With the efficiency of a multinational corporation, the drug gang Guerreros Unidos cultivated, commercialized and killed at large in Mexico and the United States, eventually controlling a lucrative heroin supply chain that extended from the opium fields in the mountains of Guerrero to the shooting galleries in the streets of Chicago.
There, the cartel distributed tens of thousands of doses, contributing to the worst epidemic of heroin overdoses that region of the U.S. has seen in decades, according to information gathered by U.S. authorities.
Between 2013 and 2014, a single cell of the cartel — previously believed to have limited capacity for planning — moved at least 183 kilograms of high-quality heroin, valued at US $11 million, into the Windy City.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) maintains that the cartel moved the drugs through companies named Autobuses Volcano Travel Agency and Autobuses Monarca Zacatecanos. They transported the heroin in hidden panels on the buses that ran from their territory in Iguala to Aurora, a suburb of Chicago.
The Chicago band funneled millions to fund the gang’s illicit activities in Guerrero, among which was the September 2014 murder of the Ayotzinapa student-teachers.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s first case against the Guerreros, its most successful known cell in the U.S. began in August 2013 under the leadership of Pablo “El Transformer” Vega Cuevas.
The small cell began importing and distributing large quantities of heroin and cocaine, sending the profits back to Iguala. After the DEA got wind of the group through an informant it planted anti-narcotics officers who monitored Vega and his collaborators for over a year, until last December 8, 2014.
Agents identified numerous phone calls made from Chicago and its suburbs to a long-distance area code, 733, that of Iguala. The calls offer a record of the cell’s transactions: Vega once moved $600,000 in a single sale, while one incoming shipment contained 26 kilograms of heroin.
At home, the Guerreros Unidos was fighting the rival gang Los Rojos to gain control of more poppy fields. With a secure source of heroin from fields around Tlapa and Chilpancingo, the cartel expanded just as Illinois began consuming heroin at levels not seen since the 1970s.
There was fighting up north, too. The cell in Chicago began taking on the Sinaloa Cartel for control of the crown jewel: the enormous and growing population of addicts in the Great Lakes region of the U.S.
The latter might also have had supply problems to reckon with. The Mexican government has razed a far larger number of poppy fields in Sinaloa — 78,703 hectares — than it has in the state of Guerrero, where only 30,649 hectares have been burned.
The Guerreros Unidos’ Chicago cell fell in December. Vega and his accomplices are accused of importing prohibited substances and face prison sentences of 10 to 40 years. Autobuses Volcano Travel Agency is still offering non-stop Chicago service every Wednesday and Friday, but it is not known if they continue to carry a secret cargo in hidden panels.
Source: Milenio (sp)