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Molly Molloy & Charles Bowden editors of "El Sicario - The Autobiography of a Mexican Assassin"
Cultural Baggage / June 5, 2011
Broadcasting on the Drug Truth Network, this is Cultural Baggage.
“It’s not only inhumane, it is really fundamentally Un-American.”
“No more! Drug War!” “No more! Drug War!”
“No more! Drug War!” “No more! Drug War!”
DEAN BECKER: My Name is Dean Becker. I don’t condone or encourage the use of any drugs, legal or illegal. I report the unvarnished truth about the pharmaceutical, banking, prison and judicial nightmare that feeds on Eternal Drug War.
DEAN BECKER: Ah yes, this is, indeed, Cultural Baggage. I am Dean Becker. You know I pride myself on knowing a lot about this drug war. The mechanics of it all, the futility and the horrors of it all but my mind’s a little off track today, little off kilter, so to speak because I’ve just finished reading a book, “El Sicario - The Autobiography of a Mexican Assassin".
It’s edited by the two guests we are going to have on today, Molly Molloy and Charles Bowden. And, with that, I just want to introduce them one at a time. Let’s bring on Molly Molloy.
MOLLY MOLLOY: Hi, good to be here.
DEAN BECKER: Molly, I hope you heard my intro there. This book is not gut wrenching, it’s mind wrenching. The truths that are contained herein. This was quite an ordeal to get this done, wasn’t it?
MOLLY MOLLOY: It took some time and it took a lot of emotional investment, I’d say, to spend the time necessary to listen to this person and to present his story in the way that he told it and to try, I guess, not to be judgmental.
He says some terrible things. He did horrible things. He admits to them. He asks for a kind of redemption for the life he has lived. But the main reason, I believe, for telling his story, for letting it get to as wide of audience as possible is for what it tells us about the fallacies of what’s called the War on Drugs both in Mexico and in the United States.
DEAN BECKER: Exactly. OK, now let’s go to the other editor, Mr. Charles Bowden. Charles, you were a guest a few months ago in regards to your book, “Eight Deaths A Day in Ciudad Juarez”. This is not just Juarez. This is a national situation, isn’t it, sir?
CHARLES BOWDEN: Oh, yes. It’s one of our fantasies that there’s a few border cities where the violence is. This violence is spread throughout Mexico. There’s probably at least 40,000 Mexicans that have been slaughtered during the past four and a half years under this drug initiative down there. And, I might say, during the same period when President Calderon has unleashed the Mexican Army in this purported war on drugs, less than 300 soldiers have died. So this isn’t about stopping drugs this is about power.
Now as for the Sicario, this contract killer kidnapped, tortured, murdered hundreds of people.
DEAN BECKER: Yes, sir. Now I wanted…
CHARLES BOWDEN: He’s the face of Mexican power. He’s a state police commander most of his career. He’s not a rogue cop. He IS the government of Mexico and the drug war melded into one human being.
DEAN BECKER: And that’s, I think, the mind wrenching aspect of it. You know I knew about this corruption, I knew about this situation but to see it laid out in such great detail with hierarchy and …
CHARLES BOWDEN: I agree. I agree with you. I thought I knew but listening to him I realized I was in ignorant fool. He taught… For Molly and for me it was like he was running a college class and we were the ignorant students.
DEAN BECKER: Yes, sir. Molly, I wanted to ask you, this is something that … There was one mention in the book that when you were introduced to El Sicario that Charles said you were his bodyguard. Was there a moment of fear at that introduction?
MOLLY MOLLOY: hmmm, no. At that moment I wasn’t afraid. We were in a public place (a parking lot, to be precise) and it was just … Charles sort of, you know, being himself, he had already met this person and at the moment when I was introduced into the deal because of being able to interpret and translate Spanish to English fairly well. This guy had to make a decision as to whether he would trust another person, as to whether he would allow it. And so the interesting thing was that I didn’t actually notice it - Charles did - is that the guys eyes got kind of quick when he sized me up and I’m not a very big person. He was trying to decide, I think, in a split second, whether I could possibly be a bodyguard or a “hit person” like himself. Someone he would least expect to be a person that might be the person that was going to kill him eventually. Because the fact is since this man made an escape from the drug cartel that he worked for for more than 20 years, he’s a moving target. He could be killed at any moment if the right person spots him and is able to carry out the contract on his life. And so he’s cautious at every single moment, even when he meets an 100 pound woman who’s, you know, smiling.
DEAN BECKER: Well it mentions somewhere in the book that it doesn’t matter the size of the person or any of that – it is the intent or the …
MOLLY MOLLOY: Those were his words. He said that very explicitly in one of the interviews that we did with him when he was talking about how hits are organized and the team that works together to carry out a hit plans out every step of the operation and he specifically mentioned that some of the best killers are not necessarily the most powerful, big men.
DEAN BECKER: I want to address this one with Charles. I noticed, in the book, there is a pride, if you will, that El Sicario has in the way he originally handled his job and that there are now thousands of wannabe’s out there that are, if you will, destroying the name of El Sicario. Charles, your thought.
CHARLES BOWDEN: Well that’s absolutely true. One of the reasons he’s so … Seriously, for a few seconds, my joke about Molly being my bodyguard is he knows full well that he’s likely to be killed by a 13-year-old these days. The city is full of little killers who will kill you for nothing. The only moments of ego in my experience with him and I believe Molly’s experience with him was when he would describe how to do a proper hit, a proper kidnapping, etc., and it was a sense of craftsmanship.
Basically we were dealing with an individual who never claimed any vast importance, never overstated his stature and, literally, never claimed to know something he didn’t know. And if he told you something he told you he was an eyewitness to it or if he heard it. He was a very careful reporter as it were and I think a fundamentally honest person. And I’d like to say I think he was honest because he expects to be murdered. This was a testimony like a death bed confession in a sense.
DEAN BECKER: OK, now I’m reading from your book here. This is “El Sicario - The Autobiography of a Mexican Assassin" and it says here:
“People call many of the victims “Mallandros” (bad guys, human garbage) sometimes they use the phrase “limperado social” (social cleansing) to describe these killings. The truth is that fewer than 5% of homicides in Mexico will ever be investigated or solved and yet they say 90% of them are cartel members.”
How do they hold that together?
CHARLES BOWDEN: (chuckling) They lie. Or I could put it more bluntly that’s the government blaming every corpse that hits the ground is an evil drug member when, in fact, most of these people are nothing. I think … Molly told me earlier today that they just killed two guys in Juarez today. They were washing their car, people selling tamales on the street get executed – all kinds of people. If you’re dead – you belong to the cartel – that’s how the government does it.
The President of Mexico said repeatedly that 90% of the dead in this war are criminals even while his own government admits that it has looked into less than 5% of the homicides. So, I guess, he just magically knows these things.
MOLLY MOLLOY: One of the things I do on a daily basis is find the stories in the local Juarez newspapers that deal with the killings. If you do that, and I realize that it is some sort of pathology that has me doing this, but you see… two guys washing their car…yesterday a man and woman at a secondhand street market selling used clothes on the street to survive were shot and killed. A mother and a two-year-old child were shot and killed inside their house last August. I could go on except there are 9,000 of these incidents and it would take forever.
DEAN BECKER: You know I was struck by the fact that this gentleman, you know, started out trained by the Mexican police, actually had additional training by the FBI along the way and I want to read, again, from your book:
“Sadly, discracialamente, all law enforcement academies in Mexico, the different police forces, the investigative police, military police and the army have been used by the narcotrafficking organizations as training grounds for their future employees.”
It’s a way to rise through the ranks, isn’t it?
CHARLES BOWDEN: He’s not a corrupt cop. He was selected by the Juarez drug organization. Because of their political influence he was sent to the state police academy. The government of the state of Chihuahua (where Juarez is) paid him $150 per month to go to school and the cartel gave him $1,000 per month. And they do this, he says, all over the country at these academies. So the police force is created in a sense by the drug organizations so they have suitable people in the right place for their work.
DEAN BECKER: It struck me that, you know, they train these people how to investigate, how to do high-speed chases, how to handle weapons – all the things necessary to be a good cartel member, right? Your thought, Molly.
MOLLY MOLLOY: Exactly. The same things that policeman are trained to do, these operative hit men for the cartel need to learn how to do the same things. And so this guy estimates that 25% out of every class that graduates from the state police academy at the time he was there were trained to work for the cartel. They were on the cartel payroll before they ever graduated from the police academy.
One thing that is interesting is during the time when he was operating (we think up to the end of 2007 which is when Calderon’s war really got under way especially in Ciudad Juarez) and many, many people began to be killed, especially policeman. Policeman were the first line of people who were killed at the beginning of 2008. Since that time the Juarez death toll went from about 300 murders per year up to more than 3,000 per year in 2010. So since this terrible killer, this man who confesses to the killing of many, many people, left the business the killing has exploded by a factor of 10. And so it’s an interesting … He tells the story from an interesting little point of time where you can see what it was and what it is now. And it’s completely out of control now. There is no culture or sense of “code of honor” as he calls it in who gets killed. Anyone can be killed not just the target, not just the person that the cartel believes has stolen from them but that person, his family, his children – anyone who happens to be around when the hit men find their target – they just start shooting.
DEAN BECKER: Yes, reading from your book again here:
“Starting sometime in 2008, it seems this practice of respecting lives of women and children has been forgotten.”
Kind of underscores what you’re saying, doesn’t it Molly?
MOLLY MOLLOY: Absolutely.
DEAN BECKER: That’s kind of the point. There used to be, well, The Plaza, that’s the market, the farm-to-market avenue where these drugs go through. And it used to be that, you know, people were respected, that there was a process where you paid your cut to the barons but it’s just gone hog wild, hasn’t it. Charles, your thoughts.
CHARLES BOWDEN: There was a system. The system’s broken down. It wasn’t really wonderful when the system operated at the Plaza. The Plaza means was the connection between the government and the criminal world. And the government would seek out people in the criminal world who would run the criminal side and pay them their share. This has disintegrated all over the country.
And part of it is because of pressure on these organizations. We like to talk about cartels almost like there’s a half a dozen corporations down there doing this. There’s a lot of mini-cartels, little organizations. This thing has no center anymore. There’s nobody the President of Mexico – no matter how corrupt he or she might be – can meet with, have coffee and say, “Now we have a deal, let’s have peace.”
The escape is beyond that. The genie is out of the bottle. We have created a nightmare world down there and so has President Calderon and it isn’t going to get nice soon.
DEAN BECKER: Yes, and I guess that’s the point. Just three or four days ago there was a Global Commission on Drugs in New York City proclaiming the need to end this madness and the response from the U.S. Government was that it was misguided.
CHARLES BOWDEN: They swatted it away like it was a fly.
DEAN BECKER: Yes sir. And I guess the point is with one word they can discount the word of current and former presidents and, you know, Paul Voelker and George Shultz and all these guys as if they were, as you say, a fly.
CHARLES BOWDEN: If you come out for changing our drug policy, let’s be blunt, there’s no change that’s going to make much difference shy of legalization, you’re instantly cast into outer darkness. And when I say that I mean if you decriminalize all you’ve done is taken the user and say we won’t bother you and left all the profits and all the cash flow with the murderous scum that are running it now. That’s not a solution. This is a sacred cow. I used a series of speeches that I gave up. There’s something strange about living in a country with bipartisan support for gay marriage and not one man or woman will stand up for legalizing drugs.
DEAN BECKER: Yeah. And I think we should point out that El Sicario had a reawakening, turned his self to Christ and I want to read, again, from your book:
“The only thing about getting off the drugs and alcohol that was beneficial to me was it made the work I was doing at that time even better. I no long functioned at 100%, I was able to function at 200%.”
And he’s talking about killing people. He’s talking about kidnapping and all this that he was actually able to perform better until he had that awakening, so to speak. Are he and his family safe? Are they alive at this point.
MOLLY MOLLOY: They’re not safe. As far as I know they are alive. We’re not able to communicate openly at all with this person for obvious reasons. It was very difficult for him to come forward and tell this story. He not only put himself in danger but he is also endangering the lives of his family and these people depend on him. And so for all of the publicity the book… the existence of the book, the existence of the documentary film that preceded the book…all of these things make his life much more difficult. And because of that he’s essentially cut off all communications with us because he actually told us, Chuck, one time, that he didn’t want anyone to try to go through us…especially Charles to get to him because he told Chuck directly, “You’ve never been tortured.” Meaning that if we were seen as a possible avenue to get him he doesn’t want us to know anything about where he is.
CHARLES BOWDEN: Actually what he said to me was kind of nice. He said, “The trouble with you is that you’ve never been tortured”. He was trying to say it in a polite way, “You’re a damn fool.”
But he is worried, legitimately, that if Molly and I know anything, given torture techniques we’ll eventually give it up which I’m sure is true. So we’re as ignorant as pigs about where he is.
DEAN BECKER: I noticed another change that became obvious through the years. In the old days it was segmented. One guy would watch the person to be kidnapped or killed and take notes and someone else would actually capture and another one would kill them and another one would dispose of the body. But now it’s…reading, again, from your book:
“Times have changed. The technique is to kill on site at the moment of confrontation. Wherever I find you, I kill you.”
And that’s really led to this large number of deaths, hasn’t it?
CHARLES BOWDEN: This guy’s got, the day I met him he had a contract on his head for at least a quarter of a million dollars. Thanks to my zealous efforts and Molly’s, I’m sure it’s higher now.
The second thing is even though I grew to like him as a human being, he’s a man who’s done terrible things, evil things, but I honestly don’t think he’s anymore evil than I am. This guy has done more than your listeners can imagine and here’s a guy who gave Molly and I a short course on how to properly blow a human being away.
DEAN BECKER: Oh, Lord.
CHARLES BOWDEN: I don’t want your listeners to think this is somebody who’s slapped people around or something. He’s gone beyond my worst nightmares.
DEAN BECKER: Right. What’s contained in the book, as I said, was mind wrenching just to hear some of these details of process, so to speak. You know, I think about this gentleman, he’s, as we were talking about earlier, he’s a professional. I even though…I recently saw one of the Star Wars movies and he bears some resemblance to like a Sith Lord, a Darth of some kind sent to do the bidding of his masters, right?
CHARLES BOWDEN: I think Molly should answer that. He has a personality trait that she was very observant about.
MOLLY MOLLOY: He has this…I think he’s been this way his whole life. For one thing that the listeners should know (who have not read the book) he started working for the cartel when he was probably 14 or 15-years-old. His initial job was to drive a car across the International Bridge between Juarez and El Paso and that car would be loaded with drugs. He’d park it and walk back and then go someplace to collect $50 for doing that job.
He did that for several years. He was very good at it. He relates how he got caught once and got out of it very easily. So he was seen as a person all along that would obey orders. And he goes into some detail about the necessity to obey the patron (the boss) at all costs. Every single time an order is given it must be carried out. You never discuss it, you just do it.
I mean it’s a very militaristic kind of culture and he’s a man who was always the one who obeyed the orders. He had people who worked for him also so at some level he would give orders to the people below him. But he was essentially a person who carried out the orders of a big boss. And he goes into some detail, I think, about how this affected his mind. About the kind of person it turned him into. It was a person he didn’t want to be. And I think that when he became a Christian, when he had this religious conversion experience, it sort of fit into his personality. Only by accepting God he could then obey the orders of some entity that was worth it.
And he went into great detail about saying how these Patrons, these bosses, these drug lords that he had obeyed for all of these years were nothing but scum, trash. He used the dirtiest words you can imagine to describe these people because he felt like he had been duped. He felt like he had made terrible choices and he wanted to tell this story so that other young men wouldn’t fall into the choices that he had made and live that kind of life.
And he’s very graphic about how it made him feel. It made him feel like trash. And yet, he is still a person who follows orders. He understands where he fits in a social system, a system of very unequal power which is the Mexican system.
DEAN BECKER: I wanted to bring up something. You’re talking about how he felt he was duped somehow but it was that first choice of joining the police force and taking the cartel money that kind of guaranteed his eventual life style. Charles, your thoughts.
CHARLES BOWDEN: Look, what’s driving a lot of things in Mexico isn’t what our government says or what their government says, it’s poverty. Officially 46% of the Mexican people live in poverty. In the city of Juarez, 50% of the adolescents neither have a job nor are in school.
Yeah, he made a choice and his brothers and sisters, as it happens, didn’t make the choice. But, to understand what is going on you shouldn’t look for words like psychopath or sociopath or this or that. You should look for a circumstance that destroys human beings and some of them will pick a form of life where they kill people and they torture people and they are almost certainly going to be killed before they are very old just so they’ll, at least, have one moment “in the sun.”
One of the most moving things this guy told Molly and me is when he got his first money for running a load of dope when he was 15 across that bridge into El Paso he had the biggest thrill of his life. He walked into a Peter Piper Pizza Parlor in El Paso and could buy a pizza. That isn’t an experience I’ve had and I doubt many people listening to this program have had it. But it is a very Mexican experience.
DEAN BECKER: I hear you, I hear you. Once again, we’re speaking…that was Charles Bowden and we’re also speaking with Molly Molloy. They are co-editors of “El Sicario - The Autobiography of a Mexican Assassin". It’s a real, real clanging wake-up. I urge you to please read it and better understand the mechanism of this drug war.
Talking again about...he was, for decades I suppose, pretty much addicted to cocaine and alcohol to kind of help give him the resolve, the steeliness, whatever you want to say, to do these things.
CHARLES BOWDEN: He said that he can’t remember some things he did because of self-medication. Basically he was stoned. He was on cocaine and alcohol so he could do them.
DEAN BECKER: Yeah. And again, once you’re caught up in this, you’re under surveillance no matter what you’re doing. There are eyes everywhere. I can’t find it right now but there was a quote in the book something to the effect that when the drug baron, the big guy, makes a mistake quite often he doesn’t want that known so others who made that mistake must be killed even if it was done at his bidding, right?
MOLLY MOLLOY: That’s correct. The boss is the only one that can make a mistake. Anyone else that participated in that mistake will be eliminated. That’s not his exact words but that was the meaning of what he said.
DEAN BECKER: Yeah, I mixed it up a bit. It kind of brings to mind that, you know, here in the U.S. we pretend that we’re making progress in the drug war despite the fact that drugs are everywhere and the prisons are full. We pretend that it’s got some worth of some kind and yet in Mexico it’s part of the economy…well, it is in the U.S. too, but it is a main part of the economy down there.
We got about a minute left, you’re response first Charles.
CHARLES BOWDEN: If you ask Mexico to get out of the drug business is to ask it to commit suicide. It’s one of the few things keeping the damn country alive. And this country is failing. Its biggest export to this country isn’t dope, it’s human beings. 10% of their population is here because they can’t feed them.
DEAN BECKER: Yeah. And Molly, 30 seconds, what would you like to say?
MOLLY MOLLOY: One thing I think people need to know is the complete dis-equality or the inequality of income in Mexico. There are people in Mexico that earn billions of dollars, much more so than people in the U.S. but that money is never redistributed. And most of the people in Mexico live at a level of poverty that is almost unknown in the United States and that is what drives people to some of the desperate things that are going on there now.
DEAN BECKER: OK, 5 seconds, share a website please.
MOLLY MOLLOY: I have a list where I post information about the killings and the violence in Juarez and Chihuahua and other places in Mexico and listeners can find it if they just google Frontera List.
DEAN BECKER: Alright, We’ve got to go. Thank you so much.
CHARLES BOWDEN: Thank you.
MOLLY MOLLOY: Thank you.
(Game show music)
DEAN BECKER: It’s time to play: Name That Drug by Its Side Effects.
Body odor, headaches, receding hairline, decreased sex drive, depression, mood disturbances, agitation, high blood pressure, severe anxiety and rage, kidney or liver disease, suicidal thoughts, rape, murder and war. Beware nearly 50% of the earth’s population produces large amounts of this drug and seeks to inject it into the remaining population…
The answer: Testostorone. It’s in the bag.
DEAN BECKER: Well that’s about it. Thank you Molly Molloy, Charles Bowden, the book “El Sicario” and as I always remind you, because of prohibition, you don’t know what’s in that bag. Please be careful.
DEAN BECKER: To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the Unvarnished Truth.
This show produced at the Pacifica studios of KPFT, Houston.
Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org
Tap dancing… on the edge… of an abyss.
The James A Baker Institute
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