Adrian de la Torre (second left) and Julieta Calvillo (second right)

In a videotaped interrogation (see below) posted on various blogs, two employees of the Durango prosecutor's office accused the governor and his secretary of public safety of "selling" criminal control of the embattled northern state to the Sinaloa Cartel. The accusations presage the tough fight between the Zetas and Sinaloa in Durango.

The dismembered bodies of both employees -- Adrian de la Torre, 25 and Julieta Calvillo, 58, -- were found January 12, along with that of a third official from the prosecutor's branch office in the city of Gomez Palacio. That city and neighboring Torreon have become a primary battlefront between the Sinaloa organization and the ruthless Zetas gang, with scores of executions tallied in recent months.

Flanked by two rifle-wielding and helmeted men in camouflage uniforms and answering questions from an off-camera inquisitor, both Calvillo and De la Torre said that Sinaloa operatives posing as state officials were working inside the prosecutor's office to gain control of Durango for the cartel. 

"I've talked to some of them and they say they are Mayo Zambada's people. And they are here to take the plaza," De la Torre says calmly in the video posted by Blog del Narco and Borderland Beat, referring to Sinaloa lieutenant Ismael Zambada, alias "El Mayo," and using the slang for criminal control of a city or state.

Calvillo said the Zambada gang had purchased influence with Durango Governor Jorge Herrera and "El Rosso," presumably Jose Antonio Rosso, chief of Durango's state police.

[See InSight Crime's Sinaloa Cartel profile]

"They bought the plaza," Calvillo, who identified herself as a public prosecutor, said of the Zambada operatives. "They bought it from the governor. He is the one organizing everything, together with El Rosso."

Calvillo estimated that "about 20" Sinaloa operatives had infiltrated the prosecutor's office in Gomez Palacio. She said officials send suspected gangsters to the Durango state capital where they are tortured to extract information then turned over to a local gang -- run by the Cabrera family -- that operates on Zambada's orders.

The accusations in the video echo those in banners recently strung up in Durango, all accusing the governor and Rosso of collaboration with the Sinaloa Cartel

"If the governor and Rosso insist on delivering this plaza to the Cabreras they are going to get screwed," warned an unsigned recent banner. "This war will be long and bloody. Get a grip on yourselves because I am coming for Durango."

State officials deny collusion with gangsters, saying De La Torre and Calvillo were forced to read from a script fabricated by their abductors. The Zetas instead are seeking revenge for the governor's December closing of a prison they controlled in Gomez Palacio following a deadly riot there, Sonia-Yadira de la Garza, the state's chief prosecutor, told Insight Crime.

"We totally reject these accusations," said De la Garza, adding that De La Torre was a messenger in the state coroner's service and Calvillo was a secretary not a prosecutor. "There are no gangsters working inside the prosecutor's office. What they want is that the authorities don't do our jobs."

Insight Crime Analysis

Such videotaped confessions, usually followed by the brutal murder of those questioned, have been a mainstay in Mexico's gangster wars. The videos, as well as banners hung in public places, frequently accuse various officials of collusion with one gang or the other.

Federal officials and independent analysts have suggested that those being questioned often have been fed their statements for propaganda purposes.

Still, gangsters' support from government officials at every level has crippled the Mexican federal government's attempts to bring the violence under control. The Roman Catholic archbishop of Durango famously commented two years ago that Sinaloa kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman was omnipresent in the state, unimpeded by authorities.

What is certain is that Gomez Palacio and neighboring Torreon, which is in Coahuila state, have become one of Mexico's bloodiest gangland battlegrounds as the Zetas battle for control against Sinaloa Cartel factions. Scores have been killed in massacres, prison riots and executions.

Mexico's new president, Enrique Peña Nieto, whose strategy to sharply reduce the drug war violence will depend upon effective law enforcement in the embattled states, faces heavy odds.

Coahuila is a Zetas stronghold, as is Zacatecas, which borders Durango to the south. Sinaloa Cartel factions hold sway in most of Durango.

[See InSight Crime's Zetas profile]

But Durango also suffered a bruising battle in 2011 between the Cabreras and another Sinaloa faction which, according to an article in Proceso magazine citing Mexican federal investigators, had fallen out of favor with El Chapo and other cartel leaders.

Police last year pulled the remains of some 350 casualties of that fight from clandestine graves in and around the state capital, also called Durango. Victorious, the Cabreras now are taking on the Zetas in Gomez Palacio and Torreon.

Like the above-mentioned banner promises, this likely is going to be long and bloody.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

  Life of a Sicario Anatomy of a Hit   The BACRIM's control over territories such as the north Colombian region of Bajo Cauca comes at the point of a gun, and death is a constant price of their power. In rural sectors, uniformed BACRIM armed with assault rifles still patrol in...

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Analyzing the Data

In the last decade, homicides in Guatemala have obeyed a fairly steady pattern. Guatemala City and some of its surrounding municipalities have the greatest sheer number of homicides. Other states, particularly along the eastern border have the highest homicide rates. Among these are the departments of Escuintla...

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The prison system in Latin America and the Caribbean has become a prime incubator for organized crime. This overview -- the first of six reports on prison systems that we produced after a year-long investigation -- traces the origins and maps the consequences of the problem, including...

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's prisons are a reflection of the multiple conflicts that have plagued the country for the last half-century. Paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug trafficking groups have vied for control of the jails where they can continue to manage their operations on the outside. Instead of corralling these forces...

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Olfato. It is a term used quite often in law enforcement and judicial circles in Central America (and other parts of the world as well). It refers to the sixth sense they have as they see a crime scene, investigate a murder or plow through the paperwork...

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

In San Pedro Sula's jailhouse, chaos reigns. The inmates, trapped in their collective misery, battle for control over every inch of their tight quarters. Farm animals and guard dogs roam free and feed off scraps, which can include a human heart. Every day is visitors' day, and...

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

When someone is murdered in Guatemala, police, forensic doctors and government prosecutors start making their way to the crime scene and a creaky, antiquated 20th century bureaucratic machine kicks into gear. Calls are made. Forms are filled out by hand, or typed into computers, or both. Some...

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

The department of Nariño in southwest Colombia is the main coca-producing area in the country and in the world. It is a place scarred by poverty and years of armed conflict between guerrillas, the state and paramilitary groups. Perhaps nowhere else in the country are the challenges...

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Following Guatemala's long and brutal civil war, members of the military were charged, faced trial and sentenced to jail time. Even some members of a powerful elite unit known as the Kaibil were put behind bars. Among these prisoners, none were more emblematic than Captain Byron Lima...

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

When violence surged in early 2015 in Guatemala, then-President Otto Pérez Molina knew how to handle the situation: Blame the street gangs.