CHILPANCINGO, Mexico – The safe house is located in a side street of a neighborhood overlooking the well-lit downtown of Guerrero's capital and the dark foothills behind. On the street is a pick-up with a new model, and the surrounding streets are dotted with graffiti. It is shortly after sunset on a late summer evening and a woman trudges up the hill with a basket of bread and calls for her goods. Otherwise, the road is quiet. Then the killer emerges from the shadows behind the parked truck and waves me to the safe house.
We are sitting at a bare table in the kitchen on the second floor. The tabletop is scratched and stained with oil, as if machines or heavy weapons were often used there. In one corner is a shrine with small statues of saints, including St. Judas. On the walls hangs a hand-carved Jaguar mask. I notice that the killer has sat down at the table so that he can see both windows of the room at the same time. The curtains are open and the view is on the street under the safe house. A car approaching from both directions is visible in the far distance.
The killer asks me in Spanish to call him Capache.
"Is that your real name?" I say.
"So you can call me," says Capache.
The word means "trap" or "trapper". So you can call me.
Capache was once a scenario for the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG), which recently eclipsed the Sinaloa Cartel ̵
" Cartel members exploit society like vampires."
Violence has reached a historical level in recent years. Autodefensas have become increasingly common in Mexico. The Oscar-nominated documentary Cartel Land showed the rise and fall of such a group. Academics are increasingly interested in the phenomenon.
"When a community is no longer protected by a sovereign state, the treaty between the government and the governed is effectively broken," says Robert Bunker, a professor at the Institute for Strategic Studies of the US Army War College, in an e-mail at The Daily Beast. "At this time, local citizens who are robbed and raped and constantly living under the fear of assault and death, have the opportunity to either flee, join the local crime groups suppressing them, or get up and do their own business hands as a guardian.
Capache, a CJNG recruit who has undergone rigorous and bloody training, is now using his paramilitary background, his knowledge of the dark arts of murder, to defend himself against the Narkos. He works in Chilpancingo as a "cleaner", tracking and killing cartel members who, in his opinion, "stalk society like vampires."
A autodefensa leader whom I interviewed in the past helped organize a meeting with Capache, who promised to give unique insights into the operational strategies of two opposing sides in Mexico to be used in a tightening drug war.
exterior windows. "It's not easy and you have to watch your back, but I'm proud of it," he says.
"I defend people who can not defend themselves. I fight back. The police does not do anything about the cartels. If we do not, he asks, who will do it?
Capache seems to be in his early twenties. He wears jeans and combat boots in desert look. A close-fitting, long-sleeved camo T-shirt shows the shoulders of a dedicated weightlifter. He has skull tattoos on the back of his right hand, an ear stud and a finger ring that carries the head of a growling wolf.
Certain scenarios I have met in the past have proven arrogant and wanted to boast of their exploits. Tout her love for violence for her own sake. Others are lamented for their misdeeds. But Capache is different. Formally and quietly, he speaks of his past, without being boastful or grinding teeth, but with an almost monotonous objectivity, as if the spirit of youth had been burnt out of everything he had seen. Became an old soul before his time.
"I was only 14 when I left home to join the [Jalisco] cartel," he says. Capache, the son of a single mother with ten other children, had stopped going to school the year before because the family had no money to pay his school fees. He worked in a restaurant in the village of Ocotito when a childhood friend recruited him for the CJNG training program.
"We had nothing. No money to eat. I was tired of seeing my mother go hungry. And I knew that I could work ten times more for her. As soon as I heard the offer, I knew I had to do that. Less than a week later I was on a bus to Jalisco. "
" They knew they would kill you if you refused.
CJNG leader Nemesio Oseguera, aka "El Mencho", has long sought to control the drug production zones in Guerrero. Guerrero is the origin of about 50 percent of the heroin that enters the United States. Lately, it's also a major base for synthetic drugs like fentanyl, which is mixed with heroin in processing laboratories in the remote and lawless mountains of the state. An extensive recruitment effort targeting the masses of impoverished young men from gloomy futures across Mexico is one of the reasons why CJNG has become so powerful so quickly.
Less than a decade old, the CJNG has already proven to be an extremely violent, predatory and ascending cartel, supported by ever more capable paramilitary forces, "says Bunker. "If it is pushed by the Mexican state, it is also not afraid to strike back and attack federal forces directly."
Menchos Mafia is now present in about two dozen Mexican states as well as in the US, South America and Europe, Asia and Australia after bunkers. While many criminal groups in Mexico tend to behave as loose coalitions, with little planned or organized from above, Mencho has taken a different course.
As Bunker explains, part of the secret of his group's success is "centralizing the CJNG under a leader and a few capable senior officers," allowing for the precise planning and coordination required to "deploy their paramilitary units from one operational area." move to another. "
Capache arrived in Guachinango, Jalisco State, with little more than the clothes on her back. He slept with other young recruits in a group of tents. Some of the trainers were retired members of the Mexican Special Forces. Others were military personnel on active duty, who were also on the payroll of the cartel. One of the first things they said to Capache was that he did not have the right to leave.
"At first, I missed my family and thought about running away. But if you try to escape, you will be hunted down and killed. I saw others trying to get away, and they were always caught. "Some of these refugees were doused with petrol and burned alive in front of their comrades, says Capache. Others had glued and ignited explosives on the body.
"There was no turning back," he says, sitting down at the scarred wooden table in the safe house.
As an initiate, Capache received general infantry training, including tactics for small units, target practice with assault rifles, machine guns and grenade launchers and weapons for removing blindfolded fields.
" The dismemberment of a victim and / or the eating of his flesh is a murderous and heinous act that [recruits] is related to the cartel. "
– Robert Bunker, US Army College War
Big gangs such as the CJNG consider such a curriculum worth the investment because "criminal groups employing untrained gunmen are going to pieces in [armed] battles with antitrust personnel with better paramilitary and military training" Says Bunker.
In addition to such traditional schooling, Capache and other recruits were forced to undergo strenuous exams to desensitize them for pain, one such practice being to force apprentices to strip underneath wasp nests, which
"Then [drill instructors] they hit the Ne with poles or gun barrels until the wasps came out to attack us. You had to stand there for 10 minutes and not move at all. If you moved or yelled, you were beaten for it, "he recalls." So it was better just to endure the pain. "
After about three months of training, it was time for the" final exam, "which involved" cutting "people in a special way," explains Capache. The recruits alternately administered a particular, Byzantine series of stab wounds and blow wounds to a living victim – usually a thief or petty criminal, whom the cartel earned as such [Punishment] . The first series of knife cuts ordered should be tortured for information without killing. Then to fatal blows. And finally cut the body by hand for disposal.
And if someone did not want to take part in such a test?
"You knew they would kill you if you refused," he says. "It was a way to prove that you were loyal to the cartel."
Bunker says such rituals have become commonplace in the Mexican underworld:
"Disassembling a victim and / or eating his flesh is a deadly and heinous act that binds [recruits] to the cartel as though it were It is seen as a right to enter your new life and burns your moral and ethical bridges to traditional society. "
From prisoner to vigilante
Capache began his work for the cartel as Halcon – or spy, in the city of Ameca, Jalisco – was stationed in homes near strategic points of the city, spending 12-hour shifts with the movements of police, soldiers, or rival gang members over coded radio transmissions to the local During this time, he also helped with packaging and shipping various narcotics, one He later served as a full-fledged Sicario and said he had been involved in "seven or eight" firefights against opposing bands or authorities.
Since he was tall for his age, excelled in the organization's training program, and served well in combat, he soon completed service in an elite bodyguard unit with 35 men. The size of a platoon was responsible for the safety of one of Mencho's regional commanders, a mysterious man known only as '090'. (According to Capache, the numerical order was chosen because it is also the radio code of the federal police for a murder.)
Finally, he was sent back to Guerrero to help in the recruitment of others and pave the way for the takeover of the state To level CJNG. He was only a few months in the Chilpancingo area before being captured by a autodefensa troop called United Front of Community Police of the State of Guerrero (FUPCEG). The FUPCEG is one of the largest groups of its kind in the country and has a force of nearly 12,000 men stationed in more than 30 communities. After half a year of "reeducation lessons," as Capache calls them, he was invited to join the FUPCEG strike group against cartels.
Cartel foot soldiers joining the policia comunitarios or community police, such as Autodefensas in Guerrero often are encountered, are relatively common. Although their expertise is valued by the self-defense forces, their presence can also help blur the line between the civilian forces and the organized crime groups against which they wish to act.
First, Capache helped train the new members of the vigilantes, and he went on to learn what he had learned in Jalisco about tactical maneuvers and weapons training. He also participated in open battles in the mountains against a regional mafia allegedly allied with the CJNG, the Cartel del Sur. Eventually, he was sent back to Chilpancingo, as part of several elite troops who had been assigned to a program [cleansing] to FUPCEG's secret agents limpiez boldly announced that they would begin attacking criminals in the city. The expansion of their activities took place after a months-long campaign to liberate small towns and villages in the surrounding Sierra from Cartel del Sur, led by a particularly unscrupulous capo called Isaac Navarette Celis.
"The Cartel del Sur wants to intimidate the population. They want to dominate Chilpo and control everything. They rob and blackmail, kidnap and murder them. If you see a woman you like on the street, just take her with you. Their ambition leads them to do things they should not do, "says Capache. "That's why we're here to clean up."
Part of this cleanup process is the identification of cartel members for arrest or assassination. When the order for a hit in Chilpancingo is issued, Capache receives a message with instructions on his mobile. Shortly thereafter, a man with an unidentifiable firearm, usually a semi-automatic pistol, enters the safe house. ("I like a 9mm Beretta if I can get one," he says, "because it almost never jams.")
Capache works as part of a three-person crew that includes a driver and a scout, alternately as designated shooter. The safest method is to hit the intended target from the back of a motorcycle or car.
It becomes more difficult if the stamp is in a group or is protected by bodyguards. In this case, "we have women who help us to get them alone," he says. Once the target is vulnerable, the women find an excuse to step off and make a phone call.
"They tell us where they are and what they're wearing, and then it's easy," says Capache. If the targets are armed, he shoots them first in the head, then in the chest and not the other way around.
Local news reports of a series of unresolved killings of young men in and around the provincial capital after the FUPCEG had notified the gang of Navarette Celis this spring. Capache is reluctant to give the names of his victims, and I believe he fears a setback both by his superiors in the FUPCEG and the prosecution if he reveals understandable information. However, the independent press coverage of recent months shows several public assassinations in the Barrios and urban areas where autodefensa cells like Capache's are supposed to operate. These reports also cover specific details of his preferred MO, such as: As the dismemberment and performing hits with the motorcycle.
Capache claims five confirmed kills as part of the FUPCEG squad, but says that Total beat his work for CJNG or not counting battles with the Autodefensas . Such combat experiences are chaotic and "not like on TV".
" The pain of your friends helps you to continue fighting because you are hungry to avenge yourself. "
It's hard to know if those he shot in gun battles actually died or were only wounded, and he wants a number of killings that are wrong could not overestimate, just to look tough. When asked what he feels in battle or killing an unsuspecting target, he answers:
" No sense of adrenaline ." I feel nothing but adrenaline. 19659003] When I ask if he likes the adrenaline he admits, he says, it's also "depressing when your friends get hurt or killed".
He looks away from the open windows and looks me straight in the eye.
"But the pain of your friends also helps you to keep fighting," he says, "because you are starving to get your revenge."
Critics point out that the covert operations of FUPCEG are barely or not at all different from the cartels' tactics themselves.
"They call themselves community police, but they really do not differ from sicarios "Says Manuel Olivares, director of a Chilpancingo-based NGO called José María Morelos y Pavón Regional Center for Human Rights. The NGO director also accuses the state government of allowing the FUPCEG outside the rule of law.
"Ultimately, they are made possible by the politicians," he says. "The criminals could never carry out a terror campaign without their support and permission. The extent of corruption [in Guerrero] is simply unbelievable. We have a government that only cares about itself. "
Bunker agrees with Olivares that in Chilpancingo" the civic authorities close their eyes ".
"If the Autodefensas with the help of death squads, want to commit extrajudicial killings to bring antitrust gunmen and their other personnel off the streets, this is a giveaway for the overburdened authorities." Cartel del Sur enjoys a barbaric reputation for torture and other hardships. Therefore, remove [FUPCEG operations] some of the criminal core elements that plague the community. "
Bunker warns, however, of the danger that goes with the appeal to civilian militias.
"As soon as Autodefensas formed, they are immediately exposed to criminal influences such as the intrusion and manipulation of cartels. "
In fact, some local press reports have linked FUPCEG to a dark group called Sierra Cartel, a long-time rival to the Cartel del Sur is not about taking over drug trafficking.
"We are here because people have asked us for help. We have come to prevent the cartel from killing in Pueblo . We are not opposed to selling cola or other drugs unless they hurt anyone, "he says in the same neutral and affectless voice. "All we want is peace."
Capache is now making enough of his work for FUPCEG to help his mother and siblings. He married not so long ago and a daughter who is only a few months old. He can not visit his family often, he says, because he does not want to endanger them.
Toward the end of our interview, I ask him if he would ever consider finding another job.
Capache says he plans to open his own restaurant one day, but admits that it would be difficult to leave autodefensas .
"The work is dangerous, but for a good cause," he says. "I finally feel like I'm doing something right."