Mexican criminal insurgency comes to Houston

Houston Chronicle:

The order was clear: Kill the guy in the Astros jersey.

But in a case of mistaken identity, Jose Perez ended up dead. The intended target — the Houston-based head of a Mexican drug cartel cell pumping millions of dollars of cocaine into the city — walked away.

Perez, 27, was just a working guy, out getting dinner late on a Friday with his wife and young children at Chilos, a seafood restaurant on the Gulf Freeway.

His murder and the assassination gone awry point to the perilous presence of Mexican organized crime and how cartel violence has seeped into the city.

Arrests came in December when police and federal agents got a break in the 2006 shooting as they charted the relationship and rivalries between at least five cartel cells operating in Houston. A rogue’s gallery of about 100 names and mug shots taken at Texas jails and morgues offers a blueprint for Mexican organized crime.

Houston has long been a major staging ground for importing illegal drugs from Mexico and shipping them to the rest of the United States, but a recent Department of Justice report notes it is one of 230 cities where cartels maintain distribution networks and supply lines.

At Chilos, the real crime boss was sitting at another table, as were two spotters. The hitman waited in the parking lot for Perez to leave the restaurant.


The gangster — captured on surveillance video — blended in with other customers as they gawked at the aftermath. A few months later, he was dead too, gunned down two miles from the restaurant.

“It is here and it has been here, but people don’t want to listen,” Rick Moreno, a Houston police homicide investigator working with the Drug Enforcement Administration and FBI, said of the cartels’ presence in Houston. "It is so far-reaching."

Washington is taking notice, even if the toll on U.S. streets is nowhere near as pervasive as in Mexico, where cartels are locked in a war against one another and with the government.


When it comes to tearing into the cartels in Houston, an investigation later code-named Operation Three Stars got quietly under way three years ago, as an undercover DEA agent stood in line at a McDonald’s in north Houston. He listened to a drug trafficker using a two-way radio to set up delivery of $750,000; the man was with his wife and kids, ordering Happy Meals while making the deal.


In the murky underworld, it takes time and luck to connect dots.

The accused mastermind of the Chilos attack, Jaime Zamora, 38, is charged with capital murder. He lived modestly, worked for Houston’s Parks and Recreation Department and was a Little League volunteer. State prosecutor Colleen Barnett said in court that such a profile was how he avoided detection.


His lawyer says he is not guilty. A jury should get to decide. The story has more about victims of the Mexican criminal drug insurgency and its ties to crimes in the US.

Here is the video of the actually killing of Jose Perez.

CNN reports that President Obama has asked the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs if there is anything we can do to help Mexico to deal with this criminal insurgency.


The president expressed interest in military capabilities that the U.S. has that could help Mexican forces, including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance technology, the official said.

As I have pointed out on several occasions, Mexico desperately needs training in counterinsurgency operations that will teach them how to protect the people. This will not only reduce the killing, but give them the intelligence they need to destroy the criminal insurgency. Right now they are in the whack a mole stage that the US was in the early days of the Iraq insurgency. They need to increase their force to space ratio in the most active areas. That would be Juarez and Tijuana which are the gateway cities for the cartel logistic operations in the US. It will require putting the troops in with the people and joint patrols with the police.

The US can also help by putting a tight cordon around the border across from these cities to detect and stop the transit of drugs before the carriers break out on I-5 in California and I-10 in El Paso. Both routes feed into the cartel supply chains. I-5 feeds the West coast distribution network and I-10 links to Interstate routes to feed the Midwest and East Coast. There are also routes through Neuvo Laredo and the lower Rio Grande Valley but the Gulf Cartel appears to have won the fight for control in these areas at this time. There are obvious other areas for crossing, but the two mentioned are the ones being fought over which suggest they are the most important to the cartels.

The Miami Herald has an interesting story on a visit to Juarez. Hint, the lines are short going into Juarez from El Paso.


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