Helicopter Robbed at Gunpoint

Updated Sunday afternoon May 13


Por Esto! front page

Saturday, May 12, 2000

 First press reports, based on sources from Mexican Attorney General's office, tried to blame the Zapatistas

Regional press cooperation between Por Esto! in Mérida and La Prensa in Managua followed the chopper's trail and disproved the PGR's lies

The Fourth Estate nails the Narco-State

Chronology of a lie unmasked

Wednesday, May 9th: The helicopter is rented by a subject claiming to be an "archeologist." He paid in cash earlier in the week for a Thursday flight to the Mayan ruins at Calakmul. Then he called the rental agency and asked if the flight could be moved up to Wednesday. The agency obliged him. When the chopper arrived at the ruins, in the Yucatán peninsula state of Campeche, armed assailants appeared from the forest. They kidnapped the pilot and took off. Another member of the helicopter crew, among his duties to push a radar button in case of theft so that authorities can find the stolen vehicle, did not push the button. He was -- coincidentally? -- not kidnapped with the pilot.

Thursday, May 10th: The first news wire reports of the chopper theft, based on reports from the PGR, the federal Attorney General's office in Mexico, claimed that the armed assailants said they were Zapatistas -- members of the indigenous rebel movement in Chiapas that has never kidnapped or counted with a helicopter. This, at the very moment that the Mexican ruling regime is seeking a pretext for a military battle with the Zapatistas before the July 2nd elections. Narco News will report more next week on other recent efforts by the federal ruling party and PGR to link the Zapatistas with drug trafficking: efforts that for six years have failed because the Zapatistas refuse drugs and alcohol in their more than 1,000 base communities of Chiapas and, to the contrary, it is precisely the massive presence of military and police agencies in the highlands and jungles of Chiapas who are controlling and enriching themselves through illicit drug trafficking.

Friday, May 11th: The many Mexican media outlets that are dedicated to defending the federal regime -- to the point of spreading blatant and undocumented lies -- marched with the invented "Zapatista" story.

The front page of Friday's "Diario of Yucatán," led with this version of the story:

"A commando brigade declaring itself pro-Zapatista threatens war actions if the elections are not clean"

"An armed group kidnaps a helicopter in Campeche"

CAMPECHE, Cam., 11 de mayo: A commando brigade of eight to 11 persons yesterday kidnapped a helicopter in the jungle of the town of Calakmul, in the south of the state, an act that appears to confirm the constant complaints that insurgent groups operate in this zone.

According to the first reports, the helicopter, that is used as a taxi, was rented by six people -- three of them women -- to transport them to the archeological zone. Later, returning to collect the supposed tourists, it was boarded by a group identifying itself as sympathetic to the EZLN (Zapatista Army of National Liberation). The commando brigade announced that it was taking over the machine, with pilot and all, as a first means of pressure so that the July 2 elections will be clean, and the presumed guerrillas boarded and began their travel toward the South.

According to military sources, the assailants freed the co-pilot of the helicopter, Eduardo Ordóñez Palafox, and ordered him to spread the word that the theft of the airship was a means for the EZLN to demand guarantees of a clean electoral process on July 2nd....

They announced, according to the co-pilot, that this is a "first warning" and that if the government doesn't guarantee a totally legal election, the terrorist activities will grow.

(On April 15th we published that, although the Army insists that complaints of the operation of armed groups in the South are unfounded, farmers of this region say that they were part of the base of support for an insurgent group and that they had prepared to demonstrate publicly soon.)

In a related story, the same day's "Diario de Yucatán" ran with this headline:

"The theft of a helicopter"

"Wide military operation to locate an insurgent group"

...One of the versions indicates that the co-pilot of the helicopter, Eduardo Ordóñez Palafoz, it seems, knew about the situation, as it was him who brought the helicopter with the supposed insurgents and elevated it as it headed towards the south....

As security measures, roadblocks have been installed and inspection and vigilance in the zone have increased, while by land and air there are operations to search for presumed insurgents....

Calakmul is a town with inhabitants from other states... such as people from Chiapas who fled their state due to the armed conflict. Considered one of the most impoverished towns of Campeche, the municipality includes diverse ethnic groups, such as Tzeltales, Choles, Tojolabales and peninsular Mayans....

Narco News commentary:

The obvious goal of the "Diario of Yucatán" story was to repeat the federal spin: that the Zapatistas kidnapped the chopper and that this would justify large-scale military and police harrassment of indigenous communities not only in Campeche but also in Chiapas and other states.

Narco News has also learned that the "Diario of Yucatán" hid its primary source -- the PGR, or Attorney General's office -- behind supposed military sources: a common practice in the media.

That same Friday, the Yucatán daily Por Esto! published this front page:

It simply says "Secuestro!" -- which means theft or kidnapping. Por Esto! chose not to spread the unfounded rumor that the Zapatistas were behind the helicopter theft. It sent its reporters into the field (Por Esto! has newspapers in Campeche, Yucatán and Quintana Roo; the entire peninsula) and established contact with other media sources in Central and South America to search for the facts.

The big call came from Nicaragua. Here is the Por Esto! story on the following day -- the cover is posted at the top of this page -- based on its local investigations and the report of La Prensa from Managua, Nicaragua.

By Saturday morning it was clear: this helicopter-napping had nothing to do with the Zapatistas or insurgents, but with drug trafficking.

From Saturday's Por Esto!...

In the mountainous region of El Guineo, Nicaragua, a failed pit-stop of drug traffickers who tried to land a helicopter

News sent to Por Esto! from Managua by Juan Rodríguez, reporter for La Prensa

Por Esto!'s Theory: A route in search of Colombian cocaine

By Juan Rodríguez, La Prensa

special to Por Esto!


Thursday, in the mountainous region of "El Guinero, " near the town of "Siuna," in the State of Matagalpa, 350 kilometers northeast of the capital in Managua, a group of farmers found the French-manufactured "Dauphin" helicopter. Property of the ASESA company, it was stolen in the archeological zone of Calakmul in Campeche.

It is difficult to gain access in this specific place in the mountains of Matagalpa, a leading mining area.

The Army and National Police sent special brigades but still have not been able to confirm their arrival to confirm their arrival to the place where the helicopter was found.

The helicopter descended in Nicaragua reportedly to refuel in the town of Mulukukú, but could not get there.


The local Attorney General's office (PGR) in Campeche believes, according to a press release, that the 12-seat ASESA helicopter had to make a previous stop before failing to do so in Nicaragua in another Central American country in order to refuel toward's its destination: perhaps Central-North Panama, to later continue toward the Colombian Pacific, not far from Cali or Medellín.

The red lines of the map on page one of today's Por Esto! indicate the first flight taken on Wednesday, May 10th, with the stop in the archeological zone of Calakmul, where the helicopter was stolen. This calculates that the maximum flight time, at a velocity of 120 miles per hour, is 3 hours and 10 minutes.

POR ESTO! analized the situation based on our investigations of the last three-and-a-half years and the hypothesis is determined by measuring a flight toward Colombia to collect a cargo of between 1.5 and 2 tons of cocaine, in accordance with the maximum capacity of a Dauphin helicopter. It is to the North of the city of Cali and the West of Medellín where the cartel centers provide the drug to Mexican traffickers.

It is probable, as well, that the trip to the Calakmul zone responded to a study of the operational logistics of the route.

What this is about is narco-trafficking.

Update: The chopper was captured by Nicaraguan authorities, abandoned, on Saturday in that mountain region and transfered to the Managua airport. See reports, in Spanish, in Por Esto! and La Prensa, or tune in later to Narco News for translations and analysis.

photo copyright 2000 La Prensa

Sunday afternoon update:

La Jornada of Mexico City prints two conflicting reports:

(both eliminate the Zapatistas as suspects)

La Jornada report #1 -- from page 20, Sunday, May 14th:

"Helicopter Robbers did not identify themselves as from the EZLN"

"Military authorities (of Nicaragua) informed that... the pilot of the airship, Luis Pacheco Voix, testified that the robbers never identified themselves as members of the EZLN."

La Jornada report #2 -- from page 23, Sunday, May 14th:

"Police head to Nicaragua to recover the stolen airship"

"The news agency APRO released a communiqué from the supposed Insurgent Movement of the Southeast (MIS-EPR) that took credit for the robbery of the machine and the kidnapping of pilot Luis Alberto Pacheco Boix, but it did not explain the reasons for violating Central American airspace.

"The report denied that those were actions of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation and warned that the taking of the airship "is the beginning of a series of actions that the MIS-EPR will begin in the Yucatán peninsula, not as part of the electoral process, but rather as a demand for justice for the indigenous peoples of the country."

What's That About?

The alleged "communiqué" offered no facts of the kind that would be indicated if it had truly been the group that robbed the helicopter. Furthermore, as La Jornada did point out, there was no explanation for why the robbers headed South into cocaine trafficking routes.

This is a smokescreen to confuse and confound investigation into who truly was behind the theft.

The indications are that, one, it was an inside job, and, two, it was immediately used as a governmental excuse to persecute indigenous communities, to frighten non-indigenous Yucatecos -- with the help of their house organ, the "Diario of Yucatán" whose maneuver bordered on the worst form of racism against indigenous people -- before the July 2nd elections and to create a justification for the ruling party's "Plan B" as the federal elections slip from its grasp: To provoke a military conflict with the Zapatistas in Chiapas.

More to come next week on the mounting tensions in Chiapas, and how the official aggressions have to do with so much more than imposing victory in the elections. These desparate maneuvers are also aimed at increasing corrupt, US-sanctioned, official control of drug trafficking through the region.


More information coming...