The U.S. media gets flack from some Mexicans for focusing so much attention on the drug violence that happens south of the border.
“Why doesn’t anyone write about the top-level drug traffickers in your own country?” was a question posed to me once by Jesus Blancornelas, the editor of Tijuana’s muckracking weekly Zeta newspaper when I first started working as a border reporter with The San Diego Union-Tribune nine years ago. Blancornelas, who regularly wrote about the Arellanos and other drug groups operating along the Mexican border, had almost been killed in an ambush in 1997 that was later tied to the Arellano-Felix drug cartel.
To him, it didn’t make sense that so much attention was placed on drug traffickers and violence south of the border when it appeared to him those drugs had to be distributed through a centralized system north of the border that would require some degree of institutional corruption. I replied that perhaps it was a question of the scope of the problem being much larger in Mexico – a valuable transit area with weaker institutions – than in the United States: Mexico had its capos, and the U.S. had smaller-scale dealers with lower profiles.
Still, his question lingered with me over the years as I occasionally wrote about the Arellano-Felix drug group’s activities in San Diego and Chula Vista. Recently, I read a story in the Los Angeles Times that explored a connection with the Arellano-Felix drug cartel in a 101-Freeway shooting in December, 2008, that left the the driver of a $100,000 Bentley dead. According to a search warrant affidavit obtained by the paper, the victim “might have been selling drugs here for the notorious Arellano Felix cartel.” (Read the article here)
I thought that when I took a job in Los Angeles last year I had left the Arellanos behind, but I guess not. They are, in a sense, everywhere.
Photo of car dealership in Los Angeles that has no known connection to the Arellano-Felix drug group whatsoever.