PROFILE: JUAREZ CARTEL – PABLO ACOSTA (aka: El Zorro de Ojinaga)
Pablo Acosta, was one of the top narcotic trafficking Godfathers of Mexico until his demise, he was also the friend, business partner, and mentor of Amado Carrillo Fuentes “El Senor de los Cielos” or “the Lord of the Skies”. He moved incalculable tonnes of Marijuana and Heroin which constituted the majority of his illegal trade, in his heyday he was moving 60 tonnes of Cocaine a year for the Colombian Cartels with a street value today of $3 billion US a year, along a 200 mile stretch of border that he controlled round the big bend national park area. He died during a confrontation with Government Forces in 1987.
|Born||January 26, 1937
Ojinaga, Chihuahua, Mexico.
|Died||April 1987 (aged 50)
Santa Elena, Chihuahua, Mexico
|Cause of death||Shootout with Mexican Federal Police.|
|Other names||El Zorro de Ojinaga.|
|Known for||Drug trafficker.|
|Successor||Rafael Aguilar Guajardo (aka: Lord of the Skies)|
The Ojinaga Plaza
The current plaza system utilized by the major cartels in Mexico today, developed from and owe their roots to the Ojinaga Plaza. The first ” Plaza Boss” of Ojinaga was Manuel Carrasco “La Vibora”, this was before the term had been used for the first time. The one time campesino and drug mule, made a few extra bucks delivering small quantities of heroin for his wife’s uncle.
His wife’s uncle was Domingo Aranda, an independent drug trafficker who sold to the Chicago Mafia. Aranda was a small time trafficker compared to the generations after, that put flesh on the bones of, the brainchild of the corrupt Mexican Government that is the Plaza system, the modern day Drug Capo took “ownership” of the Ojinaga Plaza.
Carrasco had his sights set on bigger things than Domingo Aranda. He realised that after establishing USA contacts of his own, that if he locked down the interstate routes, he could move a lot of weight and put his own Boss and relative Aranda out of business.
Carrasco’s dreams of running things were soon dealt four aces, as he shot and burned to death Domingo Aranda on the shores of the “Big River” close to Ojinaga, Chihuahua. Carrasco was a cold hearted bastard, and stood and watched his wife’s uncle burn to death while drinking beers.
As far as burials go Arandas was not like the modern day gaudy affairs, his killers simply kicked sand over his body which barely covered it and just sauntered away.
Carrasco’s sense of self preservation was lacking a certain something, after taking power from Aranda, he murdered someone who had come to collect a debt, and was family of Pedro Aviles. Carrasco, thought if he killed the collector he could wipe the debt by saying he had paid the collector, and that he had no idea where he was or what had happened to him subsequently.
Carrasco, while in Doctors surgery being treated for a gunshot wound sustained in a gunfight, managed to get into a major gun battle in the doctors surgery with security forces, and took this opportunity to shoot the debt collector, who had attended the hospital with Carrasco.
Pedro Aviles put a “green light” on him and the entire Municipal Police Force in Ojinaga. Word got out that two plane loads of sicarios from Pedro Aviles Guadalajara cartel were heading to Ojinaga to kill Carrasco and wipe out the Municipal Police Force.
The entire Municipal Police Force, with their families fled north of the border to escape the Sicarios, while Carrasco, deciding that discretion was the better part of valor, also fled rather than face retribution that was shortly arriving.
The Government wanted their plaza money and so made immediate demands for the usual amount from Carrascos second in command, Martin “El Shorty” Lopez. This had the effect of promoting him to Plaza Boss.
Lopez a native of Corpus Christi, Texas, had grown up in Odessa. Previous owners of the Ojinaga Plaza were locals. Lopez was a different kind of character to Carrasco and Aranda. Whether by dint of nature, or by design, he could be compared in some respects to Jesus Malverde from Mexico, the narco traffickers patron saint, or England’s Robin Hood.
He operated in the San Carlos region, and genuinely helped many of the people in the area. He gave gifts, but not Ferrari’s and luxuries, but tractors, irrigation pumps, fertilizers, as well as help paying peoples bills.
But like many traffickers both old and new, they had no intention of dwelling for second to think of the pain and hopelessness, crime and violence that their Mexican black tar heroin brought to American cities. The traffickers saw this trade as supply and demand, simple economic theory, black and white with no shades of gray.
At this time, Pablo Acosta was languishing in Jail in the United States, serving an eight stretch in Leavenworth for heroin possession. Acosta made important connections in the Texas prison that would prove extremely fortuitous later on in Pablo’s career.
It was towards the end of the 60’s when Mexico’s corrupt PRI government dreamt up the plaza system, to grease their palms with cash, and the lackeys below them who wanted to get their snouts in the trough too.
They thrashed out the details, and in truth the system today is a much more watered down variant of the original. The “owner” of the Plaza, or top capo in his area, such as Guadalajara and Culiacan, would make a monthly payment of $100,000.00 to the designated collector, usually a Police Chief or High ranking Military commander.
They in turn would arrange for a transfer of the funds, under armed guard, to their superiors minus a small commission. Most people suspect that at the top of this chain of corruption and deceit, killings and impunity rests the President of Mexico himself.
Those above the “owner” of the plaza were able to render services in the form of military and police escorts for drugs to the border area, arresting or disappearing competitors. But, like goodfellas, you have to come up with the cash every month, ” your house burnt down? fuck you pay me”, and it better be on time.
The only way to find out if you are able to cope with this kind of pressure, i.e. lack of performance = torture and death, is to sink or swim. Pablo Acosta thrived in the pressure cooker environment of drug trafficking, he pioneered the operations of the plaza system, he started thinking in terms of international scale logistics, fostering links with politicians, and like previous relatively successful drug traffickers like “Lola La Chata”, he knew who to bribe and exactly how much was required, and his successful business model was soon taken up by traffickers on both side of the border.
Word soon spread of how Pablo was “taking care of business”, and ears were pricking up in the top echelons of the Guadalajara Cartel, where Pedro Aviles ruled. Pablo started making a lot of men rich, and that was when his problems started in their infancy…
The Acosta family
Pablo came from a large family that were migrant farm workers for many generations, scratching out a living from the Chihuahua and Sonoran deserts bordering the United States. Each year the large and extended family would send the men out into the fields taking those children who were old enough for the manual labor.
The younger children stayed at home with the women, including Pablo’s mother Dolores. The Acosta men went to Texas and New Mexico, with Pablo learning from his father Cornelio, on farms around Fort Stockton, Odessa and Lovington.
Pablo had been on the migrant work trail with his father for 9 years by 1958, and had begun to get in trouble. He was a genuinely likable character by all accounts, but after a drink was quite happy to fight anyone at the drop of hat.
|Pablo arrested for fighting while drunk smirking at the camera|
The Acosta family, had a blood feud with another Mexican farming family named Baiza, like most blood feuds the reprisal killings had been going on for generations. And so it happened that in October of 1958 when Pablo was in a bar called Sandy’s Lounge having a drink with his father, someone came into the bar, and told Cornelio, that there was someone waiting to talk to him outside.
Cornelio went outside the bar. Pablo heard a gunshot from inside the bar, and rushed outside to find his father laying face up in the gravel with a bullet hole in his forehead. A car screeched away and Pablo raced after it, but could only get close enough to read the number plate.
Pablo went to the Fort Stockton Police, and they traced the vehicle to a certain Pablo Baiza. He was arrested and brought to trial where the details of the two families long running feud were made public before the Court.
Pablo Baiza’s Lawyer argued that, it was expected of Pablo Baiza to carry on and avenge his family in the feud. They Lawyer explained that the feud had taken a turn for the worse when one of Pablo’s relatives killed a Baiza, then hung him up in an abandoned adobe house, and locked two hungry dogs in there.
Pablo Baiza was found guilty of murder with Malice Aforethought, and the court handed down a sentence of 5 years probation! As he had served 3 months in prison since waiting to come to trial, he was released from Court, which obviously did nothing to quash the family feud.
Pablo Baiza was killed a short time later in a different Fort Stockton bar.
Pablo’s violent behavior when drunk took a turn for the worse in 1964, as there was little to do for Latinos in Fort Stockton, as Latinos were not welcome at most establishments at the time. There were a couple of Latino bars, which Pablo used to frequent.
As usual after a few beers, Pablo’s aggression got the better of him, an argument over a girl led Pablo to offer the guy a fight outside the town limits. When Pablo got into his car the other guy fired at him, the bullet or bullet fragments wounding him in the cheek.
He raised his .22 rifle and opened fire, wounding one of the men. The local press had a field day after the exchange of gunfire.
Pablo had a reduction in the charges against him to illegal use of a firearm and was given a ninety day sentence.
Not long after Pablo was busted on his first drug mule trip with heroin taped to his arms, he was handed an eight stretch form the Pecos Federal District Court.
He made important contacts in both the Latino and Caucasian prison inmate communities, he already had contacts south of the border with his black tar heroin supply from Manuel Carrasco. With his new contact north of the border he had everything he needed to setup a drug trafficking network that would rival any in Mexico.
He left prison 3 years early for good behavior in 1973, and 3 years after he had a run in with two USA anti-narcotics agent in a drug deal gone bad and had to flee south of the border to Ojinaga.
Pablo’s return to Mexico was to a time of uncertainty in the Ojinaga Plaza. Despite the fact that Manuel Carrasco had fled, Pablo saw this as an opportunity. He love the excitement of smuggling drugs, and at the time, the excitement it gave this farm worker was his main motivating factor and not the money as at the time he wasn’t moving any serious weight.
Martin El Shorty Lopez had inherited the Ojinaga Plaza, and as he and Pablo were buddies from Leavenworth prison, they met in Ojinaga like old friends. Lopez set Pablo to work straight away.
Lopez at this time was earning a lot of money, he had all the trappings of a Narco, big ranch with an airstrip, vehicles, storage facility for drugs, he could afford to buy anything he wanted pretty much.
Lopez decided that, unlike Carrasco, he would go with a hearts and mind campaign, the more of the local population he looked after, the more eyes he had between himself in Santa Elena and Ojinaga the better.
Lopez would go shopping in Ojinaga and buy huge amounts of groceries and other sundries, and on the way back from Ojinaga would stop at Adobe houses dropping of food to the hard done by. The San Carlos area of around 2000 inhabitants were all beneficiaries of Lopez’s altruism.
This though was a two way street, as the inhabitants farmed, fruit, vegetables, livestock, they went to the USA as export goods accompanied by drugs in the trucks. Lopez found it easy, some days he would stand on the Mexican side of the river at big bend, and various buyers would come to the USA side and ask ” are you a messkin?”, and Lopez would sell them as much marijuana and heroin as they wanted.
Lopez was enjoying life and his patronage of the surrounding areas, but Manuel Carrascao who had been hiding out in Chihuahua City, seethed at the success of Shorty Lopez which he believed was rightfully his.
He put word out that Martin Lopez time was up, and that he was going to take care permanently of the usurper Ojinaga Plaza Boss, and reclaim what he saw as rightfully his
Shorty Lopez used to drive to Ojinaga and back from his ranch high up the Sierra Ponce of the Santa Elena with a bodyguard and sometimes alone.
Shorty used to deliver his plaza fee to the Police Chief at Chihuahua City, on this particular day he happened to run into Manuel Carrasco. After an exchange of pleasantries, which were mostly death threats to each other, they parted ways.
Shorty Lopez’s men told him he should have talked to Manuel and worked things out, but Lopez like Carrasco before was feeling the power of being “untouchable” as Plaza Boss.
Carrasco made the arrangement and set up an ambush for Lopez, he knew the return route Lopez would take over the rough mountain roads of the Sierra Ponce with its Limestone cliffs.
Carrasco’s hit men were waiting for Lopez over a rise in the road, meaning Lopez wouldn’t see the ambush until it was too late. However, Carrasco had not figured in that everyone in the area were beneficiaries of Lopez’s altruism, and were his un-official halcones.
Lopez was warned about the ambush, but Lopez being what he was, decided he would take on his ambushers. There was only him and his driver/bodyguard.
They were approaching the ambush point, when Lopez got out of the pickup with his AR15 rifle and some spare mags, and climbed onto the rear bed of the vehicle. His driver had his pistols ready, cocked, with the safeties off ready to go.
As his vehicle came over the rise, one of the ambushers stepped out in police uniform and said ” Stop! Judicial”, he saw that Lopez was not in the vehicle. Lopez then jumped up and fired a burst at the Sicario, who fell.
Lopez then opened up on other men who were crashing out of the mesquite brush, and downed several of them, then all hell opened up and Lopez’s pickup was hit by gunfire from three sides. Lopez’s driver jumped out of the pickup and was immediately hit and fell, Shorty Lopez ran back up the track firing back at the ambushers.
One of the Sicarios took aim with his .45 and shot Lopez in the back, dropping him like a stone.
The Sicarios then drove a heavy vehicle over his body again and again before finally driving over his head to put his out of his misery. A Sicario then chopped at his skull with such force that he severed his head from the hair line.
Pieces of the Shorty skull were then distributed to all sicarios and they were made to wear them around their necks on chains, as a lesson to all what the price of perfidy was.
Carrasco could not take back the Plaza with a Guadalajara Cartel green light on him.
After the death of Lopez, who funeral had been attended by a lot of people, locals, in whose eyes, the charity Lopez showed absolved him of most of his crimes, came to pay their respects.
With Carrasco out of the picture and shorty dead, that left only three people from the area who had the necessary prior involvement and nous to become the plaza boss.
Pablo Acosta, Victor Sierra and Rogelio Gonzalez. All three of them knew that if they took the Jefe position, the piso for the plaza would have to be paid. Pablo did not volunteer, as he knew what it would entail. Eventually Victor Sierra was the dubious winner of the title.
He took it upon himself to deliver the piso to the Police commander in Chihuahua as had Carrasco and Lopez before him, the Police chief was more than a little surprised that Sierra had appeared from nowhere.
He got his guys to torture Sierra for three days straight to see if he had the “huevos” to resist torture and therefore not give up the Police commander if he was captured.
Sierra passed the test and was given control of the plaza. Though by dint of his torture which included cattle prods to the testicles, for 6 months after Sierra could not “stand to attention” for his many girlfriends.
Victor remained in charge of the Ojinaga Plaza for three years, nobody really knows when Pablo took over the plaza from Victor Sierra, and it was done by osmosis rather than a coup d’etat. Pablo went on behind the scene fostering connections to important people in the Mexican judiciary so when the time came he would be ready to take over.
He did not have to go through the same ordeal with the Chihuahua Police Commissioner as did Victor Sierra. Everyone found out for sure, that Pablo was in charge in 1981 when an agent of the US Clayton McKinney travelled to Mexico to meet a gringo pilot that had done some favours for the Mexican intelligence agencies.
During the interview the agent heard men outside the office arguing, and one said to the other ” but Pablo said to let him go”, and a few minutes later an officer came in and said to McKinney that the interview would have to stop, and McKinney was asked to leave.
Pablo had started paying the Plaza piso to people in Mexico City, when the Federal Police launched a new headquarters in Ojinaga, Pablo then paid his piso to the local commander and he passed it up the chain of corrupted officials.
Pablo was smarter and quicker witted than those before him, later it turned out that, when the new Federal Police force was made in Ojinaga, Pablo had handpicked the officer recruits from his own men.
One of Pablo’s most important contacts was Ismael Espudo Venegas. Though not Mexican, he was from the USA originally, he had a high post in the Internal Police of the Public Ministry. He furnished Pablo and his Lieutenants with official identification cards from the Public Ministry, Federal, and Municipal Police, which gave them carte blanche to operate with impunity.
He also arranged with the local forces for busts to happen, but these were busts of his own product. He was growing Sensemilla which grew large flower heads, the rest of the plant was not used. So come harvest time, Pablo’s men would harvest the flower tops, then invite the Federal Police to bust the now useless plant stems and leaves. Which gave good press for the local Federal Police every year. Even today if you watch some of the videos of army chopping down marijuana plants they “discovered”, you can plainly see they have no flower heads on and so have already been harvested.
Friend or Foe?
Fermin Arevalo was an independent with links to opium, heroin and marijuana traffickers in Sinaloa. His two sons were also involved in his business and ran it for him when he spent time in prison. His son Lili taking the prominent role.
When Pablo took over the Ojinaga Plaza, Fermin was taking being passed over for the Plaza very badly indeed. They were friends previously, their families mixing at events with their children playing together. Indeed they had served time together in Chihuahua State Penitentiary, and Fermin had lent money to Pablo to pay for a Lawyer to get him out of prison.
At this time Pablo was still relatively unknown outside of Ojinaga, moving small weight just enough to keep himself and his family fed and watered. Fermin was moving more weight and often gave drugs to Pablo on credit, and vice versa. They had an understanding.
This understanding broke down fairly quickly after Pablo had a load busted and suspected Fermin’s son Lili of giving up the load to the USA authorities. Pablo had needed to get three Cessna loads of marijuana to Texas in a single night. Rogelio Gonzalez was to be the pilot, and he was to land on a small tarmacked road at night. He would be met by a ground crew that included Pablo’s brother.
Pablo watched Rogelio take off into the night with the first load, when he didn’t return presently Pablo began to worry. As Rogelio had landed, he was met by two crews, Pablo’s and one from the DEA. The DEA had been waiting close to the landing site after receiving information about the incoming load.
Rogelio, who normally stayed in the plane as the drugs were unloaded, had actually got out this time. As the DEA agents pounced and shouted warnings, Rogelio pressed himself against the fuselage of his plane and backed away…. straight into his own propeller, which according to the DEA agents split him in half from the top of the head to mid abdomen. One of Pablo’s crew was shot dead, and 6 were arrested including Pablo’s brother Juan.
Pablo found out what had happened, he had lost a plane, his pilot dead, his brother and one third of a load of marijuana, 5 of his men, vehicles used by the ground crew. Pablo felt the loss keenly.
Pablo found out there was an outstanding debt owed to Rogelio Gonzalez, and that it was Lili Arevalo that owed it. The debt had been given over as security in the form of a souped up pickup. Which Lili had retrieved from Rogelio’s property before Pablo had even found out about the incident with Rogelio, from his sources both sides of the border. While this in itself was not evidence enough to act, Pablo knew things were turning sour in his relationship with the Arevalo’s.
Some time later, Pablo arranged a deal through Lili Arevalo with a cousin of Pablo’s in Texas. The load was delivered, Pablo’s cousin had delivered the money to Lili personally. Lili claimed he had never been paid for the drugs and so didn’t owe Pablo anything.
Pablo then kidnapped his own cousin and brought him to Ojinaga. His cousins sons also went of their own volition as they had been there when the money was delivered. Pablo sent them in a vehicle with two of his men to see if the could identify the man to whom they gave the money.
Lili was instantly identified they moment they set eyes on him. What happened next would have profound consequences for everyone, and led to what the DEA called the “Arevalo Wars”.
Pablo’s men sped around the block and dropped off the two sons of Pablo’s cousin. Then they returned to the bar where Lili and his brother were buying ice creams. Pablo’s men opened fire, hitting Lili multiple times, Lupe his brother was hit in the liver and fell into the gutter. Pablo’s man Marco stepped out and shot Lili in the head with his .45.
An acquaintance of Fermin notified him about the shooting of his sons, he asked Fermin who did it. Fermin knew who had done it, and with a steely resolve swore to avenge the death of his son.
A reckoning at El Salto
Hector, Pablo’s younger brother, talked to Pablo about the situation with the Arevela’s. If the feud didn’t stop a lot more people would die and get hurt. Pablo could either try and talk it out or shoot it out. Pablo chose the former.
He went out with four men and staked out the Arevela ranch known as “El Salto”. They watched the property for two days baking in the sun during the day. When Pablo was sure that Fermin was at the ranch he drove down to the ranch house.
Fermin’s wife answered the door to Pablo alone, no sight of Fermin though Pablo knew he was inside. Fermin’s wife could hardly contain her anger, and Pablo genuinely wanted to come to a deal with the Arevalo’s.
Pablo offered his .45 pistol with the safety off and a round chambered, to Fermin’s wife and asked her to shoot him if it would put an end to the feud. Pablo’s men looked on nervously as he passed her the gun. She no doubt wanted to shoot him, but probably thought better of the reprisals that his men would take out on her and her family inside the house.
Fermin’s maid came to the door and whispered to Fermin’s wife, she now seemed to be stalling Pablo, and he rightfully thought that Fermin was somewhere close, setting up an ambush. Fermin’s wife remonstrated with Pablo for killing her son Lili who she claimed was just a boy. After an hour, Pablo left the widow with a parting shot “tell Fermin if he doesnt want to end this feud, we are gonna screw him over real good”.
Pablo had his men in two vehicles, there were two routes out of the ranch and Pablo took the one he thought Fermin would not choose to ambush him on. He sent his other men down the other route.
Pablo’s vehicle had reached the cattle grid on the road, when he noticed a truck heading towards him, driven by one of the ranch managers on El Salto. Pablo thought Fermin may be in the vehicle and that they should stop it, when Fermin launched his ambush. He had been waiting in a ditch by the side of the cattle grid, with a ranch hand opposite him in a ditch on the other side.
Both Fermin and ranch hand opened up with automatic weapons, in the back of the vehicle shards of glass flew into the faces of Pablo and his brother Pedro, they both ducked when bullets grazed the head of Pablo and slammed into the bullet proof jacket worn by Pedro.
Fermin fired until his assault rifle was empty, big mistake, this gave Pedro the instant he needed to engage with his own weapon. In a scene reminiscent of the bank shootout in “Heat”, Pedro fired from inside the pickup through the windscreen, the first burst hit Fermin, the second burst hit the ranch hand and the third burst he fired at the truck that had stopped on the other side of the cattle grid.
The ranch manager jumped out of the truck and aimed to fire at Pablo’s pickup, one of Pedro’s bullets hit him in the head and killed him instantly. Pablo climbed out of the riddled pickup, blood streaming down his face, with his men, they looked for a third attacker in the trees but only found his weapon, Zacarias, one of Pablo’s men in the truck had had a relative, a Police chief, killed by Fermin and was about to exact his revenge. He drew his knife ripped Fermin open from the lower abdomen to the sternum, the bone in the centre of the ribs that protects the heart.
Another one of Pablo’s men finished Fermin off with another burst of gunfire.
Later, several different versions of how Fermin died were heard but were embellishments. One was that, Fermins wedding veg, had been cut off and then offered to his wife. Another was that after Fermin had been ripped open, and disemboweled, his body cavity had been filled with rocks, and then dragged behind a vehicle until it was pretty much unrecognizable as a human being.
None of the embellishments were true, but they made good rumours and consolidated the fear that people had of Pablo. Fermins autopsy, confirmed the cut to his body, and 21 bullet wounds. Those being the only injuries.
Pablo and his men returned immediately to the El Salto ranch. Once there for the second time he kidnapped Fermin’s wife and maid. He drove back to Ojinaga, stopping to show the widow Fermins body.
Not long after the rest of the Arevalos either moved to Presidio or Houston. Fermins wife stayed in Ojinaga, and she made a criminal complaint against Pablo. Pablo had to pay 20 milion pesos to get the arrest warrants for him and his brother overturned.
Altruistic benefactor or skill-full manipulator?
|Pablo with a local blind woman, he paid for the operation to restore her sight|
The Arevalo wars ended up costing the lives of nearly 30 people from both sides. With them out of the frame, Pablo had two roads ahead of him. Would he rule with a rod of iron now that he had total control of the plaza, or would he go down the shorty Lopez route and become, what was considered as customary, a benefactor godfather.
Pablo had been investigated by the major USA law enforcement agencies that deal with drugs, racketeering, and murder. The DEA classified him as ” a vicious, extremely dangerous person, who has little regard for human life”. Also that when he “gets bored he goes out and shoots someone, slices them open then drags them from the back of pickups”. Not exactly what you might class as charitable behavior.
Pablo’s upbringing as a campesino, meant he never forgot that life, or its hardships. He genuinely felt for the poor people of his region. I would suggest that Pablo had quite a strong sense of right and wrong, of fair and unfair, and had an understanding of cause and effect. In my book that rules him out as a psychopath, so if Pablo wasn’t enjoying killing people a la “El Ondeado” and “El Z-40” or “Rosalio Rhetta”, then he was doing it for a reason. But he still had a taint of ” a side-winding, horn swogling, cricker-crocker” about him.
Pablo’s early history with his propensity for violence when drunk, and when coked out of his head, speaks volumes that only with in the input of drugs including alcohol and their mind altering affect, did violence become acceptable to him. He had to use those to block out the feeling he had that what he was doing was wrong. So I don’t buy the DEA ” he kills someone because he is bored”, scenario. As a person free from influence, I doubt he would kill anyone.
It seems that Pablo had chosen neither of the two roads, and would forge his own route, cross country running parallel to the two established ways of doing things, borrowing what was most effective from the two philosophies and merging them into one. This ability was partly due to his upbringing as a capesino, where any problem had to be dealt with there and then, and so ingenuity, and the ability to solve problems on the fly, and the ability to think on a tangent became a valuable asset.
As Pablo was now the godfather of the Ojinaga Plaza, it was assumed that, anything that happened was with his blessing. Because who would dare do anything and risk the wrath of the “Padrino”. So any drug bust in Texas must have been his drugs, any murder drug related on either side of the Texas border must have been at his say so.
The following passage was written by the DEA in a confidential report on the Acosta organization
[” This report focuses on the PAO, believed to be responsible for most of the narcotics flowing into Texas from the Ojinaga, Chihuahua area. The Acosta organization accomplished its smuggling operations mostly by land, and sometimes by aircraft.
Acosta’s heroin is noted for its high purity, known to be as high as ninety three percent, which is known as black tar due to its appearance. His marijuana has improved, with most of the recent seizures traced to the organization being high quality tops.
This organization is also responsible for approximately seventy percent of the 4×4 and pickup thefts reported in the Texas panhandle, West Texas and eastern New Mexico areas. Thefts usually involve new and used Ford Broncos, GMC Jimmies, Chevrolet Suburban’s, Blazers. These vehicles are driven directly to Mexico and exchanged for drugs.
The PAO is also reported as a major receiver of stolen weapons traded for drugs. There are over 500 known members and associates of the PAO with factions in Amarillo, Dallas, Fort Worth, Hereford, Lubbock, Big Spring, Odessa, Midland, Kermit, Pecos, Monahaus, Fort Stockton, Presidio, El Paso and Big Bend, Texas: and Hobbs, Portales, Artesia and Roswell, New Mexico. Associates in other Texas and New Mexico cities, as well as in Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Nevada, Idaho, North Carolina and Michigan, have also been identified.
He pays high level protection to the local Mexican Government and spends close to $100,000.00 per month for this protection.
Acosta’s organization is very fluid and many of the members know only the person with whom they deal directly. Because of this, Acosta is well insulated. Being a blood relation or having a long time family or business connection is the exclusive qualification for membership. The organization is extremely difficult to penetrate because of this criterion for membership”.]
It seemed that violence was breaking out both sides of the border in the west Texas area, an escalation in the drug violence, when a plaza changes hands is common to many of us today. Just before the death of Fermin Arevalo at the hands of Pablo and his men, two men in Presidio had blasted each other to death in a pickup, leaving a third man between them slightly injured with grazing bullet wounds to his chest, and no doubt in need of a clean change of underwear.
Other deaths followed in Redford, and USA border patrol men were injured by gunfire from across the river,
Pablo realized that he needed to start building bridges and engaging in propaganda, as one way to counter the offensive against him from drug and intelligence agencies north of the border. He would soon meet someone to help him with that….Mimi Webb Miller.
The Sheriff of Presidio County
Rick Thompson was the Sheriff of Presidio County, the sudden uptick in violence was directly affecting him and he decided that Pablo was probably responsible for most of it. He set up a meeting with Pablo in Mexico as he had heard that Pablo was a reasonable man.
Rick Thompson sent Clayton McKinney who you may remember from a previous chapter in part 1 of this article, had had dealing before with Pablo at the Chihuahua Police headquarters in Chihuahua.
Thompson recalls asking only one thing of Pablo, that any killings or violence was kept out of his county, as he already had a large tally of dead people with apparently no motive for the killings.
In 1983 Pablo met Mckinney on a hilltop outside of Ojinaga. In a typical mafioso display of power Pablo had a bodyguard of eighteen men around the hill. Pablo wanted to set the record straight about the killings on the USA side of the border.
He tried to convince the agent that the rash of killings had nothing to do with him, and that he would comply with requests for information from the USA agencies when that info was not forthcoming from Mexican Authorities
The attacks on USA agency men on the border stopped, Pablo had spread the word that anyone found to have fired at them would be taken care of in the usual Pablo manner. He also briefed his drug mules on the new process if they were busted with a load, that they were to flee and under no circumstances were to shoot at the USA police or other agencies.
Various theories have been expounded for the motives Pablo might have for doing these kind of deals, but at the end of the day, Pablo realized that he at some point, given what happened to Manuel Carrasco, might need to flee to the USA and he wanted contacts in the USA agencies that might be able to help him if he did have to flee and was subject to arrest.
Sammy Garcia had been working on and off with Pablo for some while, first as a mate on roofing jobs, then later running and buying marijuana. Sammy had been put off by the start of the Arevalo wars and had told Pablo that he would work for him but wanted nothing to do with the feud in any way, shape or form, or anything that involved killing anyone.
By 1982, Sammy was moving three or four loads a week for Pablo. Sammy was reliable, did not take risks, and was a lateral thinker like Pablo.
Traditionally the Ojinaga smugglers like the Arevalo’s and Manuel Carrasco did not bother to hide their loads very well, Bales of marijuana were put in the back of pickups and covered with a tarpaulin.
Texas law enforcement had stepped up their operation and were taking the threat of the incoming amounts of drugs seriously. Putting people permanently at the Presidio crossing, and because of the increased activity, the Pablo Acosta Organization think tank switched into over-drive.
It had become popular to convert pickups to run on propane. The Saudi oil embargo had raised the price of gasoline. Propane gave better miles per gallon, was in plentiful supply and included the addition of a propane tank mounted to vehicles behind the cab bulkhead in the rear bed.
The Ojinaga think tank came up with the idea to hide the pot inside these propane tanks.
This was the first time, that a Cartel was using this method of smuggling, and it became standard fare for many of the frontiers active smugglers. With the increased usage of this method it was only a matter of time before the authorities cottoned on to the situation. After a few busts, the PAO think tank had to modify their plan.
They started experimenting with the propane tanks, and Sammy came up with a new twist. He cut a hole in the bottom of the tank similar to everyone, but instead of leaving it open after the pot had been put inside the tank, he took the original part cut out of the tank and sealed it with car body sealant, ground it down so there was no seam, painted it and ground dirt into the paint.
After he had finished, the tank looked like it had spent years weathering in the back of the truck. This was very successful until a customs agent pressed the pressure release valve on the tank, and got a whiff of Sensemilia instead of propane. Agents were briefed to touch the regulating valve from the tank, if propane had been expanding through it, there would be evaporation, and cooling as a by product so the valve should be cold.
So Sammy went back to the draw board, made a separate section within the tank under in the outlets, which he charged with propane, but left the majority of the tank available for marijuana. The first time it was used, customs agents were crawling all over the vehicle, prodding banging and releasing gas from he valves, in an effort to get probable cause to search the vehicle more stringently. As Sammy said ” they went over that tank like a bunch of monkeys trying to rape a football”.
They were all fooled, and remained fooled for several years while Pablo got load after load through with virtually no captures.
Ojinaga was always busy around harvest time. People came from all over to meet with Pablo or his associates and cut a deal, Pablo had his customers stay at the Motel Ojinaga or the Rohana Hotel and provided security to monitor their movements. Pablo never let his customers meet, preferring that each deal was done in private after they had selected the marijuana they wanted.
His customers from the USA were not hard to control, as the amount of Police and Army around at this time, frightened most of them into staying in their hotel rooms. Pablo liked to add to this fear, and would stride into their hotel rooms, playing the part of the violent Mexican bandido. He knew that instilling fear in them, would guarantee they paid up on time, especially if they thought he would rather shoot them than talk to them.
They knew the modus operandi of how the Pablo Acosta Organization liked to deal with enemies or those who didn’t pay, and that kind of death was not high on their agendas. Pablo had the vehicle in which he was ambushed by Fermin Arevalo, mounted just outside the entrance to Ojinaga, and this served its purpose of endowing Pablo with an indestructible tab.
This is where Sammy Garcia would come in a deliver loads to any of Pablo’s associates in the USA town that were connected to him. Sammy was having second thoughts, and wanted to turn legit and start a roofing company. Pablo even encouraged him to do it, saying that he would lend him the money to get the company started.
But at harvest time, Sammy would get the call from Pablo, and would head to Ojinaga knowing there was easy money to be earnt by those with quick wits. It was the violence that had prompted Sammy to retire from drug dealing, and Pablo had discussed with him that he too would like to leave the business and open some restaurants in Tijuana.
After Fermin was killed someone from the Arevalos in the USA offered Sammy twenty thousand dollars to kill Pablo, and while Pablo didn’t know of the offer, he himself had offered Sammy a hundred thousand to kill the same Arevalo who had made the offer.
Sammy had avoided the Vietnam draft, but had embroiled himself into another more clandestine war, which none the less was racking up large body counts. It seemed to him that Sicarios either got killed in combat or became hopeless heroin or cocaine addicts, as had both of Pablo’s younger brothers, Hector Manuel and Armando.
Sammy had his mind made up for him, when Hector Manuel turned up shot in the stomach and out of his head on heroin. He and his brother Pedro had been in a gunfight with some indigenous marijuana growers up the mountains of Chihuahua. They were apparently cutting down plants in a field that they had not paid for, that was enough to start the gun fire exchange. Hector was pleading for a lift to his sisters house in Odessa.
Sammy agreed but only on the proviso that Hector would carry neither heroin or weapons on him, he told Hector to get his wife to cross that stuff for him, so Hector agreed and shot himself up with some more heroin before leaving with Sammy, then puked his guts out inside Sammy’s vehicle while bleeding profusely.
After this event Sammy himself turned to drugs, crack, and his wife left him after he punched her so hard the back of her head left and indentation in the wall. Things were falling apart for Sammy and Pablo saw it coming and was not that surprised when soon after Sammy got caught transporting a load for La Tia, the wife of Manuel Acosta, who had been arrested in 1984.
She was supplying the heroin that Pablo’s younger brothers were addicted to. Nobody else in Ojinaga had a supply. The brothers had been ripping of small amounts of Marijuana from Pablo and exchanging it for heroin with La Tia.
La Tia contacted Sammy and asked him to move a load for her urgently, when Sammy inspected the load he knew it was from Pablo’s supply, and refused to move the load but promised to keep quiet about it, and agreed to supply another driver for the load.
The next day Sammy was getting a load of Pablo’s ready at a ranch he owned on the outskirts of Ojinaga on the route to El Mulato.
|Click to enlarge|
Sammy decided on a river crossing, rather than go through the barrage of tests applied to pickups driven by single male drivers wearing jeans and Stetsons that were apparent on the Ojinaga-Presidio bridge crossing.
Sammy got mid-river and his vehicle conked out. He had to get someone with a tractor on the USA side to pull him out of the river. He continued on his planned route through Study Butte, then north on Highway 118.
He got stopped by law enforcement just outside Alpine in Brewster County, sheriffs pulled him up and told him they had suspicions that he was transporting Marijuana. The deputies had a tip off he was coming. Things started to get bizarre, they didn’t take Sammy into custody but accompanied him to a local motel and made him pay for a room,
He was kept inside the room with guards outside, and when someone knocked on the door he answered it to find the parking lot filled with DEA agents. One scraped some paint off the propane tank by the outlet, and discovered some body filler. “Arrest him”, he was locked up at the local county jailhouse, beaten then asked about the PAO.
He was told by the DEA that if he gave up five operatives from the PAO and a couple of river crossing places at Big Bend, he would be free by tomorrow. Sammy couldn’t live with being a snitch, he knew the death he would suffer at the hands of Pablo’s men was far worse than the treatment he might receive being prosecuted and imprisoned in the United States. Pablo might be a bandido but he always treated Sammy with respect.
Sammy was given eight years and locked up with Manuel, Pablo’s uncle at the El Reno prison in Oklahoma. When he met Manuel, Manuel apologized for the actions of his wife La Tia. Apparently the deal offered Sammy was also offered to her, except the payoff was Manuel’s release from prison.
Her modus operandi was to exchange heroin with Pedro’s younger brothers for Marijuana, until she had accumulated enough for a load. Then she would find someone to run the load across the big bend, and give up the information to the DEA.
Sammy was convinced she had somehow found out about his intention to cross a load that day, and had informed on him to the DEA. When Pablo found out about it, he saw it as treachery and if she had not been the wife of his uncle she would have been tortured and killed. Pablo banished her from Ojinaga, but she had done it out of love for her husband and not for greed or material gain.
The butcher of Ojinaga
Marco Antonio Haro Portillo otherwise known as “El Carnicero de Ojinaga”, had been interesting USA law enforcement since he had been named as the one who finished off Lili Arevalo, starting the “Arevalo war”. As Pablo’s head of Sicario’s Marco was suspected of two murders in New Mexico during late 1983.
The double homicide occurred in a Hobbs shack one night when a man kicked in the door and shot the two male occupants in the head. He was also suspected of a murder in Odessa in 1985, and another in Lubbock.
All these victims were lacking a sense of self preservation as they had taken heroin on credit from Pablo, not paid him back and then boasted about it. Pablo was going to set an example of these men.
He was also well known in Ojinaga as a man to be feared. He had shot three men in a restaurant in downtown Ojinaga.
He had come to Ojinaga in 1976 from Sonora. he had been a bodyguard and driver for a Mexican Government Official in Sonoita, across from Lukeville, Arizona.
He was bringing too much heat on the Ojinaga Plaza and was sent away for a year, he worked for the Mexico City Federal Police, then came back and shacked up with Sammy Garcia’s wife. They began growing Marijuana and paying Pablo a cut as piso.
They had a visit one day in their fields from Pablo, they had Mariachis, roasted a goat, drank cases of beers. Becky Garcia spoke imperfect Spanish and Marco at the time wanted people to call him El Principe de Leon, the Prince of Leon, Becky thought they were saying Pinche Pelon, and so the “Fucking Baldy” nickname stuck.
|The Butcher of Ojinaga|
Marco was unpredictable and would kill people at the slightest provocation, like non payment of debt on the day it was due. If the debt was one dollar or a hundred thousand dollars, to Mario the disrespect was the same and so was the punishment. Becky saw him kill several people at close quarters, he shot one debtor in the forehead from two feet from her then calmly got back in the car as though nothing had happened.
Becky asked him once if he felt any regret, lost any sleep, or had bad dreams over the people he had killed, all those grieving relatives, he simply replied “no they had to die”.
The difference between Pablo and Marco is plain to see here, Pablo while playing the part of the bandido psychopath, was doing exactly that, playing the part because it fulfilled a business necessity for him. Marco just enjoyed killing people.
Thinking bigger with the Columbus air force
Becky had some contacts in the USA that could assist Pablo with logistics. Pablo realized that if he wanted to expand his business he needed to start thinking aircraft. Becky’s friend Sal stole aircraft as part of an insurance scam. He and three pilots from ” the Columbus air force”, who were Vietnam vet pilots and could land just about any aircraft on any type of landing strip, and were well known by traffickers for the efficiency of what they did and the skill of their pilots.
They intimated their willingness to work with Pablo who they knew was the Padrino of Ojinaga. Sal stole a Cessna 182, changed the tail plane letter designations, then flew it down to Ojinaga and dropped it off to Pablo. The Columbus air force operated their own fleet of planes including vintage WW2 aircraft.
Despite his busy schedule Pablo managed to meet two of the pilots from the Columbus air force in Ojinaga at the Casa Chavez, one of his drug storage warehouses. The building was full of Pablo’s gunmen armed with the normal tools of the trade, AR-15’s, Ak 47’s, Uzi’s, .45 pistols and knives. Their job to stare with intense hostility at the visitors.
The pilots had been receiving $10,000 dollars US per load they had been moving from other traffickers but they had worked out a package for Pablo that would cost him $40,000 per load.
This would involve them picking up half a ton of marijuana per time, in Mexico and flying it north to the USA in a twin engine aircraft.
They would arrange a crew to load the drugs in Mexico, a crew to unload and store the drugs in the USA until Pablo had arranged for its delivery. They would also deliver it to its final destination for an extra fee.
The Columbus air force knew the risks, at this time the Mexican Customs dept. had a fleet of pursuit aircraft that were shooting down drug dealers flying loads north and the commander of the Department was known by the nickname “The Red Baron”.
The pilots bartered with Pablo for the price per load, Pablo was only interested in paying ten for the first two loads, then if they could deliver on their promises, he would pay them the forty they asked.
Becky intervened to ask the pilots not to interrupt Pablo, and they disrespected her. Marco immediately switched into hit man mode, but Pablo waved him off. Pablo left the meeting there, and said that he would speak to them another time. In the vehicle on the way back to the Ojinaga motel, the pilots said of Pablo, “you made his sound like he owned northern Mexico. He is just a penny – ass border punk”.
Marco who was driving, eye’s lit up with hatred, a sign Becky had seen many times, Becky reminded them not to speak about Pablo in that manner, while Marco removed his .45 from his waistband laid it next to him on the centre console and tapped the barrel near the receiver.
Marco exploded when he and Becky got to their hotel room, he wanted to kill them so bad he could taste it, in reality Pablo couldn’t give a fuck if they were from the USAF, if they wanted to run drugs for Pablo they would take five thousand each for the first two loads, then forty thousand for the third plus the extra ten thousand missing from the first two load payments. They finally agreed to Pablo’s terms.
Marco and Becky were growing their own business alongside Pablo’s. They paid piso per load and Pablo was happy to let them traffic as much as the wanted. This is where Armado Carrillo Fuentes enters our story.
One particular night a load had gone across the river at Big Bend, the load drivers had their trailer slide off the road into a ditch. They had travelled back to Ojinaga on foot to advise Pablo of their predicament. Pablo, once he had calmed down, set off with a caravan of Sicario’s in four vehicles.
With them was Armado Carrillo Fuentes, from the Guadalajara Cartel. Pedro Aviles had sent him to Ojinaga to learn how Pablo was carrying out his smuggling business. To learn his links and contacts, his methods and places to smuggle, then to ultimately take over the Ojinaga Plaza, as Pablo was earning far too much money for Pedro Aviles to ignore.
The convoy eventually arrived at the vehicle some 5 miles into USA territory, Pablo had brought the load drivers with him on the understanding that if anything as missing from the marijuana load in the trailer, they were both dead. The price to be paid for jeopardizing a load, because of carelessness.
After getting the vehicle and trailer back on the road and on the way to the buyer, Armado returned with Pablo to Ojinaga municipal airport, there were a few soldiers present, and Pablo and his men. The twin engine aircraft landed. Pablo and his men unloaded roughly 900 packages the sizes of a large leather bound book. This was the first direct delivery to Ojinaga from Colombia, carrying nearly a tonne of Cocaine.
The Miami route for cocaine direct from Columbia had been pretty much shut down, with next to little getting through compared to the Miami of old that the Colombians had turned from Holiday destination into a murder capital in much the same way as Acapulco.
The Colombians wanted their own network inside Mexico but the Guadalajara Cartel, the most powerful in Mexico at the time, had no intentions of letting the Colombians operate without going through them.
They arranged for their Colombian suppliers to meet Pablo through Armado Carrillo Fuentes. Armado was the nephew of Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo “Don Neto”. They had the connections and Pablo had the apparatus in place to help them move large quantities of cocaine into the USA across the largely un patrolled sections of the border.
What they needed was, Pablo’s local connections to the Army, who could protect the cocaine. Pablo was the last link in the chain, it was his job to distribute the cocaine and protect it until it was delivered to the agreed point in the USA.
Pablo knew that when he was approached by the Colombians it was with Guadalajara’s blessing and as such was a deal that he couldn’t turn down if the wanted to stay in charge of the Ojinaga Plaza. Pablo and the Ojinaga Plaza became a logistics hub for cocaine, with large amounts being stored at Ojinaga, and collected by different traffickers from as far away as Tijuana to Matamoros.
Pablo went to Colombia, to meet in person Carlos Lehder Rivas, one of the most powerful people from the Medellin Cartel. He made a deal with them, to simply guard their cocaine until it could be picked up by different traffickers, Pablo was paid $1000 to $1500 per kilo for simply baby sitting it.
Pablo was earning 60 million US per year, just on cocaine. Without his prodigious marijuana and heroin sales. This seems a lot of money, but relatively its not compared to people like Pablo Escobar, who at the height of his powers was earning a day what ” El Zorro de Ojinaga” earned from cocaine a year.
Pablo built an underground storage facility next to the runway on one his ranches. This consisted of an underground chamber with steel storage tube in it. It had a trap door big enough for a man to pass through, and the cocaine would be passed down a chain of men and stored, the earth filled back in above it, dust on top of the earth, and no one was the wiser it was there.
A short while later, a convoy of men and soldiers arrived to escort the drugs to Ojinaga and Pablo’s guarded warehouses.
|Casa Chavez where Pablo stored drugs among other places|
At this point in 1985/6 five tonnes per month were passing through Ojinaga, thanks to the protection supplied by Pablo and his paid Generals, Politicians, and Police Chiefs. Once the loads were delivered to the warehouses, the cocaine was put into sealed propane tanks, which had been made still to Sammy Garcias specification.
Pretenders to the crown
But Pablo had become a target, and everyone wanted to control the “Gold Mine” that Pablo had built. This had kept the violence in Ojinaga, and the residents had been scared for a while. Pablo with his new supply of cocaine on tap, had his younger brother Pedro cook up crack for him. He now had an inexhaustible supply and smoked crack from the time he woke until he eventually had to sleep.
A hit man tried to kill Pablo at the start of 1986 close to an intersection near the hotel Ojinaga, the hit man approached the vehicle and fired 6 shots at Pablo from a range of about 10 feet and missed him with all 6 shots. The killer ran, and Pablo and his younger brother Pedro chased the man down through the streets of Ojinaga, they caught him by the train station and swiftly dispatched him with a burst from an assault rifle.
This was a sign of things to come and shortly after on Jan 20th, a meeting was taking place at Armado Carrillo Fuentes home in Ojinaga, Pablo, Armado, Ismael Espudo and some others were discussing upcoming cocaine arrivals, when a truck barrelled into the road and opened fire on Armado’s house and the men guarding it.
The assailants were initially beaten back by Pablo’s men’s superior shooting skills, and it started 24 hours of terror for the residents of Ojinaga, as the assailants attacked again and again. After the attack on Armado’s house, Pablo and his men were patrolling Ojinaga.
A dozen men in two vehicle had set up an ambush for Pablo. Pablo was travelling with Pedro and a Cuban named “El Charly”. They stopped at a traffic signal on the Camargo – Chihuahua highway, and the ambush was sprung.
The attackers were waiting on both side of the intersection, and as most of us are familiar with now, the intersection ambush, a favourite of Sicario’s, would have worked but for one piece of luck for Pablo, and one piece of bad luck for two farmers in pickup that happened to be driving through that intersection at the very time.
The attackers opened fire on Pablo’s vehicle, ten men firing automatic weapons, the farmers pickup ran straight through their line of sight to Pablo’s vehicle and the received the full brunt of that opening salvo. Both farmers will killed instantly suffering multiple gunshot wounds as the assault rifles supersonic rounds ripped through the thin skin of their vehicle.
Pablo was using the speaker on his vehicle radio to call for reinforcements, as Pablo, Pedro and El Charly”, engaged the attackers with their own weapons. Pablo’s men started arriving almost instantaneously and joined in the shootout at the intersection.
The attackers were typical of the Sicario’s we see today, young men, seduced by the money, guns and drugs and women. Pablo’s men were battle hardened killers, frontier men, former farmers, campesinos, excellent shots with rifles and handguns alike.
While the attackers were shooting high, with full auto bursts, Pablo and his men were returning fire with single aimed shots, and despite being well outnumbered, were killing the Sicario’s at a prodigious rate. Very quickly the attackers were down to three men hiding behind the vehicle they had arrived in.
Pablo took the initiative and went on the offensive, he jumped back into his pickup with Pedro and El Charly, and hammered the accelerator to the floor, all three of them screaming insults at their erstwhile attackers, as they hit the reservation in centre of the intersection and got “air”.
As the vehicle made contact with the road again, and was just a few metres from the Sicario’s car, the Sicario’s bolted from behind the vehicle and were cut down by shots fired by Pedro and El Charly. Battles raged in different parts of Ojinaga as the survivors from the attackers were hunted down for the next two hours, and could be heard in Presidio.
Pablo was determined to catch them all, he set up a road block near Sanborn’s restaurant, and with his men displaying Police credentials at the roadblock, stopped and searched every vehicle passing. Anyone found with an assault type weapon without a good reason, i.e. they worked for Pablo or his associates, were taken into the desert for interrogation and summary execution. Unofficially another 13 people were killed after being taken from this roadblock.
Whomever the attackers were, they suffered a massacre. Pablo was convinced it was Lupe Arevalo, who had been shot in the liver by the butcher of Ojinaga, in the incident that started the Arevalo wars.
Pablo was convinced that the inexperienced attackers could not have been from a dedicated hardcore crew, of the type that we recognise today such as, Los Antax, Los Linces and the like. The amateur nature of their shooting and lack of aggression as the firefight progressed, made up Pablo’s mind but he was going to spend as much time as it took to get to the bottom of it.
He spent the next week kidnapping anyone who saw the incident, his paranoia fuelled by copious amounts of whisky and crack,
Authorities arrived to investigate and the official death toll was just the two farmers who had been unlucky enough to drive across the intersection when the Sicario’s opened fire. Pablo later went and visited the widow and mother of the dead men. He set up a trust fund for her, but she never forgave him.
After smoking crack, Pablo’s second deadly attraction was Mimi Web Miller, and she was certainly not your typical frontier resident. She was educated and had a degree from a Southern University in art history. She had bought a ranch on the Mexican side of Big Bend called Rancho Milagro.
|Recent photo of Mimi Webb Miller|
Her boyfriend was a heroin addict who bought his supply from Pablo, and Pablo regularly attended their ranch. Her boyfriend claimed his addiction had started when he was packaging heroin for shipment that was forced under his fingernails and absorbed into his body.
She dumped her worthless boyfriend but retained her relationship with Pablo. She was attracted to the border smuggler type and the business. Not to indulge in it herself, but to be involved Buchona style.
Mimi only looked for and saw the best of Pablo, like the smugglers themselves she refused to acknowledge the damage that heroin and cocaine and later meth would do to American cities.
Mimi soon started dating another guy, David Regela, who was a USA borders customs agent designated to penetrate the Pablo Acosta Organization. Mimi introduced the two and Pablo instantly recognized him as the man who had several of his family members imprisoned. Mimi in her naive way thought that the two could work together if they could overcome their differences.
Mimi convinced Pablo to meet some reporters, so they could write an article on the side of Pablo that only she saw. The reporters seemed to be convinced by her and so after several aborted meetings, Pablo met the reporters at a local Police Commandante’s office.
Pablo smoking a crack cigarette and drinking a glass of whiskey, said the following;
“The law has no charge against me, I never fought with the law or with honest people. What I do is wrong, but I do it to remedy many things, like education for young people who lack resources. I put on benefit horse races ( a local from Ojinaga says that the Arevalo war started due to Lili Arevalo beating Pablo in a horse race, though he doesn’t say it was a benefit), and cockfights.”
“Its for them, the Government never gives them anything, I buy them sports equipment. The same governors and mayors in the USA are in the Mafia. If they wanted to stop the drugs, they could do it in a day. Look at me, you don’t think the USA could control me if they wanted to? how can they say I am smarter than them?”
When the article came out it lead with the picture at the top of part 2 of this article. Pablo with Eva Fernandez, a local blind woman that had been forced to turn to begging on the dusty streets of Ojinaga. According to the article, Pablo was arranging a cornea transplant for the woman.
“Sure what i do is wrong, but for every bad thing I do, I do six hundred good things.”
One can speculate here that Pablo was as naive as Mimi if he thought that appearing in newspapers was a good thing. The recent capture of El Chapo after courting the publicity of a film, shows that history was deemed to repeat itself. The law enforcement authorities on both sides of the border took this as a taunt.To the people in the chain above Pablo, his courting of the press was unacceptable. Especially if he thought ” yes I smuggle drugs and kill people, but give soccer balls to kids”, constituted an effective public relations campaign.
Pablo’s judgement was failing him, probably due to the fact that every waking minute he was drinking whisky and smoking crack. He had lost his ability to run his organization, the two hours a day that he was lucid, just after waking up around midday each day, was not enough time to fulfil the obligations of his agreements and the press releases were the last straw for those above him that did not want to court publicity.
Pablo was also spending far too much time with Mimi Webb Millers boyfriend David Regela. Since the attack outside the market at Ojinaga, which Pablo blamed on Lupe Arevalo, Pablo had been working with David and an undercover agent at the DEA called “Gene the Bean”. Gene had been introduced to Lupe, buying more and more amounts of heroin, until he won Lupe’s trust. The idea being that he would ask Lupe to deliver a kilo of heroin in person to the USA and Lupe would be arrested on route to Gene the Bean.
As Pablo’s world was falling apart, Pablo’s hatred of Lupe Arevalo intensified, and he became convinced that the lack of arrest of Lupe was because Gene the Bean didn’t want to arrest Lupe.
David Regela tried to convince Pablo that, Gene was on the level and it was only Lupe’s reticence to visit the USA under any circumstances that was holding back an arrest.
Pablo was having none of it, and asked David Regela to use Gene to kill Lupe, David said that it was not in his job description, but busting Lupe with a kilogram or more of heroin was certainly in his job description.
Pablo, fuelled on crack and whisky decided it would be a good thing to call Gene the Bean and tell him what he thought of him. ” I’ve killed motherfuckers like you for less.”
Gene the Bean had managed 30 years working undercover for the DEA and decided to reply in kind
” you motherfucking wetback Mexican bastard, we are from the same country and I’m going to show you what I can do to your kind.”
“Come down here and we’ll see how much of a badass you are,” Pablo replied.
Pablo was now pissing off his contacts that were protecting him on both sides of the border, Armado Carrillo Fuentes could see it coming and was poised to take control.
The death of a legend
To facilitate the take-down of Pablo Acosta Villarreal, a jurisdictional change was made giving the Juarez Federal Police authority over Ojinaga. This put Pablo firmly in the cross-hairs of one Guillermo Gonzalez Calderoni, he had received order to arrest Pablo dead or alive.
Calderoni immediately sent 14 men to Ojinaga but Pablo had received warning, and he, Emanuel Espudo, and Armado Carrillo Fuentes had fled to Torreon with Armado’s brother Cipriano. Pedro, Pablo’s nephew had joined them, but as a heroin addict who didn’t have a connection in Torreon, needed to get his fix, and left Torreon in the middle of the night and drove 400 miles overnight to Ojinaga.
When he arrived he called Pablo, Pablo was furious and told him to leave immediately as Calderonis men would kill him if they caught him. Pedro said he would as soon as he taken care of a few things.
While waiting for his heroin dealer to turn up at Sanborn’s restaurant, Calderoni had been advised of his presence in Ojinaga and had sent men to arrest him. He saw them coming and managed to escape in a vehicle. Then Calderoni received another call to say that Pedro had been seen driving to Ojinaga main road.
Calderoni’s men caught up with Pedro, as they pulled him over, he went for a weapon in the vehicle but Calderoni’s federal police dragged him out of the vehicle and set to giving him a real beating.
He was taken to the Federal Police Headquarters and interrogated for a day.
He spent the whole day getting tortured while, according to those present, did nothing other than scream insults at them telling them how the Pablo Acosta Organization would kill them all. The interrogating agents didn’t know what to do. They had no information from him.
Calderoni ordered them to transport Pedro to Chihuahua city Federal Police HQ. There are two versions of what happened next, according to the MexFeds, Pedro died of heart attack while being transferred to Chihuahua.
Another version comes from another trafficker held at the same time as Pedro at Chihuahua, he said that Pedro was alive when he came to the Fed HQ. And that subsequently he admitted to killing Lili and Fermin Arevalo, his family said that when they got his body from the police, his rips were broken and his head stoved in on one side in the shape of a rifle butt.
Pedro, before he died also gave up the location of Pablo and Armado, but Pablo had been tipped off as soon as Pedro had been picked up and had fled into the desert of Chihuahua. Calderoni had been thwarted again.
When Pablo had a bribe turned down by the MexFeds of Calderoni, and an offer to give himself up to USA authorities was not accepted without him serving prison time, he knew the end was nigh, and started recruiting young Sicario’s for a final showdown with Calderoni. Pablo knew, that his support was strongest in the Sierra Ponce, just as El Chapos was at La Tuna. Where most of the locals were benefactors of his generosity.
Pablo went back to Santa Elena, and with eyes on movement of his men from the USA side of the river, it was decided that Pablo was there and an operation should be launched to take him down.
Calderoni and the FBI decided to attack Pablo with Mex Feds from where he expected it the least. Calderoni would cross onto the USA side of the border, and be escorted by the FBI to big bend, where he and his men would mount helicopters along with the FBI’s helicopters.
They attacked Pablo from the USA side of the river, where he had posted no scouts. The Mex Feds almost gave the game away when flying towards the river at big bend, asked permission to low fly and shoot some bighorn sheep.
The Mex Feds had been issued with Cat 3 Kevlar jackets, only good at defeating knives and handgun rounds. The FBI had ballistic vests with two twenty five pound metal plates front and back, with a high neck collar, as they formed up to initiate the raid, the FBI handed over their vests, as Calderoni had agreed that cat 3 jackets would offer little protection against the assault rifles used by the PAO.
The FBI would stop just short of the river on the USA side and wait in case Pablo tried to escape north across the river when the attack was launched.
Pablo’s men were hanging around a fire, they were drinking beers and Pablo had gone inside his Adobe house when the helicopters arrived, banking at sharp angles over the village rooftops to bleed off their speed before they landed.
Pablo’s men around the fire instantly scattered, a man ran out of Pablo’s house with a machine gun and opened up on one of the helicopters which was hovering low and unloading armed men onto the roof’s of nearby adobe houses. Pablo ran outside and recognised the informant who had given away his location, he was leaning out of the helicopter door pointing out to the police Pablo’s house.
Pablo shouted “traitor” at the top of his voice and ran inside his house with the man with the gun. At this point some of Pablo’s men nearby tried to counter attack arriving in pickups, but one of the Helicopters engaged them with their door mounted guns and drove them back.
The men originally caught out in the open had dropped their weapons and fled with civilians, but the second helicopter fired into the ground in front of them and forced them back into the village, where they were rounded up. Miraculously, the village had been captured without a single casualty, the speed and aggression of the attack and the element of surprise had reaped its rewards.
Calderoni and his men surround Pablo’s house, Calderoni called out on a megaphone for Pablo to surrender identifying himself to Pablo. Pablo had two men inside the adobe house with him, he had loaded fresh magazines into each of the half dozen or so assault rifles, stockpiled extra magazines under all the windows and beside the doors of his house.
Pablo strapped on a ballistic vest with some difficulty due to his expanding waistline. He had been set up, who would have thought Mexican forces would come from the USA side of the river. Pablo gave his two bodyguards the option of surrendering, both decided not to abandon Pablo.
As Calderoni identified himself on the megaphone, Pablo and his men opened fire on the Mex Feds outside, all of Calderonis men returned fire while Calderoni and two other men ran up to the door of Pablo’s house. One of the kicked the door open and saw Pablo aiming at him from a back room. Pablo opened fire first and hit the agent with two burst, three rounds hitting his armor plate in his borrowed ballistic vest, and one tore into his upper arm and the bullet impacts knocked him backwards out of the doorway.
As the agent went down he managed to fire a dozen rounds back at Pablo, before Calderoni and the other agent pulled him out of the line of fire to a neighbouring house. Calderoni called for a chopper on his radio, and one landed and took the injured agent to the USA side where he was transferred to a local hospital.
Two agent had circled round behind Pablo’s house and kicked in the kitchen door, Fidel Acosta stood there alone, dropped his weapon and threw up his hands, he was yanked out of the house and put face down in the dirt with the rest of the captives who had run for the river when the choppers arrived.
Calderoni ordered his men to ceasefire, the silence was suddenly deafening. The front of Pablo’s house had taken the brunt of the damage. The plaster walls hanging off their frames in lumps and on the ground, the window shutter had been blasted away by the volume of fire coming from Calderonis men.
Calderoni picked up his megaphone again, ” come out Pablo you dont stand a chance, with your hands up,” Pablo and his nephew answered Calderoni with two heavy bursts of automatic fire.
While Pablo may have become sloppy due to drugs, when he was in a firefight the adrenaline took over, and he turned into the usual version of disneys tasmanian devil. Running from window to door to window, firing and moving, shouting taunts to the Mex Feds, he hated Calderoni and was venting his fury at the Mex Feds. It must have seemed to them that there were a lot more people inside than there actually were. Mex Feds dived for cover as Pablo who was an excellent shot, indeed it has been said he was as good with a rifle as Don Alejo.
The local Police had turned up to assist after rounding up all known associates of Pablo’s to stop them coming to his aid. They joined in firing with the Mex Feds at Pablo’s house. Pablo and one other guy held off twenty plus men for another hour, until it was dark. Calderoni ordered another ceasefire and again demanded that Pablo give up.
Pablo replied in his usual fashion ” go fuck your mother Calderoni, you are not going to take me alive, if you want me come in and get me motherfucker.”
Calderoni then started firing tear gas canisters into the house, Pablo still didnt come out, so Calderonis men tried ramming the front of the house with a commandeered pickup to make a breach, but the thick mud walls resisted all attempts.
They got some gasoline and threw it onto the dry branch roof of Pablo’s house and set fire to it. After a few minutes a huge fusillade of rounds came from the house as the ammunition stored there was cooking off in the heat.
Jesus Acosta shouted, “I’m coming out,” he walked out with his hands raised and was immediately jumped on by Calderoni’s men who dragged him away from the burning house. An agent looked in and saw Pablo propped up on a bed, assault rifle in one hand, pistol in the other, eyes open staring ahead.
Calderoni had a look, saw that Pablo was dead and ordered his men to drag his body out before it was burnt. Pablo still had a death grip on his .45 and an agent pried it from his hand and gave it to Calderoni. Calderoni called out on the megaphone to the FBI across the river.
“Pablo’s dead, its over I think he killed himself”. Pablo had a single bullet entry wound int he back of his skull.
|Pablo Acosta dead outside his house in Santa Elena|
Calderoni later defected to the USA, providing detailed information on Mexican Government involvement in drug trafficking.
|Calderoni and the combined Mex Fed/ FBI taskforce|
Pablo was buried on April 28th 1987 south of Ojinaga his funeral was attended by many with Norteno bands playing tributes to him. Several corridos were sung and these two are typical examples.
The czar of traffickers is dead
Truly the Mafia King
He always won respect
In the villages and towns around
Everywhere else he went
Even the bravest shook with fear.
and this one
Gone is Pablito, friend of the poor,
Killed by the Government
In a world that shows no mercy
For people like that,
And the gringos,
Laughing on their side of the river,
Prayed for Pablito to die
Yet he had done no more
Than give them what they wanted.
The Church that held the ceremony initially refused to host the ceremony, until they were reminded of the following by Pablo’s uncle; that only God could pass judgement on Pablo, and that the priest was certainly not God.
Pablo joined the ranks of the non dead capo’s , like the recent Capos Lazcano Lazcano , and El Mas Loco who people have insisted they have seen alive since their deaths.
On a last word from the author, OBFW, Pablo has gone down in Mexican folklore, but he harmed far far more people than he ever helped. I don’t include Pablo’s sale of Marijuana here, as I suspect soon all of the USA will legalize it for medicinal use. I mean the heroin and cocaine that addicted so many people, those addicts committing crimes to feed their habit, leaves a exponentially large trail of victims.
If you wish to read further about Pablo, many people have mentioned the excellent book
Drug Lord: A true story by Terrence E Poppa and Charles Bowden
The River Has Never Divided Us by Jefferson Morganthaler ( 150 years of Ojinaga smuggling history)
Both books are available on Google and Amazon
There are a thousand websites with articles about Pablo, so I would encourage any readers to search for Pablo articles, there are too many good ones to mention. You tube also has a huge amount of Corridos dedicated to Pablo should one choose to search for them.
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