El Paso Vice: When Drug Cops Become Criminals

In his interview with the DEA, Martinez said that he wanted to serve America. He wanted to do good, but he soon realized that this didn't fit the self-image of the drug police. Martinez found himself in a group where the atmosphere reminded him of a football team. Their favorite word was "fuck." It appeared to Martinez that the instead of doing good, the DEA wanted to destroy evil. He was the newest person there, so he took on the habit of chewing tobacco and saying "you fucking fuck." He let his black curls grow long, and wore pointed boots and silk shirts. At the police academy, he pierced his ear and wore a golden crucifix on it. He had no idea that something would happen to put him on the other side of the front. America 's War Becomes Personal

The instructors gave him a police badge, the Glock pistol and an automatic pistol. They created an agent that moved, dressed and talked like a drug dealer. For some missions he took on the role of a criminal, but on other days he was a police officer, interrogating suspects, running patrols or storming houses. Martinez needed to be the ultimate weapon in the fight against organized crime, and for a time, the plan seemed to be working.

He began a life of weapons, money, adrenaline, fast cars, scotch on the rocks and arrests. It was something akin to El Paso Vice.

Martinez was actually afraid, he says today. He was scared when he raided houses, took on false identities and met with drug dealers. But fear is an un-American emotion, and his work was about America. "For God and country," he says. So he became another man.

Shortly before Martinez got out of the police academy in 1989, then-President George H.W. Bush held up a package of crack cocaine during a speech and said: "It's as innocent looking as candy, but it's turning our cities into battle zones and it's murdering our children." Martinez did not want any of his potential children to be killed, so he made America's war his personal war.

On the hill in El Paso, he gets into a car he rented at the airport. He doesn't stay long in one place on this journey through his life. Later, he parks in front of a one-story house in a quiet neighborhood. "I once carried 200 kilograms of cocaine in small packets from the attic to the garage there," says Martinez. That investigation began when Martinez arrested a small dealer. "Listen hombre, you're fucked," he told the suspect in his cell. "You're going down for a long time. But because I'm a good Christian, I'm going to give you a chance. You work for us now."

The people he interrogated often wept, he says. In fact, it was easy to "flip them," turning them into informants. He assumed that it had to do with his pleasant nature.

The informant arranged a meeting with an intermediary dealer who needed a warehouse, which Martinez had rented. He shook the dealer's hand in the manner that the people at the border use, clapping their hands together and tapping the other's right hand with their left. The handshake can mean the difference between life and death, Martinez says.

He went to various houses with the middleman to pick up cocaine, says Martinez. They piled up the goods in plastic drums, then went to Walmart and bought silicone to seal them so that police dogs couldn't smell it. Outweighed by the Cartels

The cartels are like highly specialized logistics companies, he says. No one knifes open packages to test the quality by licking the blade like actors do in films -- that would only numb their tongue.

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