Mutilations have hallmarked this year’s slaughter, and Dr Hiram Munoz, chief forensic autopsy expert assigned to the homicide department in Tijuana, told me how “each different mutilation leaves a clear message. They have become a kind of folk tradition. If the tongue is cut out, it means they talked too much. A man who sneaked on the clan has his finger cut off and maybe put in his mouth [a snitch is known as a dedo, or finger]. If you are castrated, you may have slept with the woman of another man. Decapitation is another thing altogether: a statement of power, a warning to all, like public executions of old. The difference is that in normal times, the dead were ‘disappeared,’ buried or dumped in the desert. Now they are displayed for all to see, so that it becomes a war against the people.”
Ed Vulliamy, “Day of the Dead,” The Observer, Sunday 7 December 2008
This excerpt from Ed Vulliamy’s perceptive article about the drug violence in Mexico is a fine touchstone for the often-repeated assertion in the United States: it can’t happen here.
Can it not? That depends on what the meaning of “it” is. If “it” means bold violence, heedless of authority, made possible by a parity of fire-power between criminals and law enforcement authorities, one could argue that it is already beginning to happen here. Incubating.
“There just seems to be that there’s a greater willingness on the part of these bad guys to take out a police officer,” Miami Police Chief John Timoney told TIME. “I see that locally here. Then you look at it nationally, there’s [also] been a huge increase.”
Go ahead, argue that the man who killed four Oakland, California cops in a few hour’s — nay, few minute’s — work was a bad man, a felon and parole-violator who broke existing laws. The ineluctable fact remains that the ability of one man — much less powerful and ruthless transnational criminal organizations — to successfully confront armed law enforcement officers is made possible by the pollution of military-style firearms that is drowning civil society in the Western Hemisphere.
It is fair to say that a crucial difference yet remains between the violence in Mexico and that in the United States — criminal organizations in the U.S. have not yet mounted organized assaults against security forces. Still, in the latest of three year-long intensive studies of felonious assaults on law-enforcement officers, the FBI found that of 40 selected incidents involving 43 perpetrators, 13 perps — just about a third — admitted gang affiliation and involvement with drug-trafficking. Incubating.
“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
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Moreover, the point here is that the capability exists, transnational criminal organizations are integrating vertically — cartels to gangs to street corners — and spreading geographically. The situation is not static. There is no reason to believe that the United States can necessarily escape the operation of a stern lesson of history: societies can and often do gradually come to accept present horrors unthinkable at one time as “normal” in another. People forget the tranquility of their past civility. Viz., a man takes a leisurely drive through southern Alabama and murders ten people shooting from his car?
It would be a mistake to depend on gangsters to draw their own lines of self-restraint.
In 2004 the Court of Appeals of Texas, 8th District, sitting in El Paso, decided the appeal of one Richard Morales Castillo in the case of Castillo V. Texas. Castillo was convicted of capital murder, committed in the El Paso County Detention Facility. The victim was another mafia member.
The appeals court reported that one of the witnesses in the trial of the case, Sgt. James Nance, a detention sergeant with the El Paso County Sheriff’s Department and head of the facility’s Security Threat Group Intelligence Unit, gave expert testimony at trial about the Mexikanemi. Among other things, Sgt. Nance testified that he had recovered from a cell a copy of the Mexikanemi constitution. The court wrote that “in addition to describing the duties of each rank and decreeing that consequences that would follow violation of the rules by any member,” the constitution provides:
In being a criminal organization, we assume what-ever aspect of criminal practices for the benefit and advancement of the Mexikanemi. We deal in drugs, contracts of assassination, prostitution, robberies of the highest degree, gambling, extortion, weapons or any and every other thing criminally imaginable.
Ponder that, gentle reader. “Everything criminally imaginable.”
The brutality of the Mexikanemi gangsters can be gleaned from the details of the crime of capital murder of which Castillo and others were convicted at trial. It appears that the victim, one Richard Blacknell offended Castillo, who set about organizing Blacknell’s gang-inflicted capital punishment. [See, gangsters are OK with capital punishment as long as they are the ones dishing it out.] Here is how it went down the morning of December 12, 1994, when Blacknell’s carnales killed him and tried to make it look like a suicide, meanwhile intimidating witnesses:
Bracknell had been standing by the cell door. All of the other Mexican Mafia members, except Romero, were in the cell and they grabbed Bracknell. Romero stood in the doorway with a shank. The Mexican Mafia members held Bracknell while Appellant wrapped a sock around his neck and choked him. Cazares heard Bracknell say in Spanish, “Give me a break, brothers”. Appellant replied, “It’s official, mother-f—-r.” Bracknell made gagging sounds for several seconds then dropped to the floor. Appellant immediately walked out of the cell and the other members began cleaning up the scene. Cazares could hear them flushing toilets and looking for rags to clean the floor. They were also looking for somewhere to hang Bracknell. He saw them walk past the cell carrying Bracknell’s body to the shower. Cazares then heard them turn on the shower and close the curtain. After the murder, Appellant and Romero threatened to kill the non-members or their families if they said anything about the murder. Consequently, Cazares initially told investigators that he had been asleep during the murder.
Mexikanemi Constitutional Law in action. The point here is how cold-blooded these gangsters are, even when killing their “blood brothers.” It’s just another day in Mexikanemi Land.
And some “experts” expect people like this to exercise restraint?