Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo

Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo
Born January 8, 1946 (1946-01-08) (age 65)
Culiacán, Sinaloa, Mexico
Alias(es) El Padrino (The Godfather)
Conviction(s) drug trafficking
Status Incarcerated at Almoloya de Juárez prison
Occupation Former drug lord

Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo (born January 8, 1946) is a convicted Mexican drug lord known as "El Padrino" (Spanish: "The Godfather") who in the 1980s formed the Guadalajara Cartel and became the first drug czar in Mexico to control all illegal drug traffic in Mexico and the corridors along the Mexico-U.S.A. border.

Contents

Biography

Born in the outskirts of Culiacán, Sinaloa, Félix Gallardo trained as a Mexican Judicial Federal Police agent and then worked as bodyguard for then governor of Sinaloa state Leopoldo Sanchez Celis.[1] He became the illegal drug trade czar in Mexico, earning him the nickname of "The Godfather". He started off by smuggling marijuana and opium into the U.S.A., and was the first Mexican drug capo to link up with Colombia's cocaine cartels in the 1980s; he and other drug lords shared the Mexico-U.S. border corridors.[2]

According to Peter Dale Scott, the Guadalajara Cartel, prospered largely because it enjoyed the protection of the DFS, under its chief Miguel Nassar Haro, a CIA asset."[3]

Through his connections with major Honduran trafficker, Juan Matta-Ballesteros, Félix Gallardo became the connection for the Medellin cartel, which was run by Pablo Escobar.[1] This was easily accomplished because Félix Gallardo had already established an infrastructure that stood ready to serve the Colombia-based traffickers. By the mid-1980s, the organizations from Mexico were well established and reliable transporters of Colombian cocaine.

There were no cartels at that time in Mexico. Félix Gallardo was the lord of Mexican drug lords. He oversaw all operations; there was just him, his cronies and the politicians who offered him protection.[4] At first, the Mexican gang was paid in cash for their transportation services, but in the late 1980s, the Mexican transport organization and the Colombian drug traffickers settled on a payment-in-product arrangement. Transporters from Mexico usually were given 35 to 50 % of each cocaine shipment. This arrangement meant that Félix Gallardo became involved in the distribution, as well as the transportation of cocaine, and became a formidable trafficker in his own right.

An undercover agent from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Enrique Camarena managed to infiltrate deep into the drug trafficking organization and had become close to Félix Gallardo. On 1984, acting on information from Camarena, 450 Mexican soldiers backed by helicopters destroyed a 1000-hectare marijuana plantation known as 'Rancho Búfalo', where more than 10,000 farmers worked these fields, the annual production which was later valued at $8 billion.[1] The drug lords were outraged and set to investigate the source of the leak. Félix Gallardo ordered the kidnapping of Enrique Camarena on 7 February 1985, apparently by corrupt police officers in his payroll.[1] Camarena was tortured and killed, prompting the launch of the largest DEA homicide investigation Operation Leyenda ever undertaken.[1][5] A special unit was dispatched to coordinate the investigation in Mexico - where corrupt officials were being implicated. Investigators soon identified Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo and his two close associates: Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo and Rafael Caro Quintero as the primary suspects in the kidnapping. Under enormous pressure from the U.S.A., Fonseca and Quintero were quickly apprehended, however, Félix Gallardo still enjoyed political protection.[1]

Delegating his territory

Félix Gallardo kept a low profile and in 1987 he moved with his family to Guadalajara city. "The Godfather" then decided to divide up the trade he controlled as it would be more efficient and less likely to be brought down in one law enforcement swoop.[6] In a way, he was privatizing the Mexican drug business while sending it back underground, to be run by bosses who were less well known or not yet known by the DEA. Félix Gallardo "The Godfather" convened the nation's top drug narcos at a house in the resort of Acapulco where he designated the plazas or territories. The Tijuana route would go to the Arellano Felix brothers. The Ciudad Juárez route would go to the Carrillo Fuentes family. Miguel Caro Quintero would run the Sonora corridor. The control of the Matamoros, Tamaulipas corridor - then becoming the Gulf Cartel- would be left undisturbed to Juan García Abrego. Meanwhile, Joaquín Guzmán Loera and Ismael Zambada García would take over Pacific coast operations, becoming the Sinaloa Cartel. Guzmán and Zambada brought veteran Héctor Luis Palma Salazar back into the fold. Félix Gallardo still planned to oversee national operations, he had the contacts so he was still the top man, but he would no longer control all details of the business.

Arrest

Félix Gallardo was arrested in Mexico on April 8, 1989.[7] He was charged by the authorities in Mexico and USA with kidnapping and murder of U.S. Federal Agent Enrique Camarena Salazar, racketeering, drug smuggling and multiple violent crimes.[8]

According to American officials, Felix Gallardo also spent a time as the Sinaloa governor's house guest, which governor Antonio Toledo Corro has denied. When asked about his association with Felix Gallardo, governor Toledo said he was "unaware of any outstanding arrest warrants" against Félix Gallardo.[7] The arrest of Félix Gallardo was catalytic in exposing the widespread corruption at political and law enforcement levels in Mexico. Within days of his arrest, and under pressure from the media, several police commanders were arrested and as many as 90 officers deserted.[7] No politicians were charged.

While incarcerated, he remained one of Mexico's major traffickers, maintaining his organization via mobile phone until he was transferred in the 1990s to the 'Altiplano', a maximum security prison,[9] where he is serving a 40-year sentence.[10]

Family

Sandra Ávila Beltrán, who once was the most powerful female drug trafficker in the world, is niece of Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f Beith, Malcolm (2010). The Last Narco. New York, New York: Grove Press. pp. 40–55. ISBN 978-0-8021-1952-0. 
  2. ^ "The Border Monsters". Time Magazine. 2001. http://www.time.com/time/covers/1101010611/fbrothers.html. Retrieved 2010-02-08. 
  3. ^ Peter Dale Scott (2000), Washington and the politics of drugs, Variant, 2(11)
  4. ^ Beith, Malcolm (2010). The Last Narco. New York, New York: Grove Press. pp. 41. ISBN 978-0-8021-1952-0. 
  5. ^ "Camarena Investigation Leads to Operation Leyenda". U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. DEA. http://www.justice.gov/dea/pubs/history/1985-1990.html. Retrieved 2010-09-19. 
  6. ^ Beith, Malcolm (2010). The Last Narco. New York, New York: Grove Press. pp. 47. ISBN 978-0-8021-1952-0. 
  7. ^ a b c "In Mexico, Drug Roots Run Deep". The New York Times. April 16, 1989. http://www.nytimes.com/1989/04/16/world/in-mexico-drug-roots-run-deep.html?pagewanted=1. Retrieved 2010-02-08. 
  8. ^ "DEA Fugitive: FELIX-GALLARDO, Miguel Angel". U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). http://www.justice.gov/dea/fugitives/la/felix-gallardo.htm. Retrieved 2010-02-08. 
  9. ^ "Under the Volcano: Narco Investment in Mexico". PBS -Frontline. 1995. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/mexico/readings/lupsha.html. Retrieved 2010-02-08. 
  10. ^ "Miguel Angel Félix Gallardo, a 18 años en prisión, ya casi no ve ni oye" (in Spanish). El Universal. 04/09/2008. http://www.zocalo.com.mx/seccion/articulo/miguel-angel-felix-gallardo-a-18-anos-ya-casi-no-ve-ni-oye. Retrieved 2011-01-19. 

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