JALISCO, Mexico – Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo appeared in a wheelchair in the maximum security area of the Puente Grande state jail, in Jalisco. It was an afternoon, early August, and he was coming out of the prison’s medical ward. His left arm has been in a cast since he fell a few weeks ago. He lost his sight in one eye and was deaf in his left ear.
Those last two conditions were a bit difficult to interview, so we had to write the questions on a poster board for him to read.
“I have a paralyzed half of my body,” he said Félix Gallardo, 75, co -founded the Guadalajara cartel, one of the first drug trafficking organizations in Mexico.
Few traces remain of the man who in the 1980s was considered one of the most powerful criminal leaders in the world.
“My health is terrible. My family is digging a grave so I can be buried next to a tree. I have no hope in life. I lost everything: I lost my senses, my hearing, my sight, ”said the man known as“ The Boss of Bosses, ”while complaining of health ailments that have plagued him in recent years.
The first question is why, after so many years, he decided to give an interview. It was a huge question, because it took me five years to get to know him. In April 2016 I had my first contact with one of his lawyers in Mexico City.
It took five years and four months to deal with him.
“Are you asking me why I’m giving you an interview? Because of your relentless efforts! Your strong efforts,” he said, knowing better than anyone that I hadn’t stopped persevering in years.
Félix Gallardo was first arrested in April 1989 and sentenced to 32 years in Mexico for the 1985 murder of U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena Salazar. In 2017, he was again sentenced to 37 years for the murder of Camarena; other charges include possession of weapons, bribery, murder, drug trafficking and money laundering.
His preliminary trial is the longest in Mexican history, lasting more than 28 years until his belief in 2017 for the murder of Camarena and Mexican pilot Alfredo Zavala Avelar.
In various judicial and academic investigations, Félix Gallardo has been closely linked to the start-up of large drug trafficking organizations in Mexico. According to the DEA and several investigators, Félix Gallardo, along with Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo and Photo of placeholder Rafael Caro Quintero, founded the organization to be named by the DEA of the Guadalajara cartel.
Although the three men were convicted for their participation in the abduction, torture and murder of Camarena Salazar, only Félix Gallardo remains incarcerated.
Drug trafficking has increased the level of violence and conflict in Mexico. In 2019, the Mexican government increased the number of people lost during the war on drugs to 60,053. In 2020 alone, a total of 34,515 homicides is registered. According to organizations such as Semáforo Delictivo, about 80 percent of these murders is related to drugs and drug trafficking.
Many things have been said about Félix Gallardo – that he was a businessman with a lot of money in Guadalajara and that politicians, governors and public officials attended his parties.
Recently, the popular Netflix series “Narcos: Mexico” recorded his life as co-founder of the Guadalajara cartel, as the first drug trafficker to create a bridge between South America and the United States for cocaine exports-negotiating with Colombian drug traffickers like Pablo Escobar. On screen, he is portrayed as a man of ingenuity and innovation who has been able to unite various criminal organizations into a kind of federation of drug traffickers.
In popular culture, he is known as “The Boss of Bosses,” and although not yet confirmed, most people associate the popular song from the group Los Tigres del Norte with the drug lord. His name can still be seen on T-shirts.
Félix Gallardo was 28 when he was first convicted by a judge in Jalisco. He lost hope that he would be released and believed he would die in prison.
“It’s been 32 years,” he said. “That’s lifelong for a man who hasn’t committed a crime.”
This is the first interview given by Félix Gallardo during his sentence.
Noticias Telemundo: How is your life in prison?
Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo: I won’t talk about it … because they didn’t treat us well. They didn’t allow us to have guests, no booth phones, no lawyers. I don’t even know why I’m here.
How was your capture in 1989?
Felix Gallardo: I was at the Cosmos house in Guadalajara when they knocked on the door, without any warrant of arrest, without any search warrant. [I was] with my family. There is my daughter, my son. I was beaten and pulled in less than a minute, and I suffered four rib fractures. I asked what their motive was and all I got was more torture. I received a plastic bag over my head to suffocate me. They keep beating me.
You were sentenced to nearly 40 years in prison for the murder of Enrique “Kiki” Camarena. Why are you linked to this murder?
Felix Gallardo: This is a very sad subject. This is Mr. Camarena, whoever they are, whoever did it, the culprits and masterminds are behind bars; they paid for their lives in prison, and they had a very difficult time. I don’t know why they linked me to that crime. I did not know that man. Let me repeat: I am not in arms. I really apologize because I know he is a good person.
Do you have anything to say to Agent Camarena’s widow?
Felix Gallardo: That I want her comfort. He should feel relieved that the culprits are serving time.
What is your relationship with Caro Quintero and Fonseca Carrillo?
Felix Gallardo: I do not know them. We didn’t meet on the street. These people and I haven’t chatted yet.
A television series recently detailed your life and described you as a drug trafficker, as the cocaine czar for opening coca routes from South America to the United States and dealing with Pablo Escobar.
Felix Gallardo: I have never met that person. He, the person you’re talking about, I’ve never been to Medellín or Cali, as the series says. I did not know him. Later, he was killed while I was in prison. No czar exists, no object exists. Cartels do not yet exist in Guadalajara. I don’t know if that has changed now. That did not happen. In other words, we lived in a family. I take my kids to school.
Do you recognize the character that will appear in the series?
Felix Gallardo: No. Miguel Félix Gallardo was an honest man.
You spent many years in prison. Have you ever considered escaping?
Felix Gallardo: I never thought of escaping.
What did you do before you were arrested?
Felix Gallardo: I have dedicated myself to agriculture and animal husbandry since I was a child. My parents first exported legumes to the United States in 1942. I was born in ’46. I’m going to be 76 years old. I also own a few pharmacies and two old hotels.
Do you have any regrets?
Felix Gallardo: Because I didn’t make a mistake, I have no regrets. I did not participate in such an act [Camarena’s murder].
What would you want to do if you could regain your freedom someday?
Felix Gallardo: I lost more than half of my family while I was in prison: a daughter, my parents, my mother died without her furniture, her furniture being returned to her! I don’t think of freedom. I think of my grandchildren.
Are you hoping to get out of jail?
Felix Gallardo: No. My life expectancy is very low, as you can see. I am having stomach surgery. They removed eight hernias. They messed up my vision. They disturbed my hearing. As you can see, I can’t walk. I’m not hoping. Of course, everyone believes in miracles, but only for my grandchildren.
With President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s amnesty for inmates over 75 years old, do you expect to benefit from that step?
Felix Gallardo: I didn’t expect that. I know the president is a man of good will. That he is fighting social inequality. He provides a pension. He does a lot of things, and I don’t want to take his time. I was a corpse just looking forward to being buried next to a tree. I have nothing to ask of the chief. On the contrary, hopefully he will succeed. This thing, along with bacteria [Covid-19] greatly affected the purchasing power of the Mexicans, but this man is in good spirits and I hope God will help him.
How do you see the situation of violence in the country?
Felix Gallardo: I have to tell you, ma’am, I have a 5-inch TV set in jail; I am not aware of any violence. The violence is the result of unemployment, social inequality, which Mr. López Obrador will gradually solve. We need to give it time.
How do you want to be remembered?
Felix Gallardo: Like the honest man I have always been, an unarmed man.