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Commentary | PERSPECTIVE ON NARCOTICS

The Drug Crisis Isn't Just in Mexico

Baja's traffickers are well-known, but their peers in California are invisible; why does the press ignore them?

September 27, 1998|J. JESUS BLANCORNELAS | J. Jesus Blancornelas is the editor of the weekly Zeta. Less than one year ago, he suffered an attempt on his life that left his bodyguard dead and Blancornelas with several bullet wounds

From Crescent City to San Ysidro, Californians have had preferential seating to watch the murder and drug trafficking thrillers being played in out in Tijuana and Ensenada. But what the people from California don't know, and maybe cannot even imagine, is that seated next to them may be some of the criminals whose job it is to come down to Baja California to execute people.

A few days ago at a gathering with journalists in San Diego, I commented how we all seem to know every single detail on the lives of Mexican drug traffickers, yet no American or Mexican newspapers are publishing anything about the American criminals who control drug trafficking in America. Not even one name.

As far as I can tell, those who traffic in drugs in California are neither angels nor ghosts. They are real people who distribute pot, cocaine, heroin and crystal methamphetamines in California, somehow without being bothered. They are achieving "the American dream" of success.

But they are poisoning youths and adults and, in many cases, driving them to a premature deaths. They are making young people turn to a life of vice, only to then be used to commit crimes and robberies. They are hurting society. Yet the cops don't arrest them and the journalists don't report about them with the same zeal with which they report on Mexican drug lords.

American journalists seem to know everything there is to know, and then some, about south-of-the-border thugs like Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo, Juan Garcia Abrego, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, Ernesto "Don Neto" Fonseca, Jose Contreras Subias, Amado Carrillo Fuentes, Javier Munoz Talavera, Hector "El Guero" Palma, Angel Esparragoza and the Arellano Felix brothers. But I never see the names of American drug lords in any of their newspapers. It would seem that by the time the vehicles loaded with drugs cross the Mexican border into the United States, they become invisible, thus untouchable. Not to mention what seems to be a pretty obvious conclusion: As long as Americans demand drugs, there will be a supply from Mexico. But that's not all.

Most Californians are not aware of the existence of an informal army of American youngsters who cross the border in Tijuana or other parts of Mexico on orders to kill. Sometimes they come in with revolvers. They also may carry machine guns. That is how they make their living.

I know this firsthand because one of them died last Thanksgiving trying to kill me. Instead, he and his four companions, who were from San Diego, ended up killing my bodyguard, Luis Valero Elizalde, with their machine guns. While one died of a gunshot from his gang, the other four, who escaped after the shooting, have been identified but not captured; they are believed to be in the United States. They wanted to kill me to stop me from writing about drug trafficking in my newspaper.

The border crossings of these hired guns is a good example of why what is happening in Baja should not be only the concern of the people in Baja. This is a binational army of killers working in both Mexico and America, and it will take a binational effort to control it.

The Sept. 17 execution-style massacre in Ensenada of 18 people in what was believed to be a drug-related incident is still fresh in the collective memory of people in both Californias. This mass murder of two families, including babies, goes beyond the norm even for the drug criminals. The unwritten law that governs the behavior of the drug lords is to kill the enemy, the person who is making one's life uncomfortable. So they usually kill their enemies, not their enemies' families.

It can't be denied that some of the victims of the Ensenada massacre were dealing drugs, but the way they were victimized is an extreme type of revenge. If it was indeed drug-connected, both Mexicans and Americans should be concerned because we would be witnessing a chilling escalation on the business of drug-related executions.

During the recent long Labor Day weekend, thousands of Californians came south and did not kill or attack anybody. They came to have fun and enjoy a nice weekend with their families. That's the way it ought to be.

In Baja, we are not agonizing. We are going through a crisis we must solve. But we should also remember that in this crisis the people from California also play an important part.

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