Drug Smuggling Twist: Innocent Mexicans Allegedly Duped By Mennonite Suspect…Fronteras Desk

It is seldom that we see reports from the rural parts of the border and this one gives a small taste of what things are like and how a lot of drugs get into the US–through the ports of entry. I was also struck by this statement from the young Mexican man who was tricked into driving the drugs across:
“They treated me well in the U.S.,” he said in Spanish. “No one pressured me, no one attacked me. I have nothing against the U.S. prosecutors or police.”
The subtext: Had he been arrested IN Mexico, the police or army would have beaten and tortured a confession from him.  Also, the men caught in this scheme and deported back to Mexico are very fearful to be identified because they would be targeted by the smugglers and their suppliers for failing to deliver their product in the US.  -Molly
Lorne Matalon | Fronteras

CHIHUAHUA, Mexico —Federal prosecutors in Texas and New Mexico are dealing with a series of unusual cases.

Ten drug smuggling crimes have been traced to a man from a Mennonite community in Mexico who is alleged to have duped the victims.

The seduction starts with a classified ad in the paper, one that 23-year-old named Juan was drawn to. He asks that his last name not be revealed; he’s frightened there may be retribution if the man who placed the ad — identified by U.S. attorneys and the victims as David Giesprecht Fehr — finds him.

The ad reads, “Si tienes visa laser recienmente americano, contratación inmediata.” Translated, “If you have a recent U.S. visa known as a laser visa, there’s immediate work available.”

The man who placed the ad is from the Ciudad Cuauhtémoc area, a 40,000-strong Mennonite community of ranchers and farmers in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua.

They’re members of a conservative Christian church with European roots. Mennonites were invited by Mexico’s post-revolutionary government to settle here in the 1920s in part to populate Mexico’s border twith the United States.

The Mennonites in Chihuahua today trace their ancestry to Canada, and prior to that Germany and the Netherlands.

Juan answered the ad. And a man called back.

“The man said ‘I’ll pay you $500 a week to drive my truck to the U.S. and back,’” Juan was making $70 a week as a security guard.

The would-be employer, David Giesbrecht Fehr, goes by different aliases and imports American farm equipment. It’s now alleged he ran narcotics.

Mennonites enjoy a deserved reputation as prolific farmers and ranchers. This image was taken near Casas Grandes, Chihuahua where Mennonites have made the desert bloom.

He pitches non-Mennonite Mexicans who respond to his ad by saying that he imports farm equipment from the United States.

What he allegedly did not add is that the trucks he gave people to enter the U.S. with were loaded with large quantities of marijuana.

Juan thought the job offer was too good to be true. The caller was offering to quadruple his salary and give Juan steady work with health benefits.

So he told the caller he needed time to consider the offer.

The same offer was made to Juan’s father. They discussed it together. The father declined while Juan accepted, to his enduring dismay.

Liz Rogers was the federal defender in West Texas whose office represented Juan and five other Mexicans. The other three were arrested crossing into New Mexico.

“Whenever the person that is a Mennonite that the government has identified, whenever he showed up he could talk to them very professionally over exporting and importing farm equipment,” Rogers said. “And so it would be no wonder that they’d believe it was a legitimate job.”

It was anything but. When Juan hit the Texas border at Presidio, a customs agent told him to get out of the truck.

“They didn’t tell me what was happening,” he said in Spanish. Then another customs officer approached.

The officer said a DEA agent would explain everything. When that agent arrived, the conversation continued.

A Mennonite father and son at work in a field near Casas Grandes, Chihuahua.

“Are you carrying drugs?” the agent asked Juan. ‘Absolutely not,’ he replied. He couldn’t digest what he heard next.

“The DEA agent told me I had 57 kilograms (125 pounds) of marijuana in the gas tank,” Juan related. “I couldn’t move, I couldn’t breathe.”

Rogers says one of the cases showed how sophisticated the operation was.

“The marijuana was hidden very professionally in an I-beam,” she recounted. “It was welded into the I-beam of this big flatbed. And the government found it is because there’s x-ray equipment that can find very well hidden marijuana.”

At least seven of the people allegedly duped by Giesprecht, including Juan, live near a cluster of Mennonite villages near Ciudad Cuauhtémoc located about 60 miles southwest of the state capital, Ciudad de Chihuahua.

One non-Mennonite I spoke with outside Ciudad Cuauhtémoc — a man who says he greatly who respects the Mennonite culture — says his neighbors are hard-working farmers. But he says there are exceptions.

“They plant corn. Sometimes plant some marijuana too,” he said in English.

For Juan, arrested with 125 pounds of drugs, and the others in New Mexico and Texas, the prospect of serious jail time was real. But as evidence tied to David Giesbrecht Fehr mounted, the state of New Mexico dismissed all the cases.

In Texas, three defendants were allowed to plead guilty to time served and immediately deported. The defendants’ visas were revoked, and that revocation lasts for three years.

A man drives a cotton harvester on a Mennonite farm near Lopez Mateos, Chihuahua.

As a practical matter, however, none of the now-former defendants will find it easy to return to the United States, even for a visit with family. Juan, for example has aunts and cousins in Denver and Los Angleles.

If Juan to present himself at a border crossing, a computer check of his documents would show that he faced serious drug charges and accepted a plea deal which included immediate deportation.

But Juan’s just happy to be home.

“They treated me well in the U.S.,” he said in Spanish. “No one pressured me, no one attacked me. I have nothing against the U.S. prosecutors or police.”

The alleged drug trafficker, David Giesprecht Fehr, remains at-large. (Lorne Matalon / FRONTERAS)

Mexican Soldiers Face Civilian Trials

An article found on the Washington Post website talks about Mexico straying away from corruption in the case of Mexican soldiers facing civilian trials.

OJINAGA, Mexico — This rough little border town in the middle of nowhere has seen its share of lawless men, the cocaine cowboys whose wild rides end out in the desert with a shovel of dirt tossed into their shallow graves.

Then the General came to town, and the place went to hell.

Brig. Gen. Manuel de Jesus Moreno Avina, commander of the Third Infantry Company, arrived in the spring of 2008 in Ojinaga, across the Rio Grande from tiny Presidio in Texas’s Big Bend country.

The General, as he is known by all here, quickly began what his own officers described in court testimony as a “reign of terror.”

Instead of confronting organized crime, the Mexican soldiers here quickly became outlaws themselves. Then people began to disappear, according to the charges filed against them.

Now, four years after Moreno’s 18-month tenure in Ojinaga, the landmark case against Moreno and his men may finally change the way Mexico prosecutes soldiers tied to the alleged abusesduring the country’s bloody drug war.

The Mexican Supreme Court recently ruled that Moreno, his officers and two dozen of his soldiers should be tried for human rights crimes in a civilian court — and not as the constitution currently mandates, before a secret military tribunal whose proceedings can take years to go nowhere.

If it happens, such a trial would mark an unprecedented shift of power that could end a century of impunity for Mexico’s armed forces, whose top generals have fought hard to protect themselves from scrutiny.

“What the people want to see after all these years is a real trial,” said Ariel Garcia, a physician in Ojinaga. “It is not right that someone who was sent to protect the people did the exact opposite.”

The doctor said he knows what is he talking about. While he was at the hospital performing surgery in 2008, his house, like many others here, was ransacked by troops in a fruitless search for weapons and drugs.

“When we saw these soldiers, we were not only afraid,” Garcia said. “We were ashamed at what they had become.”….

You can read the rest of the article on the Washington Post website here. 

*******************************************************************

GOOGLE TRANSLATION:

Ojinaga, México – Esta ciudad fronteriza poco áspero en el medio de la nada ha tenido su parte de los inicuos, los vaqueros cocaína cuyo fin paseos salvaje en el desierto con una pala de tierra arrojó en sus tumbas poco profundas.

Entonces el general llegó a la ciudad, y el lugar se fue al infierno.

Brig. El general Manuel de Jesús Moreno Avina, comandante de la Tercera Compañía de Infantería, llegó en la primavera de 2008 en Ojinaga, al otro lado del Río Grande desde Presidio diminuto país en Big Bend de Texas.

El general, como es conocido por todos aquí, rápidamente comenzó lo que sus propios oficiales se describe en el testimonio de la corte como un “reino del terror”.

En lugar de enfrentar el crimen organizado, los soldados mexicanos aquí se convirtió rápidamente fuera de la ley a sí mismos. Entonces la gente empezó a desaparecer, según los cargos presentados en su contra.

Ahora, cuatro años después de 18 meses de Moreno en la tenencia de Ojinaga, el caso histórico contra Moreno y sus hombres finalmente pueden cambiar la forma en que México persigue a los soldados vinculados a la supuesta guerra sangrienta abusesduring droga del país.

La Suprema Corte de Justicia dictaminó recientemente que Moreno, sus oficiales y dos docenas de sus soldados deben ser juzgados por crímenes contra los derechos humanos en un tribunal civil – y no como la Constitución actualmente mandatos, ante un tribunal militar secreto cuyo proceso puede tomar años para ir a ninguna parte .

Si esto sucede, tal ensayo marcaría un cambio sin precedentes de poder que podría poner fin a un siglo de impunidad para las fuerzas armadas de México, cuyas principales generales han luchado duro para protegerse del escrutinio.

“Lo que la gente quiere ver después de tantos años es una prueba real”, dijo Ariel Garcia, médico en Ojinaga. “No es justo que alguien que fue enviado para proteger a la gente lo hizo exactamente lo contrario.”

El doctor dijo que él sabe lo que está hablando. Mientras estaba en el hospital realiza la cirugía en 2008, su casa, como muchos otros aquí, fue saqueada por las tropas en una búsqueda infructuosa de armas y drogas.

“Cuando vimos a los soldados, que eran no sólo miedo”, dijo García. “Estábamos avergonzados de lo que se había convertido.” ….

Puedes leer el resto del artículo en el sitio web del Washington Post aquí.