Juarez Cartel On Trial In El Paso: A Conversation With Jason McGahan

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A recently concluded trial in El Paso, Texas, has revealed the inner workings of how the Juarez Cartel used sophisticated communication technology to orchestrate murders, while United States law enforcement and intelligence operatives eavesdropped on calls between the killers. This came out while the prosecution was making its case against Arturo “Benny” Gallegos.

On Tuesday investigative reporter Jason McGahan was interviewed by Marfa Public Radio/West Texas Public Radio Fronteras Desk reporter Lorne Matalon about his work on this case.

Matalon was joined by Marfa Public Radio/West Texas Public Radio Morning Edition anchor Travis Bubenik and Liz Rogers, formerly a senior assistant federal public defender and a former assistant U.S. Attorney in El Paso.

Here’s how McGahan says the story that ultimately led to Gallegos’ capture and extradition to the United States to stand trial in Texas began. He wrote these words for the Texas Observer:


On the afternoon of March 13, 2010, two teams of gunmen linked to a cartel lay in wait outside a private residence in Ciudad Juarez, observing the steady departure of guests from a child’s birthday party. Many of the guests were employees of the United States Consulate in Juarez who were attending with their families.

Though some details remain hazy, what is clear is that a Chihuahua state police officer named Jorge Alberto Salcido, whose wife was a Mexican citizen employed by the consulate, said his goodbyes in the driveway and left the party with his two children, ages 4 and 7. One team of gunmen pursued Salcido in a vehicle and opened fire. He was shot to death; his children were wounded but survived.

Matalon asked McGahan about Gallegos, a convicted leader of two groups of assassins — one recruited from the ranks of Mexican police, the other from Juarez Cartel foot soldiers — who killed on orders from the top echelon of the cartel fueling a war that claimed 1,000 victims a month in Juarez during 2010.

McGahan covered Gallegos’ trial, one which revealed how a Mexican working with the killers had a change of heart after innocent people were killed by a cartel car bomb meant to send a signal to Mexican federal police.

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