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The men that I study mostly they operate alone. So I started thinking, how could all of these men trust each other?
Well, our speculation was that when you don't want a crime to be solved, it's because the resolution of it is going to be extremely either embarrassing to somebody in power or it's going to come back to you.
I had an eyewitness who alleged that he had been at these parties and eventually the women will be killed because they knew too much. Alfredo Corchado was leaving the prison in Juarez in 2003, having finally been introduced by DUNTA cameras to an eyewitness to the murders of women, this drug dealer had just told Alfredo that police were kidnapping women to be raped and killed by the cartel as a form of celebration. After the prison interview, Dontae drove Alfredo back to the bridge to El Paso, but he had one final tip to share, and that's when Dante said there's a name for this group in the Juarez cartel.
There's a small sort of division. They're the gatekeepers. They're the ones who control the and make sure that the drugs get into the United States. La Linea. At the time, La Nina was, from what you describe, it is like an unspeakable term. Nobody knows about it. Nobody says anything about. Why? Because La Nina is really when we talk about the power, they are the heart and soul of the Juarez cartel. La Linea means the line, and Dante told Alfredo that the group of policemen involved in abducting the women were also the enforcement arm for the Juarez cartel, and the world of organized crime was one that the Devils lawyer knew all too well.
He didn't get his nickname for nothing. He represented people from the Juarez underworld in legal cases, and he had this drug dealer stashed in the city jail under a false name. And I'm afraid I still didn't know if his source was playing him. So to corroborate what he was hearing, he went to see Phil Jordan, the former head of the DEA in El Paso. We called Phil ourselves and he didn't mince his words.
First and foremost, the cartels control the police. A lot of the killings that occurred in the Juarez quarter were done by members of law enforcement, Mexican law enforcement, according to Phil La Linea, often killed to enforce silence. This is according to the intelligence that we have. The police would pick up informants and then they would execute them, sometimes burying them alive. Phil also corroborated the involvement of this group in the abduction and murder of women. He knew them as the gatekeepers, but with the help of some DEA documents, he and Alfredo pieced together that this was another name for the same organization.
Once we got those documents of the gatekeepers from the US DEA, we could finally go to the Mexican side. We met with Gonzalo's, the drug czar in Mexico City, for the AG's office when I brought up Molina.
He did not want to talk about it, just kind of pushed us away. He didn't really deny them.
He just kind of saying how much, you know, that kind of very careful.
Very careful. Jose Luis Vasconcellos was an assistant attorney general in Mexico whose mandate was to attack organized crime, and Alfredo was perplexed by the response to his questions about La Linea. So he kept going. I think in one way it was good that I was so inexperienced and so naive. When that happens, you just keep going and you keep pushing and you push. I think some colleagues, my own mother would say that stability. I would say I didn't know what I was getting into.
In response to this pushing, Vasconcellos introduced Alfredo to the local anti-drug prosecutor in Juarez. We're having lunch. And again, you know, it's the same idea. What can you tell about Alinea? And suddenly he just I mean, he just got really uncomfortable, really awkward. And he says, you know, I have to leave. Something else just happened and I had to follow him outside.
And he just said, stay away from that. What made the Mexican drug czar and his man in Juarez so uncomfortable? What does it say about La Linea and its influence? How high up do the corruption go? And what did all this have to do with the murders of women? I must Voloshin. And I'm Monica Ortiz Uribe. This is forgotten the women of Juarez. The body politic is. But I'm over at their there, she's so brave, you know, now she's got some.
So by this point, Monica Alfredo had all the information he needed that it did exist, but who are they?
They are the enforcement wing of the cartel.
They kidnap, they kill, they dispose of bodies. La Linea is comprised primarily of state and local cops, and these state and local cops are pulling a double duty.
And how do these cops end up getting corrupted by the cartel? The simplest way to put this is with the phrase blood, our plomo, which means silver or lead. Either you take a bribe or we put a bullet in your head. And this goes for anyone, not just a cop. It goes for a politician, a street vendor or even a journalist. But sometimes this ultimatum isn't even necessary. Some people are willingly corrupted in exchange for some of the spoils of drug trafficking.
And you told me about a word that's used in Juarez to describe this kind of complicity, Machida, so Maduro can mean involved or implicated.
And in Mexico and in Juarez, it's often used to describe someone that's involved or implicated in the drug trade. Just like Alfredo walked into his story and the underworld naively, so do many of the people who become those. By the time they realize just what they've gotten themselves into. It's too late and it's through the process of mediæval that La Linea is able to exert its power. And Alfredo's reporting revealed that some of the cops in Juarez were Machida in the most horrific way they were involved in the murders of the women.
How shocking was Alfredo's story at the time?
Well, other reporters before Alfredo had also reported on this theory that the police may be involved in the murders of women, including Diana. The difference with Alfredo is he's able to get confirmation from top federal sources and he's able to get a name, La Linea, indicating that it's not just one or two or three corrupt cops. No, no. This is a formal organization. And that that is scary. La Linea translates as the line and you mentioned the name might have some connection to the border, but I was very struck by the fact that it's unspeakable.
Well, La Linea exerted its power through terror. It mercilessly went after enemies and snitches. So this pact of silence is far reaching to the point where even Mexico's top drug czar and his men in Juarez are hesitant to talk about La Linea. And if you have the authorities in collusion with the drug traffickers, achieving justice is impossible. These men, they had so much power, they could pick a woman off the streets, do unthinkable things to her. Dump her in a vacant lot and not suffer any consequences for it, they would be protected by law enforcement.
Alfredo had returned to Juarez to answer what he thought was a straightforward question, who is killing the women? But the answer to that question seemed to involve a level of conspiracy and corruption that he never believed was possible, and the deeper Alfredo dug, the more complicity in the murders he discovered is not.
Here are the bad guys and the good guys. There were no good guys. Everybody was involved. You have very powerful groups, so in order to have power, they share the profits and then suddenly it becomes so vicious that you never know who is the government and the worst criminals, the one and the same. Alfredo's mother had made him promise that he'd never report on organised crime, but he was finding that promise not to keep his reporting on the murders of women had exposed to him why so many investigators had failed to unmask the killers.
And he was cleaning new understanding of how power worked in Mexico. But Alfredo maintain some degree of optimism. He believed that if he exposed what was happening, things might change.
So he accepts an invitation to Juarez shortly after his story was published to discuss the findings with some Mexican colleagues. But he didn't get the response he was expecting.
One colleague came up to me and says, Alfredo, there is no La Linea and this is someone I knew and someone I trusted, a Mexican reporter. And I said, listen, if there is no La Linea, we will write a correction and we will understand. We don't want to give Juarez a bad name. But I'm telling you, we got documents. We have people on the record and they just kind of looked at me like. Then cuidado, be careful exactly what the drug store in Mexico City had told Alfredo, but was it a friendly warning or a veiled threat?
Was the trusted colleague himself Martillo? Well, Alfredo had all the DEA documentation about Lelaina, but even so, he started to doubt himself. Then within minutes of leaving the panel, he got all the confirmation he'd ever need. I'm walking away and there's a no comes in and it's not a number, it's just unknown. That's not on the phone, and person says a key word atrocity, this is face. I'm right behind you on 16th of September Avenue.
I was being watched. And I hung up the phone and I'm looking at everything with this paranoia. It goes from one minute you're down in your reporting. To the next moment, you're like, holy shit, they do exist and they're here and they may be right next to me or the car may be right here, or the guy walking behind me may be the person I am scared shitless. What do I do now? So I just made a beeline, I ran.
Alfredo was only a mile from the bridge to the US, and he needs to get to the border to safety, but as he runs through the streets, he's suspicious of every person who looks his way and he's trying to attract notice. He knows he might not make it all the way. So with his life on the line and in desperation, Alfredo makes a beeline towards someone he doesn't even know if he can trust. And I heart radio, we bring you the best podcasts from the biggest names, Ron Burgundy, Jack Chelsea Handler.
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Great podcast, Dotcom. Why shouldn't the next great podcast come from you? Alfredo is running through the very streets where so many women have disappeared without witnesses, he's realizing that in hunting the story, he himself has become the prey because La Linea, the organization responsible for the abduction and murder of so many young women, won't tolerate any more revelations about its inner workings. But silencing journalists and murdering women is not the reason that the Leanyer exists, although both do play a role in protecting their real business drug trafficking.
So Elfreda receives this cool moniker on his cell phone, and it's not exactly like the Dallas Morning News would have given his number out. So it's kind of crazy because not only does this person on the other end of the line know where he is, they've managed to get his cell phone number. How's that possible?
Geez, wouldn't we all like to know that? Wouldn't Alfredo like to know that? But the fact that they've got it is very concerning. That means that someone he thinks he can trust is betraying him.
I mean, it just proves how far their tentacles reach that even an American journalist for a major U.S. newspaper can be threatened by them.
You can imagine this phone call that Alfredo receives. Was exactly what his mother was fearing when she made him promise not to cover these kinds of stories. Do you know anything about the conversation between them?
I imagine that it was no different from the interaction I had with my own mother. Leave him alone, because if you don't, they're going to come after you. And I don't want to be one of those grieving mothers I see sobbing into the news cameras on a regular basis. How do we get here where mothers from Paola Flores to Alfredo's mother to your mother so scared about their children in Juarez?
The drug cartels in Mexico are like a cancer, and it's a cancer that's been metastasizing ever since the 1980s. And why is it so severe in Juarez?
Well, honestly, it comes down to simple geography. I mean, there's a reason why the Spaniards called my hometown the past 400 years ago, the El Paso Juarez region was the midsection of one of the most important trade routes in the Americas, the Camino Real. It went from Mexico City all the way to Santa Fe, New Mexico. Now, fast forward a few centuries.
People and goods are still moving in droves across this region. Only now there's an international border restricting that movement.
And those restrictions created a golden opportunity for the black market. And with help from La Linea, the Juarez cartel was one of the groups that exploited this black market opportunity. So Miami had this reputation of being the place to smuggle drugs into the U.S., which is why movies like Scarface was set there. But basically the government got wise to that and traffickers started looking for alternate routes.
Yes, this is when Colombian drug traffickers discover the U.S. Mexico border, which turns out to be a far superior route. And the feds, they didn't catch up until 1989. In that year, they busted a warehouse in North Los Angeles and found 21 tons of cocaine reportedly worth six point five billion dollars, while still the largest seizure of cocaine in American history.
And guess where those 21 tons came from, huh? El Paso. Juarez. This was now the new hotspot. By the late 90s, the estimate was that 70 percent of all drug shipments to the U.S. were coming through the U.S. Mexico border.
But the reason that these drug cartels are so powerful is because of demand on the American side, and that demand is worth billions of dollars every single year. And that's the money that goes to corrupting the state and local police who are kidnapping and raping and dumping these women in the desert. El Paso and Juarez have been smuggling cities for 100 years, but Juarez has only been what Diana Washington Valdez calls a killing field for women since the 1990s. So what changed?
How did Lenie come into existence and become so brutal? To help answer these questions, we spoke with Howard Campbell, a statement about the issue. He's an anthropologist at the University of Texas, El Paso. Mike, a little closer to a little bit closer.
In 2009, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations asked him to testify about how the U.S. might respond to escalating violence in Mexico.
I don't think that in the long term, we're ever going to stop drug cartels. Exactly. For 35 years we've been doing this, but we don't see much change in the supply or demand. The most effective ways the U.S. can help Mexico with the drug problem are about, first of all, cutting our demand for illegal drugs. Second, slowing the flow of guns from the U.S. to Mexico. Third, fighting drug organismal.
It believes that the nature of the murders of women in Juarez, the patterns in the selection and the sexual violence that goes hand in hand with the killings has meant that many outside investigators have focused on the wrong leads.
I think to some extent, the understanding of this femicide issue was seen through the filter of the American phenomenon of serial killers Ted Bundy and John Wayne Gacy. If you think the problem as serial killers, then the problem is catching the serial killers.
But if your other interpretation is that the problem is the lack of a functioning police system and judicial system in Mexico, corrupt politicians, drug cartels and gangs, if you think that's the source of the violence and that's what you need to attack first, as far as Howard is concerned, no matter how many memoires LEOs are taken off the streets of Juarez or even how many El Chapo Guzman is extradited to the U.S., the sums of money involved in drug trafficking means that corruption is endemic on both sides of the border.
It's a multibillion dollar industry in these two cities. I mean, El Paso lawyers are probably some of the most important places in the entire world for narcotics trafficking. That's another misnomer about drug trafficking, is that it's Mexican groups invading the United States. No, it's Mexicans and Americans working together to produce, to transport, to smuggle, to sell drugs. You're talking about at least 100 years of history. In fact, up until 1850, El Paso and Juarez were one community, both were in Mexico.
It was only after the Mexican-American War that El Paso became part of Texas with Juarez, Romania, Mexico. But the two cities stayed deeply connected, and by the 1920s, the area was a smuggler's paradise, from bootleg liquor to illegal narcotics, with the business in Juarez run by an unlikely figure.
Starting around the time of prohibition, the smuggling of marijuana and heroin was largely monopolized by one person, a woman called La Nacha. She had a career that lasted 40 or 50 years. Now, quite a long time. That's quite a long time and so long that she died of natural causes in her 70s. And so, I mean, every day traffickers doing exactly that's reaching heaven or something like.
So Alina Cho was a genius who was uneducated, grew up as a poor woman, and eventually somehow figured out how to make this drug business work. What protected her for that long. So she was well protected by a vast extended family, but also her accomplices in the municipal police, surely within the municipal government of Juarez, but also even at the federal level. From the beginning in Juarez, illegal business thrived with the complicity of the police and government.
But this didn't include the abduction and murder of young women who had nothing to do with drugs. In fact, for a while, drug smuggling in Juarez operated like the old school Italian mafia, violent to its enemies, but woven into the fabric of the community. Things began to shift.
When America's consumption habits shifted, people started to use cocaine. It was sort of the passing of the hippie era into the disco era and the Mexican drug trafficking organizations adapted to that in the 1980s.
There was an enterprising Juarez local who was more than happy to help meet this new demand, even if that meant taking on a second job. Rafael Aguilar Ricardo was head of the federal police in the Chihuahua area, so he formed the first Juarez cartel and they began to smuggle cocaine. That's when things changed. There wasn't that much violence in Juarez in the 1980s. And so you had this very impressive drug trafficking organization that was making hundreds of millions of dollars, but not that many people are getting killed.
Juarez remained a city that Lanarkshire would have recognized, but the sums of money pouring in because of cocaine began to attract notice from outsiders, not least from a man from the western Mexican state of Sinaloa. He, too, was a federal policeman called Amado Carrillo Fuentes.
Carrillo Fuentes was the great innovator in Mexican drug trafficking. Of bringing 747 airplanes was a seats remote filled with cocaine from Colombia all the way up to the northern Mexican border and then smuggling them into the United States. Sometimes an 18 wheel trucks right across the Ferrybridge, you know, central El Paso on Prada's many times with paid off U.S. Customs agents or U.S. immigration officers. When you spend time in El Paso, you can't help but notice the steel fence that bisects it from Juarez and the militarization of the border, but no amount of infrastructure can protect an organization from an inside job and career.
Fuentes, the police officer turned trafficker, understood this better than most. He recognized that the bigger his organization got, the more money it could bring in, the more money, the more corrupt officials on both sides of the border. And so it went on. But he also recognized that he was operating far from his home turf. So he brought in some associates from Sinaloa cartel has brought in a whole bunch of sicarios hitmen.
He had a very complex organization involving people guarding safe houses. You have drivers, you have gunmen, you have accountants. You have essentially informal criminal corporation. And that's what Carrillo Fuentes created. At first, the two former policemen, Aguilar and Carrillo Fuentes, worked together, solidifying an empire of cocaine trafficking. But after a while, the outsiders saw his opportunity to go it alone. Now this isn't the same way as when you have a big American corporation buys up another corporation that isn't as neat and clean.
Carrillo Fuentes Aguilar, the original founder of the Juarez cartel, murdered in 1993. That's when all the violence that's when the shit hit the fan was one Lucario of this cartel took over in Juarez.
Despite the loss of their leader, the local cartel weren't going to roll over for the man from Sinaloa.
So Career Fuentes began a reign of terror. So in the early 1990s, Juarez becomes part of this kind of globalized, multi-national, extremely violent drug cartel.
You say 1993 as the takeover of Amado Carrillo Fuentes of the Juarez Plaza. 1993 is also when these brutal, horrific women's murders began to happen in the city.
So you're saying it's not a coincidence?
No, I would say that it's not a coincidence. I'm not saying it's a conspiracy. I'm not saying that cartel came in. They said, OK, we're going to start committing femicide. What I'm saying is I think it's an excellent hypothesis to think that many women that were raped, kidnapped, murdered in Juarez were killed and mistreated by sicarios hitmen for the drug cartels.
Outsiders who don't feel connected to the local population whose job is to brutalize and kill, would see women walking on the streets as pieces of meat, just like the people they would kidnap and murder who are enemies of their drug organization. Elfreda's reporting had already revealed the hand of organized crime in the murders of women, but how it was helping us piece together how a hostile takeover of the Juarez cartel had turned the women who lived in the city into targets. As FBI special agent in charge of El Paso hattrick, Crawford had called them antelopes at the waterhole.
So Nina was an organization that exerted total control and whose policy of plot or plomo left their victims with nowhere to turn. And Alfredo was experiencing this firsthand as he ran through the streets of downtown Juarez, hoping to make it back to the bridge. The one person he could think to turn to for help was done to us. But as he got closer to the lawyer's office, he realized that he was running towards the very people he was trying so hard to escape.
I'm just pushing forward. I realized where doctors offices and I'm just pushing and looking all around me. And I noticed that right next to Dante's. I just forgotten there was a police station. And I'm thinking, oh, my God, you know, the cancer was Alinea. What am I doing? I ran. I come in and I just went straight to his office. Paola Flores and so many other mothers had learned that there was no point in going to the police.
And as far as Alfredo was concerned, doing so would further endanger his life. So he put his fate into the hands of the very lawyer he'd been told by so many people was not to be trusted as a source, let alone a savior. So I expanded onto what's this is what's going on. I think the first time I saw you, Laborie, and then finally says you have to tenacity, you're fucked. I said, Why? He says they're onto lineas onto.
And he says, you know, the only good thing is that you're American. And so, yeah, but my cousin is a cop, was a cop, and I have family inquiries and he says, well, then you're really fucked. Something may happen to them because of you, Alfredo doesn't have time to dwell on the consequences of his reporting as far as he's concerned, his own life depends on getting back to the US as fast as possible.
So I tell Gonzales to look at how do I get across? And he basically says, why don't I drive you back? Because I don't think you should walk. I just drive you to an SUV and basically just put me in the back in the back. And I'm looking through the windows and I'm looking at all these places that I grew up in. Mariscal You know, again, the marches at one point I wanted to be a songwriter and singer and we had a little studio in that area.
And all these things are going through my mind. And I'm also thinking, what if Dante's in on? What if he's not taking music? But he was taking me somewhere. He's taking me to the cop. And then I see him on the phone and he's he just sounds so nonchalant. It's just another normal day. I'm trying to sort of get Dante to tell me everything's going to be OK. But the whole time he's on the damn phone.
Alfredo was panicking, he wasn't sure whether he could trust the Devils lawyer, whether Dante might still be Matto or on Lena's payroll. In fact, Alfredo wasn't even sure if he'd make it out of Juarez alive. Hi, I'm Heidi Murkoff, host of What to Expect, a new podcast from My Heart Radio when I first wrote What to Expect When You're Expecting my mission was simple to help parents know what to expect every step of the way on what to expect will answer your biggest pregnancy and parenting questions about everything from preconception planning to birth plan.
Newborns sleep to toddler tantrums. Motherhood is the ultimate sisterhood, but it can be overwhelming if you don't know what to expect. Listen to what to expect on the I Heart radio app, Apple podcast or wherever you get your podcasts. Alfredo was in the back of Dante's SUV trying to make out where they were going. It was just a quick little drive, but to me it just felt like forever. Finally, it became clear that the lawyer was taking him back to the border and as they arrived at the bridge, that would allow Alfredo to escape to the safety of El Paso.
The lawyer got off the phone and once again, he had some final words for the journalist. I think he saw how scared I was. And he's trying to tell me how important it was, what I did. But he says I couldn't get away. Was it true that Juarez you have to have boss, don't be afraid. So basically, he's telling you, don't be intimidated, continue your work. And I think one of his lines was across Juarez.
Now, this is why this time don't be intimidated. Keep searching, keep asking questions. Keep digging. In the moment that Dontae dropped him off at the bridge, Elfrida realized once and for all that he could trust him. In fact, it was the lawyer who helped him get to El Paso beyond the reach of La Linea and perhaps saved his life in the process. So, Monica, that moment where Alfredo gets back to the bridge and he's able to cross into El Paso, you told me you understood exactly how he's feeling.
Yeah, certainly when I was reporting on the drug war in Juarez, once I crossed over the bridge and drove underneath the sign that said bienvenidos, I lost a spouse who needles welcome to the United States, I would feel this rush of relief come over me and I would recognize just how stressed I had been on the other side.
But I knew where to draw the line as long as I reported on the victims of the violence that the cartel exacts on the city of Juarez, I was unlikely to be bothered. They don't care about the victims. It did involve going into into a dangerous city where being in the wrong place at the wrong time could get you killed. But the kind of reporting I tried to do was reporting that wouldn't result in me being specifically targeted. Nonetheless, you told me about those cowboy boots and about thinking about what it might be like to be stuffed in the back of someone's car, and it's kind of astonishing to me how much risk a freighter took and you took to cover this story.
But also that both of you get to come home, and that's something I found very striking about that exchange between downtown Alfredo, when Dante says to him, keep digging. It's almost as though he's passing the torch because Alfredo can go back to safety and Dante has to turn around back to the city where his friend Mario Escobedo was assassinated not that long ago.
It's a very poignant moment in a sense. Dante sees Alfredo as this beacon of hope. Maybe if the Americans can call out what's truly happening in Juarez, something will change. The fact that this conversation takes place at the foot of the international bridge that connects Juarez to El Paso. The bridge to Dante might have symbolized the bridge between impunity and justice. Don't take an enormous risk in exposing to Alfredo, who was complicit in the murders of women in Juarez, and it was because of him that the systematic involvement of the police was confirmed and that the name La Linea was published, disturbing their culture of silence.
But as notional as Dante was talking on the phone as he drove Alfredo back to the border, he was well aware that there would likely be a price for talking to a journalist, let alone saving his life after publishing his story. Alfredo moved on to Mexico City as he planned, and Dante stayed in Juarez. But I stayed in touch. We talked several times, but every time he called, it was like a sense of urgency. It was like he was scared.
So I would just say, Dante, OK, what's what what's going on? I came back to the because he wanted to meet me. He said, look, I have things I want to share with you, things I want to tell you. But he's got something big and we decided to meet somewhere near the bridge. I was the Kentucky club. I was there for an hour and two hours. Never showed up like a few days later, I saw it in the news.
He had been killed. Right near the same area where I had run to his office. Just gunned down by hit men with a car with New Mexico plates, conveniently, the cameras were not working at DE. Nantel, Scott. Was his murder ever solved murder was Neversoft. You have any idea why he was killed? I think oftentimes when people get killed in Mexico because they know too much. I think it's something I've learned, it's not always maybe smart to try to know so much, but again, you know, we were young.
We were hopeful. You were certainly played a role in my trying to steer away from covering the drug cartels because I'll never forget a voicemail you left on my phone. This is about 10 years ago now.
I've got you covered peacefully there as well. Calcutta's all feel OK if we don't speak out until your mom told you she something like Monica, we like our soup, cold or hot.
And I was like, that's some dark humor.
Did you get from the cartels? You know, this is like the cartel saying they like to call hot. You know, it may be five years, it may be 10 years. They might forgive you, but they're never going to forget and they might catch up with you someday.
You're only. So I got the gist of Alfredo's joke about the suit, Monica, but what exactly does it mean? In other words, you were there soup and sooner or later they're going to eat you hot or cold. Sooner or later, they'll take their revenge, perhaps when you least expect it. So Alfredo came to learn this, but Dante knew it all along, but nonetheless, he kept going.
Remember, Dante told Alfredo, This is Juarez, damn it, you've got to have guts. And Dante did. In the end, he died living up to his own, saying he suffered the same fate as his friend Mario Escobedo, gunned down in the typical drive by execution favored by La Linea. Dante may have started out as the devil's lawyer, but in the end you could say he and Mario gave their lives in the name of justice.
La Linea, the line Dante had knowingly crossed it and he paid the ultimate price, he did live long enough to see one of the bus drivers exonerated. And the truth of what was happening to the women in Juarez exposed in the American press. But the other bus driver died in prison in mysterious circumstances after a botched operation. Mario Escobedo, his father, who led the protest in front of the Juarez attorney general's office carrying his son's casket, was assassinated in 2009 at his office along with his other son, Edgar.
There were eight women's bodies discovered in the cotton fields in 2001, and in some sense, that was just the beginning of the crime within the space of a few years, at least for people seeking to reveal the truth of those women's murders had themselves been assassinated and several others caught up in the story also died prematurely.
Even Vasconcellos, the drug czar in Mexico City who Alfredo met, died in a plane crash in 2008 and some suspected foul play. Demanding justice in Juarez is a deadly business. Which makes that other line, the one that separates it from El Paso, all the more significant, Alfredo could cross the bridge back to safety and he lived then take a drive Alfredo up to the bridge, but he die in Juarez. But as Howard Campbell told us, the cartels reach doesn't stop at the border.
El Paso was a dormitory for drug traffickers, high level drug traffickers, hitmen from the cartels, hundreds of drug smugglers, probably hundreds of stash houses where drugs are stored, trucking businesses that are dedicated to drug trafficking. And so the economy of El Paso was completely saturated with drugs and illegal money. And we consider this here normal and not particularly a problem. As long as you don't get hurt or you don't get in trouble, people just kind of turn a blind eye.
Even to this day, there's dramatic inequality and unfairness in the relationship between the two cities, even though it has made a living off of drug smuggling. El Paso's incredibly safe where I see that Juarez, where half the population of El Paso has relatives and friends and the like, is one of the most violent cities in the world and dangerous cities in the world. And I don't think most people in El Paso really care about changing that. There's a kind of way in which people accept this inequality and this exploitation of Mexico as a source for illegal drugs that we enjoy consuming.
And we farm out the risk to the Mexicans who are the ones that die by the thousands in the drug violence. And so it isn't right. It's hypocritical. It's unjust, it's unfair. But whether you like it or not, it's just everyday life here on the border. Howard got an insight into the depths of this hypocrisy from one of his students at the University of Texas, El Paso.
I believe he was an immigration officer. And in the class we would debate issues related to Mexico and he would always stand up for the US government. And the other students, many of whom were Mexican Americans, hated the U.S. Immigration Service. And so they didn't like him and he would come to class in uniform. But I found it interesting that he would wear a gold necklace around his neck with a gold anchor, very expensive piece of jewelry. And then one time I saw him at a very fancy mall in West El Paso and he came out with huge bags of expensive clothing that he had just purchased.
Well, soon after he was my student, he was arrested for being a corrupt immigration officer and allowing large amounts of cocaine, the Juarez cartel, to cross into El Paso from Juarez on the bridge, according to court documents, how it studen the immigration officer was charging the cartel ten thousand dollars for each cocaine laden car that he way through. This was La Linea in action, except in El Paso, they weren't murdering young women or people who dared to ask questions, but their money was just as capable of corrupting US officials.
And I was beginning to understand the deep irony of the fence that divides the two cities.
I would say that's a very contradictory place because even though you have thousands of people are involved in drug trafficking, drug smuggling, drug dealing, and you also have thousands of federal law agents, DEA, customs, you name the agency, you have one of the largest military bases in the world, Fort Bliss. So there's soldiers everywhere. There's municipal, you know, city cops, you know, state cops, any number of law enforcement agencies, the FBI in El Paso.
So it's simultaneously it's this kind of zoo of criminals and the law living together and even marrying each other.
Alfredo was talking about Juarez when he said everybody's involved Metro, but the thing about Metro is that it's never really clear just how compromised a person is. And that brings us back to an American law enforcement official whose name is likely familiar by now. Hardrock Crawford was head of the FBI, started to go over there a lot and got associated with high ranking businessmen in Juarez.
He was the most outspoken American official on the killings of women in Juarez, even gave a quote to a Mexican newspaper where he called the murders crimes against humanity. I had a moral mission that I felt that I was empowered on a different level than the US Constitution. That mission would give Hardrock a first hand understanding of the word Machida, and it would unleash a series of events that called his own life into question. So I was in the house by myself and my brother said, Did you ever think about eating your gun?
I said, I did. Did seriously consider killing myself. I must Voloshin and I'm gonna go to this would even see you next time. I see.
Forgotten, the women of Juarez is cohosted by me, Monica Ortiz Uribe and me, as Woloshin Forgotten, is executive produced by me and Mangoush had tequila. Our producers are Julia Mualla and Katrina Norvelle, sound editing by Julian Weller, Yakupov Penso and Aaron Kaufman. Lucas Riley is our story editor. Caitlin Thompson is our consulting producer, recording assistance. This episode from Miguel Perez, production support from Emily Aronoff and Aaron Kaufman. Our theme tune is the The Nacimiento, as performed by Natalia Lafourcade Music by Leonardo Headlam and Akobo Lieberman.
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