Read The Cartel Online

Authors: Don Winslow

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #United States, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #Cozy, #Animals, #International Mystery & Crime, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Crime, #Thrillers

The Cartel (88 page)

Do what you have to do for your son.

But, oh, Ana.

Chuy gets his orders from Forty.

When we get the Wild Child…

Make it long, make it last.

Make it hurt.

Send a message.

Pablo walks back into the house.

“Where’s Mateo?” he asks, panicked.

“In the bathroom,” Ana says.

“Listen, something’s come up,” Pablo says. “Could you do me a huge favor? Take Mateo to El Paso and I’ll meet you there tomorrow?”

“Why don’t you just do what you need to do and we’ll all go then?” Ana asks.



“Just go. Please.”

“What is it you need to do?” Ana asks. “Can I help?”

“Yes. Take my son across tonight.”


“Ana, it’s okay.”

“Come with us.”

He shakes his head. It’s no good anyway. The North Americans will only toss them back into Mexico, sooner or later, and even if they don’t the narcos will track her down and kill her there.

There’s only one way to save her.

And protect Mateo.

Pablo says, “I need you to get Mateo across. I’ll come over tomorrow, I promise.”

Mateo comes out of the bathroom. Pablo kneels in front of him, takes his face in his hands, and says, “
I have a nice surprise for you. I have a little more work to do, so Tía Ana is going to take you and I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”

Mateo looks uncertain.

“You love Tía Ana, don’t you?” Pablo asks.


“So you’ll have a great time,” Pablo says. “Tía Ana will let you get a Coke out of the machine at the motel.”

“We’ll have fun,” Ana says.


Pablo holds him tight. Feels his soft warm little chest against his own. “
loves you very much. You know that, don’t you?”

“I love you, too.”

Pablo kisses him on both cheeks. “Okay, you’d better go. I’ll see you both tomorrow and we’ll go to the waterslide. Did I ever tell you that I’m the world’s champion waterslider?”

“Why are you crying,

“Just because I love you so much.”

Ana takes Mateo’s hand and walks him outside. Pablo stands in the door and watches them drive away.

He waves.

Then he goes back inside and finds a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black in the kitchen cupboard. He pours himself a glass, goes into the bedroom, and once he’s drunk enough to stop his hands from shaking, he sits down at Ana’s desktop computer and starts to type.

“Look at this,” Forty says to Ramón.

Esta Vida
—the latest post.

An article signed by the author.

“Son of a bitch,” Ramón says.

It takes him less than an hour to track Pablo down at Ana’s house. He and the kid Chuy go out, and when they get there Pablo’s sitting on the back step drinking a beer, a dead bottle of scotch beside him.

Pablo looks up at him.

“Time to go,” Ramón says.

“For old time’s sake,” Pablo says, “I don’t suppose you could just do it here? You know…”

He mimes pointing a pistol and pulling the trigger.

“It doesn’t work that way,” Ramón says. “I don’t know why you had to go and do this.”

“I don’t know why, either.” Pablo grabs the railing and slowly pulls himself to his feet. His legs start to go out from under him and Ramón grabs his elbow. “You’re pretty drunk,

“Probably better, huh?”


“I’m really scared, Ramón.”

“Yeah, well…”

They take him out to the car and drive to one of the old maquiladoras that’s been shut down.

The street sweepers find him just before dawn.

Paper wrappers, old newspapers, and other trash blow across Pablo Mora on the Plaza del Periodista

His killers took great trouble to arrange the pieces of his body around the statue of the newsboy—Pablo’s amputated arms and legs frame his trunk, which is disemboweled and emasculated. His head is carefully set at the base of the pedestal, his mouth stuffed with the severed fingers with which he used to type, his tongue has been pulled through a gash in his throat, his empty eye sockets are bloody and raw.

A placard is set at his neck.



But later that morning, it seems as if everyone in Mexico is reading Wild Child’s last words:

by El Niño Salvaje
I speak for the ones who cannot speak, for the voiceless. I raise my voice and wave my arms and shout for the ones you do not see, perhaps cannot see, for the invisible. For the poor, the powerless, the disenfranchised; for the victims of this so-called “war on drugs,” for the eighty thousand murdered by the narcos, by the police, by the military, by the government, by the purchasers of drugs and the sellers of guns, by the investors in gleaming towers who have parlayed their “new money” into hotels, resorts, shopping malls, and suburban developments.
I speak for the tortured, burned, and flayed by the narcos, beaten and raped by the soldiers, electrocuted and half-drowned by the police.
I speak for the orphans, twenty thousand of them, for the children who have lost both or one parent, whose lives will never be the same.
I speak for the dead children, shot in crossfires, murdered alongside their parents, ripped from their mothers’ wombs.
I speak for the people enslaved, forced to labor on the narcos’ ranches, forced to fight. I speak for the mass of others ground down by an economic system that cares more for profit than for people.
I speak for the people who tried to tell the truth, who tried to tell the story, who tried to show you what you have been doing and what you have done. But you silenced them and blinded them so that they could not tell you, could not show you.
I speak for them, but I speak to you—the rich, the powerful, the politicians, the
the generals. I speak to Los Pinos and the Chamber of Deputies, I speak to the White House and Congress, I speak to AFI and the DEA, I speak to the bankers, and the ranchers and the oil barons and the capitalists and the narco drug lords and I say—
You are the same.
You are all the cartel.
And you are guilty.
You are guilty of murder, you are guilty of torture, you are guilty of rape, of kidnapping, of slavery, of oppression, but mostly I say that you are guilty of indifference. You do not see the people that you grind under your heel. You do not see their pain, you do not hear their cries, they are voiceless and invisible to you and they are the victims of this war that you perpetuate to keep yourselves above them.
This is not a war on drugs.
This is a war on the poor.
This is a war on the poor and the powerless, the voiceless and the invisible, that you would just as soon be swept from your streets like the trash that blows around your ankles and soils your shoes.
You’ve done it.
You’ve performed a cleansing.
The country is safe now for your shopping malls and suburban tracts, the invisible are safely out of sight, the voiceless silent as they should be.
I speak these last words, and now you will kill me for it.
I only ask that you bury me in the
fosa común
—the common grave—with the faceless and the nameless, without a headstone.
I would rather be with them than you.
And I am voiceless now, and invisible.
I am Pablo Mora.


The Cleansing

Wash me throughly from my wickedness and cleanse me from my sin.
—Psalm 51

San Diego, California

October 2012

A thousand years ago, Keller learns, the Petén was one of the most densely populated areas on earth.

As a center of the Mayan civilization, the heavily forested lowlands—rain forest, jungle—held dozens of cities with stone temples and courtyards, and vast terraced fields irrigated with canals, and
floating farms on lakes.

Then it went into decline.

No one is sure why, whether it was drought, or disease, or invasion, but by the time Cortés arrived in the 1520s the rain forest had taken back most of the towns and the farms, and what people survived the spread of the foreign smallpox lived off slash-and-burn agriculture in isolated villages.

Still, it took the Spanish almost two hundred years to finally and fully subdue the Mayan descendants in the Petén and set up a system of colonization that made the white Spanish and their mestizo offspring the landowning masters, and the native Mayan “Indians” the landless peasants.

The system held for almost four hundred years, even as the new American imperialists of the United Fruit Company came into power in Guatemala. It wasn’t until 1944 that the “October Revolutionaries” launched liberal reforms and in 1952 put through Decree 900 that mandated the redistribution of the land.

The masters reacted.

The 2 percent of the population that owned 98 percent of the land weren’t about to see their position altered and with CIA backing staged a coup that overthrew the civilian government.

The left—a loose coalition of students, workers, and a few peasants from the countryside—formed “MR-13,” a guerrilla movement that started to fight the Guatemalan army and police. After five years of sporadic fighting, the United States sent in its army special forces—the Green Berets—to help combat the “communist guerrillas.”

What followed was called the “White Terror” as the “Special Commando Unit” and the paramilitary Mano Blanca—actually police and soldiers—committed thousands of “disappearances” against leftists in Guatemala City and out in the countryside. Guatemala’s president, Carlos Arana Osorio, in declaring a “state of siege” announced, “If it is necessary to turn the country into a graveyard in order to pacify it, I will not hesitate.”

Seven thousand people “disappeared” over the next three years.

The left responded, forming the CUC (Committee for Peasant Unity) in the south and east and the EGP (Guerrilla Army of the Poor) in the Mayan north, and the Guatemalan Civil War went on.

If ever there has been a greater misnomer than “Mexican drug problem,” “Guatemalan Civil War” has to be it. Certainly it was a one-sided civil war, mostly the disappearances and slaughter of a few poorly armed leftist guerrillas by a professional army and police forces well supplied with American weapons and training.

In 1978 the special forces, the Kaibiles, opened fire on an unarmed group of protestors in Panzos and killed 150. By 1980, 5,000 had been killed.

Keller made it a point to study the history of a particular Guatemalan village in the Petén—Dos Erres.

It’s one of tragedy.

In October 1982, EGP guerrillas ambushed an army convoy near Dos Erres, killed twenty-one soldiers, and took nineteen rifles.

On December 4, a unit of fifty-eight Kaibiles disguised as guerrillas flew into the area. Two days later, they walked into the village at 2:30 in the morning. They roused the people from their houses and separated the men from the women, putting all the men into the village schoolhouse, and the women and children into the church. Then they searched the village for the missing weapons. They didn’t find any because the EGP who ambushed the soldiers hadn’t come from Dos Erres.

It didn’t matter.

The Kaibiles announced that after they’d had breakfast, they were going to “vaccinate” the inhabitants of Dos Erres.

The Kaibiles went berserk.

They grabbed children by the ankles and swung their heads into tree trunks and walls. Not wanting to waste ammunition, they smashed the adult men’s heads with hammers. They ripped babies from pregnant women’s stomachs, and then, over the course of the next two days, raped the rest of the women before killing them and dumping their bodies on top of their families in the village well.

On the last morning of the slaughter, fifteen more Mayan peasants wandered into Dos Erres. Because the wells were too full, the Kaibiles drove them half a mile away before slaughtering all but two teenage girls whom they raped as they left the area, then strangled them.

The Guatemalan “Civil War” went on for fourteen more years after the massacre of Dos Erres. Over two hundred thousand people were killed, including forty to fifty thousand who “disappeared.” A million and a half people were displaced from their homes, another million emigrated, mostly to the United States.

But the suffering of the Petén goes on, this time by narco cartels wanting the area for its proximity to the border. The Zetas and the Sinaloa cartel were ready to go to war for the Petén until Barrera brought Ochoa to the peace table.

Now Keller studies the latest satellite photographs.

The clearing outside Dos Erres is fresh, a small rectangle hacked out of the rain forest. He counts the number of tents and the two small buildings, but doesn’t have to do a calculation as to how many Gente Nueva are there. He already knows—Barrera has told him he was bringing a hundred men.

His intel team has done a calculation as to the numbers of Zetas, based on the small houses, huts, and tents in Dos Erres, the number of vehicles, and whatever satellite imagery they could grab of the village itself. Their best estimate was two hundred Zetas, among them maybe two dozen former Kaibiles.

We’re bringing twenty men, Keller thinks.

All elite operatives.

Keller has gotten to know and like the team members during the long weeks of training. It’s hard to get to know these men—they’re quiet, reticent, don’t swap biographies. The general, unspoken rule is that the less they know about each other the better, but Keller has gleaned that John Downey, “D-1,” the team leader, was an army full colonel, a Ranger with combat experience in Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Late forties, built like a fire hydrant, short red hair, pug nose, and an easy air of command.

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