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Guillermo González Calderoni: the federal police commander who knew too much

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 ”MX” for Borderland Beat

Guillermo Gonzalez Calderoni, a top commander of the Federal Judicial Police, spoke about the corruption that plagued Mexico’s officialdom. He was murdered in Texas in 2003.

The younger generations that hear about Guillermo Gonzalez Calderoni through the Narcos television series may not fully know the background of this man or his role in one of the darkest episodes in the history of drug trafficking in Mexico. Calderoni, who spent more than a decade exiled in the U.S., was murdered in broad daylight on 5 February 2003 outside of the Yzaguirre & Chapa attorney firm in McAllen, Texas. One of his attorneys once defended former Gulf Cartel kingpin Juan Garcia Abrego in court.

Calderoni, 54, was attacked while he was inside his Mercedes Benz. He was accompanied by Martiniano ‘El Chato’ Mendoza, a friend of his, who was unharmed. Calderoni was shot on the left side of his face and died two hours later at the McAllen Medical Center.

U.S. authorities considered Calderoni the “Mexican Elliott Ness”, but others say he had already gone out of style after fleeing Mexico over nine years before. He spent the last years of his life in hiding and with limited contact outside of his immediate circle. But his murder showed that someone wanted him dead for something he did or knew when he lived in Mexico.


Born into a wealthy family from Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Calderoni joined the federal police in the early 1980s, and escalated the ranks quickly, becoming commander in Monterrey, Ciudad Juarez, and Tuxtla Gutierrez, and sub-deputy in Jalisco and Quintana Roo. He was famous for his successes in the national anti-drug campaign.

Those were the years in which he was attributed for arresting top narcos like Pablo Acosta Villarreal from Chihuahua, who died when he was arrested, and Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo from Sinaloa, then the most important drug trafficker in Mexico.

“It was two and a half months of work and fatigue,” said Calderoni when talking about Felix Gallardo’s arrest. However, he hardly spoke about the role of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and how decisive the murder of agent Enrique Camarena Salazar was in this arrest.

Colleagues like Rafael Chao López, who was commander of the Federal Security Directorate (DFS), accused him of receiving money from cartels and of “fabricating” drug traffickers to grow his reputation. However, Calderoni’s role in the police force grew during the presidency of Carlos Salinas de Gortari’s (1988-1994), and was promoted to lead the narcotics department of the Federal Judicial Police.

Mexico’s Attorney General’s Office (PGR) even intended to open an office in San Antonio, Texas, that Calderoni could manage. This obviously caused controversy in the U.S., and the plans were quickly dropped.

Protected witness 

Calderoni’s ties with the Mexican political establishment broke on 7 February 1993, when the PGR chief Jorge Carpizo ordered the arrest of Calderoni and several of his associates. They were accused of murdering Jaime, Erik and Hector Quijano Santoyo, three siblings involved in narcotics. The PGR also charged him with illicit enrichment, authority abuse, and drug trafficking.

After authorities seized several of his properties in Mexico, Calderoni fled to the U.S. and was arrested by the Interpol and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in 1994. Calderoni was prepared for an extradition hearing but was then given residency in McAllen, Texas. By 1996, Calderoni became a protected witness and helped testify against Juan Garcia Abrego in trial, although his attorneys deny this.

Calderoni devoted himself to divulge details about what he knew of Mexico’s drug cartels and of their alliances with the government. His name appeared in many files that concerned the state of Nuevo León: the arrest of the capo García Abrego, the murder of the notorious lawyer Polo del Real, and of numerous other figures in organized crime and politics. The same unfolded in other states across Mexico.

Perhaps the strongest revelation he gave was when he said that President Carlos Salinas de Gortari gave protection to the Gulf Cartel and that his brother Raúl was the operator. He said Salinas de Gortari planned to buy a port with Gulf Cartel members to assist them in their drug trafficking operations, and claimed that the President commissioned García Abrego to kill Francisco Xavier Ovando and Román Gil Heraldez, advisers to his political rival Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas in 1988.

Calderoni said he knew who ordered the 1994 assassinations of Luis Donaldo Colosio, former Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) presidential candidate, and the PRI Secretary General, José Francisco Ruiz Massieu. But he never revealed these details.


In exile, Calderoni gave interviews left and right. In 1997 he acknowledged to The Wall Street Journal that be had been an “instrument” of the corrupt political system in Mexico.

“I am not a white dove,” he said. “I made the mistakes that one makes when working in a system like the Mexican one.”

In April 2002, a collegiate court annulled the arrest warrants issued against Calderoni, essentially making him a free man in Mexico.

“I’m starting to remember a lot of things”, Calderoni said in an interview.

Nothing was ever revealed by Calderoni again because he was murdered the following year.

Journalist Jorge Fernández Menéndez described Calderoni as follows: “He betrayed too many people, too many interests, and in this terrible environment of ​​drug trafficking and organized crime, in his relations with power, one always pays its debts, sooner or later, and one pays dearly. “

Or, as award-winning journalist Jesus Blancornelas said when he found out about his death: “This man, I believe, opened his mouth when he shouldn’t have.”

In December 2019, the National Institute of Transparency, Access to Information and Data Protection (INAI) decided that the PGR was obligated by law to release Calderoni’s full employee record to an individual who requested it. The file has not been released.

It seems like the commander who knew too much has not finished revealing his secrets.

Source: Reforma (subscription may be required)


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