Juliet of the Western Sea
Chapter 1
It's noon. The sky is darker than normal. The blue cloud cover
reflects azure in the western ocean. I move quickly and quietly across the
bright ivory sand, eyes glancing about as I carry my surfboard toward the
small waves. The particles stick to my toes and as I lift each foot, the falling
grains sparkle on their descent to their sand pack. I love the small barking
sound of the coarse sand as my feet glide through it.
Almost there, I think to myself, nobody out but me. Nobody on the beach
but me.
Shy of the water's edge by ten feet, I kneel down and place my board on
the ivory grains. I reach into the back pocket of my tattered blue jeans and
pull out a bar of paraffin wax. I push it against my board and begin to rub it
quickly along the top, watching the jagged sleeve of my faded blue rash
guard whiplash over my tan forearm. I wax the rails of my board, all the
while glancing about me. It takes a minute or so to wax, as my board is
long, ten feet, and imperfect, patched dings pock it like the face of the
moon. The skeg has several indentations in its front and long scars drawn
along it sides. I always smile at their resemblance to me. At twenty-six years
of age, I am dinged and scarred along my six foot frame. The left side of my
face bares a scar line from my high cheek bone back to my ear. Aloe vera
leaves have reduced its impact, but I stopped that therapy three years since. I
learned that I need its visibility for strangers that I encounter. Let them
understand that I have mixed it up before and that I have survived. That I am
one of them.
I inspect the deep fizzure at the origin of the fin and then I hear the
barking. Dog sounds resonating deep in the exposed reefs to the south, the
voices of the sand becoming louder, reaching me before the intruder. Not the
yipping of the cubs, the sick, the lame and the old that live within our
shelter. Something different. By the volume, something heavy, something
I see him first and he startles when I stand up. He stops in place.
Mutant, I muse. Adaptable genes. Not of this country.
We are separated by about twenty feet and now the only sound is the
lapping of the small waves over the shore sand. He has a full head of hair on
and around his head. His shirtless torso exposes ribs covered with dark skin
and dark hair. He wears yellow trousers faded from age and torn along his
hips, revealing the muscles of a man on the run. We lock eyes for upward of
twenty seconds and then a possessive grin moves up his lips, revealing
broken teeth. Eating must be difficult, I think and my gaze follows his eyes
as they descend to the bulge in his trousers and thoughts of all the hackneyed
jokes of my early years of horny men edge into my consciousness. I look
back to his face and more of his cracked teeth are visible as his broken
demeanor assumes to dominate me. I have no fear. This is my beach, my
town, my Life.
He rushes toward me with outstretched arms and a loud cry, "Yaaaaaa!"
As he moves his war cry becomes louder and each of his forward steps sink
deeper and deeper into the sand, until his yellow faded trousers are buried at
a standstill. He is so close that his stenched breath blows past me while the
weight of the sand holds his legs down and he flails his arms with a scream
now tinged with desperation. His outstretched arms reach awkwardly toward
me and now I smile back at him, "My name is Juliet, and you are . . . ."
His anger is replaced with terror as his arms leap one more time toward
me, the separation in his shoulders making a cracking sound and then he is
gone, the stench is gone, the sparkling sand closing over him, particles
floating in the air like fire flies.
The ivory sand becomes quiet, now only moving from the light off shore
breeze lightly touching it. A breeze that disperses the stench and brings in
the smell of the western sea: a mixture of salt, water, sea life, kelp and
oxygen. The smell of Life.
I again kneel down to my board and resume caressing it with wax.
Chapter 2
I remember when I was sweet sixteen and had already been kissed on my
lips. Once. In a brief encounter outside of my calculus class at the High
School, the lips of my mouth met those of an older fellow: seventeen. Living
on the California coast and still virgin. Ten years later and I still marvel at
that. Not for want of opportunity, not by some self-proclaimed vow of
chastity, not in adherence to a strict religious upbringing while listening to
the harangues of the self-righteous, nor from a lack of physical beauty--for I
was at one time a beauty; but from the lineage of a Russian born mother
grown up on Sakhalin.
I remember it as a typical fall day in our Southern California beach town
of La Jolla. School had let out several hours before and the beach was
sparsely crowded with students and the older beach lovers that always
2 of 23 6/7/17 9:27 PM
frequented the sea. I was there with Lizzie, Carmel and Helen. The
seventeen year old was in the water, surfing medium sized waves that
measured four to six feet on their faces.
Uncle William, a man in his seventies, a surfing legend and the current
president of the Outer Reefs Surf Club came up and started talking with us,
"A good day to be alive and judging by the clean sky, there might be a green
flash when the sun drops below the horizon."
"I've never seen a green flash," replied Helen.
I looked at her incredulously, "You have to be kidding."
"I kid you not."
Uncle William replied, "The best time is after the heavy rains clean the air
of everything. The air is so clean, so clear, that the refracted sun rays flash
green for maybe, ten, fifteen seconds as she dips into the sea."
"How do you know the sun is a She?" asked Lizzie.
"Most everything that is beautiful is feminine," replied Uncle William.
"My granddaughters are beautiful, like you young ladies. My grandson, now
he is too rough to be beautiful."
"When is he coming back to La Jolla, Uncle?" Helen had met him at the
beach over the summer and we knew she took an interest in him.
"Christmas break for a few days before he goes into Mexico with some of
his friends on a surf safari."
"That's a month away." Lizzie down played the lamentation in her voice. I
knew they both liked him. A lot.
"Nice wave out there. Is that Jackson paddling for it?"
"Yup," I said. "Did you see the one he rode last set? He pulled into the Right
Hook and disappeared for twenty feet before it spit him out on his back."
"I didn't see it," said Uncle William, but I believe it. "He surfs
"But he's not a woman," snickered Helen. "Right Julie?"
"I hope not," I replied, as Jackson caught a six foot wave and dropped
down the face, drawing out a long bottom turn as he waited for the shoulder
to steepen.
That was the idyllic life that we enjoyed so much while we were
cognizant of the rumblings going on in the country, in the world. My father
was a professor at the University of California located on the hill
overlooking the Pacific. He taught history and political science. He taught us
how the wealth of the country was hoarded by a few select families, how the
health care system for the middle class and below class was shattered, how
the cost of living had escalated beyond most people's budget, and how the
system had educated a mass of idiots living in corpulent bodies. The middle
class was in shambles. The elite had prohibited abortions so the world was
populated with poor people to do their bidding and serve in their armies, for
3 of 23 6/7/17 9:27 PM
the cost of a farthing. My father did graduate school at Oxford and he liked
to use his British words in his conversations to show his erudition. He was a
teacher, a PhD in three areas, a professor at a prestigious public university,
so he could do as he liked. He was also fluent in Latin and Greek.
Our government was predominantly working only for the privileged few
and the riots and terrorist acts were becoming more frequent, as was the use
of the military to quell the civilian unrest. Our town of La Jolla was an
affluent beach community, where many of these privileged few had second
and even third homes.
No person, no government, no entity knows how it began. Rumors of war
had circulated for years. Facts, alternative facts, network news, internet fake
news, outright lies and fabrications wove different stories. Enough truth in
each story to make it impossible to sift out the bullshit and follow the
credible narrative. My father said that when the President of the United
States is a compulsive liar, who can ever know the truth? Some said the
initial missiles came out of the Sea of Japan, where the Koreas, China,
Russia and Japan intersect. One of those theories postulates the Chinese
wanted the Americans to destroy North Korea so they launched a missile
from one of their submarines located near Kilju. It was directed toward
Hawaii and although the American defense system destroyed it in the
atmosphere, the American President, incensed by the assumed audacity of
the North Korean dictator, ordered a complete annihilation of that country.
Another theory was that a Russian submarine fired the missile and for the
same reason. Still others suggested that some drunken leader with his hands
on the button fired the first missile just to see if he could do it, to see if
anyone would stop him. Like an ambitious child testing his boundaries,
testing his parents, his guardians, he moved toward the button full of
bravado and bluster. No one stopped him.
Needless to say, during its demise, North Korea reigned destruction upon
its southern brother and Japan and all degrees along the compass. This set
off Russia against China and the chaos flowed like a tsunami wave over the
countries adjacent to them.
Simultaneous with this, or maybe shortly before or after, as often times
inventors in diverse locations of the world are working on the same
discovery, missiles escaped in the Mideast, in Europe and Africa. The
inventors of destruction had been unleashed. Why Australia was not spared
and how the large cities of Central and South America came under attack, no
one ever explained, or we never found out about it before world
communications ceased. We do know that numerous commercial aircraft
were commandeered and flown full of destruction into the major cities on
the planet. Of course the fringe of the religious and ethnic groups populating
the world were slandered in the mainstream and smaller stream media as
4 of 23 6/7/17 9:27 PM
being bent toward destruction of the planet. The reasoning went that they all
had their own Eden to aspire to and they wanted to rid the earth of the
devils. It was said that they considered themselves as the Righteous and they
wanted the Day of Judgment to come sooner, while they were still alive,
rather than later, when they were dead. I do not vouch for their logic as I
only report what I heard. These were the suicide bombers, people that would
blow themselves up in a crowd of infidels, believing they would go to the
Promised Land and the devils would go to Hell. The perpetrators, not caring
of their own exposure, glorified in their deed and their self-immolation to
their God. One of the more bizarre attributions was to a frenzied neo-Nazi
Presbyterian group located in the Scottish Highlands. As a CNN Anchor
stated, before they went off the air and internet, "they may have torched a
pub in Thurso, but I doubt any of them could find their way out of the
British Isles sans guide." Before their slow disappearance, the internet and
facebook and twitter and the satellite communicators bandied these and
myriad thoughts across the globe as to how it began and how it was going to
Most of the atomic bombs, the hydrogen bombs and the nuclear bombs
were ripped asunder by intercepting missiles, exploding in the atmosphere,
their warheads cascading to the earth with minimal immediate damage. The
fallout, the radiation, took several months to affect more misery on the
populous. It was the biological creations, sent over by air craft or transported
across land, or released from drones that had lifted off submarines cruising
off the coast, that inflicted the greater part of the destruction of the species.
The biological deaths were quick and painful, seemingly born of the same
test tube. Death impended a fortnight after the virus took hold of the person.
At first they would become fatigued for several days until they could no
longer lift their limbs. Their skin would become pallid as their bone marrow
was being crowded out by the virus and it could not produce sufficient red
blood cells and hemoglobin. Pustules would sprout on their legs and arms.
The white cell count would diminish and they would start coughing at the
onset of pneumonia. As their platelet count went down into the low 20s they
would bleed and bruise to the touch. Unable to even hold their head up, they
would collapse to the ground and soon die. The disease was named Rampant
by one of the major medical centers in New York and had no cure. Everyone
in that medical center died within two weeks of the first patient.
A small part of my memory still hears the cell phones beginning to ring
on the beach and the tsunami siren going off high in the hills of La Jolla. At
the time I wondered if it was another false alarm, or if the uprising that had
effected myriad areas of the country had come to San Diego County. When
the giant mushroom cloud appeared south over San Diego and the military
installation on San Diego Bay, I began to worry. A minute later, when a
5 of 23 6/7/17 9:27 PM
second mushroom cloud appeared beyond the hill to the east, apparently
over Miramar Marine Corps Air Station, my worst fears were confirmed.
We were now St. Petersburg. We were now Dresden. We were now
Baghdad. We were now Aleppo. The progeny of the survivors of the first
three metropolitan battles now lived in our country, the survivors of the
fourth city were now knocking at our consulates, or arriving here in shipping
containers at the ports of New York and Los Angeles. The American
Experience of subjugating the aboriginals we condescendingly called
Indians, of importing black labor to surfeit the pockets of the southern
planters, of bringing in cheap labor to support the decadence of the real
estate barons, had come full circle. The people of the earth had begun their
revolt and it was now time to pay for the sins of our fathers.
Chapter 3
It felt good to get out in the water. I needed her touch.
Chapter 4
Read "IF" by Rudyard Kipling ....and then get back to me...And how does
Mr. Brooks know that Jared Kushner's grandparent fled from the Nazi's?
Because it's part of Kushner's bio. Everything is for sale with this horrible
family. I have absolutely had it with the invocation of the Holocaust either as
an excuse for moral authority masking ugly behavior or as so much toilet
paper to clean up messes. My grandmother's entire family did not perish in
Auschwitz just so that soulless, greedy, corrupt liars could use their
experience as a justification or a prop. The malaise in America had been
noticeable long before the eruptions. Festering, under the surface, like an
active volcano waiting its time to burst out of the earth. Again.
The so-long promised infrastructure that had been bandied about for years
by all political parties had never come to fruition. Bridges collapsed under
the weight of the ten-wheelers and were never reopened. Permanent detours
for the ordinary delivery of goods to the merchants and their customers.
Those with private jets and private drones were not bothered by these
mundane events. It was only later that drones became victims of hijacking,
but initially this was a minor blip for the billionaires. They never saw the
infrastructure collapsing into itself. They were beyond it.
But Trump must be in charge; he answers to no one. Whatever Jared may
have done, he did it at the behest of--and certainly with the knowledge
of--Trump himself.And how does Mr. Brooks know that Jared Kushner's
grandparent fled from the Nazi's? Because it's part of Kushner's bio.
Everything is for sale with this horrible family. I have absolutely had it with
the invocation of the Holocaust either as an excuse for moral authority
6 of 23 6/7/17 9:27 PM
masking ugly behavior or as so much toilet paper to clean up messes. My
grandmother's entire family did not perish in Auschwitz just so that soulless,
greedy, corrupt liars could use their experience as a justification or a prop.
Millions of people were priced out of the health insurance market as their
wages were spent on housing and food, and the government no longer
provided them subsidies. Emergency rooms and hospitals drowned with the
overflow of wannabe patients whose cancerous bodies required treatment.
Previously preventable diseases were no longer treated and the progressed
into death. The few early dead outside the institutions were quickly taken to
the morgue for an autopsy and quick cremation. As their numbers increased,
it took longer to cart the bodies away. Finally the bodies were left to fester
and rot and feed the vultures and vermin and magots. Doctors without
Borders started travelling around the country with their services. Too little.
No funding. Too late.
The judicial system collapsed when the infractors and misdemeanants
refused to pay the excessive fines assessed against them. Previously
supported by money gathered from traffic violators, gradually the courts
housed only their staff and then they dissipated when their paychecks started
to bounce.
Practical jokers and nihilists called in so many false alarms to the police
and fire departments that they didn't have enough resources to fight the real
battles. The scout drones that these agencies sent out to search for the true
emergency were either shot down or confiscated for terrible purpose.
Early on, the bankruptcy courts did a ton of business, swamped and
staggered by the escalated filings. The government never provided
additional funding so the services became negligible and finally people
stopped filing BK. They quit paying their rents, their bills, their debts and
creditors began resorting to vigilante justice.
The lawyers, oh, the lawyers. They did kill all the lawyers; at least the
ones they could find. Many went underground.
People like Trump, Jared, Ivanka, Tillerson and many more business people
in Trump's administration are riding on the myth that running an economy is
like running a business. The thinking is if these people can make loads of
money for themselves, they can do it for us, the people and the country!But
Trump routinely breaks protocols (and laws!) because he was not aware that
what he is doing is wrong. Ignorance of the law is no excuse: he is the
President of the United States. My suspicion is that Flynn (who absolutely
7 of 23 6/7/17 9:27 PM
did know better), Kushner and Trump together have done something
treasonous without thinking about it beforehand. That these people would
betray our country and not know there is something wrong with that is
scariest of all.
The "people" forget that these people are rich in part because they know how
to screw over the "people." Now they have handed them on golden platter
the biggest con.
To get out of the pixie dust of the Trump brand, we first need to realize what
is good for American business is NOT necessary good for American people.
When a business dumps its business waste on public land, air and water
instead of treating the waste properly because it cost money and hence
reduce profit, they are essentially privatizing profit and socializing cost.
High risk pool of sicker people paid for by tax payers is the healthcare
industry privatizing profit and socializing loss.
Communism is criticized for nationalizing all resources, how should we
think of capitalism that nationalized only loss?
Hell awaits?
Reply 10Recommend
sammy zoso Chicago 1 hour ago
Amateurs at government, pros at corruption. Next time people want
outsiders to lead government think of Trump and his Klan. They are scum
top to bottom - except for Melania, a tragic victim. Thank God we had the
Obamas for 8 years. At least we got a temporary cleansing from Bush and
Warfare Inc.
Reply 4Recommend Share this comment on FacebookShare this comment
on Twitter
What price is ever put on honor..........
I will give you another salient thought....a Judeo-Christian moral....
'you cannot worship God and Mammon too'....think on this David Brooks.
because Jared Kushner hasn't given his phony Jewish morality ...any kind
of thought....he has only worshiped material things and the god of Mammon
and his own Image....which is not permitted in Jewish teachings.
Reply 2Recommend
Ira Portland, OR 1 hour ago
People in this country need to recognize the fact that being a politician is a
career, just like any other. It's time we all acknowledged that. The
8 of 23 6/7/17 9:27 PM
Roosevelts, the Bushes, the Kennedys were all political clans. They made
their way in the world as professional politicians. That is not a dirty word,
it's just a reality.
Having amateurs in power, no matter how smart they might be in other
areas, is just a recipe for disaster. The Trump administration proves that.
I don't agree with the right wing politicians in this country, but at least I can
recognize their skills as professionals. We need to get back to a more cordial
and professional attitude towards each other when it comes to the political
Reply 5Recommend
witm1991 Chicago 1 hour ago
The principle of service to the American people who elect is lost to many
who have sworn this service. Unfortunately, nothing in the Trump-Kushner
background is about service except to self and family.
Adding to this is the massive corruption in the Republican Party, now in
control of all three branches of government. If Jared Kushner cannot be
prosecuted for his role with the Russians, we can say good-bye to
democracy. The Russians will have won even more than they won with DT
in Europe and can work at their ease in our government.
Dave T. Cascadia 3 hours agoTax returns? The refusal to demand them of
candidate DT was the beginning of this massive scandal. Will there be an
I share your analysis, David, but not your pity.
A well-educated man of means should be smart enough to avoid stepping
into a dogpile of family feuds. In fact, the Kushner family dramas should
have been a blinking, honking cautionary tale. Instead, he mainlined them.
That's a shame, but not worthy of pity.
When all is said and done...at the end of the day...I think Jared will be outed
as a conduit between his father-in-law the grifter and the grifter's loan
Seriously, you're having a beef with your brother-in-law and you think the
appropriate thing to do is set him up with a hooker and report that to his
wife, your sister??? What kind of person does something like this? You
would cause your sister, your blood, that much pain out of pique? That is a
very small person who resorts to this level of vindictiveness.The grifter's
loan sharks no doubt insisted on dissing NATO, something they've wanted
since 1949.
9 of 23 6/7/17 9:27 PM
Let's call the Trumps and the Kushners what they are: money grubbers. They
are merely greed personified. Triumph stay in the White House - may it be
short - is still all about money grubbing. That is simply how his minds
works. Money is his validation. Kushner is no different.
Sympathy for Kushner? You have got to be kidding.
Reply 70Recommend
Snaggle Paws Home of the Brave 4 hours ago
"like so much other clan-like behavior, went against the formal system. We
also know that they betray rookie naïveté on several levels - apparently
trusting the Russians not to betray him, apparently not understanding"
Davo, the breadth of your apologist spin is a comforting fog, for the GOPers
who cared to look around.
The nation, as of yet, does not know what went on with Jared-in-Transition
and the Russian-Banker-Under-Sanctions, but we will. Currently, a lot of us
see a debt-ridden clan and ridiculous prices paid by Russian oligarchs. Only
an idiot wouldn't be keeping an eye on that.
As for your obvious attempt to try to lump together everyone who is
energized to get the truth about the "It's all fake news" clan, this is not going
"and within the standards of behavior that now surround us."
SectionsI would recommend not lecturing the people about standards of
behavior. Our President trash-talked during his entire campaign and then
ratcheted back to "unfacts" (if that suits your delicate constitution). The
people are going to stay united for the truth.
Sign In
Accessibility for screenreader
Home Page
10 of 23 6/7/17 9:27 PM
Washington Post Live
Live Chats
Real Estate
WP BrandStudio
1996-2017 The Washington Post
Terms of Service
Privacy Policy
Submissions and Discussion Policy
RSS Terms of Service
Ad Choices
In Mexico, the price of America's hunger for heroin
Along the country's heroin highway, signs of a booming drug business and
horrific bloodshed
A Mexican soldier throws poppies onto a fire during an eradication
operation in Guerrero state's Tierra Caliente, or Hot Lands, where flowers
that are used to produce heroin are grown and where violence has
Story by Joshua Partlow
Photos by Michael Robinson Chavez
May 30, 2017
TELOLOAPAN, MEXICO - In this skittish town on Mexico's heroin
highway, civilians with rusty shotguns shake down passing cars for
contributions to the public defense. The police were disbanded years ago.
The mayor recently got a death threat and fled in the governor's helicopter.
But it's when Highway 51 drops down from the rolling hills, and runs west
in two lonely lanes across the scorched valley floor, that danger really starts
to poison people's lives. Drug bosses known as "the Tequila Man"and "the
Fish" rule like feudal lords, at war with each other and the vigilante groups
that have risen against them. Residents get kidnapped in groups. Tortured
corpses are discarded in the valley, left to sear on hot pavement.
The opioid epidemic that has caused so much pain in the United States is
also savaging Mexico, contributing to a breakdown of order in rural areas.
Heroin is like steroids for drug gangs, pumping money and muscle into their
fight to control territory and transportation routes to the United States.
A man who is part of a public defense force stands at his post in Teloloapan,
Mexico. Citizen militias have formed in towns across Guerrero state's Tierra
11 of 23 6/7/17 9:27 PM
Caliente, or Hot Lands, where drug bosses rule like feudal lords.
Mexico provides more than 90 percent of America's heroin, up from less
than 10 percent in 2003, when Colombia was the main supplier. Poppy
production has expanded by about 800 percent in a decade as U.S. demand
has soared. The western state of Guerrero is the center of this business,
producing more than half of Mexico's opium poppies, the base ingredient for
heroin. Guerrero also has become the most violent state in Mexico, with
more than 2,200 killings last year.
"These groups have transformed themselves into a super-criminal power,"
said Ricardo Mejia Berdeja, the head of the security committee in the
Guerrero state congress. "The anchor for organized crime is heroin poppy."
Guerrero has produced marijuana and poppies for decades. But organized
crime used to be more organized, with one main cartel in the state quietly
paying off police and officials and moving drugs. The booming heroin
business has encouraged the rise of new gun-toting trafficking bands, which
in turn has triggered the rise of citizen militias.
San Miguel
Along this 110-mile stretch of Highway 51 in the region known as Tierra
Caliente, or Hot Lands,below the poppy-carpeted slopes of the Sierra Madre
del Sur mountains, the social breakdown is plain to see. More than 200
schools have closed periodically in recent months as striking teachers
protested rampant criminality. The Mexican army moved into one town this
month to wrest control from a civilian militia that was threatening a nearby
"This is a land without law," said one businessman who works in the region.
'We used to be free here'
An emaciated dog walks down a street in Santa Rosa de Lima, in Guerrero
state's Tierra Caliente. Guerrero produces more than half of Mexico's opium
poppies, the base ingredient for heroin.
Nicolas Bartolo turned off Highway 51 at the town of Tlapehuala and
12 of 23 6/7/17 9:27 PM
headed south on a dirt road through fields of dead cornstalks. It is the dry
season, and plumes of smoke muddied the sky as farmers burned their lands
for planting. Bartolo made the sign of the cross and kept driving.
"We used to be free here," he said.
Bartolo works construction and plays guitar in a band named La Leyenda
(The Legend), which tours the towns of Tierra Caliente. Nearly everyone out
here is forced to deal with the drug gangs, which have diversified into
extortion, kidnapping and just plain robbery. At the sites where Bartolo
works, gunmen have stolen trucks and a solar-powered generator to use in
the poppy-growing mountains. Bartolo's employer must pay one cartel at
least $300 a month for each piece of heavy machinery - such as excavators
and backhoes -used on a project. If the firm doesn't pay, it risks further
robberies or attacks.
Slowly, the region's economy is being asphyxiated by the criminal groups.
Business owners say that vendors of mangos, cucumbers and other produce
must pay cartels one peso - about 5 cents - per kilogram they sell.
Restaurants needing chicken meat are forced to buy from gang-specified
A wedding party prepares to leave the main cathedral in Iguala, Mexico.
Gangs in the region have been known to kidnap wedding guests and haul
nurses from their clinics. Opium poppies grow in a field in Iyotla, Mexico.
"This is a land without law," says one businessman who works in the region.
One major source of employment, the Campo Morado zinc mine run by the
Belgium-based company Nyrstar, closed down in 2015 because of "ongoing
issues associated with security," a company official said. Residents said
extortion demands were too steep.
About a decade ago, one drug cartel dominated Guerrero - the Beltrán Leyva
organization. Now, there are at least a dozen drug gangs competing for
patches of ground in the state. That's partly because of Mexican authorities'
focus on capturing the leaders of cartels and splintering their organizations.
But it's also a function of the way the heroin trade works.
Heroin, per kilo, is more lucrative than cocaine, and easier logistically to
transport to the United States. Unlike cocaine, which originates in South
America and is moved by sprawling Mexican cartels, heroin is made right in
Mexico. Smaller drug gangs, sometimes just a handful of friends or
relatives, have sprung up to compete for profits. With the marijuana business
slowing as U.S. states allow more production, heroin has become even more
important for the gangs' bottom line.
One of the strongest cartels in the Tierra Caliente is La Familia Michoacana,
the descendant of a criminal organization that announced itself more than a
decade ago by rolling severed heads onto a nightclub floor. Its leader is
Johnny Hurtado Olascoaga, known as"El Pez" (The Fish), and his base of
13 of 23 6/7/17 9:27 PM
operations is Arcelia, a town along Highway 51. About 2012, one of his top
gunmen, a mustachioed man named Raybel Jacobo de Almonte, a.k.a. "El
Tequilero," split off and formed his own criminal group, headquartered
outside San Miguel Totolapan, about 15 miles away.
A boy sits in a pickup truck at a citizen militia checkpoint in San Miguel
Totolapan, Mexico.
The Beltrán Leyva cartel had once exerted control over the region's
criminals. Since its decline, drug groups have increasingly felt free to
diversify into kidnapping and extortion. "They try it once, they get away
with it, they make money on it, and they do it again," said Chris Kyle, an
anthropologist and expert on Guerrero based at the University of Alabama at
The gangs have kidnapped wedding guests, taken teachers from classrooms
and hauled nurses from their clinics. They also took a friend of Bartolo's. He
acted as courier, last month carrying a 200,000-peso ransom (about $10,000)
into the mountains, where he found his friend bound with barbed wire, blood
running down his hands, along with dozens of other victims.
"I wanted to cry when I saw all those people there," he said.
'Good results' by using fear
A Mexican soldier carries opium poppies for burning in Iyotla, Mexico.
Despite eradication efforts, Mexico's opium production is booming.
High above the Tierra Caliente, Lt. Col. Cesar Bellizia Aboaf of the
Mexican army's 35th Military Zone led a convoy up a mountain road,
following miles of black rubber hose. In the dry season, farmers must
irrigate their poppy crops with water pumped from streams and wells, and
the hoses tip off soldiers to their locations.
Bellizia stopped on a ridge and looked down at a 2.5-acre field of pink
flowers. His soldiers had found the plot a few days before - one of 10 to 15
poppy plantations they discover each day - and he told his troops to burn it.
Despite such regular eradication by the military, as well as aerial fumigation,
Mexico's opium production is booming, spurred by the U.S. demand. The
number of Americans reporting heroin use nearly tripled to 435,000 from
2007 to 2014, according to a Drug Enforcement Administration report last
year - part of an opioid epidemic that also includes abuse of prescription
In 2005, Mexican farmers planted about 8,000 acres of poppies; a decade
later, that number grew to as much as 69,400 acres, according to the latest
United Nations figures. Farmers in the mountains of Guerrero plant
year-round. When the flower matures, farmers draw a blade around the bulb
and collect in empty soda or juice cans the sticky copper-colored gum that
seeps out.
A kilogram of opium gum can earn the impoverished farmers about $800
14 of 23 6/7/17 9:27 PM
from the drug traffickers who purchase it. After the gum is processed in
mountain shacks into high-quality white heroin, a kilogram can sell for
about $50,000 on the streets of Chicago, according to U.S. law enforcement
Smoke rises above fields of opium poppies in Iyotla, Mexico, in April.
Eradication efforts include burning as well as aerial fumigation. A soldier
throws opium poppies onto a fire. In Mexico, nearly 70,000 acres of land are
used to grow poppies to produce opium.
To protect their crops and heroin labs, drug gangs in Guerrero employ
spotters to identify unfamiliar visitors to the area and erect their own
checkpoints on back roads. The gangs try to control towns along Highway
51 because they are crucial supply depots for the poppy-producing region,
with the last gas stations and grocery stores before the mountain roads turn
to dirt.
Local law enforcement is weak and sometimes virtually nonexistent. In
2014, in a scandal that shook the nation, 43 teachers college students
disappeared in Iguala, a city at the eastern end of Highway 51, after being
detained by police. The government subsequently disbanded one-third of
municipal police departments in the state, because of their alleged collusion
with drug traffickers, and handed responsibility for the towns to
overstretched federal and state police. Local officials know they can be
killed or kidnapped if they don't comply with drug gangs' demands.
"A decade ago, the cartels gave the local government money to operate.
Now, no. The governments have to give the cartel money in order to be able
to govern," said a businessman who operates in Tierra Caliente and who
spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of speaking against the drug
gangs. "Sowing terror in the people yields good results."
Mexican soldiers patrol and man checkpoints, but residents feel they are
overmatched by the criminal groups. The state's rugged hills, poor road
network and compromised local officials make the work harder.
"There is not an army in the world that can operate successfully in this area,"
said Lt. Col. Juan José Moreno Orzua, deputy chief and spokesman of the
35th Military Zone.
'We have to do it ourselves'
Maurilio Mendoza holds his niece in his home in the town of Santa Rosa de
Lima, Mexico. Mendoza was twice kidnapped by drug gangs, a common
occurrence in Guerrero state's Tierra Caliente.
The last man to be kidnapped in San Miguel Totolapan - the last of an
estimated 200 victims - was Isauro de Paz Duque, the 37-year-old owner of
a construction company who was picked off the street by gunmen in
The businessman had been taken by El Tequilero's men, who had terrorized
15 of 23 6/7/17 9:27 PM
the town of about 3,000 for years with kidnappings and killings. Many
residents had fled, and others cowered behind barred doors and shuttered
windows, afraid to go out.
Infuriated by the seizure of De Paz, residents formed a militia, the
Movement for Peace. Citizens in other violent drug-trafficking regions of
Mexico have done the same. But rather than bring order, the citizen groups
have become one more destabilizing element in many rural areas. Kyle, the
professor who studies Guerrero, said that since 2015 there has been a sharp
increase in shootouts between these community policing militias.
Members of the San Miguel Totolapan militia quickly took nearly 20 people
hostage, including El Tequilero's mother. Within days, they had swapped
their prisoners for De Paz and others who had been kidnapped.
The vigilantes took control of public security, erecting sandbag-fortified
checkpoints at the entrances to town and building crude forts on the hilltops.
Residents started to trickle back into town. But some locals whispered that
El Pez, the rival drug lord, was helping to fund and arm this militia.
As the months went on, the militia became increasingly agitated that El
Tequilero remained on the loose. Members believed he had retreated to the
neighboring town of La Gavia.
"If the government can't find a solution, we have to do it ourselves," said
Silvino Bernabé, 32, in late April.
A family walks out to a vista point in Morelita, Mexico.
In early May, members of the militia swarmed into La Gavia and demanded
that the residents hand over El Tequilero. El Pez's men, the militia's
suspected allies, followed the next morning, according to Guerrero
authorities. A gun battle between supporters of the two cartels raged for
hours, leaving eight people dead.
Three days later, hundreds of soldiers and state police swept into San Miguel
Totolapan to disarm the militia. But residents had little trust left in the
government. They poured into the streets, setting trucks and tires on fire and
throwing rocks at the authorities, who responded with tear gas.
The army has managed to maintain control of the town. But El Pez and El
Tequilero remain at large. And out on Highway 51, the heroin that fuels the
violence keeps trucking north.
More stories
How Mexico secretly launched a crackdown after Penn met 'El Chapo'
Mexican marines went on a shooting and looting spree while searching for
drug lord, villagers say.
A side effect of peace in Colombia? A cocaine boom in the U.S.
There is a giant surge in coca production as peasants try to cash in on
government benefits.
16 of 23 6/7/17 9:27 PM
El Salvador's conflict with gangs is beginning to look a lot like a war
The police crackdown in one village shows how anger is escalating on both
Following heroin's path from Mexico to the Midwest
A sophisticated farm-to-arm supply chain is fueling America's surging
heroin appetite.
Discussion Policy
Please Sign In to Comment
All Comments
Newest First
Pause live updates
5:22 PM PDT
México is paying a tremendous cost to help keep heroin out of the USA. It's
something that many here in the US don't realize or fully appreciate. We
should be working as friends together to stop the drug cartels and the heroin
epidemic here.
Instead of cooperation the Grifter in Chief is creating animosity with our
neighbor and reducing cooperation entertaining the fantasy that a wall will
stop smugglers from bringing their poison into our country. The reality is
that a border fence or wall will stop the small time coyotes, but will have no
impact on the drug cartels. There is simply too much money to be made
supplying our insatiable appetite for opiates.
If Dear Loser persists in his attacks against México, their logical solution to
this nearly intractable problem should be to legalize the sale and export of
drugs and let the US government deal with its own drug addiction problems
alone. The money they'd free up in fighting the drug dealers could be
utilized to provide education and economic development in all areas of the
country and they'd eliminate one of the biggest temptations for corruption
that exists in the world today.
Stopped believng in a God. If he hasnt taken me yet for all my sins, then
he either doesnt exist or doesnt care. 'Hello God, can you listen to me for a
bit. We really need some help down here. Of course maybe this is your plan.
Annilihiation and then only the cell is left and lets start it all over again?'
Chapter 7
I see his shilhouette against the white cloud cover on the horizon. He is
dressed in a white t shirt and white shorts.
17 of 23 6/7/17 9:27 PM
kate bush this womans world also maxwell
they make love
it is early morning and he has to rush off and she just lays there, knowing he
may never come back
All the things that i never said
all the things we should have done
Pray God you can cope
I'll stand outside
This woman's work
This woman's world
Ooooh it's hard on a man
Now his part is over
Now starts the craft of the Father
I know you've got a little life in you left
I know you've got a lot of strength left
I know you've got a little life in you yet
I know you've got a lot of strength left
I should be crying but I just can't let it show
I should be hoping but I can't stop thinking
All the things we should've said that I never said
All the things we should have done that we never did
All the things we should have given but I didn't
Oh darling make it go
Make it go away
Give me these moments
Give them back to me
Give me that little kiss
Give me your talking hands
Give me your hand baby
(I know...
this one, this man, I want
"Ive left you with something, a part of me." doesnt tell her child but she
realizes a few chapters later
Chapter X
18 of 23 6/7/17 9:27 PM
she realizes she is pregnant and reflects on others that she was with an never
got pregnant and they left
speak about the other lovers in her past how they left her and wanted to
come back but no
Chapter Xi
Birth of a child, he shows up at the last moment
how can you be happy without me
As Timothy Piazza was slowly dying at the Beta Theta Pi's pledge event on
Feb. 2, he was surrounded by people who not only refused to help him but
were either unimpressed or entertained by his suffering. They watched as he
fell down a flight of stairs and they stepped over him as he lay unconscious
on the floor. They tried to slap and punch him awake. Some took videos so
they could post his decline on Snapchat.
Medical reports concluded, Piazza suffered from "multiple traumatic brain
injuries," including a fractured skull and a lacerated spleen, which resulted
in 80% of his blood supply in his abdominal cavity.
Would anyone who was there that night define their behavior as malicious?
It's doubtful. Inevitably, family and friends (and defense attorneys) will
describe them as "good kids" who made terrible mistakes - just like
countless people before them after similar tragedies. But what happened at
Beta Theta Pi wasn't a mistake. It was a predictable outcome due to a toxic
combination of social dynamics that normalizes dehumanization and sees
someone's vulnerability and pain as entertainment.
Why wouldn't they want to help a person who was hurt? Why would
someone want to take a video of Timothy? Why did the fraternity brothers
dismiss the one young man (and pledge) at the party who wanted to call an
ambulance? Why did those same young men wait until mid morning of the
next day to get help; when it was too late?
Penn State 'horrific' death: Pledge's family to sue school, fraternity
The shocking final hours of Penn State pledge Timothy Piazza's life
The unfortunate truth is that many of our own children could be in this
situation and make similar decisions. Here are the reasons why.
Over two decades of teaching, I have asked the following question countless
times to teen boys and young men throughout our country:
At what point do you think you should intervene when something goes
And their response is almost always the same:
When it's obvious that someone is about to get hurt or die.
Why do they want to wait until it's too late?
Part of the explanation is found in the "bystander effect": when group
19 of 23 6/7/17 9:27 PM
dynamics prevent individuals from intervening on behalf of another in crisis.
But that's not all that's happening. Culturally, young men are conditioned to
not get "too" upset or emotional. They constantly monitor themselves and
each other to never take things "too seriously." They are conditioned to see
everything as funny, and as long as they do, no intervention is required.
When someone did speak out at Beta Theta Pi and pleaded to get Timothy
medical assistance, he was shoved into a wall and told to leave, as the
situation was "under control." Loyalty to the group equals participating, or at
least silently going along with, whatever the group demands. This is the
lifeblood and raison d'etre of fraternities, but it is also the powerful
undercurrent for many social groups.
Of the many horrifying events that happened that night, the fact that one of
the boys watched as Piazza struggled to get off the couch - groaning and
falling on his face - and then proceeded to post a video of Timothy laying
helpless on the floor, strikes me. In recent focus groups with high school
students about their social media use, I asked them if they had the right to
post a picture of someone who is drunk and passed out on a couch. My goal
was to frame a discussion about consent (i.e. Do you have the right to take a
picture of someone who can't consent to the picture being taken?). But their
answers revealed much more. Most had taken or seen other people take
pictures and videos of their peers passed out from drugs and alcohol. Their
consensus was that taking the picture wasn't a moral decision. People pass
out at parties. When they do, it's their "fault" and it's funny, so other people
have the right to record it. But these teens also said they took pictures and
videos like this to show people that they were cool enough to be at the party;
the picture increased or reinforced their social status.
Showing someone else's vulnerability and potential embarrassment has
become normalized behavior for amusement and increasing one's social
status. The moment that happens, the bystander also distances himself from
the victim and becomes that much less likely to come to his or her aid.
Those bystanders are focused on how this situation is amusing to them - not
how dangerous it is for the other person. That's how people will take a video
of a young man who is dangerously drunk, physically injured, step over him,
and post that video on Snapchat.
POLICING THE USA: A look at race, justice, media
Why frat boys like hazing, if they live through it
Of course the people who contributed to Timothy's death should be held
accountable. But the challenge for all of us is to admit that we live in the
same culture as Beta Theta Pi, and few of us know how to act in the one
moment when it makes a difference. We can continue to deny that at our
peril, or we can take responsibility for each other by recognizing that
inclusion in any group should never mean participating in the humiliation
20 of 23 6/7/17 9:27 PM
and dehumanization of others.
The sap from seed pods of opium poppies is extracted after slitting the bulb,
according to a PBS "Frontline" story on the drug trade. Then, the jellylike
fluid can be combined with other chemicals to produce a range of opiates
including morphine, codeine and heroin.The poppies, with their bulging seed
pods, were planted in tidy rows behind Xiong's home and were obscured by
trees.Rosalind Wiseman is a teacher and author of Queen Bees &
Wannabees, the book that inspired the hit movie "Mean Girls"; Owning Up:
Empowering Adolescents to Confront Social Cruelty, Bullying, and
Injustice, a new curriculum for middle and high school students; and
Masterminds & Wingmen. She is the founder of Cultures of Dignity. Follow
her on Twitter at @cultureodignity.
There are many varieties of poppies, often distinguished by their bright
flowers; among them, the opium poppy, or Papaver somniferum, is the only
one that's illegal to grow.
Only people or companies registered with the Food and Drug Administration
- legal drug manufacturers, for example - can possess the plant, according to
Barbara Carreno, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement
Administration. Possessing the edible seeds, however, is legal.
The investigation into Xiong's operation is ongoing and now involves DEA
Sheriff's deputies have been turned into de facto farm hands, pulling the
plants and loading them into trailers.
"We've been out here for about an hour pulling plants, and we've not made a
dent in it yet," Captain Jason Reid told CBS affiliate WBTV on Tuesday.
Investigators also found several chickens with injuries consistent with
cockfighting, authorities said.
The chickens and a few dogs on the property were removed by animal
control officers, although no one has been charged.
Cody Xiong. (Catawba County Sheriff's Office)
Catawba County has a deadly history with opium. The drug was responsible
for the worst mass killing in the county's history - slayings in 2009 that
residents still refer to as "the opium murders."
A woman and her three children were found shot and stabbed to death inside
their Catawba County home, according to the Associated Press.
Investigators say the woman's husband, Brian Tzeo, was involved in an
interstate opium trafficking ring. He'd get opium from Thailand, convert it to
heroin and then give it to a woman who'd take it to Wisconsin to sell.
The killers came looking for Tzeo, drugs and cash, but he was at work.
They found his family instead, including his 4-year-old son whom
21 of 23 6/7/17 9:27 PM
investigators found shot to death with his fingers still inside his cereal bowl.
They have to be weighed before investigators know the exact value of the
haul, but authorities figure there were about 2,000 pounds of poppies in all,
valued at an estimated half-billion dollars.
[Where opiates killed the most people in 2015]
Reid's investigators believed the plants were being grown and harvested in
Catawba County, then shipped elsewhere to be turned into heroin.
The sap from seed pods of opium poppies is extracted after slitting the bulb,
according to a PBS "Frontline" story on the drug trade. Then, the jellylike
fluid can be combined with other chemicals to produce a range of opiates
including morphine, codeine and heroin.
There are many varieties of poppies, often distinguished by their bright
flowers; among them, the opium poppy, or Papaver somniferum, is the only
one that's illegal to grow.
Only people or companies registered with the Food and Drug Administration
- legal drug manufacturers, for example - can possess the plant, according to
Barbara Carreno, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement
Administration. Possessing the edible seeds, however, is legal.
The investigation into Xiong's operation is ongoing and now involves DEA
Sheriff's deputies have been turned into de facto farm hands, pulling the
plants and loading them into trailers.
"We've been out here for about an hour pulling plants, and we've not made a
dent in it yet," Captain Jason Reid told CBS affiliate WBTV on Tuesday.
Investigators also found several chickens with injuries consistent with
cockfighting, authorities said.
The chickens and a few dogs on the property were removed by animal
control officers, although no one has been charged.
Cody Xiong. (Catawba County Sheriff's Office)
Catawba County has a deadly history with opium. The drug was responsible
for the worst mass killing in the county's history - slayings in 2009 that
residents still refer to as "the opium murders."
A woman and her three children were found shot and stabbed to death inside
their Catawba County home, according to the Associated Press.
Investigators say the woman's husband, Brian Tzeo, was involved in an
interstate opium trafficking ring. He'd get opium from Thailand, convert it to
heroin and then give it to a woman who'd take it to Wisconsin to sell.
The killers came looking for Tzeo, drugs and cash, but he was at work.
Waiting for him to die, the dawn fire still burning beside us, my eyes
searched the lines on his face, like the concentric circles of an aged
redwood, and I took myself to his distant life, as I reached into the depth of
22 of 23 6/7/17 9:27 PM
his skin."John got it right away," O'Rourke says, "because John created
worlds. He was creative in the most fundamental, Genesis-ian sense of the
They found his family instead, including his 4-y