Tag Archives: los angeles times

Profiling the drug wars

The Los Angeles Times’ Richard Marosi writes about one of the people believed to be responsible for a whole lot of killings in Tijuana: Teodoro Garcia Simental. You can read and learn more here about the suspected drug trafficker, who is also known as “El Teo.” 

These guys don’t like being placed in the spotlight, speaking from personal experience from my days of covering this sort of thing for The San Diego Union-Tribune. But perhaps “Teo” feels a little better with the attention since he was overlooked on  Detail magazine’s blog of “Most Influential” people of the year. (His nemesis –  suspected trafficker Francisco Sanchez Arellano  – made the list).

If you are looking for more information on the personalities behind the big guns, you can read this story by Tracy Wilkinson, also of the Los Angeles Times, about Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the suspected head of a drug group that is battling the Tijuana region’s once-dominant Arellano-Felix cartel.

I wish I could link to an indepth profile of the former head of the Arellano cartel – the now-imprisoned Benjamin Arellano-Felix –  that was written by S. Lynne Walker. She wrote it when she was based out of Mexico City for Copley News Service, but it doesn’t seem to be available online. If anyone finds that story, or any other noteworthy profiles, let me know.

More border coverage

picture-8KPBS San Diego released a multi-media project on border drug violence in collaboration with TijuanaPress.com: “Border Battle. Bringing the Drug War Home.” It includes a Google map mash-up that details suspected drug-related killings, statistics and trends  along the Tijuana-San Diego border in recent months. It also includes videos,  a glossary of lexicon inspired by drug violence, and explanations of some of the drug trafficking world’s players.  The site has links to topical KPBS articles and the multi-media component is done in both Spanish and English. I’m assuming that Amy Isackson, the KPBS San Diego border reporter, was actively involved in this impressive project. The Los Angeles Times has also created a multi-media website  to highlight its own impressive coverage of drug violence in Mexico,  though its site doesn’t have the same Tijuana focus.

Driving home from USC this evening,  I listened to more talk about the border on the radio show  “To the Point.” The topic: “Mexico’s Drug War: Mi Guerra es Tu Guerra.” The panel included Mexico specialists in academia as well as Newsweek’s Miami Bureau Chief Arian Campo-Flores and Los Angeles Times reporter Ken Ellingwood.  A few points brought up: Mexico’s development as a democracy has disrupted certain authoritarian tendencies that may have kept the violence in check in the past. The carnage can also be seen as the consequence of Mexico’s success in disrupting long-standing drug cartel groups.

To hear the discussion, as well as another report on “Is Mexico Losing Its War on Drugs?” you can go to KCRW’s web page

Screenshot of KPBS San Diego’s border violence map project

Border coverage at NPR and LATimes

blank map of mexico
Image via Wikipedia

NPR has been airing a series this week about the border called “The U.S.-Mexican Border: A Changing Frontier.” So far, the stories have focused on deported immigrants, how Border Patrol agents track down undocumented border-crossers, and the widely-reported subject matter of “Drug Deaths, Violence Plague Border in Tijuana. While not necessarily “new” information, the series’ strength lies in pulling together stories from different parts of the border into a cohesive whole. Each morning, as I’m stuck in LA traffic, I look forward to being transported to another part of the border by NPR reporter Jason Beaubien.

Over the past six months, The Los Angeles Times has been publishing an ongoing series – “Mexico Under Siege. The drug war at our doorstep” – that includes the contributions of staff reporters north and south of the border. They recently created an attractive starting point for the series at this central location. The project includes an interactive map that shows where drug killings have taken place in Mexico, a multimedia photo gallery and a rolling ticker of the number of drug war-related deaths since January, 2007. The package also includes video interviews with border reporter Richard Marosi and Los Angeles-based reporter Sam Quinones, who covered Mexico extensively before being hired by the Times.

Image approved for public use by Elbart089 via this Wikipedia service.

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Border journalism’s risks

People occasionally ask whether my life was ever in danger from writing about drug-related border shenanigans, like this one.

Aside from a few odd situations, I like to think that I was more at risk of being in an auto accident driving through one of the city’s infamous traffic circles (left) than being gunned down by drug lords. But that general sense of security may have been because I was being careful – or realistic –  about how I managed information.


The Los Angeles Times reported last week that 30 reporters (presumably most of them Mexican) have died or disappeared in Mexico since 2000, and notes that the job can be particularly risky for border reporters. The statistics come from  Reporters Without Borders.

“Journalists who want to report on crime are increasingly forced to weigh the risk of retribution by gangsters employing ever more gruesome methods,” according to the article by Ken Ellingwood.

That goes for U.S. journalists as well, I believe. The difference is they get to operate under a different set of rules and have some additional institutional protections. They aren’t usuallly competing against their Mexican counterparts who may feel pressured to divulge sensitive information to beat their competitors. U.S. media also tends to shy away from rumor-based reporting. My frustration was that often times I suspected the rumors were closer to the truth than any official version.