The Narc and the Smuggler in the Land of Plenty

A dying narcotics agent opens his files, and out pours Miguel, just one of a legion of Mexicans who embraced drug-running as their ticket to the American dream

From January of 1986 until June of the same year we had grossed over forty-eight million dollars for our bosses. Juan Cesar Fonseca and Don Neto felt that those of us working in Tucson deserved a vacation, so the crew was invited to Culiacan for a little rest and recreation. The plan was to spend a day or two in Culiacan and then move on to the beach in Puerto Vallarta.

Instead we went to a ranch on the outskirts of Culiacan, near the highway going to Durango. That morning Juan Cesar came out to the ranch to see Chuy, who immediately turned over to him the $80,000 he had brought from Tucson. Juan Cesar had two of his pistoleros with him. We sat around the veranda talking to Juan Cesar for some time. After a while Juan Cesar stood up and told us that he was going to the bank in Culiacan to deposit the money and then, after he paid a couple of bills, he was going to bring back some good cocaine, beer, champagne, mariachis and, best of all, some women. When he left, we were all looking forward to a grand fiesta in the style of Sinaloa, with a lot of food, wine, and the women he had promised us. Little did we know that it would be the last time we would see him alive.

This was one of those times when the federal and state judicial police were cooperating with the American DEA. The afternoon that Juan Cesar went to the bank a carload of federales and two DEA agents just happened to drive by when Juan Cesar and his two pistoleros walked out of the bank. It was a fluke meeting. The DEA agents and the federales noticed that Juan Cesar and his men were carrying guns tucked in their waists, as they always did. The DEA agents recognized Juan Cesar and wanted to know why the federales didn't do something about it. The federales reluctantly stopped the car and the three of them carefully approached Juan Cesar and his men. They met them on the steps leading down to the sidewalk. The way we heard it later on was that the federale officer in charge, with apology in his voice, said, "Juan Cesar, as long as we are in town, you will have to surrender your guns to us because we have these stupid DEA agents with us and your gun makes us look bad in their eyes." The DEA agents had remained by the car because they were not allowed to carry guns or interfere with the Mexican officers.

I guess Juan Cesar stared at him coldly and yelled at him, "Pinche puto, the only way you're going to get my guns is when I'm dead and you steal it from my grave. What's the matter? I'm not paying you enough money?"

"Of course you are, Juan Cesar," the captain agreed. "We are well paid but these chingado gringos are forcing us into this very unfortunate situation. They are idiots; they don't understand the Mexican way of doing business. Besides, your guns will be returned tomorrow. You and your men are not being arrested and never will be charged with any crime as long as I am in charge." Thinking that the matter was resolved, the two pistoleros turned their guns over to the federales, hoping to calm Juan Cesar down and prevent a gun fight.

Juan Cesar faced the captain and said, "Captain, you and your thugs are less than nothing to me. If you think you're man enough to take my guns, go for it now or get out of my way." You can see that now it was a matter of honor all around. Without any other warning than the blink of the captain's eyes, they all went for their guns. Several shots rang out. Bystanders and the unarmed DEA agents dove for cover. In a matter of seconds it was over. Two of the federales lay dead, and the wounded captain would die shortly afterward. Juan Cesar lay mortally wounded . . .

This was too important for someone not to write a corrido about Juan Cesar and the brave way he died in Culiacan. According to the song, when Juan Cesar fell to the sidewalk, he fell face down with his arms in front of him. Those who saw him that day said his wrists were together, in the form of a cross, the money in one hand, his gun in the other.

You want to know how it ends and where it ends, but you already know it does not end. It is down the block, in your pipe, around the corner. Miguel, he goes down in a bust, turns informant and makes a million or two snitching people off for the federal government and a bunch more from continuing to sell drugs. This is all in Don Arturo's file cabinets, tale after tale. Where is Miguel now? Where the ground is American, the laws can be broken, the appetites are strong, the religion is family, the official word is love and the war is about drugs. Pretty much anywhere, obviously. He is doing very well, has a big place, a business and is close to the good roads and airports. He has not retired. Once he went back to his home in Chihuahua to visit his dying father. There was no problem. He came with guns, cocaine and money, and these tools remedy almost anything in Mexico. Or the United States. If you meet him, and you have or you will, you will think nothing is amiss because nothing is amiss. He is an American making his way in the American world. He hardly sees himself as part of the drug problem because he knows of no drug problem. He knows being poor and he knows having money and he knows buying drugs and selling drugs and using drugs. But who is this drug problem?

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