By MICHELLE KOIDIN Associated Press Writer
CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (AP) -- As many as 22 U.S. citizens may be
among the 100 bodies U.S. and Mexican agents believe were buried on
two ranches near this Mexican border town, Mexican Attorney General
Jorge Madrazo said today.
"The list is of more than 100 persons who hypothetically could be buried
in those points," Madrazo told the Televisa network here. Twenty-two of
them, he said, were believed to be U.S. citizens.
There was no indication any of the bodies had been exhumed and
officials were uncertain of exactly how many bodies they expect to find.
U.S. and Mexican agents returned today to resume the search for
people Madrazo said were believed to be victims of the Juarez drug
cartel, the dominant Mexican drug-trafficking organization in the
On Monday night dozens of armed soldiers, some wearing black ski
masks, surrounded one of the ranches in a desolate area 10 miles
south of Ciudad Juarez. White iron gates towered in front of the ranch.
A concrete block wall covered with graffiti surrounded the rest of the
property, located across the street from a junkyard. Topping the
concrete wall was a chain-link fence with razor wire.
No bodies were seen being carried out, but several soldiers left the
ranch carrying duffel bags. No one at the scene would talk to reporters.
A news conference scheduled for Monday night in Ciudad Juarez was
At Mexico's request, the FBI was sending agents and forensic experts to
help recover and identify the remains, believed to be of both U.S. and
Mexican citizens, the Mexican attorney general's office said in a
"In the last four years, and possibly over more time, citizens of both
nationalities have disappeared without leading any trace," it said.
The office announced Monday that it had launched a joint investigation
with the FBI to solve the slayings and disappearances of residents on
both sides of the border during the past several years.
Mexican and U.S. officials would not publicly release details on the
graves Monday. But an FBI agent speaking on condition of anonymity
told The Associated Press in Washington that as many as 100 bodies
had been found on two ranches near Ciudad Juarez, a city across the
border from El Paso, Texas.
Rodrigo Falcon, 18, said he and his family were caring for the ranch in
the absence of the property's owner, whom he identified as Jorge Ortiz
of El Paso. He said Ortiz hadn't been there for a while.
Falcon, who was on the verge of tears, said the soldiers wouldn't let him
inside when he arrived from work at a nearby factory.
It could not immediately be determined when the bodies were first
discovered on the two ranches in northern Mexico. It also could not be
determined how many agents from both countries were involved in the
investigation, but CBS News reported that 200 agents and forensic
specialists were committed to the operation and that exhumations were
to begin today.
For years, Ciudad Juarez has been headquarters for the Juarez cartel,
a drug gang formerly run by Amado Carrillo Fuentes. Carrillo was the
country's No. 1 cocaine trafficker before he died in 1997 after plastic
surgery. In the wake of his death, dozens of people were killed in the
city in what police believe was at least in part a battle for control of the
Copyright 2000 The Christian Science Publishing Society Â
The Christian Science Monitor
January 6, 2000, Thursday
SECTION: OPINION; Pg. 9
LENGTH: 921 words
HEADLINE: The Caribbean narco-economy
BYLINE: Jerome L. McElroy
Â Â Â
A third wave of globalization, following centuries of sugar monoculture and the postwar growth
of island tourism, is washing across the Caribbean. It is the spreading global narco-economy,
and it threatens the political and economic stability of the archipelago.
United States efforts in recent years to staunch the flow of Colombian drugs across the
Mexican border have deflected trafficking eastward across the island chain from Bahamas to
Aruba. Roughly a third of all cocaine and heroin consumed in the US crisscrosses the area,
and money-laundering drug profits have infested several of the region's offshore financial
The Caribbean narco-economy has been nourished by several factors: strategic location
between southern producers and northern consumers, vast unguarded coastlines and
inaccessible mountainous interiors, a long-standing trade network, plus the anonymity
afforded by hordes of tourists.
The common route is from the north coast of Colombia to remote Bahamian islands, where
air-dropped drugs are loaded onto high-speed boats for a final run to the US mainland. More
recently, the eastern Caribbean has provided another corridor for stockpiling contraband for
later transit by sea or air to the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. There they are repackaged
as domestic freight and transported north by cargo or courier via busy airports with
perfunctory customs checks.
Traffickers have displayed a remarkable resilience and ingenuity in keeping one step ahead
of detection. Sophisticated satellite-positioning systems and the latest communication
technology are often used to coordinate drops in the least policed waters. To elude US radar,
they now use "stealth boats" made entirely from wood and fiberglass, as well as
During the past two decades the region's economy has been shocked by destructive
hurricanes, declining sugar exports, the loss of textile investment and employment to Mexico
via NAFTA, and the loss of banana export preferences.
In addition, since the demise of communism, the diplomatic downgrading of the Caribbean
(the Cuban threat in particular) has resulted in an 80 percent cut in US aid. Some scholars
also argue that the IMF and World Bank structural adjustment policies mandated for the larger
debt-burdened countries such as Jamaica have resulted in declining living standards and
social expenditure, especially in urban areas where the drug trade flourishes among an
underclass of poor and unemployed youths.
Such ghetto subcultures are springing up across the islands, led by organized posses that
surfaced in Jamaica in the 1970s. They originated as local ganja gangs but were also
supported by political factionalism, as rival political parties began arming ghetto youth. By the
1980s these posses had graduated to exporting marijuana to the US. Today, in cooperation
with Colombian cartels, they control much of the island cocaine traffic.
Evidence of the spreading narco-economy is mounting. Island police report sharp increases in
property-related crimes. Most serious crimes are drug-related, involving violence and firearms
and increasingly marginalized young addicts. Police note the rising prominence of
home-grown posses in organized crime (trafficking, arms smuggling, money-laundering,
prostitution) and the increasing menace of thousands of returning felons deported from the
US, who are sophisticated drug and gun traffickers with substantial stateside narcotics
Further evidence is the alarming rise in citizen gun purchases, the spread of private security
agencies and high-tech alarm systems, and the proliferation of guard dogs, high-wire fencing,
and grilled windows.
Few segments of island life have gone untouched. They include: growing addiction; active
complicity by local police, customs, shipping officials, and airline workers; collusion among top
law-enforcement and elected officials in at least 10 countries; and overflowing prisons and
clogged courts due to drug-related offenders.
The economic impact is heavy. The value of drugs in transit dwarfs the gross domestic
products and government budgets even of the larger islands. And it involves the steady
payroll to various pilots, boat captains, baggage handlers, couriers, pushers, enforcers and
public officials. Like an economic narcotic, this cash infusion sustains many local livelihoods
In the long run, the large-scale scope of the traffic and associated money-laundering tarnish
the investment climate, reduce the credibility of government through creeping corruption, and
weaken respect for law and honest work among youths.
There must be more innovative efforts to reduce the demand for these drugs in the north.
Joint US efforts with Caribbean and Latin American governments to reduce supply in the
south should include eradication and crop substitution, enhanced airport and border security
and surveillance, and relaxation of bank secrecy codes. The insular narco-economy otherwise
will continue to flourish and threaten the future of tourism and offshore finance - the two pillars
of many small island economies.
*Jerome L. McElroy is a professor of economics at Saint Mary's College, in Notre Dame, Ind.
Klaus de Albuquerque, who taught at the College of Charleston, S.C., and collaborated on
this article, passed away in December.