Pablo Acosta

Until his death, Pablo Acosta was one of the top narcotics padrinos of Mexico, controlling crime along a two-hundred mile stretch of U.S.-Mexico border. At the height of his power, he was smuggling 60 tons of cocaine a year for the Colombians—-in addition to the incalculable amounts of marijuana and heroin that were the mainstay of his business. He was the mentor and business partner of Amado Carrillo Fuentes, the so-called Lord of the Skies, who took over after Acosta’s death.

A confidential U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration report entitled “The Pablo Acosta Organization” describes Acosta as follows: “Acosta directs his organization from Ojinaga with an iron fist and does not tolerate rebellion, either overt or covert. If a leak is suspected, or if a member or associate fails to act as expected, they are removed quickly and permanently. He has a strict enforcement policy, which is killing the delinquent customer.

The drug trafficking organization of Pablo Acosta included close family members, such as his brother, Juan Acosta (second from left).

The drug trafficking organization of Pablo Acosta included close family members, such as his brother, Juan Acosta (second from left).

According to a DEA report about Acosta’s drug organization, “Acosta takes a personal and active interest in any bad business practices, or talking by his enemies or competitors. His killings are very flamboyant and are done in a distinctive manner as an example to others. He is a vicious and extremely dangerous person who has little regard for human life if it stands in the way of his operation.

“Although he is small in stature, he does not hesitate to become involved in a gun battle with his peers or with law enforcement personnel. Acosta has put out several contracts on competitors and has been implicated in two Hobbs, New Mexico, murders and four in Mexico.

View of Santa Elena from the cockpit of one of the Mexican federal police helicopters. The police helicopters were escorted through U.S. territory by an FBI helicopter, allowing them to attack Acosta by surprise. Acosta holed up in an adobe house marked by a red arrow.

View of Santa Elena from the cockpit of one of the Mexican federal police helicopters. The police helicopters were escorted through U.S. territory by an FBI helicopter, allowing them to attack Acosta by surprise. Acosta holed up in an adobe house that is marked here by a red arrow. He refused to give up and was killed after an hour-long gun battle.

The DEA report further states that Acosta’s organization “has been linked to at least twenty murders, and the total may even be double that number. Reports are that he has begun to arm his members with Teflon-coated ammunition capable of penetrating body-armor type bullet-proof vests worn by law enforcement officers. Acosta himself is known to wear a bulletproof vest and usually travels with or is followed by heavily armed bodyguards.”

Acosta was killed on April 24, 1987, by Mexican federal police. Led by Comandante Guillermo Gonzalez Calderoni, the police attacked his hideout in Santa Elena, a remote village of 300 people on the Rio Grande across from Big Bend National Park. The Mexican police attacked the village in two helicopters after an FBI helicopter escorted them through U.S. territory. Acosta was taken completely by surprise. The Mexican police landed in nearby corn fields and quickly surrounded the adobe house in the center of the village where Acosta and two bodyguards holed up. Acosta refused to surrender and was killed after an hour-long shootout.

Acosta's body after it was dragged from the house the Mexican police had set on fire.

Acosta’s body after it was dragged from the house the Mexican police had set on fire.

Witnesses said the gunfight was intense. Acosta and his bodyguards fired machine guns over the sills of windows while taking cover behind the thick adobe walls. At one point, Calderoni and one of his agents kicked the front door open. The bodyguards surrendered while Acosta fled to a back room. As he fled, he fired at the federal agent, wounding him in the arm, but the agent was able to shoot back at Acosta. The drug lord was wounded in the neck and ended up bleeding to death. The federal police set fire to the house, and his body was dragged out before the flames could reach him.

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