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InvisibleveggieM

Registered: 07/26/04
Posts: 14,892
A secret look at a Mexican cartel’s low-tech, multimillion-dollar fentanyl operation * 1
    #27468561 - 09/14/21 09:04 PM (11 days, 6 hours ago)

A secret look at a Mexican cartel’s low-tech, multimillion-dollar fentanyl operation
September 14, 2021 - PBS News Hour

Tonight, we begin a three-part look at the production — and devastating effects — of the drug fentanyl. Illicit use of the synthetic opioid painkiller has ravaged the United States, with Mexican drug cartels now seeing huge profits. With the support of the Pulitzer Center, from Sinaloa State, in Mexico, special correspondent Monica Villamizar and videographer Zach Fannin report.



Read the Full Transcript

Judy Woodruff:

Tonight, we begin a three-part look at the production, and devastating of effects of the drug fentanyl.

Illicit use of the synthetic opioid painkiller has ravaged the United States, and Mexican drug cartels now see huge profits, and an addicted market for the drug.

With the support of the Pulitzer Center, from Sinaloa state in Mexico, special correspondent Monica Villamizar and videographer Zach Fannin report.

Monica Villamizar:

A handful of dirt is thrown into the wind to gauge the way its blowing. It's important work, because one gust in the wrong direction and any mistake in this delicate process could lead to death.

Pedro, Fentanyl Cook (through translator):

Your life is at stake. An experienced cook knows to look at the direction of the wind, and to turn around when the wind turns, and he knows that this is vital. There are people who get sick. This process starts very toxic, but the toxicity fades.

An expert knows, towards the end, you can get close to the pot. If the toxicity was high at that point, you could not even get near to empty the pot. That is when the black goat is made.

Monica Villamizar:

Heroin is usually called black goat, but these drugmakers aren't using poppy plants as their raw materials. Instead, they start with this synthetic powder, which is cooked over an open flame. The drug is called fentanyl.

And we're at the heart of the industry inside the Western Mexican state of Sinaloa. We have been given rare access to one of the Sinaloa cartel's fentanyl labs. It's quite ingenious, because they have set it up in the middle of those cows. And because there are so many police operations right now in the area, the cows provide a perfect cover.

Now, we have been advised to wear a respirator and goggles because fentanyl is very, very toxic. And many of these cooks have died just by inhaling it.

These cooks work without protective equipment. And they believe in a myth here that drinking beer will disable the high that comes along with being close to the heated substance.

This man, who we are calling Pedro, is one of the first links in a chain that sends fentanyl from Mexico to the United States. This package of fentanyl, which is sold as a competitor to heroin, weighs 11 pounds and sells for $15,000 in Sinaloa's capital, Culiacan.

The further the product travels, the more valuable it gets. By the time it arrives in America, 11 pounds could sell for $100,000. Fentanyl has proven to be a diabolical game-changer for the cartels. It's inexpensive. It can be mixed into drugs like cocaine, methamphetamine and other opiates.

Pedro (through translator):

Right now, as fentanyl is stronger than anything, a little fentanyl can make 11 pounds of black goat, and it is stronger than the poppy flower. That's why people gave up on heroin, it's way cheaper with fentanyl.

Monica Villamizar:

So many people are dying of fentanyl overdose. So, do you feel somehow responsible, since what they are consuming is made here?

Pedro (through translator):

Well, it is something that the one who consumes decides on his own. Drugs are bad and addictive. Consumers are aware that the effect doesn't last long, but they cannot go without it. Although they know that it is wrong, it is addictive.

Monica Villamizar:

Have you had any of your friends die making it?

Pedro (through translator):

So many died for a few pesos. We all like money. There are people who aspire to have better things, but the big money is not made by us. It's made by others. Many workers have no other job. It's a hustle.

Monica Villamizar:

Many in the region are self-taught chemists working in a low-tech multimillion-dollar operation. These men used to be farmers until their home state became the stronghold of the powerful Sinaloa cartel, once run by this man, Joaquin Guzman, nicknamed El Chapo.

He's now serving a life sentence in an American prison.

Writer Ioan Grillo explains that fentanyl and synthetics are easier to produce than crop-based drugs like heroin or cocaine.

Ioan Grillo, Author, "El Narco: Inside Mexico's Criminal Insurgency": You don't have to care about protecting those from military. You just buy some precursors, you mix it up in a lab, and you have got your drug.

So the profit margins are massive on synthetic drugs. Also, you can do this anywhere. So this has really changed the geography of organized crime as well. We can find labs all over the country. You can see labs for synthetic drugs on the outskirts of Mexico City. You can see labs right on the border with the United States.

Monica Villamizar:

With El Chapo serving life, his three sons, known as the Chapitos, or Little Chapos, were left to run the criminal empire.

Back in 2019, the Mexican military arrested one of them, but was forced to let him go, after the Sinaloa cartel barricaded the city of Culiacan and overpowered the soldiers.

Ioan Grillo:

Mexico has a dysfunctional justice system.

And it not only means that criminals can get away with murder, and you have some states where you have a 98 percent impunity for murder, which means the cartels develop this power as the alternative version of offering security.

Monica Villamizar:

We reached out to Mexico's Department of Justice, but we were not granted an interview. Some of Mexico's biggest drug bosses were from Sinaloa state.

The capital city, Culiacan, remains a safe space for criminal families to live in peace. This is not an upscale neighborhood. It's actually a cartel cemetery in Culiacan and a reminder of the deadly cost of the illicit drug business. Many who lie inside these tombs were once top players.

Their final resting places are equipped with party rooms, security systems, surveillance cameras, and air conditioning. The drug business has generated so much violence that there is a cult of death here. Its icon is Santa Muerte, or Saint Death.

Saturnino Losoya takes care of this shrine in Sinaloa state.

Saturnino Losoya, Sinaloa Shrine Guardian (through translator):

Some people say that they are afraid of her. That is why some don't get near here.

I have never been afraid of death, I know that I am going to die one day, and she is going to take care of me. I know she will take me away, but I don't know where to.

Monica Villamizar:

Sinaloa is also home to narcos that manufacture fentanyl pills inside homemade labs that are run by chemists, like this man. He says he is always alert, as too much exposure to fentanyl, even in pill form, can be deadly.

The chemist says he makes 150,000 pills on a good day, which are worth about $90,000 in Sinaloa. The same pills can fetch about 10 or 20 times that price when they hit the streets of America. The pills are marked M30, M20 and M10.

Man (through translator):

M30 carries 30 milligrams of fentanyl. The other has 10 milligrams. Some inferior pills aren't clearly marked, but these are the good ones, the M30.

Monica Villamizar:

A few years back, he made OxyContin pills, another opioid painkiller. But, today, he only makes fentanyl, which is much stronger and deadlier.

Since fentanyl is added into almost every drug in the illicit market, it helps explain the cost of over 90,000 overdose deaths last year in the United States.

The cartel chemist says the spike in overdose deaths is the fault of local dealers in America who change the original dosage.

Man (through translator):

Look, it has been known that there are many problems in the U.S. People are dying. What happens is that people take our product and they put more stuff into it. Then they modify it.

Our formula does not kill. But if you change the product, then there can be a big problem.

Monica Villamizar:

The pills are wrapped in carbon paper and tape. The tape protects them from sniffing dogs. The paper hides them from X-ray machines.

Before they are exported, they are tested. A pill that has the right amount of active ingredient has a faint smell of popcorn. The chemist gave us a peek at how they hide drugs in the back of cars that are sent north to America.

I ask them if this car will cross the border or if the drugs will be transferred to another vehicle.

Man (through translator):

Sometimes. It depends. It depends on movement across the route.

Monica Villamizar:

The chemist tells us we have to leave. The presence of our camera risks his operation.

According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the vast majority of fentanyl goes into the U.S. through legal ports of entry, in vehicles. Nobody knows how much fentanyl in both gel and pill form is successfully crossing the Southern border.

But as long as there is demand, chemists and illicit cooks like these men will keep up the supply.

For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Monica Villamizar in Culiacan, Sinaloa,

Judy Woodruff:

Just stunning to have that access.

And, tomorrow, we look at the price of addiction in Arizona in lives and livelihoods, as fentanyl streams across the border.


--------------------
How to test your drugs for Fentanyl
(From dancesafe.org)


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Offlinesuperreggie
Stranger
Registered: 02/24/19
Posts: 75
Last seen: 11 days, 3 hours
Re: A secret look at a Mexican cartel’s low-tech, multimillion-dollar fentanyl operation [Re: veggie]
    #27468565 - 09/14/21 09:10 PM (11 days, 5 hours ago)

Do we really have to read about fentanyl on this site? Is this the appropriate forum?


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Invisiblehummingbird

Registered: 06/30/14
Posts: 984
Re: A secret look at a Mexican cartel’s low-tech, multimillion-dollar fentanyl operation [Re: superreggie] * 3
    #27468830 - 09/15/21 03:21 AM (10 days, 23 hours ago)

Absolutely, yes. This is a harm reduction website. Fent certainly seems to be causing a lot of harm these days. I wish we didn't have to hear about it either, but it's everywhere, so...


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Offlinegone-pear-shaped
Stranger than fiction

Registered: 10/30/17
Posts: 757
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Re: A secret look at a Mexican cartel’s low-tech, multimillion-dollar fentanyl operation [Re: hummingbird]
    #27468905 - 09/15/21 05:53 AM (10 days, 21 hours ago)

I think the cook told the reporter all about what he was actually doing, what the black tarry substance actually was, and why it was less dangerous to be downwind of. But the news channel didn't see fit to tell us any of that interesting information. Fuck mainstream news. Still informative, though.


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OfflineQuirkmeister92
Street Doctor
 User Gallery

Registered: 02/01/18
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Re: A secret look at a Mexican cartel’s low-tech, multimillion-dollar fentanyl operation [Re: gone-pear-shaped]
    #27469140 - 09/15/21 11:38 AM (10 days, 15 hours ago)

Good point pear. He explained black goat. We just got told black goat used to be heroin product, now they make fent product. If it's still black goat that's got to do with the rest of the ingredients more than the opioid source it seems.


--------------------
Team wheat...
Quirks Tub Prep


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OnlineCreonAntigone
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Registered: 05/31/21
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Re: A secret look at a Mexican cartel’s low-tech, multimillion-dollar fentanyl operation [Re: gone-pear-shaped]
    #27469188 - 09/15/21 12:17 PM (10 days, 14 hours ago)

Quote:

gone-pear-shaped said:
I think the cook told the reporter all about what he was actually doing, what the black tarry substance actually was, and why it was less dangerous to be downwind of. But the news channel didn't see fit to tell us any of that interesting information. Fuck mainstream news. Still informative, though.




Well the cook did say that many have died in the process of making this, so it really isn't safe. Unless the reporter made that part up completely it isn't propaganda, this stuff definitely can kill you as it is being manufactured.

I did find it interesting that one of the cooks was proud of their product and claimed it was safe, that the fault was those who mix it with other things. There's something to this because any dealer who adds fent to something else is largely responsible for the death. That being said, I'm sure many of the drugs are mixed in well before leaving the border, and he can't control what his bosses are doing with his product.


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InvisibleveggieM

Registered: 07/26/04
Posts: 14,892
Re: A secret look at a Mexican cartel’s low-tech, multimillion-dollar fentanyl operation [Re: veggie]
    #27469676 - 09/15/21 08:07 PM (10 days, 6 hours ago)

Part two ...

Fentanyl is making its way into various drugs sold in the U.S. Here’s how it gets there
September 15, 2021 - PBS News Hour

For the second part of our series on the ravages of the synthetic opioid fentanyl, we take a look at the deadly cost of the drug just across the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona. With the support of the Pulitzer Center, special correspondent Monica Villamizar and producer Zach Fannin report.



Read the Full Transcript

Judy Woodruff:

Tonight, the second part of our series on the ravages of the synthetic opioid fentanyl.

Last night, we took you to Mexico to see where illegal cartels make it. Tonight, the deadly cost of the drug just across the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona.

Again with the support of the Pulitzer Center, special correspondent Monica Villamizar and producer Zach Fannin report.

Monica Villamizar:

A tall stretch of border wall separates Nogales, Arizona, from its sister city, Nogales, Mexico.

Despite the heavy security measures, this area is a main smuggling route for fentanyl and other illicit drugs, both above and below ground.

Border Patrol agent Kevin Hecht gave us a rare peek at subterranean tunnels designed a century ago to catch water run-off from Mexico. In recent years, the tunnels have also been used by drug smugglers.

Kevin Hecht, U.S. Border Patrol:

They tunnel through the floor in here, or tunnel through the wall, and dig to a house or dig into a drainage pipe in the U.S.

And then they come out of the pipe, and they might go to a car, might have another short tunnel to the bottom of a car. Where the reflective yellow is, that's the border fence.

Monica Villamizar:

Hecht also showed us this more cramped training tunnel, where his agents learn how to navigate to the land below Nogales.

He says smugglers connect their illicit tunnels to the existing ones.

Kevin Hecht:

If they know that there is a big long pipe here, why dig this, when you can use it? So they will breach it, and then will make — try and conceal it the best they can and put the whatever they — like, if they cut this out, they will glue it back in, or seal it back in, and then only open it when they need it.

And then they will crawl this to the next point, where they don't have any more pipe, and then they will dig another illicit tunnel.

Monica Villamizar:

So far in 2021, Hecht and his team have not intercepted any drugs in the tunnels.

The vast majority of drug interceptions, including fentanyl, are caught by officers at U.S. ports of entry like this one in Nogales.

Guadalupe Ramirez is the director of field operations for Customs and Border Protection's Tucson Sector.

Guadalupe Ramirez, Customs and Border Protection: Years ago, they'd make a compartment in the gas tank, so half the gas tank had gas, the other half had narcotics.

And then they started going to the quarter panels. They started going to the tires. Now they're using drive shafts, transaxles, transmissions, even inside the motor. I guarantee you can, if you can imagine it, it's been tried.

Monica Villamizar:

From August 2019 to July 2020, Ramirez and his officers seized just over 1, 100 pounds of fentanyl. During that same period of time this year, they seized twice that amount, almost 2, 300 pounds.

Eighty miles to the east, Sargent Tim Williams works in a specialized unit for the Cochise County Sheriff's Department that tracks smugglers crossing a rural area of the border.

Sgt. Tim Williams, Cochise County Sheriff’s Department:

My main strategy is using this little camera that we have here. It's called a BuckEye.

These things allow us to get real-time information about what's crossing and what's not. So, we see a lot of, like, what we call military males, between 20- and 30-ish-year-old males crossing the border.

Monica Villamizar:

The team was launched in 2017, and has caught over 400 drug smugglers so far. Their cameras have captured groups of drug mules crawling on the ground, and even this man with an automatic rifle.

Just down the road, the border fence ended.

Sgt. Tim Williams:

Where we're standing right now is where, in Cochise County, the fence officially ends on our Western border, and it doesn't start again until roughly around Nogales, which is about 70 to 80 miles away.

Monica Villamizar:

After President Biden was sworn in earlier this year, he signed an executive order that stopped construction of former President Trump's border wall. Today, scattered pieces of wall and construction equipment dot the U.S. side of the Southern border, along with long stretches of fenceless border.

Arizona State Senator Christine Marsh's 25-year-old son, Landon, was one of last year's 90,000 overdose deaths. Since fentanyl is so inexpensive, it has made its way into virtually every illicit drug.

Fentanyl is now found in cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, and even the painkiller Percocet. Marsh says her son took a Percocet that was laced with fentanyl.

State Sen. Christine Marsh (D-AZ):

He had one wild night with a childhood friend, and that resulted in his death.

And I contend that one wild night shouldn't be a death sentence. And he didn't have a habit of taking anything. And I, unfortunately, know that, because I'm the one that went through all of his stuff. There's no evidence of any type of drug use.

Monica Villamizar:

After her son's death, Marsh discovered that these testing strips that can tell users if fentanyl has been added into other drugs were illegal in Arizona.

State Sen. Christine Marsh:

He was the kind of kid who was prepared for everything. I have no doubt that, had the strips been available, he would have used it.

Monica Villamizar:

Earlier this year, Marsh brought a bill to Arizona's state Senate floor that proposed the legalization of these fentanyl testing strips. It was signed into law weeks ago.

State Sen. Christine Marsh:

The law was signed on the one-year anniversary of Landon's death.

I'm very grateful that there was there was that teeny bit of, we're going to turn around and save some other lives on Landon's death date.

Danielle, Graduate Student:

Next semester is all going to be research, and then I have to two comprehensive exams.

Monica Villamizar:

This is Danielle. She didn't want to give us her last name. She is in her 30s and is currently a graduate student at a university in Phoenix.

Danielle:

I'm supposed to produce a dissertation, prospectus, defend it. Yes, then I will get my fancy little cap, and I will be a doctor.

Monica Villamizar:

Danielle is probably not the image most people think of when they picture a heroin addict who's been using for over a decade.

Danielle:

I think that there is a reason that people kind of scapegoat the most visible type of struggling person that they see.

Monica Villamizar:

Just over a decade ago, Danielle hid her addiction from her employer. The result was so graphic, we are blurring our footage.

Danielle:

I would try to avoid injecting in my arms or somewhere visible. I would inject in my legs. I also wasn't aware that, even if I wasn't sharing syringes, that reusing dull needles could traumatize the circulation in my legs.

Monica Villamizar:

First, she got a skin infection. She says, over time, that her tissue damage progressed.

Danielle:

Part of what you see is like venous insufficiency now. So, without that blood flow there to bring oxygen, the, like, soft tissue dies, and then it doesn't heal ever.

If someone had just been like, hey, if you are going to continue to inject drugs, here are some things you can do to prevent this from becoming a lifelong issue for you.

Monica Villamizar:

Danielle wishes she could have received transparent information about how to use heroin as safely as possible. She said she had to suffer because drug users are often stigmatized.

Christopher Abert, Founder, Southwest Recovery Alliance:

All drug users are pretty much routinely despised, hated, and feared in our society.

Monica Villamizar:

Danielle's friend Christopher Abert, who is also a drug user, is the founder of the Southwest Recovery Alliance. Despite having the word recovery in the group's name, their main focus is to help decriminalize drugs in the U.S. and help drug users reduce harm.

Christopher Abert:

The idea of, like, focusing on the drug itself is the problem, and it's not the conditions and concurrent illnesses that accompany some people's drug use that are actually the root of the problem.

So, if you focus on this idea of this, like, chaotic drug user who's dangerous, then you lose the picture of the fact that human beings have been doing drugs for a millennium, and doing them without the — what is ailing our society, like, right now, death, disconnection, destruction, disease.

Monica Villamizar:

The group also laments that fentanyl has flooded the illegal drug market and has made heroin harder to procure.

Christopher Abert:

I can inject heroin, and about eight hours later, I will start coming out of that high. And then, eventually, withdrawal will set in, and I will have to start again.

But with fentanyl, it's about four hours after I do the shot. So people are having to use more and more and more. So, I think, for me, personally, I would much prefer heroin.

Monica Villamizar:

One hundred and fifteen miles south, in Tucson, the newly elected Democratic county attorney, Laura Conover, is changing how the criminal justice system treats drug users. Today, that means passing out food aid to her constituents.

Laura Conover, Pima County, Arizona, Attorney:

We're here out in the neighborhoods that have been decimated by the war on drugs.

What we want to look at is a new way forward in making sure that we are not continuing to attempt to incarcerate our way out of substance use disorder.

Monica Villamizar:

At the New Jerusalem Baptist Church, Conover is trying to personally connect with this Black and Latino community that's been disproportionately affected by the war on drugs.

Laura Conover:

Good to see you. How are you?

Monica Villamizar:

To get the word out that her office is not prosecuting all drug offenses.

Laura Conover:

When we're talking about simple possession because there's a substance use disorder, we are looking to make sure that we are moving those people back into the medical and behavioral health realm, where that belongs.

Monica Villamizar:

However, Conover cautions, her office is not legalizing the sale of narcotics.

Laura Conover:

When we are talking about high-level distributors, those who are making a profession of causing harm in our community, we have the resources and labor ready to hold them accountable and prosecute them.

Monica Villamizar:

For the past 50 years, the demand for drugs in the United States has proven insatiable.

Laura Conover:

If addiction is always going to be with us, then let's treat it like the illness that it is. When we bring people back to healthy lives, the demand for the product goes away.

Monica Villamizar:

From crack, to heroin, to methamphetamine, to the most deadly illicit opioid America has seen, fentanyl.

For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Monica Villamizar in Arizona.


--------------------
How to test your drugs for Fentanyl
(From dancesafe.org)


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InvisibleveggieM

Registered: 07/26/04
Posts: 14,892
Re: A secret look at a Mexican cartel’s low-tech, multimillion-dollar fentanyl operation [Re: veggie]
    #27472171 - 09/17/21 09:56 PM (8 days, 5 hours ago)

Part three (final)...

Ordinary people are taking the law into their own hands to counter cartel threat
September 16, 2021 - PBS News Hour

In the mountain top village of Ayahualtempa in Guerrero state Mexico, children are learning how to use firearms and preparing for an attack by a nearby drug cartel. In our third and final story on the ravages of the cross-border drug trade with Mexico, special correspondent Monica Villamizar and producer Zach Fannin report with support from the Pulitzer Center.



Read the Full Transcript

Judy Woodruff:

Now our third and final story on the ravages of the cross-border drug trade with Mexico.

With the support of the Pulitzer Center, special correspondent Monica Villamizar and producer Zach Fannin traveled to the mountaintop village of Ayahualtempa in Guerrero state, Mexico. They found children learning how to use firearms, preparing for an attack by a nearby cartel.

Monica Villamizar:

After Mexico's President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador saw images like these of children as young as 6 learning how to shoot, he became enraged.

Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, Mexican President (through translator):

Children should not be used like this. I am emphatic about that.

Monica Villamizar:

But despite the president's harsh reaction, the Nahua indigenous community are still preparing to defend themselves against a drug cartel known as Los Ardillos, or The Squirrels.

The children are part of what's called a community guard that's made up of 96 adult men and a dozen children who defend this village, Ayahualtempa, where 600 people live.

Mexican law allows some indigenous communities to establish their own police forces. So, children over 12 can have real guns, but all of the very small ones have toy guns. And the reason is, it gets them used to the idea that they have to defend themselves.

This self-defense group is filling the void left by the state. There are no armed Mexican security forces nearby to protect the besieged town. There is no medical facility, and no financial aid has been provided to these villagers so they can weather the crisis that has isolated them from the outside world.

After decades of growing poppy plants, the raw material for heroin, this impoverished agricultural community stopped growing the illegal crop in 2015, cutting off all transactions with the local cartels and their intermediaries, fearing a takeover from the increasingly powerful and violent group.

In November of 2019, as the cartel gained more power, the murder rate started steadily increasing. In the past few months, nine people have been killed in this village and 34 others were slain in surrounding towns.

The villagers believe the violence is a deadly message from the cartel that wants to take over this drug corridor and tax local businesses as a form of extortion.

Today, this picturesque town has still not been invaded and occupied by the cartel, but the security situation is so bad, locals can't travel to the nearby farmers market. The local school shut down because it sits in a cartel-controlled area just past this chain that serves as a demarcation barrier.

Bernardino Sanchez, Nahua Indigenous Leader (through translator):

We the farmers, our job is to work the land. But, since there's no security, well, we feel obligated to take up arms, prepare the kids, because we don't know when or at what hour they are going to kill us.

So, if we don't prepare the kids, soon, they won't be able to defend themselves. The advantage that we have is that we prepare the community police for each shot they take, so they don't miss, that we don't waste bullets, because we don't have resources to purchase ammunition.

Monica Villamizar:

Every time the leader, Bernardino Sanchez, is out on patrol, his bodyguards follow him; 13-year-old Miguel is the youngest armed guard in the village. He says he misses school, and splits his time between herding goats and weapons training, preparing for a possible cartel invasion.

Miguel, 13 Years Old (through translator): They have attacked our families, they have kidnapped us, they have killed us. Since then, I have grabbed a weapon.

Monica Villamizar:

Do you think it's normal that a kid your age is armed and has a rifle?

Miguel (through translator):

No, but I use it to defend my village.

Monica Villamizar:

This man, who preferred to keep his identity anonymous, says his brother, a community police commander, was murdered by the cartel.

Afterwards, this community wrote a letter to the Mexican government asking for help, but it fell on deaf ears. Now he has a warning.

Man (through translator):

The government needs to listen. We are defending ourselves, yes, not because we like to carry weapons or because we want to kill. So long as our enemies don't provoke us, all is OK. But if they provoke us, who knows what will happen to us?

Yes, I know they will kill us, but they will also die, so that's all.

Monica Villamizar:

Citizens taking up arms to defend themselves from cartels is nothing new here in the states of Guerrero and neighboring Michoacan.

The last civilian uprising in 2012 made the region one of the most volatile in the country.

Writer Ioan Grillo explains that the militia movement is complicated.

Ioan Grillo, Author, "El Narco: Inside Mexico's Criminal Insurgency": With this self-defense movement, you then had very different things that was outside of indigenous communities, which is all kinds of groups of people creating armed squads.

Some of them are genuine and really defend their community. Some of them are mixed, to look a bit dubious, that they might be defending the community, but there are suspect people. And some of them are full-on drug trafficking organizations that are using the autodefensas, self-defense, America to just to do their other activities.

Monica Villamizar:

With this new uprising well under way, it's unclear if local militias like this one will help decrease or increase Mexico's sky-high homicide rate of 34,000 murders last year, many of which were drug-related.

And just over the border from Mexico in Southern Arizona, these men are part of a training session given by the Arizona Border Recon. The group calls themselves an intelligence-gathering operation, but they're armed to interdict and capture. Their leader is this man, Tim Foley.

Tim Foley, Founder, Arizona Border Recon:

We love our country. We have taken an oath. Most of us were in the military or law enforcement. And we took an oath to defend the country. And it doesn't end when you get out. It's a lifelong oath.

Monica Villamizar:

Tim Foley traveled to the Capitol on January 6. Foley didn't enter the building, but says he doesn't think the violence was initiated by Trump supporters.

Tim Foley:

We were there, I would say, 45 minutes before Trump even ended his speech. And there were instigators already there harassing the police, and tear gas was already being shot. And I got gassed five times that day.

Monica Villamizar:

This training is preparing Recon members for a hypothetical attack by smugglers illegally crossing into the U.S.

Do you guys train with live ammo?

Tim Foley:

No. It's a safety thing. We do carry rounds with us and we do have sidearms that are loaded just in case.

Monica Villamizar:

Foley says he finances his militia through paid training and speaking engagements.

The Recon also conducts armed patrols using loaded AR-15s, pistols, and shotguns, on one of the routes where drugs are smuggled on foot for the Sinaloa cartel. This militia patrols the area because they say the government has failed to.

Groups of men crossing this public desert by foot with backpacks can be seen in footage that Foley captured on his hidden cameras. Foley calls them dope mules.

Tim Foley:

The dope mules nowadays, they're packs. They're bigger. They're camouflaged, but every cubic centimeter in that pack is full. And, basically, it's fentanyl, meth, heroin, cocaine.

Monica Villamizar:

Foley's cameras caught this man with an automatic weapon. And just over the border inside Mexico, one of Foley's drones captured this man pointing his gun at the camera.

Foley believes he's a cartel lookout who feeds information to mules on foot. Foley says the Recon is in the business of combating the cartels' delivery service.

Tim Foley:

Like any business, they have delivery schedules and everything else. So, when we come out, what we do is, we try to mess up their logistics.

If we can get in front of them and deter them from coming in that way, and they have to move to go, say, two miles, but if were sitting there also, then they have to move again. So they are burning up their food and logistics. So, that way, it makes it harder and harder for them, and they're not keeping their delivery schedule.

So you're going to get some upset customers.

Monica Villamizar:

Foley has stopped groups that he believed were illegally crossing into the U.S. He says he gives the border crossers water and immediately notifies the Border Patrol.

It's nonetheless an armed private citizen taking law enforcement duties. So far, he hasn't gotten into a shoot-out.

Customs and Border Protection would like Foley and his men to stand down. They provided this written statement: "CBP does not endorse or support any private group or organization from taking matters into their own hands, as it could have disastrous personal and public safety consequences."

Mark Napier was the elected Republican sheriff of Pima County, where Foley conducts his patrols, from 2016 until last year. Today, Napier works for the neighboring Cochise County Sheriff's Department.

Mark Napier, Former Pima County, Arizona, Sheriff:

How do you determine who a good guy and a bad guy is when people are carrying rifles and they are all cammied up? I am not interested in armed militia out there playing soldier of fortune. I think that's problematic.

Monica Villamizar:

However, Sheriff David Hathaway, a Spanish-speaking elected Democrat of neighboring Santa Cruz County, points out that, since Arizona is an open-carry state, conducting training programs and patrols is not against the law.

David Hathaway, Santa Cruz County, Arizona, Sheriff:

As sheriff, in my position, as long as they're not violating the laws, as long as they're not assaulting somebody, intimidating somebody, threatening somebody, they are free to go on public lands. There is a lot of public government-owned land in Arizona.

Monica Villamizar:

Tim Foley says he's been called a racist, but he points out that members of the recon are Latino.

Hugo, Arizona Border Recon:

If we see somebody crossing, we will just notify the Border Patrol.

Monica Villamizar:

Hugo owns a taxi service on the East Coast of the United States and spends his free time with the Recon. He didn't want to tell us his last name, due to fear of reprisals.

Hugo:

I was born in Uruguay, and I first came to this country as an exchange student. A few years later, I became a U.S. citizen.

Monica Villamizar:

Foley concedes, more drug mules get around him than the Recon can stop, but given the deadliness of fentanyl and other drugs, he's still dedicated to the pursuit.

Tim Foley:

The way I look at it, every little bit helps. That load I stopped might have saved two people. That load I stopped might have saved one. I can walk away. When I look in the mirror and go, what didn't we try to stop?

Monica Villamizar:

For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Monica Villamizar in Pima County, Arizona.


--------------------
How to test your drugs for Fentanyl
(From dancesafe.org)


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Offlinegone-pear-shaped
Stranger than fiction

Registered: 10/30/17
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Re: A secret look at a Mexican cartel’s low-tech, multimillion-dollar fentanyl operation [Re: veggie]
    #27472790 - 09/18/21 11:14 AM (7 days, 15 hours ago)

Quote:

This self-defense group is filling the void left by the state.




According to some philosophies, that's the only valid excuse for violence. The state should have a monopoly on force, both making extra-governmental forms of violence unnecessary and punishing such violence.

(Violence/force doesn't just refer to weapons and fists. All law is force, because if you don't follow it, somebody with a badge will make you follow it. If the government does a good job in properly exercising force, there should be no reason for anybody else to do so. Of course this is an ideal and will never be perfect.)


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