Interviews

9: Bart Simpson and the Angel of Juárez

This is the story of two teenagers in Ciudad Juarez, which was one of the deadliest cities in the world when I visited in 2012. One became a hit-man for the deadliest Mexican drug cartel, the Zetas, and killed over 70 people by the time he was 17. The other is a boy who became frustrated that nobody even stops and looks at the bodies any more – so he stands over the freshly-killed corpses dressed as a angel, holding up signs that tell the killers and the corrupt police that God is watching them. Through the story of these two teenagers, the tale of what the drug war does to countries along the supply route becomes clear.

The translator you can hear in some of these interviews is Julian Cardona, the Reuters correspondent in Juarez, who was my guide in the city. The interview with Rosalio Reta, the former Zeta hit-man, took place in a maximum-security prison in Tyler County, Texas.

This is Juan Manuel Olguin, the boy who dresses as an angel, describing his decision:

This is Juan explaining that he is not afraid:

This is Juan explaining what he says to his mother about if he is killed by the cartels:

This is Juan explaining why he does it:

This is a prison guard in Tyler County explaining that he wasn’t allowed to leave me alone with Rosalio (in fact, he walked out of the room and left me alone with him for a while soon after):

This is Rosalio early on in our conversation:

This is Rosalio asking what I know about him already:

This is Rosalio discussing the beheadings he has witnessed and what it is like to cut off a person’s head:

This is Rosalio explaining what he was taught at the Zeta training camp:

This is him elaborating:

This is Rosalio explaining what the cartels are fighting over in Juarez:

This is his elaborating:

This is Rosalio claiming everyone where he grew up, on the US-Mexico border, wants to be a Zeta:

This is Rosalio talking about his childhood:

This is Rosalio talking about burning corpses:

This is him talking about corpses being cut up:

This is him explaining why they torture people:

This is him talking about making bodies into guiso – stew:

This is Rosalio talking about the first person he killed:

This is Rosalio talking about getting out alive (nobody else, to my knowledge, has ever got out of the Zetas and lived to talk about it publicly):

This is Rosalio claiming he was trapped in the Zetas:

This is him elaborating:

This is him elaborating further:

And further – he describes it as a different world:

He was afraid to even say the name of his former Zeta boss, Miguel Tervino:

This is him telling me not to talk about him:

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This is him reiterating that point:

This is him explaining the reason for the cartel violence:

This is him explaining his life inside the Zetas:

This is him elaborating:

This is him explaining he didn’t know anything about the people he was sent to kill:

This is him talking about realizing it’s not a game:

This is him explaining how they’d be given cocaine:

This is him explaining life inside the Zeta base:

And elaborating how he was totally paranoid:

This is him talking about how Trevino could kill him at any time:

This is him talking about how he was showered with money:

This is him describing the Zetas as a trap:

This is him explaining why the Zetas wanted to use an American kid like him:

This is him refusing the talk about any crimes he may have committed on the US side of the border:

This is him explaining how the Zetas controlled the Mexican police:

This is him elaborating:

And further:

And more:

This is him explaining why he had to get out of the Zetas:

This is him explaining an attack on him:

This is him saying he had to sew up his own bullet wound:

This is him saying he grew tired of that life:

This is him saying he wanted to be left alone:

This is him explaining he had to fight for his life:

This is him talking about how he didn’t want to die”

This is him explaining he turned himself in to the US authorities:

And elaborating:

This is him explaining his friend’s murder:

And elaborating:

This is the prison guard casually telling me Rosalio could be killed in prison:

This is the prison guard explaining how Rosalio lives now:

This is Rosalio explaining his life in solitary:

And elaborating:

This is Rolsaio trying to intimidate me, I think, asking me what makes me think the Zetas won’t find and kill me for probing into them:

This is Rosalio talking about how all his friends are dead:

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