Lex Fridman Podcast - #346 - Ed Calderon: Mexican Drug Cartels

The following is a conversation with Ed Calderon,

a security specialist who has worked for many years

on counter-narcotics and organized crime investigation

in the northern border region of Mexico.

I highly recommend you follow the writing and courses

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And now, dear friends, here’s Ed Calderon.

What does your experience in counter-narcotics,

investigating the Mexican drug cartel

teach you about human nature?


I mean, first off, anybody can be got.

Anybody can be corrupted.

You know, you work in that field

and you realistically, the training we got

and profiling and investigation and stuff like that

was basically you learn from the older guys there.

And some of those guys were already corrupted

from the start.

So trust no one.

I remember seeing that X-Files episode

where that was stated.

You quickly learn that even if you are somebody

that to your own mind appears incorruptible,

small changes happen around you, wheels get greased,

money gets put in front of you

and or things get threatened like your life.

And sometimes the payment for some of this corruption

is just to continue on living.

You encounter people that seem incorruptible

that go through FBI background checks,

that go through all of the security measures

that all of us were put through, polygraph test.

And then later on, it turns out they were on the take

before they became somebody that was corrupted.

I think what I found out is that anybody at any level,

they could be a very strong, hard to get person right now,

but people get corrupted through their families,

through need.

Mexico is a place where a lot of instability occurs.

So financial needs, health.

So a crack could form through the wall of integrity

and then over time it seeps in somehow.

Mexico has a culture of corruption.

Like you have your kid that goes to school,

at public school and you want him to be in the morning,

not in the afternoon time period.

So you go off and grease the wheels

with the director of the school.

People hearing this in Mexico will nod their heads

because this is something that happens from early on.

So there’s a systemic and cultural thing to it,

as far as getting around rules.

And this happens because the people that are in charge

in Mexico, the government is,

their tandem amount is trust between criminals

and the cartels down there for a lot of the culture.

So people don’t trust the government

and much less criminality.

When you meet a person sticking on human nature,

do you think it’s possible to figure out

if they can be trusted?

So you said anyone could be corrupted.

How long would you need to talk to a person?

And even in your own personal private life,

just a friend?

Or is trust the thing that’s never really guaranteed?

I think that trust is never really guaranteed.

I know a lot of people are gonna say that’s a sad way

and hard way of living your life,

but life experience at my end,

people change.

The dynamics of a relationship might change.

I look at people’s character,

specifically their past and past experiences if I can.

Somebody that presents himself in front of you as somebody,

but you quickly learn that that somebody is just a mask

or a persona that they kind of created for themselves.

And they might not even be aware of the persona?

Like, is there some deep psychological stuff?


I’ve experienced a lot of failure in my life.

You can see it in my nose.

You can see it in my lack of a digit.

The amount of failures you can see in somebody

and how they wear them sometimes is a pretty telling thing

as far as them being able to be trusted

or that you can trust their story

or their experience.

And when I say experience, I mean,

I’ve met some criminals, like former criminals,

or some people of that background

that I trust with my life,

because they’re not reformed,

but they figured out that that’s not a life

that can live long enough to kind of continue on.

And I’ve also met people that are in law enforcement

that I wouldn’t trust with my car keys,

because whatever persona they adopted over the years

is a pretty good one, pretty good mask.

Sometimes it’s such a good mask,

they don’t even know they’re wearing it.

And on top of that, it’s not just the psychology.

There’s also a neurobiology to it.

I’ve been very fortunate and deliberate

to surround myself with good people throughout my life,

but I’ve recently gotten to sort of observe,

not close to me, but nearby,

somebody that could be classified as a sociopath

and a narcissist.

Like, I don’t want to use those psychological terms,

but just, it’s like, oh,

people come with different biology, too.

So it’s not just like the trauma you might experience

in your early life and all the deep complexity

that leads to the psychology that you have as an adult,

but it’s also the biology you come with,

the nature, that you might not just have the machine

that can empathize deeply with the experience of others,

or maybe a machine that gets off,

gets a dopamine rush from the manipulation of other humans

or the control of other humans.

Yeah, I mean, put an example of my own background.

My mom didn’t have a father.

You know, he left really early on in their childhood.

You know, my mom raised her two sisters

and basically kept a household.

She was a great mom.

She was a badass.

You know, she was very independent.

She showed me how to be independent.

She showed me how to kind of watch out for others

and kind of build me up in that way.

And I had a great childhood as far as, you know,

as far as her and kind of like how she molded me.

Later on, I figured out that when I had my own kid,

you know, I figured out that she was basically

trying to make me into what she didn’t have in a way.

And if I can get to see somebody’s parents, you know,

that’s usually a sign of something, at least for me,

as far as figuring out where people are.

I think there’s something to be said

about nature and nurture and how some people come up.

Some people are just born with that predatory instinct,

you know, and you’ll never know.

I mean, they spend their whole life practicing

how to hide it.

But if you can figure out somebody’s, you know,

background, childhood, where they’re from,

you can kind of tell something about them.

You know, I’m from Tijuana, you know, I’m a survivor.

That’s my background as far as where I’m from.

Culturally, genetically, psychologically,

the full shebang.

Yeah, I guess some people are born

with certain predispositions,

and if they’re in the right environment,

some of the negative aspects might flourish

more than others, you know.

For me, I mean, I grew up skateboarding in Tijuana,

and I remember breaking into my first backyard pool.

It was a house that a cartel guy owned,

and we used to skate the pool in the back of it.

So I learned how to pop open padlocks

with a small vehicle hydraulic lift.

And I remember doing that, and later on in life,

I got to train with people from other parts of Mexico

and work with them.

And I remember pulling that trick off,

and they were like looking at me like,

where’d you learn that?

Like some burglars in Tijuana, you know?

And they’re like, wow, that’s interesting.

Are all people from Tijuana like that?

And I said, no, we’re not all like that,

but I guess in some way we are,

because Tijuana produces kids like that.

She produces, like the environment itself produces

a pretty specific person, I guess.

Our normal or our baseline normal

is way different than most.

The trajectories that you can take in life

are defined in a way that aren’t available

elsewhere in the world.


I mean, part of that is psychological,

part of that is cultural and so on.

Part of that is the cultural trauma,

but then also the ethical lines based on the corruption.

Because I grew up in the Soviet Union,

there’s the same kind of understanding

that there’s some gray area of corruption.

Yeah, it’s always there, like on the outskirts

or even in the center, how you can grease things

to make things easier, and how it’s like a personal thing.

Don’t just pay off the, in Tijuana we have a mordida

is what we call it, when you pay a cop off.

Una mordida means a bite.

What’s the bite aspect?

So you get stopped for a traffic violation of some sort

and the cop walks up to you.

Obviously you don’t say the word bite,

but it’s like a slang term for it.

And he asks for your paperwork

and if you get fined or get a ticket,

you say, can I pay the ticket here, is what they say.

And put your money inside of the paperwork

and hand it over to the cop, mordida.

You think it’s, I’m just gonna do it and nobody knows,

but it’s a systemic thing, like a lot of people do it.

And then they don’t trust the police

because they are fed with this.

Yeah, same thing was in the Soviet Union, it’s funny.

But then there’s something inside you

where that kind of, those opportunities come,

like with a police officer,

where you realize you could just pay a little bit of money

and get out of a thing.

And then you realize you can pay a little bit of money

or do a favor to get your kids in a better school

or something like that.

But there comes opportunities where you were,

all right, if I do this little thing,

I can make, I can get a huge promotion,

I can get a huge increase in my power

or get a lot of money.

And something inside you says, no.

That’s not right.

And I wonder what that is.

Because it feels different than the legal systems

within which you operate.

There’s some kind of basic human integrity, human decency.

I wonder if that’s constructed or it’s always there.

It’s like, again, nature versus nurture.

I think, for me, it was looking at,

at seeing that in somebody else

that I kind of learned about it.

There’s a man that I consider a mentor figure.

His name’s Lieutenant Colonel Izalda.

He was a lieutenant colonel from the army

that basically came over and took over the group

that I used to work with.

He was incorruptible.

That was the essence or the aura that he projected.

The first time he went off on patrol

when he was placed in charge of us,

I actually drove him around Tijuana.

He was one of those lead from the front type of people.

The amount of assassination attempts he got

was basically a proof of how uncorruptible he was

because they kept trying to pay him off.

And when that didn’t work,

they tried to kill him several times.

I think the last assassination attempt

took the use of his legs.

And that man is still a dangerous person in my mind.

But for me, and people can gather a little bit

about my background and where I’m from

and some of the access I currently have

to train the federal institutions here in the US

as far as my background and if I was corrupted or not,

because there’s a lot of that out there.

The Catholic guilt that’s kind of built into some of us

is always kind of there, you know?

El cucuy vive bajo la cama, the devil was under the bed.

So I don’t consider myself Catholic.

Consider myself culturally Catholic, I think,

is what I kind of say with that.

I had a pretty good structure with my dad and my mom

at the house and they never let me get away with things.

And I think my mom was a pretty big moral compass for me.

But Lieutenant Colonel kind of leading from example

and seeing his work and how much profound change

he caused in the people that work with him

as far as we felt supported

and we felt like we had a guiding figure during this.

Tijuana was the most dangerous city on the planet

when I was working there and he took charge.

What does it take to be a man, the Lieutenant Colonel,

who maintains integrity after assassination attempts?

Is it possible for a normal human to do that

or, again, is it genetic?

That’s an interesting question.

I’ll say this.

Seeing him, I mean, the last assassination attempt he had

that took the use of his legs, he was with his kid.

There was a recklessness to it, you know?

I can see that now,

like now that I have enough distance from it,

I could see that there’s a recklessness to being that way.

And also you’re putting jeopardy people around you

if you take that route.

So I think there’s a sacrifice to it,

a very powerful and hard one to make for a lot of people.

For me, it was, I wouldn’t get picked to get on board

with some of the operations groups

that I wanted to work with

because I was known for not taking money

or not being trusted by certain older segments

of the organization that I was with,

with stuff because they knew that I wouldn’t,

I wasn’t on the, I wouldn’t get money.

So there’s always a weird sacrifice to it.

And you’re almost kind of like masochistic in that way

when you get approached with it.

They’re like, why are you being an idiot?

Why are you driving around that beat up car?

Look at the Hummer H2 that just drove in

with the other guy that is doing exactly your same job.

So society as a whole down there doesn’t reward it

or at least doesn’t see it in the people

that don’t take that route in Mexico.

For them, all cops are corrupt, all of them.

And seeing it again from the outside,

I’m not there anymore.

There’s almost like a, why didn’t you Ed?

That could have been easier maybe,

or you could have been dead long ago

because people that are on the takedown there

are usually owned by one side or the other.

And when that gets found out,

if you have somebody that you’re paying off

that hints you off of drug operations in the area,

your rivals are pretty keen on killing you.

Money aside, so like a Hummer aside,

how much of a motivator’s fear?

It’s a big one.

I’ll say for me, I didn’t think I was gonna live

to see 30, I was sure of it.

Did that concept scare you

or was that just a principle of life

that you’re operating under?

I lost my brother when I was 13 on it too.

He was 19, he was like the VIP of the family.

You miss him?

Oh, every day.

He was a skateboarded BMX,

motorcycle hunter, one of the best marksmen

that I’ve ever seen shoot.

So better than you at everything.

Yeah, he was the best of us is what we would say.

And when he died, it was almost like a concert

at his funeral.

I met three of his girlfriends

that all introduced themselves like the one.

To this day, every now and then I get to pull the side down

when I go back home and, hey, you’re Eric’s brother.

Despite all the stuff that I’ve done,

I’m still, every now and then I get recognized.

That made my mom and my dad go into a horrible depression

and basically left me to my devices when I was a kid

from 13 onwards.

I had this self-destructive aspect to me after that,

I think, so again, something that’s come up in therapy

after I’ve been gone through all that

and had this notion that if I can only die good

in some way, shape or form or for something

that it would matter and they would look at me

with the same reverence I did with my brother.

So dying isn’t the problem.

The goal of life is to die for something good.

Yeah, at least that was my mindset

going through that job.

I remember I was in medical school before that,

second year of medical school.

I was doing pretty good and then 9-11 happened

and that wasn’t an option anymore for me.

The economy was horrible, couldn’t afford to stay there.

So I sat in the newspaper and my big brother

who’s still alive and head, he’s like,

no te animas, you’re not gonna do that shit.

You wouldn’t dare.

And all of a sudden I was in a field

having my hair shaved off and a bunch of the gafes,

the guys that later turned into the Zeta cartel,

military men were in charge of our training

and I went through that process.

In what field were you and why is your head being shaved?

And what the hell was going through your mind?

What was the leap that you took?

I was sold the idea of this being a new

Americanized police force that they were constructing.

In Mexico. In Mexico.

So elite special force kind of.

Prestigious, elite, the people in charge of our training

were a lot basically ex-Mexican gafe people.

Gafes are what the special forces kind of originated.

A lot of their members turned into the Zeta cartel.

So they were brutal in their training.

We were sold this idea of it being scientific,

like educated based and like a career path.

And all of a sudden we’re in this refurbished prison

that wasn’t good enough to be a prison

and they turned it into a training ground.

And I quickly kind of realized that they were training us

to be a paramilitary group,

not a community policing organization,

which in my mind, I thought that’s what

we were gonna be doing.

What was the hardest process of that training for you?

Because this is like a fragile, innocent boy

becomes a man kind of process.

They’re turning us into something that they could use.

So it’s a breaking down.

They break down the individual.

Physically and mentally?

Yeah, I think it’s a half done initiation process,

I think in a way, looking at it from now to the past.

The shaving of the hair, the stripping off your identity,

everybody gets a number.

The uniforms, the running around

and being treated like human garbage.

The first thing they said to us

when we were lined up in that field was,

hay pan y verga para comer aqui, se acabo el pan.

Which means there’s bread and dick to eat here.

And the bread ran out a week ago, right?

So it was, I mean, I can’t equate it to anything

in the military here in the United States

because people down there could actually

get physical with us.

I mean, they could actually hit us

and punch us and shit like that,

which is not allowed here anymore,

at least in most of the militaries

and as horrible as down there.

AK-47s being shot around us to simulate reality,

basically causing hearing loss, that type of stuff.

So chaos, abuse, really challenging you.


Again, physically and mentally.

And an open door there always.

So if you don’t wanna be here, you can just walk out.

And the more you go into it,

time-wise you’re more invested you are.

So in a way you’re kind of building your own chains

while you’re going through that process.

Were you tempted to walk out?

Yeah, several times, several times.

Specifically seeing some of the ways

that people that I thought were better

or stronger than me were walking out or quitting

because of something that happened in there.

There was some sexual assault stuff

happening in there as well.

Were you afraid of that?

Always, you know, you’re in a place like that

and there’s females in the environment

and some of the instructors are doing what they do.

So that was like a cause for alarm.

I mean, these people are in charge of our safety

and education and look at what’s happening here.

So you could see some of the smarter ones leaving,

not looking at this as a viable choice for life.

How did that change you that those few months?

I had this motivation,

this idealistic motivation in my head,

making a difference and they drill a lot of nationalistic

kind of the flag marching,

it being part of a group and the group being,

you know, behind you and all of this.

What was the nationalistic pride?

It was in the nation of Mexico?

Yeah, yeah.

What’s the vision of this great nation of Mexico

that you were, did you believe, did it get into your blood?

It got into my, I mean, it’s an indoctrination,

you know, it’s a paramilitary group.

So everything there is basically modeled after the military.

So that’s what they were trying to kind of instill in us.

I was a team leader in there after three months,

basically I was, we went through a bunch of trials,

physical trials, mental trials and stuff like that.

And some of us were named team leaders and I, you know,

bought into it, you know, I’m the, I’m supposed to be here.

Look at me, I’m making headways.

I’m sticking out a bit, you know,

and I was pretty proud of what I was going through there,

six months.

Then you get the reality check when you signed

the dotted line and how that, none of it really meant

anything as far as what we were about to go out and do,

you know, an example of this,

we were trained with a 92 FS Beretta,

which is a nine millimeter pistol, Italian made.

We got to shoot 20 rounds out of that gun.

And then we, when we got out, we were handed a Glock 17,

which I’ve never seen one in my life.

I was trying to figure out where the safety was

and a few other people there were handling those guns

in a horrible manner.

So we were very under-trained, under-equipped

and there was a lot of assumptions about what we knew

and all of a sudden we’re being cast into this,

the start of one of the bloodiest

and longest lived modern conflicts in our history

that doesn’t get called that,

but it’s basically been an ongoing war in Mexico

that is still to this day, you know, amassing bodies.

So the Mexican drug war.

The Mexican drug war, which is, you know,

it’s hard to pinpoint exactly when it started

because when I was going through training,

there was already stuff going on.

I went into training in 2004 and there were already,

you know, major cartel related events all over Mexico

by then, but not at the size or scope

as I was about to go into, you know,

when President Felipe Calderon kind of took office down there

and actually officially kind of kicked it off

by putting the military in play as part of a,

as part of it basically militarized the drug war,

you know, including us.

Who are the major players in this drug war?

So the politicians, the military, the police force,

the cartels, all Mexican, then the United States,

China, just to lay out all the pieces on the board.

First off, there are giant local drug markets in Mexico

that are fought over, you know,

just local drug markets that are huge in scope.

So no exporting to other locations?

Just to start, yeah.

So a big problem in Mexico is basically

those local drug markets.

And an example of that and one I have a lot of experience

with is the one in Tijuana,

which not only feeds the local populace,

but also feeds the populace from San Diego

that crosses down into Tijuana and buys their product there.

And now, you know, a phenomenon that’s occurring now

is marijuana trafficking is going from California

down into Mexico because they produce better weed,

you know, which is fascinating to see now.

So there’s already a channel

and you’re kind of like reusing that channel.

Yeah, there’s a lot of people and vehicles getting checked

when they drive down.

And Tijuana is being called San Diego South now

because, you know, all the economic migrants,

you know, are living down there.

90% of all houses in Tijuana,

new houses are being bought up by Americans.

So that’ll tell you something about the impact and change

that’s going on down there.

So you have these local drug markets

that are being fought over.

You also have these drug routes that go through Mexico,

up into Mexico, around Mexico, through the ocean,

under the wall, you know, drug tunnels over the wall

and on backpacks on migrants

that go up into the United States.

Not only do the cartels make money off drug trafficking,

but also extortion, money laundering,

paid protection schemes.

You know, any mining operation in Mexico

will have to pay protection, you know,

or else they’ll get hit.

A lot of times the largest money makers

for some of these criminal groups are, you know,

protecting and taxing anybody that goes across the border.

So that’s also a big issue.

And it’s not just, again,

some Americans think it’s like the cartels, you know,

they imagine this single or maybe two or three groups.

There’s several out there.

I don’t have a current estimate,

but last time I checked,

it was somewhere in the vicinity of 50 to 70,

different groups, some small,

that just dedicate themselves

to a single little town somewhere.

There are armed groups

that are basically in control of that area

to some bigger federations like the Sinaloa Cartel,

which is probably currently the largest

and most powerful one in Mexico.

And the New Generation Cartel,

which is growing exponentially right now.

So these criminal groups are players in that conflict.

Then another player that doesn’t get talked about

is politics, politicians.

There’s an ongoing discussion that has been going on,

I think, since Trump was elected

about cartels being terrorist organizations or not,

or if they fit that description.

Well, you know, we are living through multiple assassinations

on political candidates out in Mexico right now.

And most of those assassinations are motivated

by one side sponsoring one candidate

and the other side sponsoring the other.

What I mean by sides, I mean cartel groups.

So they have elected officials that are on the take.

And this is, we have many governors

who are under investigation on the run

or in prison right now, state governors.

So politics is involved in it.

That’s a big player as well.

That doesn’t, you know,

when you think about the cartel problems,

you don’t think, well, some, at least some,

most people don’t think about that aspect of it.

So to have integrity as a politician in Mexico

means you have no protection

and under constant threat of assassination.

We’ve just seen the arrest and prosecution

of the head of all Conrad Cartel operations

when I was active in the form of Garcia Luna,

who was, he was the guy, Felipe Calderon,

who kicked off the drug war.

That was his guy.

Turns out he was on the take at a level.

Is there like a spectrum of how on the take you can be?

Are there ethical lines that you can cross?

Some of it is money.

And then is it possible to operate in a gray area

that does not result in destructive ethical violations,

deep ethical violations?

I have no idea.

I don’t think, I don’t think there is realistically.

I mean, anything that kind of supports some of these groups,

you’re supporting things of a horrible nature.

I just posted recently on my Instagram account

of a lady that was in Guanajuato.

She’s one of seven recently assassinated women

that are looking for their kids, basically.

There’s a bunch of groups and organizations out there

in Mexico and some in Tijuana that I’ve actually walked with

who are taking control of trying to find the bodies

of their kids.

That’s her up there.

Maria Carmela Vasquez, a mother who searched

for a missing son, was shot to death outside her home

on Sunday.

Her son, Osmar Vasquez, disappeared on June 14th.

The 46-year-old woman is the fifth mother

to be killed this year while searching

for their missing loved ones.

She was a member of the Payamo Missing Person Collective.

There’s many groups out in Mexico

who basically have given up on trusting the government

to find their kids.

The number of missing in Mexico is a debated topic

because the government itself doesn’t release those numbers

or at least hasn’t done a good job about keeping them

and or releasing them.

Mexico is a country that has industrialized body disposal.

In Tijuana, we had the stew maker,

the legendary stew maker, which is a guy

that basically used caustic acid

to get rid of bodies at a massive level.

So there’s a separate operation for getting rid

of bodies and murdering the people.

At least in Tijuana, we saw that phenomenon

and it’s obvious that it’s going on all over Mexico.

Who’s having those discussions about mass murder

and getting rid of people?

I’ve been reading a lot about World War II recently

and there’s aggressive innovation on the Nazi side

of how to get rid of a large number of people.

It’s for the longest time, both the Soviets

and the Soviets were more brutal with this.

It’s literally, it’s a engineering problem

of how you kill a large number of people

and get rid of their bodies.

So the Soviets were more into just laying people down

into the grave face down and then shooting them

in the back of the head and then doing that on mass scale.

So you just pile people on.

And then there was obviously innovation with the Holocaust

in terms of gassing people and all that kind of stuff.

I’m not sure exactly where these trade craft skills

are coming from specifically.

You hear discussions of Israelis training

some of the cartel groups back in the late nineties,

specifically the Arionofis cartel.

There’s a lot of stories about that.

A security specialist coming down and showing them things

like how to make caustic soda,

how to put rocks inside of bodies

and then chicken wire them around

and throw them into the ocean or river

so that their bodies don’t float.

And when you kind of-

You put rocks inside of body

to make sure the body doesn’t float.

So you open up the intestinal tract, put rocks inside,

you cut where tattoos are, you take off hands and faces

and throw them somewhere else

and you wrap them in chicken wire.

So make it not identifiable.

Yeah, and throw them into a body of water.

And this is a horrible thing, but it’s actually-

It’s a craft, it’s a trade craft.

It’s trade craft and there’s a link to the US

as far as that trade craft.

You have to remember that the United States

had a thing called School of the Americas and the CIA

and they showed things and a lot of that stuff

is out there in the hands of people

that are of that generation.

So there’s a manual-

There’s a manual somewhere.

Like with chapters and it’s like

how to get rid of the body.

There’s manuals out there.

Under time constraints or what are,

how identifiable can the body be afterwards?

What are geographical constraints?

All that kind of stuff.

I think that was common back in the early 2000s

and maybe the late 90s

when some of these things were going on.

But they’ve lost even that

as far as respect for the government

or bodies being found.

Right now what you usually see is just bodies being burnt

to a crisp and buried in a field somewhere.

That’s usually what you’ll see.

Some of the groups like this woman belong to

basically taking it upon themselves

to go out to find clandestine graves

in the outskirts of the towns that they live in,

probing the ground with these metal probes

and seeing if whatever they encounter

in the bottom of these clandestine graves

stinks or not.

If they find IDs or clothing,

they kind of gather that

and they basically present it

to the investigative authorities

in the towns or the states they live in,

which basically are doing their jobs.

Over 90% of all murders in Mexico were never solved.

I mean, it’s,

so they’ve even stopped trying

to get rid of bodies in that way.

How does a cartel take power?

How does it gain control of this local area

that you mentioned and then grow,

take control of a region?

And how does it do so in this dynamic relationship

between politicians and the military and the police force?

It’s a thing that happens over time.

There has always been a big effort,

even when I was in,

to buy or own certain members of the police force.

Even when we’re going through training,

some people get pulled out during training

because they were found out to have some sort of parent

or sibling that was a cartel member

or their FBI background check came back negative,

you know, when they were already in the training program.

So I think part of it is,

first off, they take advantage of the fact

that Mexico is a young country.

It’s a country of young people.

We have a big group of young people

that have little to no opportunities to come up.

When I was in, when I went to take that career path,

a lot of my friends took the other option.

They went to work for some of these criminal groups.

So they have this going for them.

They basically have a lot of bodies to hire cheaply.

And leverage in terms of forcing those bodies

to do whatever is needed

because the alternative for those people is nothing.

There’s no options.

So you have a kid somewhere who is working on a field,

or you have a kid like me that was out of the job,

out of school.

And the only options for me was this ad in the newspaper,

which seemed like a long shot,

or going with some of my friends that had cars now

and were hanging out all night at these bars.

And some of them had, you know,

Draco AK-47 pistols in their cars

and it would look cool, you know.

So there is a trajectory.

There’s many trajectories possible in your life

where you could have been still operating

in a criminal organization in Mexico.

Yeah, I mean, there’s not a lot of options, you know.

Do you think you’d be good at it?

I don’t know.

I mean, I’m pretty good at what I do now,

which is teaching people how to detect it

and kind of fight against it, you know.

So I think-

I have a sense that the skills transfer pretty well.

That’s also the dark side of this whole thing.

A lot of the people that I used to work with,

you know, I know things and I have some training

and I had some specialized training.

And I currently do, I’ve done, you know,

presentations for the Secret Service and the FBI

and you name it, I’ve gone there and shown them what I do.

A lot of the people that I used to work with

who are out of the job are in the wind, you know.

And some of these people are way more trained than I am,

you know.

It’s interesting what the reason why I get looked for

and they ask me questions

is because I actually have the experience

that my university was the most dangerous city

on the planet.

And when people ask me about some of that stuff,

like I could speak from experience

as far as encountering some of that directly.

Some of the people that I used to work with

who were way better at it than I am are in the wind.

Interesting thing in Mexico,

if you are of a police organization

and you get fired or you quit,

you are ineligible to join another police organization.

That discounts you.

So for somebody like me,

who was a professional operations group member

or a police officer in Mexico of that region,

there’s no options for me outside of that.

So they themselves basically have created

this inescapable box for some of these people

that go into that line of work.

And where do they go after?

I’ve heard offers of $12,000 to join

some of the organizations out there.

Plus, you know, they get benefits,

not like the government, you know.

I’m still waiting for my liquidation check.

This has been out of service for like six, seven years.

I’m still waiting for my check.

So some of these people,

it’s obvious that the opportunities

are presented to them out there are stronger, you know.

And again, the youth is what gets eaten by this war.

And that’s one of the main things that they start with,

just the youth.

We had a phenomenon in Tijuana,

early, late 90s, early 2000s called the Narco Juniors.

Narco Juniors were basically bored,

middle class or upper class families,

had kids that were bored

and they just joined some of these cartel groups.

These cartel groups saw in them opportunities

to get into regular industry,

to go through the family businesses,

to kind of establish themselves,

use some of those businesses for storage

or figure out how to use

some of their transportation businesses for drug muelling.

So this is how they start in getting into different areas,

you know, that they regularly couldn’t.

And, you know, that’s how it starts, you know.

You owe somebody,

they get into paid protection type schemes,

which are also common all over Mexico.

And sooner or later, they start owning businesses

and they regulate some of their income.

So they become part of the local economy in a big way.

I had this experience in Sinaloa

where we were driving down this shitty street

and all of a sudden it became a cool, nice,

you know, little curvy highway type thing.

And I looked around there, it’s like, this is a nice road.

And the guy was with me, he said,

yeah, the cartels built it.

You go to some of these towns

and the cartels are the government there.

They build the hospitals, they built the churches,

they built the schools.

COVID happens, they’re enforcing the mask mandates,

you know, they’re out enforcing the mask mandates,

the stay at home policies.

They’re the ones delivering supplies

to the townspeople in bags, you know,

courtesy of so-and-so cartel, you know.

So they become the Robin Hood characters

of their environments.

If they’re smart, you know,

these groups basically turn into that, you know,

Robin Hood, you know,

stealing from the rich and giving to the poor,

or at least that’s the projection that they give.

What’s the role of violence in this operation?

I’m extreme, you know,

it used to be that there were rules, as you say,

like, you know, don’t go after kids, don’t go after women,

but all those things are gone now.

You know, they had been gone for decades, I think.

The escalation of violence, you know,

you kill one of mine, I’ll kill four of yours,

you kill four of mine, I’ll go after your family

because you were in hiding.

There’s stories of high-level cartel people

getting their sons and daughters, you know,

murdered, mutilated in revenge killings.

So I think it’s at a point where it’s spiraled out

of semblance of a rule set as far as who can get exposed

to some of this violence.

Those highly-produced ISIS videos

where they show torture and executions,

according to some of the sources that I’ve talked to,

here in the United States,

that were looking at that phenomenon,

they said that it seems to be that that was influenced

by some of the narco blog videos

that were coming out of Mexico in the early 2000s.

Basically, that some of these groups

were the first ones that got wind of the fact

that you can export terror or the horror

that an execution has through social media.

Way back when Facebook was a bit more,

a bit more of a wildland area,

you could see these in newsfeeds,

videos of executions, tortures, and stuff like that

coming out of Mexico.

On Facebook?

Way back when.


This was a different time.

For people who criticize social media and the moderation,

it’s a tough job because the brutal world out there.

I mean, I remember seeing some of these ISIS videos

on Facebook way back when,

and they cracked down on all that.

But one that’s kind of clear,

and I’m not gonna say where to find it,

but people out there might have seen it

because some of these videos get shared

through WhatsApp groups and chat groups out there.

One of the ones that caught my attention way back when

was a guy getting, two guys getting executed by a chainsaw.

And people can kind of imagine what that would be like,


This is produced on purpose?


Like it’s videotaped on purpose?

It’s a cartel group, two rival cartel members.

And a way to send a message to those of the rival cartel

is to basically execute these people in front of a camera.

I mean, you can’t get to your rivals,

but you can make them see what they’re doing,

or at least make their people look at what happens

if you invade their territory.

Just an escalation of brutality and the violence as well.

I mean-

And that leads to terror

and the mass communication of terror.

Yeah, I mean, you have videos of some of these people

engaging in cannibalism in front of a video

to see how brutal they are,

or people taking out somebody’s heart while they’re alive

and filming it.

And it used to be social media as a whole,

you would see some of these videos,

they would get put down in a few days.

But now there’s telegram groups, there’s LiveLeaks,

there’s a bunch of other sites out there

that kind of disperse some of these videos.

And it’s basically a bulletin board for them

as far as, hey, you got into my territory,

well, this is what’s gonna happen to you.

Is there a game theoretic way to remove

this kind of brutality, to deescalate the brutality?

Because it seems like if a cartel takes power

that exceeds the power of politicians in a locality,

there’s a strong incentive to reduce the brutality,

to crack down on this kind of chainsaw executions.

You know, there was a recent leak of government files,

called the Guacamaya leaks.

It’s our version of WikiLeaks, I guess.

And it was mostly documents

coming out of the Mexican military.

I haven’t seen it talked about a lot here in stateside,

but it’s a pretty big thing down in Mexico.

And in some of those documents,

it reveals how powerless the government is.

I mean, as far as the military goes.

So that’s another player in Mexico, the military.

The military has been out in force in the streets,

basically doing a policing role

since Felipe Calderon was the administration.

He basically militarized the drug war.

Felipe Calderon was to the right of the political spectrum.

And his main rival, who was way to the left,

is now in power.

And one of the campaign promises he had

was to demilitarize the drug war,

to send the military back to its barracks and all that.

And he’s basically continuing on.

They just passed some legislation

that basically keeps the military on the streets

for a few more years, you know?

And I think some of these documents that were leaked

are very telling as far as why that is.

They have, the military now has a vast amount of power

when it comes to security industry.

I mean, they’re in charge of building airports

and train lines in Mexico now.

Their documents themselves show how certain regions

in Mexico who have a specific military presence

work for one side or favor one side of the cartel.

They’re corrupted too.

So there’s these military forces

that are in part corrupted.


And then the cartel, which operates with violence,

somehow finding a balance between each other.

It just feels like throughout human history,

there’s dictators or leaders that come

into situations like this

and really crack down on the violence.


So it seems like that’s not happening.

It seems like there’s a kind of

market of violence happening here.

There’s a systemic amnesia that happens

every presidency in Mexico.

So the president comes in,

he has five to six years to do whatever he needs to do,

and he does everything.

And as soon as he’s gone,

everything he did, even what was working,

gets chopped off.

Police organizations get defunct

or their names get changed.

Uniforms change.

So there’s a lot of turnover everywhere?

Every five years federally, there’s a turnover

and things change.

What about the cartels?

Do they persist?


Do the leadership persist?

I mean, the Sinaloa cartel has had a figurehead

behind it since the 80s, the same one.

I mean, it’s a federation of smaller cartels

that are all kind of linked up,

but pretty much historically,

he was considered the head of the Sinaloa cartel.

Elmira Zambada has been there since the 80s.

So in a way, yeah, he’s persisting.

He’s surviving all of these presidencies.

Again, these documents that were leaked

are a clear sign of what strengths and weaknesses

there are as far as the government’s main weapon

against some of these criminal groups,

which is the military.

And if people doubt this,

they can look it up now online

because all these documents are out there.

But just a clear thing,

the Mexican Navy or the Marina

doesn’t work with the Mexican army.

They don’t speak to each other.

So that should tell you everything you need to know

as far as trust.

That could be just bureaucratic dysfunction.

They don’t trust each other.

Are they both struggling with the problem of corruption?

Some of these documents that are already out there

talk about the ports in Mexico,

which are probably the main conduit

of precursors of methamphetamines

and precursors of things like fentanyl into the country.

They’re operated and guarded by the Marina, right?

So these things are happening under their watch.

And then you get talk about the army in certain places,

basically working counter cartel operations

to specifically one side, not another,

as far as the rival groups out there.

And we have a long history of some of these groups going,

military groups going rogue.

Los Zetas are a prime example of this.

These special forces units that basically turned around

and went to work as bodyguards for the Gulf cartel

and then decided to,

but what they basically did

was an internship with a cartel.

They went out there,

did bodyguarding for the Gulf cartel

and then realized they can do a better job

than they were doing.

So they started their own,

sparking off one of the, again,

one of the bloodiest kind of like internal cartel wars

in Mexico’s history.

Who was El Chapo?

El Chapo was a part of the leadership

or at least a faction of the leadership in the cartel.

It’s a federation of different, of small organizations.

Well, I say small organizations,

basically families or organizations

that conform this larger group,

which is the Sinaloa cartel that is based out of Sinaloa.

Basically, they are people that have a family

and power nucleus is there in Sinaloa.

I mean, who was he?

I think he was a high level operator

for the Sinaloa cartel.

He had his own drug routes, his own networks,

his family nucleus down there

is still in control of some of those operations.

So his arrest really didn’t change anything,

but he wasn’t the mastermind, number one leader

that I think the media and the government

kind of portrayed him as.

Who was the mastermind?

If you go down there and you read

what most of the brave journalists in Mexico that we have,

say another aspect of this war

is that a lot of journalists get killed.

I think Mexico has,

I think has some of the top numbers in the world.

And this is no secret to anybody.

El Mayo Zambada is the name of the historical figurehead

of this cartel,

or at least somebody who people theorize

or suspect to be the main guy

or the main person that is in charge

of some of this criminal group.

Is he still alive?

That’s the going rumor that he’s still very much alive.

And the interesting thing about him

is that he learned his craft in Los Angeles.

So people thinking that Sinaloa cartel

isn’t a Mexican thing.

It’s actually, he apparently learned a lot of his craft

from people in the United States.

And that’s the craft of leadership,

the craft of business, the craft of which aspect of the craft?

The craft of getting a product from Colombia,

putting it through Mexico.

And the logistics.

The logistics part of it.

And he somehow is operating in the shadows.

So he’s not a known entity.

I don’t have a clear number of this,

but he was interviewed by a magazine called Proceso

in Mexico.

And some pictures were taken of him.

It was over 10 years ago, probably.

And that’s the last time anybody’s

ever seen a picture of him.

What’s it like to be a journalist in that?

So can a journalist have a conversation with him and live?

Nonetheless, he asks to have that conversation.

I think he reached out to this journalist to talk about it.

There’s a media wing to the work that we do,

a sister page called Demoler.

And it’s run by some pretty good people.

And the way we met is that I was basically training them

how to work in hostile environments.

And they were like,

oh, we’re gonna go report on cartel activity in Mexico.

And I was like, you know, that is a year and a half ago,

a reporter went to the president’s daily briefing,

press conference that he has.

They call them La Mañaneras.

President, the president, Manuel Lopez Obrador,

and told him to his face, like,

I have threats on my life.

They’re trying to kill me.

And it happened.

There’s been a slew of assassinations and murders

of members of the press all over Mexico.

It’s not an easy job.

Either they say too much,

or they say things that favor one side or the other,

which is another aspect of it that is interesting.

I don’t consider myself a reporter.

I don’t report on the news in Mexico.

I have friends that do that very well.

I commentate on some of it only.

But you see a lot of these cartel reporters go down there,

talk to a specific side,

and basically speak one side of the story.

And that is not something that the other side wants.

You know, if you go down there and speak to one side,

you’re saying what they want people to know or hear.

So in a way, you’re kind of spreading

some of their cartel propaganda in a way.

And that’s how some people, you know, get shot.

Do you think it’s possible to go in there

and have a conversation with a cartel leader?

With Sean Penn?

Or somebody like me, or somebody like Sean Penn?

This is what I will say.

After that whole Sean Penn thing,

I think a lot of people would reconsider

meeting with anybody of any level

that has any notoriety here in the United States.

They wouldn’t trust anybody to get that close.

There are people out there that will talk to reporters,

you know, people that are working on a laboratory

somewhere in a hillside somewhere down south,

you know, in the Sierra.

You know, low-level people that get authorization

to speak to reporters and stuff like that,

but they don’t say anything that isn’t being taught

or shown in various different ways

or outlets out there for them.

I mean, some of these guys have Instagram accounts,

you know, some of these guys have blog about it.

But not the leaders.

TikTok, no, not the leaders.

I think after what happened to El Chapo Guzman,

I think that opportunity, that window was closed

for some of the leadership down there.

I think, I disagree.

I think they’re just more sensitive,

realizing that there has to be a deep trust.

It’s not just anybody and not any high profile.

I’ve gotten a chance to speak to some very high profile

leaders that don’t speak to journalists

and they understand the value of trust.

If they have something to say,

which I don’t think they do, you know,

I don’t think they, unless at some point in the future,

which is something I suspect might be coming,

that there is some sort of armed intervention

and or external attack on some of these criminal groups

that really puts the pressure on them.

You don’t think there’s a human aspect to this,

of a human being wanting their story to be known?

Versus, is this different than the propaganda machine

of I have something to say,

I have some message to put out there

to play the game of politics and power

and money and all that kind of stuff.

Isn’t there also a human being underneath all that armor

that for the sake of perhaps ego,

legacy wants to be understood?

I think in a way they already do that.

There’s corridos, which are basically Mexican folk songs

that get sung about some of them.

So in a way, some of these singers

are reporting on some of their lives

and it’s like, it’s a great honor

to have a corrido made about you.

Somebody made a corrido about me

based on my interviews, right?

I didn’t pay for it, so it’s a real one.

It feels cool.

So creating a myth, the legend of the man.

I think it’s about, I think a way

you can find somebody like that

is somebody that wants to get their story

specifically clear and straight.

Coming from that culture

and getting to work for the government down there

and then not working for the government down there

and being on the outside, being critical

of not only the government that is in place now,

but also the government that I actually work with.

I can tell you that there’s villains

all over the place down there.

Everybody’s a villain at all levels

in some way, shape or form.

And some of these people, I think in a way,

including El Chapo, I think that some of that meeting

was about film rights and stories

and being able to get his story out there.

I think, I’m not too sure because I wasn’t there,

but I suspect that some of that was going on.

If you can bring an honest voice down there,

they can trust to put that out there.

Yeah, I mean, I think you could try.

I’m interested in that kind of thing

because ultimately in some of those places,

like inside a cartel at the very top

is when you can really look at the raw aspects

of human nature in a way you can’t necessarily elsewhere.

There’s a youth coming into power down there.

And when I say youth, I mean,

some of the old guard is going out

and some of the new guard is coming in.

An example of this is El Chapo Guzman’s sons

who are now in their own right,

kind of gaining legendary status.

There was an attempted arrest on his son

that led to the famous Culiacanazo incident,

which we are now learning more about

because some of the Guacamaya leaks

are kind of speaking more about what happened that day.

Basically a federal operation,

they say to arrest El Chapo Guzman’s son,

turned into a siege to try and get him free.

They called in the Calvary,

basically the whole of the Sinaloa cartel

showed up to try and rescue him.

Interesting thing about that is

in reading some of the documents

and also just seeing some of the videos

and stuff like that came out of that incident.

The cartels were the ones evacuating

the citizenship from the area.

They were the ones going restaurant to restaurant

saying, hey, if you want to exit the city,

go through here, take your families, get down,

but you have to leave because the army’s coming here

and they’re gonna fight us.

So there’s like a deep morality to all of that.

Underneath the violence, there’s a humanity.

I mean, it’s their home.

It is their home.

And they were fighting for their home

and they were fighting for leadership from their home.

There is a morality, there is a humanity there.

And again, if people want to paint them all

with the villainy aspects,

everybody’s a villain in somebody else’s story,

if you kind of look at it that way.

People should check out your Patreon,

check out your field notes.

You’re a really good writer, your Instagram too.

You write about, you have a quote

in your field notes about villains.

Quote, I once worked for a villain,

a savior to some and a biblical demon of old to others,

a true product of his environment.

He was the best and the worst of us.

We’re all potential villains in someone else’s story,

he would say to us as we would head out into the unknowns

that the night had waiting for us.

It was during one of these nights that I looked around me

and saw horns and pitchforks among my people

and realized what he meant.

We were no knights of the round table,

whatever we were, we were needed.

In the end, I guess that justified

most of what was about to happen.

Do you think El Chapo, do you think people like him

are good or evil?

I think there’s no one without the other.

I think there’s a cost to their goodness that they do,

the roads they build, the hospitals,

the career paths that they pay for.

There are doctors in Mexico that their careers were paid for

by some of these groups.

And they do a lot of amazing good for the community.

I remember there was a surgeon reconstructing cleft palates.

In one of my travels that I did out there,

I spent some time actually going out there

after I got out of the job to train people

and the type of stuff that I show people.

And they told me like, I told them like,

you’re doing God’s work.

This stuff is like legit, this is God’s work,

building smiles for people.

I was like, yeah.

And then can I talk to you?


He said, my career path was paid for by cartel,

a group of cartel members.

They paid for my career path

because they wanted somebody on hand

that could fix their teeth.

Do you think some aspect of that

is just sort of manipulative control

or is some of it also just, again,

a care for the population, for fellow human beings

that are one of your own?

I think both.

I think there’s, again, it’s hard to just make them saints

or devils, some of the good they do

in some of their communities

and don’t ask anything for in return.

And even if they don’t ask it for anything in return

where the military shows up,

they are immediately met with rocks and roadblocks

and everybody’s main weapon down there,

since most Mexicans can’t buy or own firearms,

the main weapon down there is silence and their eyes

to report to the people that they consider the good guys

in their environment, right?

So that’s a hard question.

I think there’s a bit of both

and both the government and the criminal groups

that are operating down there.

Silence is their main weapon.

So El Chapo is currently in prison.

Is he worth talking to?

I’d say yes.

Is there things that to you are interesting about him

that are still not understood?

Is he a window into something that you don’t understand

about that world still or are curious about in that world?

I think he’s a window into the family dynamics

of that world.

When I say family dynamics,

Mexico has a big thing about compadres and hermanos.

We have people that we call family

that are not necessarily our family.

He is somebody that witnessed the construction

of what is now the Sinaloa cartel.

He was in it way back when.

He started off as a farmer and then went into trafficking.

He’s from a town called Bandera Huata,

which is basically, that’s the Wakanda of cartels.

Basically, that’s where a lot of that originates.

The things that he saw as far as how

some of these things got built,

I think would be an interesting topic of conversation

with somebody like him.

So that story is a story of evolving family dynamics.

So part of the story of the cartel is individual humans.

Marrying other families, getting named padrino,

basically godfathers to other people’s kids.

Forming family and blood ties and influence ties

to people not only in Mexico but in the United States.

How that dynamic and family dynamic is still there.

So he’s gone, he’s in prison,

but he’s probably on his way

to be our next clandestine saint.

You go to the Chapel of Malverde.

Malverde is basically a Mexican Robin Hood folk saint

down there who is a saint of traffickers.

And at his shrine, you have a small little chapel,

a shrine right next to it.

So he’s on his way to sainthood in Mexico.

You know, not recognized by the Catholic church,

but that doesn’t matter in Mexico anymore.

Speaking to somebody like him,

who you can consider him somebody that lost,

you know, he’s arrested, but his family’s okay.

His legacy is out there.

He’s gonna be named, he’s probably gonna be

the next folk saint when he passes away.

Do you think he feels like the new wave

of what the cartel has become has betrayed him

and left him behind?

Or, because it seems like the way the cartel operated

has changed over the decades.


Well, number one, their power and influence is bigger.

You know, there are Sinaloa cartel operations in Columbia,

straight to the, like in the source of it.

And then there are clear, they have a clear presence

in places like Chicago and Los Angeles.

They’re in the United States.

The whole thought process that a lot of Americans have,

like, oh, we don’t want that trouble over here.

We don’t want them to get here,

like build the wall and all this.

So they’re deeply integrated into legitimate businesses.

I mean, they’ve been having kids and families up here

since for a long time.

Some of these people have American passports

that work not only directly for them,

but have blood ties down there.

You know, there’s been dragnets and arrests

of some of these criminal organizations.

In the United States, a new generation cartel

had one, two, three years ago,

where I think it was Operation Anaconda,

I think it was called.

They arrested over 80 of their operatives.

And this is a new cartel that is very militaristic

and growing in Mexico.

And they had over 80 arrests in the United States,

you know, of members of them operating here.

And so you could be a legitimate operator

inside the United States.

That’s hard to detect.

Makes you wonder how many in the U.S. government,

the politicians here.

The role of the United States in the drug war,

financially in terms of power, is very big.


Surely there’s politicians that have a finger into this.

Immigration is part of it.

Illegal immigration is part of it.

And the influence that that has

as a bargaining chip and a political chip.

We saw this with the first caravan kind of coming up

and how it was politicized.

The money, Fast and Furious,

and guns being basically let walk down into Mexico.

People that don’t know, basically,

the ATF had this operation where they were

looking at straw purchasers of firearms.

Basically people buying up a specific type of firearms

that were on a shopping list that the cartels wanted to buy.

Including, you know, 50 cals, FN-57 pistols,

which are small pistols with a high velocity round

that will go through a bulletproof vest.

AR-15s of all kinds that could quickly be modified

into full auto down in Mexico.

With drilling a few holes and making a few things to them.

So these people were buying all these,

the ATF was watching them,

and allowing them to walk those firearms into Mexico

under the guise of trying to track them somehow.

Which doesn’t make a lot of sense for most people

that kind of look at that operation.

The only reason people found out about it was

because of the murder of a few federal agents,

of the U.S. federal agents that were killed with those guns.

One of my friends was shot with one of those pistols

outside of his house.

And they shot him and they shot his wife.

Both of them were killed.

Daughter was in the backseat, lost part of her arm.

When that happened, the guns were unique.

They were like, oh, we didn’t ever,

the mata policias is what they call them down there,

the cop killers.

I hadn’t seen those before.

So they were unique and interesting.

Later on in life, I was watching CNN

and seeing the hearings going on.

I was like, oh, that’s where they came from.

Two federal agents changed a lot and it was politicized.

There was a whole scandal up here.

But in Mexico, how many people died with those firearms?

Being let down, being let go down there.

And also what type of sentiment

do you think the local populace has of the United States

after all those guns were basically handed over

to some of these groups?

Gun trafficking is another giant part of the equation

and part of the problem down there

as far as the amount of munitions, weapons.

And now we were also getting tradecraft material

from conflict zones outside of Mexico.

So weaponized drones.

The first time we saw some of those weaponized drones

was in Syria.

And like a few weeks later,

grenades were being dropped on the roofs

of some public officials’ building.

The cartels are using drones?

Yeah, that’s been going on for a while.

There’s a place in Michoacan

that has some pretty interesting videos.

And the interesting part of it

is because the federal police down there

are actually working hand in hand

with a United Carteles Unidos group,

which is basically the local cartels

to try and fight off the New Generation Cartel

moving into Michoacan.

So even the federal forces

are fighting with the cartels

to try and keep this larger cartel out.

And there’s videos of these civilian drones

basically dropping explosives.

They found some explosive testing ranges out there

that are basically replicating stuff

that you would see the IRA use

during the troubles out there from homemade mortars.

You know, IEDs have been used in Mexico.

Not that much, but they’re making like a presence again.

You know, we don’t have a lot of ordnance around like Iraq,

but we do have a big mining industry down there.

So mining explosives of all kinds are pretty easy to get.

So you start seeing that.

And also, I mean, there’s some exotic weaponry

coming in from the South now and from the ocean.

Some of it is probably US military equipment

sold to various South American governments

that are now not as stable as they were,

and they’re kind of making their way into black markets.

So a lot of those 50 cal

and vehicle mounted technical type machine guns

and some of the RPGs and MANPADs

or remote control guided missiles

that have been found in cartel hands

are probably making their way up from down South.

Do you get these like multimillion dollar systems

like the HIMAR system in the Ukraine?

You get like super sophisticated advanced technology

or we’re not, so like this is like military grade.

I’m not sure what the application

would be exactly in Mexico.

Some of the sophisticated stuff I see in our MANPADs,

which is basically remote guided missiles.

I’ve seen some of those found down there.

What is the application exactly?

A display of power?

There are no flight zones over parts of Mexico.

For this reason.

The New Generation Cartel took down a helicopter.

There’s been incidents of military helicopters

falling from the sky,

and they said that it was mechanical issues.

But again, I’m not gonna do conspiracy theories out there,

but there’s a lot of videos on TikTok

of Sinaloa cartel forces at parties

carrying around rocket launchers on their backs.

So there’s an increased probability of mechanical failures

over those areas when you’re flying a helicopter.

Yeah, there’s no flight zones over some parts of Mexico.

And another thing you’re seeing now is night vision,

night vision equipment that is clearly military grade

from the US that was probably abandoned

in some war field out there,

maybe Afghanistan or somewhere like that.

And it’s being found in safe houses

and in the hands of cartel forces.

You wanna talk about a scary opponent.

Somebody wearing night vision with a suppressed firearm.

Those types of capabilities are now out there.

Also, there’s this tendency to think,

and every now and then you’ll see these cartel videos

with these guys carrying around these 50 cals,

and they show up, they stand there like,

you know, boasting about their rifles.

And everybody laughed at them

because the 50 cal or anything like that

without an optic on it, you know,

it’s like you’re gonna shoot,

you’re praying shoot basically

to see if you can hit anything with it.

But now there’s a few of my sources

of seeing, you know, sophisticated laser guided range finders

and sighting systems on some of these

that are being found out there.

How much damage can 50 cal, what’s the application?

They started getting them specifically

with the proliferation of armored vehicles in Mexico.

Mexico has a giant industry in armored vehicles as far as.

So there’s a race in terms of armoring,

like protecting especially high value targets,

and then weapons that can deal with those armored,

the protected high value targets.

There was an attempted assassination

of a state prosecutor somewhere in, I think,

Central Mexico, I forget exactly where,

but she was riding around an up armored Jeep,

Cherokee, I think it was.

And their main means of firepower was 50 cals.

And that car was left in pieces.

He survived in it.

So I think the armored vehicle company that sold her

that vehicle has it in the display room.

Then before my time, probably two, three years

before I was actually active,

they tried to kill the head of public security

in the state of Baja.

And with him, it was a grenade launcher,

40 millimeter grenade launcher.

It skipped off the armored vehicle

and landed in the car behind it, made the back explode.

One of the guys that I used to work with

was actually in that car, he survived it.

But you started to see, oh, they’re using

armored vehicles now, so let’s get 50 caliber

now to try and defeat that armor.

So yeah, there’s always this race of technology

basically down there.

Armored vehicles, how do you take on an armored vehicle?

Well, there’s a few ways.

50 cals, if you can mount them in the right way

and shoot at a car like that,

or a bunch of kids with balloons and acrylic paint

on the front windshield and blind the vehicle

so it doesn’t, so they can’t drive it anymore

is another way.

Toe line across a road, painted black so you can’t see it

and cut the thing in half.

Again, I’m not saying any secrets.

These are things that people have seen out there.

Shoot at the radiator.

Some of these radiators are not,

even the more sophisticated vehicles out there

don’t have a sufficient armoring around the radiator

or the battery housing of some of these vehicles.

There was a case of a guy,

I think his nickname was El Pela Lacas

or something like that.

I wouldn’t see a lower level cartel guy.

He had an armored vehicle.

He was riding around and he got ambushed.

He shot at his car.

He was like, ah, I have armor, you can’t shoot me.

And somebody went up to his car

and just put the barrel right in the locking mechanism.

And that got him, you know?

So it’s an interesting place

as far as people getting certain types of guns.

Armor is prolific down there.

I mean, everybody down there,

all the cartel members,

you’ll see them wearing plate armor.

So that’s an issue.

It’s not like you can shoot somebody square in the chest

and it’ll go down.

Are they afraid to kill Americans?

So I know I was traveling in Ukraine on the front.

So like a lot of the journalists

would travel in like armored vehicles.

And at first I was like,

it seems like this would attract attention.


Like, it seems like they would want to hit those targets.

But then I realized over time, as I learned,

there’s a fear of killing Americans.

There could be a drastic escalation of-


It’s not worth it.

It’s kicking a beehive.


Yeah, there is a tendency to shy away

or stay away from that, you know?

I mean, they don’t want the heat or the attention.

Outside of that, everyone’s game.

Everyone’s game,

but also there’s been many cases

of Americans being killed down there.

I mean, we saw the Mormon massacre that happened down there

and all of them were American, Mexican.

They had both nationalities and blonde kids, you know,

white, being massacred in the middle of a desert

and the cars basically catching fire.

This happened and, you know,

the Americans sent the FBI down there

to kind of review some of what happened down there.

And I think that was when Trump started talking

about kind of reviving this whole notion

of cartels being labor-related terrorist organization,

probably more of a political pressure point

he was using to try and get Mexico

to reinforce its southern border, which it hasn’t.

But there’s escalation, you know?

Oh, this already happened and nothing happened,

so we can probably get away with it, you know?

And again, there’s a newer generation moving forward now

of people coming into power.

More brutal, more technically savvy.

Well, they have the experience of their parents

and the people behind them and what they’ve done

and what they’ve gone away with.

And now, yeah, more savvy about information warfare.

Their main recruiting tool is TikTok.

You go to TikTok and you’ll see a bunch of these kids

at a narco party dancing around

and some of these are videos by cartel members filming

other cartel members in cartel-controlled territory.

And that’s a window into that life

for who’s on TikTok now, kids.

And the enticing aspect of that is the money,

the fun, the high-roller life.

And the possibility of making it to a level, you know?

Yeah, a fame of respect, power, money.

Here in the US, somebody might, you know,

I want a mansion, that’s their mindset.

I want to live, you know, like that rapper.

Down there, I mean, if you can buy a house for your mom,

you know, or pay off some debts that you might have

or a car, that’s enough to kill for.

So you also, one of the many things you did

is you did security, tried to protect in this war,

tried to protect people, high-value people.


How do you do, you and others,

how is it possible to protect a high-value target

like a celebrity or an important politician

in this situation?

So I was tasked to protect the governor of Baja

and his family.

I was basically replacing a whole contingency

of people that were already there

that turned out to be corrupted.

That wasn’t my field, that was operational.

I was working with other people

doing the counter-narcotic stuff

and the director of the institution that I was in

basically called me and said,

hey, you’re gonna go and replace these people.

And I, what happened to them?


So you were known as a person that could be kind of trusted.

I was tasked for that, so I think they considered that.

And I specifically worked for a governor named

Jose Guadalupe Osuna-Millan,

who was probably one of the best governors

we have had in the state.

And people wanna see if I’m trustworthy or not,

they can ask him directly.

And I still speak to some members of his family

and we’re still friends in that way.

Is protecting people like technically

a difficult problem to solve?

For my experience in that time and in place,

he was basically spearheading the drug war in Baja

when he was in power.

So he had threats from all over,

not only him, but his family.

First thing I realized working that job in Mexico

was that we had people coming in

to do specialized training of that regard,

Israelis, teaching us how they would do things in Israel.

That didn’t make a lot of sense for us in Mexico.

We had people that had some Secret Service experience

kind of showing us how they would do like celebrity,

bodyguarding or bodyguarding somebody

maybe in California of that nature.

Didn’t make sense for us.

Then we got to experience some cross training

with NSW, Naval Special Warfare people

who were coming off protection details

in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Is there some useful crossover there?

We were struggling with the acceptance

that we were basically doing protection details

in a war zone.

So the approach that had to be taken in Mexico

was similar to the approach you would take

in Afghanistan during a war.

Some of the overt militaristic type approaches

to security that we had to adopt,

from we didn’t move him in a single armored vehicle.

We had two of them that looked exactly alike.

So when we would move around,

we would switch one car through the other every now

and then we would arrive to an event.

They would open the door and it would be one of us.

And they were like, hey, where’s the governor?

He’s in the back one.

So we would move to that.

So we had to do stuff like that.

And again, this is a young me

who didn’t have any specialized training.

I was on YouTube learning some of these things,

going online, learning about armored vehicles,

learning about architectural armor.

I think you’ve just described a large percentage

of the Ukrainian military, how they operate,

which is on YouTube,

trying to figure out how to use some of this technology.

And that’s actually incredibly effective.


You know, I do quite a lot of stuff

where I’m totally not an expert,

totally uneducated and so on.

It’s kind of surprising how quickly you can get caught up.

As we were talking offline, if you take a course,

if you talk to an expert, if you learn from an expert,

you can like catch up really quickly.

For me, it was all of a sudden,

I have this director calling me in

and I’m wearing Vans and jeans, T-shirt.

And all of a sudden I had 80 some people

that I had to move around

and I was in charge of securing planes,

and which I, what do I know about that?

Airport hangers, armored vehicle maintenance

and purchasing and figuring out how to set up

a counter assault group for a protection detail.

And I was like, where am I gonna learn all this?

Were you able to quickly figure some of these things out?

On the fly, basically, you know, as I was going,

I remember having this experience,

being in our security office on my laptop,

figuring out how to set up a counter surveillance

aside to our protection detail,

basically how to have people looking for people

that might be looking for us, you know, type thing.

And then going to San Diego, to Coronado

and training with some people from former SEAL guys

and NCIS people who did that job in war zones

and seeing them critique some of the solutions

that we came up with on the fly

and being like, oh, we never saw that before.

Oh yeah, this is, we’re doing it down there.

So getting that compliment

and also getting their feedback.

We probably do this or do that.

And it was a learning process on the fly

that was pretty, I mean, seat of your pants level.

Is it possible for the family

and for the high value person to have a sense of normalcy,

to have a normal life?

I mean, I tried.

I was already starting off on the wrong foot, basically,

because trust had been violated

by the people that I was replacing.

So I had to gain that back.

Then young kids in that family that wanted to have a,

you know, go out and stuff like that.

In the most violent city on the planet.

So I had to do my homework

and figure out places where they were safe to go to

and make friends with certain club owners

and figure out ways to put security in some of these places.

And having to create this bubble of normalcy

around some of these people was pretty difficult.

And there’s no way that that is a normal for anybody.

And, you know, God bless them.

The, I know it didn’t, I know it wasn’t easy

and I know that it affected their lives

and they lost on a big part of their youth.

Being under that security supervision and bubble

does, probably does a lot for somebody specifically

growing up like that, you know.

You lose opportunities of things that we take for granted,

you know, just going out,

just not telling anybody and going to the store, you know.

Because you want to get some snacks or something like that.

That’s not available to some of these people.

I have to be honest, when I was in Ukraine,

that was a really big benefit.

You’d escape?

No, I couldn’t hang out.

I couldn’t eat when I’m stressed.

I would fast and not eat much.

So I get lost weight.

So it’s great, it’s great for the diet.

That’s a good diet to be in.

Basically be under protective custody.

That’s a good idea for a good, you know, new diet.

And just life, it allowed me to focus,

get a lot of reading done,

focus on the important things in life.

I mean, I joke, of course,

but there’s some complexity to this

in terms of normalcy of the family,

but also just how to operate,

like have a mental clarity and a lack of fear.

Just basically be good at your job,

whatever that job is.

As a politician, as a leader, even as a soldier.

Somebody that I, again, I think it was Lisa Ola,

she said this to me,

or said something like this to a group of us,

that there’s nothing wrong with being paranoid.

It’s about educating your paranoia

and knowing what to be afraid of.

If you’re afraid of everything, you’re basically overwhelmed.

But if you start educating yourself

as far as specifically what to prioritize,

as far as what to worry about in a war zone,

working, protecting somebody,

you’re not looking at everybody’s faces,

you’re just looking at their hands

because that’s what’s gonna kill you.

That’s an example of focalizing what you’re paranoid

and what you’re afraid of.

Looking at the hands,

that’s specific to a particular situation,

but also figuring out which situations to avoid

and which is okay.

I mean, that’s ultimately

one of the biggest things you could do.

Route analysis, you have to get to the airport

and you send off two cars to analyze two routes,

and then on the fly, you just change trajectory

to create randomness and unpredictability

and have that as a security feature.

Having a convoy of four vehicles

separate into two convoys and show up in different parts

to, again, make it hard for people to guess

where you’re gonna be,

putting out false information as far as where it’s gonna be,

who’s gonna be, and that type of stuff.

It’s kind of amazing how many assassination attempts

Hitler avoided just by having a pretty strict schedule

and being a little bit off in terms of timing,

just like showing up 15 minutes late

or to a slightly different location.

We were going through training

specifically around this type of stuff

and operational training,

basically showing us how to ambush people.

When I started making a group for myself

as far as counter-ambush,

this CAT teams, they call them up here in the US,

basically a group to respond to a high violent ambush.

First off, the first rule,

if you find yourself in an ambush,

it wasn’t a successful ambush

because if you find yourself in it, you’re alive.


But if you wanna create an amazing counter-ambush team,

you have to make them ambushers.

And with ambushing, you figure out

where all the opportunities

of not only successfully doing what you need to do

are in your favor, but also to escape with your life.

We’re not gonna be received by virgins in heaven.

That’s not the type of mentality that we had down there.

But we started learning about some of these things

and also seeing cartel forces

apply some of these ambush tactics

to the military or the federal forces.

What is an ambush?

What are we talking about?

So that’s a surprise attack

with an asymmetry of power kind of thing.

There’s a contingency somewhere

moving towards a place that you control and own,

where you have the advantages,

where they can’t see you, but you can see them,

where they can’t predict you,

but you can predict where they’re gonna pass, go through,

places where they forcibly have to pass,

places where they’re predictable,

places where you can not only predict,

but also have a plan for yourself to escape

and exit that place.

So how do you train for counter ambush?

You turn into like a perfect ambusher.

That’s how you train for counter ambush.

Oh, so always trying to make sure

you have more information about other people,

you have the element of surprise, all of those things.

And Musashi would say,

you know, your enemy know his sword.

You know, basically that, you know, it’s simplified.

But there’s a lot of enemies around you in Mexico.

There’s a lot of uncertainty, right?

Because it’s, well, I guess that’s what route analysis is.

Yeah, you prepare for the probable.

And if the impossible happens,

you’re halfway out of it, hopefully, you know?

And if you find yourself in an ambush,

it wasn’t a successful one.

But you, as far as our training

and kind of the mindset, my experience with it,

the adversarial thinking part of it

has always been a very powerful one.

And I think one that a lot of people ignore,

kind of like leave to the wayside,

specifically in all conflicts out there,

there’s a tendency for a military force

or a conventional force of any kind

to be trained in a way where they dehumanize the enemy.

And when that happens,

you become blind to the enemy’s story.

It’s his capability, his story, his ability.

If you treat the other side like an inhuman monster,

it’s hard to take notes, you know?

So there’s a part of this is a radical empathy

for the quote-unquote enemy.

At least for me personally,

I wasn’t one of the guys that would grab them,

beat the shit out of them,

put them in the back of a van,

just tie them up and gag them.

So you were able to see them as human?

I learned that from my mother.

You know, she said,

nobody’s against you, Ed, they’re for themselves.

Learn this and you will make friends of enemies.

She said that when I graduated

and I’ve carried that with me throughout my whole career.

But isn’t there then a pain of killing another human?


But there isn’t, again,

I apologize to go back to Ukraine,

it’s my only experience of this kind of harshness.

And it is a powerful experience.

There’s a dehumanization that happens.

I suppose this is common in war.

There’s something like a video game aspect

where people are almost having fun.

There’s a humor.

And I think underneath that,

the prerequisite is to see the enemy

in the same way you see the enemy

when you play Call of Duty.

You don’t really think,

you think of them as NPCs, the bad guys.

The Russians are called orcs in Ukraine.

I mean, there’s all kinds of other names.

For us, it was mugrosos.

You know, malandros mugrosos, like dirty people.

You know, there’s always something.

Over time, those are just words.

But over time, it gathers a kind of,

like a meaning to it that’s more than just the words, orcs.

They’re less than human.

They’re dirty.

They’re too dumb to understand the evil they’re doing,

or whatever the-

It’s useful, it’s useful.

Yeah. It’s part of the program.

But like, that’s what,

and I’ve talked to soldiers,

and some of them do have stories of momentarily

remembering that there’s a human on the other side.

I talked to one woman who’s this really badass soldier.

She saw this really brave soldier on the other side

do something that was almost stupid, how brave it was.

And then she was trying to shoot him, and she missed.

And she said she couldn’t sleep the night after,

thinking, why did she miss?

Why did she miss?

And then she thought she missed because he was a hero.

And she had this brief realization

that there was a hero on the other side.

The other side is heroes.

But then that quickly disappeared again.

But she had this moment,

there’s a human being that rises to defend his nation,

to defend his people,

and he could be heroic on the other side.

There are things that we’re trained to depress,

or conceal, or hide, and kill in us

when you’re trained for something like that.

Or when you’re in a conflict zone like that,

and you hear the narrative constantly being blared out

that the other side is a orc,

or whatever word you wanna use.

But we live in a day and age

when you can see Americans going off to Japan

and shaking hands with some of their former enemies.

I mean, some of us have seen that.

And how things change.

I think years from now,

a lot of the stuff that we are taking right now

is of the utmost importance, won’t matter anymore.

The question is how many years?

That’s a question I ask of a lot of people

in that part of the world.

And a lot of them currently,

they’re also self-aware about it.

They’re like, I’m not sure I trust my current feelings.

But the current feelings are generational.

Like for decades, I will not just hate the leadership,

I will hate all of Russian people.

I can’t understand that on my side of my life experience,

because our war has been an internal war

amongst our people, amongst our houses.

While that is the propaganda,

there’s also a deep grain of truth

that there is a oneness to the people of that region.

But people will get very offended at that idea,

because right now it’s a very strong nationalist borders.

But there is a cultural history that connects people.

I mean, in some deep sense, we’re all connected.

We all come from Western Africa,

and then all came from fish before then,

depending on your view of history, of life on earth.

But there is a oneness to us,

and often you forget that in conflict.

I had an experience working.

There was a friend of mine who took the other path,

and went to work for some of these criminal groups.

I was operational, and I was,

we saw a bunch of people in a gas station, parked.

Back then, the main modus operandi that they had

was that they would impersonate

or dress up as federal police.

And that’s how they would move around the city.

We saw these suburbans in a gas station,

and some of the guys were carrying around AK-47s,

and that’s not a standard issue firearm.

So we saw that, and I got off on foot

and walked by to try and get a better sense

of what was going on.

I took everything off, wearing jeans and a T-shirt,

and I got a whistle from one of the guys that was there,

and my name was called.

It was one of the guys that I grew up with.

Redhead kid, looked like El Canelo, you know?

There’s redheads in Mexico, by the way.

I think it’s probably some of the Irish

that betrayed the American side

during the last Mexico-American War

that stayed down there, had a bunch of kids.

So it’s probably from there.

Love is stronger than anything else, I think.

So this redhead kid, when I say kid,

I mean he was my age.

Now, to my eyes, he’s always gonna be younger now.

He whistled, told my name, said,

“‘Hey, cast a geek out on, like, what are you doing here?’

It’s like, “‘Ah, shit, I’m just, you know, going home.

I’m still going to get a taxi.’”

Said, “‘Oh, okay,’ as he walks over.

He has a plate carrier with AK magazines on his chest,

AK without a stock on it, just carrying it in his hand.

He comes over and he hugs me.

I could feel the magazines on my chest.

Mind you, I have a gun on me, you know, tucked.

And next to him is buzzing in my back pocket

as people are trying to figure out what the fuck’s going on.

He asked me, small talk shit, like,

“‘Hey,’ he’s like, “‘What are you doing?

Like, what do you work at?’

And I’m like, “‘Ah, I’m just looking for a job.

You know, I used to work at a video store.’”

So he’s like, “‘I haven’t seen you in a while.

How’s so-and-so of your family?’


“‘How’s so-and-so of your family?’


It’s like, yeah, it’s like,

this is an interesting job you have.

He’s like, “‘Yeah, it’s pretty good.

They pay us well.

You know, you get a car, you know, there’s money.

And nobody fucks with you.

You get respect.’”

I was like, that’s awesome, you know?

And if you want, I can get you in.

You know, if you ever want that, it’s like,

oh, I’m too much of a coward for that, I told him.

Conversation like any other between two friends.

He hugs me before I go.

I said something to him, I can’t remember what.

And he says, “‘Hey,’ in my ear,

“‘I know what you do for a living.

It’s not a safe place for you to be in.’

And I walk off.

A few moments later, the army showed up.

And you could feel the amount of rounds

going off from two blocks away.

We came back with our guys and it was over.’”

So he didn’t survive that.

I looked through the bodies and the cars that were left.

You know, there was bodies all over the place.

People left there.

It was a mess.

I spent like an hour looking for him.

The only way I could recognize him was his hair.

I stayed with his body all night.

There’s a bridge in Tijuana that goes over the river

in a place called La Mesa.

And that’s where the forensic offices were.

His body was taken there,

and I stayed with his body until it was released.

I told his family about it.

Because I knew them.

That aspect of, you know, us versus them,

or they’re the enemy and shit like that.

You know, my mom told me those words.

Nobody’s against you, they’re just for themselves.

So don’t make the mistake of dehumanizing anybody.

And those roles could have been easily reversed.

I could have been shot in the face there.

That aspect of conflict brings where, let’s say,

bad guys, good guys, you know, heroes, villains, you know.

I, there’s an innocence to that that goes away.

Is your mom still with us?

No, almost three weeks before I decided to quit,

she passed away.

Did that have a role to play?

A major one.

After I got done on the protection detail with the governor,

like everything down there, again, the whole cycle,

you know, he got his turn.

So when he went away, you know, politics change.

And down there, basically,

if you’re a gubernatorial candidate,

you have either a friend, a friend of a friend,

or a family member be the head bodyguard guy.

And the guy that won the elections

had his head bodyguard guy already there.

So all of us were sent back to whatever we came from.

So I went back to work on the streets.

I was back on the operations group.

I was working with the sub-director directly with him,

basically back on the ground doing the stuff

that I was doing before that job.

We were moving away from the successes

that had been had by people like Lezola

when they were in charge of that whole process,

the people that I used to work with.

Some of the only successes in that counter push

against cartels in Mexico,

and you can kind of like, it’s documented.

You can read about it out there.

A bunch of people wrote papers on it.

Some of the only successes were had by Lezola

in the places where he had leadership.

He not only pacified Tijuana,

he also did the same in Juarez.

He was sent to be the police chief in Juarez too.

But politics change and heroes become villains.

A lot of people started calling him a villain

because of his unorthodox approach

and human rights violations and all of this type of stuff

kind of come to the forefront.

And people forgot.

People forgot what it took to get Tijuana

off the most dangerous city list on the planet.

And people were vilified.

People like him and the police force

that I was a part of started getting compromised.

A lot of the things that were put forth

to try and keep us honest.

There was a program.

They had these centers called the C3s.

Basically you would go there every year.

You would get your financials checked.

You would get a physical, psychological evaluation.

You would get a polygraph exam done on you.

All the works to try and see

if you were somebody doing something wrong.

And all of that was canceled

because it violated your human rights

if you get fired from a job

because of a failed polygraph exam

because that was not an actual admissible way

of firing somebody.

So all of a sudden you had people

that were known cartel compromised people

that were fired five, six years ago

showing back up to work with their back paid and everything.

So this started happening.

And I quickly realized

that it was gonna be hard to stay there.

I was driving home from work

and I got a call from my brother

that my mom had been going through some health issues.

That had turned into psychiatric issues.

So we were basically taking turns

trying to take care of her,

locking the door so she wouldn’t wander off

and stuff like that.

So not only was I dealing with the job on the street

but I was dealing with that.

And also I had a two-year-old

and a marriage that was difficult at the time.

So I was trying to figure all these things out.

Made more difficult by your job?

Yeah, it’s not a financially secure job

and the pressures that it has

and the odd hours and all that made it really hard.

And then all of a sudden my brother calls me

and tells me that let’s go to the hospital.

Something happened to my mom.

It wasn’t my turn to watch her

so I felt pretty shitty about that.

I got to the hospital and

the doctors came out and told us that she was gone.

It was a massive heart attack.

She had a pacemaker by then so she was gone.

She was in her 60s.

So we kind of expected something

but that was hard for me.

She was my center.

She was gonna be the one that I would ask for advice

as far as work, you know, if I should leave it or not.

The ground was removed from under you.

There was nobody, yeah, there’s nothing underneath me.

I get three days off work.

That’s what they gave me.

And I’m trying to grieve as I go back to work.

Dark shit crosses my mind

as I’m going through that process

of trying to figure things out.

Dark shit like suicide, dark shit?


So it was very low for you, it hit very hard.

Yeah, I wasn’t allowed to grieve basically

and I wasn’t allowed to grieve for a few years

for different reasons.

I went back to work and-

You weren’t allowed, other people or also you yourself

were not allowing yourself to grieve, is it like a-

There was other people with me

that didn’t allow me to grieve, you know.

I went to work, got called into the office

and I was basically told that I was gonna be reassigned

after what I just went through.

The reassignment was going to be something

that I saw as unacceptable.

It was, the people in charge at that point

were obviously corrupted.

And what I got from their conversation

was that they wanted us to work for a specific side.

And I knew that that was the time to go.

I asked for a license, basically a license

is a unpaid absence from work, basically a leave of absence.

I think it’s what you call it up here,

which by law is allowed and I was denied for no reason.

So I’m invested in this job, you know.

I have a good salary and I have a category in there.

So the level of time you spend in there, you get a category.

So I was a pretty high category agent.

I had all this training and again,

training that would be useless in the private sector

or in the public sector in Mexico,

I couldn’t change from one corporation to another,

I couldn’t go to work for another police institution.

So I took a deep breath and I resigned.

I went to the office, I said, I need to resign.

They said, what?

I need to resign.

Some of the people in the office that knew me

from a long time were like, what’s wrong with you?

They thought I was having a mental breakdown.

Handed all over all the paperwork,

took a big trash bag, put all my stuff in there,

plate armor, tear gas grenades, gas mask, satellite radio,

MP5 magazines, an MP5 submachine gun,

Glock, Glock magazines, all of it, helmet.

And I put it in the, I handed it over in the armory

and I left, I made some phone calls.

I was married to an American and my daughter’s American.

I never envisioned myself coming to the United States,

do that process for myself, so I was invested in that job.

I thought I was gonna die or retire from that.

And it quickly became like an issue

because everybody was wondering

why I left the job so abruptly.

So there was some threats made when I left

by people inside the office.

And I probably, you know, it’s anonymous shit.

So there’s significant pressure not to leave.

It’s hard to leave this kind of job.


The system makes it difficult to leave.

The individuals, to the degree they might be corrupted,

really don’t want you to leave.

There’s no support, yeah.

There’s no support.

And it’s probably the opposite of support.

Yeah, yeah.

Almost like implied or explicit or implicit threats.


Luckily, I had developed some friendships

in the United States with some of the people

that I used to work with and cross-train with

and some friendships that I developed with people

that I would just talk to and make friends with stateside.

One of them is a Navy SEAL reservist

whose name is Dan Stanchfield and his wife, Kelly.

They opened the doors of their house to me

and my kid and my wife at that time.

As I seek to basically look for the American dream,

I crossed the border with my kid

and nobody knew anything, you know.

I hadn’t, they didn’t tell anybody, just, you know,

my wife and I was off.

When I came to the States,

I already kind of dabbled in the whole training field

and showing some of my experience to people.

So I had at least a seed of that out there.

People knew me for that.

But all of a sudden I was in the middle

of an avocado orchard in the middle of California

and everything’s quiet.

And there’s no more radios going off all of the night.

There’s no more, three cell phones on the counter.

There’s no guns, there’s no rifles,

there’s no 80 people calling to see what’s going on.

There’s nothing, it’s just quiet.

And it’s during the time when Trump got elected.

So the immigration process that usually would take,

I had most things going for me,

the immigration process that would take,

at most a year, took two years.

So it was not an easy process to not only come to the US,

but, you know, come to the US with that pressure,

kind of underlying pressure,

as far as being an immigrant at that time here.

And then your own personal psychological, the PTSD,

of going from a war zone to an avocado orchard.

The word PTSD and TBI and all of these things,

I did not, I didn’t know any of them.

It was through people that I got to meet

in the training field that were, you know,

Marines, SEALs, Marisoc guys, those types of people

that started giving words to some of the things that I felt,

which I didn’t really know, you know.

We would treat post-traumatic stress

with alcohol and vacation time.


A bottle of Mezcal.

You know, when you see the bottom of it,

your troubles are gone.


Yeah, immediately.

I was an alcoholic, as well as all of the other stuff.

I was drinking myself to sleep every third night.

My marriage, obviously, was failing, you know.

It wasn’t easy for her, you know.

She was brave, and she did what she could,

and I totally respect and understand her process with it,

but, you know, when it’s quiet, that’s when it hits you.

That’s what, I think that’s what a lot of people experience

when they come back from a conflict zone.

You know, everything that was life and death,

everything that mattered, all the noise, all the chaos,

all the people that are around you

that would die for you, kill for you,

you would kill for them.

All these millions of dollars worth of equipment

and stuff like that you were responsible for

now are all gone, and it’s just you walking into a Circle K

and buying three cans of Fosters

to drink yourself to sleep.

Yeah, you write on your Patreon brilliantly

about BTSD, about the cost of things you’ve done and seen.

Quote, when it’s over and we’re far from that chaos

and noise of death being close and life being real,

that is when some of us remember in the quiet nights

in a field in Tennessee looking at fireflies,

walking through a fair, holding hands with a lover,

asking you what’s wrong.

At your kid’s birthday party,

leave early to avoid the ending of a celebration.

That is what the quiet means to some of us.

So that’s speaking to that silence, the quiet.

How do you live with and thrive

with this newly learned term of PTSD?

If anything, I would recommend people

that have any of these issues to go to places

where other people have their issues,

so you can, it’s not a competition,

but you get to see the scope of problems in the world

and you sometimes feel kind of lucky as far as your own.

Like it humbles you.


It makes you appreciate all the different kinds of struggles

that people go through.

Yeah, I mean, I went through some horrible shit,

but there’s some people there that went through

a lot of more horrible shit

or stuff that I don’t think I could have survived.

When I went through that process of figuring things out,

you know, the first thing that glaringly pointed out

or stuck out to me was my inability to process things.

Like there was a big pause button there, a giant one.

Everything was on pause.

My grieving, not only my mom, but my brother.

So I had a pause button on me since I was 13, basically.

Then I got to bury many of my friends

and inform their wives or girlfriends of what happened.

And that all, again, was paused

because I wasn’t allowed to process.

You know, I spent years without going on vacation

because I was a workaholic.

And I found at the core of my issues, alcohol,

a giant pause button in the form of alcohol.

Basically, I would drink my problems away

or specifically I would,

it’s like if you have a mess in your house,

you just put a big tarp over it, you know,

to cover it up and alcohol, it was that for me.

And it festered more and more

as I not only went through the process of learning

about PCSD, going through therapy,

but refusing to let that go, you know,

like going through therapy

and seeing what other people’s problems were.

And I don’t wanna, you know, this is the only thing I have.

I’m not, you know, I’m not hurting anybody with it,

you know, why do I need to get rid of that?

By this point, I was traveling across the country

and training people and showing some of the experiences

that I had to other people, speaking, being on podcasts

and having conversations like the one I’m having

with you.

So speaking to the skills that you’ve developed.

And in a way, basically reliving

and reopening a bunch of shit for myself

every time I do it.

So it was, I was getting triggered

and the way I would manage that was I would drink,

you know, at the end of the night

after a weekend class somewhere,

when I talk about the fireflies in a field in Tennessee,

it was a moment where I was forcing myself

to try and be sober.

And we did this medical class out

in the hills in Tennessee, a beautiful green place,

beautiful family there that hosted us.

And it’s the first time I ever saw fireflies.

So I was like, I thought I was having

a hallucinogenic experience.

When I say, why is the wire, why is the dust glowing?

You know, is what I thought.

A friend of mine is a veteran.

He’s ran off to the woods and grabbed one

and brought it to me and showed it to me.

I was like, holy shit, what is, that’s a firefly.

Wow, how do they glow?

I don’t know.

And it’s crushed in his hand and said, it’s gone.

And that, you know, brought me back immediately

to holy shit, you know, it kind of like,

I was off somewhere and I was back and I had to go drink.

I went through that process of like going off

and getting on and going off, getting off

and my marriage separated.

And that was another end of the world aspect to everything.

You know, I lost my mother, I lost the job

and then the marriage failed and it was on me.

I basically went somewhere and did a stock

of everything that was going on

and made a decision to stop drinking.

Yeah, had some bad relationships after.

And I just came to a place where I need to stop drinking.

You’ve gotten to a point so low.

Was this a decision you arrived at by yourself?

Was there some inspiration

or was it just the point is so low, lost so much?

It was the start of COVID.

So this is recent, this is probably too,

I’m gonna have two years sober in December.

So when you talked to Rogan the first time

you’re still struggling with this demand?

I was in and out of the car, basic is what I would say,

you know, I was in and out of

and then trying to get rid of it.

That must be a super stressful experience

talking to Joe Rogan the first time

you drank that night, do you remember?

The second time I was there, I went somewhere,

got shit faced.

It was stressful, not for any other reason

than I felt the responsibility to the people

that couldn’t speak about it.

So that’s the pressure.

It was the start of COVID

and things started getting shut down and slowed down.

My dad got really sick and almost died.

We had to set up like some Jason Bourne level shit

at my brother’s place, he was in Mexico, you know?

So we had to bribe a guy to get us an oxygen tank

and I had to shimmy rig a respirator

and it was some shit.

But my dad was like, he survived it, you know?

The doctors were like, say goodbye.

And my dad was like, yeah, say goodbye to him, you know?

Okay, so your dad’s a gangster, I got it, tough dad.

He did some gangster shit that day.

But on my end, I was being isolated basically

as COVID is, everybody’s slowing down,

no more classes, no more excuses to go out there

and drink and no more socializing.

So social drinking turned into alone drinking

more and more and more.

I bought a bottle of gin.

Because I was down in Mexico taking care of my dad

and they closed down beer production in Mexico.

So beer went away.

And beer was a way I kind of managed it, you know?

It’s not hard alcohol, it’s just beer, so you know?

But that went away, so it was just hard alcohol

that was what was available down there.

I, one night alone at the house, my dad’s house,

I drank a bottle of gin, a whole bottle of gin.

I almost died.

And after that, you know, some people started noticing

that I was isolating more and more

and it was kind of eating away at me.

I was in a relationship at that point

when I started seeing everything

just kind of fall apart around me.

And I drank half of a glass of wine

and it made me sick to my, like internally in my mind.

And my kid said to me, and I don’t know,

nobody coached her, nobody said anything to her.

She’s a pretty intuitive kid.

She said, I don’t drink anymore, Dad.

Out of nowhere, in the middle of the night.

And I stopped, I stopped that night.

I remember waking up at three in the morning

and taking a cooler that I had

and just dumping all the beers in it

and chucking them in the garbage

and with a knife poking each of them

to not, you know, be tempted to go pack for them.

And then the second day I went around

and started finding the hides that I had

because I had some, you know, hides.

And then I went somewhere

and locked myself in for two weeks.

I had the withdrawals,

the clearest nightmares that I’d ever had in my life

for two, three weeks.

I went somewhere, I don’t wanna keep them private,

but I went somewhere where they offered a place for me.

And when I asked them about it, it’s a community,

I gave them some money for their school as a donation.

I gave them like a few thousand dollars.

I said, yeah, sure, come, you can go through this process.

You’re cool as fuck, people.

The first thing they did when I got there

is they stood me up in front of everybody

to thank me for the donation.

And then told everybody that I was an alcoholic.

And if anybody saw me drinking,

I was to be kicked out of there immediately.

And I felt horrible.

So that was where I started.

Was that temptation still there?

There was a moment when it was.

And some therapy circle.

There’s a rodeo clown friend of mine

who his body’s, his spine is basically fused together,

you know, type of guy.

We’ve been friends and enemies and friends again,

you know, during our therapy circle sessions.

Oh, so like there’s an intimacy there.

Yeah, he didn’t know anything about me.

One time when we were telling our story,

he stood up and told his story.

And then he heard mine and then he was pissed off at me

and didn’t wanna talk to me for a while.

And then later he told me that it was because

he saw what I did with my experience

and how much of a difference that he perceived

that I was making with it.

And he felt jealous that he couldn’t do the same

with his experience because he was just a broken

ex-rodeo clown.

He told me when I was going through the process,

he was like, hey, you’re an internet celebrity person,

you know, you’re known.

Aren’t you worried about people finding out

that you’re recovering drunk?

And I said, yeah, it’s fucking scary as shit

if people find out that I am going through this process.

It’s scary that, you know, the critique.

You know, I already get a lot of shit

for being an ex-police officer in Mexico

and all the negativity that comes from that.

And he said, don’t be.

You know, that you can’t pickpocket a naked man.

So just get naked.

And what does that mean?

Write about it.

Post it online.

You never know.

Somebody out there might get inspired

to do their own kind of process.

So I started posting about it.

Cowardly in a way because I wanted to make other people

keep me on the path, you know.

But in other ways, you know, desperation.

You know, I don’t wanna drink anymore.

I don’t wanna go back on that path,

which I know leads directly to a bad death.

I’m not afraid of death.

I just want a good one.

I don’t want a bad one.

I think that was gonna lead me to a bad death.

I started writing about it and sharing it online,

you know, through my fever dreams post

and just being humorous about it online

and getting a lot of hate on one side, you know.

Having a few people and companies that I work with

kind of step back and seeing this guy has some issues

to having other people kind of make fun of

or make light of that weakness portrayed.

Oh, so getting hate, getting criticism

because here you are a counter-narcotics police officer.

There’s no, there’s a drinking problem.

So is that like supposed to be what like flaws revealed?

Weakness or a perception of alpha in the US, I guess,

that some people have, you know.

You were supposed to be strong and here you are.

I mean, I’m not, I’m not Jocko Willink.

I’m not David Goggins.

You know, I wake up at 10 in the morning sometimes

and I’ll have cornflakes with my eight-year-old, you know.

I like days off.

I used to wake up at 3.30 in the morning every day

to review what happened during the night

and then go off for a jog and then the gym

and just be ready to be able to murder somebody

with my hands if I had to.

But that is, I couldn’t maintain that

during the whole process of getting out of it.

Now leaving alcohol, I remember just being honest with it

and just seeing the two sides of it, you know.

Joe told me never read the comment section, right?

Which is a beautiful, it’s a beautiful piece of advice.

But they get to you sometimes

when you talk about some of these things openly.

And some of the comments were positive

and I’ve been seeing people comment,

sending me messages and meeting people on the road

that are five months in, 10 months.

Some people that have been on that wagon

for way longer than I have.

And there’s, it’s what’s cool when you meet people

that are superhuman or perform

and take an extreme ownership of things

and are just amazing people that are thriving out there.

It’s inspirational.

I see some of these people and I’m like, holy shit,

I need to figure out how to get to some semblance of that.

But I’m not that, you know.

I’ve been through the ringer.

I fucked up a shit ton of times.

My nose is an example of that.

I have a few missing teeth.

But in a way, I think all of that is part of the process

and not a lot of people wanna talk about, you know.

Independently of the experience I got down there

and some of the things that I show and talk about

and some of the advocacy I do related to women like her

that are, you know, trying to look for a better life

and trying to find their missing kids,

training people to not get into those situations,

but also showcasing the fact that people

that go through some of these processes

have a journey to go through, you know.

I just came into your studio with a duffel bag

straight from the airport

and I’m gonna leave early tomorrow morning

to somewhere else.

I’ve been on the road for almost,

I think five years nonstop.

I go back to a specific place every week

to see my kid for two, three days.

And then I’m back out.

You know, some people are like, are you running?

It’s like, are you worried?

Is this afraid about something?

No, but I am, you know, on this weird

path, I guess, trying to look for something

that I think I’ve been missing

as far as my afterlife of a sort,

you know, coming out of that.

What do you think that is?

Are you looking for some kind of a deeper understanding

of humanity, like from the specific experiences

you had to get some deeper understanding

of what the hell we’re all doing here?

I meet people every weekend with different stories.

You know, people come to some of my classes.

You know, I show them how to weaponize the environment,

how to harm themselves, how to not get abducted.

I meet people that have gone through those experience

and are basically trying to work through

some of their own issues by going

through the training like that.

I get to meet people that are, you know,

people that I’ve only seen online, you know,

or seen in videos.

I remember meeting Royce Gracie in Harvard City.

I heard of that guy.

He’s a pretty interesting character.

I remember seeing him in a bootleg VHS video.

I told him about it.

We were doing a class out at Emerson Knives.

It’s a knife company, but Mr. Emerson also has

like a jujitsu gym there where Royce trades out of.

That’s his space.

And, you know, they’re teaching how to defend

against somebody trying to stab you.

And I’m showing them all the ways you can get around that

and fabricate and improvise and smuggle things,

basically the adversarial side of that.

It just, that’s what I’m known for.

The psychology and kind of the ways that people do that.

And I remember him seeing some of the stuff

that I was doing and just being like,

where are you from?


Makes sense.

You know, somebody from Brazil, you know,

tipping the hat to somebody from Mexico

as far as with him seeing the violence

and some of the mentality behind it.

So for people who don’t know,

Royce Gracie is the legendary martial artist

that probably introduced Brazilian jujitsu

to the American audience, to the world,

to the process of UFC and showing the effectiveness of it

in practice that a little skinny guy

can defeat a big aggressive guy.


An anaconda, a small anaconda walking into that ring

with his family behind him.

Wearing pajamas.

Wearing pajamas and everybody was like,

what is this guy wearing pajamas for?

And then he would strangle people with those pajamas.

I remember seeing that and just having it,

I think probably what a generation before had

with Bruce Lee, I guess,

our, my generation was Royce walking into that,

walking into that octagon and changing, you know, paradigms.

Seeing him in that gym,

it’s also an avid gun owner and shooter,

which is interesting.

You know, having, seeing somebody like him

who is, you know, well-versed with his hands

also be a man that has gone into the realm

of being well-versed with weaponry,

which is an aspect of martial arts

and the martial way of thinking that, you know,

some people kind of,

the purist will stick with one side of it,

but he’s obviously a warrior in a lot of ways.

So just as a small tangent,

so you’re somebody that you don’t just look

at unarmed combat,

you look at the full spectrum of the chaos of combat

that’s outside of the realm of jujitsu

and even just mixed martial arts.

Armed with knives and beyond.

Was his mind open to the fuller spectrum of violence?

Yeah, I mean, he was in the middle of this class

that we were doing where people were basically

focusing on both.

Ernest Emerson, who’s famous for his knives,

he has a knife company, he’s done knives for NASA,

you know, not only that,

but he’s also a very avid martial artist.

He trained with a lot of Filipino martial arts

related to knives and stuff like that,

but a different mindset, you know,

a defensive mindset,

trying to train people how to defend against that.

And you have Royce, who’s, he’s from Brazil.

I mean, he has some street in him.

That’s something that, you know,

those guys,

those tienen calles, we say in Mexico.

Seeing the ways he would,

he stepped in there and provided some encouragement

to the people there as far as, you know,

how people sometimes focus on the,

this is a system and this is a way,

but there’s other ways out there

that might negate or defeat the ways

that you are concentrating on, you know?

So kind of get out of that bubble.

My whole kind of speciality

or what I focus on is mindset

and figuring out the software

that some of these people gain and gather from.

If I need to arm myself, you know,

the easiest thing to manufacture in most places

is a pointed object.

So I can take that crystal big pen

that you’re writing on that notepad with

and using the friction from the carpet,

I can turn it into a hypodermic needle

that you can then poke into somebody’s neck.

And what’s the process of doing that?

I can do it right now if you want.

No, but can you use your words for the listener

and also because I’m terrified.

No, basically you can take the heat and friction

created from this carpet.


You can grab that pen.

In and of itself, it will pierce flesh,

but it will slow itself down

because it has a few angles on the tip.

Oh, you want to wear down the angles.

So if you take that tip off

and you grab it and grind it on an angle on the carpet,

the heat will actually turn it into a hypodermic needle

if you know what you’re doing.

Hypodermic meaning like it smoothens the entry.

It’ll make a point in an angle

that will guide its way into your flesh.

So you can actually go through a torso with that

if you know what you’re doing.

As a small tangent, you also gave me a present.

Could be one of the most epic presents I’ve ever received.

You gave it to Rogan.

Can you explain what I’m holding in my hands?

There’s a guy online, Coffin Tramp.

This is a moniker.

It is a G10 rod.

G10 is a very strong material, basically.

A lot of people make actually G10 knives,

which are basically non-magnetic, non-ferrous objects

that can be utilized as a stabbing instrument.

The core of it isn’t an actual pencil core.

It’s a G10 core,

and it’s encased in oak, hard oak.

So that is capable, again, of stabbing through a torso.

Now, the guy that made that is an artisan.

He makes that.

It looks like a pencil.

It’s concealed in the nature of the object itself.

But that small object is capable of being introduced

into a chest cavity.

All it takes is about the half of your thumb

or the length of your thumb to stab into your chest cavity,

and now your pericardium is pierced,

and it’s being filled with blood,

or your whole heart is pierced,

and you have a few minutes to live

if you’re at a standing heart rate.

So this has the effectiveness of a knife, essentially.

It has the effectiveness of a shank or an ice pick.

It’s not gonna cut, but it’s gonna make a hole

where it shouldn’t be.

Here, the pen is literally mightier than the sword.

Yeah, well, this is really epic

from a perspective of an academic.

This is a symbol of both intelligence and violence.

I love it.

And also the current state of affairs

where people need to arm themselves

with things that are concealed as far as their purpose

in a place where, in a country or in a society

that limits their ability to arm themselves.

So if you’re going to a safe place,

you’re going to a place where no weapon’s allowed,

which means a target-rich environment if you’re a predator.

That’s a sign of rebellion.

Let this be a signal of everyone should be terrified

when you’re around me,

because even a pencil can murder you,

and I intend to use this.

Yeah, nobody owns life,

but anybody that can hold a frying pan owns death

is a quote that I heard once, which is a beautiful one.

I’m looking at you.

If anyone betrays me, this is the way to go.

Can you, given all your experience

and all the different ways

when you think about martial arts and violence,

in Mexico, in the world, speaking of hoists,

what is your approach to conflict, like a street fight?

What advice would you give people

in the full spectrum of what a street altercation

might entail?

What is the best way to approach it?

I think before you get there, you have to prepare.

One of the first things I tell people

is if you don’t have a basic T-triple-C training class

behind you, you should reanalyze your life

and your ability to prepare.


Basically how to stop somebody from bleeding out

or dying from a stab wound, gunshot wound,

or any of those types of wounds,

or an amputated leg during an IED scenario.

Anything you would see in a Boston Marathon-type event

or a Vegas shooting event

where people are getting shot, stabbed, cut.

So understand how to help people,

how to help yourself post-violence.

You don’t want to be a detriment to the situation.

You want to be an asset.

So build yourself up as an asset in a situation like that

because you might be doing that on yourself

or on somebody else.

And also it helps you understand what situations

are going to result in a lot of,

in a difficult situation to deal with afterwards.

Yeah, it also teaches you what to stab and what to shoot.

If you’re thinking about it in a full,

and on all the dimensions of it, you know,

there’s all knowledge can be weaponized.

And I think that’s the approach

all people should kind of figure out for themselves

when they start getting ready

or if they want to take the responsibility

of their own safety in their hands.

So in a self-defense situation,

there’s a lot of questions here, but what does one stab?

There’s the carotid arteries,

which are used commonly in jujitsu as something to choke

because they feed a computer, you know?

So there’s a lot of blood flowing through that

required for the successful operation of the computer.

And not a lot of stuff is guarding the outside world

from your carotid arteries.

That’s a really weird design, by the way.

It is not a smart one.

It doesn’t even make sense because with mammals,

they bite each other’s neck.

Like why can’t you have more protection?

Is this the only, like us humans don’t use our mouth

to kill each other, but most mammals, most predators do.

It’s like, why the hell don’t we protect this?

We do have a defensive mechanism

and you see it sometimes when people are ambushed

and people try to open up each other’s necks from behind.

If you push somebody’s neck forward,

the carotids will actually lower themselves

and be encased in more flesh and muscle.

If you pull a head back, not so much.

So that’s a way that at least I think the evolutionary,

we have a defensive mechanism for that.

There’s a few videos out there

of people’s getting their neck sewn back shut

after somebody pushed their head forward

to try and slice their necks and they survived.

So this is a viable target.

The heart is another one.

Interesting about the thing about the heart

and people get alarmed when I talk about this

and show it in classes.

Again, a lot of the classes I do are for orientation

and for people to recognize that behavior.

So a lot of law enforcement comes to some of these classes

and say, oh, that’s horrible.

That’s how somebody will kill somebody.

Yeah, this is how people that know their shit

will try and approach somebody and stab you to death.

This is how they would do it.

There’s a tendency to view what we see in John Wick

or view what we see in this martial arts community

where they’re slicing and dicing people

different myriads of ways.

A lot of that is based on dueling-based cultures

like the Filipino martial arts

or some of the Italian martial arts out there

where somebody’s facing off with somebody else

with a similar weapon

and where both of us are agreeing

to basically get into a stabbing competition.

That would make sense in that scenario, in that context,

but I’ve never seen a lot of people

actually get into these one-on-one knife altercations.

What we see now in a modern context

when it talks about weaponry

is an ambush, counter-ambush-based scenario

where somebody pulls out a knife

during a grappling situation on the street

or when somebody turns a striking exchange of punches

into pulling out a cheap gas station knife

or a pen or a rock from the ground or a handgun.

Most modern combatants, when it comes to weaponry,

should be kind of based on the whole aspect

of ambush and counter-ambush.

There’s a lot of people showing valuable type of material

and coursework on this out there.

My whole approach and my specific kind of realm

is in the aspect of how people go from the process

of learning some of these things from experiential stuff,

people that grow up in rural places,

grow up on pig farms,

that actually get the experience of processing a pig,

for example, or processing an animal.

Those people will have more skills, hunters,

those people will have more skills with a knife

if they pick it up as a weapon

than most of the martial artists that I’ve seen

kind of approach some of these classes

where I go and have a simulated torso

in the form of a pig hanging in a room somewhere.

Some of that has to do with just the familiarity

and the comfort of just like the biology

of a living organism,

like that if you cut off certain things,

if you cut a certain thing, it’s just a meat vehicle.

The same thing, the medical training should come first,

or if you don’t have that, be a hunter

or go to a butchery class.

That will teach you more about how to use a knife

on somebody else than anything.

That’ll give you the experience of flesh.

Most people, I do this example every now and then

where I have people bring in a tactical knife

and they’ll bring in a butter knife

and I ask them which will go through a torso.

We have a pig there,

so it simulates a torso pretty closely.

Most people will say,

nah, that butter knife is not gonna go through.

And it does, it does go through.

It’s a thin enough, strong enough,

sturdy enough that it’ll go through.

Kitchen knife, a cheap one that cost 89 cents at a Walmart

and an expensive $400 one.

And the cheap one will outperform the expensive one.

The tip will snap off during some of it.

Yeah, I have to say that just as a small tangent,

I went to a farm and just seeing the butchering of meat

and so on and the processing of meat

and pigs and cows,

whoo, that’s uncomfortable.


But I think it also, it’s honest and raw

and that’s something that probably

everyone should experience regularly.

Because it’s also humbling to remind you.

Like when I had a dog, Homer, he’s in Newfoundland,

that I was very close with and we lost him.

And I just remember that I carried him,

he’s like 200 something pounds.

And I had to carry him and I had to put him to sleep.

And like one of the biggest realizations is like,

oh, this is just a biological thing.


It’s just, and then to realize that this is just meat.

This is not, and you can cut it.

And then if you bleed,

all of a sudden the life can disappear from you.


And it’s all gone.

It’s like, holy shit, there’s this meat vehicle

that some people have referred to as Lex.

I’m just a few stabbings away from like-


Yeah, from leaving, goodbye.

There’s a soul that just flies away.

It used to be that we had to hang around,

people would come back from battle

and we would hear things next to the campfire.

As far as, oh, he stabbed somebody here and this happens.

But now we live in an age where you can,

when I do a class, this is a stab to the heart.

And here’s like five videos of it happening live,

on live leaks or whatever.

And we can deconstruct that.

Not only that, but what weapon was used.

Oh, it was a gas station folder.

It was a pioneer woman knife from Walmart

with flowers on the handle, you know, whatever it was.

And people start realizing that it doesn’t take a lot,

that it doesn’t take a lot of training

because a lot of these people are not high-level assassins

trained by ninjas in the hills or anything like that.

They’re people that grew up rurally

or learned by seeing that behavior in others.

And when they start coming to the realization

that it’s pretty easy to do that,

and they start figuring out like,

how do you counteract that?

Well, number one, learn the behavior yourself

so you can recognize it.

The whole aspect of being a good counter ambush team

is to be the best ambusher in the planet.

So again, the whole aspect of Musashi saying,

know your enemy, know his sword.

You know, you figure that out

as far as learning that behavior.

You know, when you start seeing

how some of these stabbings occur,

the first thing you notice is that one of the hands

is always kind of out of the picture,

or there’s a lack of symmetry in the people

that are about to do something horrible.

So when you see lack of symmetry in the environment,

somebody with their hands going backwards,

there’s a crowd of people and two or one individual

is looking counter where everybody else is looking,

or there’s a hyper-aware individual in a crowd.

The hyper-aware are always usually out there

to fuck somebody over, or they’re trying to keep

those predators from fucking somebody else over.

So unless you step back and you put yourself in the process

of learning how they learn,

and you become that potential nightmare person,

it’s hard to recognize that in a crowd.

It feels like one of the significant ways to win

or as a street fighter is to avoid it

by sort of sending pacifist signals in every way,

meaning avoiding the situation

whenever there’s like a hyper-vigilant people.

You just kind of avoid signaling

that you’re one of the players of interest.

If we’re talking about counter-ambush,

at which point do you do that versus shift to the aggression?

I think violence should be always an option.

Everybody should have that option,

and you need to be good at that option.

I think I heard Jordan Peterson talk about the fact

that everybody needs to be dangerous,

but keep that shit under control.

I think he was referring to a different context, but.

I know, I know, I’m referring to the ability of.

The little physical conflict as well.

There’s two cases that I saw of people

just utilizing social engineering to a beautiful degree

to deescalate shit.

One guy somewhere, first off, if you’re in a place

where people are grabbing your wife’s ass

or something like that, like what are you doing there?

There’s a load of things that are wrong with everything

that you’re doing in your life to be in that environment.

But let’s say you’re in an inescapable situation.

There was this guy who was in a compromised position.

Somebody wanted to fight him, like legit kick his ass.

And he said, okay, let’s go, but I just,

I need to warn you that I have hep C before we go outside.

And that.

It’s masterful.

I was getting my phone out to film this, you know, maybe.

And even I was just lowered my phone to give him a slow clap.

That was a beautiful move, you know?

And then there was this other man.

There was a riot somewhere in Ensenada,

the municipality of Ensenada and Baja.

They were protesting.

Some of the people that pick those fields down there,

part of a tribe called Los Trikis.

Very hardy, hardworking people, but nefarious people too.

They’re pretty good at their thing.

There was a right line they couldn’t break.

And this old man walks in the middle of the right line

and yells grenade and throws an avocado

in the middle of all the cops.

And I’m like, you broke that right line with an avocado.

That could have gone wrong in so many ways.

But it didn’t, I don’t know.

To me, it’s like, there’s small lessons there.

There is a case to be made about social engineering,

about learning about behavior, about learning how to lie

and how to kind of move your way

or navigate your way around situations like that.

Small things like bartering,

knowing how to bribe people in conflict zones

is the thing that I show when I talk about

or train people to work in hostile environments.

De-escalation, specifically kind of figuring out

what is a value in the environment,

what things you shouldn’t be doing in an environment

that might be considered disrespectful or out of place.

People have a tendency that it didn’t grow up

in places that are violent

to make continuous eye contact with somebody

that might be a issue or smiling

when there’s nothing to smile about.

I think there’s a picture I saw somewhere

of Russians taking a portrait and there’s Americans there

and the Americans are smiling, but the Russians aren’t.

Because what is there to smile about, which is true.

And of course it’s not as simple as smile or not smile.

There’s subtlety to it, like you said.

Eye contact is a super interesting one

because I found in my own life,

like not making eye contact is,

the people would be joking,

but it’s a really powerful way to de-escalate.

And there’s such a fascinating thing though,

because you could talk about drunk fights

that are just, that are harmless,

but I feel like the same dynamic applies

to the most violent conflict, including wars.

I feel like ego is part of this.

So to me, the question of conflict,

whether it’s a street fight or anything else,

is the calculus of, are you willing to take an L

in terms of psychology?

Somebody grabs your wife’s ass, you mentioned.

Boy, if you let that happen, you go home,

you’re gonna have to pay the price

of you were the person who didn’t define you.

Like in your relationship,

you didn’t defend your wife’s honor.

You’re gonna psychologically pay that price yourself.

And depending on your wife,

she might secretly also lose a little bit of respect for you.

Now, how do you play that calculus?

Because now we see the war in Ukraine.

I would say there is elements of similar posturing

in the United States, in Europe, in Ukraine, Russia, China,

leadership, at a geopolitics,

it’s still somebody grabs somebody’s ass

and you’re not backing down.

So to take those losses and basically just posture,

lower your head and live to fight another day

type of situation.

The thing with modern violence is the access to weaponry.

I mean, again, nobody owns life,

but anybody that can hold a frying pan can own death.

I’ve seen people get double leg takedown

somebody on the ground.

It’s a different thing doing in the mats versus concrete.

That’s a good way to kill somebody.

The most prolific impact weapon on the planet

is the planet itself.

You can see various videos of people online

where they fall and they hit their head

or somebody hits their head

and they go into the stretched out fit basically.

And that might not kill you then,

but it’ll kill you that night or the second night

if you don’t get checked out.

People bleed out internally, get an edema.

Again, the whole aspect of me showing

how some of these things,

not only some of these methodologies

and some how people prepare for violence

and how people experience violence,

how they make their weapons,

how the people fight in the streets and stuff like that.

It’s to recognize that behavior from the inception.

There’s a video I show where there’s a bunch of street kids

in Rio de Janeiro.

I think it’s during the Olympics

where they’re snatching chains and cell phones from people.

And it’s a fun video, see it.

The first thing you learn about it

is how they target people.

Now, who are they going after?

There’s a bunch of people there.

Why are they going after that specific person?

And they start learning about profiling

and how they identify victim mentality

or the perfect victim.

Lack of awareness, they keep on a straight line,

avoidance, avoidance of eye contact

if they’re doing something nefarious or wrong

and how they pick who they’re gonna go after.

The small people, the women, even some of the men,

and they separate the men that they’re perfect victims

versus the men that’s gonna turn around

and punch them in the face.

What are they looking for?

Well, first off, you notice that the men

that are in that environment that look at them

and are aware of their presence, the hyper-aware

are the ones that are not good to target.

So that’s the first lesson there.

So it’s probably a good idea not only to be hyper-aware,

but to recognize that hyper-awareness in others

if I wanna separate myself from the victim crowd.

Another thing you notice is these are kids

going after some grown adults.

And some of these grown adult men are with women.

And you see them kind of getting outside of the grasp

of these kids that are trying to rip their chains

off their neck or their cell phones.

And they have no consideration for the women around them.

You see other men that are with women

and you see them grab the women and put them behind them.

And immediately they’ll say, this is the wrong one.

Let me move off to the next one.

So that small little lesson in those videos

will show you first how these kids are growing up

to profile and target who the perfect victims are.

That’s a school for them.

And that is an adversarial school.

We should look at that school and apply it to ourselves.

So in general, you think conflict,

ultimately the people that are doing conflict

are looking for weakness?

I mean, they’re looking for opportunity, opportunistic.

That’s the predators, that’s what they do.

They look for an opportunity, you know,

from jumping down from a tree

and getting the slowest gazelle

to looking for the opportune moment

to pounce on something that’s probably big,

but the risk is worth it.

I feel like there’s several motivations,

but isn’t there also a power hierarchy motivation as well?

Like you, there’s something about the big guy

that tempts you to send a message,

especially with gangs, aren’t they constantly

sort of trying to signal that they’re the alpha?

Yeah, I mean, there’s a different situation.

So you could be facing a sociopathic predator

who is looking for something in you

that you are the resource that they’re looking after.

Maybe it’s a woman, you know.

It could be a group of people that don’t like the fact

that you have a specific nationality

or your passport is stamped in a specific way

or that you pray to whatever God.

All these factor in,

but in the end, they all do the same thing.

They look for an advantageous position.

If I were to target you,

I would put you in between that wall and, you know, me.

So you have two avenues of exits

and I would step on one of your feet

to keep that avenue closed.

So you have to go this way.

So this is where my knife is gonna be.

You see that behavior mirrored everywhere in the world.

First off, you look for advantages, right?

If it’s something that’s unavoidable,

like you’re in between me and my ability to go home

or you’re in between me and my ability to feed my family

or you’re in between me and my ability to posture

to the people that are behind me,

the young guys that I’m in charge,

I will do everything in my power to end you, right?

So the motivations are not in my realm,

but the ways they do it are, you know,

and basically the advantage part of it.

So desperation is dangerous.

It’s a dangerous school.

And when I say dangerous school,

I mean the most dangerous people

usually come from those desperate environments.

You know, you can have people in Coronado

holding onto logs in the ocean

and go through this millions of dollars worth of training

and just be professional killers for the government

and just be these incredible human beings.

And then there’s a kid that will walk up to one of them

when he’s off, you know,

and put an ice pick right into his chest

when he’s least expecting it.

And that doesn’t mean that one is superior than the other.

It just means that there are more,

that there’s more than one way to become that, you know.

Teenagers terrify me.

It feels like the intensity of desperation,

like the capacity of a teenager, like 16, 17,

to be desperate and also not have the matured understanding

of ethics of the world.

Like they have this intensity of feeling

that is unlike anything else.

They don’t have a volume knob to that.

So it’s like a garden hose without a nozzle on it

so you can regulate it.

They haven’t developed that.

They haven’t learned that maybe from somebody else

or it used to be warrior cultures,

you would be apprentice under somebody

or you would learn some of these things from other people.

Even some gang, modern gangs have a little bit of that.

But if you’re not, and you’re just this kid

that’s been playing Call of Duty all of his life

or has been witnessing violence in media

and there’s no sense of,

it’s probably a bad idea to go off and do this

because of all these repercussions.

I could see how that could be a danger to society.

And some of the volume knobs,

some of the countermeasures to people exploding

on somebody else with a weapon,

you see videos constantly online.

I remember seeing this one of these two teenage girls

somewhere in the US and one of them just,

there’s a fight, there’s a hair pulling competition

and all of a sudden one of them takes out a knife

and it just happens like that.

And it’s just pure and restrained downward stabbing.

Now, you’re like, wait, where’s that come from?

Well, she’s from an environment

where she saw that as an option.

She didn’t see the repercussions of it

and she found herself in a place

where she thought that was the only viable option,

pulling out a weapon.

And I think that’s the dangerous part of it.

So how do you prepare to win those kinds of situations,

to escape those kinds of situations?

Like you said, it’s training, it’s exposing your mind.

I always tell people, if you don’t have a combative base,

you don’t have a base, boxing, jujitsu.

And that gives you what,

like an awareness of your body kind of thing?

It gives you an awareness of your body,

give you a spatial awareness.

If you can’t see the points with your peripheral vision,

if you can’t see the points of somebody’s feet

in your peripheral vision,

they are in range to stab you in the heart

if they wanted to.

And that’s something you learn from boxing,

that you learn from jujitsu,

you learn from a bunch of combat arts

where you learn about distance and angling people.

That comes from this experience that you have.

Again, a lot of these things were just horseplay

when we were growing up in some cultures

or rough and tumble with your brothers and shit like that.

But some of us are growing up in single kid homes now

and we don’t get that, we were missing that.

And if you don’t have it, then you find it in the,

you find it in a jujitsu gym,

you find it in a boxing gym,

you find it in a Thai boxing gym,

you find it in places where they specialize

in focusing on certain aspects

of this whole combative whole, right?

It used to be before UFC,

the Kung Fu Man, that Kung Fu guy,

that’s just street lethal shit.

You can’t use it in the sporting,

you can’t show you this because it’ll kill you.

Now we pretty much know that most of that was

flights of fancy or BS.

And it pains me too, man.

I wanted to learn some of the D-Mach single punching

and killing technique.

I remember those books, but that’s just not.

I’m still on the lookout for that.

Maybe somewhere, I don’t know.

Maybe if you put a pen in your hand,

that might turn into that, but that’s the only way.

That’s the only way, right?

But a lot of these myths are kind of like faded away.

Now you see people that have different combative bases

combining them all and becoming a fighter.

Now, UFC fight, two people fighting each other

is one thing.

You being in the middle of the Portland riots

and a bunch of state troopers throwing gas at rioters

and then rioters themselves fighting each other

and you finding yourself in the middle of that,

that’s a completely different thing.

And if you think you’re gonna go on the ground

and get in a guard with a guy swinging around a shovel,

a piece of a shovel handle, right?

As tear gas is going on, because you got stopped there

and your car was, windows were broken

and your family’s in the backseat.

That is a different situation.

So, medical, learning about weaponry.

I personally don’t really like fighting on the ground,

but that’s why I forced myself to go to train

with different people out there, on the ground.

Jiu-jitsu, catch wrestling.

So top and bottom, neither, you don’t like either.

Personally, I like being in a car

and running everybody over.

That would be great, if I could, or driving really far away.

Or I had this experience in Utah,

some friends of mine, military, some of your best shooters,

some of the best shooters in the US

coming from the Marine Corps were showing me

how they would shoot something from really far away.

And I was like, oh, you don’t even have to be

in the same vicinity.

The scope of violence, how far you can be from it

or how close you could be from it.

Just wait till we get to see what we could do

in the cyber attack world.

We can destroy your whole wellbeing,

your whole life, your identity.

That’s another aspect of it too.

Financial, and then figure out where you live,

in terms of ambush.


Figuring out everything about you,

such that hurting you is easy.

I have a class where we specifically work

on social engineering and kind of how you can go

about something at a micro level.

I do a class with a guy named Matt Fidler,

who does, basically, he’s one of the premier experts

on how to get into and bypass locks, basically.

He’ll show you how to open up every single,

bypass every single commercial lock available

in the United States.

He’ll spread it out and it’ll open up everything.

And that’s like, right?

And my part in his class is I talk about

how you can pull some of that off in a public space

and not get caught, or how you would employ

some of these things in a context where it’s useful

for law enforcement, for the military, stuff like that.

And so we have this exercise in a public space

where there’s a bunch of padlocks in the environment.

We paint them pink so people know it’s our padlocks

and we’re not breaking into anybody else’s padlocks

if we get approached and asked about it.

But I ask the students, like,

so you have to gather all these padlocks

from this public space, you know?

So how would you do it?

So a lot of them are trying to pick them.

You know, they’re like very suspiciously picking them

and stuff like that, that you get caught,

and it’s a whole situation.

But the smart ones will basically develop

a social media campaign related to the padlocks, right?

A beautiful example of this,

and this actually happened here in Texas.

I did a class out in Dallas.

We put the padlocks all over this public mall,

and the students basically came up

with a breast cancer awareness campaign online

that they made fake, well, they made flyers for it.

They did the social media page on a campaign.

They did this email chain.

So when they went there, people were expecting them.

So they normalized the behavior through social media,

and they were walking around with bowl cutters

in the middle of the mall, cutting these things off.

That’s a beautiful, that’s a beautiful solution

to a complex problem of that nature.

And again, the weaponizing part of it.

Anything can be, all knowledge can be weaponized.

And it’s, if you focus on getting in a street fight

with somebody with your fist or a knife, you know,

you’re missing out on the whole complexity of violence

and the way that it’s now being utilized.

So in terms of breaking out locks,

and the restraints, and captivity,

let’s talk about a dark topic

that you’re one of the world experts in, kidnapping.

So you teach courses on counter kidnapping and terrorism.

I read an estimate that criminal gangs

get $500 million a year in ransom payments from kidnapping.

So just at a high level, what is kidnapping,

who does it, and why?

What are some insights that can help us understand

what is this problem in the world?

It happens in different ways

in different parts of the world.

I mean, I just sent off a group of people

that trained some of the Ukrainians.

And some of the stuff that they were showing them

was some of the counter custody stuff that I showed them.

A friend of mine named Vince went out there,

was showing them some of the aspects

of how to utilize things like Kevlar cordage

and how to infuse it in their uniform.

So if they get a zip tie to cut them open,

it’s a war setting.

So it talks about being captive in a war zone.

But the information or the methodology

actually comes from Mexico.

That methodology, as far as how I learned it.

In terms of how to escape from restraints and stuff like that.

So in Mexico, you have abductions happening

where cartels who hold control over a specific place or zone

are having a hard time with financial situations,

as far as maybe they’re not making enough money

to pay everybody off.

So they let them freelance, basically.

And a lot of ways, some of these criminal groups freelance

or some of these groups actually professionalize

and to abduct businessmen, abduct the sons of businessmen

or people that have money to ask for ransoms for them,


And they’ve taken captivity and abduction

to like an art form in places like Mexico.

And it has a history all over the world,

but specifically my experience with it

was going to cartel safe houses

that turned into holding places.

You would see, you know, homemade prison cells

and stuff like that.

And people being held in captivity for months, if not years

as they were milking their family for everything they owned.

So it turns out into a business,

they’re not actually even interested in hurting the people.

Physically, they’re interested in hurting them financially.

Financially and also this, if they get hurt,

they’re hurt for a purpose,

which is to make their family pay up faster or more.

Some of the abduction groups that I’ve seen out there,

professional ones in Mexico,

basically make it a living to target people

that have abduction insurance or that work for companies

that have good abduction insurance.

So it’s almost like an ATM for them, you know?

It’s like, ah, here again, huh?

So there’s some of that going on.

Some, not so much.

Some abductions are express.

I mean, I’ll grab you with a gunpoint,

take you to an ATM, you empty it out

and then you’re on your way.

That’s an express kidnapping.

That might not be worth you doing anything insane,

you know, you just go with the motions.

But some people do get picked up.

I have trained people with prior experiences of abductions

in Mexico and here in the United States,

people that have spent some time in captivity

with loved ones here, like ex-boyfriends or boyfriends

that tie them up and beat the shit out of them.

And the restraints they utilize are zip ties and handcuffs.

Sometimes or duct tape or their own clothing,

things of this nature.

Basically what somebody is looking for

when they tie anybody up is to convince you

that they are in control, that they are God

and that any hope of you releasing those restraints

or getting out of that situation is hopeless.

From a cartel group picking you up

in the middle of a dirt road somewhere in Cancun

to ex-boyfriend showing up at your house

and tying you up till you agree to get back with them.

That’s the same thing.

And some of the restraints that are being utilized

come from different places.

I mean, I remember an instructor I had way back when

told me that the proliferation of zip ties

as a restraint in criminal abductions

came up after the movie Heat came out

because everybody wanted to be Robert De Niro

zip tying people in the bank robbery

at the end of the movie.

Criminals saw that and it became a thing.

It’s hilarious.

Can you actually speak to the,

is it possible to systematically learn

how to escape restraints like handcuffs, rope, zip ties?

The best at it are not the military.

They’re not SEER program people.

They are criminals.

I learned how to get out of handcuffs from a 15-year-old

who was in charge of meth sales

in La Avenida Revolución in Tijuana.

Is there a system to it?

I mean, it’s not specifically a system.

It’s usually what happens is they’ll buy a set of handcuffs

and they will mess around with them in a playing feature.

So one thing I do in a class is first off,

I’m honest about the fact that some,

all the restraints are temporary, even marriage.

This is, wait, can we just pause in the deep philosophical?

You’re like Miyamoto Musashi with that statement.

All restraints are temporary, even marriage.

I’ll just, I just like adding that one in there for last

because this is a dark subject.

Every cage can be escaped.

All restraints are temporary.

You either free yourselves from the restraints,

somebody else takes them off,

or you die and your body rots away around them.

Those are the options.

And I like that first option myself.

The second option is pretty cool

if you can convince somebody to do that for you.

But that first option is an interesting one.

You have to deconstruct restraints.

Not all restraints are made the same.

You can train to get out of handcuffs here in the US

and focus on a pair of Smith & Wesson handcuffs,

which are kind of the most common brand of handcuffs here.

But if you find yourself in detention somewhere in Russia,

the handcuffs out there are completely different.

The key way is different.

The mechanism is different.

But some of the same ways of bypassing those mechanisms are-

I’m gonna write this down.

So in Russia, what kind are they using in Russia?

They’re gonna travel in there, they need this information.

I’ll send you a specific model

and details on how to get out of those.

But basically-

Just asking for a friend, I’m sorry.

So what I do is I take a pair of Smith & Wesson handcuffs,

I put them in the middle of three people in a class,

I spread them out,

and I have them place them on each other

in a just playing manner.

I have handcuffs keys there

and I have a pair of bolt cutters there

in case somebody gets stuck, does something stupid.

So they play with each other

as far as putting them on randomly.

I show them how to put them on appropriately.

And then I show them a handcuff key

and a handcuff key will open up handcuffs,

interestingly enough.

But the thing about a handcuff key is it’s not made

to be used by the person that is in those handcuffs.

So that’s the first lesson there.

If you have a handcuff key,

handcuff keys are the most used tool to open up handcuffs

in custody situations.

Both criminals escaping from the police

to people escaping from criminals.

Just a standard hidden handcuff key.

So I show them how to modify the handcuff key

so it’s more optimal to use on yourself

with just basic garbage that you can find.

Piece of wire, a zip tie piece,

basically how to put a leverage arm on the handcuff key

so you can actually spin it in the key way,

behind your back or in front of you.

I’m trying to think,

I don’t think I’ve ever been in handcuffs.

Appropriate way to handcuff somebody is palms out.

How much restriction is there in terms of-

There’s a lot.

If it’s a hinge handcuff, there’s a lot of restriction.

With no chain in the middle.

Can you reach back?

You could try and reach back

or you can basically put yourself

in a not compromised position

and feed the most of your palm meat into the handcuff way

so when they shut it on you,

you have more space to work with.

So you can spin your hand.

We call it a passive resistance.

Again, you go through a process with them

where you deconstruct how people are handcuffed.

Handcuff keys and how to modify handcuff key

to be able to use on yourself.

And these, all of these things

they’re constructing as we go.

So they basically, hey, what’s a grinding surface?

Well, there’s concrete outside.

So they grind an angle on the key

so you can get a key not to go straight into the key way

but you can get it into the key way at an angle,

for example.

It’s something that is out there as far as a method.

You can’t spin a key behind your back

because it’s small.

It’s designed to be used by somebody else

opening those handcuffs on you.

So you put an arm on it so you can leverage our arm

so you can spin it behind your back.

You learn how to put yourself

in not a compromised position.

If somebody asks you for your hands

so they could be cuffed,

you don’t do this, you know, you do that

or you put yourself in a cable grip behind your back

which is a pretty strong grip

and it’s hard to spread those hands apart.

It’s also something that people go into automatically

when they’re in fear.

So all of these things are advantageous for you.

And you learn how not only people get restrained

but you see videos of them

because I show a bunch of abduction

that’s actually happening live.

Again, the best thing is avoidance

but specifically when you work around restraints

is number one, learn how some of these restraints work.

Number two is learning how some of the ready-made tools

to get out of the restraints look like function.

And number three, which is the advanced level

is learn how to construct all of these things yourself

which is, I think that is the best thing

you can show somebody.

For handcuffs, I just use a standard pair of handcuffs

and then we deconstruct other very specialized handcuffs

that might be out there and you show them.

If you’re gonna travel somewhere,

learn what restraints are commonly available

in the environment.

Somebody going to North Sub-Saharan Africa

carrying a plastic handcuff key,

that’s gonna be useless out there

because there’s not gonna be standard handcuffs out there

that would be open with that type of key.

Out there, you’re probably gonna be tied up

with a chain and a padlock of some sort,

maybe a 40 millimeter Chinese padlock

with a plastic core that you can open with a lighter

if you can burn the core, melt the core open.

Or if you can leverage that open,

that’s a pretty easy thing to open.

Or a bobby pin, you could reach all the way in the back

and open the latch.

What about rope, is that common?

Yeah, it is common.

This is one of my favorite things for rope.

Something I usually carry in some places.

It’s another gift for you if you want.

It’s a ceramic razor blade.


Is it capable of cutting?


Small, you can put it behind a label.

I’ve seen some students put the Levi’s label on there

and just sew it back on.

It is non-magnetic, non-ferrous.

So in and out of that type of situation,

you can get in it and it’s something

you can have with you everywhere.

This is a pretty fancy one,

or you can just grab a simple razor blade.

Actually learning how to use or leverage a razor blade

between your palms and know how to go up and down with it.

And of course, that’s just practice to do that well.

It’s practice and it’s also exposure to just,

this is a possibility, this is how you could hide it.

Again, the whole smuggling aspect

comes from a criminal mindset type setting.

So how things are hidden, where they’re hidden.

And when I talk about concealing objects of this nature,

it usually comes from smuggling.

The fact that I have something in a notebook

comes from heroin smuggling.

If you’re not looking at the school of criminality,

you’re missing out on a big part of the equation.

So for people who wanna learn about this,

do you teach courses on this?

Do you know what’s the, how do they get in touch with you

or learn from you?

Do you have stuff online or is it only in person?

So I have some stuff on my Patreon specifically.

I have a Patreon where I share a lot of the online material.

Basically a bunch of, this is my notebook.

I have a bunch of stuff that I,

I just met somebody in Philadelphia

that showed me a pretty unique way

of utilizing a box cutter as a weapon.

So I wrote some of that down and filmed some of it.

And it’s not for any other reason.

I’m not trying to create dangerous people out there.

It’s like, hey, look at this.

This is something that’s out there, right?

So a lot of that information,

some of those notes and stuff like that,

I keep on my Patreon.

I used to share it openly on Facebook and Instagram,

but that has not been possible anymore.

Well, I’m a member of your Patreon

and I recommend people sign up.

It’s really great.

Because you also have philosophy.

You’re the Mexican Miyamoto Musashi.

It’s not just the skills,

it’s also the philosophy around it.

Like I got that book of five rings

before I went into training.

Like I took that with me through training.

The whole aspect of, you know,

go to places frightening to the common brand of men.

You know, be put in jail

and extricate yourself with your own wisdom.

I think he was speaking about experiencing experience.

You know, the whole warrior’s journey,

the hero’s journey of going out there and actually risking.

I think that’s a pretty big basis and aspect

of what the work I do and showing some of these things.

There’s a tendency to people that say,

hey, I’m afraid to go to Mexico.

What do I need to know?

Like, well, if you’re afraid to go to Mexico,

go to Mexico.

I mean, I was in Detroit.

I was pretty afraid when I was in Detroit

and some parts of Detroit and the South side of Chicago.

But I don’t want to be dictated where I can go

and where I can’t go because of safety.

I want to take responsibility for that myself

and figure out ways of being more capable

and an asset to the people around me and myself.

And that comes from experience.

And people don’t want to risk getting a shoulder injury,

rolling in jujitsu,

or don’t want to risk getting a bloody nose in boxing.

But that is the way.

Well, there’s some aspect to fitting in.

You quote Hattori Hanzo on imitation.

The most important thing you should keep in mind

when you go on a Shinobi mission

is to imitate well the language of the target province

and the ways of the local people.

This includes their appearances,

the way of wearing clothes,

the way of shaving their head,

the way of making up their hair,

the way of making up a sword or short sword,

and the way of refinement and luxury.

So how do you fit into some of those places?

So you know Mexico,

but a person like me that doesn’t know anything about Mexico

and say I’m interviewing somebody in a leadership position

in a drug cartel.

How quickly do you learn how to fit in?

I mean, it’s not about fitting in,

it’s about coming up with a narrative for yourself.

What that book is talking,

that’s a quote from the book called a Shoninki,

which is like an actual legit ninja manual

from like the 1500s or something like that.

And they’re not talking about blending in,

they’re talking about creating a narrative or a lie

to your appearance and your behavior

and your knowledge base.

That’s what they’re talking about.

So I would say first,

if you’re gonna go to a place like that,

first off, learn what is common there,

what type of common restraints might be placed on you,

what criminal groups work out there,

what type of guns they have.

Not only what type of guns they have,

but go to the gun range in Vegas

and learn how to fire some of these firearms yourself

so you know how to load them

in case you run into a bad situation.

How they tie the sword,

how they wear their short swords

could equate to how, you know,

if you run into some issues.

Also, it would give you a good idea

how many rounds those hold

so you can run at the right moment.

I like how you focus in on the tools of violence.

But there’s also the social engineering de-escalation, right?

Yeah, so if you are in an environment like that

and you are carrying around a camera,

that might be an issue.

Or the opposite, it might not be an issue.

Well, if you’re asked like,

were you with the news organization

or am I with a Christian aid group here?


And if you are with a Christian aid group,

it’s probably a good idea to learn some of the Bible, right?

If you want a quick way of having somebody out there

try and stop talking to you,

you can start talking about Jesus

in the middle of a little cartel territory

when they approach you and take out the Bible.

That’ll quickly de-escalate.

So it’s a good time to contact.

What I usually prefer to do

is I find somebody from the New York Times

and the Wall Street Journal

and beat them up in front of the,

just to send a signal that I’m not a journalist

and I too don’t like journalists.

That could be a way, but-

To send a message.

I think a lot of us miss the fact

that we are capable of taking control of our own narrative

and what we communicate to people around us.

I could show up here drinking a Monster Energy drink,

dumping it on the ground, scratching you know what,

then just sit down and just be a rude motherfucker.

That’s not who I am, but I can do that.

And you will believe me if I am good at it.

Some of us miss the, some of us don’t know this aspect

because it’s something we consider predatory

or something that is wrong or negative or bad.

And some of these aspects are actually,

you know, they’re pretty useful.

I learned most of my trade craft and skill craft

from panhandlers and street performers.

And when I had some training related to social engineering,

those were the people that I learned from.

I remember we were doing surveillance

and there was a guy there that showed us

how to do surveillance, you know, on the street.

And he said,

if you can find a way for somebody to smell you

before they see you, you’ll become invisible.

And I was like, that’s bullshit.

If you can find a way of somebody smelling you

before they see you become invisible.

I didn’t understand what that meant.

So we went on a three day bender, didn’t take a shower,

smell like shit, no deodorant.

You know, you smell like a homeless person.

You look like a homeless person.

And you approach somebody asking for the time

and they smell you before they see you.

And you are not there.

You’re not a human, you don’t exist.

So that was a pretty valuable lesson that I got there.

Yeah, so that’s interesting.

But like, I have this belief,

it has to do with the way I operate in this world,

I suppose, but if you come off as a person legitimately,

I guess you could fake it, but I think it just feels like

you can be extremely good, possibly the best in the world,

if you practice it your whole life, at being you.

At being authentic, at being,

at showing like you have nothing to hide.


A true believer, is what I, a true believer.

So like, yes, you can come up with a fake narrative,

but then what I mean is like,

live that narrative your whole life then.

Would be, like.

Yeah, I understand.

And then never falter from that.

Like, you are this person, that’s what,

I’m trying to, I have nothing to hide.

I consider that a true believer,

and yeah, that is a unique person when you meet them,

and they are out there.

There are people that will fucking walk into places.

This is who I am, I don’t give a fuck.

This is who I am, if you don’t trust me,

well, shoot me, fuck it.

This is my honesty, and if you don’t trust me,

well, look at all these people that I’ve interacted with

in the past, and you can ask them about it,

or you can see my effects on other people.

That’s gonna be my presentation card.

And so the way you said it now is using words,

and it’s blunt, usually if somebody’s blunt like that,

like I’m a no bullshit person, that means they’re not.


That means they’re a full of shit, actually.

You do that through, I mean, I’m saying,

I’m verbalizing your behavior, just walking somewhere.

Let’s say you’re going to interview

somebody very dangerous down there,

and you walk into a room without worry.

That is a presentation to you.

I know that’s a pretty interesting introduction.

You’re not a threat because you don’t consider yourself

a threat, and you’re walking in there with the confidence

that you don’t consider yourself a threat,

which is an interesting way of going about it.

My life experiences has been different.

I wasn’t programmed that way from an early age,

and it’s hard for me to go into that line.

Although more and more as I get older,

and as I learn more about the world,

and I’ve failed a few more times,

I can understand or more cognizant of the fact

that you don’t really have to try that much

if you believe in yourself and who you are.

If you know yourself, I think that is at the core of it.

If you know yourself enough to be able

to kind of communicate that to people around you.

And you’re not hiding from yourself

or from the world your flaws, too.

That was the other thing you spoke to

that is probably inspiring to others

is being honest about your flaws,

about your weaknesses as a human being.

You can’t pickpocket a naked man.

Yeah, that’s right.

That’s really brilliant.

If you know how to be naked,

and again, I’m not there.

I think I’m working towards that

just by hopefully going through shit

and showing people, not telling them.

Is it show me, don’t tell me

is another valuable lesson that I got long ago.

I travel across the country,

and I not only get to show people what I know how to do,

but I give examples of it through things that I do out there.

And I say this a lot.

When I travel out there, I’m never alone.

There’s couches out there waiting for me.

There’s homes that I can go and stay at

and friends that I have out there

that I have never even met.

But that’s been about me,

not only wearing some of those mistakes

and past failures on my sleeve,

but also turning them into lessons for people.

And just telling people the fact that

I know how to do all this weird stuff,

and I show people how to do it.

But here’s a bunch of weird memes

that are very humorous about my culture

and about going through therapy.

And this is me doing something goofy.

And this is me being an idiot

in front of all you guys as well.

This is me being the fool.

I think that’s another aspect of it.

I love that as part of that journey,

you made enemies with the rodeo clown

and made up with him afterwards.

Oh, we’re still in a very toxic relationship.

He knows who he is.

He’s probably out there listening.

Love and hate all there.

We stopped talking to each other for months

and then just send a dick message of some sort

and just, we’re back at it.

Back, yeah.

Love expressed through anger.

I love it.

It’s therapeutic.

You have both very interesting career paths.

If we can just jump back to a really interesting topic

that I wanted to mention on narco-cultism.

What are narco-cults?

What’s the relationship between,

you kind of mentioned religion a little bit.

What’s the relationship between

religious culture and drug culture?

First off, Mexico is one of the most Catholic countries

on the planet, if not the most Catholic country

on the planet.

Not only that, it is a country that has a root

in a spirituality through its ethnic culture

that other parts of the world got most of that taken away

and or suppressed or killed or taken away.

When the Spanish came to Mexico,

they were a product of a recently liberated group

of people.

They just got done being invaded by the Moors, basically.

And they brought with them the image

of La Virgen de Guadalupe, the Virgin of Guadalupe.

And Hernan Cortez’s vision of that or version of that

was a lady holding a crystal scepter, baby Jesus,

and standing on a crescent moon.

That’s what he brought with him to the Americas.

And when the conquest happened,

a lot of people say,

yeah, the Spanish came and conquested the Aztec empire.

The enemies of the Aztec allied themselves

with the Spanish and they took them down.

That’s what happened.

And then the rest was famine and sickness.

That’s what killed most of them.

They realized that it was gonna be hard

to suppress some of the spiritual practices in Mexico,

so they decided to meld them with Catholic iconography.

So you see this cult to Tuanatzin,

which is like a fertility variant

of a mother goddess in Aztec culture.

And they turned her into La Virgen de Guadalupe,

which is the icon that a lot of Mexicans venerate

as the La Virgen, the Virgin.

But in her, she conceals cultural elements from the past.

She has a black sash across her stomach,

which means she’s pregnant,

something common in the Aztec culture,

in the Mexica culture.

She’s standing on a cherub that has eagle wings,

that is a war god.

That’s a symbol of the war god down there.

She has stars on her, which is a veil of certain stars

that are related to some of the spiritual practices

from before.

Basically, they hid these things in that setting.

Now you skip forward hundreds of years

and you start seeing things like Malverde,

who was a bandit that lived in Sinaloa way back in the day.

He would rob rich farmers

that would go through the countryside.

One time he was almost caught and he was shot and injured

and he was wanted by the government.

So he told one of his friends to tell them where he was

and to give the reward money to the townspeople.

So he did that.

He was hung from a tree and the order was not to bury him,

just to let his body rot.

And his body rotted away

until it fell onto the ground, the bones.

And each of the townspeople would go over

and put a rock on top of his corpse

until it became a pile of rocks.

And then he started granting miracles.

So again, this whole aspect of these criminals

become insane.

And also a middle finger from the downward local populace

to the church in a way,

because he’s not a recognized saint,

but he has an altar and people venerate that.

Then you have cartels that have a spiritual practice

or spirituality behind what they do,

which is part of their culture,

but it’s also like a tool they use

to ingratiate themselves with the local populace

or the population around them.

They’re icons of power

and sometimes of almost a symbol of rebellion.

You see El Chapo’s son, when he was arrested,

had a Santo Niño de Atocha on his chest,

which is a holy kid of Atocha.

The Spanish legend during the Moorish conquest,

they said that a statue of that saint

would go around and feed some of the hungry.

That was the legend.

And he’s a saint of the persecuted.

So the fact that when he was arrested,

he was, you see him with that, wearing that,

and then he was liberated is a miracle in and of itself.

So it’s proof that that works.

You see, that was,

you can find one of those scapuladios anywhere in Mexico.

That was the most, at least the sold one.

So you see them utilizing some of these aspects

in their own belief system as a symbol

or as iconography, basically,

for some of the things they do.

Then you go into some of the other aspects of it

that are out there, like Santa Muerte,

which is actually a faith that I grew up in.

Mexico has a weird relationship to death.

We have parties at the cemetery on Day of the Dead,

and I just went through one recently.

This is November the 2nd.

So we celebrate our dead,

and we celebrate death in a way

that I don’t think a lot of cultures out there do.

So it’s a joyful occasion.

It is a celebration, yeah.

My eight-year-old put two beers on an altar,

one for my mom, one for my brother.

She bought a Snickers bar for my mom

and a bag of Pops for my brother,

flower petals and marigolds,

and pictures of them on an altar.

That’s amazing.

What kind of beer?

Tecate, Tecate Roja for my mother,

because she was hardcore,

and Tecate Light for my brother.

He was more of an endurance drinker.

And it’s also, for me,

the relationship to death down there is different.

So there’s a Nikon in Mexico.

It’s actually one of the fastest-growing

alternative spiritual practices in Mexico,

and not only in Mexico, but here in the U.S.

I’ve been to Santa Muerte temples across the country.

I found one in Connecticut, out of all places.

How I grew up with it, where I saw it,

is my family was all Guadalupanos.

We were Catholic, and we venerated

the Virgin of Guadalupe, specifically,

the icon of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

But every now and then, there were winks and nods

to a skeletal saint in family practices.

And even when I went to work,

the older guys that I was working with

would tell me, like,

hey, we gotta go ask for protection.

So they would drive me over to the church,

and I thought I was going to the cathedral.

And then we made a left turn,

and it wasn’t the cathedral.

It was the market next to the cathedral in Tijuana.

And in the little corner,

there was a big Santa Muerte reaper effigy.

And then I knew why I had to bring a bottle of tequila.

I was like, why am I bringing a bottle of tequila

to the church?

It was for her, for death, la muerte.

It was partly hazing.

And also, they did believe that they were basically

imbued with being agents of death, in a way.

So it was like a cultural thing as well,

something that they wore on them as not only protection,

but as also like a samurai would wear

this death iconography on them,

or how the Maori would do haka dances.

To some of these guys and their kind of warrior culture

that they were growing up with or trying to imbue on us,

the young guys, they would take us there,

and they would imbue us with iconography of Santa Muerte

to be like a psychological thing.

So that gives you strength and meaning

in the face of struggle,

like in the face of difficulties in life?

I think, you know, your closeness to death

and having a relationship to death

in the form of a symbolic representation of it,

like Santa Muerte or an icon like that,

makes it not as scary, I guess.

Or not only that, but it’s also something

that the other side, the enemy, the cartels groups,

they would venerate it as well.

So when they would see it on you,

it was almost debilitating to them.

They were like, oh, are you guys cops?

Are you guys, why are you wearing that?

So there was an aspect of that to it.

A momento mori type thing,

where, you know, remember death, you know, type thing.

There’s some aspect in which you don’t wanna mess

with a person who meditates on death.

There was some of that, yeah.

There was a saying, I think they probably took it

from a movie or something like that,

but I don’t know where they got it.

May I earn your need and be your wrath.

Oh man, that’s a good line.

They would say that to the statue of La Santa, you know.

Another thing, people,

it’s not a cartel-specific saying, though.

It’s like everybody, like at all levels,

from the lady that sells tortillas,

to the cops, to the military.

There’s some people in the military that venerate it.

There’s a very specific symbol

of how this is like a weird relationship,

specifically in Santa Muerte in Mexico.

There’s a shrine outside of Tijuana,

right across the La Presa.

It’s like a water reservoir right outside Tijuana.

And there was a big Santa Muerte altar there,

like on the roadside.

And my former boss, Liza Ola, ordered that thing destroyed.

So he ordered a truck to destroy it.

It was a famous thing.

And it was rebuilt the next night.

And I know for a fact that some of the people

that rebuilt that were some of the same guys

that were there destroying it.

Oh man, that’s pretty symbolic.

So it’s just, it’s not something that can be killed.

It’s a part of the spirit of the people.

It keeps getting destroyed by ultra-Christian groups

or Catholic groups, and it keeps getting rebuilt.

Personally, for me, as a, you know,

I don’t believe that there’s a reaper skeleton

in the sky protecting me.

But I do believe in the aspect of an ending, you know,

and how it’s important to, you know,

the ending is important in all things,

and death should be present in life.

And if it’s not, then you’re delusional about things.

So to you, it’s a mechanism to meditate on death once again.


And, you know, having my daughter, who’s eight,

view it as a benevolent thing, you know.

She’s a kid, and she sees a skeleton

that represents death, and she just does, it’s like.

I think, in a way, Mexicans have taken some of those aspects

to be a day of the dead, some of these practices

related to some occultism aspects around, you know,

St. Judas, you know, San Judas.

St. Judas is the patron saint of lost causes,

and it’s one of the most venerated saints in Mexico.

You know, Jesus is probably the fourth or fifth

you pray to, which is pretty funny and ridiculous.

But the reason why, and this is something I heard

from somebody that was actually,

we found him with a gun, and on his gun,

he had a St. Judas effigy.

And he said, oh, like, why St. Judas?

Por que San Judas?

And he’s like, well, he’s the last saint you pray to.

What do you mean?

Well, on the list of saints you pray to,

he’s the last one, because when you pray to Judas,

you might get the other Judas on the line.


That’s the last one you pray to,

that’s why he’s like the lost causes saint.

I remember, like, even how we try and bribe

or, like, maneuver our way, even in spirituality.

It’s spiritual practices.


You know?

Such a fascinating culture that’s unlike anything else.

And it’s right next door.

And it’s here, too.

Again, I found an altar in Connecticut,

which is pretty fascinating.

There’s one in Arizona.

Again, it’s one of the fastest-growing spiritual practices

not only in the U.S., but, like, across.

There’s somebody from Russia reached out.

There’s an altar out there,

and there’s a group of people praying to Santa Marta,

and I’ve been posting and writing a lot about it recently,

just from my own experience

and some of the stuff that I gather for myself,

and all the way out there.

You know, people are fascinated by some of those aspects.

So I gotta ask you about the dark turn of that spirituality,

or maybe you’ll place this elsewhere,

but who was Adolfo Costanzo?

He’s a guy that comes up in a period,

I think he’s at that initial period of cartels.

This is before my time,

and I’ve talked to some of the people

that were there for some of that.

I mean, he kills a lot of people.

He was exposed and learned through his family ties

about some of the Afro-Caribbean spiritualities

that are now also exploding,

as far as influences across the world,

Latin America and in the U.S.

When I talk about that, I mean, Santeria,

Pablo Mayombe,

basically some old spiritual practices

coming out of Africa,

that utilize things like ngangas,

which are basically spiritual vessels

that have to be loaded with human remains in some cases.

He was basically a spiritual practitioner

that certain cartel groups would hire

for them to curse the other side,

to imbue them with invisibility,

to be able to transport their drugs

or protection spells and stuff like that.

He was very successful at it apparently,

or at least that is the experience

of the people paying for some of these practices.

As his spells and his work kept getting bigger and bigger

and more and more complicated,

the ingredients he needed for these ngangas or these spells,

these cauldrons that he would fill with certain elements

grew in complexity.

Till finally he said he needed the brain

of a highly educated American of some sort,

which led to his eventual downfall.

He was basically responsible for abducting

and murdering a young American

who was a university college student, I think.

Do you think he believed the,

so this guy’s murdering people

to create what, magical potions?

Vessels, yeah. Vessels.

I think, yeah, I think he truly believed

that he was capable of doing what he was doing, I guess.

And there was a culture that’s spiritually inclined

that kinda was on the same wavelength as him.

Yeah, it jived.

I mean, some of these spiritual practices,

again, there’s a ritualistic cannibalism

done by some of these cartel groups out there.

Was he involved in cannibalism as well?

He wasn’t involved in cannibalism that I know of,

but most of the things that he was kind of known for

was basically requesting human body parts

for some of the spell works he was doing.

And then going to such a level

where he needed a specific brain or head of somebody

that was educated and American.

So that kind of, again, led to his eventual downfalls.

His ranch was raided.

They found the body parts inside of these cauldrons

that he was preparing.

That’s an interesting example of somebody.

There’s a cartel head somewhere in Central Mexico as well.

El Mas Loco was his nickname.

And he basically forced the citizenship around him

to turn him into a saint.

So he made a statue of himself.

He was very big into Christianity,

specifically kind of like the crusader mentality

and all of that.

Kind of imbued himself and some of the people

that were around him with that.

And there’s still alters to his death, to him after he died.

He died two times.

One time, the government declared him

that he was killing to shoot out

and turns out he wasn’t dead.

So that was his first miracle, you know?

And then when he was really dead,

some of his people and his loyal followers

were gunpoint kind of still forced to go and give flowers

and venerate these effigies and statues of him as a saint.

It’s a powerful weapon.

Spirituality in Mexico is a powerful weapon.

And, you know, the Catholic church in Mexico

has a pretty bad track record.

But as far as that being used to control populace

and stuff like that.

And I think it’s just another aspect

that is being exploited in Mexico in some communities

as far as the spirituality

and the desperate need for people to believe in something

and how that leads for some people

to go into some horrible predatory behavior around it.

There’s a fascinating dynamic at play here.

So it’s not just the United States and Mexico,

it’s also China that you talk about.

China is the primary source of fentanyl in the world.

So fentanyl is an opioid that leads to 70,000

plus or minus overdose deaths in the US every year.

So reading from Wikipedia, quote,

“‘Compared with heroin, it is more potent,

“‘has higher profit margins,

“‘and because it is compact, has simpler logistics.

“‘It can be cut into or even replaced entirely

“’the supply of heroin and other opiates.’”

What do you think is important to understand

about fentanyl as a drug?

There was a prescription opiate epidemic

in the United States that kind of went down or stopped.

Well, you know, it’s still out there,

but like the epidemic specific around it kind of petered out.

And there was also marijuana legalization

happening at kind of the same time period,

which, you know, people talking about marijuana legalization

thought it was gonna hit the cartels in their pockets

and it was gonna be like a, you know,

a death blow to these criminal groups.

Well, now there’s illegal pot grows in the United States

being run by cartels in federal lands.

There’s the legal pot grows that are in some way,

shape or form influenced and or run or owned

by some criminal groups that are kind of utilizing

that the marijuana fields in Mexico

turned into poppy fields once again.

The problem is that some of these lands

were leached of all the nutrients and, you know,

they’re not as good as something you would find

somewhere in Afghanistan.

So the yield and the quality of it

wasn’t as strong as it could be.

So somebody thought about the right idea

of putting fentanyl into the mix.

And not only that, but also figuring out

how to get fentanyl into Mexico.

Mexico has a giant pharmaceutical industry

that people kind of also don’t kind of know

or factor into this equation,

which leads into the free ability of chemicals

going in and out of the country

and legal means of it happening, right?

So not only the precursors to make it,

but also the chemist and the industry

to create it in Mexico as well.

Some clandestine factories of fentanyl

have been found in Mexico,

but realistically it’s not needed

with the ways that the ports and the borders

are down in Mexico.

You started seeing an influx and a flood

of fentanyl into Mexico,

specifically related to infusing it into heroin.

And not only using that to feed local drug markets,

but send it up into the United States,

which started off this process

that we’re kind of going through still.

Are these like similar highs drug-wise?

Why do you infuse?

I mean, probably you’re not the right person

to have this biochemical discussion of how-

I don’t know about the biochemical aspect of it,

but like speaking to guys that do Chiba down there,

that’s what they call heroin down there.

It’s like a nickname for it.

Having them describe some of the older,

stinkier, darker heroin they used to get

before this whole fentanyl thing,

and the highs they would get

and how much they would have to take,

versus some of the stuff loaded with fentanyl

that they have to slow it down.

Also, there’s more higher potency.

Yeah, there’s a higher potency to it,

and also there’s a-

More money to be made, easier to transport.


But then, is this how China

starts becoming part of the picture?

One aspect to it that people kind of miss

is that there’s no Chinese cartel.

There’s no criminal Chinese organization

working unseen, getting around government oversight in China.

I don’t know of any such organization.

Anything that could be labeled as a criminal organization

is deeply integrated with the government.

I mean, I’ve never heard of a giant criminal enterprise

in China operating, so we have to assume then-

Independent of the state.

I would have to assume that some of these things

are happening with the know-how

and inaction of the government out there.

When COVID hit, there was a shortage of fentanyl

on the northern side of Mexico,

specifically related to the Sinaloa cartel.

These guys were actually trafficking fentanyl

from the US down to Mexico to infuse their product,

but not the New Generation cartel,

which operates out of the central part of Mexico,

the Colima area, which have access to the seaside ports.

So even during the shutdown, they were getting supplied,

which means to me, at least, or for anybody observing it,

that the supply chain was not cut,

and whatever was coming out of China

was being let out of China by whatever official channels

would be able to shut down or stop it.

And I would love to know the organizational structure,

the governmental structure of China,

how they enable it.

Because I can’t imagine, at the very top,

there’s a portfolio of things we’re doing,

and one of them is fentanyl trade.

I think it’s more inaction,

or just the know-how that is happening,

but just hands-off, just let this, I don’t know.

If I were to understand how large bureaucracies work,

it’s looking the other way.


You are now seeing pill presses brought to Mexico,

industrial-level pill presses

found in clandestine laboratories,

where they’re not only infusing the yields

that they’re doing with fentanyl,

but also making fake pain medication

that is flooding U.S. markets everywhere.

That’s where it is.

Is that pain medication, or is that fentanyl?

Who knows?

That’s how you see a lot of people dying from ODs

that are supposedly taking pain pills,

and that’s not what they’re doing.

So the evolution right now you’re seeing

is making something look legit

as far as pain medication that it isn’t.

And fentanyl is everywhere.

They’re infusing cocaine with it.

I’ve been getting stories from the U.S.

of people buying it through Alibaba

or just weird online sources,

and it coming in different packages,

and just infusing it into whatever is out there.

It is killing off a whole generation of people.

And it comes from one place,

or it’s manufactured somewhere

where it’s being manufactured with the precursors

and the elements and know-how that comes from one place.

Are we talking about China?

Talking about China.

Because Mexico seems to have,

what’s the role, this is such a complicated,

and how do you start to talk about the drug war

when more and more and more

China is the source of the drug?

Is there a drug war going on with China?

There’s probably an economic war.

Well, you talk about,

there’s another side to China.

Most, and this is something that’s come out recently,

a few years back, I think.

But basically, the ways you would move money

back into Mexico after you have a load up here

is that you would give it to a Chinese money broker.

They would put it into a Chinese banking system

and it immediately would just disappear from American eyes.

And then another money broker in Mexico

would receive it through a money transfer from China.

So China’s incredibly good at money laundering.

That’s another aspect to it.

I mean, their banking system is invisible to the US,


Which allows?

Which allows the monies to move from one point to another.

So money brokers and people moving money

for the groups down there are Chinese.

So that’s another aspect there,

element of China, as far as its presence.

What’s the role of intelligence in all of this?

FBI, CIA, the Chinese intelligence agencies?

Right now, Mexico is going through a nationalistic resurgence

and a leftist presidency,

which is not friendly to US interest in a lot of ways.

The US has had a pretty bad track record

with its foreign policy in Mexico,

with a lot of damage being done by the last president,

as far as his rhetoric.

Donald Trump.

Which has been weaponized and utilized

by the left down in Mexico.

So America is not seen positively.


Every now and then I post something about Mexico,

some horrible thing happening down there.

It’s like, why doesn’t US send people down there?

Are Mexicans looking for US intervention?

It’s like, no.

That is beyond what anybody in Mexico would want.

Specifically, you see the sentiment out there.

They don’t view the US as somebody

that’s gonna come in and fix anything,

or somebody that’s gonna help or as a friend.

When the Ukrainian conflict happened,

Mexico basically abstained from saying anything,

which is a wink and a nod to Russia.

It has openly been pro Maduro

and openly celebrated some of these regimes

popping up across Latin America.

Which is, that is what people voted for.

That is a sentiment down there.

They’re going towards the left of the political spectrum

because they’ve been basically violated

over and over again by all these different presidencies

that have promised change, brought corruption with them,

and they are our choices.

So this is the best we have right now.

And all of the enemies of the United States

are taking full advantage of that.

We recently had a general kinda,

address a Senate committee hearing, I think.

He was talking about the prevalence

of foreign intelligence services in Mexico, you know,

and why that is.

Well, you know, it has,

Mexico has a lot of the mineable lithium on the planet,

underneath parts of it, specifically in the north.

And it is going through a process,

they call it the Cuarta Transformación,

the fourth transformation,

is what the president of Mexico calls it.

Which is, in a way,

it’s basically we’re here to stay type thing.

You know, they just nationalized mining lithium

and taking control of that and using that as leverage.

If the United States ever wants to go to Mexico,

it’s probably not gonna be related to cartel issues.

It’s gonna probably be related to energy, I think.

You know, so they’re kinda thinking ahead, I guess.

Well, what about also,

just imagine a world where India and China

are doing fentanyl trade with Mexico

or whatever transport.

Imagine Chinese military moves, makes an agreement,

a NATO type of agreement with Mexico.

That’s pretty possible.

Again, we’re seeing a militarized Mexico.

It’s another aspect of Mexico that, again,

I haven’t seen talked about a lot here in the US.

The main promise that the current president had

was he was gonna make the police, the federal police,

and the security issues in Mexico civilian.

He was gonna do exactly the opposite

as his main rival, Felipe Calderon,

the guy that started off the drug war officially.

And what does he do?

He dissolves the civilian leadership of the federal police,

dissolves the federal police,

creates the National Guard, which is a military unit,

and he puts the military in charge of that.

Now the military has a full monopoly

over all federal policing.

When you cross into Mexico,

you’ll see them wearing these white camouflage uniforms.

Those are National Guard people,

but they’re the military.

So now you’re seeing a militarized Mexico.

With some of these leaks that happened

during the Guacamaya leaks,

you’re now seeing that Mexico has been hosting members

of the Haitian military,

and they’ve been training them up

to go back to police their country.

That’s not something that Mexico has been known for,

hosting other nations and training them in such a way.

So it’s an interesting maneuver.

Mexico has been historically neutral

about getting involved in foreign conflicts,

about voting and resolutions as far as invading

or not invading or doing all of these things.

Mexico has been historically kind of neutral

when it comes to some of these things,

and now we’re training foreign military forces

to go and do that role somewhere else.

We have the military building airports

and building infrastructure in Mexico

and a lot of their higher ups

getting very wealthy around it.

And they basically have a monopoly

over who gets to have guns down there.

There’s one gun store in all Mexico

and it’s run by the military.

And the only way you can buy a gun there

is if you can buy a plane ticket to fly there

and have enough money to sustain that right

or that privilege.

So you’re seeing the military not being

in its traditional role of just being the security force,

now it’s policing.

It’s getting involved in politics in a big way.

It’s legislation that has passed

to keep it on the streets

and a policing role for more years now.

So that should be looked at closer

by anybody observing it from afar,

the militarization of Mexico and where it’s going.

Because if you move towards a world

where a World War III happens,

it feels like Mexico will be the center.

Because a hot war would be fought on the ground.

And so you have a very difficult parallel

between Mexico and Ukraine.

Both don’t have nuclear weapons,

both have relationships.

So Ukraine has a relationship

or a pull towards the European Union and NATO.

Mexico, at least currently,

has a kind of slow pull towards China,

India potentially, and Russia.

And you have this divide

between power centers in the world.

And in terms of, just imagine hundreds of thousands

of Mexican troops, hundreds of thousands of Chinese troops

on the border, on the US border, on the Mexican side.

And also the fact that that border doesn’t mean anything

to any sort of conflict that would happen regionally,

because that’s a very easy to cross border.

Doesn’t matter how many walls you put across it.

People are already here.

This is not gonna be a war fought off

in some overseas place.

Like you’re not gonna, this is something,

if it happens, if destabilization is utilized in Mexico

to cause a conflict there,

and it turns into a Vietnam or a proxy war down there

of a sort, which I think,

in a way you’re already kind of seeing some of that

through some of the conflicts going on down there.

You have a new generation cartel

that is being fed fentanyl from the Pacific side ports.

And it’s suspiciously, you wanna think

that maybe it’s favored by a foreign government

of some sort, in some way, shape, or form, who knows.

And then you have a historically in control

Sinaloa cartel that may or may not be favored by the US

in some way, shape, or form.

You can imagine a further conflict down there

and people fostering it and seeing the effects

of basically setting a fire on the feet of the United States.

Its second largest consumer of US products is Mexico.

The massive wave of immigration

that is going to be basically weaponized.

You saw the collapse of the border security structure

with a contingent of 3,000 Honduran Guatemalan immigrants

in that first wave of caravans coming to Tijuana.

It was pretty bad.

It was pretty bad and it could have gotten worse.

Now, what is gonna happen when that wave

is no longer 3,000, but a million people

being displaced by violence or being in fear

of whatever conflict might originate down there

and just that massive wave of migration and move.

I think that’s an interesting thing

that people should look at and how can you affect change

to try and stop some of these things to happen.

Well, let me ask you at a philosophical, at a human level,

what do you think about immigration?

Illegal and legal immigration from the direction of Mexico

to the United States?

So we have an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants

in the United States

and estimated 45 million legal immigrants in the United States.

A few things about that.

When COVID hit, there was no shortages of produce

in the supermarkets, which means that,

I mean, illegal immigration is pretty much

the backbone of all produce

and some of the farming industries out there,

most of it.

So illegal immigration and illegal workers

in those fields are essential workers in a way.

I think there’s a weird relationship in the United States

with some of these workers and how they’re demonized

and how they’re called criminals.

I think there was a state out there

that passed anti-illegal immigrant worker legislation.

The farmers had to look elsewhere for people to show up

to work in some of these fields,

which basically caused millions of dollars worth of losses

for some of these farms.

Anywhere you go out there in the United States,

you go into the kitchens

and there’s gonna be paisanos there,

French, high-level French restaurants.

You’ll see people from Puebla there

that made their way illegally

and might have legalized or regularized their way

into the country or in a sanctuary city.

You go to the service industry, hotels,

those are the people changing the blankets.

Those are the people in the washrooms.

You have them doing jobs

that no American wants to do, realistically,

and they’re everywhere in this country

and they are the backbone of some of these industries

that are essential in this country.

Do you think there’s a deep sense

in which they are American?

I think they’re indispensable

and anybody that says they aren’t is delusional.

If you take every single legal worker

out of the industry in the United States

and send them back,

like there’s a movie out there called

Yes in Mexicano, it’s a day without Mexicans.

Everything would stop.

So the relationship is there.

People talk about the history of slavery in this country,

like it’s a thing that is in the past.

There’s endangered slaves in the country right now,

people that are paying off their people smugglers

because they brought them into this country

and they haven’t been able to pay that fine or that fee yet

and are basically being held hostage by that

here in the United States.

So they’re slaves right now in the United States.

People are talking about it’s a historical context.

What do we do about it?

How are we supposed to think about it?

We’re gonna have to rethink

how we look at immigration,

illegal or legal immigration from Mexico

and how we view Mexico as a foreign country.

Your relationship to Canada is one thing,

your relationship to Mexico is another.

The foreign policy towards Mexico

has been pretty nefarious

as far as the United States in a lot of ways.

You can go back.

There was a student massacre during the Olympics

and the president in turn at that time was on the CIA payroll

and it was a counter communist type maneuver

that we’re doing down there.

But there’s some bloody hands on the US side

of some of the things that have been happening in Mexico

as far as destabilization and influencing

and meddling in foreign policy out there.

Most of the guns that are used down there

come from the US.

And that’s another interesting aspect

and responsibility that people

shouldn’t kind of think about up here.

So there is on the drug war side,

a machine that’s fueling the drug war.

I mean, there’s a giant drug habit up here.

But also a governmental intelligence

and military support through the sale of weapons.

I don’t know about the sale of weapons

but there’s some very,

you talk about porous borders coming up.

There’s porous borders also going down.

There’s a flow of guns going down and munitions,

which again, they don’t kill anybody by themselves.

They get put in the hands of the desperate

that are trying to feed a giant drug market

to the south, to the north.

Mexico has a saying,

Mexico, Mexico,

lejos de Dios pero cerca de los Estados Unidos.

Mexico, far from God, but close to the United States.

And there’s definitely a responsibility on both sides.

This is no longer a Mexico problem, a US problem.

This is a regional problem.

And if we don’t think of it as a regional problem

with our brothers on the southern side of it

and with family, we’re related in blood.

There’s like, we are,

we are, Mexico and the United States are like this.

But it’s become popular in politics.

They just throw a line, right?

And I think we need to get to a place

where we can figure out how to make those connections

and repair some of the damage done

by like just years and years of bad policy

on both sides of the border.

Policy and rhetoric, the way we talk about it,

the way we think about it, not just the actual policy,

but seeing the humanity in the people that are here.

Yeah, it’s an easy thing.

They’re coming to take our jobs is something you hear.

There was a state out there that passed some anti,

anti-legislation as far as illegal workers on fields.

And it led to massive losses.

Nobody wanted to show up for those jobs, basically.

People would show up one day and they wouldn’t come back

and they were doing jobs that people just don’t wanna do.

Are they taking that from the locals

or are they filling an essential role

that we feel guilty about?

And the rhetoric around it is more about guilt

than anything.

I am an immigrant myself.

I’ve gone through the experience of doing it legally

and I’ve seen people not do it legally

and are in way better places than I am, basically,

by going around some of the system.

The system itself, the immigration system here in the US,

there’s something wrong.

It’s kind of broken.

And people coming here illegally are not only,

they’re looking for a better life for themselves,

a better life for people.

This whole aspect of vilifying them

and they’re like,

oh, this immigrant did this horrible thing,

this immigrant did that horrible thing.

And people saying, go back to your country.

At the same time, they go to a hotel

where all the service staff is from that part of the world

and they’re here irregularly.

Or they go to the Whole Foods

and they get some produce there

and it’s picked by some of the same people they’re vilifying.

And again, we need to kind of like think about that

and analyze that for ourselves.

Yeah, the idea of go back to your country

and finding the other and having a disdain

and a hate towards the other.

Ever since I had a recent conversation with Ye,

formerly known as Kanye West,

I got to hear a few things from

let’s say unfriendly messages from white nationalists

and I got to learn about this world.

I continue on the journey of learning,

which is the idea that the United States,

this country should look a certain way,

should have a certain skin color,

should have a certain religion

and everything else is a pollution, is a poison to this.

I made it sound hateful right now,

but they usually frame it in a positive way.

Like the purity, I’m sure Hitler also phrased everything

in a positive way, especially in the 1930s

about the purity of Germany.

But the reality of the United States

and one of the things that makes it

at least the ideal of the United States is the soup, the mix.

Unlike so many nations I’ve traveled to,

there’s the diversity, the good kind of diversity

is what makes this country great.

And so I think it needs to be based

on accepting the different subgroups

that make up the United States versus trying to purify it.

And I think Mexican immigrants is just another flavor

of saying, this is the other, let’s reject the other.

Yeah, I saw that interview, by the way,

that showed a basic restraint in that interview.

My experience, and I came up here,

again, Trump was elected when I came up here.

So it was a weird time for me

as far as being an immigrant

and the immigrant experience for myself

by both being basically the ones

that were talked about in that way.

And also having a bunch of my friends

who were very conservative

and wearing some of those MAGA hats around me

and like, hey, Ed, like, well, I mean,

I’m a guest here, so I have to,

but it’s a balancing act,

is what I’ve been looking at it as.

On one side, there’s the woke side of it,

which everything goes,

and then the other side is like,

let’s hold on to some of these things

that make us who we are.

On my end, I wanna get to a place

where I can smoke a joint, conceal, carry a firearm,

be at my gay best friend’s wedding,

and I want the government not to say anything about it.

And I think there’s parts in the United States here

that kind of feel the same way,

but there’s extremes on both sides

that are pulling you to one side or the other.

And I’ve seen more of the United States

than most Americans.

I’m in a different state every weekend.

So I get to go to,

I’m going to Tampa tomorrow,

then I’m going back to California,

then I’m going to Tennessee later,

then Kentucky.

So I get to see all types of people

and all types of mentalities and ways that people live.

And this country is more diverse than most would think,

if you only see it through the lens of television or media.

What I keep seeing out there that, for me,

is like the reason I came here, I guess,

and a lot of the reasons

that I feel a vested interest in this country,

not just because, again, my kid’s American.

So I have a very, very big interest

in this country doing well.

But a thing I see is there’s still the opportunity

and the ability to do something with yourself

and opportunities out there for people like me

that come here with nothing.

I came here with an experience base, a truck.

And some demons.

And yeah, and a bunch of demons in a bag.

And I’m here with you talking right now

about some of those experiences.

To another immigrant.

To another immigrant.

And both of us are reaching people out there

that might not, might haven’t heard a voice

of people like us that come here

with our own bag of demons.

But where else in the world can two people like us

have a conversation with an audience like us

and not be shot outside of this?

Because of the stuff we’re saying.

Yeah, listen to with love and respect, not derision.

Let me ask you for advice.

What would you say to young folks,

wherever they come from?

So in high school and college,

they’re thinking of how to live a life,

have a career they can be proud of.

And especially if they’re struggling,

especially if they’re at a low point like you were

when you came here.


Travel is one of the biggest things in the world

that I would ask people to kind of go out to,

see how other people live.

Don’t go there with your own preconceived notions

or trying to make people act like you act.

Go out there and travel and actually experience the world.

It doesn’t have to be another country.

Going from Tennessee to Seattle,

is a pretty interesting change of scenery.

Who’s better at knife fighting?

Just kidding.

You don’t have to answer that.


But the traveling is one,

and knowing how other people live

is one aspect of it that I would tell people.

It’s risky.

It’s dangerous.

But that is part of the journey,

is one of the things I would ask people,

young people to kind of consider.

Service is essential.

And it should be at the basis of all of our lives.


Start there.

Start with service.

In any industry,

you’re gonna go start your own restaurant,

you have to work in the kitchen first, service.

If you’re gonna be a part,

a productive member of this country, service.

And I’m not talking just about the military,

because the military, it’s a process and it’s a lifestyle

and it’s a thing for some people out there.

It’s not even a choice for other people

if they want an education.

And I get that.

Community service of any kind is an essential thing.

The ability to go out there and interact with the people

that you would normally not interact with,

the homeless population that there is in this country,

the older population that in Mexico,

our old die in our homes,

but here you send them off somewhere else to die,

which is an interesting, weird detachment

that I’ve seen in the US

as far as how the elders are cast aside.

If I can say anything to young people

is to start figuring out a life of service

and that’s gonna expose you to a bunch of experiences,

to a bunch of people out there

that you might not regularly kind of meet and see

and realities.

Education is out there.

It is expensive,

but I’ve sat through a bunch of really expensive classes

that I’ve managed to see on YouTube

and learned a lot from them.

So education is out there,

but it doesn’t have to be as expensive as they make it.

It’s all about the individual

and what he does with that education.

The dream is free and the hustle is sold separately

is something else I watch somewhere online,

but the ability to take information process and use it.

We’re expecting everything to be safe process

and given to us in a platter

and taking that and digesting

and thinking that’s gonna make us somebody

that’s gonna be productive or valuable in society.

What’s up to us?

The US talks a lot about freedoms,

but doesn’t talk a lot about responsibilities.

I think that’s a big part of,

take responsibility for like I came here without anything.

And the first thing I thought was

I have a responsibility for the people that I’ve worked with

and the people that are going through

the same problems than I am.

How can I figure out a way to help?

Yeah, the dark side of thinking a lot about freedom

is thinking too individualistically,

meaning thinking about me,

how to optimize my situation,

forgetting that the deepest growth

you can do as an individual is by taking care of others,

by helping others, by being of service,

by being useful to your community locally,

and then hopefully also at scale.

And that’s how you grow.

And that’s responsibility of like helping those around you.

There’s an isolationist aspect to culture now.

It’s like we are separate.

There’s almost like a spiritual or cultural amputation

in a way where, you know, when I was a kid,

the house where all the bikes outside of it,

that was where all the kids were hanging out.

And now everybody’s on their phone, you know,

in their separate houses chatting on whatever.

There’s a detachment to there.

That’s a weird aspect to it.

And also the aspect of I need to be safe.

I can’t be offended.

Don’t hurt me, safe spaces.

This is my right.

This is my right.

This is my reality.

You need to respect it.

You know, respect is earned.

And where I come from, respect is earned.

There’s freedoms, but there’s dangerous freedoms.

Any freedom that you have in Mexico

is a dangerous freedom in a way.

You know, you can drive home drunk in Mexico.

You can if you bribe a cop on your way there.

And if you don’t die or crash into somebody else,

that’s a dangerous aspect of freedom.

But there’s a responsibility to all of it.

It is a twisted responsibility in a twisted way

kind of talk about it and describe it.

But I think the aspect of people

screaming for freedom up here or their rights

or their privilege without the responsibility,

you know, what are you doing for your community?

You’re complaining about this.

What are you doing about it?

Another thing I’ve noticed in traveling around,

it’s scary, is the whole people getting shouted down

or canceled because of what the expressors say.


Some of the creepiest experiences I’ve had in the US

has been through universities

or just seeing young people that have an opinion

that is completely outside of reality, you know?

People telling me how things are in Mexico

because they learned it through a college course.


And seeing sons of immigrants criticizing me

because of my opinion of Mexico

or what I have to say about it.

And, you know, if you wanna encounter

the worst enemy of a Mexican

is usually a second, third generation Mexican up here

that shouts you down for what you’re saying.

I mean, in general, entitlement,

all of those kinds of things.

Some of that comes with just being young in general,

but yes, humility.

Humility at a societal scale would benefit significantly,

especially the young.

So I would say some of the service that you’re speaking to

is, comes with being humbled.


And that is one of the best things you can do

as a young person.

Whilst maintaining the dream and the ambition,

humble yourself to the reality of the world.


One small example, a micro example of this.

My kid, there was a homeless guy.

She was out with family members.

This homeless guy showed up.

He was erratic, mentally disturbed, created a scene.

She was upset.

There was a little bit of trauma there.

She was like, oh, now all homeless people are bad.

So with her, she does art pieces sometimes for me

and helps me make designs for the clothing brand that I have.

And we take some of that money

and we buy socks and underwear, you know?

And sometimes I have them in the car,

sometimes I drive around and see somebody

that needs something and I give it to her.

And it says, you helped me earn this money

that’s gonna help these people.

So you should just give them these.

And she’s like, you know?

And I’m like, ah, thank you.

She’s like, hey, cool.

Roll up the window.

She used to roll up the window really quick.

Now she doesn’t.

They cease to be scary.

Because now some of them have names.

Now some of them know her name.

When she crosses by there, so there’s contact there.

She’s more connected than I am in some of these places now.

She has friends in low places.

And in high places.

That comes later, I guess.

But she is learning about service.

She’s learning about not everybody out there

is an enemy or bad or scary.

She’s learning about service.

And she’s basically learning that lesson

that I got from my mom long ago.

Nobody’s against you, they’re for themselves.

Don’t take anything personal.

And if you’re not doing something for other people

while you’re working, then you’re not doing anything.

So when you were young, you were pretty sure

you were gonna die before you were 30.

What’s your relationship with death today?

Do you think about your mortality?

Are you afraid of it?

I’m not afraid of it.

If anything, I’m afraid of meaningless death,

or at least a meaningless walk towards it.

I’m afraid of losing the use of my legs, I guess.

I’m afraid of not being able to go out there

and do things anymore.

I’m afraid that I’m not physically capable

of doing the job that I used to do.

So if anything, I’m afraid of stillness.

Something I always quote a lot in my writings,

stillness is death.

So you always want to be challenging yourself,

moving, growing, like you’re traveling,

so you get all these experiences

and filling your life with all these experiences.

And if it ends, when it ends, you’re ready for it.

Yeah, I’m not afraid of the end.

The ending is important in all things.

First time I got a promotion,

I got two silver coins handed to me.

Here’s a silver coin, and this is another silver coin.

He said, I’ll give you the other one when your job ends.

It depends on you if you wanted to have it over your eyes

or in your pocket, right?

The lesson there is that this job you’re getting,

it’s pretty cool, and you’re gonna be in charge

of all these people, and it’s pretty important,

but it’s gonna end.

So you always have to, the ending is important

in all things.

If we don’t keep that in mind,

then if you think we’re immortal and nothing’s gonna end,

I think there’s an atrophy, a spiritual atrophy in that.

For the sake of spiritual flourishing,

this conversation too must come to an end.

So I think a beautiful way to end it,

and I’m a huge fan of yours.

Thank you for being a man with a life well lived,

and for talking with me today.

It’s an honor, man.

It was an awesome conversation.

Thank you for having me on.

Thanks for listening to this conversation

with Ed Calderon.

To support this podcast, please check out our sponsors

in the description.

And now, let me leave you with some words

from Al Pacino’s character in Scarface, Tony Montana.

You don’t have the guts to be what you want to be.

You need people like me so you can point your fingers

and say, that’s the bad guy.

Thanks for listening.

I hope to see you next time.


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