The Laredo-San Antonio Heroin Wars

Drug rings in Texas say they're tougher than the Mafia and they kill to prove it.

August 1973By and Comments

A PORTUGUESE FREIGHTER BOWS through the Gulf of Mexico for the old Spanish mercantile port of Tampico, bearing in a camouflaged hold a cargo cultivated in Turkey, refined in Morocco, destined for market in the funky bowels of Detroit. A stevedore tickets the hold of fish for delivery in Ciudad Victoria, where an adroit businessman removes stamped cellophane packages from the visceral cavities of the fish. He adds a drop of caramel coloring to the crystals (brown heroin is presumably Mexican in origin, presumably cut fewer times, hence more profitable) transfers the packages to beef carcasses, and relinquishes the shipment northward toward Monterrey.

Or maybe the brown stuff that arrives in Monterrey is truly Mexican; straight from poppy fields near Morelia, laboratories in Guadalajara, middlemen in San Luis Potosí. Or maybe the crystals are cocaine, smuggled from Peru into the Pacific port of Manzanillo. Or if the entrepreneurs are willing to settle for a smaller margin of profit, perhaps the contraband is Mazatlán marijuana that survived the token torches and foreign-relations cameras of the federales, flown in bales by small craft over the Sierra Madre Occidental range to an airfield near Durango, transferred then to Volkswagen vans bound for Torreón, Monterrey, and a different breed of distributor. But regardless of their origin, the drugs in all likelihood move northward toward Nuevo Laredo, toward impatient American consumers.

For years some members of familial clans called the Gaytans and the Reyes-Prunedas have been competing in the Nuevo Laredo area for control of the narcotics traffic. The Gaytans are a shadowy bunch reputed to have cornered a healthy slice of the marijuana market; the Reyes-Prunedas operate from a ranch in the desolate country southwest of Nuevo Laredo, a ranch that in fact is an armed camp where one may exchange almost anything of value (guns preferred) for smack, coke, reds, anything. A U.S. Customs officer grows a beard, penetrates the compound with an American dealer, and comes back rather shaken. He tells stories of machine guns, battlefield mortars, and mustachioed, cartridge-belted bandoleros who look like a lost battalion of Zapatistas.

Drugs are big business in both the rich Estados Unidos and the developing Republic of Mexico. In 1970 the head of the Mexican Federal Judicial Police—by comparison, a sort of U.S. Attorney General and FBI director combined—jet-sets himself into financial disaster, turns to the most propitious means of making money, gets arrested in an American city holding 89 pounds of heroin, and slits his throat in a Texas jail. An American president responds to the drug influx by virtually strangling tourist traffic along the Texas border. The Mexican government responds to that emergency by assigning the apparently incorruptible Everado Perales Rios to command the federal police in the ungovernable northlands, but that is a perilous assignment.

At some point the competition between the Gaytans and the Reyes-Prunedas flares into open warfare. American tourists and horny youths continue to foray into a battle ground that over a three-year period claims the lives of perhaps 90 clan members, subordinates, cops and bystanders. Another shadowy figure enters the picture. Francisco Bernal Lopez circuits the globe in his leisure, a leisure supported in part by a Nuevo Laredo law practice specializing in the criminal defense of narcotics traffickers. The Mexican press contends he is more than an attorney; they call him “El Ahogado del Diablo” (the Devil’s Advocate) and “El Padrino” (the Godfather). Shortly after a Nuevo Laredo newspaper runs a story questioning Bernal’s role in the illicit industry, a machine-gunner sprays the newspaper’s pressroom with a short precautionary burst. Bernal finally breaks his silence and tells reporters on the streets of Nuevo Laredo that he is only interested in ensuring justice for his clients.

For a while the new appointee Perales plays havoc with the operations of the clans, particularly the Reyes-Prunedas. Their ranch is raided repeatedly; one raid is cancelled because the federales can’t come up with the $500 advance per station wagon demanded by Hertz Rent-A-Car. The traffickers stop shooting each other, directing their aim instead at the governmental irritants. Police Commandant Perales confides to his American counterparts that there is a price on his head, and on July 28, 1972, somebody collects: Perales is assassinated. A Mexican tabloid prints a photograph of Perales’ last facial expression, and the Nuevo Laredo traffickers brace themselves for the governmental counter attack.

The Mexican government responds to the outrage by sending 250 support troops into Nuevo Laredo, and another machine-gunner strafes a truck carrying a contingent of the soldiers. But in September, 1972 a busted Mexican dealer in Guadalajara starts talking about the assassination.

The dealer accuses members of all three corners of the Gaytan-Pruneda-Bernal triangle of conspiracy in the assassination. The Nuevo Laredo jail begins to fill up and for good measure the federales raid the Pruneda compound one last time. About 20 subordinates surrender, two young clansmen run like Robert Redford and Paul Newman into a hail of bullets, while the matriarch of the clan sits inside in stony defiance. Inside, the federales find a ton of marijuana and 179 sticks of dynamite, destined, some said, for the Nuevo Laredo jail. Bernal, the Devil’s Advocate, goes to Europe.

What is this, a movie? Could all this really happen? The Mexican press maintains it did, and their warier American counterparts tend to agree. If it did and still does, how do the drugs cross the Rio Grande? Any American youth with long hair and a work shirt can make a score on the streets of Nuevo Laredo, but chances are the Mexican dealer will alert his business partner in uniform, arrests will be made, everybody will get a cut, and the confiscated drugs will await sale to another American fool. Who moves the big shipments? Who are the American counterparts of the Prunedas? Where is the distribution point? What’s the connection, as it were? Why, clear Customs, bless your stars you’re back in Texas, and just follow the highway bluebonnets to San Antone.

On August 26, 1971, U. S. Customs officers stopped a car driven by one Luis Alberto Azcarraga Milmo on the International Bridge in Laredo. In a secret trunk compartment they found 24 pounds of heroin. The plastic-wrapped, breadbox-sized package wasn’t a record haul. Stateside street values for the package, broken into fix-sized envelopes, would probably be about $12 million, less than half the size of the $32 million, 120 pound French Connection shipment in 1962. But police weren’t interested as much in the value of the shipment as they were in the two phone numbers they found in Azcarrage Milmo’s wallet. The numbers were those of Jesus Carrasco Santoy of San Antonio. While street estimates of the value of heroin are mostly products of statistical imagination, the phone numbers were real.

Two telephone numbers aren’t exactly bulwarks of conspiratorial evidence, but the San Antonio Police Department was delighted to see anything pinned on Santoy. In an extensive investigation, San Antonio cops had identified Santoy as the “big man” of a Mexican-American drug ring known as “The Dons” who boasted they were “tougher than the Mafia and would kill to prove it.”

Jesse Santoy doesn’t look like your everyday mobster. He is balding, pot-bellied; he stutters. In the past he worked on construction gangs, drove a long-haul produce truck, and served time in a federal pen for a narcotics rap. He has a reputation for paranoia: He was often seen wearing disguises during the investigation and once boarded up the windows of his own house. Much of the time during the year-long surveillance he drove around San Antonio in a battered pickup and a faded baseball cap.

Santoy in fact seems to have avoided the dirtier work of the Dons. Cast as something of a broker, he often abandoned his pickup for a Cadillac and an orbit of international jet rides that paralleled European-American drug routes. Santoy’s connections were not limited to the Dons; San Antonio police contend he dealt regularly with most of the large Texas drug rings and at least one major underworld figure, Carlos Marcello. Santoy worked on a large scale, but he was very, very careful. Nobody ever seemed to know exactly what he was up to. He never moved in the same patterns, never revealed his deals in advance, never cut the shipments in the same motel room. Even after watching Santoy for a year, the narcs had a case based on apiece of paper in Azcarraga Milmo’s hip pocket.

Prime movers in the San Antonio investigation were a 290-pound police sergeant named Bill Weilbacher—endeared on the streets of San Antonio’s west side barrio as the “Fat Man”—and his partners Harry Carpenter and Tommy Lauderdale. Weilbacher is given to silk suits and diamond rings and over the years has cultivated the biggest crop of informants in the state of Texas.

Weilbacher’s human mountain physique and tough guy scowl are the perfect complement to Carpenter’s softspoken friendliness in the old mean-guy-nice-guy interrogation technique. If a suspect could be made to talk with any combination of intimidation and cajolery, Bill Weilbacher and Harry Carpenter could get the information they were after.

Weilbacher’s felony squad had tapped enough information in San Antonio to identify Santoy as the Dons’ broker and name ten other “shotguns” and “mules.” Shotguns were the middle-echelon foremen who supervised the transactions; the mules were the lowest-ranking couriers who actually shuttled the drugs across the border. The way Weilbacher figured, when Santoy had a shipment moved across, the shotguns arranged for subsequent sales in San Antonio and watched the transactions from a distance, while the mules, many of whom were users, delivered the goods and picked up the money. The mules were thus easiest to catch, but they weren’t much good to the detectives unless they knew something and were willing to talk. A favorite police tack was to drive up to a mule’s house, sit down on the patrol car’s hood, and talk things over with the mule in full view of the neighbors, the theory being that the mules might talk just to remove police from the premises.

“Tony de la Garza was a big dummy of a mule—scared of most everything,” Harry Carpenter remembers. Tony had every right to be frightened in the summer of 1971. He had been the victim of a heroin bust earlier in the year but had beaten the rap because of unwarranted search and seizure. However, the higher-ranking Dons apparently weren’t sure exactly what had been discussed in the office of the Bexar County district attorney. On September 13, 1971 Tony’s pregnant wife survived a vicious beating and stabbing and told police her attackers were “friends” of her husband’s. Four days later, her husband’s dead body was found in Olmos Park.

Later in the fall, a Bexar County grand jury began to sniff out the possibilities of organized crime in the San Antonio area, and the odor was strong enough to catch the attention of Rep. Henry B. Gonzales. He flew from Washington with assurances of federal assistance in the investigation. “They’ve got some guys in Nuevo Laredo who think they can organize a Mafia structure there,” he told the press.

Everyone appreciated the congressman’s concern, particularly the Dons who had left San Antonio with the Narcs snapping at their heels. One of those Nuevo Laredo expatriates ventured back to San Antonio a few weeks later and allegedly remarked in drinking company that he was in the market for a hit man to take care of Gonzales. An Express News reporter heard the story and dismissed it as beery bravado and dubious hearsay, but San Antonio’s other daily, the Light, broke the story a few days later with repercussions in the national press.

The author of the alleged assassination threat was Frederico Carrasco Gomez. Physically, Carrasco is a smaller, darker Bill Weilbacher. Born in 1940, Freddie first danced in the arms of the law November 28, 1958, when police accused him of shooting a young man lured out of a San Antonio dance hall by a 15 year old girl friend, stealing a getaway car, and fleeing to Del Rio. A few pages of police records later, Carrasco wound up in a federal pen in Atlanta after a narcotics conviction. Paroled, Carrasco returned to San Antonio, and extremely ambitious, soon leapfrogged past mules and shotguns on the way to the top. Weilbacher says that by November 1971, Carrasco was the number two man, “Don Ramon.” While Jesse Santoy forayed abroad to assure future enterprises, his cousin Freddie engineered operations at home.

Part of Freddie’s wardrobe is a pair of .45s that some people would credit with as many as 20 notches apiece, but while Santoy looked like a truck driver, Carrasco was never without a Windsor knot and stylish jacket. During that time he moved about in style with his wife Rosa, a trim, mileaged beauty who is the sister of a lower-ranking, Don, Tino Leyva.

In his leisure time Freddie set up his father, a former automobile porter, with a bar in Macdona and bought two lots there for $30,000. He sank about $20,000 more into the construction of another posh club of Moorish architecture, but the club never opened. Investigators began following the organization everywhere, at times outnumbering construction workers at the club site.

Detective Carpenter says, “About the fall of ’71 the heat got so bad around here that Freddie thought he’d better move to Nuevo Laredo.”

Freddie operated in Nuevo Laredo from a home that looked like a shack on the outside and a Playboy retreat on the inside. In the words of the San Antonio police report, he “moved back and forth across the border like a taxpayer.” However, Freddie’s darker nature had begun to surface. San Antonio police believe Pete Guzman, the number-three Don and the organization’s contract killer, murdered Tony de la Garza under Carrasco’s orders, along with two lower-ranking Dons. But even the higher ranking Dons were not above Freddie’s suspicion. Weilbacher says Carrasco had decided “he wanted to kill everybody in the country, and Santoy wanted out.”

In San Antonio conspiracy charges arising from the arrest of Azcarraga Milmo on the Nuevo Laredo bridge were still pending against Santoy. Internal Revenue agents had expressed an interest in $70,000 he had accrued during the first six months of 1972, and he was under almost constant surveillance: A Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs official estimated his agency expended 10,000 man hours on Santoy during the year-long investigation. On April 18, police found a red Mustang near Ft. Sam Houston with its engine still warm, three bullet holes in the driver’s window, a bloody shoe in the floorboard, and a bloody Santoy fingerprint on the windshield. The San Antonio papers naturally surmised Jesse had gone to his reward, but a week later he checked out of a San Antonio motel in apparently good health. Santoy told one officer that the ambush was a ruse designed to get him off the hook, and told another the attack was terribly genuine, that the blood had come from his broken nose. In either case, it is probably safe to say Jesse wanted out.

As the result of a separate investigation, a federal grand jury in Houston indicted Santoy of conspiracy with Houston and Lafayette, Louisiana, men to sell heroin and requested his arrest.

On August 9, agents of the BNDD served the warrant on Castroville Road, near the San Antonio Airport and found in Santoy’s car forty pounds of lactose—the milk sugar used to cut heroin. In a development that may or may not be related, San Antonio users started dropping like October flies. In less than a week five users violated themselves expecting the purple rush of heroin and got a fatal jolt instead. A normal fix contains about 15% heroin; they were getting 75% pure stuff.

Out on $150,000 bond, Santoy checked into a San Antonio osteopathic clinic complaining of chest pains the first week in November and got his trial postponed. A month later, Santoy conferred with his attorney, told him they would meet in court the next day, and vanished. Santoy was subsequently indicted for the Azcarraga Milmo conspiracy and a judge set his bond at $500,000, but Santoy must have been smiling at his trackers like an upper-handed fox. When last seen Jesse was in Spain, reportedly moving in the company of his old buddy Azcarraga Milmo, who had shot his way out of the Webb County jail with the aid of an ambivalent trusty.

While Santoy tripped through questionable ambushes and pulmonary pains in the United States, the heat on Carrasco had increased on the Mexican side of the river. Most members of Carrasco’s San Antonio gang were busted or dead by early 1972, but along with his top lieutenant, Pete Guzman, Carrasco put together another Nuevo Laredo organization. However, Carrasco was an interloper south of the Rio Grande, and everybody seems to agree he had to affect some sort of accommodation with the powerful Gayton-Pruneda-Bernal detente in order to operate in Nuevo Laredo. Additionally, Carrasco’s gang apparently got caught in a crossfire between the federales and the native Nuevo Laredo traffickers. Carrasco’s gang was probably involved in a February 1972 shootout in Nuevo Laredo that claimed the life of a federale, and a month later another gun battle in Monterrey resulted in the capture of two of Carrasco’s subordinates. There is also some indication that a Pruneda subordinate was “accidentally” shot in one of the battles.

At the beginning of summer 1972 the Mexican government dispatched the dedicated federal police chief, Everado Perales to clean up the area, and in six weeks he kicked a sizeable dent in the trade, intercepting record shipments of the contraband powder. But on July 28 an ambitious hit man collected a Mexican Mafia marksmanship medal by placing four submachine gun rounds in a tight pattern in Perales’ left temple. From a moving car. In broad daylight.

The Mexican government shuttled troops into the area, and Rep. Gonzales flew home with the historically reminiscent suggestion that the State Department pressure the Mexican government into allowing American “hit-squads” of American federal agents to pursue the traffickers across the border. Shades of General Pershing, the Seventh Cavalry, and Pancha Villa.

Nuevo Laredo had clearly become habitable only for grandmother whores and the horniest of drunks, and Carrasco apparently took his gang south to the Mexican interior. Wilson McKinney, a scholarly reporter working the federal beat for the Express-News, translated reports of Freddie’s movements in the Mexican press.

Most of the pieces in the puzzle of Freddie’s whereabouts came from press accounts of alleged confessions from gang members. The individual crimes and amounts of drugs Freddie supposedly dealt in are only allegations, but Freddie nevertheless emerges as the top man in a large scale trafficking organization.

While in the southlands another San Antonio Don apparently fell from Carrasco’s favor. Long-time gang member Pete Guzman, who was wanted for the Olmos Park murder of de la Garza the mule, had advanced to the rank of number-three because he had the readiest trigger finger of the bunch, but he began to brag that Carrasco was merely his lieutenant. The boast probably indicates a rift between the two, for Pete Guzman very shortly stole a passport and returned to San Antonio. Guzman returned to San Luis Potosí during the spring, and in a fit of badly miscalculated machismo shot a bartender for tolerating the presence of a Mexican homosexual in his establishment. Pete got out on bond, but his high profile had apparently become a liability. Someone rewarded Pete with 45 bullets, clothed his body in trousers, slippers and bathrobe, and laid him to rest in a ditch.

“Freddie says he didn’t kill Pete,” Weilbacher says, “but I don’t believe him.”

A Mexican national named Benito Juarez Melendez claims to have taken Guzman’s place as Carrasco’s top lieutenant, but he may have been just another mule. Like all new initiates into the gang, he had to take the blood oath of sincerity and silence. According to Melendez, Freddie received shipments of heroin and cocaine in Guadalajara, cut the drugs, and relinquished them to Melendez, who ran them to the frontier.

Carrasco was again living regally, but on September 20, 1972, federales broke into gang residences and found 213 pounds of heroin, an amount twice that involved in the fabled 1962 French Connection, but inflation had hit the street too: The Guadalajara haul was valued at $100 million.

At first the federales didn’t know exactly whom they had, but then they found a copy of the secret San Antonio police report. A routine cast, a trophy catch. A Guadalajara newspaper headlined the story, “Now After the Vile Birds of the Narcotics Traffic.”

The federales packed Carrasco, eleven subordinates, and the tribal women off to jail. One of the subordinates said he was an honest agriculturist and functionary in local Indian government, another claimed he was in international cosmetics, two more said they were “simple peasants, country folk.” But the federales would have none of that; they had that confidential report, courtesy of Xerox and a security leak. Carrasco protested the retention of his wife by first trying to jump out a window, then holding a sliver of glass against his throat at a suicidal angle for five hours. The federales released Rosa, but her husband’s troubles were just beginning.

Who should show up at that point but the author of the report, the Fat Man himself. What Bill Weilbacher was doing in Guadalajara is still a subject of spirited speculation, but there he was. The Mexicans were apparently in the throes of translating the report and all they knew was that Weilbacher’s name was on the report, so they threw his ample behind in jail. A slightly incredulous Fred Carrasco told Weilbacher, “I never thought I’d be glad to see you.”

Freddie congratulated Weilbacher on the accuracy of the report, and he also communicated fears he would never leave the Guadalajara jail alive. There was some substance to his fears. Freddie’s half-brother, Robert Zamorra Gomez, was one of those arrested, and Weilbacher says he saw Zamorra escorted beltless into a cell. Three days later, Zamorra was found strangled with his own belt. Hanged himself.

On September 26 Freddie appeared in court with his lawyers, and with tears in his eyes said the federales had stripped him, beat him, tortured him with electric cattle prods, and stuffed his head into a bucket filled with human urine and excrement. Moreover, he accused three federales of murdering his half-brother. The magistrates listened, and sent him back to jail.

The federales released reports to the press that Freddie made a full statement, but Weilbacher contends he confessed nothing. However, Benito Melendez, the new addition to the gang, apparently forgot his oath and sang like a canary. According to published accounts, Melendez confessed that the gang had been involved in major trafficking, but he denied that the Dons had anything to do with the Perales assassination. Melendez supposedly fingered Pedro Gaytan as an “intellectual author” of the plot and laid the blame for the actual deed on the globe-trotting attorney, Francisco Bernal, Pruneda Clansman, Fermin Reyes Martinez, and two other trigger-men.

Carrasco subsequently made his way out of the Guadalajara jail, and when safe on Texas soil, he mailed letters naming the three federales he said murdered his half-brother. But the affair had cut his international roving grounds in half. Shortly after the Melendez confession the federales arrested Martinez, and Bernal skipped the country. Regardless of the validity of the Melendez confession, Freddie Carrasco was in trouble on both sides of the border and, more critically, on both sides of the law because one of his gang had hung the assassination of Perales on the Nuevo Laredo traffickers.

Freddie moved around in South Texas with three bodyguards, reportedly lingering in Macdona long enough to attend a family conclave, drinking beer in a south San Antonio cantina, surfacing in Bandera, Del Rio. San Antonio cops, South Texas sheriff’s deputies, and Texas Rangers banqueted in Uvalde to prepare themselves for the final confrontation with Freddie Carrasco. Officers throughout the southwest were looking for him, but in May Freddie was still at large. Weilbacher explained, “He’s got a lot of money and only two or three people know where he’s at. Everybody’s afraid of him.”

Twelve of Carrasco’s San Antonio runners reportedly had a right to be. Police theorize that when Carrasco got jailed in Guadalajara his San Antonio operators apparently wrote the boss off and pocketed his share of the take. According to the police theory, Carrasco returned to Texas to find he had missed out on some deals with profit running to six figures, and he allegedly drafted an execution list bearing the names of 12 of his remaining subordinates.

On March 10 Gilbert Escobedo, 33, the money-man of the organization, sat at the bar in a San Antonio “ice house” nursing Schlitz beer. A barmaid says a man matching Carrasco’s description came in so well-dressed and courteous that she suspected he was a vice officer. She says the man sat at a booth, ordered a beer, chatted with her briefly, then said he needed to talk to the man on the barstool. The man resembling Carrasco walked to the bar, pulled two pistols, shot Escobedo enough times to be sure, then calmly turned toward the door. A brave witness tried to apprehend the gunman, and got clipped over his ear with a gun butt for his trouble.

On April 8, Roy Lopez Castano and Agapito Ruiz, the mules who had taken Tony de la Garza’s place in the organization, sat in a car on FM 1518 in southeast Bexar County. Ruiz had recently been served with a federal grand jury subpoena, and the police were looking for Castano. Ruiz’ legs were folded beneath him in a posture of amenable conversation when he was shot in the back of the head. Castano was shot in the back of the neck, apparently ran nearly half a mile, then took a fatal slug in the chest. The San Antonio police announced that Carrasco was wanted for questioning.

On Mother’s Day a man matching Carrasco’s description appeared at the information desk in crowded Mission County Park in San Antonio and paged Joe Garcez. A slender young man by that name promptly vaulted a fence and ran for his life, or so it appeared to the startled picnickers. Garcez and his glowering young friends Valentine Salinas and David Garcia had been arrested holding 300 grams of heroin and $13,000 in cash shortly before Carrasco’s bust in Guadalajara. They got out of jail, however, and Garcez and Garcia continued to deal with a ruthlessness that convinced Weilbacher’s lieutenant, Harry Carpenter, that they were bound for the top.

Garcez and Garcia luxuriously renovated a 1930 Ford with their dividends, and they were driving the coupe in south Bexar County the night of June 6 when another car pulled alongside and a 9mm Luger slug shattered the driver’s window and lodged in the brain of Garcia. The coupe overturned, scattering soft-drink bottles and horror comic books, then Garcez apparently got out and tried to run. Police found him the next morning a few feet away, three 9 mm slugs in his back. Agapito Ruiz and Roy Castano also died from 9 mm bullet wounds, and their bodies were found at a site about a mile away from the overturned Ford. Police surmised there might be a connection.

Of the 12 names on Carrasco’s alleged list, five are now dead, two are comparatively safe in state prison, and the rest, as a Bexar County lieutenant put it, are running and hiding.

At this point, San Antonio radio stations, television stations, and newspapers start appealing to secretive informants. Officers are warned they shouldn’t try to take Freddie on alone. “Bad hombre” becomes the watch-word of law-and-order coffee breaks throughout South Texas. The FBI tries to promote Freddie to the Ten Most Wanted list. But Freddie makes no attempt to flee the state, moving around with apparent realization that he has an early date with the Texas soil. He reportedly swears he is not going alone; a state narc contends Carrasco called Weilbacher and told him his number was nearly up too. The fat man dismisses the suggestion with a flip of the french cuff. “Those bastards will have to stand in line to get me,” he says. “But what I am afraid of is that some highway patrolman is going to pull him over and he’s going to come out shooting.”

We asked Weilbacher for a more intimate reading of the man he has hunted for two years. “I think he’s crazy—and I don’t mean he doesn’t know what he’s doing. He wants to be some kind of folk hero, the kind of guy they sing about in beer joints.”

Freddie Carrasco has very likely been accused of more crimes than he had time to commit, but the whole affair is an indication of just how pervasive drug trafficking has become in San Antonio. Gruesome as the figure of Freddie Carrasco is, he is at worst only one small link in a huge international chain, and even the San Antonio cops concede the extinction of one gang can’t stem the flow of drugs into the city. The mules will continue to make the transfers, and Carrasco’s ethnic brothers and sisters will continue to take the rap. Chamber of Commerce poets call San Antonio one of America’s four unique cities, and they’re right. But before long, unless something is done, the novelists and screenwriters are going to start looking past San Antonio’s beauty, tradition, and sloe-eyed mystery to the distinctive guns and needles of America’s potential black-market drug capital.

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