by La Polaka editor Jorge malandrín, malandro: A delinquent; scoundrel; Luis Aguirre. Literal meaning: Banner madness. someone involved in petty crime. Literal meaning: Same, derived from mal (bad, Related terms: narcomail, narcomanta, narcomensaje evil). Related terms: basura social, carjacker, enjaulado, maquiloco: Someone who works on a production line for low wages in a maquiladora. limpieza social, malandrote, punto, tecato Literal meaning: Hybrid of maquila and loco malandrinaje: A spirit of roguery that sometimes (someone who is crazy or irrational). matures into a criminal mentality; él anda en el Related terms: camellar, jale malandrinaje (he lives for what he can get away la maña: Alternate name for organized crime; this with). Literal meaning: Mischief or worse; mal (bad, evil). term was possibly introduced to Ciudad Juárez by federal police, since it is more common in central Related terms: malandrín, malandro, malandrote Mexico, the region where many federal agents lived malandrote: A “big-time” delinquent; -ote (a Span- before being stationed in Juárez during Operativo ish suffix that can be applied to most nouns and Conjunto Chihuahua. Proceso Magazine (edition 1980) reported a use adjectives to amplify their meaning). of la maña in a story about the presumed extrajuLiteral meaning: Derived from mal (bad, evil). dicial execution of twenty-two people by Mexican Related terms: malandro, El Tribilín


soldiers in the state of Tlatlaya, on the morning of June 30, 2014. The mother of one of the victims indicated to reporter Jesusa Cervantes: “Eran buenos muchachos, la maña los levantó (They were good boys, la maña recruited them).” Literal meaning: Vice or bad habit; trick. Related term: meneado mariguanero: Small-time marijuana smuggler. Literal meaning: Marijuana man. Related terms: motero, movido marionelas: A form of torture favored by the military in which a victim’s eyes are taped with cinta canela and their pants are pulled down. They are forced to kneel, grab their ankles, and plant their face on the floor. This posture forces a victim’s hips up and fully exposes their butt. The subject is hit in the ass repeatedly with a wooden plank, three to four feet in length. When a more painful blow is desired, a wet plank is used. As a form of hazing, new army recruits are sometimes “baptized” with marionelas. A first-person account by a former hit man corroborates that the posture used for marionelas is the same one used by the military in Juárez to rape citizens with metal pipes, rifle butts, and other objects. Literal meaning: Plural form of a feminine Spanish given name Marionela, which means “Beloved Star.” Related terms: bautizar, calentar, cargado, cuestionario de la muerte, ejecución extrajudicial, enfrentamiento, General Felipe de Jesús Espitia, Los Mecánicos, El Merengue, montado, Patrulleros, pelotón de la muerte, Los Químicos, El Taller marranos: A word commonly written on narcomantas to refer to alleged rival gangs; also refers to maquiladora purchasing officers who enhance their personal income by demanding “extras” from companies or individuals that contract with the plant to provide supplies, services, and equipment. According to a person who has worked in the maquiladora industry for four decades, these people have great imagination. They accept cash but also ask for payments to cover whatever they desire, including visits to prostitutes or monthly payments for their BMWs.


Literal meaning: Pigs. Related terms: cobrador, la cuota, cuotero, extorsión, extorsionador, Gente Nueva, La Línea, mochada/ moche, montaperros, la sica masacrado/masacre: Massacre victim/massacre. Literal meaning: Same. Related terms: ejecución extrajudicial, enfrentamiento, escuadrones de la muerte, falsos positivos, fusilar, la limpia, limpieza social matapolicías: .50 caliber Barrett-type rifles and their ammunition, designed to penetrate armored vehicles; ammunition was originally developed for and used in M2 Browning machine guns. Literal meaning: Cop killer; matapolicías are far more lethal than the Teflon-coated bullets termed “cop killers” in the US. Related terms: perforado, rafagueado, rociado, rociar matraca: AK-47. Literal meaning: Ratchet or carnival noisemaker. Related terms: cuerno de chivo, fierro, FX-05, el M, el R, sicario, tiroteo, trueno, Xiuhcóatl McKlein, MacKlein, McKlain, McKlane: One who is powerful (appears in four different spellings). Literal meaning: Variations of a surname. Related terms: El Bueno, machín, macuco Los Mecánicos: An elite group of soldiers under the orders of General Felipe de Jesús Espitia, commander of Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua, who randomly arrested and tortured citizens of Juárez. When victims died in their custody, soldiers threw their corpses into the streets or the desert surrounding Juárez, but in many cases the fates of those abducted were not known. The procedures of Los Mecánicos were exposed in a series of 2015 dispatches by Norte reporter Carlos Huerta. In legal proceedings after Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua concluded, soldiers testified to the existence of elite military torture groups: Los Mecánicos (also called Los Patrulleros) and Los Químicos. Major José Ornelas Salas was identified as the leader of Los Mecánicos. According to testimonies collected by Paso del


Abecedario de Juárez

Norte Human Rights Center, five men claimed that federal police agents tortured them and referred to themselves as Los Mecánicos. Literal meaning: The Mechanics. Related terms: abatir, bautizar, cargado, la chicharra, cobija eléctrica, desaparecido, desaparición forzada, ejecución extrajudicial, enfrentamiento, marionelas, El Merengue, milifosa, montado, sembrar, El Taller

pressure on the federal government to protect the rights of these vulnerable citizens. During sexenio de la muerte (Felipe Calderón’s administration) at least sixty-three human rights activists were killed and four disappeared. According to the Mexican government’s own figures, ­seventy-one journalists were murdered and fifteen disappeared without a trace. During Calderón’s administration, the highest fatality rate for jourEl Mecanismo: A shortened version of El nalists was in 2010, when thirteen were killed. Mecanismo de Protección a Personas Defensoras According to numerous sources, including José de Derechos Humanos y Periodistas (Protection Miguel Vivanco, executive director, Americas Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Division of Human Rights Watch, threats against Journalists); legislation introduced on June 22, journalists in all regions of Mexico are again on 2012, and administered by the secretaría de gober- the rise. Like former US president Donald Trump, nación, ministry of the interior, to protect human the current Mexican president, Andrés Manuel rights activists and journalists who are threatened López Obrador, who took office in December 2018, for addressing controversial issues. This law went directs harsh rhetoric toward the media. Twelve into effect two weeks before the end of Calderón’s Mexican journalists were killed in 2019. administration, a result of civil society organizations’ La Jornada quoted Nuevo Laredo human rights


activist Raymundo Ramos on December 11, 2011: “[These] are state crimes. If there is impunity, it is because the highest spheres of government not only allow these crimes, they order them.” A 2012 report, “¿Por qué tanto silencio? Daño reiterado a la libertad de expresión (Why so much silence? Repeated erosion of freedom of expression),” prepared by the Centro Nacional de Comunicación Social (National Center for Social Communication), documents the Mexican State’s refusal to protect journalists. In its 2019 report Libertad de expresión (Freedom of Expression), the Colectivo de Análisis de la Seguridad con Democracia (Collective for the Analysis of Security with Democracy, or CASEDE) revealed the following statistics regarding aggression against Mexican journalists: 24.4 percent of cases are from public officials; 11.1 percent from state police; and 10.1 percent from municipal police. Mexican authorities account for 45.6 percent of actions taken against journalists, as compared to 9.4 percent from organized crime. Although the statistics represent 2019 offenses, this trend spans years. Literal meaning: The Mechanism. Related terms: Felipe Calderón, desaparición forzada, ejecución extrajudicial, Fecal, la limpia, El Merengue, narcoinsurgencia, narcoterrorismo, Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua


the Attorney General’s Office reported to La Línea the times and locations of El Merengue (army and federal police) operations. Literal meaning: meringue, sweet dessert topping made from a mixture of well-beaten egg whites and sugar Related terms: Lencho, la limpia, La Línea, Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua, operativos ciegos, operativos negros, personal calificado, personal de limpieza, la poda Los Mexicles: A group that allegedly split off from Los Aztecas in the Ciudad Juárez prison during the first decade of this century; now a rival family or federation. Literal meaning: Variation of “the Mexicans.” Related terms: AA, Artistas Asesinos, Los Aztecas, carnales, ¿Cuál es tu ranfla?, Doble A, enrranflado, familia, hermanos, Los Indios Mexilio, Mexilios, Mexiliados: Persons seeking asylum in El Paso, or those living in exile in El Paso or other parts of the United States. Literal meaning: Various mergers of the words “Mexican” and “exile(s).” Related terms: crimen autorizado, desplazado, desplazamiento forzado, exiliado

La Migra: Immigration enforcement agencies near the US-Mexico border; most often refers to meneado: Someone in the drug business, term US Border Patrol but can denote ICE (Immigraoriginally used by soldiers and federal police, now tion and Customs Enforcement) and Homeland Security. in common use. Literal meaning: From the Spanish term inmiLiteral meaning: Someone who stirs (things up). Related terms: mariguanero, motero, movido, narco, gración (immigration). Related terms: desplazados, desplazamiento forzado, puntero éxodo, Mexilios, Mexiliados merca: Any drug available for sale or transport. Literal meaning: Abbreviated form of mercancías milifosas: Graves hastily dug and covered over by the military or police, often shallow, and often con(merchandise). Related terms: blanca, chiva, cuadro, globo, ladrillo, taining multiple corpses. They hold ejecutados and interrogation fatalities. nieve, tanda, verde On Friday, October 22, 2010, relatives of El Merengue: Alternate term for President Felipe Lorenzo Renteria, twenty-seven, and Camerino Calderón’s Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua; used F. Corral, thirty-two, became concerned when the two men did not return home to Deming, New by La Línea field operators and pushers. According to an ex-drug-dealer, an employee in Mexico, following a trip to Juárez and Palomas,


Abecedario de Juárez

Mexico. Police in the United States used GPS to track the men’s cell phones to the Palomas army barracks. The military reportedly discovered their bodies along with eighteen others on November 28, in eleven shallow graves (four feet deep) near a dirt track on the outskirts of Palomas. Relatives identified their dead at the Juárez morgue, including US resident Daniel Flores Saucedo, twenty-two, and Mexican citizen Ephraim Aguilar Ramirez, twenty. After identifying the bodies, relatives contended that the circumstances of these deaths were proof that serious crimes are committed by Mexican military and federal police.

According to a May 17, 2008, London Times story, eight weeks after Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua was launched, Puerto Palomas priest José Abel Retana wondered about the real role of the military in his city: “The soldiers know who the people are who control this territory. Now some people are wondering if the army or government are also behind the killings.” This term was coined by Gerardo Baca, father of Víctor Manuel Baca Prieto, who was disappeared, tortured, and murdered by the military. Literal meaning: Military pits; hybrid of militar and fosas.


Related terms: bautizar, desaparición forzada, ejecución extrajudicial, llévatelo a terreno, sembrar militarización: The period between 2008 and 2011 when Felipe Calderón deployed federal forces to Juárez during his “war on drugs.” Thousands of Juarenses became collateral damage during this period of undeclared martial law. After the army and federal police left the city, some activists claim militarization tactics continued under the direction of Cuidad Juárez chief of police Lieutenant Colonel Julián Leyzaola (March 2011–October 2013). Leyzaola and officers under his command were accused of kidnappings, torture, and extrajudicial killings. Literal meaning: Militarization. Related terms: los azules, Felipe Calderón, General Felipe de Jesús Espitia, Fecal, los feos, Grupo Jaguares, juvenicidio, El Merengue, Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua, los verdes


Literal meaning: Something that is chopped up, a cut; from mochar (to chop off ). Related terms: mordida, la polla, transa mojado: Undocumented Mexican immigrant living in the United States. Literal meaning: Wet (a reference to crossing the Rio Grande); related to the US term “wetback,” but mojado is not a derogatory term in Mexico. Related terms: coyote, pasador, pollero, pollo, visa láser

montado: Person accused without evidence of one or more crimes. The police or the military extract a confession via torture, and the victim can then be sentenced and jailed if they survive the torture; alternate meaning, in military jargon, someone with a weapon. Literal meaning: Victim of a setup. Related terms: bautizar, calentar, cargado, cinta canela, cobija eléctrica, la chicharra, marionelas, Los mochadi, moche: Payback; payment made by a Mecánicos, plantar, Los Químicos, sembrar, El business to a municipal, state, or federal author- Taller ity for receipt of a government contract, usually 10 percent of the allotted budget for road repair or The following narrative is based on Julián Cardona’s other infrastructure projects; payments that crimiinterviews with “Valo” on August 25, 2010; nal groups make to police to turn a blind eye. September 26, 2010; and May 24, 2013.


Abecedario de Juárez

Valo is locked up with other montados in El Cherry. In cellblocks 11, 12, and 17, he waits with other men convicted of trumped-up charges. • A thirty-year-old used-car salesman—soldiers broke his door down, entered his home at dawn, killed his dog, and took whatever they wanted. • An electronics technician—soldiers charged him with possession of twenty pounds of marijuana. • A forty-nine-year-old owner of a forge and machine shop—accused of possessing thirteen pounds of marijuana. • A bartender—a judge sentenced him, then his father committed suicide. • A father and his two sons—arrested on the same night and forced to transfer ownership of their vehicles to soldiers. • The Joker—survived several days of severe torture, including being hung by his wrists from a

tree. Because he still laughs at the injustice of his situation, he is a hero among the montados in this sector of El Cherry. • Shohn Huckabee and Carlos Quijas—US citizens and the only residents of cellblocks 11, 12, and 17 who publicly declare their innocence.

Soldiers arrested the two young Americans on December 18, 2009.62 Quijas states that he and Huckabee were tortured by Mexican soldiers, then interrogated by men who spoke perfect American English that included familiar idiomatic expressions. They grilled Huckabee first. “Do you know why you’re here? “I have no idea.” “Don’t play stupid. You certainly know why.” “No, I don’t.”


“Don’t act smart with me, friend. You’re skating on thin ice.”

Then they sat Quijas down in a metal chair. “Listen, buddy, it would be good for you to come clean and tell us what you’re doing in Juárez.” “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

After telling him that he had nothing to worry about, they offered alarming reassurance, “It’s not like we’re not gonna kill you.”


Four hours of torture later, they realized we weren’t members of any cartel. We didn’t do anything, but I guess they decided to indict us for things we didn’t do.

Some prisoners estimate that 200 or more of the 350 inmates held in this sector of El Cherry are innocent; others claim it is only about 150. This is guesswork, since no reliable data verify the number of innocent people imprisoned during Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua. The lives of the men biding their time in cellblocks 11, 12, and 17 have been drawn and quartered


Abecedario de Juárez

by a judicial system that condones torture to inflate arrest statistics for drug trafficking and other crimes. Those sentenced for drug possession get five years; for weapons and drugs they receive seven; and those accused of transporting narcotics for sale receive up to fifteen. In the majority of these cases, soldiers break into homes in the middle of the night and take people by force. Gustavo de la Rosa, inspector of the Chihuahua State Human Rights Commission, investigated dozens of cases of reported human rights violations by the army. He claims that soldiers detained more than three thousand people without warrants during the first year of Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua. The collective experiences of the detained include torture techniques, allegedly employed by the Mechanics:

“Soy montado (I am framed).” According to them, montado is a new word that rode into Juárez with the army. And like many words, montado has ambiguous origins and meanings. Perhaps it is related to montaje, an arrangement, orchestration, or setup. Perhaps this new term is closely aligned with montar, to ride, to set up, to whip, or to beat. In other words, these men are totally fucked.

• pulling off fingernails • searing testicles and other body parts with la chicharra, then amplifying the effect with water • sodomizing with la chicharra, metal tubes, and broom handles • binding prisoners’ heads in packing tape, wrapping and taping them into blankets and forcing them to walk barefoot over hills carpeted with sharp rocks and cacti in extreme summer heat • hanging victims by their wrists from trees for several days • forcing teipeados to run blind until they fall into ditches or slam into walls • pressing gun barrels against their temples as the trigger clicks on empty chambers • plunging their heads into buckets of blood • suffocating them with plastic shopping bags • forcing them to lie on the ground while cars or trucks drive inches from their heads

mordida: Bribe forcibly collected from a citizen by traffic police, customs agents, or other officials who dismiss alleged traffic violations or disregard illegal activities, e.g., importing contraband, clothing, electronics, or weapons. A part of the proceeds is passed up the chain of command to superiors. Literal meaning: Bite. Related terms: mochada, moche

Some men state that soldiers order them to dig graves on the outskirts of the city. These prisoners maintain that teipeados found in and near Juárez between 2008 and 2012 were murdered by soldiers. Like Valo, all of the men in El Cherry cellblocks 11, 12, and 17 are montados, convicted without evidence. It is the word they use to identify themselves.

montaperros: Dog fuckers; insulting term allegedly used by La Línea to describe El Chapo and his organization in a YouTube video uploaded on May 27, 2008 by user lalinea34 (https://www. youtube.com/watch?v=tFtBPzS_Oec). This slur also appeared in a narcomanta hung on a Juárez overpass on November 6, 2008. Literal meaning: Same. Related terms: Gente Nueva, marranos, narcomantas

morena: Heroin. Literal meaning: Brown-skinned woman Related terms: arponazo, chiva, globo, malilla, la malilla, picadero, tecato mota: Marijuana. Literal meaning: Speck, grain, particle. Related terms: calilla, cola de zorrillo, gallo, ladrillo, pinto motero: Small-time marijuana smuggler. Literal meaning: Mota man (marijuana man). Related terms: diler, mariguanero, meneado, movido, punto movida: Concealed plan of action made by one or more people; applies to criminal or legal objectives. Literal meaning: A move. Related terms: enjuague, transa


movido: Someone who smuggles and distributes drugs. Literal meaning: Mover. Related terms: diler, mariguanero, meneado, narco, puntero


Brandy, El Chocolate, Bola de Humo (Smoke Ball), El Calanche (possibly from the French verb calencher [to die]), El Papayo (a volcano in Central Mexico), El Chiquis (the runt), La Rana René (Kermit the Frog), El Chivo Hernández (Hernández the Goat). In the late 1990s, two police agents who were movidote: Wholesale drug dealer. known by their given names, Pando (known only Literal meaning: Big mover. by his surname), and Dante Poggio Hernández, Related terms: meneado, movido opened Tequila Frog’s, a renowned, luxurious nightclub featuring halved classic cars and faux mula: Someone who transports drugs across inter- prison cells. Poggio also labored on the side as a national borders. drug trafficker. Literal meaning: Mule. State police officers wore cowboy boots and Related terms: burra, burro, clavo, pasador hats in years past and drove Fords, LTDs or Grand Marquis, usually stolen. Today the state police drive mulón: Historical term for state police officer. government-issued trucks. In previous decades citizens feared the state Literal meaning: Big mule. police just as they do now, but many officers were Related terms: La Chota, Los Judas, La Placa, once referred to by colorful nicknames such as El reventar

el narco/narco: Refers to drug traffickers in general but most often organized crime that is supposedly stripped of its government, police, and military participants; serves as an adjective, and as a prefix that can be combined with virtually any noun to denote different aspects of drug trafficking 138

culture. The term also refers to criminal activities, e.g., extortion, kidnapping, or human smuggling; crime in general/drug trafficker. According to Rolando Chiffer, “[During the administration of ] President Miguel de la Madrid, the government controlled 100 percent of the drug



about events; most often sung in the norteño style, a folk music genre. A narcocorrido is sometimes commissioned by a drug trafficker who serves as the central character in a made-to-order ballad. Some sources suggest that narcocorridos were first composed over half a century ago, before the economics of crime became widespread and diversified, but the date of origin could be earlier. The first documented Juárez narcocorrido, “El contrabando de Juárez,” was composed in 1955 by Paulino Vargas when he was fourteen years old. Recorded with his norteño group Los Broncos de Reynosa, “El contrabando de Juárez” was written as an homage to a cantina owner who gave the young musician a job and protection when he was a newcomer to Juárez. Paulino’s mentor was subsequently narcobarra: Bar frequented by people in the drug caught crossing the bridge with a load of marijuana in the trunk of his car. Paulino (1939–2010) never trade. Historical narcobarras in Juárez include Club accepted a commission for a corrido, as he preferred Safari, Bar Papillón, Club Reforma, and Bar to immortalize the deceased.63 Mangos. Former drug smuggler and author of Literal meaning: Narco ballad. Contrabando, Don Henry Ford, indicates that nar- Related terms: el narco, narco cotraficantes visit such bars to meet with associates, to cut deals, or to await information regarding narcocracia: A narco dictatorshop disguised as a shipments or sales. Years ago he claimed, “You democracy; in his 1998 book The Next War, fordon’t know what it feels like to walk into a bar with mer US secretary of defense Caspar Weinberger $20,000 in your pocket. The price of a prostitute is anticipated that the Mexican government would the money you have in your pocket. If you have 200, succumb to a narco-led coup followed by military it’s 200; if you have $20,000 its $20,000.” intervention by the United States. In 2008 StratAccording to a retired traffic commander named for, an American geopolitical intelligence platform Barraza, Amado Carrillo frequented Club Safari. and publisher founded in 1996 in Austin, Texas, Literal meaning: Narco bar. by George Friedman, also envisioned this scenario. Related term: giros negros Some experts use this term to indicate that the Mexican government is already a narcocracia rather narcocombo: Several murdered people discov- than a democracy. ered in one location; first appeared in La Polaka Literal meaning: Same. headlines. Related terms: estado paralelo, narco insurgencia, Literal meaning: A sardonic reference to fast food, narcoterrorismo, terrorismo de Estado a complete narco meal. Related terms: fusilado, fusilar, masacrados, masacre, narcofosa: Narco cemetery; clandestine grave for narcomanta people allegedly killed by narcotraffickers. An order to bury a corpse facedown signals the gravediggers narcocorridos: Ballads composed to commemo- and anyone else who knows about the grave that rate and glorify the deeds of narcotraffickers, the the corpse had better stay buried, that its discovery drugs they smuggle, and the culture that surrounds will have unpleasant consequences. their activities; these songs usually contain specific Many alleged narcofosas result from police work, information, including names, dates, and details but the increased number of clandestine graves trade, and I know it.” From 1968 to 1999, Chiffer operated a private high-end fashion business in Juárez that catered to the richest and most powerful men in Juárez and the country as a whole. His clients included a secretary of defense, governors, mayors, senators, representatives, and drug traffickers including Amado Carrillo and his predecessor, Rafael Muñoz Talavera. He outfitted the entire de la Madrid family in name-brand dresses, suits, and minks. Chiffer contends, “They trusted me and talked openly about everything in my presence.” Literal meaning: Abbreviated term for narcotics and narcotraficante. Related terms: Estado paralelo, movido, narcofosa, narcomanta


Abecedario de Juárez

in Mexico coincides with Felipe Calderón’s militarization of the country. According to Quinto Elemento Lab, two narcofosas were discovered in 2006, and ten in 2007. By 2010 there were 105. During 2011, the most violent year of Calderon’s administration, 375 narcofosas were uncovered. In January 2015 Jaime F. Hervella, head of the Asociación de Familiares y Amigos de Personas Desaparecidas (Association of Relatives and Friends of Missing Persons), declares to Norte of Ciudad Juárez that secret burial grounds are now found well beyond Juárez and la frontera (the border). “The problem,” he notes, “has spread to other regions of Mexico.” In a press conference on Tuesday, September 13, 2016, when a search for secret burial sites in Valle de Juárez is launched, Alejandro Durán observes, “We are a national clandestine grave.” His brother César Gonzalo Durán went missing in July 2011 in Cuauhtémoc, Chihuahua. Literal meaning: Narco pit. Related terms: cártel de Juárez, desaparecido, desaparición forzada, House of Death, hoyo negro, Lalo, lechada, levantón, milifosas, rancho La Campana narcoinsurgencia: Narco revolt; journalists, pundits, some US officials, and the US Army War College

Strategic Studies Institute indicate that alleged drug cartels challenge the power of the Mexican state. In September 2010 US secretary of state Hillary Clinton said that Mexican drug gangs are “morphing into insurgency.” President Obama rejected these claims. On November 4, 2019, six children and three women, dual citizens of the United States and Mexico, all members of the extended LeBaron family of Chihuahua, Mexico, were massacred, allegedly by drug traffickers. A source who travels in the Casas Grandes region stated that she was stopped five times at federal police checkpoints that had popped up along the highway. The day following the massacre, these police checkpoints were gone, and President Donald Trump proclaimed, “This is the time for Mexico, with the help of the United States, to wage WAR on the drug cartels and wipe them off the face of the earth.” Literal meaning: Narco insurgency. Related terms: estado paralelo, narcocracia, narcoterrorismo, terrorismo de Estado The narrative below is based on Julián Cardona’s research in the newspaper archives of El Diario de Juárez and PM.


By 2010 forty-five thousand soldiers were deployed throughout Mexico,64 including ten thousand soldiers and federal police in Ciudad Juárez. When these federal forces were assigned police duties, they became death squads. Their lethal strategy resembled that of the French army in Algeria in 1957, and more recently in some South American countries fighting communism, including Argentina, Colombia, Guatemala, and Chile. Now, in a war against alleged narcoinsurgencia, the people of Mexico are military targets. According to Patricia Ravelo Blancas and Héctor Domínguez Ruvalcaba, any citizen is a potential target. In this border town, there are risk factors such as working in a maquiladora, being young, being a child or an adolescent or living in a poor neighborhood with easy access to weapons. It is risky to be a journalist, a student, a professor; to be a doctor; to be gay; to travel through the city; to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Even to stay quietly at home is to live with the fear of invasion by armed men who arrive without a warrant to take your assets.65 As in the French model for warfare, torture is used to acquire information. Disappearances and terror tactics directed against the population are fundamental. Glimpses of these strategies lie between the lines of public statements made by Calderón and his men. In Nexos, Joaquín Villalobos, former commander of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front of El Salvador, wrote:


(Twelve Myths of the Drug War).” Violence, he says, is the result of state attacks on organized crime: When this happens, resistance increases and internal wars are exacerbated; thereby inevitably increasing the number of people who lose their lives.

Calderón and his surrogates build tableaux of alleged cartel members killing each other as the army watches on the sidelines. In his words, [cartels] try to control a territory, a specific territory and begin to fight each other, cartel against cartel, in a very violent way. . . . They are trying to create fear and terror, and that’s the reason they became so violent.67

The dead suggest otherwise. In all of the regions militarized by Calderón, an immediate result is a dramatic rise in incidents of torture, forced disappearances, and murders. In 2006, when he takes office, Mexico’s homicide rate has been spiraling downward for two decades. Calderón’s sexenio de la muerte advances new math, a multiplication of deaths that quickly becomes overwhelming. Homicides in Mexico rise from 9.85 per 100,000 at the beginning of his term, peaking at 23.88 in 2011. Although murders drop to 22.47 per 100,000 when he leaves office, homicide rates are three times higher than they were when his presidency began.68 Formal complaints of torture have increased by at The fight against drug trafficking cannot be least 500 percent.69 read as a “classic” war in which the contenders In 2010 and 2012, one in three complaints are clearly defined. Cartels are a fragmented received by the National Human Rights Commisadversary which generate anarchic violence; sion was lodged against the secretary of national there are multiple groups simultaneously fightdefense and the navy,70 a 600 percent increase in ing against the state and each another. reported cases within a decade. The vast majority of crimes went unpunished. Among 1,884 federal Villalobos became President Calderón’s adviser investigations of torture conducted from 2006 to and propagandist. As they say in Mexico, para que 2014, there were only twelve indictments and eight la cuña apriete tiene que ser del mismo palo: for the convictions.71 wedge to tighten, it must be from the same stick, or On May 14, 2009, the army enjoyed full territoin this case, use a former insurgent leader to fight rial control of the streets and people of Juárez. As a counterinsurgency war. citizens suffered serious human rights violations, 66 Villalobos refutes Calderón’s critics in his ar- the secretary of national defense issued a ludicrous ticle “Doce mitos de la guerra contra el narco warning:



as “an ethical and moral imperative” to fight organized crime, and said, “The Mexican State acted in self-defense.”75 In his sixth governance report, he reaffirmed: “We prevented criminals from taking Journalists questioned why no suspected crim- control of the State.”76 inals were arrested, and General Jorge Juárez A federal police agent who was a soldier between explained that “soldiers do not like to carry pris- 2003 and 2007 related this account to three Mike oners.” The general also urged journalists to refer O’Connor Fellows of the International Center for to the executed as “one less criminal,” rather than Journalists: “one more dead.” Calderón explained that rising violence charac[Commanders] told [young soldiers], “I want work done. I want you to get results. Fucking terized his war against organized crime and that crime must be eradicated. The sicarios, the traithe violence would eventually decline. On October tors to the motherland [. . .] they will not spare 7, 2009, Genaro García Luna, head of the federal [your life]. [. . .] Eradicate, youngsters, eradipolice, stated that this reduction would occur within cate all fucking traitors of the motherland.” So, six years.73 Similarly, DEA administrator Michelle they went out on patrol with an imperative . . . M. Leonhart asserted that Mexico would win the fucking sicario, I’ll take you down. war against drug cartels and reduce a national security threat to a matter of law enforcement.74 Calderón claimed that violence in Mexico comWithout search or arrest warrants, investigations, menced with expiration of the US federal assault or due process, these orders became an unrestricted weapons ban. In several public statements, he also license to kill anyone. The same federal police agent cited the US demand for drugs as partially respon- indicated that all Mexican soldiers walked a presible for Mexico’s plague of violence. carious line, operating within a chain of command The president referred to the ongoing conflict similar to that which governed pelotón de la muerte: Implementing missions in this noncombat context may disrupt subtle threads of the social fabric.72


In the army I was ordered [to] “leave nothing alive; you kill them; I will pay for them.” [. . .] Ah, but when everything goes wrong, fuck the lower ranks, fuck the troops. The command washes their hands.

Ciudad Juárez was the epicenter of Calderón’s war. A year after the militarization of the city, citizens filed some two hundred complaints of torture, disappearance, and murder before the State Commission on Human Rights. Unknown numbers of killings and incidents of torture multiply beyond those reported. Human rights investigator Gustavo de la Rosa indicated that there were 1,600 murders in 2008, and half of these victims were identified as drug dealers or addicts. Citizens detained by the army allegedly had similar profiles.77

* * * When the army arrested Víctor Manuel Baca and his friend, they threw the young men into the back of a truck. Víctor’s friend heard one soldier ask, “Who’s going to pick them up?” “El Mecánico,” another replied. Víctor did not survive the night. His friend was later dropped off in his car on the outskirts of the city and ordered by General Espitia to leave Ciudad Juárez and not to return “as long as I am here.”78 A sign painter named Saúl Becerra Reyes is another documented victim of Los Mecánicos. On October 21, 2008, Becerra Reyes and five other men were arrested by the military in Delicias, a northwest Juárez barrio. Soldiers subjected all six men to repeated electric shocks for five consecutive days. A survivor of the ordeal later reported that they were locked into a refrigerated semitrailer when human rights activists visited the Juárez army barracks to search for them. The men were confined in the near-freezing container all day and night, then returned to the barracks to resume the regimen of torture. When they were eventually taken to the PGR to be formally charged, Becerra Reyes was no longer among them. Desiccated and almost hairless, his acartonado was discovered on March 6, 2009, on a dirt track at kilometer 68 of the Juárez-Ascensión highway.79 Twenty soldiers assigned to the Fifth Battalion of the Military Police were arrested on charges of forced disappearance, murder, abuse of


authority, and miscarriage of justice in events that led to Saúl Becerra’s death. One of the arraigned, Captain Eusebio Huerta Miranda, worked with Infantry Major Ignacio Juárez Rojas to deliver detainees to General Espitia. Miranda engaged his family to request an intervention by the United Nations and President Calderón’s successor, Enrique Peña Nieto. He fought to bring Espitia (commander of Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua) and his subordinates before the court. Juárez Rojas implied that Espitia was responsible for the disappearance and death of Becerra Reyes.80 Allegedly, Los Mecánicos and Los Químicos were following Espitia’s orders when they tortured hundreds of detainees to death and tossed their bodies in remote locations.81 Katie Howard, deputy director of the American branch of Amnesty International, states, “There is a disturbing pattern of crimes committed by the military in their security operations, abuses that both civilian and military authorities of Mexico deny and ignore.”82 These crimes include torture and murder but also “public relations, otherwise known as fully loaded threats directed toward journalists and activists.” After activist Cipriana Jurado publicly criticized the cases of Becerra Reyes and the Zúñiga brothers, among others, she received death threats and sought political asylum in the United States. * * * During the 2008–2012 military occupation, residents of Ciudad Juárez suffered twenty-four massacres, with a total of at least 247 victims, at least six in each slaughter. Farmworker rights activist Carlos Marentes writes that the state “not only cannot end the criminal violence, it has been precisely the state, funded by the United States through the Mérida Initiative, which has further exacerbated this bloody violence against a helpless population paralyzed by fear.”83

* * * According to an August 8, 2011, El Diario de Juárez report, “‘Tú vas a ser la primera,’ la amenazaron federales, y luego un sicario desató masacre en bar: Testigo” (“Witness: ‘You are going to be the first,’ the federales threatened her, and then a sicario unleashed a massacre in a bar”), one survivor of


Abecedario de Juárez

a massacre that claimed eight lives at Bar Castillo accused federal police officers. In Villas de Salvárcar, where sixteen people were killed on January 30, 2010, a group of armed men arrived dressed in black fatigues. One of the armed men told a resident, “Get in [your house], this is an operation.” Meanwhile, a military convoy parked beside Clinic 66 of the Mexican Social Security Institute (IMSS), less than a third of a mile from the kill site. Also less than a mile away, the federal police had a checkpoint, on Libramiento Aeropuerto and Avenida de las Torres. At night, in a city with a curfew, neither the federal police nor the army prevented the advance or withdrawal of a convoy of vehicles with fifteen or so murderers on board. Although neighbors immediately called the emergency number, federal forces took a long time to get to the crime scene. When they did, soldiers intimidated families of the victims, and treatment of the wounded was delayed. Some of the injured survived only because they were taken to a hospital in

private cars. On tour in Japan, Calderón dismissed the victims as gang members. At least eleven were teenagers, and most were students attending a birthday party. Calderón later apologized. Viewed statistically, the war between cartels turns to dust. Sixty-six percent of those killed were lifelong citizens, born in Juárez; 17 percent had lived in the city since childhood; 14 percent were natives of other cities in Chihuahua; and the percentage of Sinaloans is insignificant. Only 3 percent of those killed had recently arrived from different regions. Ninety-five to 97 percent of the dead resided in Juárez. Forty-seven percent had a criminal record. Ninety-one percent were men. Nearly 90 percent of the victims were shot, and 82 percent of the homicides were committed in public places.84 In an August 25, 2011, El Diario de Juárez report, “Ejecutan a miles . . . casi todos desarmados” (“Thousands executed . . . almost all unarmed”), Sandra Rodríguez Nieto stated that 98 percent of homicide victims between January 2010 and July


Abecedario de Juárez

2011 died unarmed, an observation that speaks of extermination, not war. A report from the Open Society Justice Initiative released in June 2016 indicates that many atrocities in Mexico’s decade-long drug war were crimes against humanity. “In case after case, the military and federal police have been implicated. The impunity is a loud signal that crimes against humanity are being committed,” reflects James A. Goldstone, executive director.85 The study included the term falso positivo to refer to some of the victims and cited overwhelming evidence that indiscriminate force and impunity are integral to Mexican State policy. In a study based on leaked official documents of 3,327 events that are termed “combats” during Felipe Calderón’s term, Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económica (Economic Research and Teaching Center) found that four out of ten were “perfect lethal events.” Near the end of Calderón’s administration, writers Laura Atuesta and Alejandro Madrazo suspected that the actions of the armed forces were systematic: “From 2011 we already had strong indications that a política de exterminio was underway. Calderon immediately dismissed the investigation and denied that his government carried out a policy of extermination.”86

* * * The availability of drugs in the city remained constant throughout Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua. “We do not say this. It’s our patients,” contends Dr. José Antonio Rivera, director of Centro de Integración Juvenil (Youth Integration Center). During startup of the [military] operation, drugs were a bit scarce, then prices increased, but once everything stabilized, all returned to what it had been before in the streets. Drugs remain just as available as previously.87 Hugo Almada, professor at the Autonomous University of Ciudad Juárez and coauthor of La realidad social de Ciudad Juárez (The Social Reality of Ciudad Juárez) raised the question: “The truth is that the drugs continue to reach addicts in the city, and the army controls the territory. How do they arrive? That is a good question.”88

Everything indicates that from the start of the Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua, federal forces took full control of the drug market. Methamphetamine

production in the country increased, marijuana and poppy crops spread, the number of addicts rose, and the use of prohibited substances doubled.89 At the end of Felipe Calderón’s six-year term in 2012, the volume of cocaine and marijuana crossing the US border had increased by at least 20 percent from 2010. Methamphetamine exports increased by 40 percent, according to Mexican Consultancy Risk Evaluation.90 These statistics do not square with the outcome of a long and violent war among cartels, but according to the FBI, Mexican cartels are responsible for the heroin epidemic that plagues the United States a decade after Calderon’s so-called war against organized crime.91 A Mexican Senate study published in February 2017 found that Calderon’s strategy did not reduce violence. It triggered violence. When Calderón launched his war, violence in Mexico, “was at its lowest historical levels,” and, in fact, “there was no security crisis that would justify simultaneous deployment of operations with the Armed Forces.”92 narcolenguaje: A lexicon that describes people, places, events, and products of crime in Mexico. Collisions of Spanish and English create new words daily and reflect the massive commerce between the US and Mexico. Although these terms often begin with the prefix “narco” and purportedly describe aspects of organized crime, there is strong evidence that police and soldiers also commit these crimes. In April 2013 the Mexican government asked official news sources in Mexico to discontinue use of “narco language,” but this new vocabulary is used widely on social media websites and elsewhere online. Literal meaning: Narco language. Related terms: encajuelado, encobijado, levantado, mantamanía, narcocombo, narcofosa, PM, La Polaka narcolista: List of individuals allegedly associated with drug trafficking. Literal meaning: Narco list. Related terms: la lista, lista negra, Los Mansos narcomail: Tongue-in-cheek term for narcomanta; first appeared in La Polaka headlines.



Literal meaning: (Newsy) letter from narcos. cártel de Juárez, for destroying peace within the Related terms: mantamanía, narcocombo, narco- city. Dumped at dawn, this corpse is placed near manta, narcomensaje, narcopinta a high school in a busy area, at an hour when thousands of workers head for their jobs. Soldiers narcomanta: Cloth or plastic banners that con- and municipal, state, and federal police arrive at tain messages allegedly written by drug cartels (in the crime scene, and municipal police cordon off fact, the authors are unknown). The messages are a large area to make it difficult for photographers directed toward rival criminal organizations, the to document the scene. When the police agents government, or citizens and are often displayed remove the narcomanta, a hail of death threats alongside murder victims. Some narcomantas are breaks into their radio frequency. A voice orders laboriously stenciled productions, eight feet or lon- the municipal police to rehang the banner and ger. Some are computer-generated with text that to reduce the size of the cordoned area to provide media access to the spectacle. It is clear that mimics stenciled lettering. They are meant to be seen, so they are left in the corpse and the message on the banner are public places. When images of these banners are meant to feed the huge audience of the morning printed or broadcast by the media, their impact is TV newscast. Apparently, someone at the scene is in contact with the murderers, or maybe the further amplified. killers themselves are there. The municipal police Literal meaning: Narco banner. Related terms: fusilado, fusilar, masacrados, masacre, obey. Typography, colors, and line spacing on this sign narcomail, narcomensaje, narcopinta are similar to banners supposedly signed by Yonkeros Unidos ten days later, except the authors of Based on Julián Cardona’s interviews with this manta are supposedly cártel de Sinaloa and El “El Güero’s” grandmother on March 18, 2013; Chapo Guzmán. Below, the jumbled clauses on the “El Güero’s” aunt on July 16, 2016, October 21, 2016, banner, followed by an English translation: and October 24, 2016; Héctor Lozoya on October 24, 2016. Yonkeros Unidos has supposedly become a vigilante group that holds El Güero and his coworkers responsible for two months of systematic attacks on junkyard owners. Three messages allegedly signed by Yonkeros Unidos accompany the ejecución sumaria of seven men. The red and black capital letters on these banners appear to be painted with the aid of generic sans serif stencils. On Monday, November 10 at 6:45 a.m., someone displays the strangled and mutilated corpse of a man with a bullet hole in his head. The arms of his charred body are chopped off at the elbows and positioned beside him, a pilot lighter in each hand. He is stretched across the sidewalk, looking up at the sky, just outside the Cuauhtémoc district offices of the municipal police. A narcomanta hangs from a nearby chain-link fence. Its text accuses the dead man by name of extorting businesses and burning them to the ground and blames Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, alleged head of


Message for those of La Línea And Aztecas[:] Here [IS] Hector Calzada, Burner of businesses and extortionist Parasite huckster of Pablo Rios Rodriguez, El J. L. and of Vicente Carrillo. Pigs. Thus they will finish All these Parasites that [TERMINATED] the peace of Juárez. Respectfully, Cártel De Sinaloa


Abecedario de Juárez

And El Chapo Guzman, the pig remover, is here in the city.

Four days earlier, at dawn on November 6, men arrived in several trucks to hang the decapitated body of Sergio Arturo Rentería from puente al revés, a bridge at one of the busiest intersections in the city. In the routine manner that workmen might mount a new traffic light, they installed the corpse and hung a banner beside it. The format, typography, and colors of this message resembled three banners left at the feet of seven dead men and another hung on a fence near a mutilated corpse. Yet another group, La Línea, supposed rivals of El Chapo, is credited as author of this stenciled message. Shared similarities suggest the possibility that all of these banners are manufactured by the same people but credited to El Chapo, La Línea, or others. The identity of any banner’s signatory cannot be verified, and distinguishing those who are featured in the text can be equally challenging. The names in the banner text above, Pablo Rios Rodriguez and El J. L., both refer to Juan Pablo Ledezma, who also allegedly refers to himself as Juan Pablo Ledesma, José Luis Fratello, Luis Ledesma, Eduardo Ledesma, and Luis Pablo Ríos Rodriguez. To make matters worse, Juan Pablo Ledezma is the

alleged leader of La Línea, an organization that is deeply integrated into cártel de Juárez. In October and November 2008, the media reports frequent complaints of extortion and kidnapping. On Monday, October 13, eight armed men dressed in military fatigues visit two junkyards, Jesán’s and El Junior’s, and threaten to kill employees if owners do not pay a $500 cuota within the week. The following day this armed group doubles in size. About fifteen men carrying assault rifles and pistols stop to discuss matters with fifteen additional junkyard owners. Each owner is provided with the same phone number and receives arson and death threats as incentives to pay la cuota every Monday. The same extortion techniques are applied to auto parts stores, except payday is on Tuesday. These commandos operate with impunity, openly carrying radios that broadcast police frequencies. About 70 percent of city junkyards close due to these threats, and yonkeros (junkyard owners) suffer twenty-three kidnappings. One is shot in the head when his family cannot collect enough money to pay for his release. Ransoms usually range from $15,000 to $150,000, but in one case, $7,700 suffices. On Saturday, October 18, junkyard owners announce that they have been victimized by about


one hundred instances of extortion. On the Monday when initial cuotas are due, some yonkeros agree to pay, but by Tuesday, October 21, they push back with the announcement of a federal tax strike reinforced with a slogan, “No security, no taxes.” Owners of small businesses, including grocery stores, auto repair shops, used car lots, pharmacies, bars, cantinas, and even paleterías (shops that sell iced treats) are prepared to participate the following day at 10:00 a.m. Two hundred fifty businesses join the strike, and on Thursday ten junkyard owners sign papers to remove their businesses from tax rolls. On October 29 shopkeepers report that they are victims of theft, threats, and harassment from soldiers and municipal, state, and federal police. They claim that police agents usually patrol nearby but do not stop armed commandos who storm into their businesses. Shopkeepers claim that most robberies are the work of the military, up to $40,000 per occurrence. By October of the following year, more than a hundred bars, dance halls, and casinos are shuttered due to the citywide lack of security. From January to November of 2009, some 4,670 businesses close. Depending on the type of business, they have been pressured to pay las cuotas ranging from $350 to $1,500. Some junkyard owners hire bodyguards, but under the pretext of checking weapons permits, the army confiscates guns carried by these guards. Two owners are arrested and tortured by soldiers. One reports being beaten with a wooden plank and claims that there were about fifty other detainees at the location where he had been held. On November 13, twelve days before the execution of El Güero and his friends, a junkyard owner sums up the situation: “We blame these events on Felipe Calderón. He released the dogs, and now they won’t stop biting.”93 In these circumstances, it would be easy to believe that junkyard owners might create a vigilante group to exact revenge against kidnappers and extortionists. But a banner signed YONKEROS UNIDOS also conveniently masks widely reported abuses of the police and military. The executions mentioned above are timed and positioned to shock the widest audience in a city saturated with unchecked federal forces. They have


some shared characteristics: two include tableaux of corpses created during the night, ready for early morning newscasts. Another includes a tableau that accompanies a murder in the middle of early morning newscasts. Two are located in areas congested with cars and pedestrians during rush hour, and two of these horror shows occur near schools. Juárez narcomantas, supposedly designed and lettered by vigilantes and drug cartels, resemble those produced in other regions of the country. On October 25 narcomantas were hung in Sinaloa and Nuevo León to publicize the corruption of Genaro García Luna, head of the federal police under Felipe Calderón. Two days later ten narcomantas addressed the same scandal. They were displayed on overpasses in Aguascalientes, Guerrero, Puebla, and Tamaulipas. In a photo of the banner hanging in Aguascalientes, the typography and colors are similar to those of the three Juárez cases cited above. In the left margin of the Aguascalientes narcomanta, a feathered edge of paint is clearly visible outside the text area, an unmistakable indication of where a stencil was positioned for painting.94 Each narcomanta, regardless of location and supposed authorship, includes highly similar uppercase sans serif fonts, stenciled in red and black, on what appears to be white vinyl sheeting with grommets. Photographs of the ten banners in Guerrero, Puebla, and Tamaulipas are not available, so it has not been possible to compare their possible similarities. However, it is worth noting that this set of ten unsigned banners praised the crime-fighting efforts of the army and PGR. In the six years of Felipe Calderón’s administration 3,793 narcomantas appeared in Mexico, an average of 1.7 per day. This rate dropped to one every five days in the following administration.95

* * * After identifying El Güero’s body, his exhausted family returns home to mourn. At noon on Tuesday, a few hours after they first learn of the slaughter, their cell phones begin to ring. Threats pierce the ears of El Güero’s wife, mother, and older brother. It is clear that the murderers harvested their numbers from El Güero’s cell phone. The callers warn the family that someone will visit to rafaguear and rematar El Güero in his coffin.


Abecedario de Juárez

In the hours before El Güero’s death becomes known, a man is shot dead as he drives his aging green Cadillac in a funeral procession. Just weeks earlier, attackers had fired shots into a memorial service and kidnapped one of the mourners. It is confirmed over and over that the telephone threats received by El Güero’s family members are sincere. Authorities return El Güero’s body to this family at 7:00 p.m. the following day. His grandmother approaches the coffin and says: Son, you see that you were doing bad things? What did I say? I’d rather see you come and ask, “Abuela, can you lend me fifty pesos?” You were such a pendejo.

El Güero’s wife receives a call from her dead husband’s boss, who offers money for the funeral. When she replies that it has been paid for, he offers

a reimbursement, but this is refused. El Güero’s family later learns that el patrón also contacted the other families, offering to cover funeral costs for their murdered sons, fathers, brothers, and husbands. The funerals of El Güero and two of his associates are held in the same barrio. All three families have received death threats. Relatives of the remaining four men lying in coffins in other barrios most likely also received intimidating phone calls. Out of concern for their safety, El Güero’s children, a girl of seven and a boy of three, are not allowed to attend their father’s burial service. El Güero’s mother asks the army to safeguard the wake, but her request is ignored, so his wife and older brother borrow a car that cannot be traced to the family. On Wednesday at 10:00 p.m., they briefly slip in to allow the children to see their father one last time.


Soldiers appear the following day to accompany the funeral procession. When the cortege reaches the cemetery, the military is in full evidence. An ex-brother-in-law films the service and burial for El Güero’s wife, children, and older brother, since they do not attend. Soldiers escort the family home. Upon arrival El Güero’s mother throws herself to the floor in the middle of the gathering of family and friends: Hit me, spit on me, do to me whatever you want. I’m worthless. I’m the worst. I did not value my son’s life.

It was she who introduced her son to a gang member who led El Güero into the core of the Juárez economy. El Güero’s grandmother simply says, “Get up off the floor.”


State authorities are aware that the federales are suspects. El Güero’s mother speaks with investigators about the night Pepillo arrived to join El Güero’s party at the Palmeiras Motel and instead met two women who recounted a weird story. The family suspects that these women work with federales. His Aunt Peggy is sure of it. They los pusieron (fingered them). They worked for the federales. It couldn’t be clearer. They were with [El Güero and his friends], so they should have been taken also.

Pepillo, the friend who came too late to meet El Güero, is still alive, but the two young women were killed a year later. El Güero’s family cannot remember the women’s names or the dates of their murders but claim that they belonged to the same circle as nineteen-year-old Eunice Ramírez. Nicknamed la edecán secuestradora (the hostess abductor)


Abecedario de Juárez

by the media, Ramírez’s Facebook profile invited interest from men. She featured photographs of herself posing with a high-caliber firearm beside federal police car #12678. One of her Facebook friends, a man dressed in a federal police uniform, called her “Love.” Ramírez entrapped four kidnap victims and in October 2011 received a life sentence. In November 2010, a year before her conviction, Ramírez’s mother, daughter, brother, and niece suffered first- and second-degree burns when Molotov cocktails gutted their house. Eunice’s older sister Claudia also worked as a hook for the same kidnapping operation and was convicted along with the rest of the group. narcomaquila: A residence used to package drugs; these facilities were allegedly created by La Línea to enforce quality control when it was discovered that some dealers in the supply chain threatened product integrity by cutting drugs with harmful or benign substances. On February 16, 2008, a packaging production line with eighteen workstations was discovered on the second floor of a residence at 509 Oregon in Campestre Arboleda. This site consisted of six rectangular folding tables with three square sheets of glass positioned on each and twenty-three scales to accurately measure to the gram. The Mexican Army arrested twenty-one alleged Aztecas who labored there packaging doses of crack in plastic bags. The army seized 13,170 doses of crack, two kilos of cocaine base, and weapons. According to an El Diario de Juárez report, a neighbor claimed that a Chihuahua state prosecutor managed the property at 509 Oregon. Literal meaning: Narco assembly plant. Related terms: diler, fábrica, narcomenudeo, narcomenudista, picadero, puntero, punto, pushador, tanda

media and censorship. Eiss bases his findings on intensive study of narcomedia in Yucatán, Mexico, in 2008 and in years of following public debates about narcomedia on the national stage. Eiss calls this “the dark side of the Facebook revolution.”96 Literal meaning: Same. Related terms: Blog del Narco, narcolenguaje, PM, La Polaka narcomensaje: A smaller, less formal version of a narcomanta, generally a scrawled threat, sometimes incoherent, often with misspellings; frequently written with markers on poster board. Literal meaning: Narco message. Related terms: narcocombo, narcomail, narcomanta, narcopinta narcomenudeo: Retail drug business; drug sales for individual consumption. Literal meaning: Same. Related terms: aguaje, La Cima, cuadro, diler, Lencho, narcomaquila, picadero, poste, punto, pushador, tiendita narcomenudista: Drug retailer. Literal meaning: Same. Related terms: cuadro, Lencho, narcomenudeo, punto, poste, pushador

narconómina: Narco payroll. A narconómina accompanied the bodies of seven men executed on February 8, 2018, at Don Cangrejo seafood restaurant in La Romita, Tlaquepaque, in the Guadalajara metro area. This list included the names of police agents on the payroll and the amounts that each allegedly received.97 On September 4, 2010, Misterios Públicos reposted “Nomina del ‘narco’ para 200 municipios: 1,277 mdp,” an article first published online narcomedia: Term used by Paul K. Eiss, associate by media conglomerate Grupo SIPSE (sipse. professor of anthropology and history in Carne- com). The article claims that federal police comgie Mellon’s Department of History, to describe mander Salomón Alarcón Romero, known as El so-called narcomensajes, narcovideos, and narco- Chamán (The Shaman), and other police commantas. Eiss examines how the digital revolution manders were on the payroll of Sinaloan narco has amplified and multiplied the ability of citizens traffickers.98 and the State to publish the drug war’s gruesome Literal meaning: Narco payroll. images, thus challenging the roles of traditional Related terms: cantonazo, congelarse, la lista, narcolista



narcopinta: A message painted on a wall; often tore through Juárez during Calderón’s sexenio de signed as a dispatch from one cartel to another; la muerte. possibly government-sponsored or written by individuals. To display a full-page image of a colgado suspended over the street and to write, “This is for A narcopinta appeared on a cinder-block wall failing to pay la cuota.” What are you trying to near the intersection of Emiliano Zapata and Buledo? Report on terror or spread it? If it were var Zaragoza in southeast Juárez on July 15, 2010, informative, I would put it in the crime section, immediately following a carro bomba explosion in but I wouldn’t put it on the front page. I think the city center earlier in the day at Avenida 16 de that the media is a voice of el narco. The vioSeptiembre and Bolivia. ESTO Q[ue] PASO EN LA 16 LE VA A SEGUIR PASANDO A TODAS LAS AUTORIDADES Q[ue] SIGUEN APOYANDO AL CHAPO ATTE CARTEL DE JUAREZ TODAVIA TENEMOS CARROS BOMBAS THIS THAT HAPPENED AT 16 [AVENIDA 16 de Septiembre] WILL CONTINUE HAPPENING TO ALL AUTHORITIES THAT CONTINUE SUPPORTING EL CHAPO SINCERELY CARTEL DE JUÁREZ WE HAVE MORE CAR BOMBS

lence started in Laredo, Tamaulipas, and probably there was more horrific violence before it jumped to Juárez. [Laredo’s violence] wasn’t covered in the media. For us, [the media] is an additional factor. The media learned that selling violence could be good business.

Literal meaning: Narcoterrorism. Related terms: narcoinsurgencia, narcoviolencia, terrorismo de Estado

narcoviolencia: Violence in Mexico in recent years, allegedly fueled by wars among drug cartels. Literal meaning: Narco violence. Literal meaning: Narco graffiti Related terms: narcoinsurgencia, narcoterrorismo, Related terms: mantamanía, narcocombo, narcomail, terrorismo de Estado narcomanta, narcomensaje narcozoológico: Collection of exotic animals narquete, narquillo: Diminutive of narco; a small- amassed by drug traffickers; for example, Gilberto time drug trafficker. Ontiveros “El Greñas”(Mophead) owned a large As the domestic market for drugs expanded at wild cat; these private zoos were possibly an emuthe beginning of the twenty-first century, these lation of Colombian Pablo Escobar’s exotic animal cocky, overbearing people appeared in Juárez bars. collection. They are the city’s nouveau riche. On Sunday, October 7, 2018, an “official” said Literal meaning: Little narco. that police were called to a mansion in Rincones Related terms: diler, meneado, movido, narco, nar- de San Marcos, an upscale Juárez neighborhood. cobarra, pushador A wealthy animal lover had sustained severe injuries after his pets, a tiger and a lion, attacked him. narcoterrorismo: A term used by some pundits to Forty-one-year-old Erick Noé Romero Meraz was describe gruesome high-profile violence attributed ambushed by his Bengal tigress and white lioness to drug cartels. Examples include massacres, while hosting a party in his luxurious home. But beheadings, dismemberings, hangings, and maca- some news reports indicated that he was returning bre public displays created with corpses. home from a late-night drinking bout, and only Luis Javier Martínez Martínez, owner of Auto the lion slashed him. News outlets reported that Value and spirited survivor of industrial strength the man suffered severe injuries and was hospitalextorsion, has no illusions about the motives of ized in serious condition. Private possession of big cats is legal in Mexico news corporations that amplified the violence that


Abecedario de Juárez

if owners register with federal or state agencies and internet radio to broadcast their provocative lyrics, follow specific guidelines. “Ninguna guerra en mi nombre, genocida primer Literal meaning: Narco zoo. mandatario (No war in my name, genocidal head of Related terms: El Bueno, capo, El Señor state).” On April 9, 2012, a recording of the anthem is launched on YouTube.99 narizazo: A nose hit; a snort of cocaine or other Like most Juarenses, group members Siniesdrug. tra (Sinister), Dilema (Dilemma), Lady Liz, and Literal meaning: Same. Obeja Negra (Black Sheep) are not insulated from Related terms: chispazo, pericazo, uñazo the city’s violence. On the night Lady Liz lays down her track for “Ninguna guerra en mi nombre,” nieve: Cocaine; coca. there is a shooting just outside the recording studio. Literal meaning: Snow. In April 2011 a car parked outside the home of Related terms: aturrado, aturradote, candy, coca, group member Sonia Esmeralda Mata (Siniestra) cocodrillo, ocho, onza, papel, pase, perico, pinto is sprayed with bullets as she cares for her three children and niece. On another occasion human “Ninguna guerra en mi nombre”: A rap song by heads are tossed into her neighborhood. Founded a few days before Christmas 2009, Batallones Femeninos (Female Battalions) that becomes an anthem for many Juarenses in 2010 Batallones Femeninos is part of a broader moveas ten thousand federal forces patrol the streets. ment of Juárez rappers who sing about Juárez Despite the risks, Batallones Femeninos use violence. Barrio Nomada’s website broadcasts rap


Abecedario de Juárez

songs and blogs about the “war on drugs” and displays an image of Uncle Sam with the cutline: So that drugs do not reach your children; we are killing ours in Ciudad Juárez. Literal meaning: “No War in My Name.” Related terms: derecho de piso, desaparición forzada, ejecución extrajudicial, falso positivo, Fecal, narcoinsurgencia, Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua, sexenio de la muerte

no enrranflados: those who answer to no one; ranfla is used to describe a car, a smooth ride. No enrranflados are not members of a gang or “family”; individuals who do not work for or report to the police or military; those who operate without the protection that affiliation provides. Literal meaning: Those without a ride. Related terms: ¿Con quién estás puesto?, familia, la lista, Los Mansos, La Placa Behind bars a teen named Toby attempts a comninis: A widely used derogatory term for young plete overhaul. He looks harmless with his neat hairpeople (generally aged fifteen to twenty-nine) who cut, his slight frame, his skin unmarked by scars or do not study or work; Juárez teens from low-income tattoos. In a blue T-shirt, khaki shorts, and sneakers, families who have few legal paths to self-support. he is one of over 3,330 minors arrested in 2010 for These young people cannot afford to pay for robbery, kidnapping, homicide, and other crimes.100 books, transportation, and other expenses required Although he is legally a child, Toby is also the to attend high schools or universities. Potential father of an infant, now six months old. He regrets employers often suspect them of delinquency and his mistakes and wants to raise and educate his son refuse to hire them. Their limited options lead some to avoid them. In jail he works as a gardener, sings to use and sell illegal drugs. This demographic was in the choir, plays the piano and guitar, and attends among the hardest hit during Calderón’s military religious services. His wife, mother, and older sister intervention in Juárez. Between New Year’s Day visit him. If he could talk with his friend, a malandro who and the last day of November 2010, more than 120 introduced him to robbery, Toby thinks they could young men were murdered in Ciudad Juárez. Literal meaning: Derived from “ni estudia, ni tra- work together to make amends for their terrible decisions. His mother informs him that this is not baja”; (no study, no work). an option. His friend is dead. Related terms: basura social, juvenicidio


Toby’s thoughts rise over the concrete walls topped with steel mesh and razor wire as he reminisces about times past, when he and his friend lived according to their appetites: We were on our own. My friend was no enrranflado. He and I got together with other guys to rob and kidnap in order to buy drugs and clothes, indulge our desires, or just hoard money. We didn’t work for anyone. He was still free when I went to jail, but when


you go around doing bad things, things you shouldn’t be doing, other people find out. When the wrong people ask you: ¿Con quién andas enrranflado? (Who are you working with?), and you tell them, “Nobody,” they kill you. nota roja: Section of the newspaper, also known as Policiaca; the “crime beat.” Literal meaning: Red note, bloody news. Related terms: Blog del Narco, PM, La Polaka

objeto: Person targeted for assassination. Literal meaning: Object. Related terms: elemento, punto

will usually have added cutting agents and weigh a bit less than 3.5 grams. Literal meaning: Eight; abbreviated term for “eight ball.” ocho: A quantity of cocaine—3.5 grams, or 1/8 of Related terms: aturrado, aturradote, blanca, candy, an ounce; when sold by a lower-level dealer, an ocho cocodrilo, nieve, onza, papel, pase, perico, pinto




unofficial operatives. He indicated that they dress entirely in black, with no identification except a phosphorescent symbol, selected just moments before combat and stuck on the left shoulder. When an operation is official, the unit wears operación burro: A decades-old subcontract- camouflage fatigues. All operations are filmed. If ing strategy, wherein a person is hired to carry a successful, the marines use the media to present the backpack filled with twenty kilograms (forty-four target to the public, whether alive or dead. These pounds) or more of marijuana over the US-Mexico actions are ordered and executed by the State.101 border. Literal meaning: Blind operations and black Literal meaning: Donkey operation. operations. Related term: operación hormiga Related terms: cucarachas, escuadrones de la muerte, la limpia, paramilitares, pelotón de la muerte, personal operación hormiga: Synchronized movement of calificado, personal de limpieza drugs across the border directed by Los Aztecas captains and commanders; several people carry Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua: Official name product over the border at the same time in differ- for the joint operation between the Mexican Army, federal police, Chihuahua state police, and Juárez ent locations; successor of operación burro. Los Aztecas probably use this method to carry municipal police instituted on March 27, 2008, as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine a response to the sudden rise in violence in Juárez into the United States; La Línea allegedly employed in January of that same year. Though the army and it to introduce cocaine and heroin to the US. law enforcement agencies were officially working together, federal forces, primarily the army, made Literal meaning: Ant operation. numerous arrests of police officers working for the Related term: operación burro state and the city. operativos ciegos, operativos negros: Covert Literal meaning: Joint Operation Chihuahua. operations; when congressman Ricardo Monreal Related terms: José Reyes Baeza, Felipe Calderón, Ávila interviewed thirty-year-old Juan Ignacio, a General Felipe de Jesús Espitia, José Reyes Feliz, member of comandos especiales, an elite unit in Paty Gaga, juvenicidio, la limpia, El Merengue, the marines, Ignacio confirmed the existence of militarización onza: Ounce of cocaine. Literal meaning: Ounce. Related terms: aturrado, aturradote, candy, cocodrilo, nieve, ocho, papel, pase, perico, pinto


Abecedario de Juárez

orden de tacos: Warrant for arrest, used by state police; from orden de aprehensión. Literal meaning: Order of tacos, generally four. Related terms: reventar, X-39

(SEMEFO, the city morgue) was heavily guarded by state and municipal police. A military oreja moved through the crowd, photographing relatives of the dead, crime victims, relatives of these victims, and the human rights center’s personnel. oreja: A spy; a state agent who attends rallies, Literal meaning: Ear. demonstrations, and meetings that oppose the Related terms: dedo, halcón, Lencho, perros de oreja, government; intelligence collected from this punto surveillance is used to file reports on dissidents who attend these events. The identities and activ- Los Ortiz: An expatriate gang that got its start ities of orejas are well known to activists and in El Paso, Texas, near the intersection of Socorro journalists. Road and Isaiah Drive; arrived in Juárez in the midOn Halloween 2019, Centro de Derechos 1990s and engaged in a gang war with Los Gatos in Humanos Paso del Norte (Paso del Norte Human Colonia Hidalgo near the US-Mexico border. Rights Center) organized a vigil to honor the Literal meaning: Surname of José and Kiki, twin dead of Juárez. Held a few days prior to Día de los brothers who led the gang. Muertos, this event at Servicio Médico Forense Related terms: Los Gatos, La K-13

pacheco: Person “stoned” on marijuana. Related terms: cártel de Juárez, entambado, hoyo Literal meaning: Surname of Portuguese and negro, lechada, Los Mecánicos, narcofosa, Los PatrulSpanish origin indicating nobility. leros, Los Químicos Related terms: aturrado, aturradote, calilla, gallo, loquear pacto de impunidad: An alleged pact between politicians to protect outgoing officials from being el paciente: Person being tortured; used by Amado prosecuted for corruption and other illegal activity Carrillo’s hit men. that they have engaged in while in office. Literal meaning: The patient. Literal meaning: Pact of impunity. 163


Abecedario de Juárez

Related terms: Estado paralelo, terrorismo de Estado, Related terms: coyote, mojado, pollero, pollo, el trenzudo tierra arrasada Padrino/Padrina: Honorific that a discharged pase: Dose of cocaine. patient uses to refer to the director of an anexo Literal meaning: Assistance, a pass. rehab center; a person who assigns hits to a sicario. Related terms: aturrado, aturradote, candy, cocodrilo, nieve, ocho, onza, papel, perico, pinto Literal meaning: Godfather/Godmother. Related terms: ahijado, anexado, Cristoterapia, el patrón: A boss of any rank, e.g., a director of limpieza social, quebrar operations in a retail drug gang, the head of a corporate-level trafficking operation, the leader of a papel, papelito: Dose of cocaine. street banda, a liaison between contract killers and Literal meaning: Paper, little paper. Related terms: chispazo, línea, narizazo, nieve, whoever wishes to hire them; interchangeable with El Señor. pericazo Literal meaning: Boss, employer. Related terms: El Bueno, El Señor papitas: Easy, like eating potato chips. Literal meaning: Potato chips. Los Patrulleros: Another term for Los Mecánicos. Related terms: abrir, cerrar, levantar Literal meaning: The Patrolmen. paramilitares: Civilian individuals or groups that Related terms: abatir, bautizar, cargado, cobija eléchave been organized as disciplined forces, trained trica, la chicharra, desaparecido, desaparición forzada, in military tactics, generally by the army; some ejecución extrajudicial, enfrentamiento, marionelas, El argue this term describes any armed group or band Merengue, milifosa, montado, sembrar, El Taller whether or not they have received military training. During the six-year term of President Felipe Paty Gaga: Mocking term for Chihuahua state Calderón, there were 55,129 deserters in the Mexi- attorney Patricia González (2004–2010), invented can Army, the Mexican Air Force, and the Mexican by La Polaka editor Jorge Luis Aguirre, who ridiNavy. Members of this highly qualified workforce culed her flamboyant manner of dress. In similar fashion Ricardo Chávez Aldana called González were prepared to join the ranks of paramilitares. a quinceañera trasnochada (a fifteen-year-old Literal meaning: Paramilitaries. Related terms: comando armado, hombres fuerte- sleep-deprived party girl) on his radio show. In mid-October 2010, barely two weeks after mente armados, no te acerques, va a haber baile, sicario, Patricia González’s term ended, her brother Mario va a haber party Gonzalez was kidnapped and, on November 3, pasador: A person who moves drugs or people 2010, was found in a shallow grave on the outfrom Mexico to the United States; most often this skirts of Chihuahua City, along with two others. All three men had been shot in the head. refers to drugs. Mario González’s captors uploaded three videos Literal meaning: Someone who passes. to YouTube. In the first two, Mario sits with his Related terms: burro, clavo, mula, pollero, pollo hands cuffed in front. Someone off camera interpensionado: Person who guided undocumented rogates him about his knowledge of criminal enterimmigrants across the Rio Grande to El Paso at a prise in the state of Chihuahua, while five masked time when there were no detention centers, no wall, men in military fatigues aim assault rifles at him. After being tortured Mario confesses that he coland fewer anti-immigration policies. Literal meaning: One who receives gratuities lected hundreds of thousands of dollars of “protection money” throughout the state. He claims that granted as favors or rewards.


his sister told him that she met with former governor Jose Reyes Baeza, Vicente Carrillo, alleged head of the Juárez Cartel, and General Espitia, commander of Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua.102 In a third and final video, Mario González lies on the floor with most of his head covered in duct tape, his hands cuffed behind him. His pants are pulled down to expose his buttocks, a detail that is described by others who have been tortured by the Mexican Army. He howls like a dog as he tries to roll away from men who take turns striking him repeatedly with a baseball bat or wooden plank.103 Patricia González implies that the Mexican Army and Chihuahua’a new governor César Duarte (2010–2016) are responsible for her brother’s death and blames his kidnapping on institutional corruption. “The army knows exactly who this guy is [who interrogated my brother on YouTube] and knows who his accomplices are and also has information about the location [where the videos were made] and where to find those responsible.” When she speaks of the room where someone filmed her brother’s brutal torture, Patricia González states, “I recognize the place. It seems to be a cubicle in the buildings I designed for the new penal system. The design for these buildings included small private work areas painted in a maroon and cream color scheme.” Literal meaning: A fusion of Patricia González’s and Lady Gaga’s names. Related terms: José Reyes Feliz, La Línea, El Merengue, La Polaka, Teto


Literal meaning: Comb/to comb one’s hair. Related terms: dedo, delator, empinar, poner dedo, ponlo de pecho

pelotón de la muerte: East of Ciudad Juárez, orders to “innovate working methods against drug traffickers” and “apply the utmost rigor against drug trafficking” inspired the rise of a pelotón de la muerte, a group of soldiers and army officers belonging to the Third Infantry Company with headquarters in Ojinaga, Chihuahua, who committed systematic extrajudicial executions, crimes usually associated with drug cartels.104 This group became known in a January 2013 Proceso report. Commander of Garrison Ojinaga, Brigadier General Manuel de Jesús Moreno Aviña, Lieutenant Colonel José Julián Juárez Ramírez, second-in-command Major Rodas Cobón, six officers, and twenty-two infantrymen were arrested in September 2009. They were accused of the torture and killing of three suspected drug traffickers who were allegedly arrested in 2008 as part of Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua. In their defense some soldiers indicated they followed orders of Mexico’s secretary of defense and President Felipe Calderón. One of the accused soldiers requested that the judge order the secretary of defense and the president to testify. In April 2016 a federal judge sentenced General Manuel de Jesús Moreno Aviña to fifty-two and a half years in prison for the July 2008 torture, murder, and incineration of José Heriberto Rojas Lemus in Ojinaga. On August 27, 2010, EME/EQUIS published Pega Rey: Brand of solvent-based glue sold in a declaration that Major Alejandro Rodas Cobón cans; once a popular inhalant in Juárez, this golden, made from military prison #5 in Mazatlán, Sinaloa, viscous adhesive is no longer manufactured. Users to reporter Óscar Balderas: “The orders were given were known as pegalocos. by President Felipe Calderón, the supreme comLiteral meaning: King Glue. mander of Pelotón de la Muerte. Felipe Calderón Related terms: agua celeste, garrazo, gasorbiente, ordered the murder of civilians; life does not matter Resistol 5000 to him.” Literal meaning: Death squad. peine, peinetón/peinetearse: Variations of the Related terms: achicharrado, bautizar, calcinado, same term; a person who denounces someone or calcinar, chamuscado, chamuscar, desaparición forreveals sensitive information to a rival gang or zada, ejecución extrajudicial, escuadrones de la muerte, authorities/to denounce someone or to reveal sen- incinerado, la limpia, narcoinsurgencia, la poda, sitive information to a rival gang or authorities. quemado


Abecedario de Juárez

perforado/perforar: One who is shot full of bullets/to shoot someone repeatedly. Literal meaning: One who is perforated/to perforate. Related terms: acribillado, acribillar, rafagueado, rafaguear, rociado, rociar perros de oreja: Eavesdroppers; military personnel assigned to the Secretary of National Defense (SEDENA) intelligence unit. These individuals dress as civilians and conduct electronic surveillance in the military headquarters of major Mexican cities. In Juárez they report their findings to the commander of the Quinta Zona Militar (Fifth Military Zone). Literal meaning: Ear dogs; dogs who “listen in.” Related term: oreja pericazo: To snort cocaine. Literal meaning: Derived from the Mexican word

for parrot (big beak) + azo (a superlative for something quick and unexpected). Related terms: chispazo, línea, lineazo, uñazo perico: Cocaine. Literal meaning: Parrot. Related terms: candy, chispazo, nieve, uñazo personal calificado, personal de limpieza: Variations of the same term; special operations units or cells in the army composed of ten to twelve soldiers in charge of exterminating alleged criminals from a region. These units are composed of personnel who operate as a separate entity within a battalion stationed at a military base. Requirements for these units include a minimum height of 5’6” and two years of prior military service. They are selected in part for their youth, since young men tend to be more malleable, more easily trained to become


comfortable with killing. Led by an officer, usually a major, members of these cells communicate with soldiers outside of their group only when necessary. This information was provided by a sergeant who served in the Mexican Army from 1979 to 1982. His account is based on his observations of army personnel in mountainous regions of Mexico where opium poppies and marijuana are grown and harvested. Literal meaning: Qualified personnel; maintenance engineers. Related terms: cucarachas, escuadrones de la muerte, la limpia, operativos ciegos, operativos negros, paramilitares, pelotón de la muerte pesado: Big-time criminal. Literal meaning: Heavy. Related terms: El Bueno, El Señor


Related terms: la camper, La Chota, la farola, La Ley, policholos, la tira placazo: gang sign; painted sign; hand signal combined with certain postures; specific patterns shaved in short-cropped hair. After Felipe Calderón’s limpieza social in Juárez, new gang members replaced those killed. Public displays of affiliation are minimized in an atmosphere that now focuses on business. Gracia Emelia Chávez, artist and professor in the department of art at Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez, has observed shaved designs on gang members’ heads but notes that these placazos are concealed in public. Literal meaning: Logo. Related terms: cero barrio, ¿Cuál es tu ranfla?, ¿qué barrio?

Plan Mérida: Officially known as the Mérida Initiative; called Plan México by critics (in reference to Plan Colombia). Plan Mérida grew out of President Felipe Calderón’s proposal to US president George W. Bush during a March 2007 summit in Mérida, Yucatán, a request that the United States transfer funds to Mexico to cooperate in combating drug piedra, piedra morada: Variations of the same trafficking and organized crime. This effort to achieve greater security in the hemisphere included term; used for crystal meth. preventing US entry and distribution of illicit Literal meaning: Stone, purple stone. drugs and transnational threats. Related terms: cri-cri, cristal, cristalero, foco In his sixth and last government report, pinguas: Seconal (secobarbital); red capsules Calderón indicated that between 2007 and 2012, known on the street in the US as reds, red birds, the Mexican government spent 56 percent of $1.9 billion allocated for Plan Mérida. Critics argue that or red devils. Beginning in the 1970s, this barbiturate was during this period the Mexican State lost soverin high demand and available through the same eignty; human rights violations increased exponentially; and public protest of the rise in violence was groups that operated aguajes in Juárez. criminalized. US appropriations for Plan Mérida Literal meaning: Pill; small marble. pitazo: A lookout’s signal to fellow criminals that from 2008 to 2018 totaled $3 billion. law enforcement, a rival gang, or other interference Literal meaning: Same. Related terms: desaparición forzada, desplazamiento approaches while they are at work. forzado, efecto cucaracha, ejecución extrajudicial, la Literal meaning: Whistle. limpia, Mexilio, narcoinsurgencia, narcoterrorismo Related terms: halcón, Lencho

picadero: Historical term for a place where drug dealers had all the necessities for addicts to use heroin; it has evolved to mean simply a place where drugs are sold. Literal meaning: Shooting gallery. Related terms: aguaje, La Cima, conectar, narcomaquila, narcomenudeo, poste, punto, tiendita

La Placa: An alternate name for the police. Literal meaning: The badge.

la plaza: City or town; also refers to a permit or tax charged by a city to street vendors; when used


Abecedario de Juárez

in reference to drug trafficking, an organization is purportedly taxed by city and state officials who grant use of a plaza, a jurisdiction or defined drug marketplace; or these officials “sell the city” to lower-ranking officials, e.g., traffic control and transportation office bosses, and receive a cut of whatever money is collected. This term can also mean “a job.” Literal meaning: Public square or marketplace (a feature of most Mexican towns). Related terms: crimen autorizado, la cuota, derecho de piso, la polla, la sica PM: Juárez tabloid that routinely published graphic photographs of the aftermaths of executions, narcomantas, and random corpses on its covers and throughout each issue during the height of militarization in Juárez; published by the same company that produces El Diario de Juárez. Literal meaning: Afternoon. Related terms: Blog del Narco, El Diario de Juárez

role in their interrogations in the Juárez prison. Mexico’s program of torture could not have gone unnoticed by the United States, which maintained regional intelligence headquarters in the country, including war rooms during military and federal police occupations of Ciudad Juárez, Tijuana, and Acapulco. During Calderón’s administration, the number of Sensitive Investigative Units (SIU), sponsored by the DEA, CIA, and other US agencies, increased from two to seven.106 Literal meaning: Same. Related terms: Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua

la poda: Alternate term for la limpia; extrajudicial killings that are reportedly ordered secretly by one or more authorities, such as the president of the Republic, state governors, mayors, or police chiefs. Their goal is to remove alleged criminals operating in the area in order to replace them with more pliable contractors. Literal meaning: The pruning. Related terms: desaparición forzada, efecto cucarapinto, pintito: Variations of the same term; a cha, ejecución extrajudicial, escuadrones de la muerte, tobacco cigarette laced with cocaine or powdered la limpia, limpieza social, montado, narcoinsurgencia, operativos ciegos, operativos negros, paramilitares, crack; marijuana cigarette laced with cocaine. An anonymous source who knew Amado Car- pelotón de la muerte, personal calificado, personal de rillo claims that on one occasion he saw some of limpieza, Plan Mérida Carrillo’s assistants prepare pintos for their boss. They emptied the tobacco from a pack and a half The narrative below is based on Julián Cardona’s of Raleigh cigarettes and repacked each cigarette research in the newspaper archives of El Diario with a mixture of powdered crack and tobacco. de Juárez and PM. This chronicle of violent events Literal meaning: Dappled, spotted like a pinto occurred in the first three months of 2008, bean; describes the speckled appearance of the cigwhen homicide rates in Ciudad Juárez soared arette when wetted with the tongue before smoking. to the highest in the world. Related terms: aturrado, aturradote, cristal, gallo, narizazo, pacheco, toque In January 2008 Ciudad Juárez explodes with street executions. They are carried out with alarmthe plumbing: Term coined by former US ambas- ing accuracy and unprecedented frequency. The sador to Mexico Antonio Garza to describe proto- most virulent surge targets the city’s powerful cols developed to prevent leaks of sensitive security state and municipal police officers who are reportinformation provided by the United States to Mex- edly members of La Línea. Saulo Reyes Gamico to assist in the capture and prosecution of drug boa, former chief of municipal police, appointed trafficking kingpins.105 This security system has by former mayor Teto, is arrested on January 17, been used by the DEA, the CIA, and other US in El Paso, Texas, and charged with smuggling law enforcement and investigative agencies. marijuana. Two US citizens, Shohn Huckabee and Carlos The following events occur several days later Quijas, revealed that US agents played an active within a period of thirty-six hours.


Sunday, January 20, 2008, a few minutes after midnight: thirty-seven-year-old Julián Cháirez Hernández, a municipal police captain, is executed. Heavily armed encapuchados dressed in dark fatigues shoot the captain.107 His patrol car, parked on a main avenue of Juárez, is hit twenty-four times by FN 5.7 × 28mm mata policías. Monday, January 21, 2008, 7:44 a.m.: Commander Francisco Ledesma, the third-highest-ranking official in the municipal police climbs into his Ford Expedition to drive to work. Assassins arrive at his house in Colonia Morelos I. Thirty-five cuerno de chivo bullets are fired from two trucks, executing him and his wife. Monday, January 21, 2008, after dark: men traveling in three vehicles block the road and fire cuernos de chivo and 50mm anti-armor weapons at Fernando Lozano Sandoval, first commander of the state police. He is attacked on Paseo Triunfo de la República while driving near a military housing compound in his Jeep Cherokee. Sixty cuerno de chivo rounds penetrate the armored vehicle. Seriously wounded, Lozano is driven to an El Paso hospital, where he receives care under heavy police guard.


Meanwhile on this same January night, the army installs military checkpoints. The army and federal police begin patrolling the streets. The following day they jettison paperwork and search homes, without warrants. The Juárez media publishes a report claiming that gunmen from other states have arrived to kill all high-ranking municipal police officers whose names are on a list. According to this story, the killings are integral to Joaquín Guzmán Loera’s (“El Chapo’s”) plan to take over la plaza.108 This notion of a guerra entre cárteles captures the world’s imagination and establishes a multipurpose fiction as to how Ciudad Juárez becomes the world’s most violent city. On Saturday, January 26, at 6 a.m., an armed group that claims credit for the murders of the police officers hangs a cardboard sign at the Police Memorial. The names of five recently murdered officers appear on the handwritten poster. They are listed under the heading: PARA LOS QUE NO CREYERON


Cháirez, Romo, Baca, Cháirez, and Ledesma


Abecedario de Juárez

A list of seventeen additional police officers slated for execution is titled: PARA LOS QUE SIGUEN SIN CREER (FOR THOSE WHO CONTINUE NOT BELIEVING)

On the afternoon of February 15, masked gunmen set fire to three residences in different parts of Juárez. During rush hour, a convoy of nine luxury trucks carrying assassins moves with ease through the main avenues as the army, the federal police, the state police, and the municipal police patrol the city. On February 20 Jaime Torres, the mayor’s spokesman, warns citizens that unauthorized checkpoints have been set up by armed groups wearing police uniforms. Gruesome executions of state and municipal police continue into March. All of the victims seem to be “those who continue not believing.” On March 1 there is a response to this murder epidemic. Sicarios hunt down and kill t­wentyeight-year-old army captain Ricardo Fuentes García, coordinator of recent raids on residences in which drugs, weapons, and vehicles were seized. La limpia continues. The only remaining commander of the state police of Juárez has taken the pointless precaution to leave Juárez for Ciudad Chihuahua. On March 14, Mario Domínguez García rides down a main avenue with his wife and two teenaged daughters; armed men in several trucks begin to follow their car. The police agent races toward home with his family,

but a blue Chevrolet Blazer blocks them at their neighborhood’s entrance. When Domínguez begs the assassins to spare his family, they drive his car two blocks away. The family does not see the execution, but they hear the shots. That same day sicarios assassinate a campesino leader, Armando Villarreal Martha, as he drives through the streets of Nuevo Casas Grandes with his son. Villarreal Martha led protests against the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and against the national electric company’s high rates for peasants. His lawyer, Sergio Conde Varela, says that Villarreal Martha was under constant surveillance by state police. He observes, “I knew that Villarreal Martha’s struggle was going to provoke very negative reactions. . . . He just became a martyr for the peasant struggle.”109 During the third week of March, thirteen municipal police officers resign, and twelve others retire, after violent and systematic attacks against the police. Many officers are disabled as a result of these attacks. In Puerto Palomas, a small border town one hundred miles west of Juárez, all of the police resign after two executions, seven kidnappings, and the discovery of two bodies wrapped in blankets. Four days later the burned remains of four more people are discovered. On March 25 the army and federal police set up checkpoints and extend their patrols sixteen miles southeast to Valle de Juárez. Five days before the end of March, Ciudad Juárez passes a threshold that will become painfully familiar: one hundred murders per month. The next day, 150 military troops arrive in the city. Soldiers break into a house at dawn and find two


women, a seven-year-old boy, and a ten-year-old girl at home. The women accuse them of stealing $1,000 and some jewelry, and of emptying their fridge. On March 27 the interior minister, Juan Camilo Mouriño, and the secretary of national defense, Guillermo Galván, announce the beginning of Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua in Juárez and the arrival of 2,500 troops. Including this campaign, the fifth of its kind,110 President Felipe Calderón has deployed more than twenty-five thousand troops throughout the country. Soldiers soon control access to Juárez, install checkpoints on the streets, monitor the city from helicopters, and take control of bars, cantinas, and discos.111 When Mayor Reyes Ferriz forges an agreement with the Gabinete Nacional de Seguridad Pública (National Public Security Cabinet) to limpiar “inherited corruption,”112 the army begins to arrest municipal police agents. On April Fool’s Day, soldiers reportedly fire shots at a police agent for evading a checkpoint. When soldiers shoot another officer in the head, they claim that he had attacked them. The municipal police issue a different narrative: soldiers drove by in an unmarked vehicle and fired on agents as they investigated reports of a triggered alarm in a nearby business. This same night a policewoman files a complaint against soldiers for aggravated sexual abuse that required immediate medical attention. Police commanders order their subordinates to remain in their stations. In separate events the army arrests a prosecutor and ten police officers who supposedly transport marijuana in their patrol cars. The municipal police stop work altogether and hold a masked protest against army harassment. Forty of their relatives block Paso del Norte International Bridge, accuse the military of planting drugs in municipal police cars, and demand that they withdraw from the city. These displays of dissent do not curtail military aggression against the police. Soldiers enter state police offices without a warrant, line up the agents in the parking lot, take their weapons, arrest twenty-three, and deliver them to the military base.


Aztecas in a second wave of slaughter. They are executed in their cars, in the street, and in their houses, or they simply disappear. In twenty kidnappings that occur during the first three months of 2008, many levantados are seized from their homes.

* * * Pushadores are the third group to be targeted. ­Seventy-seven die in March. Their tortured corpses are thrown from passing vehicles into deserted streets and vacant lots. Others answer a phone call that pings GPS coordinates back to the caller. Minutes later hombres fuertemente armados arrive to execute them. On the night of March 23, in a span of ten hours, citizens stumble across five brutally tortured corpses. On the east side of the city three turn up within forty-five minutes, about 550 yards apart. A fourth is discovered hours later, its head sealed in a black plastic bag. A fifth appears at dawn. On April 16 a man’s solitary corpse lies face up, arms outstretched to form a cross, head half-shaved, and mouth teipeada. Words scrawled on a poster board accompany his body, PARA LOS QUE SIGUEN SIN CREER (FOR THOSE WHO CONTINUE NOT BELIEVING). This six-word warning had been hung on the Police Memorial three months earlier, lettered with greater care and accompanied by a funeral wreath. Deep bruises surround the young man’s eyes. He is barefoot with jeans pulled to his knees, revealing gray plaid boxer shorts. His white undershirt is pulled up to expose his chest.113

* * * Business owners are next. On the morning of March 15, the manager of Bar La Cima is executed. Nine days later, four armed men dressed in black return to the bar to pump one hundred bullets into La Cima’s owner and two other men. Bars, nightclubs, and restaurants become common venues for violence. Armed commandos pour gasoline over Juárez nightlife and burn it to the ground. Funeral homes, auto parts stores, and other businesses, large and small, get the same treatment. The cardboard death warrant, titled PARA LOS QUE SIGUEN SIN CREER, hung at the Police Monument on January 26, identified Román García * * * Armed commandos dedicate themselves to exter- as “Z1.” Three and a half months later, on the minating ex–police officials and members of Los morning of May 10, Juan Antonio Román García,


Abecedario de Juárez

operations coordinator of the municipal police and second officer in command, is struck down by cuerno del chivo bullets. This symphony of executions has only two rests. The first occurs when three levantados, two traffic cops and their commander, reappear in time for a surprise visit by the secretary of defense. The gunfire falls silent a second time when members of the National Public Security Cabinet, including the secretary of the interior, the secretary of defense, and Mexico’s attorney general, arrive without notice to announce the deployment of Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua. During the first three months of 2008, some 213 people die in Juárez. Federal police exhume an additional forty-five bodies buried secretly on two properties, but authorities do not include these dead in their official list of homicides. Within weeks the army seizes control of Juárez streets, and later the Department of Commerce

and El Cherry. The federal police take control of the emergency phone lines to monitor all calls. Few question the guerra entre cárteles, and few risk voicing concern that the increasing violence correlates with the arrival of the military. On January 3, 2010, unknown assailants kill activist Josefina Reyes Salazar, after her repeated criticism of the army’s human rights violations in Valle de Juárez. Prior to her murder, soldiers kidnapped one of her children and murdered another. Eight months after her death, one of Reyes Salazar’s brothers is killed, and the family home is burned to the ground. On February 25, 2011, the bodies of her sister, brother, and sister-in-law turn up after their kidnapping near a gas station between Ciudad Juárez and Valle de Juárez. Remaining family members who seek political asylum in the United States attribute these attacks to the army’s retaliation against Josefina. Many other voices of dissent are silenced in Juárez, but the world takes a moment’s notice



when Marisela Escobedo is shot to death in front Related terms: José Reyes Feliz, mantomanía, narof the Chihuahua state capitol building during a cocombo, narcolenguaje, narcomail, Paty Gaga, PM vigil to protest the release of her daughter’s killer.114 Despite the risk, Gustavo de la Rosa, investigator policholos: Juarenses use this term to describe the for the State Human Rights Commission, con- criminal skills and behaviors of municipal police tinues to tirelessly document hundreds of human agents. rights violations committed by the army. Studies Literal meaning: A hybrid of “police” and of homicide rates in areas where President Felipe “gangsters.” Calderón deploys the army and federal police indi- Related terms: la camper, la farola, La Ley, La Placa cate there is an immediate and substantial increase in each location.115 política de exterminio: Term coined by Centro de In March 2008 Mayor José Reyes Ferriz ana- Investigación y Docencia Económicas (Center for lyzes the results of “Confidence Tests” that have Economic Research and Teaching) investigators been administered to excise corruption from the Laura Atuesta and Alejandro Madrazo, upon anamunicipal police force of Juárez. Drug tests, poly- lyzing information of 3,327 combats from leaked graph exams, fingerprint checks, and more trig- official documents. It is presumed that the armed ger the dismissal of over four hundred agents.116 forces killed systematically while waging President President Calderón announces that discharged Felipe Calderón’s war. soldiers will replace them. By the end of the year, Literal meaning: Extermination policy. the number of homicides has grown from 316 in Related terms: abatir, baja colateral, daño colateral, 2007 to 1,623 in 2008. More than seventy munic- ejecución extrajudicial, enfrentamiento, la limpia, ipal police agents are dead. Others flee. High-­ limpieza social profile assassinations are carried out with precision. Bystanders and companions of victims are la polla: Slush fund made of bribes collected by rarely wounded. police agents; the system of extortion; extortion payments collected by police officers from the La Polaka: A satiric news website created by Jorge homeless and other vulnerable citizens. Luis Aguirre, a former El Diario de Juárez reporter These funds are collected on a routine basis, usuand founder of Frontenet.com. Aguirre planted ally by traffic cops who then “fix” alleged violations. Juárez slang terms in stories he filed for El Diario, Victims may receive a code that can be relayed to but in La Polaka he mastered the art of coining other officers to exempt them from additional paywitty, sarcastic headlines and short stories. La Pola- ments on the same day. ka’s irreverence is preceded by that of El Pavoroso Traffic cops, public transportation and customs Caso (The Dreadful Case), a small underground inspectors, and other “tax collectors” also pay taxes. newspaper published in the 1980s that included Most of the accumulated funds flow upstream to expletives in its headlines. superiors, an inner circle of leaders, elected officials, Aguirre’s word burlesque was imitated by PM, and federal officers. a Juárez tabloid. Together, these news sources Literal meaning: The chicken. changed the vocabulary of the city. PM discontin- Related terms: mochada, mordida ued use of “narco language,” possibly due to outside pressure, but La Polaka continues. pollero: One who smuggles immigrants across the In September 2010 Aguirre was the first Mex- Mexico-US border. ican journalist to receive political asylum in the Literal meaning: Chicken wrangler. United States. He now disseminates La Polaka Related terms: coyote, pasador, pollo from El Paso, Texas. Literal meaning: Adjustment of a Spanish slang pollo: An immigrant who attempts to illegally term for politics, la polaca. cross the Mexico-US border.


Abecedario de Juárez

Literal meaning: Chicken. Related terms: coyote, mojado, pasador, visa láser

Related terms: abrir, el bote, El Cherry, no te acerques, va a haber baile, tambo, va a haber party

poner dedo: To secretly point someone out. Literal meaning: To put the finger (on someone). Related terms: empinar, peinarse, peinetón, poner dedo, ponlo de pecho, soplón

ponlo de pecho: To identify a target for a hit man. Literal meaning: To put it on the chest; to submit. Related terms: abrirse, empinar, peine, peinetón, poner dedo, sicario, soplón

poner tiempo: To be locked in jail; often used to refer to the time served in a US prison. Literal meaning: To put (in) time. Related terms: El Cherry, familia, ganga, malandrín

poste: A lookout. Literal meaning: Pole. Related terms: cuadro, halcón, Lencho, punto

ponerse: To bribe a police or traffic officer. Literal meaning: To put yourself (at the mercy of someone). Related terms: La Chota, crimen autorizado, crimen uniformado, La Ley, mordida, La Placa, la polla pónganse la sotana: A warning that someone will be killed; used in the Juárez prison. Literal meaning: Put on your cassock; prepare for a sacred rite.

prepotente: Adjective and noun used to describe or name a person who demands special treatment or privileges; someone who swaggers whether or not they have anything to swagger about. Literal meaning: Cocky, overbearing. Related terms: La Chota, movido, narco, narcobarra, narquete, La Placa prospecto: Understudy or intern working toward becoming a card-carrying member of Los Aztecas. Literal meaning: Prospect.



the target. Assassins in the two middle trucks carry out the execution. The men in the fourth truck also support the central trucks in unexpected situations. puente al revés: A nickname for Puente Rotario Literal meaning: Lead, tip. on Avenida de Tecnológico and Avenida de la Raza. Related terms: abrir, cerrar, la cola, cuerno de chivo, Even as this bridge was built, thousands of Jua- lateral, El M, matraca, no te acerques, va a haber baile, renses traveled west to jobs in the main industrial El R, sicario, tiro de gracia, va a haber party park and east to return home, but the city built a north-to-south bridge. With their usual deadpan punto: Small-time drug dealer, street-corner dealer; person targeted for assassination; indepenhumor, Juarenses call it al revés, or “wrong way.” Literal meaning: Wrong way bridge, other way dent contractor who assists assassins. Literal meaning: Abbreviated term for punto de around bridge. Related terms: colgado, falso positivo, narcomanta, venta (point of sale); point. Related terms: cuadro, diler, Lencho, meneado, movparamilitares ido, objeto, poste, punteado, pushador, tiendita Puente Negro: Refers to two black railroad bridges (just east and west of Paso del Norte International This narrative is based on Julián Cardona’s interview with ”El Oso” on November 7, 2013. Bridge) that cross the border between Juárez and El Paso; historically these bridges were used by small-time gangsters, undocumented workers, Seventeen-year-old El Oso is a veteran of narand migrants for illegal crossings from Mexico to comenudeo, a former punto, and an expert drug salesman. He entered the trade as a ten-year-old the US. packager. Marijuana, cocaine, heroin, piedra—he Literal meaning: Black bridge. did it all. At twelve he became a punto, first sellRelated terms: coyote, mojado, pollero ing marijuana, then cocaine. When his employers, puntero: Drug dealer in charge of distribution in Los Aztecas, did not regularly pay la cuota, the feda defined area of the city. The puntero maintains eral police reventaron their headquarters. This raid the peace in his territory in order to keep the drug prompted El Oso’s early retirement at the age of business running smoothly and supplies product thirteen. to puntos, independent contractors or street-corner dealers who work in their territory. I didn’t want to end up like them or others who ended up even worse. Friends who were doing Literal meaning: The leader; the one who is out the same stuff ended up dead and buried or ahead. locked up. I thought about my family nearby— Related terms: diler, meneado, movido, poste, puntyou know that the family is the first thing they eado, punto

Related terms: carnales, familia, hermanos, Los Indios, ranfla

punteado: Professional practices of a street-corner dealer. Literal meaning: The action of marking spots or points. Related terms: diler, meneado, movido, poste, puntero, punto la punta: First truck in a four-vehicle convoy of hired assassins; la punta’s crew clears the way for an execution. This might include interrupting an ambush or disabling bodyguards who are protecting

take away. I thought, “Nothing good will come from selling drugs.” I couldn’t go out in the street without worrying about la farola. I was always watching my back. When I saw a strange car, I was sure they were after me. Sometimes I didn’t sleep. I thought the army or the police were going to reventar my house. I told myself, “It is you or your family.” I chose my family over material things. I stopped selling drugs.

El Oso survived the most violent years in the most violent city in the world, when many other puntos


Abecedario de Juárez

were arrested or executed, and claims that fellow puntos were killed by their own bosses as well as by soldiers and federal police. Being a punto? It isn’t “Oh, I own the punto! I am a mean bastard, the only fucking punto in the neighborhood.” But many puntos see it that way. They think, “I own the punto, and I’m going to do whatever I want.” On the contrary, having a punto means you [must] know how to organize your business to ensure that the people in the neighborhood aren’t going to take you out. If you harass people, they will mess with you; but if you don’t mess with anyone and just pay attention to business, sometimes those very same people will protect and help you. They might tell you: “¡Hey, al tiro (watch out!), the police are coming! Hey, ponte al tiro! (there they are!)” Being a punto is more than just selling drugs. You have to know how to deal with money. You have to [keep track of ] the exact quantities of the drugs your supplier provides, because sometimes even the bosses want you to look bad. For a punto, everything comes together on neighborhood corners. First, you rob the homeless, then small businesses. You join a gang

and battle with rival gangs in rock-throwing fights. The older guys in the neighborhood watch closely for young gang members who defend their territory well, and recruit them for bigger jobs. They give the kids handguns and shotguns to attack gangs in rival neighborhoods. The most daring kids [get noticed] and are invited into la familia. [Los hermanos] looked at those of us who were on the corner, and since we always spoke to them respectfully, they thought, “Look, at these morrillos (children), let’s talk to them and tell them to help us.” They said “Hey, come here! Do you want money?” We told them yes. “Then wrap this up, and this, and this, and this, and put it there. Make so many bags of this, and now we have a deal.” We said OK, so they put us to work. They arrived, got the packaged merchandise, paid us, left, and then we spent our money.

When El Oso was a packager in 2008, he earned 150 pesos ($12.33) per day working from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., more than double the daily salary of most Juárez maquilocos who worked longer shifts. El Oso thrived alongside five other boys his age, each packaging twenty to fifty tandas per day. At


this time, a bag of marijuana cost 20 pesos, and cocaine, piedra, and heroin 50 pesos each. The networking and hiring process for puntos resembles that of any other job. Perhaps a puntero offers a young person an internship, or someone in the business invites a trusted friend to be their salesperson. Another option is to apply. In El Oso’s case, he approached an Azteca to ask if he needed a punto and was hired on the spot. He gave me a cell phone and told me to call him each time a tanda sold out, and he would bring me another one.

El Oso generally sold a tanda of marijuana in four days. He turned in $200 to his supplier and received a $40 commission. After this he sold soda. When he sold $400 of product, he received $80 in return. Certain rules had to be followed. Bañarse was fatal. At that age, I smoked marijuana, but when I began to sell drugs, I didn’t consume my merchandise. My boss warned me not to. Otherwise I would be in debt to that bastard.

Corrupt police agents who need to create an appearance of crime fighting sometimes collaborate with punteros before entering their area. Cops talk to the punteros, who tell them, “You know what? That punto owes me money, so go and arrest him so that we can get rid of him. Don’t let your superiors interfere.” The police locate the punto, they kidnap him, torture him, and accuse him of being a pushador. That way the puntero doesn’t fuck up the area, the police get results and don’t have to worry about getting fired.

Sometimes a puntero orders the police to kidnap a punto in order to find out if he is loyal. When they torture you, you know you shouldn’t speak. [You have to] endure the torture because


if you speak, you know that you have signed your death warrant. If you don’t speak, the police get desperate, so te presentan (parade you before the media) or they let you go. And the bosses agree, “Hey, that guy didn’t se abrió (flinch or rat), that guy is one of ours!” This is one of the most fucked-up things. When you are deep into this world, you don’t know who you work for. Another guy can come up to your punto and say, “You know what, this fucking punto is mine.” And you respond, “Hey, fucker, it belongs to that puntero!” And the guy responds, “No, that cabrón (bastard, son of bitch, dumbass, etc.) is our enemy.” And you think, “Oh, fuck!” I don’t even know. There are many cops who belong to your people until the day they switch to another gang. They go another way to stay in the good graces of whoever is most powerful or to make more money. That’s why the cops you work with may be killed or kidnapped. When they don’t carry out their part of the agreement, the punteros get angry, and then police agents die. And if a punto is arrested, there is no guarantee that his boss will help him. “To him you are just a guy who sells drugs on the street, a lackey. If the police or your enemies manage to grab you, your boss won’t save you.”

If you are a punto, nobody has your back. You are only a punto, one small point.

* * * According to statistics compiled by Molly Molloy, retired research librarian for Latin America and the border at New Mexico State University, the 2010 daily homicide average in Juárez was 9.9; in November 2013 when El Oso spoke with Julián Cardona, the daily average had dropped to 1.3. pushador: Small-time drug dealer, street corner dealer. Literal meaning: Pusher. Related terms: cuadro, diler, Lencho, meneado, movido, poste, punteado, punto, tiendita

¿qué barrio?: “Which gang do you belong to?” If an individual wanders into unfamiliar territory, the way they answer this question can elicit responses ranging from a warm greeting to a fatal assault. After Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua concluded, gangs minimized conflict by allowing 178

consumers to purchase drugs throughout the city without regard to gang allegiance. In this new reality, a neutral reply to the query ¿qué barrio? became necessary. See cero barrio. Literal meaning: What neighborhood are you from?


Related terms: cero barrio, Los Gatos, La K-13, Los Ortiz, puntero, punto


alongside Los Mecánicos in the Juárez army barracks during Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua. Twelve soldiers signed affidavits to indicate quebrar: To kill; a secondary meaning is to break that most tortures and murders in the Juárez army a drug habit. barracks were carried out by Los Mecánicos (also Literal meaning: To break. known as Los Patrulleros and Los Químicos). Related terms: anexado, anexar, Cristoterapia, limpIn one documented case reported by Amnesty ieza social International on December 8, 2009, Saúl Bercerra Reyes was arrested on October 21, 2008. His body quedarse arriba: To be strung out, debilitated, or was found about five months later, on March 6, stupefied due to long-term drug abuse. 2009, at kilometer 68 on the highway between Literal meaning: To stay high. Juárez and Ascensión. General Espitia, commander Related terms: aturrado, aturradote, malilla, ocho, of Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua, was first pacheco, picadero, tecato ordered to testify about these matters in 2015, but proceedings were postponed. According to a July quemado/quemar: A burned corpse/to burn a 28, 2016, article published in Juárez-based Norte, he corpse or living person (to death). testified in July. In this same article, the names of Literal meaning: Burned one/to burn. thirteen soldiers were published. Soldiers, possibly Related terms: achicharrado, achicharrar, calcinado, as many as twenty, allegedly delivered Saúl Berchamuscado, chamuscar cerra and five other men to General Espitia and his senior officers. Although thirteen of these soldiers Los Químicos: Torture specialists who worked insist that Bercerra and the other five men were


Abecedario de Juárez

alive when they brought them to Espitia, these soldiers were sent to prison. Use of torture is widespread within the ranks of the federal police as well. According to testimonies of five men collected by Paso del Norte Human Rights Center, they heard the same euphemisms, Los Mecánicos and Los Químicos. Literal meaning: The Chemists. Related terms: abatir, bautizar, calentar, cargado, la chicharra, chivo, cobija eléctrica, dar agua, ejecución extrajudicial, enfrentamiento, expiatorio, marionelas, Los Mecánicos, El Merengue, milifosa, montado, Los Patrulleros, plantar, sembrar, El Taller, trabajar

El Chapo as the ultimate quitapuerco;117 This term also appeared in narcomantas allegedly signed by El Chapo or the cártel de Sinaloa. In October 2010 quitapuercos posted three more YouTube videos that document the interrogation and torture of Mario González, brother of ex–state attorney Patricia González. His tormentor is identified as puma original. See Paty Gaga for additional information. Literal meaning: Pig remover. Related terms: Empresarios Unidos: El escuadrón de la muerte, la limpia, Paty Gaga, la poda, Yonkeros Unidos

quitapuerco: Someone who kills alleged criminals. First appearance of this term may have been on YouTube on July 26, 2008, four months after the beginning of Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua. YouTube user quitapuercos uploaded a video titled “Quitapuercos en Chihuahua” featuring photographs of murdered policemen. The second half of this video is accompanied by “El Corrido del Chapo,” sung by El Tigrillo Palma, glorifying

quitarse la muleta: To quit before a task is completed; to shirk responsibility. Literal meaning: Same. Muleta in this instance refers to the red cape used in conjunction with a sword or stick that a matador waves in the final phase of a bullfight. Related terms: to suffer various consequences, e.g., la chicharra, cobija eléctrica, marionelas

El R: AR-15. rafagueado /rafaguear: Person who is wounded Literal meaning: Same. or killed by a volley of shots from an automatic Related terms: cuerno de chivo, ensillado, f ierro, weapon /to fire an automatic weapon /to mow FX-05, El M, matraca, montado, sicario, trueno, someone down with a machine gun. Xiuhcóatl Literal meaning: Same. 181


Abecedario de Juárez

Related terms: balaceado, balear perforar, fusilado, fusilar This narrative is based on Julián Cardona’s interview with “Chapa” on August 29, 2012. On Thursday, November 13, 2008, a cold morning downpour wakes Chapa. During breakfast he chats with his mom and brother Paz. Both sons are in their fifties and legal residents of El Paso but stay with their mother in Juárez. At about 5:30 a.m., the men climb into a black sports car to drive to El Paso, where Chapa works in a restaurant, and Paz in construction. Chapa steers northeast toward the city center, moving up Francisco Villa Avenue alongside the railroad tracks in the weekday morning traffic. When they hit a red light at Avenida 16 de Septiembre there is only one car ahead of them. Just across the intersection, next to the tracks, a black Nissan Altima stops short of the red light. It has no plates. Seconds later a black Cadillac Escalade draws up alongside it. Chapa chats with Paz as usual, and when a light flashes through the dark, he thinks it must be fireworks and wonders, “At this hour? On a weekday?” The first burst of gunfire . . . I don’t know what it is. Our impulse is to turn toward it. The sun

is not up, but the street is visible. [Bullets] blow a hole in one of the Altima’s side windows. The man who fired the shots comes out of the Escalade idling beside the smaller car. He’s still standing beside the car. A second man gets out of the other side of the Escalade. He also is armed but doesn’t fire. He looks like he’s guarding the area.

At the same time, inside a passing rutera (city bus), the driver hears machine-gun fire. He ducks and shouts to the passengers, “Everyone get on the floor!” Even those who are standing throw themselves to the floor.118 Flashes of orange and yellow blaze across the silhouettes of the assassins. Chapa stares into the blasts but can’t accept what is happening a few meters beyond his windshield. You can’t believe it. It is difficult to believe it even when you see it happening right in front of you. You see it, but you can’t make sense of it en caliente (in the heat of the moment). You say to yourself, “They are executing someone. They are killing someone.” After the first round of fire, the shooter walks toward the front left fender of the Altima and fires again. Then he walks directly in front of the car and fires another hail of bullets. I later learned that he fired about seventy shots in less than a minute.


About 110 yards from the old Aduana Fronteriza (Border Customs Office), a rafagueado dies on ground layered with history. In 1909 the interior of the customs office, a late nineteenth-century cousin of a French villa, was decorated to resemble a Versailles salon. It served as the site for the first meeting on Mexican soil between presidents of Mexico and the United States. Porfirio Díaz and William Howard Taft stood under a scarlet canopy near an avenue lined with elaborately carved wooden columns, each capped with an eagle devouring a serpent, embellishments that had been sent from Mexico City to lend pomp and solemnity to the international summit. The contrast between an auspicious meeting a century ago and a murder at dawn on November 13, 2008, could not be starker. In 1909 the crowds, the fun, the music, the wagons and horses, the cheers for the presidents, and the display of Mexican and US flags masked the hardships of a long-standing dictatorship. Now in Juárez there is no facade. Systematic as well as random violence is part of daily life: executions, carjackings, kidnappings, uncertainty, and a steady exodus of citizens. Less than a week before Chapa and Paz ride through an execution, Barack Obama is elected president of the United States, and the plane of the Mexican interior secretary, Juan Camilo Mouriño, crashes into Mexico City’s rush hour traffic. In Juárez there are 1,222 homicides119 and 1,108 carjackings on record for the year.120 Kindergartens, elementary schools, and Social Security clinics receive threats of extortion,121 and robberies of businesses are on the rise.122 The police have stopped watching over extensive areas of the city and only answer emergency calls.123 Soldiers move through the streets. Chapa and Paz witness an execution in a rarely patrolled sector of Juárez. Even though the shots are not fired in their direction, the two middle-aged brothers crouch down in their seats. Chapa peers between the steering wheel and dashboard, glimpsing the silhouettes of the assassins as they pass in the opposite direction. Two sicarios in paramilitary clothing get into the backseat of the Escalade before it slowly crosses Avenida de 16 de Septiembre and edges toward Eje Vial Juan Gabriel.


I could almost swear they were military. You could see their skill. They had practiced what they had to do, and it turned out exactly as planned. It looked like professional work; they were not amateurs. You could see that they were talented and well trained. They were at ease. Killing came easily. The one who got out of the Escalade fired his gun as if it was nothing. He kept one hand on his waist and did not waver at all. I think all of his shots hit their mark. That is how I saw it. These were people who dedicate their lives to murder and nothing else. If I saw it again, I would think the same thing. Everything about their appearance and behavior points to the fact that they were in the military.

A pedestrian stands motionless on a nearby corner as the assassins carry out their work. When they finish and leave, the horrified man turns on his heels and runs in the opposite direction. Chapa laughs ruefully. “It almost looked funny.” The green light that commands the forward motion of the cars is as unstoppable as the killing. Chapa advances until he passes by the ­bullet-pocked car. He tries not to stare. His right foot trembles as he accelerates. Salvador Gómez, a self-employed photographer on the scene, watches an unusually large number of police agents arrive. They cordon off the area and keep the media as far away as possible. The Nissan Altima is destroyed, its windshield a fractured scrim of greenish grey that shields a dead man from reporters and curious onlookers. Later, at work in Luby’s Cafeteria, Chapa considers whether to disclose his alarming experience to coworker Anette, who also lives in Juárez. Before he opens his mouth, she blurts, “They killed a reporter!” “A reporter?” he responds. “Oh, I saw an execution near dawn! Was that him? When was this execution?” Anette replies that she saw a newscast about a reporter called El Choco who was murdered around 8 a.m. Chapa recounts the events of his drive at dawn. “Well, I saw [an execution] this morning. I don’t know who it was, but I was there. And I tell you,


Abecedario de Juárez

the poor guy died there, or the poor guys. It was dark so I couldn’t tell if it was one victim or several.” This is Chapa’s first indication that executions are multiplying so rapidly that it is difficult to tell them apart.

* * * Armando Rodríguez, known as El Choco, covers the police beat for El Diario de Juárez, the city’s main newspaper. A few hours after Chapa witnesses the attack on 16 de Septiembre Avenue, Rodríguez warms up his car in front of his house with his eight-year-old daughter beside him. Usually he takes her to school before going to work. Instead, he takes in ten 9mm bullets.124 According to Rodríguez’s El Diario colleagues, neighbors reported that soldiers were in the area minutes before the execution, including a gunman in fatigues and with a military haircut. Photographs taken at the crime scene reveal a tight dibujo: four shots descend through the driver’s window, and five

cut down through the left side of the windshield near the driver. Although Rodríguez embraces his daughter as the bullets fly, she is not injured.

* * * Chapa’s mother knows the route that her sons take to El Paso. When they return in the evening, he learns that she has followed television news coverage throughout the day and has already guessed that Paz and Chapa were close to the execution. Their mother informs them that news reports are claiming that the killing was somehow related to a cop. By this November day in 2008, fifty-nine police officers from different law enforcement agencies have been killed. Thirty-two are municipal police.125 Many were threatened first in narcomantas. The officer who died that morning was no exception. The media identifies the victim as forty-fiveyear-old municipal police captain Miguel Carlos Herrera González.126 He served as a bodyguard for two police chiefs: Saul Reyes, arrested by the


DEA in El Paso on drug charges in January 2008, and Juan Antonio Román García, a rafagueado who absorbed more than sixty bullets in May of the same year. According to witnesses, four men arrived in the Escalade to attack Captain Herrera González. Reports from state authorities note that eighty-three shots from an AK-47 and an AR-15 hit him in the neck, chest, abdomen, arms, and legs. He had just finished his shift as night manager in the Central District of the municipal police and was on his way home.127 At the close of 2008 there are 1,623 homicides,128 and 95,000 cartridges are collected at crime scenes, an average of 58.5 per victim. Herrera González’s execution warranted an additional 24.5 rounds. This year Ciudad Juárez becomes the murder capital of the world.129


ranfla: Gang affiliation. Literal meaning: Car. Related terms: AA, Los Aztecas, carnales, ¿Con quién estás puesto?, ¿Cuál es tu ranfla?, Doblados, Doble A, enrranflado, familia, ganga, hermanos, Los Indios, Los Mexicles, prospecto rata/ratear: Someone who shares information about another’s activities so that the person can be targeted, often for assassination. If a rata provides inaccurate information, they become the target/to rat out. Literal meaning: Rat/to betray; to steal. Related terms: dedo, delator, hocicón, Judas, peine, peinetón, ponlo de pecho, soplón

ratas: Thieves. Literal meaning: Rats. rancho La Campana: The first clandestine grave- Related terms: basura social, carjacker, enjaulado, yard to be discovered in Mexico, in 1999. enjaularse, housejacker, juala, robacarros, tecato, tumbar Authorities began to receive missing persons reports in the mid-1990s, but by 2002 relatives raya: A line of cocaine. realize that filing formal complaints does not Literal meaning: Stripe, streak. spark investigations. Most families give up when Related terms: candy, chispazo, línea, lineazo, narithe number of missing reaches 196, including two zazo, nieve, ocho, pericazo, perico, uñazo women and thirty-four US citizens. Federal and state police agents are the suspected perpetrators rejas: Fences that were built around Juárez neighin most cases, even though some municipal police borhoods beginning in 2008 at the advent of agents are among those missing. Calderón’s military incursion. The Asociación de Familiares y Amigos de These barriers enclose neighborhoods to proPersonas Desaparecidas (Association of Relatives tect residents against armed commandos known and Friends of Missing Persons), formed by fam- to kidnap and kill citizens. Often there is a checkilies of the missing and led by El Pasoan Jaime point that serves as both entrance and exit. In many Hervella, pressure authorities, and on November neighborhoods throughout the city, citizens pool 29, 1999, a binational probe is launched. Agents resources to hire private guards to protect themfrom investigative branches of the Mexican and selves and their property. US governments (FBI and PGR) meet at rancho After Calderón left office, city officials urged La Campana to search for the bodies of hundreds neighborhoods to remove these barriers, and in of missing persons allegedly involved in the drug some cases they have been dismantled. trade. When the area is excavated with backhoes, Literal meaning: Security fences. six bodies are uncovered at rancho La Campana, Related terms: ejecutado, ejecutivo, housejacking, two more in nearby Granjas Santa Elena, and levantado another in Santa Rosalía. Literal meaning: Bell Ranch (a bell hangs in the rematado/rematar: Someone who is “re-killed”/ facade of the property’s entrance). to kill someone after an initial failed attempt or Related terms: desaparecido, desaparición forzada, to track down a corpse that has been moved to a House of Death, Lalo, levantado, milifosas, narcofosa funeral home and shoot it again.


Abecedario de Juárez

Minutes before 6:00 p.m. on January 26, 2009, the body of recently murdered Mario Alberto Chavira Durán, owner of Amores bar, is surrounded by his grieving family. Men with AK-47s break into Mausoleos Luz Eterna (Eternal Light Mausoleums) to shoot holes in the dead man’s coffin. Bullets ricochet through the hall and kill Durán’s brother, Alejandro. Literal meaning: One who is rekilled/to remurder. Related terms: cerrar, dar cuello, dar piso, quebrar, tiro de gracia, tumbar

Surgical drapes cover the patient, and a monitor charts his vital signs. Scalpels, scissors, forceps, and syringes are within reach. Just as the assembled team begins the work of saving a life, fire blasts over the surgeon’s shoulder. The nurse sees nothing but the barrel of a gun. A new hole opens in the chest of the man on the table. The doors to the operating room swing slightly as his killer slips out. The medical team attempts resuscitation, but the monitor flatlines. The sulfur of gunpowder sticks in their nostrils. Their recall of the killer’s face is as This story is based on Julián Cardona’s dead as the man on the table. interview with a hospital emergency room Extensive precautions are routine at the hospital. nurse on December 15, 2013. This Saturday afternoon is no exception. Security guards control access to the main entrance. MunicIt is Saturday afternoon. Paramedics carry a ipal police control access to the emergency room. wounded man into the Juárez Hospital General State police officers take statements from the emergency room. The bullet holes in his chest and wounded as they arrive, and guards patrol cells in stomach weep as the emergency warning system the interior of the hospital where prisoners receive blasts code red. medical attention. Truckloads of soldiers patrol the In one of the hospital’s four operating rooms, a perimeter of the building. A squad is stationed day surgeon prepares. The dying man waits, surrounded and night in the parking lot. by a nurse, an anesthesiologist, a surgical assistant, No one sees a hit man enter or leave, at least no and la circulante (a nurse who assists in surgeries one willing to go on record. and coordinates with medical staff inside and outThe nurse interviewed for this story indicated side of the operating room). Everything is ready. that other similar events occurred at Hospital


Abecedario de Juárez

General that were not reported by media. Her recollection of the date of the event described coincides with an El Diario de Juárez story published on Monday, October 12, 2008, a report that twentyfive-year-old Vicente Estrada Avianedo was shot dead at 7:15 p.m. in Hospital General.130 There are at least a dozen cases of rematados in Ciudad Juárez. Wounded persons have also been kidnapped from public and private hospitals by armed commandos.131

In the August 7, 2010, public revolt of 475 federal police agents against their four commanders, one of the demonstrating officers said, “The commanders store drugs in the Rinos and plant them on detainees.” Literal meaning: Abbreviated form of “rhinoceros.” Related terms: la camper, congelarse, derecho de piso, la farola, los feos

reventar: Police agents or soldiers forcibly enter a private property without a warrant. A seventeen-year-old tortured by the military in February 2009 was told that he would “do better” if he told them where drugs were sold. Soldiers dressed him in a military helmet and shirt for an outing. In a convoy of four vehicles, he sat between two soldiers in the cab of the lead truck. Arriving at an alleged drug outlet, the teen pointed out a house. Soldiers directed a laser at the house to signal others in the unit to jump off and break into the residence. They found nothing. On a second excursion, the boy was able to identify a residence that contained packaged marijuana. Literal meaning: To break in. Related terms: azules, cantonazo, La Chota, mulón, La Placa, sardos, los verdes, X-6

robacarros: Car thieves. Literal meaning: Same. Related terms: carjacker, carjacking

rifa y controla: A gang’s assertion of power and supremacy within its territory, or superiority over Resistol 5000: Construction glue that was widely other gangs; also used as an individual assertion of power. used in the late 1970s as an inhalant. Literal meaning: Gamble and control. Literal meaning: Name of commercial glue. Related terms: agua celeste, arponazo, chispazo, gas- Related terms: El Bueno, machín, macuco, McKlein, placazo orbiente, narizazo, Pega Rey

Rino: A fifteen-ton armored vehicle used by the Mexican federal police. This cross between a paddy wagon and a tank on wheels is replete with gun mounts and a hatch, bulletproof tires, interior and exterior security cameras, searchlights, and B7 armor. Its deep Prussian blue finish is emblazoned with the shield of Policía Federal. A bank of seats occupies the center of the main compartment, and bench seats run its length, with a capacity for eighteen detainees.

rociado/rociar: One who has been sprayed, pulverized with bullets/to spray, pulverize, with bullets. Literal meaning: One who has been sprayed/to spray. Related terms: acribillado, fusilado, perforado, rafagueado rostizado/rostizar: One who is burned to death or a corpse that is burned/to burn a corpse or to burn someone to death. Literal meaning: Someone or something cooked on a rotisserie/to cook on a rotisserie. Related terms: achicharrado, achicharrar, calcinado, calcinar, chamuscado, chamuscar, quemado, quemar las rutas: The drug trafficking corridors from Mexico to the United States. According to media and some authorties, these routes are a major source of disputes among cartels, and an assumed reason behind violence in Mexico. Literal meaning: The routes. Related terms: baja colateral, daño colateral, enfrentamiento, la limpia, limpieza social

sapo: Someone who shares information about an sardos: Derogatory term for soldiers. individual’s activities so that the person can be Literal meaning: Unknown, possibly Sardinians. targeted, often for assassination. If a sapo provides Related terms: El Merengue, Operativo Conjunto inaccurate information, they become the target. Chihuahua, los verdes Literal meaning: Toad. Related terms: dedo, delator, hocicón, Judas, peine, Saulo Reyes Gamboa: named director of operapeinetón, ponlo de pecho, rata, soplón tions of the Juárez municipal police in January 2007 189


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by then-mayor Héctor Murguía Lardizabal; owner of many Juárez restaurants, including Kinsui, Silver Streak, several Subway franchises, and a radio station. Until August 2007 Reyes Gamboa was a member of COPARMEX, a national business-owners union with over thirty-six thousand members that claims responsibility for 30 percent of Mexico’s GDP. On January 16, 2008, US federal agents arrested Reyes in an undercover Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) sting in El Paso, Texas, following his attempt to bribe an ICE agent posing as a US Customs and Border Patrol inspector. Using $19,250 in two cash payments, Reyes attempted to cut a deal to move a marijuana shipment across an international bridge. He also attempted to make arrangements for future loads. Caught in the act, Reyes pled guilty. After his arrest, authorities confiscated 985.16 pounds (446 kilograms) of marijuana from a house in Horizon City, Texas, and arrested twenty-seven-year-old accomplice Karina Tarango. Reyes was fined $50,000. The $19,250 attempted bribe was seized along with the Horizon City house and a 2005 Volkswagen Touareg. Reyes was released on January 30, 2015, after serving eighty-four months in a Lexington, Kentucky, minimum security prison. While serving as director of operations of the Juárez municipal police, four officers who reportedly worked closely with Reyes collected bribes from drug retailers throughout the city. These officers were killed in 2008. Literal meaning: Same. Related terms: José Reyes Feliz, Paty Gaga, Teto secuestrado: Kidnap victim. Literal meaning: Same. Related terms: cinta canela, cuidador, desaparecido, desaparición forzada, desplazamiento forzado, encajuelado, levantado, levantar, Mexilio, secuestrador, teipeado

El Señor: The most powerful boss. Literal meaning: The Lord, The Lord God; one who has resources and authority. Related terms: batear, El Bueno, capo, movidote sembrar: To plant evidence (widely used); to bury someone (used by Mexican military). Literal meaning: To plant; to sow. Related terms: bautizar, cargar, desaparición forzada, ejecución extrajudicial, milifosas, montado, narcofosa servidor: Recovering addict who has completed a ninety-day involuntary commitment in a detox program and continues treatment as an outpatient in a rehab center. Literal meaning: Servant. Related terms: anexado, anexar, anexo, basura social, Cristoterapia, la limpia, limpieza social, padrino, quebrar sexenio de la muerte: President Felipe Calderón’s term, 2006–2012; a period characterized by a sharp rise in human rights violations, incidents of torture, disappearances, homicides, and impunity, due to Calderón’s deployment of federal forces to several regions of the country. La Jornada published an article on November 16, 2012, in which a congressman called Calderon’s term in office sexenio de la violencia. Four days later columnist Roberto Desachy provided the final words for Calderón’s legacy, sexenio de la muerte, in an article for a Puebla-based news site https://www. poblanerias.com. Literal meaning: Six-year term of death. Related terms: anexado, anexar, anexo, Cristoterapia, la limpia, limpieza social

la sica: Historical term for bribes paid by criminals to police for permission to operate their business without interference; amount of money paid by Juárez inmates to receive goods, services, and privileges, including cell phones or cell phone use, secuestrador: Kidnapper. conjugal visits, or even permission for mariachis to Literal meaning: Same. Related terms: cinta canela, cuidador, desaparecido, attend birthday celebrations. Guards collect these desaparición forzada, desplazamiento forzado, enca- funds and, along with the prison’s director, benefit juelado, levantado, levantar, Mexilio, secuestrador, from them. When the prison was administered by the state, the Juárez mayor purportedly received a teipeado


percentage, as well as additional funds from drug sales within the prison. Literal meaning: The etymology of this term has more than one possible source, but these various roots have related meanings: knife, to cut, to sharpen, to section; curved sword or dagger of Thracians and other ancients; possibly designed to curve around the body of its owner to facilitate concealment, and to hook around the sides of a shield to penetrate an opponent. Related terms: alineado, arreglado, la cuota, derecho de piso, La Línea, mulones, la plaza Sicariato/sicario: The killing profession/hired killer. Literal meaning: Same/same; possibly derived from Sicarius, a group of first-century Hebrew revolutionaries who opposed Roman rule and covertly attacked and killed Romans and Roman sympathizers using concealed daggers. The term Sicarii was used by the ancient Roman-Jewish historian Flavius Josephus in his text The Judean War.132 Related terms: cerrar, cola, cuerno de chivo, dibujo, elemento, lateral, llamamiento, El M, matraca, no te acerques, va a haber baile, punta, punto, El R, rematar, tiro de gracia The following narrative is based on Julián Cardona’s interviews with Alejandro Castro and Bárbara Jiménez on May 21, 2014, and Lidia Cordero on May 26, 2014. Sixty-three children in the Granjas de Chapultepec, Pánfilo Natera, and Lomas de Morelos barrios attend a community center program designed to improve academic performance. The curriculum includes the arts, physical fitness, nutrition, and hygiene. Within the concrete walls of the community center, bright pistachio green classrooms surround a central yellow hall. Ten wooden benches take up most of the central area where each morning some two hundred children eat breakfast before classes, and lunch at 2:00 p.m. Many of the students’ parents are maquilocos and lack basic resources, so they send their preschoolers to this makeshift dining hall to share meals with brothers and sisters who attend classes.


The neighborhoods that surround the community center grew from clusters of cardboard-andscrap-wood shacks flanking an abandoned city dump that spreads over hills on the western edge of Juárez. Today these colonias are plagued by the usual effects of urban poverty: familial disintegration, turf wars among gangs, drug addiction, and petty and violent crime. Many of the children who live here start and end each day in soiled clothes and ruined shoes. On the streets around the community center, some eight- and nine-year-olds spend their days with teens, getting high on any available grapa: alcohol, mota, nieve, piedra, or agua celeste. Addicts routinely mug their neighbors for drug money, so residents avoid going out at night. By 10:00 p.m. the streets are usually deserted. Violence is so frequent that it is anticipated, but on the morning of July 30, 2012, the community was shaken when a neighbor discovered butchered remains in front of a local evangelical church. Two embolsados133 had been divided among black plastic bags. Five were tied shut; a hand and forearm jutted from the sixth. But it is mid-afternoon at the community center, and about fifteen third-graders enter a large room where a painted peacock, pig, giraffe, rooster, duck, donkey, and sheep decorate sky blue walls. Pictures of fruit, colorful decals made from the children’s hands, a sun, a map of Mexico, and an enormous flower decorate other walls. Spanish and English accompany the pictures: sol and sun, flor and flower, and the rest. On one wall, around the windows, the letters of the alphabet and numbers one through ten are painted in red, blue, and green. A bilingual rainbow arcs from a corner. Blue, yellow, green, and red rubber mats cover half of the floor. Lidia Cordero and Ruth Pilar Olvera, psychologists from Casa Amiga Centro de Crisis, are in charge of today’s activity. Alejandro, the community center’s physical education teacher, assists them as they spread a large blanket decorated with handdrawn squares. Its grid resembles a familiar game of chance, but the version unfolding across the floor is an update of Snakes and Ladders. Known originally as Moksha Patam, this game from ancient India was first designed as an entertaining means to teach moral lessons to young children. Ladders


Abecedario de Juárez

represent virtues, while snakes symbolize vices. In the historic version, a player’s progression up the board represented a life’s journey complicated by good and evil. The game that waits for players on the floor of the community center’s multipurpose room retains the caprices of the original: things can go well or badly, and the fastest player does not always win. Lidia and Ruth organize two teams of boys and girls who will serve as game pieces moving from square to square according to each roll of the dice. Blue, orange, green, pink, red, and violet circles contain numbers, drawings, and phrases that address a range of themes, including family harmony, domestic violence, sexual abuse, children’s rights, and gender stereotypes: “You have the right to an education.” “No one has the right to touch you.” “No one has the right to exploit you.” At every opportunity the psychologists give each third-grader time to consider how their experiences relate to the game. They ask questions to encourage the kids to speak openly about whether or not they know their rights and if they know someone who is a victim of or witness to violence. When a boy throws the dice, a serpent turns up, so he moves to a lower square on the blanket. The

words on his new spot instruct him to play with girls’ toys. Then a girl throws the dice, and she lands on directions to play with boys’ toys. The kids have fun shouting support for their teammates. “Go, you can do it!” says one. “Girls can play with cars, too!” suggest the boys. “Don’t worry, boys can cook, too!” exclaim the girls. When the game ends, Alejandro lines the children up, and they each write down their name and age. The psychologists ask each child what they hope to do when they grow up, offering encouraging words to future fireman, teachers, doctors, ballerinas, and professional athletes. When eight-year-old Francisco stands before Lidia he announces, “When I grow up I want to be a sicario.” Lidia glances toward Alejandro, the physical education teacher who knows Francisco’s story—a mother preoccupied with her new boyfriend, a father who is likely absent altogether. Francisco and six other kids no longer obey their teachers. They follow the lead of a fourth-grader named Diego, threatening and attacking other children. Lydia’s silence and deadpan expression betray no reaction to the slight but resolute dark-haired boy in shorts and a T-shirt. His large eyes and delicate nose conflict with the alarming words that come out of his small mouth.


“Oh, a sicario! Do you know what it means to be a sicario?” asks Lidia. Francisco smiles proudly, as he dreams aloud. “Yes! You kill people and get paid to do it!” A few moments pass as Lidia searches for a response. “Oh! So, you know that this involves violence?” “Yes,” he shrugs. “You realize that a person who does this doesn’t live very long and usually goes to jail, and you know what happens to him in the end?” “Oh, yes, I know! I only plan to live twenty-five years.” The other children listen attentively as Francisco presents his vision of a lucrative but short career. “What I want is money! Lots of money!” Ruth has remained on the sidelines but now intervenes. “So, why do you go to school? School is for studying for other kinds of careers.”


Francisco thinks for a second then responds, “Well, maybe I will become a sicario once I finish school.” The third-grade boys and girls file out to the patio for recess. soda: Cocaine. Literal meaning: Sodium carbonate. Related terms: arena, aturrado, aturradote, candy, cocodrilo, nieve, onza, papel, pase, perico, pinto soplón: One who does not openly offer information or publicly betray others, but rather drops hints about these things. Literal meaning: Snitch. Related terms: dedo, delator, empinar, hocicón, Judas, peine, peinetón, poner dedo, ponlo de pecho

talón: A very industrious person on the job; on his/her feet moving from place to place; may refer to legal or illegal enterprise; prostitutes, mariachi bands, candy and flower vendors; any type of work that requires one to be on the move. Literal meaning: Heel. Related terms: albañil, camellar, giros negros, hacer cuarto, jale El Taller: An area in the Juárez army barracks said to be a torture chamber used by elite units of 194

soldiers known as Los Mecánicos, Los Químicos, and Los Patrulleros. Literal meaning: The Workshop. Related terms: Águilas Nocturnas, bautizar, calentar, cargado, la chicharra, cobija eléctrica, General Felipe de Jesús Espitia, marionelas, El Merengue, montado, pelotón de la muerte tambo: Jail, prison. Literal meaning: The barrel. Related terms: el bote, El Cherry, El Tribilín


tanda: batch; according to El Oso, a retired drug packager, a tanda of marijuana includes 120 small plastic bags wrapped up in newspaper and sealed with tape. Each bag contains two capfuls (600 ml plastic soda cap) of marijuana. A series of coke balloons is called a tanda de arena (batch of sand), but measurements can vary, since a brick of cocaine is divided into a maximum number of small balloons. Each balloon holds about five lines of cocaine cut with a phone card or credit card. Similarly, piedra (crystal meth) is not packed in precisely measured tandas. It is a bundle of tiny ziplock bags, each one containing a piedra about the size of an average ring gemstone. A group of crack balloons is a tanda de grava (batch of gravel). A tanda of heroin or tanda de morenas (batch of dark-skinned girls) includes one hundred bags, each of which contains a small chunk of chiva (heroin) wrapped in aluminum foil. Literal meaning: Batch or series. Related terms: burritos, globo, huevo, latas, ocho tecatos: Heroin addicts who support their habits by routinely robbing residences when owners are away. Literal meaning: Drug user and thief; a lazy person who has no self-control. Related terms: arponazo, chiva, cookear un speedy, Crisoterapia, enjaulado, grapa, malilla, la mallila, morena, picadero, rata teipeado/teipear: Kidnap, torture, or murder victim whose hands and feet are wrapped with adhesive tape and whose face is fully or partially covered with tape/to wrap a person in adhesive tape in order to restrain them, to suffocate them, or subsequently murder them by another means. Supposedly, the eyes, ears, noses, mouths, and wounds of teipeados are sealed with tape in order to avoid soiling official cars with various fluids. Teipeadote is a superlative of teipeado: totally taped. Literal meaning: Taped one/to tape. Related terms: cinta canela, cobija eléctrica, la chicharra, desaparecido, desaparición forzada, ejecución extrajudicial, levantado, levantar, marionelas, montado, quebrar terapia: torture; used by state police officers in the mid-1990s when they tortured detainees in separos


(euphemism for cells) at their headquarters on Avenida 16 de Septiembre and Calle Oro. Literal meaning: Therapy. Related terms: bautizar, bolsa de plástico, el paciente, trabajar terrorismo de Estado: Systematic human rights violations committed by a government or its governing bodies using the force of a state’s monopoly against civilians in order to spread fear, terror, or confusion; a form of “distraction” that is used to achieve some raison d’état without being subject to scrutiny or public review. Literal meaning: State terrorism. Related terms: estado paralelo, narcoinsurgencia, narcoterrorismo, narcoviolencia, tierra arrasada Teto: Héctor Murguía Lardizábal, twice mayor of Ciudad Juárez (2004–2007 and 2010–2013). In a June 15, 2010, live televised debate, Murguía’s right-wing party rival and Partido Acción Nacional (PAN) candidate, César Jáuregui, accused him of being linked to organized crime, accepting illicit funds, and financing his campaign with drug money. Murguía brought suit, and in January 2012 a judge ruled against Jáuregui. Murguía lost two bids for the governorship of Chihuahua as well as a 2016 attempt to return to office as mayor of Juárez. In his second term, Murguía hired controversial military police chief Lieutenant Colonel Julián Leyzaola, who has been accused of multiple human rights violations. Literal meaning: Common nickname for Héctor. Related terms: General Felipe de Jesús Espitia, José Reyes Feliz, El Merengue, Paty Gaga, Saulo Reyes tiendita: A place where drugs are sold in small quantities, such as a house, an apartment building, a street corner, neighborhood store, taco stand, or any other street vendor with a cart. Literal meaning: Little store. Related terms: aguaje, La Cima, cuadro, diler, narcomaquila, narcomenudeo, picadero, poste, punto, pushador tierra: Light brown heroin from Michoacán; now available in Juárez.


Abecedario de Juárez

Literal meaning: Soil, dirt. their homes and land in Valle de Juárez. In February Related terms: arponazo, cookear un speedy, Cris- 2014 the Mexican Institute of Petroleum presented toterapia, chiva, grapa, malilla, la malilla, morena, evidence of natural gas and shale oil beneath land picadero stretching east of Juárez to Tampico, in the state of Tamaulipas, an area that is also rich in aquifers. tierra arrasada: State-sponsored aggression that Literal meaning: Scorched earth. targets whoever and whatever stands in the way of Related terms: desplazamiento forzado, exiliados, the State’s goals. Mexilios Víctor Quintana, land activist and researcher at Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez (Auton- la tira: The police. omous University of Ciudad Juárez) used this term Literal meaning: Band, zone, fragment. to refer to violence, land grabbing, and property Related terms: los azules, la camper, La Chota, la destruction in Valle de Juárez. He subsequently farola, La Ley, La Placa, policholos became a Chihuahua state official and no longer speaks about these matters. tirando: Selling drugs. Many displaced residents were forced to leave Literal meaning: Throwing, flinging, dispersing. Valle de Juárez without financial compensation. Related terms: aventando, conectar, diler, motero, Those who managed to sell property did so at a movido, puntero, punto, pushador loss. Properties that lay in the paths of planned highways to connect to a new international cross- tirar: To deal drugs; to dump a body into the streets ing at Tornillo-Guadalupe were seized, since real or desert outskirts of the city. estate development would enhance the vicinity Literal meaning: To toss or throw away. of the new international bridge, construction of a Related terms: aventando, aventar, conectar, diler, pipeline, and supporting highways. narcomenudeo, narcomenudista, punto, tirando According to an article by Ignacio Alvarado in Al Jazeera, September 19, 2015, there are other rea- tiro de gracia: Gunshot to the head; the kill shot. sons why residents are allegedly forced to abandon Literal meaning: Mercy shot.


Abecedario de Juárez

Related terms: cerrar, dar cuello, dar piso, rematar, Literal meaning: Rag. Related terms: buitres, butchers, fábrica, hacer carnitumbar tas, narcomaquila tiroteo: Shootout. trasiego de drogas: Term used by media to describe Literal meaning: Gunfire. the transport of drugs within Mexico or across the Related terms: balacera, enfrentamiento, topos US border. topón: Unexpected encounter between rival offi- Literal meaning: Transport of drugs. cers of different law enforcement branches, such Related terms: burra, cargado, cargar, mula, pasador, as traffic police and municipal police; also used to las rutas describe accidental encounters between members trata de personas: Systematic abductions of men, of rival gangs. Literal meaning: An occasion when you bump women, and children who are forced into prostitution or other exploitive for-profit schemes in into someone, a collision. Related terms: ¿Con quién estás puesto?, ¿Cuál es tu the United States and Mexico. Types of forced labor allegedly include begging, construction work, ranfla?, familia domestic servitude, and drug trafficking. A prostitution ring that forced hundreds of topos: Code used by teachers in some schools during the most violent years in Juárez, when shots young undocumented women from Latin America, Asia, and Eastern Europe into sexual servitude were heard, to send pupils to the floor; get down! in the US was uncovered in 2009 in an Associated Literal meaning: Moles. Press article, “Human Trafficking Case Shows DesRelated terms: balacera, tiroteo perate Plight of Immigrant Girls Forced into Prostitution,” posted on October 12, 2009, and updated on toque: Marijuana cigarette. January 12, 2019, by Franco Ordoñez. He wrote Literal meaning: Touch. that the FBI estimates that some eighteen thouRelated terms: calilla, gallo, malilla, pinto sand people are trafficked into the United States for sex or forced labor. About one-fourth are torcido/torcer: One who is arrested/to arrest. Literal meaning: Someone who is wrung out/to taken to the Southeast. According to US federal agents, Jorge Flores Rojas picked up vans holdwring or twist. Related terms: atorado, atorar, La Chota, la farola, ing eight to ten young women each week near Interstate 85 in Charlotte, South Carolina. He La Ley, madrina, orden de tacos, La Placa, trampar smuggled others directly from Latin America. He favored teenagers because he could charge trabajar: To torture. clients $25 to $30 for fifteen minutes with one Literal meaning: To work. Related terms: bautizar, calentar, cobija eléctrica, la of the girls. An undercover agent claimed that chicharra, marionelas, Los Mecánicos, montado, Los these teenagers were forced to have sex with up to a hundred men per week. After pleading guilty Patrulleros, Los Químicos, El Taller, teipeado to sex trafficking in April 2009, Flores began trampar: To be detained, most often by police, or serving a twenty-four-year sentence in a federal prison in South Carolina, after which he will be to be arrested. deported to Mexico. Literal meaning: To trap. In 2004 a staff member at El Centro Hispano, Related terms: atorado, atorar, La Chota, la farola, La in Durham, North Carolina, stated that he knew Ley, madrina, orden de tacos, La Placa, torcer, tumbar that undocumented immigrant women were forced trapo: Individual in charge of cleaning a worksta- into prostitution in his city. Some are coerced into sex work to pay debts to the human traffickers who tion of remnants of drugs or blood.



brought them over the US-Mexico border. They work in houses known as Casas de 30 (men pay $30 per visit). In another instance of suspected human trafficking, Brenda Berenice Castillo, a young mother, disappeared in 2009 at age seventeen when she went to look for work in downtown Juárez. She had no green card or visa láser. On May 18, 2011, she resurfaced in the audience of José Luis sin Censura ( José Luis Uncensored), a Los Angeles TV talk show. After appearing among spectators in an episode titled “Historias calientes de hotel (Hot Hotel Stories),” Berenice Castillo disappeared a second time. In June 2013 Chihuahua authorities identified the remains of Berenice Castillo and gave them to her mother, Bertha García. She doubted that the bones were her daughter’s but buried them as if they were. She explained, “If it’s not my daughter, it is someone else’s daughter.” Literal meaning: Human trafficking. Related terms: albañil, desaparecida, feminicidio

former soldier who served in the Mexican Army in the 1980s, was deployed to a mountainous region in Chihuahua. He claims that he massacred some residents and coerced others to use their land for drug cultivation. Until President Calderón’s administration, this area, and others devoted to drug crops, were the turf of the Mexican Army, which made raids against illegal plantings, regulated the flow of drugs onto highways, and enjoyed the resulting cash. By militarizing Mexico, Calderón expanded the reach and corruption of the army. Literal meaning: Golden triangle. Related terms: chiva, chutameros, morena, mota, sardos, los verdes

triángulo dorado: Mexico’s main cultivation area for marijuana and opium poppies, located in a mountainous region with few roads, which are difficult to travel; includes portions of the states of Chihuahua, Durango, and Sinaloa. El Pizarrón (The Chalkboard), a heavily tattooed

tumbar: To murder; to steal. Literal meaning: To tackle or bring someone to the ground Related terms: atorado, atorar, baleado, balear, La Chota, dar cuello, dar piso, la farola, filerear, filero, La Ley, La Placa, ¿qué barrio?, torcer, trampar

El Tribilín: juvenile detention center or reform school in Juárez. Literal meaning: Escuela de Mejoramiento Social para Menores (School of Social Improvement for Minors) is the official name for this institution, but it is often referred to as Tribunal para Menores (Court for Minors). El Tribilín is the Spanish transa: A deal cut under the table, an illicit deal. name for Walt Disney’s character Goofy, an indiLiteral meaning: A transaction. cation that this is considered to be an institution Related term: mochada for the dim-witted. el trenzudo: Historical term for the train that Jua- Related terms: el bote, El Cherry, tambo, torcer, renses, mostly men, boarded at Puente Negro and torcido rode illegally into the US. Literal meaning: The braid, a reference to the trueno: A 9mm pistol or an automatic weapon, two black bridges draped across Rio Bravo (Rio used by the Mexican military. Literal meaning: Thunder. Grande); from tren, the Spanish word for train. Related terms: coyote, mojado, pollero, pollo, Puente Related terms: cuerno de chivo, ensillado, f ierro, FX-05, El M, matraca, montado, El R, Xiuhcóatl, XK Negro, visa láser

uñazo: Fingernail blow of cocaine. unidad: Police car; more recently, this is a term for Literal meaning: Uña is fingernail; -azo is a suffix any car. to denote something quick and unexpected. Literal meaning: Unit. Related terms: candy, chispazo, cookear un speedy, Related terms: la camper, la farola línea, lineazo, narizazo, nieve, ocho, pericazo, perico 200

varo: An amount of money; pesos. Related terms: crimen uniformado, El Merengue, Literal meaning: Peso; trade goods, wares, sardos, triángulo dorado merchandise. Related terms: jando, wato violado: A victim of rape; allegedly the Mexican Army, federal police, and municipal police rape men verde: Marijuana. and women, and not infrequently violate them with Literal meaning: Green. pipes, rifle barrels, broomsticks, and other objects. Related terms: blanca, cola de zorrillo, gallo, ladrillo, According to feminist activist Cecilia Espinoza, mota rape is a routine form of torture for women detainees in Juárez. If a woman is identified as a lesbian, los verdes: Soldiers. she is more often targeted for assault. Literal meaning: The green ones. Literal meaning: Broken, violated. 201


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Related terms: bautizar, calentar, feminicidio, marionelas, trabajar, violín violín: Rapist, used most often to describe a poor, uneducated individual. Literal meaning: Violin. Related terms: bautizar, calentar, feminicidio, marionelas, trabajar, violado violentour: A guided tour given by a local ( Juarense) to point out relevant locations of past violent events in the city, including Lote Bravo, Lomas El Poleo, Anapra, Campo Algodonero, cerro del Cristo Negro, rancho la Campana, House of Death, Valle de Juárez, Riberas del Bravo, Max-Fim Restaurant, and Gerónimos Bar. These locations are listed with the names they bore at the time of the violent event. Some have since changed ownership and names. Literal meaning: A merger of the words “violence” and “tour.” Related terms: feminicidio, House of Death, rancho la Campana

wato: A lot; used to describe large quantities of anything, including drugs and money.

visa láser: Border Crossing Card or laser visa; a card issued by the US State Department to people living near the border who are citizens of and residents of Mexico. It is used in lieu of a passport for crossing from Mexico to the US. Visa lásers are frequently stolen by Juárez municipal police and others for illicit crossings. In early November 2019, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) installed cameras in pedestrian lanes of international bridges. Equipped with facial recognition software, these cameras take photos of travelers and compare them with photos on green cards, visa lásers, or passports stored in the government’s database. In seconds an agent can identify a mismatch, with more than 97 percent accuracy. Literal meaning: Laser visa. Related terms: La Chota, coyote, enjaulado, housejacking, La Ley, mojado, La Placa, policholos, pollero, pollo

Literal meaning: Same. Related terms: cueros de rana, jando, varo

The following historical state police radio codes were once well known to journalists who had access to police radio transmissions in order to cover the crime beat. For example, “Acérquese al X-6 Francisco Villa y Mejía, hay X-39 por XK, X-32,” translates as, “Go to Francisco Villa y Mejía: There is a

corpse [killed] by firearm, a man.” Journalists currently use WhatsApp to receive information, including images from municipal police, state police, forensics personnel, funeral home employees, and anyone else with a phone at a crime scene. 203


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XK: Firearm. Related terms: cohete, fusca, matraca, trueno

Xiuhcóatl: Shortened version of Fusil Xiuhcóatl (FX-05), the official automatic assault weapon of Mexico’s military, designed and manufactured in X-6: Location, often a street intersection. Mexico by the Mexican Army; presented to the Mexican people on September 16, 2006, in the X-32: Man. Independence Parade in Mexico City. Literal meaning: In Nahuatl this term refers to the X-33: Woman. fire deity, represented by an incense burner used in ceremonies. It is also regarded as the blade of fire X-35: Armed assault on a business. that was used by the infant Mexica supreme god, Huitzilopochtli, to decapitate his sister, CoyolxRelated term: asaltabanco auhqui, and his four hundred brothers. X-39: Discovery of a corpse. Related terms: cuerno de chivo, ensillado, FX-05, El Related terms: acartonado, achicharrado, calcinado, M, matraca, montado, El R colgado, encobijado, ejecutado, ejecutivo, embolsado, entambado, quemado

yonke: Junkyard. According to statistics provided by the US consulate in Ciudad Juárez in an October 1, 2008, US diplomatic cable, [08CIUDADJUAREZ980], there had been 16,929 car thefts in 2008 in the Juárez area as of October 1.134 Many stolen cars are bought by junkyards and sold for parts. Others are sold to Ecorec, a recycling company owned by the Fuentes family, among the wealthiest families in the city. On March 29,

2011, a sting conducted by federal and state police found nine cars on Ecorec property that had been reported stolen. Literal meaning: Spanglish term for old junk; junkyard. Related terms: carjacker, deshuesadero, Yonkeros Unidos Yonkeros Unidos: A group rumored to be engaged in vigilantism that allegedly signed a narcomanta 205


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and took credit for the execution of seven men on November 25, 2008. According to relatives of one of the victims, the seven men were killed by federal police agents. During the years of President Felipe Calderón’s military incursion in Juárez, the alleged involvement of Yonkeros Unidos was not released to the public; a US diplomatic cable [09CIUDADJUAREZ22] sent on January 23, 2009, signed by Consul Raymond McGrath mentions accusations against Yonkeros Unidos but casts doubt on their purported vigilante activities.135 Literal meaning: United Junkyard Owners of Juárez. Related terms: Comando Ciudadano por Juárez, Empresarios Unidos: El escuadrón de la muerte, La Gente Nueva, limpieza social, paramilitares, quitapuercos

Mexican military, and police to disseminate propaganda. These presentations include videos and still photos of people being interrogated, tortured, and murdered. Literal meaning: US-based online video-sharing platform. Related terms: Comando Ciudadano por Juárez, Empresarios Unidos: el escuadrón de la muerte, narcocorridos, narcomantas, Paty Gaga, PM, La Polaka

yunque y martillo: The “anvil” arrests a target, the “hammer” hits it. According to Mexican general Francisco Gallardo, yunque y martillo is a strategy used in a war against guerrillas. This consists of a military unit (the anvil) arresting targets and delivering them to another unit (the hammer), which hits (interrogates, incarcerates, tortures, or kills) the target.136 Literal meaning: Anvil and hammer. YouTube: Means of communication used by Mexi- Related terms: el cuestionario de la muerte, Directiva can media and criminal organizations such as Blog para el Combate al Narcotráfico, la limpia, la poda del Narco, alleged vigilante organizations, the

Los Zetas: A crime synicate considered by the US government to be the most technologically advanced, sophisticated, and dangerous organization in Mexico. In the mid-1990s, fourteen Mexican Army officers and soldiers deserted after studying

counterinsurgency training tactics at the School of the Americas. In 1997 Arturo Guzmán Decena (1976-2002) was the first of these trainees to desert from a branch of the Mexican Army’s elite forces. These fourteen defectors served as mercenaries in Tamaulipas for Osiel Cárdenas Guillén, head of 207


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the Gulf Cartel. They became known as El Grupo de los 14 or Zetas de Primera Generación. When Cárdenas Guillén was extradited in 2007 and sentenced in 2010 to twenty-five years in prison, Los Zetas split from the Gulf Cartel and became a rival. Los Zetas’ main operations are in Tamaulipas, just as La Línea’s main operations are in Chihuahua. Literal meaning: The Zs, plural form of the letter

Z; the last letter of the alphabet. The name Los Zetas allegedly originates with azul zeta (deep cobalt blue), the official uniform color for officers and elite units in the Mexican Army; Z-1, Guzmán Decena’s radio code while in the military, was also his alias as a Zeta and may be an additional source for the name of the organization. Related terms: La Letra, La Línea, narcoinsurgencia


agua mineral con chile pequín: Torture method; pequin chili powder is added to a bottle of mineral water, shaken, and spurted into the nostrils of a detainee to enhance an interrogation; in central Mexico this torture method is called tehuacanazo, after the Tehuacan brand of mineral water. Literal meaning: Mineral water with pequin chile powder; this chile is often five to eight times hotter than jalapeños. Related terms: bautizar, la chicharra, cobija eléctrica ¿Con quién estás puesto?: Who are you working for? Literal meaning: Who are you with? Related terms: AA, Los Aztecas, La Chota, ¿Cuál es tu ranfla?, Doblados, Doble A, enrranflado, familia, ganga, hermanos, Los Indios, Los Mexicles, La Placa, prospecto, topón ¿Cuál es tu ranfla?: Which organization are you with? Question asked when two people from different familias meet unexpectedly or by police to someone they have detained. Literal meaning: Which car are you riding in? Related terms: AA, Los Aztecas, La Chota, ¿Con quién estás puesto?, Doblados, Doble A, enrranflado, familia, ganga, hermanos, Los Indios, Los Mexicles, La Placa, prospecto, topón los de mi banda lo tumban: My crew kills him. According to a hit man, members of criminal bands apply to join the state police in order to collect information about other criminal groups. When it becomes apparent that another police agent belongs to a different criminal group, their death is usually arranged.

Literal meaning: Members of my band knock him down. Related terms: borrar, dar cuello, dar piso, ejecutar, quebrar, tumbar luz verde para accionar: Permission to kill; clearance to act without a superior’s approval or authorization. A Oaxacan soldier explains: “Luz verde para accionar” means that [your superiors] give you license to do whatever you want. There is no need to ask for permission or authorization. For example, army trucks usually stay together (in a convoy); with “luz verde,” individual trucks leave the convoy. If suspects are spotted, they can be searched and shot before they have a chance to shoot [first], because armed men are a danger to the soldiers.137

Literal meaning: Green light to operate. Related terms: abatir, Águilas Nocturnas, cuestionario de la muerte, Directiva para Combatir el Narcotráfico, Operativo Conjunto Chihuahua, operativos ciegos, operativos negros, pelotón de la muerte, personal calificado, personal de limpieza, sembrar no te acerques, va a haber baile: When a planned execution is imminent, the radio dispatcher for the municipal police broadcasts this phrase to direct officers to move away from the kill site. Literal meaning: Stay away, there will be dancing. Related terms: abrir, pónganse la sotana, ponlo de pecho, va a haber party



Abecedario de Juárez

el poder del cruce, el poder de la pasada: The power to forge an agreement through an intermediary with US customs agents. Such an arrangement allows the passage of drugs through US ports of entry in exchange for a sum of money, usually paid according to weight. According to a retired drug trafficker, he paid $50 per pound in the early 1980s, but this fee would be substantially more today. An individual who has a contact within US customs also acts as a subcontractor between other drug traffickers and customs officers. These transactions are made through intermediaries, so the drug trafficker who enjoys el poder del cruce or poder de la pasada does not know the identities of those who are using his services and does not want to know. Literal meaning: The power of crossing or the power of passage. Related terms: batear, blanca, chapulín, mariguanero, motero, verde el poder de moverla por las carreteras: The ability to distribute drugs throughout the US. According to a retired drug trafficker, a customer who enjoys this ability can get merchandise delivered to El Paso for a bargain price. Literal meaning: The power to move (drugs) on the highways. Related terms: bataer, el poder del cruce, el poder de la pasada ¡se cayó un jale!: A load collapsed!; used when US law enforcement intercepts and seizes a drug shipment. Literal meaning: A “pull” fell. Related terms: fábrica, ladrillo, pasador, subir el carro, subir la droga

se te baja el avión: Colloquial expression for the point when the effect of drugs wears off. Literal meaning: You fall out of the sky, you crash, your flight is over, you get off the plane. Related terms: aturrado, aturrodote, loquear, pacheco sentarse en el dinero/sentarse en la droga: Terms reportedly used by traffickers when US law enforcement officers don’t open a case against a person who is transporting drugs or money or report only a fraction of the funds or merchandise as evidence (in order to pocket the merchandise or proceeds). Literal meaning: To sit on the drugs, to sit on the money. Related terms: subir el carro, subir la droga, mariguanero, motero subir el carro/subir la droga: To drive a car loaded with drugs north beyond El Paso. Usually a carload is driven over the bridge, then delivered to a drop-off site. The product is subsequently moved to other US cities, usually changing drivers and cars. Literal meaning: To move the car north/to move the drugs north. Related terms: blanca, fábrica, ladrillo, sentarse en el dinero, sentarse en la droga, verde va a haber party: Someone will be killed today; word-of-mouth warning used by inmates in El Cherry to inform one another when someone’s death is imminent. Literal meaning: There is going to be a party. Related terms: abrir, el bote, El Cherry, no te acerques, va a haber baile, tambo ¡Ya se armo el payaso!: The plan is on!; the trap is set!; the circus is about to begin!; preparations are


completed and the timing is right to take advantage of an “opportunity,” generally an illegal one, such as kidnapping and breaking and entering to commit robbery. A Juárez hotel worker overheard this expression while working in a hotel that housed federal police agents. She saw officers bring levantados into the building and spotted police trucks loaded with property that appeared to be harvested from homes and businesses. Since the offenders were federal police agents who promptly paid their bills, the hotel manager did not interfere. Throughout Felipe Calderón’s military occupation of Juárez, hotel occupancy fell sharply.


Establishments that provided lodging for thousands of federal police agents remained solvent. During a September 2011 federal investigation of hotels María Bonita, Paraíso, Playa, and El Colonial, a levantado was found severely beaten, gagged, and bound. Ten federal police officers were arrested and charged with organized crime, including robbery, kidnapping, and extortion. In November authorities found a levantada in hotel Puesta del Sol, and federal police officers proved to be extortionists, as well as kidnappers in this case. Literal meaning: The clown is armed! Related terms: cantonazo, congelarse, los feos, levantado, levantar



would like to thank the following individuals for their friendship and valuable contributions: Liliana Chaparro, for transcribing many hours of audio interviews; Alice Driver, for translations of Spanish texts; and Gracia Chávez, for contributions to the text. I am also grateful to Mónica Blumen for bringing fresh air into my life; Mónica Carrillo for keeping me high on caffeine; Érika Harrsch for her patience and support, Juanita Sundberg, associate professor at the University of British Columbia, for believing in this project even at its early stage. Thank you also to the Lannan Foundation for the support they have provided throughout my career; to those who, in a time of mortal risk, shared their testimonies; and to my friend Charles Bowden, whom I deeply miss. I give special thanks to those I embraced as my own children: goddaughters Adriana Bretado and Selene Flores, and cousin Ozzie Carrillo. I am forever grateful for your love.

—Julián Cardona



n 2010 my husband, pe ter s. briggs, opened the floodgates by suggesting that a glossary of Juárez slang would be a meaningful companion to Abecedario de Juárez, my thirty-two-panel drawing of the Spanish alphabet. He also edited, inspired me to begin an intensive study of Spanish, and provided immeasurable insights and support. Thank you to Dave Hamrick and Casey Kittrell at the University of Texas Press. Dave let us in the back door, and the unusual structure of our book is to Casey’s credit: an illustrated glossary that explodes into narrative, then shrinks into a landscape of definitions until the next blast hits. Tulsa Artist Fellowship supported my living expenses and provided studio space where I completed many of the drawings, as well as thousands of hours on Skype throughout 2016 while Julián and I constructed much of the glossary and rewrote the supporting narratives based on his interviews. The Tia Collection and the curator of the Collection, Laura Finlay Smith, have provided extraordinary support for my work, including permission to reproduce images and the purchase of Abecedario de Juárez, the work that inspired this book. Kathrine Erickson and Elan Varshay of Evoke Contemporary have supported my work over many years through their gallery and as enthusiastic friends. Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies recognized and encouraged our efforts with an honorable mention for the 2015 Dorothea Lange-Paul Taylor Prize. Kelly Leslie, designer of Dreamland: The Way Out of Juárez, created beautiful layouts that accompanied my proposal to Duke University. Jo Harvey Allen, José Luis Benavides, Scott Carrier, Don Henry Ford, and Molly Molloy read


and provided valuable feedback about the stories. Thank you also to Molloy for her research assistance. I would also like to extend my gratitude to two very smart, patient, and kind editors, Lynne Ferguson and Lisa Williams, and to sharp-eyed proofreader Jennifer Manley Rogers. Designer Cassandra Cisneros rendered an unconventional manuscript into beautiful pages that allow readers some respite from the pain they hold. Thank you so much to everyone at University of Texas Press who has contributed to the publication of this book. Jane Abrams, Joe Arredondo, Cordelia Blanchard,


Peter S. Briggs, Mike Brimberry, Virginia Brown, Alberto Careaga, Aaron Karp, Albert Kogel, Jake Margolin, Tracy Mayrello, Adam Redd, Jacob Salazar, Nick Vaughn, Elizabeth Wagner, Matthew Wagner, and of course Julián modeled for drawings. Gracias. A special thanks to Chuck Bowden, who introduced me in 2007 to Juárez, and to Julián Cardona, one of the city’s keenest observers. I wish they could both be here to enjoy the result of so many years of love and labor.

—Alice Leora Briggs


1. Mary Beth Sheridan, “Mientras la seguridad en México se deteriora, el poder de las fuerzas militares crece,” Washington Post, December 17, 2020, https://www.washington post.com/graphics/2020/world/mexico-losing-control/ mexico-fuerzas-armadas-seguridad-narcotrafico/. 2. Maureen Meyer, “One Year after National Guard’s Creation, Mexico Is Far from Demilitarizing Public Security,” May 26, 2020, WOLA, Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas, https://www.wola.org/analysis /one-year-national-guard-mexico/. 3. Cardona and Briggs are explicit that their study is concerned with Juárez slang and the violent context associated with it during the Calderón administration’s militarized “war on drug cartels.” However, they are clear about the fact that comparable violence and linguistic constructions have developed in other times and places. Moreover, the criminal slang they describe is found in other parts of Mexico and the borderlands and some of it, or related etymological constructions, precedes the 2006 to 2012 period they studied. Ramon Adame, Tecatology: A Treatment Perspective concerning the Chicano Tecato (El Paso, TX: Tierra del Sol, 1975); Lurline Coltharp, The Tongue of the Tirilones: A Linguistic Study of a Criminal Argot (Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1965). 4. Cardona describes his relationship with Bowden as an organic, reciprocal, orchestrated symphony, a perfect relationship between photographer and writer. The books they produced were a product of their conversations and long, intense friendship. 5. One might even suggest that Cardona deserved to be a coauthor of several of the Bowden books because of his extensive contributions to them, particularly Juárez: The Laboratory of Our Future and Exodus/Éxodo. 6. Bowden’s books and magazine articles have also been the subject of considerable debate and controversy, much too complex to summarize here. As a result of his gripping, iconoclastic writing, Bowden’s work, a kind of Nietzschean Fear and Loathing in Juárez, garnered a cult following but angered some more literal, empirically obsessed or politically


minded academics. These academics branded Bowden’s writings as chauvinistic orientalism or as imperialistic or as sexist misogyny of the very worst kind (for a thorough treatment of these critiques, see Willivaldo Delgadillo, Fabular Juárez: Marcos de guerra, memoria y los foros por venir [Ciudad Juárez: Brown Buffalo Press, 2020]). In dozens of journal articles, doctoral theses, and essays, feminist, leftist, and nativist intellectuals and academics all lambasted Bowden for his bloody and sexualized descriptions of the border city (see Delgadillo, Fabular Juárez). Despite the harshness of many of these critiques, it can be reasonably argued that Bowden, far more than any other journalist, writer, or social scientist, made the outside world aware of the catastrophe unfolding in Juárez: the serial killings of women, mass casualties of the Mexican drug war, and the extreme social deprivation and suffering aggravated by the neoliberal economic development model and the “twin plant” maquiladora industry, as well as by cruel US immigration policies. Memorably, Bowden also coined the expression that what was happening in Mexico was not a “war on drugs” but a “war for drugs.” 7. The original idea for a dictionary of Juárez slang related to crime and violence came from Peter Briggs, spouse of Alice Leora Briggs, after he viewed the drawings that became her polyptych Abecedario de Juárez (by Alice Leora Briggs). In relation to the Abecedario’s dark theme, Briggs notes that that the nexus of art and death is not new. However, her intention in this work is to ask questions, to interrogate tragedy, injustice, and death in Juárez, rather than to make statements about what people already know about the city. Though less openly provocative than the drug-death-focused Mexican avant-garde conceptual artist Teresa Margolles, who uses blood and other evidence from murder scenes in her art—Briggs also forces viewers of the art to come face-to-face with the reality of suffering and violent death. 8. According to Briggs: “Sgraffito, from the Italian word sgraffiare (to scratch), is a manière noire (black manner) drawing technique that employs a clay ground. Each inscribed mark creates a light within a dark field. Its development is

Notes to Pages 12–65 still debated among scholars, but appears to originate from sources dating to antiquity, including patterns inscribed into ceramics layered with contrasting colors of slip or glaze, and decorations carved into walls layered with contrasting colors of plaster. In the late 1800s, with the advent of photomechanical reproduction, sgraffiti drawings migrated onto paperboard backings, often supplanting wood and metal engravings in books and newspapers. Sgraffiti drawings with paper supports, known as scraperboard or scratchboard, have been created by Leopoldo Méndez and many other accomplished engravers. I create sgraffiti drawings on wood panels reinforced with cradles and cross-braces. Although these supports are more cumbersome, their strength and rigidity allow me to create much larger drawings. Panels are initially sealed with acrylic or rabbit skin glue, layered with kaolin clay and an acrylic binder, then airbrushed with India ink. I cut and scrape through the black ink and into the white clay with X-Acto knives, scalpels, steel wool, sandpaper, fiberglass brushes designed to clean electronics, and other tools that abrade the surface.” 9. Calderón is mocked again under the listing “Fecal,” a scatological foreshortening of the president’s name. 10. Claudio Lomnitz, Death and the Idea of Mexico (New York: Zone Books, 2005). 11. Michael Taussig, “Culture of Terror—Space of Death: Roger Casement’s Putumayo Report and the Explanation of Torture,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 26, no. 3 (1984): 467–468. 12. This example is taken from my own fieldwork in Juárez. 13. See Briggs’s imagining of the bound jumbled legs of murder victims above encobijado. 14. José Antonio Román, “‘Abatir a delincuentes en horas de oscuridad’: Orden en Tlatlaya,” La Jornada, July 2, 2015, https://www.jornada.com.mx/2015/07/03/politica/005n1pol. 15. Carlos Huerta, “Se pasaron los militares con tortura y lo mataron,” Norte, January 21, 2016, https://nortedigital. mx/se-pasaron/. 16. Carlos Huerta, “Sentencian a coronel homicida,” Norte, January 20, 2016, https://issuu.com/nortedigital.mx /docs/edicion_ene_20. 17. Adriana Reyes, “Colgado y decapitado,” PM, pp. 1 and 3, Thursday, November 6, 2008; Armando Rodríguez, “Cuelgan en el puente al revés cuerpo de hombre decapitado,” El Diario de Juárez, Sec. A, p. 7, November 7, 2008. 18. Armando Rodríguez, “Colgado en puente murió estrangulado,” El Diario de Juárez, Sec. B, p. 10, November 8, 2008. 19. Garduño Fierro Bros and de la O refer to three members of the Chihuahua State Judicial Police who, according to an indictment, worked for cártel de Sinaloa: Sergio


Garduño-Escobedo (a.k.a. Coma), Jesús Rodrigo Fierro Ramírez (a.k.a. Huichi), and Mario de la O López (a.k.a. Flaco). The Fucking Mayitos refer to the sons of Ismael Zambada García, collectively called El Mayo. They were purportedly being groomed as the next generation’s managers of cártel de Sinaloa. See US Department of Justice, US Attorney’s Office, Western District of Texas [press release], April 24, 2012, “Western District of Texas Federal Grand Jury Indicts Sinaloa Cartel Leaders ‘El Chapo’ Guzman, ‘Mayo’ Zambada and 22 Other High Ranking Sinaloa Cartel Members,” https://www.justice.gov/archive/usao/txw/news/2012 /Sinaloa%20cartel%20EP%20indictment%20release.pdf. 20. See Robin Emmott and Julián Cardona, “‘I Killed, Cut off Heads,’ Says Repentant Mexico Hitman,” Reuters, June 18, 2010, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mexico -drugs-hitman-idCATRE65H3YG20100618; and Mica Rosenberg and Julián Cardona, “Special Report: Federal Forces Sully Mexico’s War on Drugs,” Reuters, December 27, 2011, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mexico -ciudadjuarez-violence/special-report-federal-forces-sully -mexicos-war-on-drugs-idUSTRE7BQ0BN20111227. 21. Wikileaks, US Cable, Canonical ID: 09CIUDAD JUAREZ22_a, January 23, 2009, accessed February 15, 2021, https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/09CIUDAD​JUAREZ​ 22_a.html. 22. Ivan E. Saldaña, “Hay 61 mil 637 desaparecidos; suman 5 mil 184 casos en lo que va del sexenio,” Excelsior, accessed February 15, 2021, https://m.excelsior.com.mx /nacional/hay-61-mil-637-desaparecidos-suman-5-mil-184 -casos-en-lo-que-va-del-sexenio/1356602. 23. Julián Cardona, “Mexican Teens Turn to Kidnapping in Drug War City,” Reuters, June 2, 2011, https: //www.reuters.com/article/us-mexico-drugs-juarez /mexican-teens-turn-to-kidnapping-in-drug-war-city -idUSTRE7513J820110602. 24. Carlos Huerta, “Usaban grupo de élite para desaparecer y matar civiles,” Norte, May 7, 2015, https://nortedigital.mx/ usaban-grupo-de-elite-para-desaparecer-y-matar-civiles/. 25. Luis Horacio Nájera, “Why I Went into Exile,” www .cpj.org, September 2010. 26. “Amenazan con cerrar,” PM, p. 10, October 12, 2009. 27. Yuri Herrera, “Diana Hunter of Bus Drivers,” This American Life, October 2013, accessed February 7, 2021, https: //www.thisamericanlife.org/diana-hunter-of-bus-drivers); “Policia de Chihuahua va por ‘Diana la cazadora de chofres,’” Proceso, September 3, 2013, https://www.proceso.com .mx/351805/policia-de-chihuahua-a-la-caza-de-diana-la -cazadora-de-choferes. 28. “Revelan ‘guía’ de la guerra de Calderón,” El Diario de Juárez, July 12, 2014, https://diario.mx/Nacional/2014 -07-12_64f366c8/revelan-guia-de-la-guerra-de-calderon/.


Notes to Pages 67–110

29. Claudia Herrera and Ernesto Martínez, “Vestido de militar, Calderón rinde ‘tributo’ a las fuerzas armadas,” La Jornada, January 4, 2007, https://www.jornada.com.mx /2007/01/04/index.php?section=politica&article=003n1pol. 30. Jorge Carrasco Araizaga, “Ejército mexicano: El ‘cuestionario’ de la muerte,” Proceso, February 11, 2017, https: //www.proceso.com.mx/reportajes/2017/2/11/ejercito -mexicano-el-cuestionario-de-la-muerte-178808.html. 31. “Levantan y torturan supuestos militares a 2; sólo 1 sobrevive,” El Diario de Juárez, Sec. A, p. 1, April 11, 2009. 32. Sandra Rodríguez Nieto, “Fueron asesinados en 2008 al menos 460 hombres menores de 25 años,” El Diario de Juárez, p. 5, Sec. A, January 26, 2009. 33. Jorge Carrasco Araizaga, “Las rémoras del Operativo Chihuahua,” Proceso, January 15, 2013, https://www.proceso .com.mx/reportajes/2013/1/15/las-remoras-del-operativo -chihuahua-113144.html. 34. Jorge Carrasco Araizaga, “Salpica a Calderón y ex titular de Sedena caso de ‘pelotón militar de la muerte’ de Ojinaga,” El Diario de Juárez, November 16, 2013, https: //diario.mx/Nacional/2013-11-16_c6097d92/salpica-a -calderon-y-ex-titular-de-sedena-caso-de-peloton-militar -de-la-muerte-de-ojinaga. 35. Juan Veledíaz, “Calderón y Galván en la mira de la CIDH,” EstadoMayor.mx, Blog de información militar y seguridad nacional, February 8, 2016, accessed February 7, 2021, https://www.estadomayor.mx/60966 36. Wikileaks, US Cable, Canonical ID: 09MEXICO748 _a, March 13, 2009, https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables /09MEXICO748_a.html. 37. Sandra Rodríguez Nieto, “Decomisos y detenciones en primera semana de Operación,” El Diario de Juárez, Sec. A, p. 3, April 6, 2008. 38. See Martha Elba Figueroa, “Recibe CNDH 11 quejas vs Ejército,” El Diario de Juárez, Sec. A, p. 4, April 4, 2008; Armando Rodríguez, “Registran 10 quejas contra el Ejército,” El Diario de Juárez, Sec. A, p. 3, April 8, 2008. 39. Raymundo Riva Palacio, “Crimen en 43 segundos,” Informador, September 21, 2012, https://www.informador.mx /Ideas/Crimen-en-43-segundos-20120921-0216.html. 40. Patrick Radden Keefe, “Cocaine Incorporated,” New York Times, June 15, 2012, https://www.nytimes .com/2012/06/17/magazine/how-a-mexican-drug-cartel -makes-its-billions.html?ref=magazine; Verónica Calderón and David Marcial Pérez, “El Chapo, Sociedad Ilimitada,” El País, July 27, 2015, https://elpais.com/internacional /2015/07/23/actualidad/1437615277_107126.html. 41. “Recibía ‘El Diego’ apoyo de policías de Chihuahua,” Proceso, August 2, 2011, https://www.proceso.com.mx /nacional/2011/8/2/recibia-el-diego-apoyo-de-policias-de -chihuahua-90261.html

42. This description of cell structure dynamics within Mexican police forces and their subordination to government corruption is derived from an interview that Julián Cardon conducted with a former State of Chihuahua judicial police agent. The database that this agent refers to is Kardex Policial. See “Se suma policía municipal de Zinacantepec al Kardex Policial nacional,” MVT Agencia de Noticias, March 13, 2018, https://mvt.com.mx/se-suma-policia -municipal-de-zinacantepec-al-kardex-policial-nacional/. 43. Jesse Franzblau, “Why Is the US Still Spending Billions to Fund Mexico’s Corrupt Drug War?,” The Nation, February 27, 2015, https://www.thenation.com/article /archive/us-connection-mexicos-drug-war-corruption/. 44. “EU condena ‘energicamente’ ataques contra filial Pepsico en México,” Unomásuno, p. 38, May 13, 2010, https:// issuu.com/unomasuno/docs/31may2012. 45. Begoña Urquidi, “Las funerarias, el negocio más rentable de Ciudad Juárez,” El Mundo, February 15, 2010 (updated), https://www.elmundo.es/america/2010/02/13 /mexico/1266082293.html 46. The message next to the victim, thirty-three-year-old David Serpa Dueñas, states, “This will happen to all Los Aztecas who support the pigs,” and was signed by El Chapo. See Armando Rodríguez, “Lo ejecutan y lo dejan colgado,” El Diario de Juárez, p. 10, Sec. A, November 7, 2008. 47. United States Department of Justice, the United States Attorney’s Office, Eastern District of New York, “Former Mexican Secretary of Public Security Security Genaro Garcia Luna Charged with Engaging in a Continuing Criminal Enterprise” (press release), July 30, 2021, accessed August 17, 2021, https://www​.justice​.gov​/usao​-edny​/pr​ /former​-mexican​-secretary​-public​-security​-genaro​-garcia​ -luna​-charged​-engaging-continuing. 48. “Former Mexican Secretary of Public Security Arrested for Drug-Trafficking Conspiracy and Making False Statements” (press release). 49. See “FX-05 Xiuhcoatl,” https://en.wikipedia.org /wiki/FX-05 Xiuhcoatl, accessed March 20, 2021 50. Daniel Borunda, “16 Killed; 7 Bodies Found Near School Field,” El Paso Times, November 25, 2008, http:// eliotshapleigh.com/news/2780-16-killed-7-bodies-found -Near-school-field. 51. Gary “Rusty” Fleming, Drug Wars: Narco Warfare in the 21st Century (Charleston, SC: BookSurge, 2008); and Drug Wars: Silver or Lead, directed by Gary “Rusty” Fleming (2008, Renavatio Productions). 52. Martín Orquiz, “‘Secreto a voces,’ la operación illegal de Grupo Jaguares de la Policía,”El Diario de Juárez,January 9,2014, https://diario.mx/Local/2014-01-09_2c89835d/secreto-a -voces-la-operacion-ilegal-de-grupo-jaguares-de-la-policia/. 53. For more information, refer to Bill Conroy, “The

Notes to Pages 110–153 House of Death,” Narco News Bulletin, April 22, 2004, http://www.narconews.com/Issue33/article962.html; and Charles Bowden and Alice Leora Briggs, Dreamland: The Way Out of Juarez (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2010). 54. Catherine Bremer, “Special Report: Mexico’s Growing Legion of Narco Orphans,” Reuters, October 6, 2010, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-mexico-drugs-orphans /special-report-mexicos-growing-legion-of-narco-orphans -idUSTRE6952YW20101006. 55. Julián Cardona, “Violence-Plagued Mexico Sees Hope in U.S. Border Plan,” Reuters, March 25, 2009, https://www.reuters.com/article/instant-article /idUKN2437974720090325. 56. Daniel Blancas Madrigal, “300 mil empleos perdió Ciudad Juárez en 2 años,” Crónica, February 11, 2010, http: //www.cronica.com.mx/notas/2010/487277.html. 57. For more information about paramilitary groups in Mexico, see Ignacio Alvarado Álvarez, “Ven ‘limpia social,’ no narcoguerra,” El Universal, October 18, 2010, https: //archivo.eluniversal.com.mx/primera/35709.html. 58. Molly Molloy, “Massacre at CIAD #8 in Juárez,” Narco News Bulletin, August 18, 2008, https://narconews .com/Issue54/article3181.html. 59. Alejandro Quintero, “Asesina comando a 9,” El Diario de Juárez, August 14, 2008. 60. See Cyntia Barrera, “Mexico Nabs Suspected Killer of 17 Rehab Patients,” Reuters, September 5, 2009, https: //www.reuters.com/article/idUSN05202449; and Rubén Villalpando, Miroslava Breach, and Gustavo Castillo, “Complices de El Chapo, cinco implicados en masacre de adictos en Juárez: Sedena,” La Jornada, September 26, 2009, https: //www.jornada.com.mx/2009/09/26/politica/007n1pol. 61. “Just Minimizing Risk? Mexico’s 12 Rehab Center Massacres,” Emerging Century, January 5, 2015, https://emerging century.wordpress.com//?s=just+minimizing+risk. 62. Nicholas Casey, “Pair Convicted of Drug Trafficking in Mexico,” Wall Street Journal, September 3, 2010, https: //www.wsj.com/articles/SB100014240527487034316045754 67981224447708. 63. Juan Mora-Torres,“Paulino Vargas: Chronicler of the U.S.-Mexican Borderlands,” El BeiSMan, accessed February 17, 2021, www.elbeisman.com/revista/post/paulino -vargas-chronicler-of-the-u-s-mexican-borderlands. 64. George W. Grayson, The Impact of President Felipe Calderón’s War on Drugs on the Armed Forces: The Prospects for Mexico’s “Militarization” and Bilateral Relations (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, 2013), http://www.jstor.org/stable/resrep11780. 65. Patricia Ravelo Blancas and Héctor Domínguez Rubalcaba, “Ciudad Juárez: Asedios a la ciudadanía y cancelación


de la vida urbana,”El Cotidiano, no. 164 (November–December 2010): 5–10. 66. Joaquín Villalobos, “Doce mitos de la guerra contra el narco,” Nexos, January 1, 2010, https://www.nexos.com .mx/?p=13461. 67. Charlie Rose, “President Felipe Calderón,” 05/10/11, accessed February 7, 2021, https://charlierose.com/videos /19789. 68. See Manuel Aguirre Botello, “Mexico tasa de homicidos por 100 mil habitantes desde 1931 a 2015,” Mexico Maxico, accessed Februry 7, 2021, http://www.mexicomaxico .org/Voto/Homicidios100M.htm; and “Le advertí a Calderón que no metas al Ejército en esta guerra: Vicente Fox,” Excelsior, November 15, 2012, https://www.excelsior .com.mx/2012/11/15/nacional/869800. 69. Víctor Ballinas and Andrea Becerril, “Aumentaron 500% los casos de tortura con Calderón: CNDH,” La Jornada, November 22, 2012, htpps:/www.jornada.com .mx/2012/11/22/politica/002nlpol. 70. “Sexenio de Calderón, ‘marcado por la violencia y las cifras de muerte’: Centro Pro,” Aristegui Noticias, February 7, 2013, https://aristeguinoticias.com/0702/mexico/sexenio-de -calderon-marcado-por-la-violencia-y-las-cifras-de-muerte -centro-pro/. 71. See Eric A. Witte, Undeniable Atrocities: Confronting Crimes against Humanity in Mexico (New York: Open Society Foundation, 2016), https://www.­justice​initiative​ .org​/publications​/undeniable​-atrocities​-confronting-crimes​ -against-humanity-mexico; and Claudia Altamirano, “Open Society: ‘La guerra contra el narco en México es un crimen de lesa humanidad,’” El País, June 7, 2016, https://elpais​.com​ /internacional/2016/06/06/mexico/1465208208_238348​ .html. 72. Sergio Javier Jiménez, “Sedena defiende fuero de guerra en lucha antinarco,” El Informador, May 14, 2009, https:// www.informador.mx/Mexico/Sedena-defiende-fuero-de -guerra-en-lucha-antinarco-20090514-0085.html. 73. “En seis años disminuirá la violencia: SSP,” La Jornada, p. 15, October 8, 2009, https://www.jornada.com .mx/2009/10/08/politica/015n2pol. 74. “México ganará lucha contra el crimen, asegura la DEA,” Mxnews, April 6, 2011, https://mxnews.word​press​ .com​ / ?s​ = México​ + ganará​ + lucha​ + contra​ + el​ + crimen​ % 2C​ +asegura​+la​+DEA. 75. Georgina Olsen, “El Estado actuó en defensa propia: Felipe Calderón Hinojosa,” Excelsior, November 24, 2012, https://www.excelsior.com.mx/2012/11/24/nacional/871352. 76. “Impedimos que los delincuentes tomaran el control,” Arestegui Noticias, September 3, 2012, https:// aristeguinoticias​.com​/undefined​/mexico​/impedimos​-que​ -los​-delincuentes-tomaran-el-control-calderon.


Notes to Pages 155–164

77. “Algo grave, bajo el techo de Juárez,” El Universal, July 13, 2009, https://archivo.eluniversal.com.mx/nacion/169662 .html. 78. This account is excerpted from the June 22, 2015, testimony of a protected witness made before Cuarta Agencia de Investigación de la PGR, Mesa Especializada para la Atención de Crímenes de Alto Impacto (Fourth Investigative Agency of the PGR, Specialized Committee to Address High Impact Crimes). As coadjutant to related court proceedings, Paso del Norte Human Rights Center had access to this information and provided it to Julián Cardona. 79. Juan Veledíaz, “Desaparición forzada, uno de los saldos perversos de la Operación Chihuahua,” Revista Proceso, January 5, 2017, “https://www.proceso.com.mx /reportajes/2017/1/15/desaparicion-forzada-uno-de-los -saldos-perversos-de-la-operacion-chihuahua-176497.html; Carlos Huerta, “Combatió Ejército al crimen con tortura y asesinatos aquí,” Norte, December 10, 2013, http://www .nortedigital.mx/56461/combatio_ejercito_al_crimen_con _tortura_y_asesinatos_aqui/. 80. Carlos Huerta, “Llevan a ONU acusación vs general por asesinato,” Norte, April 26, 2015, https://nortedigital.mx /llevan-a-onu-acusacion-vs-general-por-asesinato/. 81. Carlos Huerta, “Ordenan abrir caso de militares acusados de matar a juarense,” Norte, May 6, 2015, https: //nortedigital.mx/ordenan-abrir-caso-de-militares-acusados -de-matar-a-juarense/. 82. “México: Las autoridades civiles deben investigar el patrón de abusos graves del Ejército,” Amnistía Internacional, December 8, 2009, accessed February 7, 2021, https: //www.amnesty.org/es/press-releases/2009/12/mc3a9xico -autoridades-deben-investigar-abusos-ejercito-20091208/. 83. Carlos Marentes, “Ciudad Juárez: La cosecha de violencia y dolor,” Carlos Marentes’ Blog, July 21, 2010, https://carlos-marentes.com/2010/07/21/ciudad-juarez -la-cosecha-de-violencia-y-dolor. 84. Mtro. Jesús Abraham Martínez-Montoya and Dr. Victoriano Garza-Almanza, “Impacto Social de las Narco-Ejecuciones en Ciudad Juarez, México, 2008–2011: Evaluación Preliminar,” CULCyT 10, no. 51 (2013): 4–13. 85. See Eric A. Witte, Undeniable Atrocities: Confronting Crimes against Humanity in Mexico (New York: Open Society Foundation, 2016), https://www.­ j ustice­ i nitia tive.org/publications/undeniable-atrocities-confronting -crimes-against-humanity-mexico; and Elisabeth Malkin, “Report Accuses Mexico of Crimes against Humanity in Drug War,” New York Times, June 6, 2016, https://www .nytimes.com/2016/06/06/world/americas/mexico-­violence -killings-torture.html. 86. “Calderón refuta al CIDE y niega ‘exterminio,’ en

su sexenio,” Newsweek México, February 2, 2017, https: //newsweekespanol.com/2017/02/calderon-niega-­politica -de-exterminio-durante-su-gobierno/. 87. Interview by Julián Cardona, September 27, 2009. 88. Interview by Julián Cardona, September 27, 2009. 89. See CNNMexico, “La producción de metanfetaminas crece en México, reporta la DEA,” August 23, 2012, https://expansion.mx/nacional/2012/08/23/la-produccion -de-metanfetaminas-crece-en-mexico-­r eporta-la-dea; “EU: Aumenta número de adictos en México,” El Economista, May 1, 2010, https://www.eleconomista.com.mx /politica/EU-aumenta-nmero-de-adictos-en-Mexico -20100501-0023.html; and Angeles Cruz Martínez, “Se duplicó en México el uso de sustancias ilegales en 10 años,” La Jornada, January 18, 2013, https://www.jornada.com​ .mx/2013/01/18/adicciones/a11n3adi. 90. Dave Graham and Julián Cardona, “Mexico’s Drug War Bright Spot Hides Dark Underbelly,” Reuters, November 28, 2012, https://www.reuters.com/article /uk-mexico-drugs/mexicos-drug-war-bright-spot-hides -dark-underbelly-idUKBRE8AR10B20121128. 91. Matthew Dean, “FBI’s Comey: Mexican Drug Cartels Fueling US Heroin Epidemic,” Fox News, March 2, 2017, https://www.foxnews.com/us/fbis-comey-mexican -drug-cartels-fueling-us-heroin-epidemic. 92. París Martínez, “No era necesario activar al Ejército en guerra contra el narco, concluye estudio del Senado,” Animal Politico, February 14, 2017, accessed February 7, 2021, https://www.animalpolitico.com/2017/02 /ejercito-guerra-narco-senado/. 93. Luz del Carmen Sosa, “Amagan y extorsionan comandos en yonkes, denuncian,” El Diario de Juárez, Sec. A, p. 1, October 14, 2008. 94. See Agencia Reforma, “Aparecen otras 10 narcomantas,” El Diario de Juárez, Sec. A, p. 9, October 28, 2008; “Se cubren estados de narcomantas contra García Luna,” Proceso, October 28, 2008, https://www.proceso.com.mx /nacional/2008/10/28/se-cubren-estados-de-narcomantas -contra-garcia-luna-28964.html. 95. Andrés M. Estrada and Alejandro Melgoza, “Se extingue la guerra de los narcomensajes,” El Universal, August 30, 2014, https://archivo.eluniversal.com.mx /nacion-mexico/2014/se-extingue-la-guerra-de-los -narcomensajes-1034191.html. 96. See Paul K. Eiss, “The Narcomedia: A Reader’s Guide,” Latin American Perspectives, SAGE Journal 41, no. 2 (March 2014): 78–98. 97. Grupo REFORMA, “Hallan narconómina en Tlaquepaque,” El Norte, March 14, 2018, https://www .elnorte.com/aplicacioneslibre/articulo/default​ . aspx​ . ?id​

Notes to Pages 164–193 =1345446​&md5​=55​ea​5b436678f3eb32c0267​cdeecfc​9d​&ta​ =0dfdbac11765226904cl6cb9ad1b2efe. 98. “Nomina del ‘narco’ para 200 municipios: 1,277 mdp,” Misterios Públicos (blog), September 4, 2010, htpps://​misterios​ publicos​.blog​spot​.com​/2010​/09​/nomina​-del​-narco​-para​-200​ -municipios​.html. 99. “Ninguna guerra en mi nombre—Batallones Femeninos,” uploaded by MrGuynamedluis, YouTube, audio recording with still photo of Batallones Femeninos, 3:47 minutes, April 9, 2012, https://www.youtube/watch?v=zaZzJn_y2vA. 100. KC, “Unos 3,300 menores, detenidos en Juárez en 2010 por robo, secuestro o asesinato,” El Periódico de México, December 1, 2010, https://elperiodicodemexico.com/nota​ .php?id=435784. 101. Ricardo Monreal Ávila, Escuadrones de la muerte en México (México: Cámara de Diputados, 2013), 319. 102. “Lo mandó matar mi hermana, la ex procuradora de Chihuahua,” El País, October 25, 2010, 9:51 minute video, https://​elpais​.com​/internacional​/2010​/10​/25​/videos​/1​28​ 7​ 9​ 5​ 7​ ​ 6​0​2​-870215.html. 103. “Video en donde interrogan y tortura al hermano de la exprocuradora Patricia González,” Blog del Narco, 2:25 minutes, article accompanies, https://​el​blog​del​narco​ .com​/2014​/07​/18​/video​-en-​donde​-interrogan​-y​-tortura​-al​ -hermano​-de​-la-exprocuradora-patricia-gonzalez, accessed February 22, 2021. 104. Jorge Carrasco Araizaga, “El ‘pelotón de la muerte,’ soldados con licencia para matar,” Proceso, January 12, 2013, https://www.proceso.com.mx/reportajes/2013/1/12/ el-peloton-de-la-muerte-soldados-con-licencia-para -matar-113056.html. 105. Dana Priest, “U.S. Role at a Crossroads in Mexico’s Intelligence War on the Cartels,” Washington Post, April 27, 2013, https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations /us-role-at-a-crossroads-in-mexicos-intelligence-war-on -the-cartels/2013/04/27/b578b3ba-a3b3-11e2-be47-b44fe bada3a8_story.html. 106. Dana Priest, “U.S. Role at a Crossroads in Mexico’s Intelligence War on the Cartels,” Washington Post, April 27, 2013, https://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/ us-role-at-a-crossroads-in-mexicos-intelligence-war-onthe-cartels/2013/04/27/b578b3ba-a3b3-11e2-be47-b44fe bada3a8_story.html. 107. Julián Cháirez Hernández’s brother, Ismael Cháirez, also a police agent, was executed on May 29, 2007. A few months later, in August 2007, Mexican federal authorities arrested a third brother, Leonel Cháirez, who led a group that smuggled opium, cocaine, and marijuana over the border, with the assistance of US Customs and Border Protection agent Margarita Crispin.


108. Alejandro Quintero, “Emboscan a comandante de la Ministerial; lo dejan malherido,” El Diario de Juárez, p. 1, Sec. A, January 22, 2008. 109. Teófilo Alvarado, “Asesinan a Armando Villarreal Martha, campo está en duelo,” PM, p. 9, March 15, 2008. 110. Joint Operation Michoacán (December 11, 2006), Plan Tijuana ( January 2, 2007), Joint Operation Guerrero ( January 19, 2007), Joint Operation Nuevo León-Tamaulipas (February 18, 2007), and Joint Operation Chihuahua (March 27, 2008). 111. Sandra Rodríguez Nieto, “Militarizan Juárez,” El Diario de Juárez, Sec. A, p. 1, January 22, 2008. 112. This information was included in a paid announcement issued by the city and the state, published in El Diario de Juárez, March 28, 2008. 113. “Ejecutado con mensaje,” PM, p. 1, April 17, 2008; Javier Saucedo, “Es mejor creer . . . ,” PM, p. 5, April 17, 2008. 114. Randall C. Archibold, “Killings Jolt a Family in Mexico,” New York Times, February 26, 2011, https://www .nytimes.com/2011,02/26/world/americas/26mexico.html, accessed February 22, 2021. 115. Gustavo Castillo García, “Operativos conjuntos detonaron homicidios en seis entidades,” La Jornada, May 8, 201, https://www.pressreader.com/mexico/la-jornada /20110508/281586647170050; José Merino, “Los operativos conjuntos y la tasa de homicidios: Una medición,” Nexos, June 1, 2011, https://www.nexos.com.mx/?p=14319. 116. Ricardo Ainslie, “Mexico’s Law Enforcement Challenge: The Case Study of Ciudad Juarez,” Security Summit Papers, University of Texas, Austin, April 5, 2012, sites.utexas .edu/failedstate/2012/04/05/the-case-of-juarez/#_ftn11. 117. Quitapuercos, “Quitapuercos en Chihuahua,” July 26, 2008, YouTube, https://www.youtube.com /watch?v=4tbtT9fYuHI, 6:16 minutes, features photographs of murdered policemen accompanied by narcocorridos. 118. The bus driver who passed by at that moment knew Chapa and later told him about his experience during the shootout. 119. Armando Rodríguez and Alejandro Quintero, “Aumentan en octubre 53% los homicidios,” El Diario de Juárez, Sec. A, p. 1, November 2, 2008. 120. Armando Rodríguez and Alejandro Quintero, “Usan más violencia ladrones de autos,” El Diario de Juárez, Sec. A, p. 1, November 9, 2008. 121. Guadalupe Félix and Alfredo Mena, “Amenazan en prepa, en kínder y en IMSS,” El Diario de Juárez, Sec. A, p. 1, November 13, 2008. 122. Sandra Rodríguez Nieto, “Se arman negocios vs as altos,” El Diario de Juárez, Sec. A, p. 1, November 8, 2008.


Notes to Pages 193–219

123. Luz del Carmen Sosa, “Abandona policía áreas de la ciudad,” El Diario de Juárez, Sec. A, p. 1, November 1, 2008. 124. Luz del Carmen Sosa, “‘El Choco’ recibió 10 balazos,” El Diario de Juárez, Sec. A, p. 3, November 14, 2008. 125. Luz del Carmen Sosa, “Asesinan a capitán de la Policía Municipal,” El Diario de Juárez, Sec. B, p. 6, November 14, 2008. 126. Luz del Carmen Sosa, “Asesinan a capitán de la Policía Municipal,” El Diario de Juárez, Sec. B, p. 6, November 14, 2008. 127. “Ejecutan a director de la Policía Municipal de Ciudad Juárez,” El Universal, May 10, 2008. 128. Martín Orquiz, “Se rebasan aquí tres mil asesinatos,” El Diario, August 25, 2009. 129. Jorge Flores, “Juárez, la ciudad más violenta del mundo: CCSP,” W Radio, August 26, 2009, https://wradio .com.mx/radio/2009/08/26/judicial/1251315120_867828.html. 130. Armando Rodríguez and Alejandro Quintero, “En 27 horas, ¡25 ejecutados!,” El Diario de Juárez, p. 1, Sec. A, October 13, 2008. 131. “Trasladan guerra hasta hospitals,” El Diario de Juárez, p. 1, Sec. A, November 14, 2009.

132. Richard Gottheil and Samuel Krauss, “SICARII,” Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906, https://jewishencyclopedia.com /articles/13630-sicarii. 133. “Dejan frente a templo dos cuerpos desmembrados,” El Diario, p. 6, Sec. B, July 31, 2012. 134. Wikileaks, US Cable, Canonical ID: 09CIUD ADJUAREZ22_a, January 23, 2009, accessed February 25, 2021, https://wikileaks.org/plusd/cables/09CIUDAD JUAREZ22_a.html 135. Wikileaks, US Cable, Canonical ID: 09CIUDAD JUAREZ22_a, January 23, 2009. 136. Francisco Mastrogiovanni, “La desaparición de normalistas, maniobra militar: General Francesco Gallardo,” Oaxaco 3.0, December 15, 2014, http://oaxacatrespuntocero .com/la-desaparicion-de-normalistas-maniobra-militar -general-francisco-gallardo. 137. D. Rea, M. González, and P. Ferri, “‘Erradicar a los traidores’: Seis testimonios de militares implicados en homicidios en México,” El País, June 23, 2016, https://www.nssoaxaca.com/2016/08/30/lerradicar-a-los -traidoresr-seis-testimonios-de-militares-implicados-en -homicidios-en-mexico/.