Mexican drug bosses discussed buying heavy weapons from U.S. war veterans to carry out terror attacks on U.S. diplomatic or commercial targets in Mexico City to “send the gringos a message,” according to federal prosecutors.
The head of the Sinaloa Cartel, Joaquin Guzman, proposed the attacks as a way of hitting back at U.S. and Mexican law enforcement, Chicago prosecutors said in court documents.
“Let it be a government building, it doesn’t matter whose. An embassy or a consulate, a media outlet or television station,” said Guzman, known as “El Chapo” or “Shorty,” and listed by Forbes business magazine as one of the world’s thousand richest men.
Guzman, convicted of murder and drug trafficking in 1993, remains at large after his 2001 escape from a Mexican prison and is sought by Mexican and U.S. authorities.
In court papers filed last week, the U.S. attorney’s office for the Northern District of Illinois provided details of the discussions for the first time, citing accounts by informants and telephone wiretaps.
The court filing outlines evidence against another suspected Sinaloa leader, Jesus Vicente Zambada, who was charged in 2009 with conspiring to smuggle tons of cocaine and heroin into the United States from Mexico. He is scheduled to face trial in February in Chicago.
“You know guys coming back from the war. Find somebody who can give you big powerful weapons,” Mr. Zambada is heard telling Margarito Flores, a Chicago drug dealer working as a federal informant. “I want to blow up some buildings.”
The prosecutors said the cartel wanted American weapons, although the court papers do not disclose why the drug bosses believed they could buy heavy armaments from U.S. service veterans.
“We don’t want Middle Eastern or Asian guns. We want big U.S. guns or [rocket propelled grenades]. … We need a lot of them, 20, 30, a lot of them,” Mr. Zambada said, according to the court papers.
The discussion took place at the end of a three-day meeting at the cartel’s mountaintop headquarters in Sinaloa Province, Mexico, in October 2008, documents say. Mr. Flores met Mr. Zambada and his father and co-defendant, Ismael Zambada. They were joined by Guzman on the last day.
The men discussed the recent arrest in Mexico and possible extradition to the United States of Mr. Zambada’s uncle, also named Jesus Zambada.
Mr. Zambada’s father complained that the Mexican government “is letting the gringos do whatever they want.”
Guzman responded, “What are we going to do?”
Ismael Zambada replied that they should “send the gringos a message” but warned they should carry out the attack “in somebody else’s territory.”
He suggested Mexico City, then dominated by a rival cartel run by Arturo Beltran. The cartel members referred to Mexico City as the “smoke.”
“Yeah, it would be good to do it in the smoke,” Guzman responded. “At least we’ll get something good out of it, and Arturo will get the heat.”
Later, in a telephone conversation recorded by Mr. Flores, he discussed buying the weapons with the younger Mr. Zambada.
“I have somebody that just got out of the service, and he said he could hook me up,” Mr. Flores said.
“Fine,” Mr. Zambada replied.
The court papers contains no further details about the plot and no attack was actually carried out.