The Duarte-backed policeman with a license to kill
Translated by El Profe for Borderland Beat La Silla Rota
Countless forced disappearances were systematically carried out between 2012 and 2016, in delegations where Marcos Conde was appointed as subdelegate
Marcos Conde, now a prisoner, operated for the Cartel de Jalisco Nueva Generación (CJNG) for years, giving them anyone who seemed “suspicious.”
The same modus operandi was evidenced in the municipalities of Úrsulo Galván and Tierra Blanca, where the events of 2013 and 2016 occurred, after videotapes and testimonies were collected in the trial.
Countless enforced disappearances were systematically undertaken between 2012 and 2016, in six delegations where Marcos Conde was appointed as subdelegate. On January 18, 2016, he and seven of his guards were arrested. To date, the eight former elements remain in custody and await sentencing in the maximum security prison in Gómez Palacio, Durango.
The SSP’s policy of extermination replicated by Conde, which ended in Tierra Blanca, Veracruz in January 2016, had its genesis in La Antigua, a coastal area that the police commanded to “sweep” all those accused of committing kidnappings, violations or stealing livestockm, or whoever in his opinion had links with Los Zetas, a criminal group to which he himself could have belonged according to ministerial investigations.
In 55 days – in different events between November 26, 2012 and January 19, 2013 – a total of 22 people were disappeared or killed in the municipalities of La Antigua and Ursulo Galván, a conurbation located 40 kilometers from the Port of Veracruz. Police, taxi drivers, students, firefighters, brigadistas, and a journalist were confronted with death, infiltrated among blue uniforms.
Despite accusations of these crimes by police officers, the government of PRI member Javier Duarte – endorsed by criminal associations and money laundering- never undertook investigations. On the contrary, the former Secretary of Security, Arturo Bermúdez Zurita – prosecuted for enforced disappearance – gave recognition to counterparts of Marcos Conde – delegates of the SSP – for his work in favor of the security of Veracruz.
(Photo: Paola Cruz)
“For the commitment and great awareness of the police function that has led him to perform with punctuality, neatness, spirit of body and heroism, encouraging him to continue serving society in Veracruz,” reads an acknowledgment of which LA SILLA ROTA has a copy, signed by Bermúdez Zurita in favor of Alfonso Zenteno Pérez, prisoner and accused of being executioner of 37 people, between 2013 and 2015.
For the cases Ursulo Galván and Tierra Blanca, the State and National Commissions on Human Rights issued the recommendations 03/2017 and 5VG / 2017, respectively. Both agencies agreed on a collaboration between the Veracruz police forces and members of organized crime to disappear their victims.
The CNDH warned in document 5VG / 2017 about “violations of the human right to personal integrity, due to the acts of torture committed to the detriment of the victims”, supported by the statement of eight former state police officers and some detained civilians that recognized being part of the CJNG.
However, the families of both cases who are now a year older since they lost their loved ones, regret the delay in justice. Public apologies by the Government of Veracruz and condemnatory justice still pending, which, coincidentally, would pay for exemplary punishments and the non-repetition of these crimes in the entity of the Gulf of Mexico.
(Photo: Paola Cruz)
“Veracruz is still a cemetery and unfortunately for those of us who have suffered from these situations, the cases are forgotten and justice slows down, and the spotlight is on the current events that are day to day,” Bernardo Benítez Herrera, father of Bernardo Benítez Arroniz, one of five young people disappeared on January 11, 2016 comments to La SILLA ROTA from Playa Vicente.
“Years and years of our cases pass and there is sadness because even though we have walked so much we seem to walk in circles, there is no one to listen to us, with the authorities it is like talking in the desert”, says Martha González Menéndez from La Antigua, mother of Luis Alberto Valenzuela González, one of the eight missing police officers in Úrsulo Galván, on January 11, but in 2013.
CARDEL AND THE “CLEAN” OF CONDE: 22 VICTIMS IN 55 DAYS
On January 11, 2013, at 6:00 p.m., eight municipal police officers of Ursulo Galván went out to make a routine round before returning home. They are Luis Alberto Valenzuela González, Javier Araus Molina, Samuel Montiel Perdomo, Alejandro Báez Hernández, Agustín Rivera Bonastre, Juan Carlos Montero Parra, Guillermo Torres Perdomo and Aureliano Sánchez Tonil.
The eight officers – middle payroll of said corporation – reported to their wives and one of them with their mother. According to the statement of a beer vendor, all were intercepted by four state patrols in the community of El Arenal while buying esquites and later were disarmed. Since then they were not heard from again.
The eight men had shared with their families the intentions to leave their jobs, due to the violence occurring in that region ‘governed’ by the Zetas Cartel. Their plans were not in vain, as the kidnapping of the eight was the closure of numerous crimes considered crimes against humanity undertaken by the team of Conde Hernández.
1.- THE ORIGIN, NOVEMBER 26, 2012.
LA SILLA ROTA spoke with a reporter from the central coastal area -whose name will be omitted for safety- who pointed to the start of a series of violent events in the municipalities of La Antigua and Ursulo Galván, when Marcos Conde who was just 26 days old, was appointed delegate in that region.
On November 26, 2012, the murder of Edgar Herrero Guerra was reported. The ex-taxi driver had just arrived from work in the United States. The taxi driver was found inside his work unit on the Salmoral-Paso de Ovejas road section, in the municipality of Paso de Ovejas. The victim had bullet wounds to the body and a “coup de grace”; he was also tied with industrial tape.
That incident was reported by the police reporter of the Cardel Newspaper, Sergio Landa Rosado, which was put on the cover of the regional newspaper. This caused him to receive threats and be targeted by members of organized crime who were collaborating with elements of the SSP.
2.- THE FIRST”KIDNAPPING” OF SERGIO LANDA, NOVEMBER 28, 2012
Before the eyes of reporters, Sergio Landa Rosado was deprived of his freedom on the outskirts of Diario de Cardel. The journalist was forced onto a private vehicle and taken along with two other people to Veracruz. According to witnesses, the kidnappers’ vehicle was guarded by at least two patrols of the SSP
“It was 3:30 in the afternoon, it was outside the newspaper building we worked in. They arrived for him in a white van, all the curtains were pulled down, the deputy director (of the Diario de Cardel ) called the Navy (…) those days there was a strange atmosphere in the city, trucks and vehicles were circling in public places,” the reporter interviewed said.
The car of the captors of Landa was intervened by personnel assigned to the Secretariat of the Armed Navy of Mexico and state police of the then Grupo Tajín outside La Antigua. The drivers were surprised and went on the run. The police reporter was able to fight death for the first time. Later he was sent to the south of Veracruz for some time as a refugee. “I believe the plan was to disappear him,” the reporter tells LA SILLA ROTA .
3. POLICE DISAPPEAR EIGHT YOUNG PEOPLE , NOVEMBER 30, 2012
On November 30, 2012, eight young people were disappeared in the community of José Cardel, in La Antigua. The victims were in the vicinity of a soccer field in the Colonia Modelo. Witnesses blame, in recommendation 03/2018, elements of the Veracruz Seguro Coordination Group, commanded by Marcos Conde Hernández.
Among the victims were Arturo Figueroa Bonastre and his friend Miguel Ángel Sandoval Cervantes and two other young people – four in total – whose remains were found years later in the Colinas de Santa Fe property, recognized as the largest clandestine grave in Latin America, where more than 300 corpses been exhumed.
4.- TWO FIREMEN AND A BRIGADISTA MURDERED, DECEMBER 5, 2012
On December 5, 2012, three elements of the then municipal administration of Civil Protection and Firefighters of La Antigua were assassinated; two men and one woman.
Based on journalistic records, a commando arrived at the municipal base, located in the Presidentes Municipal neighborhood. They took their victims to a cane field, in the community of La Ceiba in the municipality of Paso de Ovejas. All were killed by being hit with bats. Images of Santa Muerte were found next to the crime scene.
To the strangeness of the reporter interviewed, the municipal employees were found “en batería”, that is, formed in a row and without any other apparent injury, as was the case with other victims in the conurbated area.
5.- EL POPEYE TAKEN DOWN, CHIEF PLAZA OF LOS ZETAS, DECEMBER 20, 2012
On December 20, 2012 Jesús Daniel Vargas Ramírez, alias El Popeye, exboss of the Cartel de los Zetas in Cardel was killed in an operation in the municipality of Puente Nacional. The events were recorded between the communities of Chichicaxtle and Paso Mariano when Vargas Ramírez was caught eating in a hookah bar (exclusive for truck drivers).
Staff of the Mexican Army, the Navy of Mexico, state and federal police, implemented their operation and managed to shoot the capo from helicopters after several minutes of fighting. Several reportedly stolen vehicles were seized that had weapons for the exclusive use of the armed forces. Among the seized units was a taxi from the city of Cardel, a Suzuki vehicle, and a Nissan X-Trail truck.
6.- POLICE DISAPPEARS REPORTER SERGIO LANDA, JANUARY 19, 2013
On January 19, 2013, Sergio Landa Rosado -who had returned on January 1 of that year from the shelter where he was first taken- disappeared after receiving a series of telephone calls. To date his whereabouts remain a mystery.
According to the source consulted by this means, it was 5:00 p.m. Landa wrote his daily notes and received a phone call on his cell phone.
Despite these crimes, Marcos Conde Hernández was only transferred to new delegations: on April 19, 2013 in Xico; July 19, 2013 to Rodríguez Clara; August 29 to Martinez de la Torre; and finally on September 20, 2014, in Tierra Blanca, where there are at least 60 cases of disappearances and enforced disappearance.
TIERRA BLANCA, THE HELL OF CONDE
On January 11, 2016, 5 young people from Playa Vicente, returning from a weekend in the Port of Veracruz, were arrested by state police in Tierra Blanca, in the southern part of the state. The end was the same: they disappeared. These are: Susana Tapia Garibo, José Benítez de la O, Bernardo Benítez Arroniz, José Alfredo González Díaz and Mario Arturo Orozco Sánchez.
According to judicial investigations, Marcos Conde’s private escort – eight policemen – arrested them and handed them over to a CJNG cell that murdered them on a ranch in the municipality of Tlalixcoyan, where there were about 8,000 human remains and various objects used for the theft of fuel.
In El Limón, the National Gendarmerie found a piece of bone from Bernardo Benítez Arroniz and blood drops from Luis Alfredo González Díaz, two of the 5 young people, and from 6 other families.
The other remains found, belonging to 300 or 400 people, could not be identified because of their state of decomposition. The former secretary of human rights of the Ministry of the Interior, Roberto Campa Cifrián, confirmed that the disappearance of bodies on that ranch had been systematic for several years.
In the case of the 5 young people there are 21 detainees: 13 civilians, accused of being part of a CJNG cell and 8 state police, including Marcos Conde.
According to the declaration of three civilians before the Prosecutor’s Office of Veracruz (located in the investigation folder 27/2016), they described an alliance with “Los Estuches”, as they referred to the state police and the CJNG.
The second testimony gave more details of the operation: “‘El Kuini’ was in charge of the group, he warned us when we were going to have a visit from ‘Los Estuches’, who took ‘los becerros (the victims ). The police officer was part of the CJNG, to which I belong.”
Meanwhile, the third detainee confirmed the relationship of the police in Conde’s charge: “I never met anyone who were “halcones.” What I know is that there was no problem with the State Police of Tierra Blanca, we called them ´Los Estuches.´”