drug wars

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A  Narco 'Junior's' Fate by Oriana Zill

Zill is a producer of FRONTLINE's "Drug War" series.
Cristina and Alejandro Hodoyan are middle class parents from Tijuana, Mexico. Their lives changed drastically when their oldest son Alex Hodoyan disappeared in the mid-1990's. They soon found out that he had been arrested in Guadalajara for having connections to the Arellano-Felix cartel, the cartel that controls Tijuana. The Hodoyans say that Alex was brutally tortured by his captors in the Mexican military, in a unit controlled by General Gutierrez Rebollo, who has since been arrested for drug corruption. After months of confinement and alleged torture, Alex confessed to being involved in the Arellano-Felix cartel and the confession was videotaped.

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the arellano-felix family

View a Video Report on the Arellano-Felix Cartel and Narco 'Juniors'
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Soon after, Alex's brother Alfredo was arrested in San Diego on gun charges. The US arrested Alfredo based on information provided by General Gutierrez Rebollo to the American authorities. The Mexican government requested Alfredo's extradition to Mexico on charges that he had participated in the murder of a federal prosecutor as part of the Arellano-Felix cartel. The parents were shocked and do not believe their son had anything to do with this murder.

In a strange series of events, Alex Hodoyan was eventually flown by Mexican authorities to the United States and handed over to the DEA. The DEA and San Diego Assistant US Attorney Gonzalo Curiel attempted to convince Alex to become a witness for their cases against the Arellano-Felix cartel. They offered the witness protection program to Alex. Alex, who was free but being kept in a San Diego hotel, believed that he would be forced to testify against his own brother and fled back to Tijuana. He was kidnapped while driving with his mother in Tijuana several days later and has never been seen since. He is presumed dead.

Alfredo Hodoyan was extradited to Mexico and is now awaiting trial in Almaloya, Mexico's high security prison outside of Mexico City. The family still hopes that Alex will someday be found alive. In another bizarre twist to the story, Alex's captor, General Gutierrez Rebollo, was discovered to be working for a rival cartel the entire time that he was attacking the Arellano-Felix cartel. US authorities were shocked by this revelation. The Hodoyan family still believes that Gutierrez Rebollo's faction was responsible for the kidnapping of Alex. Assistant United States Attorney Gonzalo Curiel believes that the Arellano-Felix brothers had Alex killed because he had talked to the authorities and was considered a liability to the cartel. But, as the father, Alejandro Hodoyan says in his interview,"It's hard to know who the bad guys are."

Alex and Alfredo are part of what has become known as "the Juniors" The Juniors are a group of Tijuana children from middle and upper class families who became friends with one of the Arellano-Felix brothers, Ramon, during the 1980s when they were all in their teens and early 20s. They partied together in Tijuana discos and many began to get pulled into working for the brothers in the drug trade. From interviews with "Steve" who was also a "junior," and the Hodoyan family, it is clear that these young men and woman became involved not necessarily out of a desire to become wealthy, but more out of a desire for the "la fama," or the fame of being involved with gangsters. Of Alex and Alfredo's generation of juniors, almost all are now either in jail, missing or dead. The Arellano-Felix brothers are still at large and US authorities believe that they are still in control of the drug trade in Tijuana.

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