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
on his Patreon and website, edsmanifesto.com.
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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,
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,
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?
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,
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
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,
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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
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
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.
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?
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 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 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
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.
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.
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.
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,
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,
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.
Love expressed through anger.
I love it.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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,
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?
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 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.
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,
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
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,
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?
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.
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 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
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.