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The wars between the Mexican drug cartels have continued into the second decade of the 21st century.

Dark History: Mexico’s Drug Cartels – Part 4

Continued from Part 3

Things continued to get worse. In 2010, the Gulf Cartel killed a member of the Zetas, Victor Mendoza Perez. Los Zetas declared war on the Gulf Cartel. Bloody battles, using explosives and helicopters, broke out all over. The news media refused to cover the clashes or report the number of dead bodies because the cartels had a nasty habit of murdering news reporters and editors who published such information.

Arturo Beltran Leyva. Photo courtesy
Arturo Beltran Leyva. Photo courtesy

The Zetas hooked up with the Juarez Cartel, the Tijuana Cartel and the Beltran Leyva Cartel. On the other side was the Gulf Cartel, along with the Sinaloa Cartel and La Familia.

In Taxco, authorities located a garbage dump that did not contain garbage. Instead, it held the decomposing bodies of 55 people, all murdered by the Beltran Leyva Cartel. The dead bodies were the work of Edgar Valdez Villarreal aka “Barbie,” who received the nickname because he resembled Barbie’s boyfriend Ken. Six and a half feet tall, Barbie had green eyes and long blond hair. Barbie was the leader of a gang called Los Negros, who acted as enforcers for the Beltran Leyva Cartel. Los Negros was supposed to be the Beltran Leyva Cartel’s version of what the Zetas were before they wandered off the reservation and went solo.

Shorty Guzman and his gangsters kept on slugging it out with Arturo “The Beard” Beltran Leyva and his rowdy bunch. The Beard wasn’t as careful about his whereabouts as Shorty was. The Federales received lots of tips about where The Beard could be found. Most of the tips were bogus. People were just looking for a thrill, a sense of self-importance or the chance to make some easy money by collecting the 30 million peso reward offered for information leading to the capture or death of The Beard. Still, the Federales followed up on all the tips, just in case one of them might pan out.

One tip almost paid off big-time. An informant told the Federales that The Beard planned to attend a narco fiesta, which was kind of like Bumbershoot in Seattle. Lots of famous performers strutted their stuff, while the audience drank, ate, danced and shopped at booths. Of course, the narco fiesta celebrated drug trafficking rather than umbrellas and rain. Federales descended en masse on the fiesta, sweeping through the crowd, searching for The Beard and his men. The Beard, who was really there, somehow, no one knows exactly how, escaped by the skin of his teeth.

In 2009, the DEA tracked The Beard to Cuernavaca, which was a resort/spa not far from Mexico City. Rich people went to Cuernavaca to relax and get away from it all. The Beard wasn’t there to relax. Just the opposite. He used Cuernavaca as a depot for cocaine shipments flown in by aircraft. The DEA informed the Mexican government that they had The Beard’s location pinpointed: an apartment/safe house in Cuernavaca. The DEA even provided the street address. An elite force of 200 Mexican Marines, who had trained in America, took up position around the apartment complex, while a helicopter hovered above. Inside his apartment, The Beard, realizing he was in deep shit, used his smartphone to call Barbie. He needed Barbie to send in Los Negros to save his bacon. Barbie told The Beard there was no way. He suggested that The Beard surrender. The Beard stated he would never surrender.

The Mexican marines attempted to storm the building, blazing away with automatic weapons as they advanced. Just like in a Hollywood movie, The Beard and his men opened fire from the apartment’s windows. Tossing grenades out the windows, they forced the marines to withdraw. Regrouping, the marines once again advanced. The mini-war raged for two hours. Finally, the marines took the apartment by storm, blasting the place to bits. The Beard and his men were literally blown to smithereens. Three Mexican marines were wounded. One of the soldiers later died from his wounds. His name was Melquisedet Angulo Cordova.

In the aftermath of Arturo Beltran Leyva’s death, Angulo Cordova’s family went on television, where Cordova was hailed as a hero. Footage of the family hit the national news programs all over Mexico. Hours after Cordova’s funeral, masked gangbangers burst into his mother’s home, killing everyone in the house.

Subsequent to The Beard’s death, Barbie decided to go into business for himself, just as the Zetas had. Los Negros would now function independently. Like the Zetas, they made their own deals. The Beard’s former kingdom and its territories were now up for grabs. Rather than mitigating the violence and bloodshed, The Beard’s death intensified it. Smaller local gangs and the big cartels formed temporary alliances, then betrayed each other, and then took vengeance. Blazing gun battles roared all over Mexico, with thousands of gangbangers participating. The city of Juarez became an abattoir, dead bodies lying everywhere. Thousands of law-abiding citizens left Juarez, moving their families to El Paso to escape the savagery.

About Christopher Zoukis

Christopher Zoukis, a writer currently incarcerated at FCC Petersburg (Medium), is an impassioned and active prison education advocate, a legal commentator, and a prolific writer of books, book reviews, and prison law articles. While living in federal prison at various security levels, retaliations for his activism have earned him long stretches in solitary, or "the hole." While in prison, he has earned numerous academic, legal, and ministerial credentials. Christopher is very knowledgeable about prison-related legal issues, prison policy, federal regulations, and case law. He is the author of Federal Prison Handbook: The Definitive Guide to Surviving the Federal Bureau of Prisons (Middle Street Publishing, 2017), College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Company, 2014) and thePrison Education Guide (Prison Legal News Publishing, 2016).The Federal Prison Handbook is an IndieReader Discovery Awards winner. A regularly featured contributing writer for The Huffington Post and Prison Legal News, the nation's most prominent prison law publication, Christopher has enjoyed significant media exposure through appearances with the Wall Street Journal's Market Watch,,, In These Times, The Jeff McArthur Show, The Simi Sara Show,, 88.9 WERS' award-winning "You Are Here" radio segment, and The Examiner. Other articles and book reviews appeared in The New York Journal of Books, the Kansas City Star, The Sacramento Bee, Blog Critics, Midwest Book Review, Basil and Spice, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, SF Gate, AND Magazine,, Rain Taxi, and the Education Behind Bars Newsletter, with content syndicated by the Associated Press, Google News, and Yahoo News. He established three websites:,, and, and was a former editor of the Education Behind Bars Newsletter. In 2011, his fiction won two PEN American Center Prison Writing Awards for a screenplay and a short story. He taught a popular course on writing and publishing to over 100 fellow prisoners. Today Christopher is successfully working on a Bachelor's Degree in Interdisciplinary Studies (Business/Law) from Adams State University. Following his 2016 graduation, he plans on attending Adams State University's MBA program. He regularly advises fellow prisoners and prison consultants about legal issues and federal regulations governing the Federal Bureau of Prisons operations. Upon release he plans to attend law school and become a federal criminal defense attorney. Christopher will not allow incarceration to waste his years or halt the progress of his life. He began his prison terms as a confused kid who made poor decisions but is today determined to create a better life. "We can't let the past define us," he says. "We have to do something today to make tomorrow what we want it to be."

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