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They wear more shorts
How to catch an American fugitive in Mexico, in case that ever comes up. Also, 7 other things worth knowing today.
There's a trope in a lot of crime stories that after one last score, the criminals plan to escape with their fortune to Mexico.
Also, Mexico is where the wrongfully convicted seem to flee in fiction: Tim Robbins in Shawshank Redemption, for example.
The idea is based in truth, of course. Right now five of the nine fugitives on the FBI's Top 10 Most Wanted List are thought to be hiding in Mexico. The list has only nine names because murder suspect Octaviano Juarez-Corro was caught in February and hasn't been replaced on the list.
Where was he caught? Mexico.
According to one interview with the U.S. Marshals that I found while researching this today, in 1999 the U.S. caught 14 American fugitives in Mexico; by a decade later, after much greater cooperation between the two countries, it was up to 100.
Other statistics are sort of all over the place, which I take as evidence of just how hard it is to tally cooperation, extradition, and other outcomes when you have a wide array of police agencies on both sides of the border working together—or not.
Anyway, I'm telling you all this because over the weekend I got sucked into what I thought was an excellent piece of reporting and storytelling by Kevin Sieff, the Mexico City bureau chief of The Washington Post, who embedded with a small group of local state police in Baja California whose job it is to track down Americans on the run.
They call themselves the “Gringo Hunters,” and judging by the numbers, they're pretty good at their jobs. On an average month they now round up 13 fugitives, mostly people suspected or charged with murder, drug trafficking and child abuse.
Among the places where they've found their quarry, according to Sieff's article:
… In beach resorts. Dangling from parasails. In remote mountain cabins. In fishing boats. At a nightclub called Papas & Beer. In drug rehabilitation centers. In trailer parks. Tending bars. In cars with prostitutes. In Carl’s Jr. parking lots.
Some were on crystal meth. Some had undergone plastic surgery and acquired new names they couldn’t pronounce. Some were found dead.
There were former Playboy models, Catholic priests, professional athletes, C-list celebrities, ex-Marines. …
There are a dozen police in the Baja California Gringo Hunters squad including 10 men and two women. Sieff largely frames his story about them by chronicling their search for a fairly run-of-the-mill murder suspect (as these things go): a 21-year-old man from Fresno, Calif. who was wanted for allegedly killing another motorist in a traffic dispute.
Spoiler alert—wait, should I tell you?—OK, they get their man in the end.
Working in the Mexican police officers' favor is that the American fugitives often seem to think they're basically home free once they cross the border. They sometimes don't speak Spanish or have a good sense of what Mexico is like, and so they wind up hiding in areas with a lot of other American ex-pats. As Sieff writes:
"They wear more shorts and more flip-flops. Many speak little Spanish. One officer swears he can identify how long a gringo has been in Mexico by the depth of his tan."
Anyway, I want to keep this fairly short because if you have time, I do recommend checking out Sieff’s article. And if you don't have time, maybe just wait for the book or the movie or the 7-part series on HBO or Netflix, because I have a gut feeling that will probably happen.
Beyond that? Don't flee to Mexico.
Better still, don't do anything that would require you to flee to Mexico.
Life is a lot easier and nicer if you don’t commit a felony, and then retire somewhere warm and sunny and less expensive anyway.
7 other things worth knowing today
Folks, I’m formatting this a bit differently today than I have in the past, because weird things seem to happen with some email clients, making bullet points disappear when this gets sent as an email. So if you cannot see the 7 other things below, please tell me or mention it in the comments. Thanks.
➨ After more than 100 subpoenas, 1,000 interviews and 100,000 documents, the January 6 committee has a story to tell in hearings that open this week. The enormous question: Will anyone watch? (AP)
➨ UK PM Boris Johnson narrowly survived a confidence vote triggered by lawmakers in his own party. (CNBC)
➨ A small NYC-led cancer trial has achieved a result reportedly never before seen - the total remission of cancer in all of its patients. To be sure, the trial—led by doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering and backed by drug maker GlaxoSmithKline—has only completed treatment of 12 patients, with a specific cancer in its early stages and with a rare mutation as well. But the results, reported Sunday in the New England Journal of Medicine and the New York Times, were still striking enough to prompt multiple physicians to tell the paper they were believed to be unprecedented. (NBC New York)
➨ More Gerber baby stuff: this time it’s the controversy over the new face of the brand. (NYT)
➨ The family of the man whose magazine article inspired the 1986 film Top Gun is suing Paramount Pictures over copyright infringement claims for Top Gun: Maverick. In short, they say they exercised their right to recover the copyright to the story in 2018, and that Paramount did not reacquire the film rights before releasing the sequel. Also, here's the original article, which I never read until last night. (NPR, TopGunBio)
➨ This one is a bit indulgent, but ... well, OK indulge me. I've always thought that the ending of Shawshank Redemption, in which Red and Andy reunite on a beautiful, deserted beach, was supposed to be what Red is daydreaming about on his way to Mexico. All these years later, it turns out I'm right! It turns out writer-director Frank Darabont planned to end without the reunion, leaving it up to the viewer to decide. But, studio executives basically said: "'After two-plus hours of hell, you might owe them that reunion." (Cinemablend)
➨ Elon Musk is threatening to walk away from his $44 billion bid to buy Twitter, accusing the company of refusing to give him information about its spam bot and fake accounts. Lawyers for the Tesla and SpaceX CEO made the threat in a letter to Twitter dated Monday that the company disclosed in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. (AP)
Thanks for reading. Photos: Fair use. Want to see all my mistakes? Click here.