U.S. Witness Protection and the Mexican cartel war in Juarez

A little known fact about how the U.S. helped crack the Mexican cartel war in Ciudad Juarez is the story of a telecommunications engineer who became a protected witness of the DEA.

A six-month investigation led by the MEPI Foundation out of Mexico City and supported by reporters on the ground in Juarez working for the daily newspaper Periodico Norte uncovered new information on how two Mexican engineers were hired by the Juarez Cartel to create an encrypted walkie-talkie network with antennas erected on Juarez’s highest peak, La Bola. This strategy allowed the cartel to hear communications from its rivals and to plot its own violence.

As the story goes, one of the engineer’s grew a conscience after a car bomb planted by the cartel blew up on July 15, 2010, killing a local doctor and a federal agent and wounding several others. This period of time was particularly troublesome in Juarez, and the car bomb was the final act of violence that convinced the engineer to go to U.S. authorities.

The reporting by Periodico Norte and MEPI Foundation shows that between July and December 2010, the engineer taped thousands of hours of radio communications for the DEA and it was his cooperation that helped the U.S. and Mexico dismantle the cartel’s leadership.

Here’s a link to the full investigation. I was the editor of El Paso Times during this period and certainly recall vividly the various acts of violence recited in the story. I wasn’t aware of the telecommunications engineer and how his cooperation meant so much to eradicating the cartel violence in Juarez.

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