GANG LINKED TO SLAYING OF CARDINAL MEXICAN DRUG BOSSES HIRED YOUNG GUNS FROM SAN DIEGO

GANG LINKED TO SLAYING OF CARDINAL MEXICAN DRUG BOSSES HIRED YOUNG GUNS FROM SAN DIEGO

St. Louis Post-Dispatch; 7/12/1993; 1993, Chicago Tribune

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

07-12-1993

WHEN MEXICO’S Arellano drug lords needed new gunmen, they looked across the border, to San Diego’s impoverished Logan Heights barrio.
The drug traffickers found what they were looking for in the Calle Treinta (30th Street) gang.

U.S. and Mexican officials believe the gang members were responsible for gunning down a Roman Catholic cardinal, perhaps by mistake, and six others May 24 at the airport at Guadalajara.
Six gang members have been arrested in the United States and Mexico for their role in the airport shootout, and more are being sought.
The youths bragged about their exploits back in San Diego, officials say, and claimed to be behind the machine-gunning in April of a drug kingpin in the Mexican resort town of Cancun. That spray of bullets killed a tourist from Colorado.
The arrests offer the first evidence that U.S. street gangs have been tapped by Latin American drug traffickers. Law enforcement officials worry that the unholy alliance may lead to an escalation of violence on both sides of the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border.
“I think everybody should be concerned,” said Julius Beretta, agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration office in San Diego. “These are indiscriminate shootings. People are saying, `My God, they killed a cardinal. What are they going to do to me?’ ”
Cardinal Juan Jesus Posadas Ocampo, dressed in black clerical garb, was shot 14 times from as close as three feet.
The incident sparked widespread outrage in Mexico and prompted President Carlos Salinas de Gotari to order a crackdown on that nation’s increasingly powerful and brazen drug traffickers.
Authorities say gang members in custody have described a two-year relationship with the Arellano drug family – Francisco, Benjamin, Ramon and Javier – four brothers who police say long have controlled the flow of drugs between Tijuana and San Diego.
For now, the Arellanos’ decision to hire the young guns from San Diego appears to have backfired. But with millions of dollars at stake running Colombian cocaine and Mexican marijuana into the United States, Beretta and others warn it will be just a matter of time before traffickers try to resume their operations.
There have been other examples of U.S. street gangs hooking up with international organized crime operations. U.S. officials cite Chicago’s El Rukn gang conspiracy with Libyan terrorists in the 1980s and links between the Mafia and outlaw motorcycle gangs.
Urban gangs are not known to have been recruited by Latin American drug lords, but authorities say the common language and violent climate in border-city barrios make the connection a convenient one.
William Esposito,agent in charge of the FBI office in San Diego, said, “I suspect other cartels will be using gang members in the future.”
Recruited by a former gang member who became an Arellano confidante, Calle Treinta became a traveling entourage of bodyguards and assassins for the drug-running brothers, U.S. investigators say. In exchange, they received thousands of dollars and high-powered weapons.
Officials believe the Arellanos hired the gang members after a rival Mexican drug lord, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, made inroads into the area’s narcotics business.
Officials say Guzman was responsible for a 1,400-foot-long tunnel discovered last spring by Mexican officials running under the border south of San Diego.
The rival drug clans recently staged a series of tit-for-tat murders in Mexico and Southern California. Officials believe that Guzman was the target of the shooting that killed the cardinal.
Since their arrest, the San Diego gang members reportedly have told investigators that they were paid $15,000 apiece to go to Guadalajara, where Guzman was visiting in May. Authorities quoted them as saying the Arellanos promised $15,000 more to whoever killed Guzman.
Guzman has been arrested; authorities still are seeking the Arellanos and a member of the San Diego barrio gang believed to be the primary gunman in the shooting of the cardinal.
Officials on both sides of the border have not yet figured out how the murder plot resulted in the death of the cardinal.
One theory is that the cardinal and his chauffeur happened to drive into the airport as shooting erupted between gang members and Guzman’s bodyguards. Another holds that the gang members mistook the cardinal for Guzman because he was riding in a car similar to the drug lord’s.

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