Most of the information below was obtained from La Voz
de la Frontera, that first rate, second class, third
world, fifth estate oracle of Mexicali, and from the internet,
everyone's third class, virtual world anchorman.
moments before the accident.
The 40th Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 had an unrehearsed addition
to its story board this year. Just after three o'clock
on Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2007, a 'chase' helicopter (it seems
as if one is not a serious contestant without a rotor-powered
satellite above his vehicle) dropped to a dangerously
low altitude to obtain some pulitzer-winning photos of
the entry it was tailing. Unfortunately, as any movie
gunfighter would have done, the pilot did not keep the
sun to his back. And that might be the reason the main
rotor cut through a high tension wire and sent the helicopter
plummeting to the ground.
The desert quickly dismantled the aircraft and scattered
it into a tangle of buckled metal and debris. While a
crowd of spectators drew toward the plume of dust that
rose from the carnage, an invisible effect was delivered
to every home and rancho that swung a copper umbilicus
to the electrical grid downstream from the accident: a
power outage that lasted almost seven hours and plunged
San Felipe into darkness until 10 o'clock that evening.
Reports from spectators at the incident describe how
a few of the bystander dashed forward to snatch up the
camera from the helicopter wreckage, as well as a cell
sift through wreckage.
Paramedics and police arrived to sort through the confusion.
Two injured men were treated and sent to an Ensenada medical
facility. Two bodies were removed to the morgue where one
of them was identified as Francisco Merardo Leon Hinojosa,
aka El Abulón, one of the top ranking
lieutenants of the Arellano-Felix drug cartel in Tijuana.
The following evening a battery of over fifty men, armed
with AK-47s and AR-15s, miraculously convoyed along one
of Ensenada's major thoroughfares to the Instalaciones
del Servico Medico Forense, apparently without being seen
by any of the federal, state or military law enforcement
agencies. They stormed the morgue, absconded with the body
of El Abulón as well as two hostages, and made
Part of the group allegedly split off and took the highway
toward Valle de Trinidad, where two police officers confronted
them and were shot to death. Shortly afterward, police
discovered two abandoned vehicles nearby. Inside they
discovered several abandoned uniforms of the Federal Police,
latex gloves, caps, a radio communication device and several
Thursday, the Procuraduria General de Justicia announced
the hostages had been found, safe and sound.
The two injured men, helicopter pilot Isaac Sarabia and
copilot Rodolfo Calvillo, are in stable condition, recovering
from their wounds.
It would appear this rather bizarre burlesque
is yet another surfacing of the enigmatic theme that sutures
together the exotic fabrics of Mexican culture. Namely,
the ever-present stream, at times almost arterial in nature,
of the drug flow.
The laissez faire attitude of Mexico on the
subject of drugs has a long history. Marijuana, opiates
and cocaine were commonly used throughout the 1800-1900s.
Drug trafficking in Mexico began as a response to U.S.opium
demand. It wasn't until the Shanghai Conference in 1909
for opium control that the United States government exercised
its disposition on drugs. Now, after almost a hundred
years of political pressure directed at its lenient neighbor
to the south, along with a series of economic reconciliations
and mutually effective accords in exchange for tightening
the anti-drug measures in Mexico, the anti-drug campaign
has resulted in a symbolic increase in the amount of illicit
drugs seized in Mexico.
Why symbolic? Well, the international illicit drug business
generates as much as $400 billion in trade annually. Interdiction
efforts intercept 10-15% of the heroin and 30% of the
cocaine. Drug traffickers earn gross profit margins of
up to 300%. At least 75% of international drug shipments
would need to be intercepted to substantially reduce the
profitability of drug trafficking. Since Mexican drug
cartels supply the United States with 80% of it's cocaine,
the problem would indeed appear to be a localized concern
and a soft spot in the Punch & Judy spectacle of both
country's foreign policy. Mexico points its finger at
the extremely high levels of consumption in the United
States (estimated between 20-40% of people over the age
of 12). And the US holds the activities of the big Mexican
drug cartels accountable.
newspapers cursorily touch upon the subject of domestic
illicit drug problems. Mexican newspapers, however, with
a thirst for the lurid, often publish the activities of
traffickers in lavish detail. It's been said the most
dangerous profession in Mexico is journalism. Although
life itself has a 100% mortality rate, being a journalist
in Mexico would seem to put the process on a fast track.
Yet frequent articles and columns still reveal the heart
that pumps the flow of narcóticos. These
people are well-known to authorities on all levels and
in a country that functions under the Napoleonic code,
where guilt is an integral function of suspicion, it seems
extraordinary that they remain free to conduct their business
in plain sight. But this is nothing new for many people
in Mexico, especially in those regions where illegal plants
had been cultivated for decades and drug trafficking has
become an established industry. Economic dependencies
are so intricately interwoven with the activity that to do
anything crippling to its health would create a domino
effect felt throughout the entire country.
Legitimizing the immense wealth of the drug lords and
capos is the objective of the money laundering
operations that present to the public innumerable businesses
that are fronts for their illicit activities. In many
small border towns 'recruitment' loans are given to peasants
who want to open their own tiendas, and who are
later called upon to repay the debt by acting as transport
agents for drug shipments. Other projects, operating on
a larger scale, only incidentally bring 'progress' to
a developing area by promoting and investing in local
land, merchandising real estate and expanding the local
The veneer of Mexican culture falls away from the lightest
touch of a fingernail to reveal glimpses of a subculture
that wears a long history of political and social dependencies.
Midnight pangas, black helicopters, desert runways, road
blocks, local business benefactors and countless drug-related
industries well up through the tourist pamphlet depictions
of carefree straw-hatted paisanos in white cotton
shirts leading the lifestyle that millions of Americans
covet from their office swivel chair.
Is there an ultimate truth to what a culture engenders,
an ultimate observation that takes into account all the
visible and invisible levels? Perhaps not. Maybe a culture
assembles itself according to the precepts and desires
of the person experiencing it. And like Oedipa Maas in
Thomas Pinchon's The Crying of Lot 49, there's
instability in the pursuit of its true nature.
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