This is a story that begins at least 15 years ago. It's never been told in its entirety until now. The information presented here is the result of more than 9 months of open-source research, and is independently verifiable.
In 2007, Texas Governor Rick Perry appointed Fred Burton to the head of the Border Security Council. A former member of the U.S. Diplomatic Security Service, Burton worked for Stratfor, a private intelligence firm described by some as a private Central Intelligence Agency for corporate clients, and by others as "The Economist a week later and several hundred times more expensive."
2007 is also when Felipe Calderon began his military offensive against the drug cartels in Mexico. This is when the violence in Mexico exploded.
The Border Security Council (BSC) was a lobbying group in Texas which used discretionary funds from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), including for the protection of U.S. food supplies, to come up with policy recommendations for addressing the threat of drug cartels in Texas despite very little evidence of cartel-related violence in the state.
In 2010, Los Zetas, the former Mexican air-mobile infantry soldiers-turned-enforcers for the Gulf Cartel (CDG), split from their former partners and war between the two groups began throughout northeastern Mexico. Some of the worst violence and atrocities happened during this time.
In 2011, following the advice of the BSC, the Texas Agriculture Commissioner, Todd Staples, commissioned the report "Texas Border Security: A Strategic Military Assessment", written by former Department of Defense big-shots Barry McAffrey and Robert Scales.
The Texas Border Security assessment included a list of policy recommendations for securing the Texas border from the threat of "narco-terrorism". Some of the notable policy recommendations from the Texas Border Security assessment:
• creating fusion centers to facilitate intelligence sharing between law enforcement and intelligence agencies
• creating partnerships between U.S. and Mexican law enforcement
• designating cartels as foreign terrorist organizations
For the sake of clarity, this story will have to skip through time, but let's look at each of these starting with increased intelligence sharing.
U.S. Customs & Border Patrol (CBP, part of DHS) has historically worked in the shadow of their counterparts at the DEA and FBI. Part of the reason for that is because they've had more cases of corruption than all the other federal law enforcement (LE) agencies combined. One of the worst cases of corruption yet documented was in 2015, when a CBP agent with links to the Gulf Cartel was implicated in a beheading murder near McAllen. He was found to be in possession of more than a kilo of cocaine at the time of his arrest. CBP has lobbied for years to get the same privileges and access that their counterparts in other federal law enforcement agencies have. In January 2020, they were finally designated as a security agency.
One of the biggest challenges for CBP has been Posse Comitatus statutes, which forbid the Department of Defense (DoD) and its agencies such as the National Security Agency (NSA) and Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), from sharing intelligence for use by LE with a few exceptions. One notable exception is the El Paso Regional Intelligence Center (EPIC), a so-called fusion center established in 1974 in El Paso, Texas. Fusion centers utilize assets from various LE and intelligence agencies in multi-agency collaborative missions, usually counterterror and/or counternarcotics.
The number of fusion centers in the U.S. dramatically increased after 9/11 and the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Critics have long warned about their potential for mission creep, which is the gradual expansion and evolution of a mission beyond its original mandate. For instance, what may have started as a counterterror mission expands over time to include all basic policing functions. Fusion centers therefore could be viewed as a buildup of capabilities for various LE, national security and intelligence functions.
One notable multiagency partnership is DHS Joint Task Force-West (JTF-W), which began from a directive on November 20, 2014 issued by the Southern Border and Approaches Campaign from DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson. According to a press release from the CBP website, JTF-W was formed "to identify, prioritize, and target the top criminal organizations impacting national security, border security and public safety." This is a key event in this story. Remember how CBP has always been the pariah of federal law enforcement? JTF-W effectively heralded the beginning of "A New Way Forward."
Following the midterm elections on Nov 4, 2014, when the Republicans took the Senate and held onto the House of Representatives, the GOP saw an opportunity. They controlled both chambers of congress and anticipated (correctly) a victory against Hillary Clinton in 2016. They immediately got to work laying the foundation for some of the policies they anticipated would be possible when they took the Whitehouse in 2016.
JTF-W significantly expanded CBP's authority, autonomy and capabilities (remember mission creep?) under the pretext of combatting the evolving threat to national security, according to CBP, posed by illegal immigration and drug and human trafficking organizations. It's important to emphasize how significant this was.
According to CBP, JTF-W would also serve as "a key player in relations with Mexico by contributing to discussions between the two governments to improve security on both sides of the border." This brings us to the second notable policy recommendation mentioned earlier from the Texas Border Security assessment: cooperative partnerships between U.S. and Mexican LE.
The history of U.S. LE in Mexico is beyond the scope of this discussion. Generally, relations have been strained from deception and corruption and a population in Mexico who correctly note how much worse the violence has gotten in their country from the War on Drugs.
Although not all police are corrupt in Mexico, systemic corruption is a significant problem among the country's police. Inadequate training, low salaries, lack of accountability mechanisms and bad political leadership all contribute to the problem. It's not just state and municipal police, either. The corruption reaches the highest levels of law enforcement in the country. Allegations of extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, torture and more by police and security forces happen almost every week somewhere in Mexico. Northeastern Mexico in particular has had a long history of official corruption in the last 20 years.
One of the biggest problems in Tamaulipas has been the state's corrupt governors, which brings us to this guy: Francisco Javier García Cabeza de Vaca, the current governor of Tamaulipas. Cabeza de Vaca has a long history of links to organized crime since before his time as mayor of Reynosa.
According to testimony from Antonio Peña Argüelles, A.K.A. Angeles, a former money launderer for Los Zetas and protected witness in a U.S. federal case in the Western District of Texas, Cabeza de Vaca has been compromised by organized crime since at least 2004 when he accepted $500,000 from the Gulf Cartel for his mayoral campaign.
But you'd never know it from reading Breitbart's Cartel Chronicles, even though the corrupt Mexican politician is one of their favorite narratives. According to Breitbart, Cabeza de Vaca is standing up against the evil Los Zetas, which haven't been around since 2014 or so.
Or from reading the FoxNews website. Check out this editorial from Nelson Balido, perhaps the single most important character in this story. According to Balido, a career lobbyist and politico with ties to both DHS and Ted Cruz (more on that later), Cabeza de Vaca—mentioned 26 times in Peña Argüelles' sworn testimony—is "clean as a whistle." One other extremely important line in Balido's opinion piece is this: "In Cabeza de Vaca, the United States finally finds someone who wants to collaborate at the state level."
Balido isn't the only one who thinks it'd be great for the U.S. federal government to collaborate with Mexico at the state level. Check out this 2017 interview with Brandon Darby and Ildefonso Ortiz, creators of Breitbart's Cartel Chronicles.
Brandon Darby: "Under the Merida Initiative, it seems to be counterproductive to operate hand in hand with Mexican federal forces, as the Mexican president himself could (and seems) to have links with the cartels. Perhaps it would be much better to selectively interact with state governments."
But let's back up a little bit. Remember JTF-W? In June 2016, right after Cabeza de Vaca won the governor's race (the following week, in fact), CBP Rio Grande Valley Sector announced the launch of the Se Busca Informacion (Seeking Information) initiative targeting the 10 most wanted criminals in the region.
Remember how JTF-W was conceived following the 2014 midterms? The U.S. presidential race truly starts after the midterms, and wagering that the country was tired of a (D) president after 8 years of Barack Obama, along with Hillary Clinton as the likely nominee for the Democrats who the GOP considered to be a weak candidate, the Republicans correctly saw the 2016 race as theirs to lose.
The presumptive Republican frontrunner heading into the primaries was Texas Senator and putative masturbator Ted Cruz. Cruz should've had everything needed to take the nomination, including support starting in early 2014* from Steve Bannon, then-manager of the rightwing Breitbart News (*important to note this in the chronology). Like he did later with Cabeza de Vaca, Nelson Balido wrote several gushing opinion pieces on why Cruz would be the best candidate for the GOP to take the presidency in 2016.
Before eventually shifting to support Donald Trump during the latter part of the primaries, Steve Bannon was also an early supporter of Cruz. A lot of people forget that Bannon and Breitbart initially supported Ted Cruz since early 2014 long before Bannon joined the Trump campaign on August 21, 2016.
Someone else in Cruz's orbit we need to mention is this guy, Joseph Wade Miller, an early follower of mine on Twitter until we had a falling out over a difference of opinion. Miller was Cruz's chief political strategist until 2018 when he was hired as chief of staff for United States Congressman Chip Roy (R-TX). The significance of this should become clearer in just a minute.
This is Mexico’s Burgos Basin, a deposit rich in natural gas and other hydrocarbons. In 2014, then-Senator Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca was instrumental in passing energy reform legislation which would end the state-owned PEMEX monopoly on Mexico's energy industry. Recently, it was alleged that Cabeza de Vaca received bribe money in exchange for the legislation. In July 2017, Mexico opened for the first time to development by private companies and foreign investment. In March of 2018, the petroleum company Repsol secured a development contract for $2.4b in the Monterrey-Reynosa block.
On June 7, 2018, JTF-W announced a multiagency cooperative partnership with the state government of Tamaulipas under Governor Cabeza de Vaca known as the Campaña de Seguridad y Prosperidad (Campaign for Security and Prosperity).
But not everything has been secure and prosperous in Tamaulipas. Two of the most important border cities, Reynosa and Nuevo Laredo, have been disputed between the state and various factions of the CDG and Los Zetas since 2010. Nuevo Laredo is one of the most important cities in the state because of the enormous volume of commerce that crosses there (40% of all U.S.-bound commercial traffic). Because Nuevo Laredo connects the financial capital of northeast Mexico, Monterrey, to I-35 in Laredo, it's arguably the single most important crossing in all of Mexico. Currently it's controlled by what's left of the Treviño faction of Los Zetas, AKA Nectar Lima, Cartel del Noreste (CDN). Reynosa is the largest city in Tamaulipas and also one of the most important. The state government as well as the Gulf Cartel in Matamoros—the criminal rivals of CDN and Los Metros—are both interested in retaking control of the valuable territories in Nuevo Laredo and Reynosa.
In Tamaulipas, political power is inextricably linked to organized crime and has been for many years. The reasons for that are beyond the scope of this discussion. In short, the battle for influence through both official and extra-official means comprises politics in Tamaulipas.
The state government is primarily focused on retaking control of Nuevo Laredo and Reynosa. Part of the reason for that is because the state government (GobTam) gives preferential treatment to the factions of the CDG in Matamoros. Why CDG in Matamoros? According to the GobTam, the reason CDN and Los Metros (who are also rumored to have an alliance with CJNG, more on that later) are the highest priority is because they are the most violent and dangerous groups in the state. But that's not exactly true.
The gentlemanly cartel is a myth popularized in the canon of narco entertainment and journalism. In reality, it does not exist. All of these criminal groups are killers, kidnappers, extortionists, thieves and generally huge pieces of shit (but still human beings with rights). The claim that one group is less violent than another depends on a lot of things, including how aggressively that group is prosecuted by the state. It's disingenuous or simply untrue to say that one group is worse than another. They're all bad and capable of extreme violence.
In fact, the complex relationship between organized crime and politics is the actual reason these groups are prioritized. The CDG in Matamoros has claimed publicly to have given $10 million to the current governor and his brother, the PAN Senator Ismael Cabeza de Vaca, for their campaigns.
The security strategy of @fgcabezadevaca is one of pacification of certain groups who pay to conduct their business without being disturbed by the government, and prosecution of the rivals of the favored groups. Armando Arteaga Chavez is allegedly the liaison in charge of overseeing this.
But the support for this strategy doesn't seem to be limited to Tamaulipas. Both Breitbart and even a sitting United States Congressman, Chip Roy (R-TX), seem to be in favor of the prioritization strategy.
In fact, Congressman Chip Roy (R-TX) and 15 Republican co-sponsors favor the prioritization strategy so much that they've even authored a bill, the Drug Cartel Terrorist Designation Act (House Resolution 1700) which would codify this strategy as the official policy of the United States. The proposed legislation would direct the Secretary of State to designate CDN, Los Metros, and CJNG—a group without a large presence in Tamaulipas at the moment, but who are rumored to have an alliance with Los Metros—as foreign terrorist organizations.
This leads us into a discussion of the third notable policy recommendation from the 2011 Texas Border Security: a Strategic Military Assessment; designating drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations.
The term "narcoterrorism", introduced in 1983, was originally applied to violent drug trafficking organizations in Colombia and Peru. In Mexico, the concept of narcoterrorism has gained popularity in academic literature since at least 2008, primarily in reference to Los Zetas. This 2009 paper, apparently written as a part of graduate coursework at the online American Military University, suggests creating an interagency task force for sharing intelligence in an effort to combat the threat posed to U.S. LE by "the Los Zetas narco-terrorist organization."
In Mexico, hundreds of anonymous social media accounts which post crime scene photos and execution videos (often for 18 or more hours a day, similar to the hours a professional might keep) also sometimes refer to the violence in Mexico as "narco-terrorism".
These accounts—which first began appearing in the late '00s/early '10s after the Arab Spring when the modern Drug War began in earnest and at the height of Los Zetas' power—claim to be "citizen journalists" bringing an uncensored look at the violence in Mexico. Which is half true. They are definitely not censored despite repeatedly violating the user agreements of every social media platform with images of unspeakable cruelty and brutality happening to someone's child. This topic could be a dissertation project but, long story short, the game is fairly simple:
>post extremely violent content obtained almost entirely from police/military in private WhatsApp groups
>gain tens or hundreds of thousands of followers
>work political messages into the content
>get paid for it
So who exactly is paying them? It's hard to say for sure, but look at the content of the political messages they post and it's pretty obvious.
Someone we know for sure is paying these sources is Breitbart News. In a 2017 interview with Breitbart's Brandon Darby and Ildefonso Ortiz, Ortiz said that Steve Bannon initially suggested they just hire "citizen journalists" in Mexico during their initial brainstorming session for Cartel Chronicles back in 2014. According to Ortiz:
Our initial objective was to focus on tweeters, local journalists and citizen journalists at risk, who cannot say what is happening in the areas controlled by the cartels. Bannon then said to me, 'Hire them,' and we thought between the three of us about how these people could contribute and communicate real, unfiltered information.
Brandon Darby has also admitted as much publicly on several occasions. See for yourself in this video or read the transcript below (excerpted from 1:05-2:35). Note that the video was published on YouTube on December 23, 2019. Breitbart's Cartel Chronicles have only been around since 2014, yet according to Darby, they've been paying "citizen journalists" since around 2011-2012. 🤔
The proposal to designate cartels as foreign terrorist organizations has more recently received support from President Trump, who indicated his intention to designate cartels as FTO in the aftermath of the killings of the Mormon family in Agua Prieta in November 2019.
The proposal seems to have stalled for now. Part of the reason is that a FTO designation could in theory justify claims for asylum at the border. Regardless, the justification for a FTO designation specifically for the aforementioned groups—two of which have no significant presence outside of northeastern Mexico—is hard to justify based on recent data about violent crime in Mexico. In fact, the northeastern Mexican states of Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas, which the Drug Cartel Terrorist Designation Act (House Resolution 1700) is primarily targeting, are all below the national average for homicide and violent crime and have been for the last several years. From 2018-2019, homicide numbers were comparable or even went down.
So why exactly do they want to designate these specific groups as FTO? Why all the policy papers and fusion centers and U.S.-Mexico collaborations? I'll let Brandon Darby explain (excerpted from the video 36:15-37:07).
It is, and has always been, about this.
On September 14, 2016, three months after he was elected governor of Tamaulipas, Francisco García Cabeza de Vaca travelled to the Texas capital and met with Sid Miller, the Texas Agriculture Commissioner (remember the 2011 Texas Border Security assessment?). The Governor of Texas, Gregg Abbott, refused to meet with him.
On June 25, 2020, it was announced that the "Se Busca Informacion" initiative had expanded in Coahuila.
An addendum: in February 2020, Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) wrote the Border Visibility and Security Act which merits a closer look. This act would compel the U.S. to purchase a variety of specific surveillance tech such as radar and other sensors for detecting human movement. Coincidentally, a majority of the supporters that Nelson Balido's 501(c)(3) Border Commerce and Security Council represents are surveillance tech, infrastructure and contracting companies, like Unalakleet Investments, Sentrillion, Qual-Tron, Cyberkinetics, BodyWorn, Ark Construction Management, Quanergy and WilliamsRDM, to name a few. In effect, the Border Visibility and Security Act is legislation which would hand billions of dollars in business to companies whose interests are represented by Nelson Balido, a lobbyist closely linked to Ted Cruz and Chip Roy—Cruz's former Chief of Staff and the bill's author—and a governor in Tamaulipas allegedly beholden to the Gulf Cartel.
But Governor Cabeza de Vaca's ties to American politicians aren't exclusively to Republicans. Check out U.S. Congressman Henry Cuellar's (D-TX) website. The former Mexican Senator-turned-Governor of Tamaulipas, instrumental in liberalizing the Mexican hydrocarbon market, is also linked to Cuellar, the only (D) co-sponsor of Congressman Chip Roy's Border Visibility and Security Act.
Governor Cabeza de Vaca frequently points to his relationship with various U.S. politicians as proof of his integrity and legitimacy, like in this article from the GobTam's website about his trip to Washington on September 12, 2019. During that trip, Cabeza de Vaca met with members of Congress and officials from CBP and DoD. The trip was only a week after the special forces police who answer directly to the governor, CAIET, had been denounced for the extrajudicial executions of 9 people and fabricating evidence at the crime scene on September 5, 2019.
When talking about political corruption in Tamaulipas, it isn't just bloodless white-collar crime or nepotism. Corruption in Tamaulipas involves horrific violence and human rights abuses. The September 5, 2019 extrajudicial executions in Nuevo Laredo are how my research started. [Content Warning ahead]
This is Jennifer Romero. Jennifer had come to Nuevo Laredo 3 days earlier with her boyfriend. She was 2 months pregnant at the time. She had the misfortune of being in a house suspected of involvement in criminal activity when CAIET took everyone they found there into custody.
Police detained Jennifer and 8 others, and drove them to the outskirts of the city to a housing project in the Valles de Anahuac neighborhood, where they were beaten, forced to dress in military clothing to look like sicarios, and executed with a single shot to the head at locations in and around the house. The police then placed weapons near their bodies to appear as if they had died in a gunfight. The bodies were photographed and the photos were posted online by anonymous "citizen journalists" like the ones payed by Breitbart. The police even towed an armored truck to the crime scene in broad daylight to corroborate their account.
"SICARIOS FROM THE CDN TROOPS OF HELL RECLAIMED BY SATAN," were how the extrajudicial executions were widely portrayed online. "An aggression, neutralized."
The malicious lie that allows the state to violate human rights of both criminals and innocent people, is that the violence only happens to criminals, or it is just criminals killing each other, a settling of accounts. But it is a myth. The truth is that the violence is just ignored and implicitly accepted as the sad reality of Mexico.
On September 10, 2019, a day before the first stories in the press detailing what actually happened were published, Stratfor wrote a piece in Business Insider about the incident. The headline: "Gun battles on the border with the US show how deeply cartels have embedded themselves in Mexico."
If you've read this far, then at least now you know the truth. The future will be determined by what you decide to do about it.
Dedicated to Oswaldo Zavala, Dawn Paley, Frederico Mastrogiovanni, Ignacio Alvarado, Emma Martinez, JoeRooms, QuestoyQueLotro, Valor Tamaulipeco, Robert Arce, Guadalupe Correa Cabrera and everyone else working on the behalf of truth.