Today's Coming Crisis Movie

Monday, July 25, 2011

Unraveling Mexico's Sinaloa drug cartel

Never lose track of the load.

It was drilled into everybody who worked for Carlos “Charlie” Cuevas. His drivers, lookouts, stash house operators, dispatchers -- they all knew. When a shipment was on the move, a pair of eyes had to move with it.

Cuevas had just sent a crew of seven men to the border crossing at Calexico, Calif. The load they were tracking was cocaine, concealed in a custom-made compartment inside a blue 2003 Honda Accord.

The car was still on the Mexican side in a 10-lane crush of vehicles inching toward the U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspection station. Amputee beggars worked the queue, along with men in broad-brimmed hats peddling trinkets, tamales and churros.

A lookout watching from a car in a nearby lane reported on the load's progress. Cuevas, juggling cellphones, demanded constant updates. If something went wrong, his boss in Sinaloa, Mexico, would want answers.

The Accord reached the line of inspection booths, and a lookout on the U.S. side picked up the surveillance. He was Roberto Daniel Lopez, an Iraq War veteran, standing near the “Welcome to Calexico” sign.

It was the usual plan: After clearing customs, the driver would head for Los Angeles, shadowed by a third lookout waiting in a car on South Imperial Avenue. (more)