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Richard Valdemar

Richard Valdemar

Sgt. Richard Valdemar retired from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department after spending most of his 33 years on the job combating gangs.
Gangs

Patron Saints of the Mexican Drug Underworld (Part 1 of 2)

Both Mexican and Mexican-American criminals use the iconography and heroes of the church and Mexican culture as symbols of power and loyalty.

June 01, 2010  |  by Richard Valdemar - Also by this author


"Finally, draw your strength from the Lord and from His mighty power. Put on the armor of God so that you may be able to stand firm against the tactics of the devil. For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with evil spirits in the heavens." — Ephesians 6:10-12

Recently it has been my privilege to travel and teach with the Border Sheriff's Posse in El Paso, San Diego, and Ontario, Calif. This organization supports the National Border Sheriff's Coalition and puts on a conference called Border School. The conference is intended to provide local law enforcement, public servants, and community leaders with information about the border issues that are not being presented by the national media. 

The highly effective instructors include Sheriff Arvin West of Hudspeth County, Texas, and Sheriff Sigi Gonzales of Zapata County, Texas, but the coalition is made up of sheriffs from Texas, Arizona, California, and New Mexico. These sheriffs represent law enforcement in the counties along our border with Mexico. They are honorable, frank, plain-talking men who speak with one voice, unlike our politicians. 

In the El Paso Border School, I met Diana Washington Valdez, a journalist for the El Paso Times, who is also the author of "The Killing Fields: Harvest of Women." Her presentation dealt with the hundreds of unsolved murders of Mexican women in the Juarez border area. She is considered an expert in the Juarez women's femicides. I highly recommend this book.

Finally, I met retired Deputy Chief Robert Almonte of the El Paso Police Department. He served three terms as president of the Texas Narcotics Officers Association and was also the vice president of the National Narcotics Officers Association. After 25 years with El Paso PD, he became a consultant with General Dynamics and started a law enforcement training company. Robert Almonte has recently been appointed as a U.S. Marshal for Texas.

I was most fascinated with his training video, "Patron Saints of the Mexican Drug Underworld." I have had some experience in this dark spiritual world during some of my own investigations in Los Angeles involving the Cuban Marielitos and Mexican cartels.

In a strange way, it ties together much of the evil perpetrated by the gangs that are trafficking in drugs and human beings and their violent inhuman behavior. There is a spiritual dimension to their madness and recognition of the signs and symbols of their belief system can help you identify them. As Almonte says: "This is presented for the officers' safety and to help the law enforcement officer identify traffickers and make larger seizures."    

When the Spanish explorers first visited Meso-America, they found the great culture of the Aztecs and other indigenous natives flourishing. But there was also much tribal warfare and even human sacrifice to the female god of death, Mictecacihuatl, near what is now Mexico City. The Spanish conquistadors were determined to convert the pagan natives to Christianity. However, this was not always done in a Christian way.

Orthodox Catholicism involves a multitude of legitimate saints invoked by pious Catholics to intercede for them. Some of these saints have specific attributes that make them patron saints for specific requests. For instance the Archangel Michael, who defeated Satan, is the patron saint of the police, the airborne, and the protector of the state of Israel and the Church. For this reason a believing soldier or law enforcement officer might legitimately petition Saint Michael for intercession and protection or wear a medal of his likeness.

Some requests and the invoking of the saints might have less than noble intentions. We see this often in Mexico among the poor, undereducated, and superstitious. The Mexican criminal elements often invoke both the recognized and even non-recognized or folk legend "saints" to protect the drug smuggler, bandit, or human trafficker. 

Tags: Hispanic Gangs, Gang Intelligence, Smuggling, Drug Trafficking


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