Interview with “Buggs”, Borderland Beat founder, as Borderland Beat Book releases

by Chivis Martinez Borderland Beat

Book Intro: 

The Borderland Beat Project is collaboration from a group of people of different backgrounds located in the US and Mexico that gather information related to the Mexican drug cartels and presents it in English through the internet, publications and presentations. Almost all content in this book comes from the result of reporting in the Borderland Beat blog and, the personal experience and research of the author. It primarily covers a time frame when the author was an active contributor between the last part of 2008 and when he stopped getting directly involved around 2013. Information from this book is a reflection of the Borderland Beat blog that is derived from research, open media source, informal official authorities and people on the ground, which is gathered by collaborators from Borderland Beat Project. This represents the most extensive and comprehensive source of information between the years 2008 and 2013 covering a very wide range of topics related to the Mexican cartels and the Mexican drug war in Mexico and along the US/Mexican border. All material covered can be found at

Buggs Interview

Buggs!  It has been a long time
coming.  Over the years, particularly
when you were very active on BB, followers, including myself, would encourage
you to write a book.  I know you always
had the desire to, what urged you to go forth?
Well part of the reason
was to inform people, especially English-speaking people who do not speak
Spanish, about the cartel violence in Mexico. Part of the plan was to use any
means to do so, the blog has been the main source to do that. I felt it was
important to document my experience while contributing with BB and really try
to reach a broader audience, who otherwise do not read the blog. This project
was a passion of mine, like it was to many other contributors, from the past
and present. People really need to know what BB is all about!
I know your background
but most do not.  Can you give readers a
synopsis?  Where are you from originally?
I know one of your brothers is a long time great humanitarian on the
border.  How many siblings in your
family? Do they know of your project called “Borderland Beat”? I ask because
only a hand full and one child of mine know of my work at BB.
I was born in Ciudad
Juarez, my father commuted every day to El Paso where he worked for Tony Lama
making cowboy boots. We lived in a very poor community named La Cuesta that had
no water and the streets were not paved. The little house where we lived was
built by my father and my two older brothers. When I was ten years of age, my
father was fired from his job after the employees at Tony Lama went on strike
to demand better wages. Because he could not afford to be unemployed, he moved
to Albuquerque, NM to work with my uncle for the city. He was able to get us
papers to move also, as he had permanent residency that he got when he worked
as a bracero in the fields in Chicago during the 2nd world war. We were 12
children, but the youngest, Martin, was killed in Amarillo Texas several years
ago. My siblings are spread out all over the US. 

One of my older
brothers, Carlos Marentes is a farm labor organizer and farm worker advocate.
Carlos is the founder and director of the Border Agricultural Workers Project
(BAWP), who organizes the farm workers of the US-Mexico border, especially the
chile pickers, in the fields and in their communities in both sides of the
border. He participates in many local, state and national organizations that
deal with issues of poverty, economic inequality, environment and climate
problems, and coordinates the International Collective on Migrants and Rural
Workers of La Vía Campesina.
You are a professional
photographer.  Myself, I am amazed at
your environmental and architectural photos, which are my favorites.   There is one of a chapel that is stunning, I
think it was in Zacatecas for a book you did for your mother.  I see you closed your studio, does that mean
you are going in a different direction? 
I retired from the
Albuquerque police Department two years ago after 30 years of service. I have
always loved photography and have always practiced the profession. When I
retired, I opened a photography studio where I dedicated myself to
photographing family portraits, commercial and fashion photo shoots for
promotion. Recently I felt that my work was not meaningful and I was starting
to get burned out, my passion was becoming a job. I was starting to hate it. I
decided to move on a different direction and although I will continue to do
client base photography but only on a limited basis. I plan to devote more time
covering events and landscapes. I plan to pursue part time photo journalism to
wherever it may take me. I also needed to free time to help care for my mother
who is 91 years of age, and spend more time with her.
You have always gone by
your nickname Buggs, but never concealed your name and didn’t use a non de
plume in writing the book.  BB followers
are concerned by that.  Can you address
that issue?

I initially used it as
a safety mechanism, as I did not want to have my identity made public. I was
also a law enforcement officer and I was not sure of this could present
problems for me. I felt that my identity was not important, but the mission
was. This was important for all of us to be able to report on anything related
to drugs cartels without worrying about retaliation and becoming a target. At
the time I was travelling extensively in to Mexico and did not want for my
collaboration with BB to be a liability. 

Concealing my identification for the book was not important to me. 

Buggs Photography: New Mexico Chapel
I recall two of BB
earlier reporters disappeared so to speak. 
One was supposedly ‘in the life’ in the NE state of Tamaulipas, or
was.  Rumors were that he was killed in a
balacera.  Have you anything to add to
that? The other, a female reporter, and a great one simply disappeared.  Maybe she just found it overwhelming, like
many contributors do at some point, but there were rumors about her
disappearance also. 
You are probably
referring to Illiana and Maka? I cover this in the new book “Borderland Beat.”
There are many things that happened while reporting on the Mexican cartels in
Mexico, many things kept me awake at night. I can recap a little of each from
exact excerpts from the book.
Illiana’s last post was
about a family, including two boys that were killed by the Mexican military
when the father ran a road block. Of why he did that, no one knows, but he did not
have any criminal background. The government classified the incident of
collateral damage after they tried to cover it up. They were on the way to the
beach to celebrate Easter. 

This from the book:
“Illiana started
organizing protests against the government. I cautioned her not to get too
personally involved and to focus on just reporting on the story. I know
sometimes that is hard, especially when you live there and it involves
children. But she was so passionate about the incident that I started to get
worried. I did not know much about her, other than she lived in a city in the
state of Tamaulipas and might be a journalist. She suddenly stopped
corresponding with me and stopped posting on Borderland Beat. She just vanished
from the Borderland Beat community. I had no way to find out what happened to
her. I didn’t even have her name. I have always wondered what ever happened to
The other BB
collaborator was RiseMakaveli, this is from the book:
“Then there was
RiseMakaveli who had a lot of knowledge of Los Zetas and the Gulf Cartel. He
knew the names of people in both cartels and who was who. He had so much
detailed information that some people were starting to wonder if he was
actually a sicario in one of the cartels. I asked him once, but I really never
got a straight answer. He eventually left Borderland Beat and left us wondering
who he was and what happened to him. Someone once sent me a long email saying
he knew that RiseMakaveli was a lieutenant with the Gulf Cartel and that he had
died in a shootout with the Mexican military. I was never able to confirm it,
and we might never know what really happened to him. As far as I know, he is
somewhere out there enjoying life, and moving on to more positive things in

What compelled you to
create the blog? —
I imagine your dream
was that BB would become a relevant “go to” for English readers to access
Organized Crime news of Mexico but to the extent it has become a go to for
journalists, federal agencies, police agencies and Think Tankers, probably
exceeded your expectations.  It still
amazes me the big names that follow us. 

Speaking of— Is the
story about the FBI situation in the book? 
Can you tell BB followers a little about it?
The FBI incident was
the reason for me to distance myself from BB. It really touched home. I had a
member in the witness protection program that was filtering me Mexican
classified information about cartel activities in Mexico. I was getting the
updated locations of the whereabouts of El Lazca as the Mexican authorities
were closing in on him. The US was tracking his cellular phones and providing
the information to Mexican Naval intelligence. I never published the
information, frankly because I got scared to compromise the safety of people
abroad. Another incident was when Mexican military served a search warrant on a
suspected Islamic terrorist in Mexico City and they found explosives and
evidentiary documents.
This person that was
leaking classified information to me, that went by the name “Pedro,” sent me
all the information from the warrant, that showed a list and photographs of
everything they found. I got together with a couple of BB collaborators and we
did a story that went viral in the Mexican main stream media. This caused
issues at my job and I had the FBI and CIA come knocking on my door. This is
documented in length in the book. This is what prompted me to leave BB as a

At the beginning of the
blog early years it was mostly you contributing.  I have read all those early articles and
encourage others to do the same.  I went
back to the genesis and read forward.  It
is a pragmatic way to learn the history of the narco war and its evolvement.
Who are your (narco
writing) favorites; Mexican news journalist, English Language new journalist,
dead or alive, and favorite 5 books of the topic?
I have many, I have
read many books. My interest in the Mexican drug cartels compelled to me read
anything that in print or the internet. My earliest reads of book were Cartel
by Sylvia Longmire, Anything by Robert J. Bunker, El Sicario by Charles Bowden
or anything by Bowden and Los Senores del Narco (Narco Land) by Anabel
Hernandez. These are just a few.
Your book covers the
years 2008-2013.
Those include some of
the most violent times in Mexico. 
Different from today in marked ways. 
For example areas of violence were more scattered throughout the Mexican
landscape.  Juarez 8 killings a day,
making it the most violent place on earth, Zetas splitting from CDG in 2010
subsequently turning Coahuila
and Tamaulipas, into hell on earth.  Mass killings were not an exceptional event,
nor decapitation an dismemberment videos.. 
rrero, Michoacán, Tijuana, Veracruz, Jalisco, Durango, Zacatecas,
Sonora, Sinaloa, all having their wars and never ending violence.
The shootouts and
executions began being recorded and released to social media, and sent to
blogs.  I was sent the Cadereyta Jiménez
massacre video, 49 dismembered bodies. That and two shootouts, one against Tony
Tormenta, and against Arturo Beltrán Leyva are the standouts in my memory.
What events are
standouts in your memory?
I was following three
fronts with a lot of interest, although they were spread out, there were pacts
linking all these DTO’s in Mexico, but the pacts were broken in three areas.
The Zetas from the Gulf Cartel, the Sinaloa attempt to take over the Ciudad
Juarez plaza from the Juarez Cartel, and the Beltran Leyva brothers waging war
on their former bosses El Chapo and El Mayo. I spend a lot of time covering
these on my book for that reason.
What would you say is
the greatest difference in organized crime today than 10 years ago?
More fragmented, not
able to penetrate deep and high in the government, moving away from the “old
school” of doing business. Cartel were powerful at one time because they were
united, but they started to fall apart when little by little, they started to
break away from their pacts. Most of it was for settling of scores, it was
Bugg’s Graffiti Photos includes culvert graffiti see below

Do you think the catch
the capo concept is effective?
I find it amusing that
when Mexico catches a capo, who has executed hundreds if not thousands of
people, Mexico does not hold them responsible for those murders. They get
extradited to the US to be tried for trafficking drugs. Tell me this, would the
US extradite a serial killer to another foreign country without prosecuting
him/her for the crimes?
If you called the
shots, what solutions would you propose to be effective in this so-called ‘Drug

There are no clear
solutions, we
have had drug trafficking of illicit drugs for many years, and we
always will. Having a law enforcement background, I believe that the ones who
commit crime, especially brutal violent crime should be held accountable with the
full weight of the law. I think Mexico really should look at the death penalty
for the most 
outrageous brutal crimes in Mexico, hold these animals accountable.
Will this totally eradicate drug trafficking? No, but it will help. The bottom
line the sale of illegal drugs is just a business decision and it exists for
two reasons; product is very good and profit is very high. Nothing on earth can
stop something that generates billions of dollars and is desired by millions of

Dia de los Muertos-Buggs Photography 
I am not sure I ever
shared with you that I came to BB on recommendation of a former police chief of
a major city in Texas. I had chosen to set up offices in NE Mexico, a hot bed
of violence and I knew almost zero about narcos. 
I began reading BB
posts from the beginning. The one thing that I was initially uncomfortable with, is the same issue that some followers have; why the need to publish graphic
images and videos.

Given time, I absolutely
understood the decision..

In your words, could
you explain the reasoning behind the decision to put it all out there?
The decision to post
some of the more graphic content, specifically the brutally violent execution
videos, like beheading, dismember, and so forth, was to give the reader an idea
what some of these cartels are capable of. No one wants to see them, but they
exist and we can’t live with our head buried in the sand. The one thing I was concerned at one point was to give these animals a platform to post their sadistic acts,
or to encourage executions so they could be submitted to narco blogs, as such
was the case with Blog del Narco. 

So, to me the decision to post an execution
video was if it had news value, meaning is there a story to it? Not just
posting an execution video just for the sake of posting it, to see a gory
scene. The other if it was exclusive, this helps at least to know it happened,
give light to the act and hope law enforcement can view it and use it in their
investigation, without getting directly involved with collaboration with law
enforcement. If it’s something we posted and it helps police in their
investigation, then we have done our job. The hardest thing for me is when a
family members might see the video, if that happens I always cooperate to not
be the factor in making their experience a nightmare, to have some compassion
to family members. These videos are important to show the narrative, but not at
the pain of victims, it is a balancing act, but BB has always been known to be
uncensored, legit, high integrity, informational and ground breaking. As an
administrator, I have never restricted a collaborator from posting this graphic
material, but I did require them to give the reader heads up of what is

a follow up book a possibility for the subsequent years to present? 

Probably not, only this
one, as it was when I was mostly involved, but you never know. If something
happened, that was extraordinary and very news worthy, I probably would.
Thank you Buggs and the
best of luck with the book. 

Thank you!

from Borderland Beat – Chapter – The House of Death
“A Mexican
attorney by the name of Fernando Reyes was looking for a way to cross a load of
weed across the border. Lalo can make it happen for him, he knows all the
contacts. Lalo has brought Fernando to this little house in the city of Juarez.
Fernando doesn’t know it yet but he has walked in to a trap. Hiding in one of
the rooms of the house are also two police officers from the state police of
Fernando is unaware,
but they are here to kill him.
As Fernando is talking
to Lalo, one of the police officers comes out of one of the rooms and puts the
barrel of a gun to his face. Fernando pleads for his life, he knows he is in
trouble. They decide not using the gun, it’s too loud, they can’t take any
This house is located
in a middle-class neighborhood and people will call the police here if they
hear gunshots. Fernando screams in panic. They tape his mouth shut in attempts
to stifle the loud screams. Fernando fights back, kicking and swinging his arm,
so they take him down to the floor. But it’s not easy, Fernando is fighting for
his life. Lalo helps to restrain Fernando while one of the officers wraps an
extension chords around the neck of Fernando. Fernando knows his death is
certain but continues to fight. He does not want to die like this, but is
futile, he finally lays motionless as his life is snuffed from him.
The officers split
$2,000 for killing a suspected drug trafficker known as “Fernando.”
Fernando is dead and
they have his dope. Santillan (a top lieutenant in the powerful Juarez cartel
organization) congratulates Lalo, he tells him that Vicente Carrillo Fuentes
will be happy.”

From Borderland Beat –
Chapter – The Encounter with the Drunk Sicarios
We continued to ride,
it was starting to get late and we were not sure how far we were from Urique.
As we came around a bend and started to climb a hill, I could see a large white
truck coming down the hill. I could see several Indian men on the back of the
truck. There was a narrow gap between some trees just enough for the truck to
fit. Everest managed to cross the gap before the truck made it through. He sped
up the hill and I had to wait for the truck to make it through the gap so I
could get through.
But the truck stopped
in the middle of the gap blocking my path.
I could see two men
inside the cab of the truck. Suddenly the driver got out and I could see he was
wearing a military jacket with blue pants. He was carrying an assault rifle,
I did not like this a
bit. I knew this was extremely dangerous. We were deep in the vast empty
mountains and the whole scene was not right. I started to look around me,
looking for options.
I tried to back up to
turn around fast, but he was moving too fast toward me. I then saw that the
passenger had also exited his truck and he also was armed with an assault
rifle. I became afraid of what they might do and for a second, I thought of
ditching my bike and running as fast as I could, but I knew I didn’t have time
to do anything.
I could see that
Everest was reaching the top of the hill kicking dust in the distance.
I thought to myself,
“stop, don’t panic, think.” I focused my attention on the two men
quickly approaching me, trying to see signs or red flags. The driver had his
trigger finger extended on his weapon while the passenger had his finger
resting on the trigger of his weapon. As the driver got closer, I could see the
hat he was wearing said “Urique police.” Out here that did not mean shit.
Most municipal police are actively colluding with organize crime.
I could very easily be
killed here on the spot.

Excerpt from Bordeland
Beat – Chapter “The Execution of two Chapos.”

“When both men are
finished talking, it’s time to pay the piper. Both men then appeared frozen in
time, staring in to the distance, as if in a trance, living but already dead.
Perhaps they were heavily drugged so they didn’t kick and scream during the
brutal nightmare. Fear itself will not numb anyone enough to face this level of
evil directly in the eye. Even the sound of the chainsaw does not break their

The uncle is first; he
grimaces as the chainsaw spews blood, flesh and bone, as it tears through his
throat, separating his head from his body. The chainsaw accidentally cuts the
arm of the nephew sitting right next to the uncle during the violent massacre,
but he doesn’t flinch.

The second man, the
young nephew, is decapitated with a knife, and while the knife is cutting
through his throat, he makes a last attempt to scream out, but his vocal chords
have been severed, and all one can hear is a faint whimpering sound, the last
breath of a man that was way too young to die.

The ghastly chilling
gurgling sounds coming out of his perforated wind pipe, followed by the
grinding sounds as the knife breaks through the spinal cord, finally frees his
head from his body, ending the most repulsive, heinous and gruesome act witness
on video.
In a normal world one
would say, wake up it’s only a nightmare, but this is real, repeating itself
every day somewhere in old Mexico.”

purchase the book click on the book cover at right

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