Tijuana’s “Pozolero” Is One Cold Sumbitch
February 9, 2009 2 Comments
See the picture above? The handwritten note crudely tacked onto that barrel reads “This is what happens to those who associate with The Engineer.“
And inside those blue barrels are ex-people.
Translation: if you pick the wrong side in the bloody faction wars presently taking place within the Tijuana drug cartel, you could end up not just killed, but DISSOLVED.
These Mexican mofos are doing like Judge Doom and putting their enemies in The Dip!
The Times is reporting on the capture of the Tijuana cartel’s pozolero, or “stew maker” – a sinister gent who specialized in disintegration.
This dude, Santiago Meza Lopez, is one cold son of a bitch. He dissolved bodies for a measly 600 bucks a week…
For the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of families of people who have vanished amid Baja California’s drug wars, the search for justice has been lonely and fruitless. But their hopes have been buoyed recently by the Jan. 22 arrest of a man Mexican authorities believe is behind the gruesome disposal of bodies in vats of industrial chemicals.Santiago Meza Lopez, a stocky 45-year-old taken into custody after a raid near Ensenada, was identified as the pozolero who liquefied the bodies of victims for lieutenants of the Arellano Felix drug cartel. Authorities say he laid claim to stuffing 300 bodies into barrels of lye, then dumping some of the liquefied remains in a pit in a hillside compound in eastern Tijuana.
The hillside compound where Meza told authorities he labored lies in an area acquainted with death. There are two cemeteries tucked in the surrounding hills, and funeral processions pass by daily on potholed Ojo de Agua road.
Behind the white gate, Meza said, he would fill a barrel with water and two large bags of lye. Wearing gloves and protective goggles, he’d light a fire underneath, and bring the liquid to a boil before depositing a body. After 24 hours, he would dump the disintegrated remains in a pit and set them aflame.
In Tijuana, the process is known as making pozole. That’s because the pink liquid in the barrel resembles the popular Mexican stew. When a Mexican official asked Meza what he did for a living, he replied, “Me llaman el Pozolero“: They call me the Pozole Maker.
This pozole would look absolutely delicious when presented in any other context…
He earned $600 weekly and said he learned how to disintegrate bodies by first experimenting with pig legs, according to the Mexican federal attorney general’s office. Meza allegedly told authorities he worked for several top cartel lieutenants over a 10-year period, most recently for Teodoro Garcia Simental, whom authorities believe is behind the kidnappings of hundreds of people in recent years.
Meza’s alleged deeds apparently went unnoticed in the shabby area of ranches and pig and chicken farms. Several neighbors said they had never seen him, and weren’t curious.
“It’s best to be ignorant of such diabolical things,” said a local pig farmer, who did not want to be identified because he feared for his safety.
Aponte was removed from his post in August, and most of the state officials he accused have not been prosecuted.
Last week at Meza’s compound, federal agents continued digging up soil samples looking for human remains. Experts and law enforcement say chances are slim they will be able to identify any of them.
Salvador Ortiz Morales, the state deputy attorney general in Tijuana, said forensic teams have never been able to identify victims dissolved in barrels because so little remains.
The site may not yield answers for another reason.
Meza admitted disintegrating bodies over a 10-year period, but neighbors said the compound was constructed only six months ago. All the more reason, the families say, to pressure Meza to disclose other grave sites, and demand other details on the fate of the missing.
As the San Diego Union-Tribune reports, the schism within the Tijuana cartel is only ramping up the violence in the Mexican West:
Run by a group of brothers originally from Sinaloa state, the Arellano Félix drug cartel monopolized the lucrative routes for illicit drugs through the Tijuana region to the United States for more than two decades.
The cartel has been weakened in recent years because the brothers and some trusted lieutenants have been arrested or killed. Experts say what was once a strong hierarchy has been replaced by a network of criminal cells led by Fernando Sánchez Arellano, a nephew of the brothers.
Sanchez’s nickname is “El Ingeniero,” the Engineer. He is 36, law enforcement officials say. His photograph has never been publicly shown, and little is known about him. The unprecedented bloodshed of recent months is the result of a challenge against Sánchez mounted by a former Arellano cell leader, Eduardo Teodoro Garcia Simental, known as “El Teo” or “Tres Letras,” law enforcement officials say.
García’s forces are known for mutilating victims, Mexican law enforcement officials say. Often, the dumped bodies are accompanied by notes referring to El Ingeniero. El Teo’s domain is believed to extend over eastern Tijuana and much of Rosarito Beach.
Some Mexican officials say Sánchez has forged ties with Los Zetas, a paramilitary group associated with the Gulf cartel.
Mexican officials say Garcia has the backing of the powerful Sinaloa cartel, led by Joaquín Guzmán Loera, known as “Chapo,” or Shorty, a long-standing enemy of the Arellanos. But the extent of the Sinaloa cartel’s involvement has been a matter of debate among law enforcement groups that monitor the cartels. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has said the reports about the Sinaloa cartel are “unconfirmed rumors,” though one U.S. law enforcement official familiar with the cartels said that such an alliance “would make all the sense in the world.”
We’re pretty sure that when bodies are being dissolved into “stew,” headless victims are popping up all over the place and deadly gangs of assassins roam the land, the phrase “makes all the sense in the world” no longer applies.
The real irony here is that none of this intra-cartel violence and bloodshed, nor the countervailing arrests and killings of drug dealers, has done anything to stem the free-flowing supply of illicit drugs to the United States…