LAS VEGAS — For the sake of keeping our minds relatively intact for the coming year, Futuro Media closes its offices during the last two weeks in December—meaning today is my final official day of work in 2022, unless something major happens.
Like the sucker I am, though, I’ll still be posting a few things in the next week or so—Cristina’s end-of-year review and maybe one or two of these weekly wrap-ups, but we’ll see about that second part. Plus I have Los ready to file something from San Juan if, say, members of la generación de yo no me dejo finally decide to storm La Fortaleza and light a match to the place one breezy night, which would see me gladly come out of hibernation.
Other than that, I’ll be fiercely incommunicado till the first Tuesday in January (the first Monday spent nursing a hangover, obviously).
Anyway, let’s get to it, shall we?…
~ Marina E. Franco shares the history of poinsettias, the iconic Christmas flower that’s native to Mexico and only blooms for a few weeks at the end of the year:
“Aztecs in the 14th century called the plant cuetlaxóchitl, which roughly means ‘leathered flower’ in Náhuatl.
“They used it for warrior rituals and dyes, and the latex sap to treat wounds and help break a fever.
“Other Mesoamerican civilizations had different names. The Maya, for example, called it k’alul wits, which roughly translates to ‘fire flower.’
“It wasn’t until the first Spanish settlers arrived in Mexico in the 16th century that the plant was specifically linked to the Christmas season.
“Colonizers used what they eventually called ‘flor de nochebuena,’ or Christmas Eve flower, to decorate nativity scenes to mark Christmas and attract people to the faith.”
When Joel Robert Poinsett, the first U.S. ambassador to the newly independent Mexico, fell in love with the plant during a trip, he sent samples back to the States where the flower made its official debut in 1829. Its popularity quickly spread across the country and Europe, carrying the name “poinsettia.”
The Ecke family later patented the flower, making it smaller and mass-producing it as a “California Christmas flower”—you believe that shit?
“Because most poinsettia varieties are patented in the U.S. and have international protections, Mexican farmers have been forced to pay breeder’s rights fees to grow and sell them,” writes Marina.
“For years, Mexicans used the word poinsettismo, referring to Poinsett, to describe actions perceived as American meddling ahead of the Mexican-American War.”
~ I like a movie or show that has Latino characters whose identity isn’t a main part of the story—especially when they’re the lead characters. After all, I’m Latino —half Honduran and half Puerto Rican— but that isn’t the most important part of who I am….
~ Messi and the Argentines are headed back to the World Cup Final…
TOO EASY FOR MESSI 🐐
HE PUTS ARGENTINA OUT IN FRONT IN THE SEMIFINALS 🇦🇷 pic.twitter.com/bUSJIBlsYK
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 13, 2022
Last time La Albiceleste made it to the last dance, Messi was 26 and still with Barça.
Now he’s 35 —and with Paris Saint-Germain— so this looks like his last chance to finally lift the FIFA World Cup Trophy.
~ This goal by 22-year-old Julián Álvarez —who plays for Man City— is very Messi-esque:
JULIAN ALVAREZ WHAT A GOAL 😱
2-0 ARGENTINA 🇦🇷 pic.twitter.com/73747qp92r
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 13, 2022
~ Aerolíneas Argentinas, the country’s national airline, added two more flights to Doha for the World Cup final. The first flight sold out in half an hour, while it took a few hours for the second one to get completely booked.
~ There are certain facts that when stated, even though you never heard them before and little evidence is given to support them, you just know to be true…
~ Take it from comedian Ralph Barbosa: Don’t smoke and analyze rap lyrics.
Barbosa, one of the winners of the 3rd edition of the “Latino Stand-Up! Comedy Competition,” stars alongside Gwen La Roka, the other winner, in the comedy special Entre Nos: The Winners 3, available now on HBO Max.
~ It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…
~ “”Charlie Brown” shirts, baggy khakis, clown-print tees, and pachuco fedoras are finding new audiences thanks to Latino-owned businesses promoting urban fashion on social media,” writes Axios’ Russell Contreras.
“Pachucos is the name given to Mexican Americans who wore zoot suits — baggy dress pants and long-tailed coats — during the 1940s while facing violence in Los Angeles and San Antonio.
“The lowrider style with muscle shirts and short-brimmed fedoras came out of the Chicano Movement of the 1970s, and cholo style came from the 1980s and 1990s amid poverty and police violence.”
“Unlike the clothing of its era,” writes Contreras, “the vintage refreshes aren’t cheap.”
~ R.I.P. salsa legend Lalo Rodríguez, who was found dead in a housing project in Puerto Rico at the age of 64…
~ The number of people in the United States who speak a language other than English at home has nearly tripled in the last 40 years, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Almost one in five (67.8 million) speak a language other than English at home, up from 23.1 million (about 1 in 10) back in 1980.
Spanish, of course, was the most common non-English language, with the number of Spanish speakers growing from 11 million in 1980 to 30.6 million in 2019. Interestingly enough, 55 percent of Spanish speakers are U.S.-born.
That said, the number of people who speak only English also grew—by nearly 29 percent.
~ On Thursday the House passed the Puerto Rico Status Act, which would present eligible voters in Puerto Rico with the choice between three decolonization options —independence, sovereignty in free association with the United States, or statehood— and force Congress to carry out whichever option they choose.
“Now the race is on to get approval from the Democratic-controlled Senate before a new Republican-controlled House is sworn in on January 3,” Los reports for Latino Rebels. “The bill would need 60 votes in a closely divided Senate to pass on to President Joe Biden’s desk to be signed.”
If that happens, I’ll eat my own rum-soaked liver…
I’m thinking the House wanted to do something cute before the Christmas recess, so passing this bill is their version of an ugly sweater party.
Call me when Washington finally decides to take its boot off Puerto Rico’s neck…
~ Michael Rodríguez-Muñiz gives a short little rundown of some of the bill’s flaws:
H.R. 8383, the so-called "Puerto Rico Status Act," which passed the U.S. House on Wednesday, has serious problems.
Without even touching the elitist and partisan power politics that led to this "compromise" bill, let me note just a few problems (of many more) with the bill. 🧵
— Michael Rodríguez-Muñiz (@MichaelRMuniz) December 16, 2022
~ The chairman of the Republican Party of Puerto Rico blames AOC for stalling the status bill in the House, saying the Status Act “was on its way to approval… until Ocasio Cortez got in the way.”
Resident Commissioner Jenniffer (not a typo) González-Colón, Puerto Rico’s non-voting Republican member of Congress, referred to AOC as one “of those that call themselves Puerto Rican.”
If Jenniffer “has something to say,” AOC tweeted, “she can tell me in person.”
If she has something real to say she can tell me in person. We’ve been on the House floor all week and she hasn’t said a word to me.
Until then, I will treat this commentary for what it is: deeply unserious. Doesn’t bother me one bit and doesn’t deter me from progress. ✌🏽🇵🇷 https://t.co/g3nidaSrt2
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) December 9, 2022
“We were on the floor of the House all week and she hasn’t told me a single word,” she added. “Until then, I’ll treat this comment for what it is: deeply unserious. It doesn’t bother me one bit and doesn’t deter me from progressing.”
~ Whatever is the quickest and easiest way for Puerto Ricans to have their full human rights respected is the method I support…
As a matter of law, it’s easier for the US to cancel one clause in the Treaty of Paris than either confer statehood or give independence. Hence: 1) return PR to Spain and then 2) Spain grants independence. https://t.co/ZWUt6S2Aq7
— DamianJames (@DamianJ54874907) December 15, 2022
~ The Latino unemployment rate dropped to 3.9 percent in November, down from 4.2 percent in October… But remember: The unemployment rate only counts people actively looking for work, not the people who have completely given up already.
Still, the new rate is lower than even its pre-pandemic level—and way lower than it’s pandemic peak, at 18.8 percent, in April 2020.
~ On July 1, 2023, Claudine Gay will become the first Black and second woman president of Harvard. She’s also the daughter of Haitian immigrants.
“As a woman of color, as a daughter of immigrants, if my presence in this role affirms someone’s sense of belonging at Harvard, that is a great honor,” Gay said in a video message.
This is the second win for Haitian Americans in academia in so many years, as late last year Rice University announced engineer Reginald DesRoches as its new president.
~ Speaking of, in this week’s IG Live for Latino Rebels I spoke with Garry Pierre-Pierre, founder and publisher of the Haitian Times, about the current crisis in Haiti, anti-Haitian policies in the neighboring D.R., and the plight of Haitian migrants fleeing to the United States.
~ A presentation at Florida International University’s Cuban Research Institute by the author of Cuban Privilege: The Making of Immigrant Inequality in America, in which Boston University sociology professor Susan Eckstein discusses the “unique entitlements” that Cuban immigrants enjoy —like an expedited path to permanent residency, for one, or quick access to welfare benefits— has sparked outrage and protests among the Cuban Americans of South Florida.
Eckstein argues that Cubans are not really refugees or exiles, and that their privileged status as such has created undue inequality within the U.S. immigration system.
I don’t know about you, but as the son of a Central American immigrant, I detect no lies in Prof. Eckstein’s thesis.
~ Almost a million immigrants were naturalized in fiscal year 2022, the third-highest number recorded in U.S. history.
~ “In their fight against Republican extremism, Democrats continue to take moderate positions. What’s required, though, is a bolder vision that rejects the Republican strategy of overhyping a threat to national security and recasts immigration as a building block of what truly makes America great,” writes Latino Rebels founder Julio Ricardo Varela in his most recent column for MSNBC.
~ “Unlike regular American jails, ICE’s special detention facilities often operate like black boxes,” writes Michael Foote in an op-ed for AZ Central titled “ICE is hiding immigrant detainees from their attorneys.” “Detainees are cut off from their family members and legal representatives. Worse, detained immigrants are often moved around —at times even deported— without any notification.”
~ Experts say that between 10 and 30 percent of the recent layoffs in the tech industry are H-1B visa holders.
More than 144,000 people lost their jobs in the tech industry this year, with more than 51,000 job losses in November alone.
“In the event of a layoff, H-1B holders have 60 days to find new companies to sponsor their visas,” reports Axios. “If they can’t, they can try switching to a different kind of work visa or look into non-work visas, such as a self-sponsored green card.
“‘Beyond that,’ immigration attorney Farhana Nowrin tells BuzzFeed News, ‘leaving the country may be the best or only course of action.'”
~ Immigrants moving within the United States are increasingly headed for places in the Sun Belt region (the Southwest, Texas, the Deep South, and Florida), according to a new study by the Bush Institute.
“Of the top 25 metro areas for this kind of secondary migration, 15 are in the Sun Belt,” reports Axios. “Six are in Florida and three are in South Carolina, with two each in Texas, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.”
~ The Supreme Court plans to hear a case involving a guy in Sacramento who ran an adult adoption scam that promised citizenship to undocumented immigrants who paid between $500 and $10,000 to participate in the program. Helaman Hansen encouraged undocumented immigrants to stay in the country and invited other immigrants to come to the United States and stay illegally during the process.
~ ICE’s use of GPS ankle monitors has increased from less than 15,000 to nearly 60,000 in the past four months, reports Austin Kocher, a research assistant professor with the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a research institute at Syracuse University that uses FOIA requests to study the federal government.
~ “For the past seven weeks, the state of Arizona has been constructing a makeshift barrier on its southern border by lining up hundreds of shipping containers to deter illegal immigration,” reads a recent article by National Geographic.
“The project has alarmed ecologists, flummoxed lawyers, and mobilized a group of protesters who are trying to stop it. This barrier will block wildlife movement in a biologically diverse region, and its unapproved construction is damaging Forest Service land, knocking over trees, and causing significant soil erosion.”
~ On Wednesday the federal government filed a lawsuit against the state of Arizona for trespassing on federal land by building what some have described as a “junkyard fence” along the border with Mexico.
~ The Department of Homeland Security (TSA, etc.) is delaying enforcement of REAL ID-compliant driver’s licenses and IDs, which will be required for everyone over 18 flying within the United States or visiting “nuclear power plants… some federal facilities like military bases.”
REAL ID was supposed to go into effect way back in 2008 —the REAL ID Act was passed a few years after September 11— but DHS says the DMVs need more time to work through a backlog created by the pandemic (EVERYONE blames the pandemic).
“As of 2021,” reports NPR, “only 43% of all state-issued driver’s licenses and identification cards are considered REAL ID-compliant, according to DHS.”
~ “The President’s annual budget for the DHS has increased enormously from $19.5 billion in 2002 to almost $100 billion in 2023,” read Documented’s newsletter last Friday discussing a new report from the Immigrant Defense Project.
They included a nifty little graphic showing how the money flows to local and state agencies, who then spend it on surveillance companies, who in turn sell to cops and other security groups.
~ Block Club Chicago and Borderless Magazine followed 10 of the thousands of Venezuelan migrants sent to Chicago as part of Texas Gov. Abbott’s political stunt meant to test the welcoming attitudes of the liberal cities of the North.
“We’re grateful to be in a place that received us with open arms.”
Sounds like Chicago has passed Gov. Abbott’s test with flying colors… so far.
~ If AMLO wants Bad Bunny to play a free concert in Mexico City —for all the fake tickets sold before his concert there last Friday— he better get in line…
Ticketmaster Mexico got 4.5 million ticket requests for just 120,000 available seats ahead of last week’s concert.
~ Mexican researchers are developing an AI program to help in the search for Mexico’s desaparecidos.
“Over 108,000 people have been reported missing or disappeared in Mexico since 1964, according to official counts. A third of the cases have been reported in the last four years,” writes Marina Franco over at Axios.
~ Lola Rosario writes for Latino Rebels on the wanning popularity of Los Reyes Magos in Puerto Rico, where most kids these days are hoping it’s Santa who’s coming to town, not Melchior, Caspar, or Balthasar.
~ In case you missed it, last Saturday (Dec. 10) was the anniversary of the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Spanish-American War in 1898 and transferred Spain’s colonies —including Puerto Rico— over to the United States. I wrote a little history about it, mostly focused on what the U.S. invasion of Puerto Rico meant to Puerto Ricans at the time and what it means now.
A must read important history, from Hector Luis Alamo@HectorLuisAlamo which connects the history of Puerto Rico's initial colonization by the U.S., brutal persecution of independentistas, to where things stand today. https://t.co/HIGJIATPvI
— Denise Oliver-Velez 💛 (@Deoliver47) December 15, 2022
~ The draining of Puerto Rico…
~ “Peru’s newest president” —which is how the AP refers to Dina Boluarte, the country’s sixth president in six years— has given into protesters’ demands for elections to replace her and the current Congress… sorta.
After a weekend of violent protests in which at least two people were killed in the Andean community of Andahuaylas, one of them a 15-year-old boy, Boluarte gave a televised address to the nation early Monday morning saying she would ask Congress to schedule elections for April 2024.
When her announcement didn’t make anyone happy, she bumped up the proposed elections to December 2023.
Peru’s newest protests come in the wake of last week’s coup which saw the removal of former President Pedro Castillo, who tried to dissolve Congress and assume unilateral control of the country just hours before the impeachment proceedings on Wednesday, December 7.
~ On Wednesday the Peruvian government declared a state of emergency —à la El Salvador, Honduras, and Jamaica— suspending the rights of “personal security and freedom” for 30 days.
“The declaration suspends the rights of assembly and freedom of movement and empowers the police, supported by the military, to search people’s homes without permission or judicial order,” the AP reported.
~ During the swearing-in ceremony for her Cabinet on Saturday, Boluarte made each member promise not to be corrupt during their time in office.
The pledge is nothing to sneeze at, considering former President Castillo was removed from office for, get this: “permanent moral incapacity.”
“Permanent”? That means he’s incapable of ever being moral again?
~ Former President Castillo’s background as a rural teacher of Indigenous descent from a poor Andean community made him the butt of racists jokes, a lot of them tying his political inexperience and the corruption allegations swirling around his administration to his indigeneity.
“There are sectors [in Peru] that promote racism and discrimination and do not accept that a person from outside traditional political circles occupy the presidential chair,” the Organization of American States said in a recent report.
~ On Thursday a judge ordered Castillo to remain in jail for another 18 months while a case is built against him.
“Castillo is being held at a built-for-presidents detention center inside a National Police facility,” the AP reported. “On Thursday, police in riot gear stood outside the facility as dozens of Castillo supporters gathered throughout the day.”
~ An analysis by the Centro de Periodismo Investigativo and the Washington Post found that less than one percent of the nearly $5.6 billion in federal funds slated for Puerto Rico’s public water utility company since 2018 has been set aside to buy generators for water pumps, forcing local officials to rely on a patchwork supply of emergency units that often aren’t set up in time ahead of a storm or fail due to a lack of diesel.
~ The difference between a Puerto Rican statehooder and an independentista is that a statehooder values economic development above environmental protection:
This is the bill that @GovPierluisi doesn’t want to sign to protect our natural resources! Word on the street is that he allegedly is protecting some developers that are political donors! Money instead of environment! @NydiaVelazquez @RepAOC @DavidBegnaud @latinorebels @POTUS pic.twitter.com/V8UBWjdLCe
— William Rodriguez (@willieseconpr) December 14, 2022
While an independentista wants to defend Puerto Rico, a statehooder wants to sell it.
~ How the New York Times explains the reasons behind the most recent mass exodus from Cuba: “Living conditions in Cuba under Communist rule have long been precarious, but today, deepening poverty and hopelessness have set off the largest exodus from the Caribbean island nation since Fidel Castro rose to power over half a century ago.
“The country has been hit by a one-two-punch of tighter U.S. sanctions and the Covid-19 pandemic, which eviscerated one of Cuba’s lifelines — the tourism industry.”
~ Activists and organizers trying to deliver aid to Cuba after Hurricane Ian swept through in late September say their efforts were hindered by the U.S. sanctions on Cuba…
~ “According to the United Nations Children’s Fund, one in three Ecuadorian children suffers from malnutrition,” reports the Associated Press. “Of those, 40.7% are Indigenous, though Indigenous make up only 7% of the population. In just over a fifth of the malnutrition cases, learning is affected.”
“Ecuador has the second highest rate of chronic child malnutrition in Latin America, after Guatemala”—and with “a conservative former banker” as the current president, I’m expecting things to stay that way, at least in the meantime.
~ On Monday Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro said he would reopen the border with neighboring Colombia, now that it has elected its first leftist president in history, Gustavo Petro. It also helps things that Petro has recognized Maduro as the legitimate president of Venezuela, unlike his right-wing predecessor.
~ Last Friday Brazil’s incoming president, Lula da Silva, announced some of the ministers in his Cabinet. The biggest surprises were Lula’s pick for finance minister, Fernando Haddad —who apparently doesn’t know much about economics but is a Workers’ Party loyalist and was the minister of education from 2005 to 2012 before becoming mayor of São Paulo, Brazil’s financial capital— and Lula’s pick for defense minister, José Múcio, a former lawmaker who’s a member of a party now aligned with outgoing President Jair Bolsonaro.
~ Brazil’s Federal Police began serving search warrants on Thursday as part of a crackdown on the more militant Bolsonaro supporters who can’t seem to take democracy for an answer…
~ The Mexican government has shut down a massive migrant camp in the town of San Pedro Tepanatepec, on its southern border with Guatemala, just days before Title 42 restrictions are set to end at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“At its height, there were an estimated 15,000 migrants at the camp, which was made up of several large tents on the outskirts of town,” the AP reported. “Migrants typically spent several days there awaiting documents and then moved on.
“Most hailed from Venezuela and Nicaragua and had been steered there by Mexican authorities.”
~ Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum hasn’t jailed anyone for the collapse of a subway line last year that killed 26 people. But she’s done the next best thing: issuing an arrest warrant for the top opposition lawmaker in the city’s assembly, for a minor construction scheme that hasn’t killed anybody.
~ The Cayman Islands plans to hold a referendum next year on the decriminalization of pot. “If approved,” reports the AP, it “would join others in the region that have decriminalized marijuana or allowed it for medical use, including Puerto Rico, Dominica, Jamaica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”
~ Honduras’ “suspension of constitutional guarantees goes even further than in the Salvadoran model,” say Roman Gressier and Carlos Barrera at El Faro English.
“Pending ratification from a divided Congress within 30 days, these communities [89 marginalized colonias in the capital and 73 others in San Pedro Sula] have lost the right to free transit, protection from forced displacement, freedom of association, ‘personal freedom,’ the right to post bail, the prohibition of detentions without a warrant, and the right to ‘not be arrested for obligations not stemming from a crime.'”
~ Last week Tuesday, the Honduran government approved the use of the emergency contraception pill, known as “PAE” in Honduras, but only for survivors of rape.
“Emergency contraception is the bare minimum that this government is willing to guarantee and they know all too well that rape survivors rarely report their experience or seek medical attention for fear of reprisal,” said Jinna Rosales, program coordinator for Grupo Estratégico por la PAE, in a statement shared with Latino Rebels. “All this law does is further stigmatizes rape survivors, who will be forced to recount their trauma to receive emergency contraception at health facilities.”
DEMANDAMOS: #PAEPARATODAS Este 6 de diciembre pasará a la historia ya que algunas de las necesidades de las hondureñas por fin han sido tomadas en cuenta por el gobierno, con la aprobación del protocolo de atención a víctimas de violencia sexual. Y aunque sin duda es un gran paso para los derechos de las mujeres, aprobar la PAE solo en casos de violencia sexual NO ES SUFICIENTE. La anticoncepción de emergencia es una NECESIDAD y limitarla es ignorar la realidad del país pues miles de niñas y mujeres, sobrevivientes de violencia sexual, no denuncian el abuso por temor a ser re victimizadas. Evadir la decisión de permitir la PAE para TODAS es, en realidad, decirle a las niñas y mujeres que deben ser sometidas a experiencias crueles y violentas para acceder a un método anticonceptivo. @hch.tv @diariolaprensa @xiomarapresidentahn @reportarsinmiedo #PAEAHORA #Honduras #504 #honduras🇭🇳 #anticonceptivos #anticoncepcion #planb #derechos #derechoshumanos #mujeres #mujeresqueinspiran #hondureñas
Activists had put up billboards on the route from the airport in San Pedro Sula to the venue where Bad Bunny performed on November 29.
“Honduras was the only Latin American country with an all-out ban on emergency contraception—the country continues to have a total abortion ban, including in cases of incest or rape,” read a statement from the Women’s Equality Center, which works closely with the Honduran group and other such groups across Latin America. “One in four women has been physically and/or sexually abused in Honduras, and only 10 percent of those cases are reported due to fear, embarrassment, and a lack of protocol when reporting a rape in the country. Those who report the abuse many times experience repeated trauma through revictimization. Additionally, marginalized women and girls living in rural areas of Honduras often do not receive medical care after suffering sexual assault, due to not being able to access a medical facility because of financial and transportation barriers.”
~ “I’m at the mercy of passers-by, every day, to eat,” Kerline Saint-Fort, 34-year-old mother of five in Haiti expecting her sixth child, tells the Haitian Times.
After her husband died at sea in March and gangs recently took over the tiny fishing village where Saint-Fort and her children lived, they were forced to flee to the capital Port-au-Prince, where she and her family have been living outside the prime minister’s office, pleading for help.
~ Now HERE’s a headline, from NACLA: “In Bogotá, Former FARC Combatants Hope Craft Beer Can Keep the Dream of Peace Alive”
“La Trocha is one of three breweries recently opened in Bogotá by former FARC combatants. The initiatives are about more than alcohol. They wager that craft beer can anchor economic, political, and social projects to sustain Colombia’s wounded peace process. Against a grim backdrop of violence and inequality, ex-combatant breweries struggle to carve out spaces for community, dialogue, and joy in the heart of Colombia’s capital.”
~ If you’re in the need to have your life flash before your eyes, check out the tourist park in Santa Catarina, Brazil, where you can ride a bike across a slack line 500 feet in the air…
~ In this week’s episode of Latino Rebels Radio, Julio talks to El Faro reporter Nelson Rauda, one of the plaintiffs in a suit against the Israeli company that sells Pegasus spyware, which has been used to spy on journalists and staff members at El Faro.
~ On Latino USA, Maria talks to Rafael Reif, the outgoing president of MIT who was born and raised in Venezuela to Jewish refugee parents who fled Eastern Europe in the late ’30s.
~ On Episode 3 of USA vs. García Luna, a podcast by Futuro Investigates about the former Mexican secretary of public security accused by El Chapo of taking money from the Sinaloas, cohosts Peniley Ramírez and cohost María Hinojosa travel to the Four Queens Soybean Oil Company in Queen, New York, which acted as front for the Sinaloas in their vast drug-smuggling enterprise.