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About Drug Lord, the Life and Death of a Mexican Kingpin

Donald Trump wants to build a wall between the United States and Mexico, and he vows to do so if he becomes president of the United States. The wall, he believes, will stop the flow of drugs into the country […]

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Introduction by the author

This book came about because of the kidnapping of an American newspaper photographer by a Juarez drug trafficker, a brutal and unprecedented event that caused an international scandal and brought about the downfall of one of the major drug traffickers […]

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Preface by Chuck Bowden

This book could function as an owner’s manual for the Mexican drug cartels. Here we find the first good description of the plaza — that arrangement where the Mexican government seeks a partner to supervise all criminal activity in a […]

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Chapter 21: White Goddess

White Goddess is the title of Chapter 21 of Drug Lord, and it is about Pablo Acosta’s addiction to crack cocaine, an addiction that he was unable to shake off and that contributed to his downfall. Pablo Acosta had been […]

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What the DEA had to say about Pablo Acosta

The following are highlights from a DEA report entitled The Pablo Acosta Organization, a report based primarily on investigations carried out by U.S. Customs Service agents in the Presidio, Texas, area: There has been a continuous increase in the trafficking […]

 

About Drug Lord, the Life and Death of a Mexican Kingpin

acosta-car-517px

Donald Trump wants to build a wall between the United States and Mexico, and he vows to do so if he becomes president of the United States. The wall, he believes, will stop the flow of drugs into the country as well as prevent the illegal entry of people across the border. Whether Trump is right or wrong about the need for a wall is a matter of fierce debate that will only grow in intensity as the election year progresses.

What cannot be disputed, however, is that there is a huge amount of drugs coming across the border, no different than in the past. There is also a greater influx of people coming now from all parts of the world than ever before. Who are these people? What is their motive for entering the United States?

Another matter than is beyond dispute is that smuggling activities related to drugs and people are controlled by organized crime groups, and to some extent organized crime is controlled by agencies of the government of Mexico. Read more »

Introduction by the author

acosta-good-works-517px

This book came about because of the kidnapping of an American newspaper photographer by a Juarez drug trafficker, a brutal and unprecedented event that caused an international scandal and brought about the downfall of one of the major drug traffickers of the time.

Until the kidnapping, I didn’t have much interest in the subject of drugs. Drug trafficking was part of the background noise of the El Paso-Juarez region where I worked as a reporter. It was low keyed even in its violence; it did not draw too much attention to itself. My journalistic work, which had begun for the El Paso Herald-Post in 1984, focused primarily on reporting on a political movement in northern Mexico that was challenging the entrenched one-party system that had ruled Mexico since 1929. Juarez, the largest city in the state of Chihuahua, was the scene of what today would be called a “color” revolution — a democratic movement that used tactics of non-violent resistance to achieve its goals. Such a revolution was unfolding only ten blocks south of the newspaper, just on the other side of the Rio Grande. Read more »

Preface by Chuck Bowden

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This book could function as an owner’s manual for the Mexican drug cartels. Here we find the first good description of the plaza — that arrangement where the Mexican government seeks a partner to supervise all criminal activity in a city. And how to maintain discipline by killing everyone connected to a lost load lest a traitor survive. And also the history of the shift of power from Colombia to Mexico, when American efforts hampered the pathways in Florida and made Mexico the trampoline for cocaine shipments into the U.S. markets.

I remember in the mid-nineties paying fifty dollars for a copy of Drug Lord in a used bookstore in El Paso and being damned happy to get my hands on it.

Terrence Poppa was a reporter for the El Paso Herald-Post. In the eighties, he captured the rise and fall of Pablo Acosta in Ojinaga, the border town across from Presidio, Texas. By that act, he wrote the history of the key moment when flights of cocaine from Columbia entered the Mexican economy. He interviewed the players, got down their life histories and made the indelible point that the people written off by their own country as ill-educated bumkins were creative and were turning power on its head in the nation. Acosta’s slaughter by Mexican comandante Guillermo Gonzalez Calderoni, with the help of the FBI, ended this kind of access. Since then, becoming famous and talking to the press — which Acosta did — has been seen as a fatal decision. And since then, the Mexican drug industry has become a source of thirty to fifty billion dollars of foreign currency a year for the Mexican economy — second only to oil, and now the oil fields of Mexico are collapsing. Read more »

Chapter 21: White Goddess

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White Goddess is the title of Chapter 21 of Drug Lord, and it is about Pablo Acosta’s addiction to crack cocaine, an addiction that he was unable to shake off and that contributed to his downfall.

Pablo Acosta had been using cocaine off and on for some time, but until 1984 he had only snorted it. Though he was by then a big-league marijuana and heroin trafficker, even he at times had trouble getting enough cocaine for personal use. In desperation, he would call Sammy Garcia from Ojinaga with a coded message that his help was needed. “Traeme dos novias vestidas de blanco—Bring me a couple of brides dressed in white” was coded language instructing Sammy to bring two ounces of cocaine. Becky had her own source in El Paso, so getting Pablo what he wanted was never impossible provided he was willing to wait a few days.

In 1984, one of drug lord’s brothers introduced him to crack cocaine smoked a la mexicana—crack laced cigarettes. They were made by pulling out strands of tobacco from the end of an unfiltered cigarette, then using the empty end as a shovel to scoop up a fraction of a gram of powdered crack. After twisting the end into a wick and tapping the cigarette so that the powder settled into the tobacco, Pablo would pass a butane lighter underneath the cigarette to vaporize the powder and then take a long draw. Within seconds the drug was circulating in his brain, bringing with it the feelings of supra-humanity he had begun to crave. Read more »

What the DEA had to say about Pablo Acosta

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The following are highlights from a DEA report entitled The Pablo Acosta Organization, a report based primarily on investigations carried out by U.S. Customs Service agents in the Presidio, Texas, area:

There has been a continuous increase in the trafficking of Mexican heroin, cocaine, and marijuana into the United States from Mexico over the last few years. Many fields of opium poppies were found and destroyed in Coahuila and Chihuahua in 1984. However, the production of opium is expected to rise in 1985. Mexican opium is converted directly into heroin in Mexico and is usually smuggled across the southern border.

There has also been a noticeable increase in the smuggling of cocaine through Mexico, with significant quantities of cocaine produced in South America crossing the southwest border, and although the largest worldwide marijuana seizure to date occurred in the state of Chihuahua in November 1984, it is believed that there are major quantities still available. The amount of marijuana seized along the U.S.-Mexico border has more than tripled in the last year. Recent seizures of very high-grade marijuana tops suggests the existence of very large stockpiles still in Mexico. Read more »