Gangland (2007) s05e04 Episode Script

Blood River

we prove ourselves in Prisonstabbings, slicings.
male narrator: They are Assassins on the front lines Of america and mexico's Bloody drug wars if they tell you to kill Somebody, you got to kill 'em.
narrator: And their violence Is spreading deeper into The U.
narrator: From the notorious Prisons of texas, they commit Torture and murder on both Sides of the border, Without mercy.
stab 'em.
Shoot 'em full of dope.
Choke them.
Shoot 'em back at the head.
narrator: They are barrio Azteca.
Once you're in this gang, You're in for life.
narrator: El paso: Where one Of america's longest rivers, The rio grande, dissects the Border between texas and mexico.
El paso is ranked among the Safest cities in america.
But just across the border is One of the world's most Dangerous outposts: Juarez, mexico.
1,600 people were murdered here In 2008 Five times more than the year Before, the result of a vicious Turf war between battling drug Cartels.
that competition is now Being seen in the violence, In the dead bodies, decapitated Bodies, the threats, everything Else that you see out there Occurring right now.
It's all about the money.
There's no one in charge Right now.
narrator: The bloodbath is Just a stone's throw away from El paso.
there's just the rio grande, Sometimes ankle deep, Separating the two cities apart.
narrator: Both cities are Vitally important to the drug Lords.
As much as 60% of illegal drugs, Such as marijuana, cocaine, and Heroin, that enter the u.
Come up through juarez and Cross the border at el paso.
It's a business worth more than $25 billion a year.
And one american prison gang Rules over this lucrative drug Corridor: Barrio azteca.
it's all about the money and The drugs.
narrator: Barrio azteca Manages its empire from one of The most secure places in Texas, The maximum security Coffield penitentiary.
Some 3,000 of its street Soldiers operate in texas and Mexico.
Barrio azteca works both sides Of the rio grande to feed America's insatiable appetite For illegal drugs.
we move a lot of dope, You know, a lot of heroin, A lot of cocaine, going into Corpus christi, dallas, houston, Austin, lubbock, going to Colorado.
narrator: Raul martinez, Nicknamed pelon, is a former Barrio azteca leader.
I was a captain.
I gave orders, you know, and Everybody knew my reputation.
People feared me.
narrator: Pelon is 50 years old.
He has spent almost all of the Last 30 years behind bars For burglary, larceny, assault, And aggravated robbery.
His life of crime started in El paso at the age of 12.
That's when he tried heroin for The first time.
I got turned on one day.
I got sick but, you know, Started a long relationship.
I started doing armed robberies When I was about thirteen, Went to the penitentiary when I was eighteen.
narrator: Ten years later, In 1986, he was doing a stretch At coffield.
There, his reputation for Extreme violence earned him Entry into barrio azteca.
I took out a man's eye, Punched in a man's eardrum.
I did my share.
Well, my priority was to instill Fear in the other, you know, Offenders, inmates, you know, Make them respect me.
narrator: Once pelon was in The barrio azteca family, He became a member for life.
"blood in.
Blood out.
" That's the rule for everyone Who joins this gang.
narrator: Barrio azteca's Tightly run drug enterprise Begins in mexico.
They get their dope from drug Kingpins in juarez.
Once the drugs are smuggled Into the u.
, the gang acts as Distributors.
They deliver the drugs to Street dealers, then extract Payment by any means necessary.
I've heard of stabbings, People being choked out, Electrocuted, put into barrels Of acid, tortured for days On end by different means.
narrator: The drug profits Are funneled up the gang's Hierarchy, which is headed by Its commanders in prison.
Backing the barrio azteca is One of the most feared Organized crime operations In the world, The juarez drug cartel.
they're gonna cross the dope For them.
They're gonna commit the hits They need to.
They're gonna do whatever They've got to transport their Dope north.
They'll do whatever it takes to Get that money.
they kidnap a lot of people, Kill them or mutilate them, Whatever.
narrator: It's a lucrative Criminal enterprise, with Barrio azteca's prison leaders Raking in millions.
From behind bars, they recruit Gang members, then demand Undying loyalty to what they Call "the family.
" Commanders punish those Who disobey by issuing "green lights.
" there's a green light On youyou know, a hit And they'll try to kill you.
narrator: Hector martinez Lived the brutal gang life.
He experienced the full range Of gang violence as a street Soldier for barrio azteca.
Martinez, aka clark, grew up In an el paso street gang called "los fatherless.
" shootings, stabbings, people Getting jumpedthat's how I grew up, you know, just Seeing, you know, bad things; Learning from it.
narrator: By his early teens, He was running his own crew, Taking on the nickname "clark" After clark kent's superman.
I tried to prove myself, Like, to all my homeboys that I was gonna be number one.
narrator: Clark's efforts to Be top dog got him arrested For robbery in 1996.
In prison, his taste for Violence earned the attention Of his stepfather's gang, Barrio azteca, and he was Recruited to be a soldier.
when you're an azteca, I think, like, you get more Respect 'cause of the killings That our family does.
narrator: That respect is Hard-earned.
Barrio azteca never shows mercy, Even when it comes to its own Family.
If a green light is ordered Chances are a body will show up In the streets of juarez, Where a bloody drug war makes It the perfect dumping ground.
narrator: December 2006.
Barrio azteca leader david "chicho" meraz was out of Prison and nursing a major Heroin addiction.
Chicho ran day-to-day drug Operations in el paso.
He was a capo.
As a capo, chicho was not Well-liked by his soldiers.
He had a reputation for violent Outbursts.
narrator: Hunter asked to Have his identity concealed.
A former high-ranking leader in The juarez cartel, he disliked How chicho handled business.
the capos in the prison Systems were getting real upset With him because he was not Forwarding moneys collected on The streets of el paso.
narrator: Gang members Suspected he was siphoning Money to feed his heroin habit.
To make up the difference, Chicho ordered his crews to Step up collections And to be merciless.
narrator: Jose oviedo, A small-time el paso heroin Dealer, was behind on payments To chicho's crew.
On the evening of December 6, 2006, chicho sent three soldiers To oviedo's home to collect.
They forced their way inside Oviedo's apartment, But he refused to pay up.
One soldier pulled out a gun.
he wanted to strong-arm The person.
You know, he wanted to Pistol-whip him, you know.
there was a struggle.
He ended up firing and striking The victim two or three times.
narrator: The soldiers fled Before police arrived.
But before long, authorities Were on barrio azteca's trail.
The fbi had been investigating The gang and tracing the phones Of suspected members.
through telephone records, Actually, we had an active pin On a barrio azteca member, and We gave that information to the El paso police department.
narrator: Police tracked Down and arrested all three Suspects.
Under interrogation, two gang Members did the unforgivable: They began to rat.
It was the break the fbi agents Needed to start building A racketeering, or r.
Case, against the gang.
With his soldiers in jail, Chicho meraz knew he was A marked man.
narrator: Chicho was worried About the fbi, but he should Have been more worried about His barrio azteca brothers.
narrator: Gang leaders Weren't about to take Any chances.
sooner or later, They were gonna kill him.
narrator: El paso, texas.
This mountainous border town is A key stronghold in america's Violent drug war.
Only the muddy, shallow Rio grande separates the Lone star city from the war's Epicenter in juarez, mexico.
The violence on the border is So severe that u.
Officials Have labeled it a threat to National security.
At the center of the aggression Is one of the most bloodthirsty Gangs in the world, barrio Azteca.
on the streets, It's wide open.
I mean, they could do harm.
They could do whatever they Want to do.
narrator: Since the late 1800s and days of the wild West, gunslingers crossed the Mexican border at el paso to Flee the long arm of texas law.
While outlaws ran south of the U.
, bootleggers began sneaking North from juarez.
The shallow rio grande was easy Passage for rumrunners during The prohibition era.
In texas, mexican-american Zoot-suited gangsters of that Era were known as pachucos.
the pachucos were an old term For the gang member.
That's where that word "chuco town" came from.
narrator: For decades, El paso, nicknamed chuco town, Fed a steady supply of criminals Into the texas penal system.
Many ended up here, at the Notorious maximum-security Coffield penitentiary, about 100 miles southeast of dallas.
By the mid '80s, inmates from El paso found it difficult To survive at coffield.
Established prison gangs like The texas syndicate, the Pistoleros, and the mexican Mafia, known as "la eme," Dominated the yard.
El paso inmates with no gang of Their own were at their mercy.
narrator: The el paso inmates Fought tooth and nail to Stay alive.
because we didn't want to Partake in theirin their Clique, they would "clique On us.
" narrator: The larger, Dominant gangs would send Black inmates to clique on the El paso inmates.
attacking them.
Hitting them.
You know, sticking, you know, Brooms and broom handles or Whatever up their butt.
narrator: Raul "pelon" Martinez, serving time for Burglary, was one of the chuco Town convicts who fought back.
we decided, "hey, man, let's Just get our little group Together.
" We had to send the message, Man, let them know that, You know, enough was enough.
narrator: In late 1984, The el paso inmates met During chapel time to plot Their revenge.
we synchronized our watches And, you know, said we were Gonna make our move then.
narrator: Pelon and the other El paso inmates gathered outside The cell of one of their Leaders.
They carried shanks.
Then they stripped out of their Prison uniforms so they wouldn't Get blood on them and waited.
The signal was given.
Pelon and his el paso brothers Turned and viciously attacked The black inmates who had Harassed them.
we just started stabbing Them, stabbing, you know, all of Them fáááááá, and then We just took off from there.
narrator: One inmate was Killed in the attack.
Seven others were injured.
The show of force established The el paso inmates as A new gang.
They called themselves barrio Azteca in homage to the fearsome Warriors of the native aztec Tribes of ancient mexico.
In spanish, "barrio" means "neighborhood," but to inmates, It honored their hometown Of el paso.
Barrio azteca cemented its Violent reputation with further Attacks on their rivals.
we just started hitting them, You know, wherever they Were atthe dining hall, Kitchen, cells Just started dropping them.
narrator: Pelon was eager to Become a leader, and the only Way to do that was to spill Blood.
He identified the perfect Target.
we had this dude, chico, A big ole puerto rican.
narrator: Chico worked Alongside pelon in the Meatpacking plant at the prison.
you know, he liked to flex His muscles, and I just got Tired of that sááá.
Me and my homeboy sat down and Talked about it, said, "well, We got something for his ass.
" narrator: There was no need To smuggle in a shank.
They had all the weapons they Needed on hand: Hooks and boning Knives.
so I took that hook, hooked It around him, pulled him, And my homeboy just gutted him.
That's how I got my rank, You know, 'cause I was real.
I was down for the cause.
narrator: The attack lasted Just minutes but was savage Enough for pelon to be named A captain.
Similar assaults instilled fear In other prisoners, and barrio Azteca's numbers began to swell.
By the early 1990s, barrio Azteca numbered in the hundreds And had become the largest and Most active prison gang In texas.
The gang's influence would Extend even more as barrio Azteca members were transferred To other facilities and Recruited new prisoners.
narrator: Diablo is one of Barrio azteca's early members.
He asked to have his identity Concealed.
narrator: Barrio azteca was Carving out its own territory, One murder at a time.
we weren't playing.
We killed a lot of them people In the penitentiary.
narrator: The violence that Began in the prison system Started to expand beyond Prison walls When barrio azteca inmates were Released and back on the Streets of el paso.
Local street gangs didn't stand A chance.
most of those gangs were Consumed by barrio azteca when Barrio azteca started taking Control of the el paso area.
narrator: Barrio azteca Built up its distribution Network through its new Recruits.
Members called them by the Spanish word for store, tiendas.
narrator: To solidify its Grip on the illegal drug market, Barrio azteca used assaults, Murders, thefts, intimidation, And extortion.
I mean, we had fáááááá People that owned bars, clubs, Paying shakedown.
narrator: By the mid '90s, Barrio azteca was the undisputed Kingpin of el paso's streets.
Their membership, and their Drug dealing, didn't stop at The United States border.
Members crossed into juarez And organized crews there, Calling themselves los aztecas.
narrator: The expansion into Mexico paid deep dividends.
Los aztecas now had access to Kilos of cocaine at a discount.
narrator: By the late '90s, Barrio azteca had caught the Attention of the drug lords who Ruled the streets of juarez.
narrator: The gang would Provide muscle for the juarez Cartel Helping to smuggle in millions Of dollars of drugs from mexico Into the United States.
As a high-ranking member of the Cartel, hunter made deals With the gang.
narrator: If a u.
Dealer Wouldn't pay their debts, The cartel would call on barrio Azteca to rough them up.
kidnappings and all That stuff, you know? Take 'em somewhere where nobody Could see 'em.
Torture and all that.
narrator: Barrio azteca also Began smuggling illegal guns Into mexico, exchanging them For kilos of heroin and cocaine And using the weapons to carry Out murders.
The juarez drug cartel started Hiring the gang to assassinate Dealers and distributors who Owed them money.
narrator: By 2000, the gang Had an estimated 1,500 members, All willing to kill for money.
But the root of all evil would Soon take its toll and threaten To destroy the gang.
narrator: El paso, texas, Is a bilingual town where the Locals speak a mix of spanish And english at home and In business.
Barrio azteca, the violent gang That controls almost all Criminal activity on these Streets, has its own language: Secret codes for dealing drugs And death.
everything is blessed by the Capos before it comes down.
If there's a hit to be Conducted, if there's money to Be sent up to the prison Systems, it is through codes.
narrator: From prison, Azteca captains secretly issue Their commands.
A simple call-in to a radio Station could really be a call To carry out an execution.
they could actually make A dedication over the radio.
"I want to dedicate, you know, This song to so-and-so," And in their wording, they might Actually be ordering a hit.
narrator: Coded commands are Also smuggled in and out of the Prison via "kites.
" they may talk about a 1977 Chevrolet monte carlo with 22-inch rims, getting 12 miles To the gallon, and basically You're looking at, you know, 1977, 22, and 12 as their tdc Inmate number.
narrator: Barrio azteca sends Kites through inmates who are Transferred, visitors, and Its network of associates or "esquinas.
" these are individuals who are Not members of the barrio azteca But support barrio azteca.
narrator: Esquinas are vital In helping the gang carry out Its criminal activities.
Some are friends or relatives.
The gang seeks out others in Government offices, paying them To become spies.
narrator: Recruiting for Barrio azteca members is mainly Done in the texas prisons.
With little exception, the gang Does not allow sexual offenders, African-americans, and those who Have committed a previous crime Against a gang member.
Recruits must be backed By a padrino.
a padrino is accepting full Responsibility for that person That he's bringing into the Family, saying, "hey, look, man, I'm responsible for this person.
I'myou know, I'll vouch for This person.
" narrator: Recruits are valued For their loyalty and Willingness to spill blood.
you got to do what you got To do, and, you know, if you Want to earn your stripes, if They tell you to kill somebody, You got to kill 'em.
narrator: Recruits who pull Off a hit without getting Caught are said to have "earned Their huaraches.
" narrator: Gang members call Each other "indians" As a tribute to their indigenous Mexican ancestry.
Like the italian And mexican mafias, barrio Azteca is organized by military Rankings.
At the bottom are soldiers, Then sergeants, lieutenants, And at the top, the capos.
Tattooed feathers are symbols For ranks.
Two feathers are inked on A lieutenant.
Pelon's tattoos are a reflection Of his capo rank and his kills.
the headdress stands for Authorityyou know, top dog, Rank, capoand the bodies under The horse are for the hits that I carried out for the family, Which are three.
narrator: Pelon refuses To reveal more about Those killings.
He never was prosecuted for Them, and the statute of Limitations on murder never Expires.
Murder is just one of the orders Lower-ranking members must obey.
No order is negotiable.
narrator: If a member is Accused of disobedience, the Gang calls a secret meeting and Puts him on trial.
they'll send out word, You know, about two days, before Thebefore the trial, Or the sit-down.
They'll gather evidence, and, You know, they'll want pictures, And they'll want the people There that's accusing this Person of doing these things.
narrator: If found guilty, A first-time offender gets A warning.
A second offense earns A "calentada.
" they could give you just Body blows.
Sometimes they could break your Arm or your leg, you know, Or even stab you.
narrator: Three strikes, And the member is out.
a third time, you got Eliminated.
narrator: Associates marked For assassination are usually Lured to their death to Avoid attention.
they con them io going to Juarez, say, "hey, man, we got Something we want you to Bring back.
" narrator: Once in juarez, The victims may be beaten And tortured in front of an Audience of fellow gang members.
Diablo says he has witnessed Several executions.
narrator: The mutilated Bodies are left out in The streets of juarez as A message for all to see.
narrator: By the end of the Year 2000, juarez averaged more Than 30 killings a month With no end in sight.
For U.
Authorities, the threat Was unmistakable.
for quite a few years, we've Seen bits and pieces of that Violence in el paso.
narrator: By the turn of the Millennium, the notorious gang Barrio azteca had grown rich and Powerful controlling the drug Portal of el paso, texas.
But the money was proving to be A distraction for some Of the gang's leaders.
One of those leaders was Clark's stepfather, a barrio Azteca capo.
In may 2001, he was released From prison and returned home To el paso.
But soon after, he was in Hot water with the gang.
Other leaders smelled a rat.
I always knew that dude was Was a fake.
narrator: They accused him Of stealing from his crew.
money, weapons, guns, dope, And their vantook their van.
Ended up going to california.
narrator: The aztecas issued A green light and called on the One soldier they knew could get Close enough to kill him, His stepson, clark.
I was supposed to take out My stepdad.
I wasn't gonna go against him.
That's my mom's husband, You know what I'm saying.
That's my family.
Blood's thicker than water.
narrator: Clark refused, And another order went out: Kill clark on sight.
Clark knew the rules but Refused to hide.
His fellow gang members found Him in an el paso nightclub.
they got me at a club, And they told me, "what's up? I thought you were gonna do it.
" And I said, "well, I'm not.
Do what you got to do.
" So they told me, "step out.
" narrator: Clark stepped out Into the alley and was Immediately attacked.
all I remember is, I was Fighting, and all kinds of guys Just started jumping me, And when I got up, I had 12 wounds.
They stabbed me 12 times.
narrator: Clark survived, But he was still a marked man.
His stepfather managed to escape His own death sentence And remained on the run.
A few years later, gang members Turned on each other again by Going after another greedy capo.
December 2006.
Street capo chicho meraz, Driven by a massive heroin Addiction, was squeezing anyone Who owed money, no matter how Much.
He ordered his crew to go after Small-time el paso drug dealer Jose oviedo, who was dealing Drugs out of his apartment.
A confrontation turned into Murder.
Oviedo maybe owed $20 To $40, and, you know, committed A murder based on owing $20 to $40, you know, just to show how Far the aztecas would go To collect that money.
There was a mean streak In mr.
narrator: Police quickly Arrested chicho's crew.
Under interrogation, they began To talk, corroborating much of The information already Gathered by authorities.
It was a turning point for the Feds, allowing them to move Against barrio azteca on A r.
In January 2008, The fbi arrested dozens of Members of the gangsoldiers to Captainscharging them with Drug trafficking, extortion, And murder.
Barrio azteca gang members knew Someone had snitched and Suspected it might be none Other than chicho meraz.
we started wondering, "how Are these people getting busted? You know, there's only A few people that know.
" narrator: His fellow capos Voted to put a green light on Chicho.
He fled to juarez, but there Was nowhere to hide.
Barrio azteca called on their Mexican counterparts to take Care of business.
no matter who you are within The organization, whether You're a captain or not, If you're not doing what you're Supposed to be doing, this Could be the ultimate price.
narrator: In March 2008, A mutilated male corpse showed Up on the streets of juarez.
The body was identified as Chicho meraz.
he was brutally assaulted.
It appeared that he was stabbed And shot and murdered and Possibly thrown out of A vehicle and just left on the Streets of juarez.
I was told by his gang Members themselves that he may Have been tortured.
He was shot point-blank in the Face.
narrator: His shoes were Missinga clear message from His former family.
they were giving him the Boot out of the gang.
they took your shoesthat Means that they took your Stripes, your huaraches.
That's a sign it was the end.
narrator: But by the time of Chicho's murder, the federal R.
Investigation into Barrio azteca was well Under way.
In the fall of 2008, the feds Put six barrio azteca leaders And associates on trial in What would be one of the largest Gangland cases in the history Of el paso.
Several other accused gang Members decided to save Themselves and testified against The capos.
It would have a chilling effect On the gang.
there's no trust, you know.
Nobody wants to end up doing Time for the feds.
the barrio aztecas Are basically running amok.
narrator: El paso, texas.
The vicious drug violence in Juarez, mexico, is spilling into This quiet town, thanks to the Ruthlessness of barrio azteca.
But the gang faces a major Obstacle: A federal r.
Case aimed at dismantling its Leadership.
In December 2008, six gang Members, including three capos, Were convicted on racketeering And drug distribution charges.
Nine other gang members pleaded Guilty, including six who Testified against their old Bosses.
The case devastated the gang's Sense of family and created Chaos on the streets.
there seems to be a little Bit less direction on the Streets of el paso, a lot of Infighting within the gang.
man, it's terrible on The streets.
They're all scared, you know.
narrator: As of may 2009, The gang has splintered into Three factions.
One group is calling themselves "21," Made up of young members, some Of whom are in their teens.
This new brand of barrio azteca Is known as "the pepsi Generation.
" the stories they hear "you become one of us; We'll take care you don't trip," You know.
In other words, they brainwash Them, and, you know, they pull 'em to do their dirty work.
narrator: Members of "21" Don't share the same values as The older gangsters who spent Years earning their sandals In prison.
Those ogs are now referred to As "the originals.
" narrator: While both factions Still deal drugs for the mexican Juarez drug cartel, a third Branch of barrio azteca Has taken on the cartel's Dirtiest work.
They are known as "the nation.
" they're quite a few, you Know, about 250, 300 strong, And they're all proven warriors.
narrator: These warriors act As bodyguards and drug Smugglers.
They also carry out hits On american citizens in el paso.
Barrio azteca and their boss, The juarez drug cartel, Are still making millions, But new rivals want a piece of The action.
Since 2008, the sinaloa cartel Has waged a bloody turf war For control of the lucrative Drug corridor.
barrio azteca is right in The middle of it, assisting the Juarez cartel with that war.
If the other cartel were to Take over, where would that Leave the aztecas here as far As power in and around el paso? narrator: The growing threat Of drug wars in el paso Has american authorities in A tailspin.
For decades, they've been able To keep most of the violence on The mexican side of the border.
It's only a matter of time Before that changes.
narrator: And the violence Doesn't just threaten the south.
Barrio azteca is growing, Spreading its terror into Northern u.
they've got members living Just about in every major city In the United States: Dallas, San antonio, chicago, new york.
narrator: At the age of 50, Raul "pelon" martinez says he Is ready for the gang to go on Without him.
you know, I mean, Do I have regrets? Yeah, maybe, I have one or two, But I had fun, you know? narrator: After 23 years of Committed service, pelon wants Out of the gang even though it Carries the sentence of a green Light.
now there's a big, you know, "x" on my back, but the members Ain't doing sáááout there in The streets.
narrator: Clark martinez Claims to have left barrio Azteca for good.
But he can never erase the Tattoos that cover his body or The green light his former gang Has placed on his head.
I ain't trippin'.
Like I said, it's what it is.
If they're gonna get at me, They're gonna get at me, Or if they're not, they're not.
They already got at me.
narrator: Clark has no doubt Barrio azteca will outlive him.
it's gonna keep rolling.
It's gonna keep going.
Nothing's gonna be able to stop 'em, not even time, nothing.
It's gonna escalate, and it's Gonna keep going and going.
That'sthat's a gang.

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