Ricardo Monreal Ávila
July 13, 2013
The testimonies of men and women trained as specialists in covert operations, elite assassins hired either to eliminate crime leaders or to fight the army, depending on who’s your employer at the time are raw and insightful. These are the voices of the new mercenaries, a product of the market of violence that the country has turned itself into. Their narratives were made exclusively to representative Ricardo Monreal who included it in his book Escuadrones De La Muerte En México (Death Squads in Mexico) (House of Representatives, 2013) from which this article is taken from.
Juan Ignacio, 30, formed a current part of an elite group of the Mexican Navy. He joined the security force in 2007, a few weeks after having abandoned the Heroica Escuela Naval Militar de Antón Lizardo, in Veracruz, by express invitation by one of his physical coaches and teachers…not having completed his studies was not an obstacle for his recruitment; His skills in handling weapons and his good physical condition made him a suitable candidate.
At the naval base in the port of Veracruz, he was called to appear…with clothes and training equipment because he would be at a distant location for three weeks. With a group of 14 more youths he would set off the next day at a farm in the Huasteca veracruzana region, an hour from the town of Álamos, which is only accessible by a dirt road heading towards the Sierra Madre Oriental mountain range. Before arriving, he noticed two marine checkpoints guarding the entrances.
The farm is actually a training camp at the base of the mountain, with a central house and dormitories around it, and five sections or distinct areas:
1) the shooting range
2) the obstacle clearance field
3) the area of detecting, arming and disarming explosives
4) the scaling and rappelling area
5) an area for motor vehicle use, from dirt bikes to armored vehicles, where testing of armored vehicles in motion, intercepting them and immobilizing them with high caliber weapons such as grenade launchers and rocket launchers. Here they also teach how to protect and face against ambushes and surprise attacks.
The training in Álamos would consist of the first of the three courses over a period of a year and a half. A month after that, Juan Ignacio would be leaving to Colombia for his second course. On this occasion, the group consisted of 22 youths who arrived in three distinct groups: eight were marines, seven were army personnel, and seven were federal police officers. Only one night was spent in Bogotá to then assemble for four months to the province of Tolima, at the facilities of the National Police Training and Operations of Colombia.
The training techniques focused on assault and capture of drug traffickers and high-profile criminals entrenched in hilly areas, caves and strongholds with private armies at their disposal. They were also taught to infiltrate these same paramilitary groups, to identify clandestine training camps, to carry out covert assault operations, to dismantle synthetic drug laboratories, to detect illegal camouflaged crop fields hidden in jungles and hills, to handle explosives, to jump from moving vehicles or from low flying helicopters, to treat the wounded, to spy and counterspy, to identify designs and structures with false bottoms and to survive for days hidden without food in harsh geographical areas.
The third course took place in the United States, in the state of Arizona during the fall of 2008 for a period of 12 weeks. The training focused on prevention, detection, neutralization and destruction of terrorist threats, be they objects, people, or civilian groups. There, Juan Ignacio learned the doctrine that terrorism and drug trafficking represent the same level of security threat; He was also instructed in intelligence, counterintelligence, tracking, processing sensitive information, and encrypting language techniques. He was also taught to manage physical and psychological crises.