The Narco-State of Chiapas Part IV in a series
The Narco News Bulletin
Why Some Drugs
TAPACHULA, CHIAPAS: "Sometimes they fly the cocaine into the airport
of Tapachula where it is guarded in large trucks by the police,"
continues former drug trafficker Jorge. "But there's a story
that makes clear the importance of paying every single one of
the police agencies."
"There was a man with a large resume,
including, fantastically, as a commandante of the highway police.
He paid the police agencies $80,000 dollars to be allowed to
land an airplane at seven o'clock at night. And could they turn
on the lights?"
"They said yes. This was the old
airport of Tapachula that is normally turned off and not working.
He came and they turned on the lights while the municipal police
kept watch. Then, the federal highway police said to the commander
of the anti-narcotics judicial police that for a piece of the
profit, yes, they, too, will protect the place. The federal police
came to protect the airport, the highway police were inside,
all to allow this plane to pass through at seven at night. The
plane landed and the state police, who hadn't been included in
the plans, suddenly arrived with a lot of police, 200 or 300
of them. And they made an operation to arrest the federal police,
the highway police, the local police, all of them were detained.
The chief of the highway police was arrested and the drugs were
In Jorge's view, the record volume of
drugs seized by Mexican authorities is no more than a public
relations maneuver to obscure the widespread corruption.
"The police have to make public arrests,"
he says, "to show that they are working. It always happens
to the independents, not to the big cartels. Sometimes the cartel
will give someone up intentionally because the person is getting
too big or because he ripped them off. The cartel knows that
the police need to show they are working. Or sometimes the police
or military go after each other -- and the traffickers -- because
one or the other hasn't been included in the payments."
Asked whether these activities occur with
the knowledge of all the police, Jorge scoffs: "Everybody
knows! Maybe some of the municipal police don't know. But whatever
federal judicial police there are, they all know about this."
Jorge says that the Mexican army -- equally
corrupt -- is nonetheless more difficult for the trafficker to
navigate because the drug-smuggler needs contacts among the brass:
"No one can negotiate easily with them," he explains.
"For one soldier, it's very difficult to receive money without
giving account to your superiors. It's very dangerous for him
to receive any money without advising his superior. The judicial
police are individuals. They don't have to tell their bosses
everything. But if the Conecte wants to get a shipment
past the Army, he has to pay a superior officer to let it pass."
Tapachula's importance to the cocaine-smuggling
industry has grown exponentially in recent years explains the
former cartel operative. "Before 1994, all of Chiapas was
totally free to drug trafficking. It mainly came through the
jungle, not through the coast. Tenosique (a rural outpost in
the State of Tabasco, straddling the borders of Guatemala and
Chiapas) was the entry point for the jungle."
"All the big landowners, the ranchers,
are in with the narco-traffickers. The large land areas were
used to land airplanes in the jungle, and they would put the
cocaine in the trunks of hardwood trees, where it would go to
Tijuana. They'd pay a driver 10,000 pesos to take the trailer
from Palenque to Tijuana. It was very easy."
"Now it's not so easy," explains
Jorge, the former trafficker. "Because the army is already
there. It's just easier now to pass it through Tapachula. The
jungle is a conflict zone. You can't pass the drugs through the
insurgents, the Zapatistas. They're Indians. They don't do business
with drug traffickers. They don't know the business. So they're
against you and the jungle is now filled with military soldiers
and paramilitary groups who want to paid a lot of money to let
you pass. Or they simply confiscate your merchandise to sell
it -- or use it -- themselves."
of Chiapas municipalities: Green-colored towns have military
(as seen on prior maps) is near the southernmost point of the
Jorge, the former trafficker, is asked
how much of the total value of the cocaine that is smuggled through
Tapachula goes to police, Army or other officials.
"The officials receive
about 30 percent," he answers. "There are a lot of
police agencies you have to deal with. And this is for, really,
just one night: the product stays only one night in Tapachula
before it heads North."
Rebels, not the Government, Slowed the Drug Trade
and the government,
not the cartels, then re-established it
from Part V:
antithesis of the "narco-guerrilla" movements in other
parts of the world, the Zapatistas have explicit revolutionary
laws against drug use or trafficking. They have, in fact, driven
the drug cartels off their jungle and mountain lands -- where
governments had previously failed to do so. Alcohol, too, is
banned in their villages.
government serious about fighting drugs would study the success
of the Zapatista drug policies -- instead of persecuting their
indigenous supporters -- in the hope of learning to achieve the
same sober results."
The Fourth Estate
vs. The Narco State