The comandante wanted to show some Sonoran reporters what Mexico's Army is doing just south of the Arizona border. So he took five of them on a tour last week that offered insights into the state of play on the border around Sonoyta, Sonora, the border town across the line from Lukeville, Ariz.
About seven miles northwest of Sonoyta, they went to the ranch of a local plaza boss known as El Memo, whose real name is Adelmo Niebla González. El Memo was arrested Sept. 6 in Sinaloa. At his ranch, soldiers showed the reporters bunkers where they'd discovered more than three tons of marijuana in packages a couple of weeks before.
In a detailed Sept. 8 press release, Mexico's Ministry of Public Safety said Niebla González's regional gang, Los Memos, had been fighting with other smuggling groups to keep them out of this desert territory.
The soldiers also took the reporters to a house only about four miles northwest of Sonoyta, a place known as a gathering point for the smugglers tasked with backpacking drug loads across the border.
Reporter Azucena Mazón, of El Diario de Sonora, said the group of soldiers and reporters surprised the group.
"When the commander got down, one young man got scared and the commander told him not to run because we were only passing through," she wrote me in Spanish. "And when we got down, the guys were relaxed, drinking beer. Everybody talked and told us their plans."
In her story, Mazón quotes a 16-year-old telling the soldiers that he's still clean and hasn't crossed yet. As he talks, he stirs a pot of beans for the group of 18 males there, ages 16 to 50.
When the commander tells them they should go back to their home states of Sinaloa, Guanajuato and Jalisco, some say there's no work back home, so they'd rather stay and carry loads, even if it means they've got one foot in jail already. Besides, one notes, October is a nice cool month for crossing loads.