Men in Black
Baja’s New Tourist Attraction?
By Dudley Do Rite

Squadrons of armed commandos, the “Men in Black” (“MIBs”), have become bolder and bolder in the past few months. Although shootings, kidnappings, and drug cartel mayhem is nothing new in Baja California, these incidents used to occur primarily in Tijuana. Now, however, the commandos have been making public appearances in Rosarito, Ensenada, and in tourist areas. It doesn’t take many such incidents to totally ruin tourism, but fortunately the US press is not emphasizing the issue. Baja tourism officials are scrambling to reassure the public that extreme measures are being taken to protect visitors, but in reality the situation is out of their control.

The recent spate of carjackings and violent attacks on surfers received considerable coverage in the US press, and terrified many people into canceling their plans to travel south. Although the carjackings problem suddenly grabbed headlines, really the problem was not new. Similarly, assaults by commando squads have been going on in Baja for years, but the tourists are oblivious. However, they will not stay oblivious for long if commando squad attacks continue to occur in tourist areas.

The shoot out last week at the Rosarito police station involved dozens of heavily armed men who swarmed the police stations and killed two officers. This daytime shootout followed a body snatching at the Enseanda morgue in November, a spectacle involving 60 commandos who descended on the public morgue to retrieve the dead body of a presumed drug lord who perished in a Baja 1000 helicopter crash. Later, Rosarito tourism officials expressed outrage when a group of armed men, dressed in black, entered the popular Ortega’s buffet at lunch time to extract a young man thought to be a criminal. In this case, the men in black were real federal police agents. Tourism officials denounced the fact that the AFI police entered the restaurant with drawn AK-47s, scaring the customers half to death. This October, another group of Men in Black, dressed like Mexican Federal Police, entered a Puerto Nuevo lobster village restaurant and opened fire, injuring three people and kidnapping two men. One man, a Spaniard, was dumped, handcuffed, along a busy Tijuana highway a week later. These Men in Black were not Mexican Federal Police, and were using the AFI uniform as a handy disguise. Last year, a Rosarito landowner was attacked downtown, one block from the main boulevard and in front of a school.

No one really knows who the Men in Black are. Most are probably mercenaries working for drug lords, but some could also be independent bands of criminals. Some people think that they are really the police, but this is not likely. The commandos are very sophisticated and highly trained, attacking their prey like SWAT teams. All of them seem to take delight in executing high ranking law enforcement officials and police officers. Kidnapping is one of their specialties. Some of these armed gunmen might be members of a group called the Zetas. The Zetas were a group of Mexican agents who trained at Fort Benning in the US, to return to Mexico to fight the drug cartels. The Zetas program backfired, though, when the freshly armed and trained men rebelled, returned to Mexico, and went to work for the drug cartels. All of the commandos have certain methods of operation in common. The black outfit with a matching ski mask is de rigueur, and they also have a penchant for wearing AFI ( Mexican Federal Police) armbands. They have an uncanny way of suddenly appearing, then vanishing, without anyone seeing anything. Possibly, they could be our neighbors, donning the black outfits when summoned by drug lords or corrupt government officials. Whatever the case, it is clear that these masked commandos are taking over Baja.

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Gringo Gazette, Baja's English Language Newspaper

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