DURATION: 63 min.
Tijuana is a Mexican city on the U.S. border and a district controlled by the cartel Arellano Félix (CAF), one of the most powerful cartels in the world.
In 2006, president Felipe Calderon declared war to the seven drug cartels that operate in the country. Following a controversial resolution, he sent 40.000 soldiers to kill the Lernaean Hydra of Organized Crime. Ever since, the army gives battles on city streets...
Written, Produced & Directed by Yorgos Avgeropoulos / Research Coordinator: Aggelos Athanasopoulos / Production Manager: Anastasia Skoubri / Director of Photography: Yiannis Avgeropoulos / Editing: Yiannis Biliris, Anna Prokou / Original Music by Yiannis Paxevanis / Graphics: Sakis Palpanas / A Small Planet production for Greek Public Television ERT © 2008 - 2009
Original shooting format: HD 720p25 / Languages: Spanish, Greek, English / Subtitles: Greek, English / Available Versions: Greek, English, International
‘Ι can't say what the future of my country holds. The only thing I know is that month after month, week after week, day by day, hour by the hour, Organized Crime murders, mutilates bodies, occupies cities, gets hold of entire districts and puts into question not only political life and institutions, but life itself in Mexico. Mexican society is defenseless now.'
Carlos Fuentes Mexican writer
They arrest corrupt police officers that fight side by side with the Narcos, who, in turn, kill each other cleaning the street and settling their accounts.
Until March 2009 the victims of this clash had reached over 10.000, spreading terror among the citizens.
Tijuana, on the U.S.-Mexican border, is one of the biggest border gates in the world since almost 350.000 people cross it every day. A large wall of many kilometers from sheet iron and barbed wire separates the city from its twin city, San Diego, which is located on the other side. Hundreds of crosses tragically adorn it with the names of those who tried to illegally touch the ‘American dream' and didn't make it. The luckiest ones are fighting everyday to get away from unemployment, working in the maquiladoras, the equipment assembly factories of big multinational companies.
‘There are three choices in life' says Roberto (nickname) ex- member of the cartels and recently released from prison. ‘The first is to work in a Maquiladora and live on a miserable wage like a slave working long hours.
The second way out is to jump the wall and catch the American dream. Most people fail, and lose their lives. The other option is to become member of a criminal organization and get into drug trade. These are the three options a young man in Tijuana has.'
Tijuana is home to the Cartel «Arellano Felix» (CAF). The Arellano Felix is a big family that has settled in Tijuana in the 80's.They have turned into one of the most powerful cartels in the world. They have illegal airport lanes as well as underground tunnels on the U.S. border. On the one side they smuggle drugs and on the other money and guns. Their leader is ‘the Engineer' Fernando Sanchez Arellano. His leadership however is questioned by a hard core of hit men which is controlled by Teodor Garcia Simental, called ‘ΤΕΟ' or otherwise ‘Three Letters'.
This is why it is not unusual to see a body thrown in a ditch on your way to work in the morning, tied and gagged with a bullet in the head, with the fingers cut off and nailed on a cardboard which reads : ‘This is what happens to traitors, those who work with whoever.' Usually passers by take a look, cross themselves and leave.
This was the first image that welcomed Yorgos Avgeropoulos in Tijuana. ‘It was the first thing we saw...And then we left quickly because there were three more bodies found on the beach. One was cut to pieces with a chainsaw. His head was a little further away'.
The next days himself, producer Anastasia Skoubri and camera man Yiannis Avgeropoulos would record the insanity: Gunshots exchanged in broad daylight in a central part of town, where the perpetrators tried to escape leaving their ultra-modern weapons behind, their wireless communication and ...a bible. The army operations to arrest mobsters, among them many police officers who were receiving double salary. A ... Bengal baby tiger, pet of Teodoro Garcia Simental, otherwise ‘El Teo' or ‘Three Letters'. And among others the liberation of a hostage, victim of a kidnapping by members of the cartel that cut off his finger and sent it to his family as the 500.000 dollars they asked for did not appear on time.
‘I took it, accepted it...' the victim says in a state of shock. ‘Alright, it's a finger...Better than taking my life...'
Funeral homes are doing big business. In 2008 alone there were 1.222 murders in Tijuana.
The missing are not included among them, people who left their homes in the morning but never returned.
Recently a man was arrested: the Pozolero, as he remained known, Santiago Meza López, was dissolving bodies in acid. He was working for ΤΕΟ. He admitted to having made around 300 people disappear.
Pozole is a traditional soup. After the case was revealed the sales fell dramatically.
Roberto was working for the Arellano. He was trained in a ranch. At fourteen years of age he wasn't thinking like the children his age.
‘I organized things in secrecy. I covered my face, grabbed a knife, arrived and executed him. I did what I had to do. [...]As time went by it became exactly like work for me. My job was to cause harm to others. And from this harm I caused I earned my living. [...]'
‘For an execution the most they would give you would be 2.000 dollars. They also gave you one night of pleasure with a woman in some very nice apartments with Jacuzzi and everything. They made you feel really nice for one night. They would give you 2.000 dollars and that would be it .They didn't care if afterwards you would get thirty years in jail for this murder. You had to look for a way to clean your act by yourself.'
Roberto has had many offers now that he got out of jail after 18 years. He has declined all of them and is now looking for a job. ‘Nobody can picture me carrying boxes in the market. But I will do it because I don't want to end up here', he says pointing at his friends' graves. ‘And I will write a book! A well written book!'