Tom Diaz

Posts Tagged ‘Barrio Azteca’

50 CALIBER ANTI-ARMOR SNIPER RIFLE A FAVORITE OF MEXICAN DRUG GANGS

In bad manners, Crime, Drugs, Gangs, Guns, Latino gangs, Mexico, Running Fire Fight, Washington Bureaucracy on March 16, 2010 at 6:44 pm

We Feel You ... But Not THAT Much!

The murders of several U.S. citizens connected to the American consulate in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico has elicited the usual transparently fake concern by the usual suspects in Washington.

President Obama sent out to a flack to say that the Chief Executive was “deeply saddened and outraged.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton  declared that the murders:

… underscore the imperative of our continued commitment to work closely with the Government of President Calderon to cripple the influence of trafficking organizations at work in Mexico.

"Gun Dealers? I Don't See No Stinking Gun Dealers!"

The unspoken overalls in the chowder of Secretary Clinton’s declarations about working closely with Mexico and crippling drug lords is the fact — political, historical, and inconvenient — that the Administration of President Obama has no intention whatever of taking on the U.S. civilian gun industry (and import houses) that are major suppliers of firearms smuggled to Mexico for use by the drug gangs and other criminals.

One of the most popular is the Barrett 50 caliber anti-armor sniper rifle.  Although its inventor calls his gun “an adult toy,” Mexican criminals understand its real capabiliities, which are basically its ability to punch holes in armor from a thousand or two yards away.

Although there is nothing amusing about the war in Mexico, here’s a charming little video about the Barrett rifle.

BARRIO AZTECA–BORDER BAD BOYS LINKED TO MEXICAN DRUG TRAFFICKING ORGANIZATIONS — PART THREE

In Crime, Gangs, Latino gangs, Mexico, Transnational crime on April 17, 2009 at 1:08 pm
Peaceful View of Violence-Wracked Ciudad Juarez, Mexico

Peaceful View of Violence-Wracked Ciudad Juarez, Mexico

As the aerial map below demonstrates, El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico lie cheek to jowl along the border.  The Barrio Azteca prison gang had its roots among offenders in the Texas prison system from El Paso.  BA is now firmly planted on both sides of the border.

The U.S. Gang Intelligence Center describes the role of border gangs generally in Mexican drug trafficking:

Some larger gangs have developed regular working relationships with DTOs and other criminal organizations in Mexico, Central America, and Canada to develop sources of supply for wholesale quantities of illicit drugs and to facilitate other criminal activities. According to law enforcement information, gang members provide Mexican DTOs with support, such as smuggling, transportation, and security.

Barrio Azteca is one of those gangs, according to the U.S. Department of Justice Gang Unit:

The Barrio Azteca is one of the most violent prison gangs operating within the U.S…primarily in federal, state and local correctional facilities in Texas, as well as on the outside in communities located in Southwestern Texas and Southeastern New Mexico. Barrio Azteca’s main source of income is derived from the smuggling of heroin, powdered cocaine and marijuana from Mexico into the U.S. for distribution both inside and outside the prison systems. Members of the Barrio Azteca often transport illicit drugs across the U.S.-Mexico border on behalf of DTOs.

Parts One and Two of this series have described the BA’s organization and provided an overview of its operations.

“Tom Diaz has worn out some shoe leather—much like a good detective—in gathering facts, not myths or urban legend. “

—Chris Swecker, Former Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.

“Few people know more about the subject than Tom Diaz and no single book tells the whole story better than No Boundaries. If you really want to know what organized crime in America looks like today, then read this alarming book.”

—Rocky Delgadillo, former City Attorney of Los Angeles

Order No Boundaries from Amazon.com

This Problem of Border Control Is Apparent From This Aerial View Of The El Paso-Juarez Area

This Problem of Border Control Is Apparent From This Aerial View Of The El Paso-Juarez Area

But, how exactly are drugs smuggled into the United States from Mexico — whether by BA or another gang? This is a vague area of public knowledge.  It is revealed through serial anecdotes and often treated in summary description.

The private intelligence service Stratfor issued an excellent report and analysis this week going into much-needed detail about this process.  “Drug smuggling,” Stratfor reports, “is one of the most accessible ways for a gang member to make money when he is released from prison.”  The full report can be read here, but here are a few excerpts to provide a background for a look into a Texas appeals court’s description of one smuggling attempt involving a Barrio Azteca member that went awry:

As products move through the supply chain, they require more specific handling and detailed knowledge of an area, which requires more manpower. The same, more or less, can be said for drug shipments. This can be seen in interdiction reports. When narcotics are intercepted traversing South America into Mexico, they can be measured in tons; as they cross the border into the United States, seizures are reported in kilograms; and by the time products are picked up on the streets of U.S. cities, the narcotics have been divided into packages measured in grams. To reflect this difference, we will refer to the movement of drugs south of the border as trafficking and the movement of drugs north of the border as distributing.
….
The only certainties are that drugs and people will move from south to north, and that money and weapons will move from north to south. But the specific nature and corridors of those movements are constantly in flux as traffickers innovate in their attempts to stay ahead of the police in a very Darwinian environment. The traffickers employ all forms of movement imaginable, including:

* Tunneling under border fences into safe houses on the U.S. side.
* Traversing the desert on foot with 50-pound packs of narcotics. (Dirt bikes, ATVs and pack mules are also used.)
* Driving across the border by fording the Rio Grande, using ramps to get over fences, cutting through fences or driving through open areas.
* Using densely vegetated portions of the riverbank as dead drops.
* Floating narcotics across isolated stretches of the river.
* Flying small aircraft near the ground to avoid radar.
* Concealing narcotics in private vehicles, personal possessions and in or on the bodies of persons who are crossing legally at ports of entry.
* Bribing border officials in order to pass through checkpoints.
* Hiding narcotics on cross-border trains.
* Hiding narcotics in tractor trailers carrying otherwise legitimate loads.
* Using boats along the Gulf coast.
* Using human “mules” to smuggle narcotics aboard commercial aircraft in their luggage or bodies.
* Shipping narcotics via mail or parcel service.

These methods are not mutually exclusive, and organizations may use any combination at the same time. New ways to move the product are constantly emerging.

What A "Kilo" -- 1 Kilogram = 2.2 Pounds -- Of Cocaine Looks Like.  This Was Smuggled Into Montreal In A Bucket Of Frozen Mango Puree.  Yummee!

What A "Kilo" -- 1 Kilogram = 2.2 Pounds -- Of Cocaine Looks Like. This Was Smuggled Into Montreal In A Bucket Of Frozen Mango Puree. Yummee!

A 2004 Texas appellate court decision, Ojeda vs. Texas, contains a nitty-gritty description of the reality of the cross-border pipeline in a particular kind of transport — the use of the body cavities of human “mules.”  Stratfor reports that “a large part of the process simply involves saturating the system with massive numbers of expendable, low-skilled smugglers who are desperate for the money.”

The story unfolds as Alejandro Ojeda and his female passenger attempted to cross the border into the United States.  They seem to be their own worst enemies — but, remember that these are not masterminds, just the lowest level of fodder, workers in the modern sweat shops of gang criminal enterprise:

At approximately 8 p.m. on November 3, 1999, [Ojeda] driving a gray 1991 Chrysler Caravan, approached the U.S. Customs inspection booth at the Paso Del Norte Bridge. Martha Guerra was sitting in the front passenger seat.

During routine questioning, Customs Inspector Armando San Roman asked [Ojeda]for his citizenship, his purpose for traveling to Mexico, and inquired about the vehicle’s ownership. [Ojeda] responded that he was a U.S. citizen, and that he had bought the vehicle about thirty days prior in Mexico. As he was conducting the questioning, Inspector San Roman noticed [Ojeda] “moving around and sitting upright and getting nervous.”

Noticing that the vehicle did not have a front license plate, Inspector San Roman asked [Ojeda] and Ms. Guerra for identification and proceeded to the back of the vehicle.  Inspector San Roman testified at trial that [Ojeda’s] demeanor by this time was unusual; [Ojeda] was talking loud, getting tense, and then he sat upright and appeared to be getting anxious. According to Inspector San Roman, [Ojeda’s] nervous behavior was out of the ordinary.

In addition, Ms. Guerra, with the exception of declaring her citizenship, did not utter a word, although Inspector San Roman testified that he directed some questions towards her.  Inspector San Roman testified that she was sitting at the edge of her seat, just looking at him; she appeared to be nervous and anxious. Inspector San Roman testified that [Ojeda’s] behavior and Ms. Guerra’s silence made him get suspicious.

Inspector San Roman walked to the back of the vehicle and saw that the vehicle’s plates were from Kansas. He returned back to the driver’s side and proceeded to ask the same questions he had asked before to verify that the answers were the same. This time, [Ojeda]stated that he had been in Juarez for about two to three hours and that the reason for his trip was to take Ms. Guerra’s cousin to Mexico. Inspector San Roman then noticed that the names on [Ojeda’s] and Ms. Guerra’s ID’s matched the names provided on a “be on the lookout” bulletin. Inspector San Roman sent the vehicle to the secondary inspection station.

At this point, Ojeda and Guerra are fixed like a bug on an entomologist’s needle.  It’s all over but the details for them.  But keep in mind that at most busy border crossings, time is not standing still.  Other vehicles with other mules or concealed packages are getting through.  The next bit of the story describes the quotidian work of winkling out the dope:

Inspector John Maxwell, trained as a canine enforcement officer, was asked to screen [Ojeda] and Ms. Guerra with the canine. He testified that the canine is trained to alert to marijuana, hash, cocaine, heroin, and crystal meth, and that he is what is called a passive alerter. This means that if the canine gets the odor of narcotics, he changes his behavior by wagging his tail, his ears come up, his breathing gets heavier, and then he sits next to where the odor is detected. On this occasion, Inspector Maxwell testified that the canine alerted to both the Appellant and Ms. Guerra, who were standing about a foot apart. The canine then went over to the open door of the vehicle, sniffed the passenger seat and alerted to it as well.

[Senior Inspection Officer Maria Elena] Frazier testified that she saw Ms. Guerra walking funny, as if she was holding something between her legs, but that she had not suspected she was hiding contraband, until the heroin was found. Inspector Criss-man testified that Ms. Guerra was taking very small steps, as if she was having a hard time walking.

Frazier placed Ms. Guerra in a holding cell and then requested the assistance of Inspector Dianne Crissman in conducting a pat-down of Ms. Guerra. Inspector Frazier asked Ms. Guerra to stand, put her hands against the wall, and spread her legs. Initially, Ms. Guerra did not want to comply and had to be asked several times before Inspector Frazier had to push open her legs. In conducting a pat-down of Ms. Guerra, Inspector Frazier felt a foreign substance in Ms. Guerra’s groin area. Inspector Frazier asked Ms. Guerra to remove the object, but it was not until she asked Ms. Guerra if she needed medical assistance in removing the object that Ms. Guerra complied. Ms. Guerra removed from her vaginal cavity a condom containing about four to five golf size balls of a black tar like substance which were wrapped in another condom. The two condoms combined formed a cylinder like shape. The substance field tested positive as heroin. Further laboratory testing con-firmed that the substance was in fact pure heroin containing some adulterants and dilutants, and that it weighed 125.19 grams.

Upon searching Ms. Guerra’s purse, Inspector Crissman testified that she found among other things, a condom. A search of vehicle uncovered an open plastic bag sitting in between the driver’s seat and the passenger’s seat that contained an unopened box of condoms, an open box of condoms, two open condom wrappers, and lubricants, one container which was open. The condom in Ms. Guerra’s purse matched the brand on the condom wrappers and both boxes.

Cocaine pellets confiscated from detained body packers in Jamaica. Left: Multiple=

Cocaine pellets confiscated from detained body packers in Jamaica. Left: Multiple pellets spontaneously evacuated. Right: Surgically extracted pellets from the stomach of an offender.

Note that this incident happened ten years ago, so procedures of gang and law enforcement alike could have changed.  For an engaging and counter-trend analysis of drug trafficking and terrorist networks, and how they learn, read Michael Kenney’s From Pablo to Osama: Trafficking and Terrorist Networks, Government Bureaucracies, and Competitive Adaptation.
In fact, a recent study of similar smuggling attempts through Jamaica found that the drug traffickers have indeed changed their methods in response to law enforcement’s having developed a profile of their old method.  Here is the abstract from “The Changing Demographics of Cocaine Body Packers in Jamaica” in The Internet Journal of Forensic Science (2009):

Cocaine trafficking by body packers has become epidemic in Jamaica. In 1999 the Jamaican government created a specialized anti-drug task force aimed at intercepting body packers at international airports. An important method used to identify these packers is passenger profiling. International experience suggests that the majority of body packers are single females from under-privileged backgrounds with multiple dependents. This retrospective study describes the demographics of Cocaine body packers detained at the largest international airport in Jamaica between January 2002 and December 2006.

There were 189 body packers identified, with a marked preponderance of male offenders (81% vs 19%). There were 153 males, with a mean age of 34.3 +/- 9.5 years (Range 17 to 57; Median 33; Mode 38). Only 35 offenders were female, with a mean age of 29.9 +/- 10.4 years (Range 17 to 55; Median 27; Mode 27). The demographics of the Cocaine body packer in Jamaica have changed. The typical body packers are now young males. The anti drug task forces must be aware of these trends in order to effectively identify and detain offenders.

Gangster life sells itself to its young recruits as a font of family, respect, and glamor.  It reality, it is a sordid, dangerous, and poisonous tool of exploitation, as these cases illustrate at the grittiest level.  While the drug lords live lives of flashy opulence, the desperate and the poor pack poison into their bodies, gram by gram.

BARRIO AZTECA–BORDER BAD BOYS LINKED TO MEXICAN DRUG TRAFFICKING ORGANIZATIONS — PART TWO

In Crime, Gangs, Guns, Informants and other sophisticated means, Latino gangs, Mexico, Transnational crime, undercover investigations on April 16, 2009 at 1:22 pm
Perp Wal in El Paso -- FBI Agents Walked Barrio Azteca Gang Members Jose Martin Garcia (foreground) and John Michelleti (Rear) to U.S. Federal Courthouse from El Paso County Jail.  Michelleti Cut Deal, Flipped, and Testified Against His Carnales

Perp Walk in El Paso -- FBI Agents Walked Barrio Azteca Gang Members Jose Martin Garcia (foreground) and John Michelletti (Rear) to U.S. Federal Courthouse from El Paso County Jail. Michelletti Had Been Working for FBI Since 2005 and Testified Against His Carnales

The Texas prison gang Barrio Azteca (BA) is one of the most violent gangs in the United States.  It is intimately tied into the trans-border drug traffic from its home base in El Paso, and has a counterpart organization across the border in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.  (Go here for Part One and here for Part Three of this series on BA.)

A federal RICO indictment resulted in the conviction of six alleged members and associates in December 2008.  Testimony and other evidence in the trial opened a window into the gang’s operations — aided by a “flipped” member, Johnny (“Conejo” or “Rabbit”) Michelletti, who snitched for several years and then testified in open court about BA’s organization and criminal deeds.  These gangsters swear all manner of blood oaths about loyalty and the fabled code of silence.  But when the big federal-prison-time-with-no-parole generator cranks up and starts to hum, somebody usually breaks and starts singing. In addition to Michelletti, who revealed in court that he had been working for the FBI since 2005, another gangster — Gustavo “Tavo” Gallardo — blinked and decided to cooperate and testify at trial against his homies, his barrio, and his gang.  Oh, well.

“Tom Diaz has worn out some shoe leather—much like a good detective—in gathering facts, not myths or urban legend. “

—Chris Swecker, Former Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.

“Few people know more about the subject than Tom Diaz and no single book tells the whole story better than No Boundaries. If you really want to know what organized crime in America looks like today, then read this alarming book.”

—Rocky Delgadillo, former City Attorney of Los Angeles

Order No Boundaries from Amazon.com

Here is the rundown on Barrio Azteca from the National Drug Intelligence Center’s May 2008 West Texas High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Drug Market Analysis:

Barrio Azteca controls cocaine, heroin, and marijuana distribution in El Paso. Because of its connections to Mexican DTOs operating in the El Paso/Juárez plaza, Barrio Azteca has a direct source of supply for heroin and other illicit drugs. However, the gang’s activities have been limited as a result of a “safe zone” injunction initiated in 2003 that prohibits its members from being on the street after dark…Barrio Azteca’s activities may be further limited as a result of the recent arrest and indictment [and since this report was issued, conviction, see] of several of the gang’s key members.

Among details that came out in the trial, according to news reports:

  • Barrio Azteca was heavily into drug dealing and collection of “taxes” or “quotas” from drug dealers.  Such collections are nothing less than old-fashioned extortion, a staple of organized crime in the U.S. for decades.  I write about similar operations run by the Mexican Mafia (with a “clica” of the 18th Street gang) in Los Angeles, and the Chicago “Motherland” Latin Kings in my forthcoming book from the University of Michigan Press, No Boundaries:  Transnational Latino Gangs and American Law Enforcement.
  • BA supplied cocaine to working women in El Paso area strip joints, who sold the drug to customers.
  • The gang infiltrated the Federal Public Defender’s office in El Paso.  A paralegal there, Sandy Valles New, acted as a “bridge,” forwarding messages from gangsters inside prison to those on the outside.  More importantly, according to federal prosecutors, New also tried through her job to find out about the FBI’s investigation of the gang and to obtain court filings.  These could be used to track down informants within the gang.  Attempted infiltration by female associates of law enforcement offices, public defenders, and public utilities is a common gang tactic in the U.S. and abroad.
  • The BA gang has a paramilitary style structure, with specific ranks.
  • Like most of these fraternal love-ins, the gangsters went at each other in the trench warfare of internal power struggles.  One erstwhile boss, or “capo,” David “Chico” Meraz, was allegedly murdered in a knife attack in Juarez, Mexico after he was forced from power by his beloved homies.
  • BA gangsters turned some of their own over to Mexican gangsters to face charges of skimming drug money or otherwise disobeying cartel rules.  The offending gang members were typically bound, gagged, wrapped in tape, stuffed in a vehicle,  and dropped off in Juarez to be brutally disposed of with several rounds to the back of the head.
New Problems For Old El Paso

New Problems For Old El Paso

Michelletti told the court how he got into Barrio Azteca.  Originally a member of a local gang called “Los Fatherless,” he was sent to prison for assaulting a police officer.  In prison he was approached by a BA “sponsor” who invited him to join the gang.  “He (the sponsor) becomes your representative.  Your padrino, your godfather.  You have to show you are down for the organization.”  Throughout gangland, “being down” for the gang means being prepared to step up and commit brutally violent acts.

In the next part of this three-part series, Fairly Civil will look at a specific case that illustrates the mechanics of physically getting drugs across the border.  In the meantime, the private intelligence and security service Stratfor has issued a truly excellent report and analysis of this drug movement, which can and should be read here.

BARRIO AZTECA–BORDER BAD BOYS LINKED TO MEXICAN DRUG TRAFFICKING ORGANIZATIONS — PART ONE

In Crime, Gangs, Latino gangs, Mexico, Transnational crime, undercover investigations on April 8, 2009 at 2:55 pm
El Paso From The North -- Mexico Beyond (Wikimedia)

El Paso From The North -- Mexico Beyond (Wikimedia)

El Paso is the very avatar of the problems of the U.S.-Mexico border.  The city — which lies just across the border from Mexico’s Ciudad Juarez — is the Texas prison gang Barrio Azteca’s  home base.  Barrio Azteca (BA) was born in the Texas prison system among prisoners from El Paso in the mid-1980s.   The gang and the city of El Paso are intimately entwined in the drug trade and the violence associated with it.  (Go here for Part Two and here for Part Three of this series.)

From its earliest days, El Paso has embodied the special relationship between Mexico and territory that was once Mexico, and the peculiarities of the old “Wild West.”  This description is from the Online Handbook of Texas:

El Paso is at the far western tip of Texas, where New Mexico and the Mexican state of Chihuahua meet in a harsh desert environment around the slopes of Mount Franklin on the Rio Grande, which has often been compared to the Nile. As they approached the Rio Grande from the south, Spaniards in the sixteenth century viewed two mountain ranges rising out of the desert with a deep chasm between. This site they named El Paso del Norte (the Pass of the North), the future location of two border cities-Ciudad Juárez on the south or right bank of the Rio Grande, and El Paso, Texas, on the opposite side of the river. Since the sixteenth century the pass has been a continental crossroads; a north-south route along a historic camino real prevailed during the Spanish and Mexican periods, but traffic shifted to an east-west axis in the years following 1848, when the Rio Grande became an international boundary.

Most authorities agree that the arrival of the railroads in 1881 and 1882 was the single most significant event in El Paso history, as it transformed a sleepy, dusty little adobe village of several hundred inhabitants into a flourishing frontier community that became the county seat in 1883 and reached a population of more than 10,000 by 1890. As El Paso became a western boomtown, it also became “Six Shooter Capital” and “Sin City,” where scores of saloons, dance halls, gambling establishments, and houses of prostitution lined the main streets. At first the city fathers exploited the town’s evil reputation by permitting vice for a price, but in time the more farsighted began to insist that El Paso’s future might be in jeopardy if vice and crime were not brought under a measure of control. In the 1890s reform-minded citizens conducted a campaign to curb El Paso’s most visible forms of vice and lawlessness, and in 1905 the city finally enacted ordinances closing houses of gambling and prostitution.

Today, El Paso is struggling with its connections to the drug traffic, Mexican drug trafficking organizations, and U.S.-based gangs, including one of the most violent in the nation — BA.

“Tom Diaz has worn out some shoe leather—much like a good detective—in gathering facts, not myths or urban legend. “

—Chris Swecker, Former Assistant Director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.

“Few people know more about the subject than Tom Diaz and no single book tells the whole story better than No Boundaries. If you really want to know what organized crime in America looks like today, then read this alarming book.”

—Rocky Delgadillo, former City Attorney of Los Angeles

Order No Boundaries from Amazon.com

The private intelligence service Stratfor has an excellent report on Barrio Azteca. This excerpt from that report describes the gang’s formation and growth:

Spanish for “Aztec Neighborhood,” BA originated in a Texas state penitentiary in 1986, when five inmates from El Paso organized the group as a means of protection in the face of the often-brutal ethnic tensions within prisons. By the 1990s, BA had spread to other prisons and had established a strong presence on the streets of El Paso as its founding members served their terms and were released.

According to the El Paso Police Department:

Most of the original members were from the Second Ward (Segundo Barrio) area of El Paso, which is located in the south central region of the city. As the Aztecas grew in numbers, they became involved in the now standard activities of prison gangs: narcotics, extortion, assaults, murders, theft and intimidation. The Aztecas recruit directly from the pool of street gang members who have been arrested or imprisoned; however, [they] also form alliances and intimidate various street-level gangs who have not progressed to the prison system.

Here is how the U.S. Department of Justice’s Gang Unit sums up Barrio Azteca as it exists today:

The Barrio Azteca is one of the most violent prison gangs operating within the U.S. Barrio Azteca is a highly structured criminal entity and has an estimated membership of 2,000 persons. Most members of the Barrio Azteca are either Mexican nationals or Mexican-American males. Barrio Azteca is most active in the Southwestern region of the U.S., primarily in federal, state and local correctional facilities in Texas, as well as on the outside in communities located in Southwestern Texas and Southeastern New Mexico. Barrio Azteca’s main source of income is derived from the smuggling of heroin, powdered cocaine and marijuana from Mexico into the U.S. for distribution both inside and outside the prison systems. Members of the Barrio Azteca often transport illicit drugs across the U.S.-Mexico border on behalf of DTOs. Barrio Azteca members are also involved in crimes such as alien smuggling, arson, assault, auto theft, burglary, extortion, intimidation, kidnapping, robbery and weapons violations.

The reach of prison gangs like BA outside of the walls is not unique.  I write about the street gang connections and associated drug trafficking operations of two such gangs — the Mexican Mafia in California and the Latin Kings in Chicago — in my forthcoming book from the University of Michigan Press (No Boundaries: Transnational Latino Gangs and American Law Enforcement).

Simply put, prison gangs control offender life inside the walls.  Any street gang, or individual renegade gangster, who bucks the authority of the relevant prison gang will be “green-lighted” — targeted for punishment, which often means death.  Originally, members of Latino street gangs learned that they could and would be whacked inside prison if they did not cooperate.  Only a few street gangs still operate independently in California, for example.  And prison gangs now assign hits outside of the prison walls to members of street gang affiliates or to made members of the prison gang after their release from confinement.

Here  is an overview of the relationship between Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTOs) and U.S. street and outlaw motorcycle gangs (OMGs), from the National Drug Intelligence Center’s National Drug Threat Assessment 2009 :

Although gangs do not appear to be part of any formal Mexican DTO structure, several Mexican DTOs use U.S.-based gangs to smuggle and distribute drugs, collect drug proceeds, and act as enforcers. Mexican DTOs’ use of gang members for these illegal activities insulates DTO cell members from law enforcement detection. Members of most Mexican Cartels–Sinaloa, Gulf, Juárez, and Tijuana)–maintain working relationships with many street gangs and OMGs…Most gang-related criminal activity along the U.S.-Mexico border occurs in South Texas and California… Street and prison gangs… transport and distribute illicit drugs throughout the South Texas area. Some of these gangs have established associate gangs or chapters in border cities in Mexico…

Barrio Azteca fits this pattern.  (Its counterpart on the Mexican side of the border is known as the Aztecas.)

In subsequent posts, Fairly Civil will examine in more detail the specific structure and operations of the U.S.-based Barrio Azteca gang.

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