Cartels, The Mafia, And Omerta

"Mexicans don’t flip. Part of the way the cartels retain control is through fear. Mexicans will cooperate to a certain level, but they won’t talk about Sinaloa. They know their family back home will be killed.” -- Undercover DEA agent...

Olivia and Mia Flores (not their real names) wrote Cartel Wives, which tells the story of their lives as the wives of twin brothers who worked for Joaquín (El Chapo) Guzman, the former head of Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel.
Olivia and Mia Flores... 

After their husbands decided to cooperate with US law enforcement to help nail El Chapo and other high-ranking cartel figures in exchange for reduced sentences, they went to prison, where they’ve resided for the past 10 years in undisclosed locations. The women live under phony names in hotels with armed guards.

The two women grew up in a Chicago suburb, the daughters of police officers. They are not in the witness protection program, however, because they “chose to not be in it,” as they explained in a recent interview. But the government set up a security program for them, anyway, to ensure their protection. When their husbands come home, then they say they will definitely go into the program.

Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán was convicted on all 10 charges by US Department of Justice prosecutors who cut deals with captive drug traffickers to get their man.

He will be sentenced on June 25 and will most likely be sent to a US maximum-security prison for life.

What’s interesting about El Chapo’s trial is that lots of Cartel members suddenly started acting like mobsters...

So many Italian-American mobsters have flipped, you can't count 'em all. Mexican Cartel members don’t flip— or at least they didn’t use to. That’s because it's generally known that the Cartels have "hostages” if someone starts thinking about getting chatty. Every low-level narco busted in the US has family and friends back home in Mexico who they know will be killed by the Cartels if they cooperate with US law enforcement.

For years, senior DEA agents acknowledged privately that they had never flipped a single significant snitch from the Cartels. What destroyed the American Mafia — racketeering laws, witness-protection programs, supermax prisons — never worked against the Mexican drug lords.

“Mexicans don’t flip,” an undercover DEA agent once said. “Part of the way the cartels retain control is through fear. Mexicans will cooperate to a certain level, but they won’t talk about Sinaloa. They know their family back home will be killed.”

El Chapo was convicted in New York’s Eastern District, where the 1992 trial of John Gotti, former head of the Gambino family took place. Gotti was convicted and died 10 years later serving the sentence.

That same year, Italy’s Mafia “maxi-trial” in Palermo ended with prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino securing convictions against 360 operatives. (Both would pay for the trial with their lives.)

In the US and Sicily, snitches were instrumental to the prosecutors winning convictions. Sammy “the Bull” Gravano helped the Fed's nail Gotti. Sicilian bosses Bernardo Provenzano and Salvatore Riina – were brought down by two “penitent” witnesses.

Something changed with El Chapo that seems to destroy the historical context that's been holding up for years.

It’s almost like the Cartel bosses decided to cut their losses with El Chapo. How else can we explain how the Mexican and Colombian mobsters lined up to rat Guzmán out? Sixteen testified at this trial, and the prosecution had many more to choose from, as per reports.

First up was Jesús Zambada García, the Sinaloa cartel’s former accountant. Then, Miguel Ángel Martínez, who said he had “the best time in the world” as Guzmán’s lieutenant; naturalized American citizen Edgar Galván, who described Guzmán’s torture chamber of horrors; and Juan Carlos Ramírez, alias “Lollipop”, who laid out a manual for the routine corruption of national governments.

Novelist Don Winslow, who spent the past 20 years of his life studying Mexico’s narco wars and who most recently published the Border, the conclusion of his sweeping drug-war trilogy, recently addressed the Cartels and flipping and provided a take that is simply fascinating, though so far, it hasn't been easy confirming what he seems to know to be true.

In an interview with Vanity Fair, he said, “Unlike the Mafia, the Mexican cartels encourage their members who have been arrested to tell everything they know if they can cut a deal for a shorter sentence—all they are obliged to do is relay what they’ve given up to defense attorneys, who then pass the information on so the cartels can make the necessary adjustments.”