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Narco News '02

Certify This!

The Narco-Ballad of

Ramón Arellano Félix

A Narco Corrido

By Los Embajadores del Norte

Davidow Del Norte Squeezes Fiction from Fact

It was only a matter of time before the popular music phenomenon of "narco corridos," or folk ballads about the public figures of drug trafficking, took the English-speaking world by storm.

Narco News today publishes the lyrics of "The Ballad of Ramón Arellano Félix" by a group called "Los Embajadores del Norte."

But first, some background information.

The reported-but-unconfirmed death this month of Ramón Arellano Félix, alleged boss, with other family members, of the Tijuana cartel, has provoked massive speculation from the Mexican press to the New York Times.

The authorities "think" he is dead... but they can't find the body.

Sound familiar? Four years ago, Amado Carillo, "the Lord of the Skies," was reported dead after a botched plastic-surgery operation, but rumors that the alleged Juárez cartel boss faked his death and lives to laugh about it have reappeared with frequency. This legend was even implied in the Hollywood motion picture Traffic (for which NY Times reporter Tim Golden was a consultant who supposedly made the film conform to real life facts).

One of the ironies of this week's story of the death-that-maybe-wasn't is that it comes just as the United States government has issued its "certification" of Mexico as a trusted drug war ally.

Ambassador as Mortician

The Spain-based news agency, EFE, reports that "U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Jeffrey Davidow on Tuesday said that one of the gunmen killed in a Feb. 10 shootout in Mazatlan might have been Ramón Arellano Félix, the head of the Tijuana cartel and one of the most wanted criminals in the United States. Although Mexican authorities have yet to conclude their investigation, 'with the information that I have, I think that there is a good chance that it was Arellano Félix,' Davidow told Mexico's official news agency Notimex."

Jeffrey Davidow

Narco News has long stated that the extensive media attention to "cartel" leaders like the Arellano Félix brothers or their competitors of the Juárez Cartel or the Sinaloan Chapo Gúzman - who escaped out of prison last year by simply walking out of a "maximum security" pokey in the State of Jalisco - and other bigger-than-life media personalities serves as a convenient distraction to draw attention away from the true kingpins of narco-trafficking in government, banking and financial industries; the ones who launder the money and make an estimated 80 percent of the illicit drug profits.

According to multiple press reports, the rumor that Ramón Arellano Félix is dead was started by United States officials.

"The US anti-drug agency (DEA) knew first about the possibility that Ramón Arellano Félix was one of the deaths resulting from the shootout last February 10," reports today's daily El Universal of Mexico City. "Nine days after the fact, according to government reports, the DEA alerted Mexico that one of the victims of the shootout could be the chief of the Tijuana cartel."

Today's daily La Jornada of Mexico City reports that "On February 19th, nine days after the shootout, Miguel Franni, a DEA agent... obtained information from his 'contacts' in San Isidro, California, suggesting that Ramón Arellano was one of the three deaths."

Beers Joins the Chorus

But during a US State Department press briefing on Monday, Washington fixer Randy Beers - while explaining the results of this year's "certification" process - was asked point blank by a reporter: "I wonder if you can give us any comments about the apparent assassination of Ramón Arellano Félix a few days ago, and, after that, his apparent cremation, as the Attorney General of Mexico announced over the weekend."

Beers punted: "With respect to the reports of the death of the drug kingpin, I'm going to have to let the Mexican reports stand for themselves. I don't have any additional information to offer you on that particular set of statements by the Mexican government. That is essentially what we know."

Randy Beers

The non-answer by Beers (who is scheduled to be deposed under oath today by attorneys for Ecuadoran peasants harmed by U.S.-sponsored "anti-drug" herbicide spraying, as reported last week by Narco News) contradicts the information subsequently reported that U.S. officials "knew" of the death of the number-two man on the FBI's "10 Most Wanted" list" (Arellano Félix lost the top spot to Osama bin Laden), before the Mexican government had any idea.

Beers' pointing of reporters to the Mexican government for an explanation, when his own U.S. government is the source of what the Mexican officials have said, constituted an unintentional admission that the Mexican government is, when it comes to drug policy, run from Washington.

A reporter told Beers, "there have been reports of an increase of almost 10 percent of cocaine traffic from Colombia through Mexico," and asked, "whose fault is that - or who's not doing the right work in the border to control the drugs? There is an increase of 10 percent in the last three months."

Beers again punted: "I'm not in a position at this point in time to even confirm the increase of 10 percent."

Well, of course: Not while Beers and the other bureaucrats were announcing the easy "certification" of the governments of Mexico and the narco-state of Colombia.

"Let me simply go to the heart of your question, which is why Mexico was not mentioned in this particular report," said Beers. "And the answer is that the Government of Mexico has taken demonstrable efforts of a significant amount to deal with drug trafficking and, as a result, there is no need to mention Mexico. If you simply look at the record of the Fox administration since they have come into office, you will see a string of arrests and seizures and eradication that, as a whole, represent a very significant effort on the part of the Mexican government. And the question about whether or not we might consider decertifying them should even arise, it seems to me, doesn't take into account the reports that have occurred over the last year."

The Times They Have a'Changed

The nonsensical drug war "certification" process - a kind of "report card" foisted by Washington upon other nations with high stakes in terms of US and international aid - was founded specifically as a means to pressure Mexico into folding its resistance to certain US economic and trade policies that have nothing to do with the drug issue. Washington is happy with Fox's efforts to privatize the electric and petroleum industries, among others, and thus, it no longer matters to Beers or other U.S. officials that cocaine trafficking through Mexico has increased by 10 percent over the last three months. The drug war, we repeat, was never about combating drugs.

At the same State Department press briefing, a persistent reporter followed-up on this question about the apparent increase in cocaine traffic through Mexico into the United States: "The number I gave to you, it was given to us by the DEA agents. And my question is, you haven't detected an increase on the flow of drugs from South America through Mexico in the last couple of months? Because I remember, even some members of the White House have said there has been an increase in the flow of drugs from South America to the United States in the last couple of months. So you say not?"

Robert Brown of the drug czar's office cut in before Beers could respond. Brown insisted: "No was the answer."

Now, this is the story of the rumored death of the number-two "most wanted" fugitive in the United States. But the authorities were not exactly fast on the draw after his reputed February 10th murder.

El Universal reported yesterday: "In less than two and a half hours, the body of the man identified as Ramón Arellano Félix was reduced to ashes. At 11:20 p.m., in a white acrylic urn and with a virgin engraved on the side, Alexandro Malagón, employee of the Calderón Funeral Home, collected the ashes of the man who is believed to be the boss of the Tijuana cartel."

"The ashes were delivered by an employee of the funeral home to José Celestino López López, described as a thin and dark man, who identified himself as the "cousin" of Jorge Pérez López, the name that appeared in the false state prosecutor ID that the presumed Arellano Félix brother used…. The delivery and cremation of the cadavers complied with all regulations. But there is a detail not included in the file: the mysterious man who reclaimed the body of the presumed Ramón Arellano Félix ordered that it all be done rapidly and with discretion. And this was done to the letter."

The Song from the Street

Among the Mexican public, long familiar with the tricks of officialdom regarding its public relations portrait of the narco, a very different legend has already circulated: That Ramón isn't dead. As with the rumors about Amado Carillo, the man on the street says he faked his own death. And he did so with the help of US and Mexican authorities, as part of some kind of golden parachute as new administrations in both countries reorganize which narcos shall now become the most-favored drug trafficking transport workers.

Ramón Arellano Félix

Subscribers to this theory find historic irony in that the "confirmation" of Ramón Arellano Félix's death came from Ambassador Davidow. Three years ago, Davidow "confirmed" the death of Mexican politician Mario Riuz Masseiu, claiming even that he had seen the body, while members of the politician's family protested that they were forbidden from identifying the corpse (Subcomandante Marcos of the Zapatistas, in a 1999 communiqué, boldly suggested that Riuz Masseiu had joined the United States Witness Protection Program, to be used as one more pressure point over corrupt Mexican politicians to ensure their obedience to US economic policies.)

Narco News doesn't claim to know what the true story is. Given the rapid cremation of the body before it could be fully identified, and the involvement by certified government officials in authorizing that cremation, the "street" version is no less or more credible than that of Davidow or Beers. And we remind that the myth of "cartels" that run the drug trade has long been a media circus to distract attention from the true kingpins who reside in "respectable" circles of power.

So that our readers can best understand the competing views over what happened in this mystery, today we present the lyrics to a new narco-corrido that conform more with the "street" version and common wisdom over how the drug war operates in the US and Mexico than with the party line being promulgated by government officials.

We now present "The Ballad of Ramón Arellano Félix," a certified narco-corrido authored by Los Embajadores del Norte, with the proviso that while it accurately reflects the view of the man on the street, it is not necessarily any less fictional than the fantastic version offered by the chief of the morgue, er, embassy in Mexico City, Ambassador Jeffrey Davidow.

The Ballad of Ramón

Arellano Félix

By Los Embajadores del Norte

(Rock video to feature Spanish subtitles)

I'm going to tell you a story
Of some brothers in Tijuana
They started out hungry and humble
They soon forgot marijuana

What gave them their riches and mansions?
Surrounded by barbed wire and roses
They took from the farms of Colombia
Straight to the gringo bankers' noses

People would shake their hands
And follow wherever they'd go
Ramón was the handsomest brother
Lived the high life in San Diego

The Ambassador said
"He's dead, he's dead"
Thank you, Jeffrey
The Ambassador said
"He's dead, he's dead"
But he's free, he's free, he's free

But then came a change of regime
And they went through some hard knocks
When they lost their boy Zedillo
And Chapo got his Fox

Chapo Guzmán walked out of prison
Under certified law and order
Today he walks down Main Street
Along the Texas border

The true kingpins in suits and ties
Had so many officials to thank
When the Fox took the national treasury
All the way to the City Bank

The Ambassador said
"He's dead, he's dead"
Thank you, Jeffrey
The Ambassador said
"He's dead, he's dead"
But he's free, he's free, he's free

Ramón flew into a rage
Said "My time is almost done,
For they've only made me number two
And Osama gets number one"

Opium, Marijuana
Cocaine and Crystal Meth
They live to see another day
As Ramón fakes his own death

FBI, CIA, Customs
Interpol, DEA
They live to steal another day
But Ramón he's gone away

The Ambassador said
"He's dead, he's dead"
Thank you, Jeffrey
The Ambassador said
"He's dead, he's dead"
But he's free, he's free, he's free

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Authentic Journalism With a Song In Its Heart