Ed Calderon (@eds_manifesto) is a non-permissive environment specialist and combatives instructor with over 10 years of experience in counter-narcotics, organized crime investigation, and public safety in the northern border region of Mexico. [This is part one of a two-part episode. Find part two here!]
What We Discuss with Ed Calderon:
- How drug cartels infiltrate and take over towns, cities, and entire regions without fearing local law enforcement or even the military.
- How US taxpayers fund limitless government corruption south of the border without any real accountability.
- 2020 has been the most deadly year in Mexico for cartel-related violence, and it’s getting worse.
- Not all mass graves found in Mexico are the result of cartel atrocities. The reality could be even more sinister.
- Why cracking down on cartel crime is such a difficult (and life-threatening) proposition for would-be crusaders.
- And much more…
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While a non-permissive environment specialist may sound like someone who can be trusted to keep a college dorm in line come hell or high water, our guest Ed Calderon can assure you it’s anything but. He’s the guy who can teach you how to evade carjacking, home invasions, kidnappings, and other perils if you find yourself traveling to a place in crisis with very little in the way of laws to protect you (which actually could be a dorm, depending on where you go to college).
As a native of Tijuana, Ed grew up near the US border and witnessed firsthand the proliferation of cartels, cartel culture, and corruption in Mexico. On this episode, he shares what he’s learned over 10 years as a non-permissive environment specialist and combatives instructor involved in counter-narcotics, organized crime investigation, and public safety in an increasingly dangerous part of the world. [This is part one of a two-part episode. Find part two here!] Listen, learn, and enjoy!
Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
On the Democracy In Danger podcast, University of Virginia professors Will Hitchcock and Siva Vaidhyanathan — along with leading thinkers from around the world — discuss serious threats to government by the people: from the dark web and media disinformation to climate change, economic inequality, and violent extremism. Check out Democracy In Danger here or wherever you listen to fine podcasts!
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Miss our two-parter with North Korean defector Charles Ryu? Catch up here starting with episode 84: Confessions of a North Korean Escape Artist Part One!
Thanks, Ed Calderon!
If you enjoyed this session with Ed Calderon, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:
And if you want us to answer your questions on one of our upcoming weekly Feedback Friday episodes, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Resources from This Episode:
- Ed Calderon | Website
- Ed Calderon | Twitter
- Ed Calderon | Facebook
- D E M O L E R (Conflict, Crime, and Corruption in Mexico) | Instagram
- Tuco’s Cousins Visit Santa Muerte Shrine | Breaking Bad
- Mexico Cartels: Which Are the Biggest and Most Powerful? | BBC News
- A Snapshot of Mexico’s Cartel Landscape amid Rising Violence | AP
- Narcos: Mexico | Netflix
- Top 5 Ports in Mexico | iContainers
- Mexico Declares All-Out War After Rising Drug Cartel Downs Military Helicopter | The Guardian
- Major Corruption Scandal in Mexico Targets Two Former Presidents and Construction Giant Odebrecht | MercoPress
- Mexican Authorities Uncover 113 Bodies in Mass Grave | CNN
- Journalist Chronicles ‘Killing Fields’ of Juarez | NPR
- The Juárez Ripper | Criminal Minds Wiki
- In the Name of the Law | The New Yorker
- Tijuana’s Former Top Cop to Tackle Crime in Ciudad Juarez | Los Angeles Times
- ‘Worse than Any Horror Film’: Inside a Los Zetas Cartel ‘Kitchen’ | Irish Times
- Inside the Zetas Cartel: Cocaine & Crude with Suroosh Alvi (Part 2) | Vice
- United States Army School of the Americas: Background and Congressional Concerns | Federation of American Scientists
- As Officer Murders Soar, Identity Crisis Plagues Mexico’s Local Police | InSight Crime
- Attempt to Capture El Chapo’s Son Leads to Shootout | CBC News: The National
- How to Tell if You’re Shadowbanned on Social Media | Neil Patel
- Posse Comitatus | Wikipedia
Ed Calderon | Survival Secrets of a Drug War Veteran Part One (Episode 500)
Jordan Harbinger: Coming up next on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:00:02] Ed Calderon: When you actually see the video, the GoPro video, that was released later on, of El Chapo son's arrest, you can clearly see that they're dumbfounded and they realized what they just stepped into. When El Chapo's son basically walks out with his hands up, they get orders from the higher ups to detain him as they wait for a helicopter to extract him. The thing is that Sinaloa Cartel owns the sky over Culiacán. So there's no way you can land a helicopter there without it getting blown up. So they basically did a callout for every single gun attached to the Sinaloa Cartel to surround the city. And they came from everywhere.
[00:00:48] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger. On The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people. We have in-depth conversations with people at the top of their game, astronauts and entrepreneurs, psychologists and spies, even the occasional former Jihadi, rocket scientist, or extreme athlete. And each episode turns our guests' wisdom into practical advice that you can use to build a deeper understanding of how the world works and become a better critical thinker.
[00:01:15] If you're new to this show or looking for a handy way to tell your friends about it, we now have episode starter packs. These are collections of your favorite episodes, organized by popular topics to help new listeners get a taste of everything we do here on the show, because it is so varied. So just visit jordanharbinger.com/start. That'll get you started or that can help someone else get started here with us. And of course, I always appreciate it when you refer others to the show and have them dive in.
[00:01:41] Today, a guest I've been chatting with by phone for a while. We've got a lot in common, which is kind of surprising because he's a former Mexican police officer, and now he's a non-permissive environment specialist. So essentially, he teaches travelers modern evasion and escape tactics, be safe from kidnapping — I probably could have used those lessons a couple of decades ago — be saved from home invasions, how to arm yourself in a place where you're not allowed to arm yourself. This is a great, super interesting guy. I'm excited to be talking with him here today.
[00:02:09] Today, though, we're going to focus on cartels, drug cartels, cartel culture, corruption in Mexico. Even how the cartels and law enforcement use the occult, occult symbols. You've seen this if you've seen Breaking Bad, Santa Muerte, and things like that. It's just a fascinating and super interesting conversation that delves into some of the details on this that I guarantee you've never heard anywhere else, even if you've heard other interviews, with our guest today, Mr. Ed Calderon. He's a fascinating cat. I can't wait to get this going. Of course, he's got to come back on. I'll tell you right now, the guy's got to come back on the show. This is a two-part episode.
[00:02:42] If you're wondering how I managed to book all these amazing folks, the authors, thinkers, creators every single week, it's because of my network. And I'm teaching you how to build your network for free over at jordanharbinger.com/course. It's about business. It's about personal. This stuff will not disappoint you. And by the way, most of the guests on the show, they contribute to the course. So they're in the course in one way or another. So come join us, you'll be in smart company. Now, here we go with part one with Ed Calderon.
[00:03:10] Other people were like, "You got this guy in Rogan, you got to get him on." And people have been telling me this for years, but they said you're like a safety instructor. So the sales job was really bad. And I was like, "Look, man, I don't need to learn how to purify water in a tent during an avalanche or whatever. I'm good. I'm all set."
[00:03:26] Ed Calderon: Yeah, I'm not one of those guys who's going to tell you make a fire with a stick or stuff like that. Nah. I remember there's a friend of mine, a Navy SEAL guy that does auxiliary training for the SEALs and he does survival training. So they're all out there making fires with sticks and they turn around like, "Hey, Ed, how do you start a fire?" And I mean, it's an old Mexican way of carrying a lighter.
[00:03:49] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:03:50] Ed Calderon: Just carry a lighter. That's about it. No, I'm not one of those guys. It has been such a weird and hard thing for me to try and explain to people what I do because there's not a lot of people doing what I do and not a lot of people from where I'm from basically.
[00:04:04] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:04:04] Ed Calderon: So I've had everything from Internet celebrity man to influencer to a non-permissive environment specialist to—
[00:04:12] Jordan Harbinger: Which is good, but it doesn't mean anything to like 99 percent of the population. Influencer by far the worst title you can get out of three.
[00:04:19] Ed Calderon: Yeah. Yeah. I think, and then finally, former member of Mexican law enforcement. That's about it
[00:04:24] Jordan Harbinger: Which sort of makes it as boring as it comes, right? So, yeah, it was tough. And then I started hearing from our mutual friend and she's like, "You got to get this guy on. Here's what he does." And I was like, "This is really cool, but she's—" essentially what? Reporting on drug cartel activity on the border, which seems like a really dangerous job, actually.
[00:04:41] Ed Calderon: Oh yeah. She has not only an eye for it, but she has a very clear understanding of the why's of some of these things down there. It's pretty easy to just, "Well, this happened and all these bodies are there, but it's kind of hard to put in some observations as far as who was responsible. A lot of people like to say the cartel was responsible. Well, which one? There's a lot of them down there. And it's very important to state specifically who claimed responsibility and the messages that were left behind worth threatening who. It's a quagmire of conflict right now in Mexico. And I think, there's not a lot of information coming out of Mexico from new sources that are independent per se.
[00:05:23] Jordan Harbinger: This is such a huge topic. I think already, just from my research, my prep, there's more than one show in terms of the amount of information and the stories that we have. So I definitely want to thank you for your time coming on as well. And it's so hard to even know where to start with cartel stuff, because I lived in Mexico for a while, obviously just like under a year. So my understanding is fairly limited and it was like 20 years ago. I lived in Guadalajara, so they didn't even have New Generation.
[00:05:48] Ed Calderon: New Generation Cartel, yeah.
[00:05:49] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. If they existed, nobody had heard of them at all.
[00:05:53] Ed Calderon: I mean, the Guadalajara has always had cartel presence and I'm going to say always, I mean, since the inception of what we call the modern narco, narco-type conflicts out in Mexico. It's a key state, it's close to other key States. That's basically on the Pacific side of the country, its access and its proximity to nautical ports, like the port of Manzanillo is pretty important. These are some of the places that even during COVID and the shutdown that COVID kind of provided, these are some of the places that still had shipments coming in regularly from China, with meth precursors and fentanyl and stuff like that. So it's a very important key part of the country. It's interesting that it's now kind of the cradle for one of the biggest drug cartels on the planet. Right now, it's looking like it's going to overtake Sinaloa in the next few years.
[00:06:42] Jordan Harbinger: It's sad to see, because I lived in Guadalajara. I think I mentioned that. Or you guessed it from the name of the cartel. I can't remember now. And it was a relatively safe feeling. And I remember people saying, "Hey, this area, this neighborhood is not the safest," wherever I was at the particular time. And I remember walking down the street and someone would be like, "Hey, give me your watch," and I'd be like, "No." And they were like, "Eeh, all right, I'll just go get somebody else." And then we'd go to clubs. I was friends with some wealthy Mexicans that were actually like blonde haired, blue eyed, which shocked me but makes sense, if you think about the Spanish coming in and then just maybe not intermixing as much, some of these super wealthy, old money types. We would go to clubs and the guys would get in fights with other guys. And then after 20 minutes, they're drinking with each other.
[00:07:23] And now you look at things in cartel news, and you see like somebody was hanging out at a swimming pool and then...15 people died because somebody drank too much tequila and gotten a beef. And I'm like, "This place has changed a lot in the last couple of decades."
[00:07:39] Ed Calderon: It's something that happens all over the country. You start not respecting the small rules and the bigger rules are going to start disappearing. So the way cartels, usually you kind of start growing and operating in a region as far as their influence goes, they go into a place. They set up shop. They arm themselves. Usually, they arm themselves in a superior fashion, then the police. By this, I mean most police officers in Mexico at a state of federal and even at a local level will have some sort of AR-15 and a semi-auto configuration, a handgun that is issued to them, and two magazines for rifle and/or two magazines for pistol. They are poorly trained, underfunded. Sometimes they're going to have, they're going to get 20 bullets. So they have to put 10 bullets in each magazine. They had to buy their own things. So that's who's defending the security of the citizenship in that area.
[00:08:32] Jordan Harbinger: Against people with like rocket launchers and mounted .50 caliber machine guns on technicals or whatever they call those trucks.
[00:08:38] Ed Calderon: Against people that can take down helicopters and then have actual dominance over the airspace, above the places they control. Right? So Guadalajara has a distinction, a highly-skilled cartel has one of those things is for being the first cartels who take down government helicopters with RPGs. And they're known to have things called MANPADS, which are basically radio-guided rockets, RPGs of Russian manufacturing in .50 cals. So imagine a local cop with just a revolver and/or a pistol on his side and a rifle.
[00:09:12] Jordan Harbinger: That he's shot 40 times in his life, right?
[00:09:15] Ed Calderon: That, you know, but now imagine a few trucks rolling in of a bunch of 17, 16-year-old guys wearing a body armor, AK-47s with a bunch of magazines. Cops are going to look the other way and/or you know, it's just not a fair fight, basically. In some of these regions, they basically become the de facto police forces, which is another thing that is kind of interesting phenomenon over the cartels. They took a page out of the US military's book when they invaded Iraq, you know, hearts and minds. That's exactly what they do in the regions where they operate. They built schools, they police their areas. They punish criminals. Very much like ISIS, except without the religious connotation. They basically set up a shop in such a way where they start injecting themselves at all levels of the society from banking, political campaigns where people, they want to be seeing power to assassinating rival political appointees, to killing a reporters and journalists that are talking negatively about whatever they do to a paying for immigration lawyers to do favors for people that are from the region. And then, "Okay, so you've got your Green Card. Hey, so you have your citizenship. Well, it's thanks to us. So now you're going to work for us in the States."
[00:10:25] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:10:25] Ed Calderon: They start expanding their influence. We get a comparison to the Cali Cartel and what Escobar did you get comparisons to the mob in the US. These guys are on — they are different things. It's a whole different level.
[00:10:39] Jordan Harbinger: It seems like this ramped up a lot in the era of Felipe Calderón and Enrique Peña Nieto, right? Like these presidents of Mexico that were super corrupt, modern Mexico, super, super corrupt. So there's this almost — I don't want to be too hard on Mexico because I love the place, but it's almost like this failed state and everyone goes, "Okay, if we got this a-hole in-office I can't count on him for anything. I can't count on the police for anything. I have to look to the cartel." Because it's easy for us in America to go, "Well, how dare they? You know, they're building that school with dirty drug money. How dare they do that?" But they have no other option. It's not like the government has one school being built in the cartel says, "Hey, we're going to have one with gold toilets." It's either there's nothing happening and you have no upward mobility and you can't even feed your kids. Or you deal with criminals that are going to kill you if you don't cooperate. And if you do cooperate your life upgrades significantly, and no one else is going to help you. Am I close?
[00:11:33] Ed Calderon: Yeah. Interesting you mentioned Felipe Calderón. So Felipe Calderón for people that don't know, he's the one that officially kicked off the modern drug war that's going on in Mexico. And he basically said at the start of his administration, he made it a point to go after cartels. "Enough is enough," basically, he said. For this, he created the federal police force. He put the military on the streets to basically try and use them as a policing force in some places. He created confidence examination centers across the country for cops to go in and get polygraphs done on them, drug testing, psychological evaluations. He partnered with the US and started doing FBI background checks for people. I went through a bunch of these filters myself. He inherited certain elements of his cabinet from other previous presidencies and government. Including as a head of the public safety Garcia Luna, who was basically the head of the federal police and the head of national policing in Mexico.
[00:12:40] And later on the president that followed him, had a general who was basically head of the national defense. They have all these guys that are part of these cabinets that are turned out to be completely in bed with cartels, right? So even if maybe a president was not specifically involved in anything that provable, all the people around him were in some way, shape or form being influenced by cartel people. And you can see this clearly by how some of the cartel groups grow and wane during certain presidencies. It's clear as day to anybody who wants to kind of see.
[00:13:18] Jordan Harbinger: You're listening to The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest Ed Calderon. We'll be right back.
[00:13:23] This episode is sponsored in part by Democracy in Danger podcast. I want to let you know, one of this week's sponsors, Democracy in Danger is a new gem of a podcast out of Charlottesville, Virginia. Each week, the show's hosts, a media expert, and a historian are joined by some of the country's sharpest minds. Kind of like this show and they take deep dives on real threats facing government by the people. So if you care about strengthening democracy, you're going to enjoy the show. Recent episodes of broken-down voter suppression, hate speech, protest movements, cyberterrorism, economic inequality, climate change, and all that. All packaged into stories and interviews. Srdja Popovic who's been on The Jordan Harbinger Show did an episode with them called People Power a few weeks ago and Renee DiResta also a former guest of the show is with them right after the January 6th insurrection. So they discussed the links between disinformation, QAnon, ISIS recruitment, anti-vaxxers that ep is called Down the Rabbit Hole. Visit D-I-N-danger.org. We'll link to that in the show notes. We're also going to run a trailer for their show at the end of this episode.
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[00:15:38] Jordan Harbinger: Now back to Ed Calderon on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:15:43] So you have presidents, certain administrations, favoring, one cartel over the other. And I think the latest one was favoring Sinaloa, right? Wasn't like the drugs? I don't even know if he's still calling him that, but this sort of head honcho turned out to be, like the right-hand man of the cartel leader. And it was like a military general. Who am I thinking of? Am I talking about the right thing? Do I have this right?
[00:16:03] Ed Calderon: The past administration had a general who was our version of the secretary of defense, basically. That was our version of the secretary of defense. It turned out he was arrested coming off of a plane somewhere in California by the DEA. And apparently, he had been aiding and abetting the Beltrán-Leyva Cartel in Mexico during his tenure, in power. But when he was arrested, he was living retired and he was with his family in the US, which is interesting because a lot of these are high level arrests are former, very corrupt politicians in Mexico have been happening as they live a life of comfort in the US.
[00:16:41] Jordan Harbinger: They're like, "I don't want to live in this place that I screwed up. I'm going to go live in La Jolla instead or whatever."
[00:16:46] Ed Calderon: And it's interesting seeing how basically some of these guys get rewarded by the US government for the work they did in Mexico. The thing that a lot of people have to realize is that the U S and the US taxpayers, which I now include myself in that group. We all pay for police vehicles in Mexico for the rifles they carry, for the rounds they carry, for the guns they carry, for the training they get. All of us pay for that. The US has been basically outsourcing the drug war to Mexico for years.
[00:17:17] So all of us pay for that. So when you get somebody like a high-level ranking government official, that was obviously very corrupt and/or on the payroll of a Sinaloa Cartel, and now retiring in the US and having a green card as a part of his reward for working for US interest in Mexico. We have a hand in it as taxpayers as well. We have some responsibility there as well.
[00:17:42] And it kind of leads me into asking people out there specifically when they tell me like, "Ed, what can the US do?" We can audit what we're sending over as far as money, number one. We've been paying for the drug war and the drug war has been happening and going about in the same way, in the same manner, for more than 20 years. I was part of 12 years of that drug war. Nothing has changed. In fact, things are getting worse. We are exiting the most deadly year in our modern history in Mexico, as far as body counts.
[00:18:11] Jordan Harbinger: So is 2020 more deadly than 2019?
[00:18:14] Ed Calderon: Yes. Yes.
[00:18:15] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:18:15] Ed Calderon: These are government numbers, so they're always skewed. And also the government numbers don't take into account that people that are just plain missing.
[00:18:23] Jordan Harbinger: Really?
[00:18:24] Ed Calderon: Which is another part of the almost science-fiction writer couldn't make this up, but the industrial level of people getting disappeared in Mexico basically is insane. I mean, how many people are just gone and how many mass graves are found and how many mass graves are just reported in the news every week?
[00:18:43] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, I was going to say, I feel like every time I look at Mexican news or I look at some of the Instagram accounts like yours or our mutual friends, that I will link in the show notes, it's like new mass grave found 50 clicks outside of Guadalajara with 15 people thought to be like — and it's never like thought to be a bunch of cartel assassins. It's always like thought to be student group.
[00:19:03] Ed Calderon: Yeah.
[00:19:04] Jordan Harbinger: Thought to be a group of missing tourists from like Nuevo Laredo or whatever, like just random people.
[00:19:09] Ed Calderon: The Mexican government has a tendency to find dead people and say, "Oh, it's cartel related. They probably had something to do with it." That's an easy way out for most Mexican authorities to kind of clean their hands off when they find something like that. In reality, it's not the case.
[00:19:23] Jordan Harbinger: What do you think it is?
[00:19:24] Ed Calderon: It could be a lot of things. I'll give you two examples of how it could not just be cartel related. The killing fields in Juárez for a time, hundreds of women were found raped and murdered, severely tortured in the deserts of Juárez. And the government, when the killing started happening, they were saying it was cartel related because there was a major cartel war going on in the region. So it's cartel related. People have to realize that some of these places where these hotspots of violence usually attract people that want to hide the fact that they're partaking in whatever demented acts they want to partake in. They want to hide that by going into a complex zone where carnages were normal.
[00:20:05] Jordan Harbinger: Right. So if I'm a crazy psychopath and I like killing people because I have a mental illness, I'm not going to do it in San Jose, California. I'm going to do it in Juárez, and then people are going to go, "Pff, I mean, look man, there's all this cartel stuff going on. It's probably that. 15 bodies? What else is new? It's a Tuesday." If you find five bodies in San Jose, there's going to be a statewide manhunt, nationwide manhunt for your ass, with DNA, evidence and everything. They're going to dig up, be brushing off everybody's teeth and jaw bones in those graves. So they're going to be looking for you for years.
[00:20:39] Ed Calderon: And people can do the research for themselves, research of missing women and forces appearances of women and feminist sides in places like Tijuana, places like Mexico City. Yeah, some of them could be related to cartel activity or people trafficking, but some of them do have the clear sign of just people partaking in whatever sickness that they have and kind of intermingling or mixing some of this violence into whatever's happening in the region. That's a factor as well. It's just a cycle. It's a cycle of violence.
[00:21:09] It's interesting. six, seven years ago when I was active, I was seeing some of the things usually go and ups and downs in Mexico, you see a violent upsurge and then you see people that have a habit enough, basically tell the government, do something. People with money usually are the ones that really convinced them to do something. And you get good results in some places and you get the figures like a Lieutenant Colonel Leyzaola coming into places like Tijuana and cleaning it up.
[00:21:35] Jordan Harbinger: That guy is a bad-ass. Did you work for him?
[00:21:37] Ed Calderon: I worked for him a few times.
[00:21:38] Jordan Harbinger: Well, I think he's a bad-ass. I assume there's a lot of people that want to see him flayed alive.
[00:21:42] Ed Calderon: Oh, yeah. There's people that call him beyond torture. People, they call him the human rights violator, or they call them all sorts of things. But I mean, the numbers are undeniable and he plays where he has been directly involved in public safety direction, everything goes down from violent crimes to murder rates. Everything goes down. Tijuana was one of the clearest examples of a successful counter-narcotics operation all around in Mexico's history.
[00:22:09] Jordan Harbinger: Politics aside, because this is a politically charged statement, but is he kind of like the Rudy Giuliani to Tijuana as Rudy Giuliani was in New York. You know how he was like—
[00:22:17] Ed Calderon: Yeah.
[00:22:17] Jordan Harbinger: —arrest people if they're spray painting anything or arrest people who break sh*t on the ground.
[00:22:21] Ed Calderon: In a lot of ways he was. But again, you have to really know where he came from and what he's about. He's a career officer. He came out of the war college in Mexico, a lot of training. He basically treated the problem as a gorilla, a counterinsurgency problem, more so than a cartel problem. But when he was active, he had the support of the state government, the local government and the federal government. So he had everything aligned to do his best work. The last time I counted, he had 11 assassination attempts on his life. And the last one took the use of his — well, not the last one, because he got out a few more assassination attempts after that, but basically he lost the use of his legs. The last time he was almost killed. So he went into politics. But it's undeniable that he is and has been a banner for anybody that thinks that there is no hope as far as people trying to change things in Mexico. And he's being vilified completely by the left side of the political spectrum in Mexico right now, because of who he represents, as far as the success story. He represents the right side of the political spectrum. So they don't like him.
[00:23:24] Jordan Harbinger: So he's like a law and order guy instead of more of a leftist, whatever that means in Central and South America.
[00:23:29] Ed Calderon: I mean, politically when I saw him working — again, he's I was both trained by him and also I got to work as a bodyguard for him when he first started. And then I got to see him directly working for him as him being one of the directors for the groups that I worked with. He was one of those guys that led from the front. I never saw anything. I related to him trying to politicize anything. He was just, "Those are the bad guys. Let's go get them. This is the citizenship, these are the people that you work for," and you better come up to that standard.
[00:24:01] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:24:01] Ed Calderon: If he couldn't do it, he wouldn't ask us to do it. So he was one of those guys that led by example. And now, he's getting into politics and he's ran for the office of mayor of Tijuana two times. And has been consistently blocked. I've been supporting him in those efforts for the last two times.
[00:24:17] Jordan Harbinger: Blocked by what just political establishment people?
[00:24:20] Ed Calderon: Politically established, and people that are clearly have some sort of a fear of him coming back into power.
[00:24:27] Jordan Harbinger: Bad for business.
[00:24:28] Ed Calderon: It is bad for business. Specifically, if you are attached and/or related to any of the people that they might be working for, you know, I don't know.
[00:24:36] Jordan Harbinger: I want to jump back a little bit because people are like, "Okay, this is interesting, but wait, who's this guy? What's going on?" Because you went to med school which — look, spoiler, you're not a doctor, right?
[00:24:47] Ed Calderon: No. I'm not, so I'm not a doctor.
[00:24:49] Jordan Harbinger: Then what? You joined this experimental police unit, which is like, what? Anti-mafia, anti-human trafficking. I looked at an interview — we talked about the advertisement that got your attention where it's vaguely worded, but they wanted young, unmarried men who had stagnated a little bit. And I'm thinking for a guy who teaches awareness, that one kind of went over your head. There's like six red flags in there, man.
[00:25:10] Ed Calderon: Well, I mean, so people know that I did two years of med school. It didn't work out. Economy went in the toilet after 9/11 down in Mexico, specifically on the border region. Before the government job, I worked at a Blockbuster Video for a bit, and I was really aimless and desperate. I think people don't truly know what desperation is as far as trying to look for a job as a Mexican on the border and getting all these offers from the other side and all of a sudden finding yourself, looking at an ad in the paper, seeing that, "Oh, maybe I could be used as an analyst and/or as an translator because I knew how to speak a pretty good English."
[00:25:46] But yeah, I remember vaguely seeing that the whole, and then going to the, through the interview process and then them asking specifically, if I was married and had any kids, which should have been a red flag. It was in a way.
[00:26:00] Jordan Harbinger: But you're like, it's either this or Blockbuster and Blockbuster, "No, thanks. Where's the drug cartel?"
[00:26:05] Ed Calderon: There's not a lot of choices. I really didn't know what I was going into. All of a sudden, I was sending on a big field with Mexican flag in front of me and a bunch of former members of the GAFE units. The GAFE units are where the Zetas came from, basically army SF guys. The people around us basically drill instructors, those were all GAFE guys.
[00:26:28] Jordan Harbinger: Oh wow.
[00:26:28] Ed Calderon: From no military experience at all and living basically a lower middle-class life in Mexico to being in a field, getting my hair shaved off with a razor, and then being yelled at and being marching around the sun for a bit, trying to get us to quit and leave — yeah, life-changing, altering.
[00:26:47] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:26:47] Ed Calderon: And then all of a sudden, after six, seven months of training, then getting into the whole policing side of it, as far as training goes, and then getting handed a gun, a badge, and some body armor and then told, "Go off and do good work," basically.
[00:27:06] Jordan Harbinger: This is The Jordan Harbinger Show with our guest, Ed Calderon. We'll be right back.
[00:27:10] This episode is sponsored in part by chili technology. I struggled to sleep at night sometimes. I tend to run warm. I thrash around. I toss and turn. I can't get cool enough to sleep and was flipping the pillows around everything. The chiliPAD has made a huge difference for me. The bed feels cool as if you just got in and it stays cool all night long. And one of the most important parts of staying healthy is obviously the quality of your sleep. An optimize night's sleep will help you feel more rested when you wake up. Of course, it promotes immunity. It benefits your mindset. It helps with weight loss efforts. Helps you recover if you're working out, but even with these significant benefits, most Americans do not report a restful night's sleep, pretty much every night, which is a bad sign, right? We're not sleeping well in this country. Chilisleep makes customizable climate controlled sleep solutions that have helped me not only get a better night's sleep, but have improved my entire wellbeing. They also can heat the bed. And I use that all the time too because sometimes it's a little chilly out here in California. I like to heat the bed up and slip right in there. It's like a little bedtime quesadilla. Head on over to chilitechnology.com/jordan for chilisleep's best deals just for you. Limited time only. That's , C-H-I-L-I-technology.com/jordan.
[00:28:16] This episode is also sponsored by PrettyLitter. If you've ever taken a closer look at the podcast, show art, you see a hairless cat in a space suit, and that is Momo, our dearest six-year-old sphynx cat, but as much as I love Momo, I'm not so fond of the daily stank bombs he leaves in his litter box. He just poops his own weight every day, that little guy. Everything from cleaning to covering up the smell is just a constant, never ending battle. And that's why we use PrettyLitter. It's kitty litter reinvented. It's super light crystals trap odor and release moisture resulting in dry, low maintenance turds. Really, that's what it is. They don't smell thankfully. And PrettyLitter virtually does free because it's manufactured with a specialized de-dusting process. So less dust and no fuss. PrettyLitter arrived safely at my door on a small, lightweight bag that lasts up to a month. None of these like 40 pound freaking bags of cat litter every month. And that you got to login and throw your back out. And if that wasn't enough, PrettyLitter is also a health indicator. They have little crystals in there that change colors when it detects a potential underlying issue. So yellow is normal, but if you see red or blue, your cat might have a little issue. And you know, those little guys can't tell us anything, so the litter can.
[00:29:21] Jen Harbinger: Get the world's smartest litter without leaving home by visiting prettylitter.com and use promo code Jordan for 20 percent off your first order. That's prettylitter.com promo code Jordan for 20 percent off. Prettylitter.com promo code Jordan for 20 percent off.
[00:29:35] Jordan Harbinger: Thanks so much for listening to and supporting the show. Your support of our advertisers, those who sponsored the show, that is why they renew. That's why we can keep the lights on around here and have all these amazing conversations for you without me hocking a bunch of, I don't know, random courses on getting rich on the Internet. So please do support them or at least consider supporting them. Go to jordanharbinger.com/deals. If you want to find the codes and the sponsors all in one place. Again, that's easy to find. The codes do help support the show. I know you think, "Ah, Jordan's got plenty of people doing this." No, plenty of people never do it. They just Google the sponsor and go buy this stuff. Use our code, please. It really does all add up.
[00:30:11] And of course, we've got worksheets for today's episode. If you want to check out some of the drills and exercises talked about during the show, we put those all in one easy place and that's linked in the show notes as well. The show notes are at jordanharbinger.com/podcast.
[00:30:24] All right, enough of that, let's keep it going here with Ed Calderon.
[00:30:29] The Zetas, a lot of people don't know that this is that Zeta — well, first of all, it's a cartel and it was made up of Mexican special forces trained by the United States, I assume.
[00:30:38] Ed Calderon: Yeah. The school of the Americas, some of them for brag trained. I used to work with a few of the generation where the Zetas came out of. It was basically a group of SF guys that just deserted. The Gulf Cartel had Osiel Cárdenas Guillén. He wanted bodyguards, wanted an elite bodyguard unit. So he said, "Well, how much did he pay you in the Mexican special forces? Yeah, I can pay you more."
[00:31:03] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, like 10 times more.
[00:31:05] Ed Calderon: So they deserted, they went to work as a bodyguarding group for them, and then as an enforcement arm for them. And then they realized, "Hey, we can do this for ourselves. Why are we working for somebody else?" So they kind of splintered off. They're not what they used to be now anymore. They're really more of a shadow of what they used to be, but they used to be a very scary, highly efficient, highly militarized, hyper violent group of people. I mean that special forces part of it. These guys were special. A lot of them were bilingual, trilingual, some of them had engineering backgrounds, law backgrounds. So, I mean, they're highly educated people.
[00:31:39] Jordan Harbinger: Geez. How much do you think they got paid in special forces and how much you think they got paid by the cartel?
[00:31:44] Ed Calderon: Well, as far as the cartel payment side of it, I've heard everything from 25,000 bonus to sign up and 5,000 a week or something like that. Plus, whatever you found out there, you could keep, that type of stuff, so I don't know. Back then, I have no idea what a base pay was, but it's probably somewhere in the vicinity of what I used to earn when I got out first. So it was probably $1,500 a month, maybe at the most. So that's probably somewhere in the vicinity of that, I would think.
[00:32:13] Jordan Harbinger: So you make more in a couple of weeks working for a cartel than you do in an entire year working for a police unit. And you're, I don't know, maybe not less likely to die, but possibly. At least you're better armed. You stand a better chance of fighting back, I guess. I don't know.
[00:32:27] Ed Calderon: And also it's also culturally, the police are not the good guys in Mexico. That's just the truth in some towns and some in places in Mexico, they're the bad guys. They're the villains.
[00:32:36] Jordan Harbinger: Because of corruption?
[00:32:37] Ed Calderon: Because of corruption, because of a certain, very public cases of the army or the Mexican Marines, doing some horrible, horrible genocidal type stuff to certain ethnicities, to certain ethnic communities in Mexico to massacres. In our history where the army has participated, they get a bad rap basically, or they just get burned. There was a case in Sinaloa of Mexican Marine SF unit, this was probably four years ago, maybe five. They go into a party in Sinaloa, a big quinceañera probably, or a wedding. It's not too clear by the video, but there's a video out there of it. They instruct all the military aged individuals in the group to gather in the middle of a room. They ask them who has guns. Nobody had guns. And the women in the crowd who are cowering behind tables and stuff like that, start recording them with their phones and the video makes it online. It was clear and apparent that they didn't have anything, but all of the guys were lined up outside and executed by the Marines. Were they cartel guys? Were they not cartel guys? According to most of the people there, they were not involved, but they were executed. Stuff like that happens and obviously in that region, they are no longer recognized as anything but a predatory influence coming into where they live killing their men.
[00:33:59] And I think, again, this problem in Mexico has been treated as a law enforcement policing problem, it's an insurgency. This is a counterinsurgency problem that has a lot of insurgency groups basically fighting against one another. And there are places that this insurgency has clearly won like Sinaloa, The Sinaloa Cartel two years ago beat the Mexican army in a one-on-one fight.
[00:34:22] Jordan Harbinger: Is that when they went after El Chapo's kid? And then they were like, "Oh crap, we're surrounded by—"
[00:34:28] Ed Calderon: Yeah.
[00:34:28] Jordan Harbinger: "—Trucks and gangsters." Can you tell us a story? Because people probably read that in the news or didn't. When I heard this story, I was watching it live as much as I could, and I was like, trying to listen to the Spanish with my rusty ass Spanish because it was just straight out of Narcos season five or season seven, whatever we're not up to it yet. I've never seen anything like this in my life.
[00:34:47] Ed Calderon: Basically, according to the government — and this is again, according to the government and according to what I know, there's two different stories there. A Mexican special police unit went there and supposedly had clear indications that El Chapo's son was there at a party. And they were going to go to arrest him. That is the official story. But when you actually see the video, the GoPro video, that was released later on, of El Chapo's son arrest. You can clearly see that they're dumbfounded and they realized what they just stepped into. When El Chapo's son basically walks out with his hands up, takes out his gun and hands it over to somebody else as he walks out. I mean, if I'm back when I was active, you know, 28-year-old Ed wearing a ski mask with my MP5 and I have somebody grabbing onto some gun, I would shoot them. Right? That would be my reaction. But you can clearly see that they identify who's there. They're told who's there and they start kind of stepping back because they realize how much of a clusterf*ck they just walked into.
[00:35:53] They get orders from the higher ups to detain him. And they move him to a federal building in Sinaloa to hold him as they wait for a helicopter from the military, probably of the Mexican Marines to extract him and take them to a secure location outside of the state. The thing is that Sinaloa Cartel owns the sky over Culiacán. So there's no way you can land a helicopter there without getting blown up specifically, if it involves a high ranking member of the cartel that runs that area. So they basically did a call out for every single gun attached to this Sinaloa Cartel to surround the city. And they came from everywhere, from all over from Sonora, from outside of the state, from in this state. People that had no involvement with the enforcement side of it. Like people that were just guarding fields and/or people that were tending fields were armed and all of them were busted.
[00:36:49] The army was trying to do the same, the Mexican army. The Mexican military federal forces were trying to do the same. So the Sinaloa Cartel basically sent people to take hostage of all the military family housing barracks in the state and they took them hostage. And they just outnumbered them, outgunned and outnumbered the military there. The president of Mexico, the current president of Mexico, says that he gave the order to let him go. When, in actuality, from all the people that I've talked to that were there, that were a part of it, they said that the guy's holding El Chapo's kid, basically, just let them go when they saw that there's no hope, basically.
[00:37:27] Jordan Harbinger: They blocked off all the roads, bridges, not the military, the cartel. And you could see them burning cars on bridges so that nobody could get through. And there'd be like a pickup truck with metal welded to the sides of it, kind of like makeshift armor turret with a .50-cal machine gun. And they were everywhere. It looked like Afghanistan or something.
[00:37:49] Ed Calderon: It was a very clear expression is show off force from the cartels and as far as how much they can muster as far as armed people and how they own a state. I mean, they own that state. The army retreated. There's no if's, and's or about it. The army retreated from that situation. And I posted a bunch of videos on my Instagram feed. Interestingly, enough, a few of them were kind of like shadow banned because—
[00:38:14] Jordan Harbinger: How do you know if you're shadow banned? What is that? First of all, a lot of people don't know what that is.
[00:38:18] Ed Calderon: Instagram blocks certain content of people's search bars. So if people were following me, those didn't show up in their feed if there were searching. Or they would click on it and they would click on my feed and that specific thing would seem like I archived it and it wasn't showing up. It's an odd thing happened during that whole thing. I made it a point not to show specific violence. I just wanted to show videos of the army going in and out of the city and some of the .50-cal technicals moving around the city and stuff like that. But if people want to look for them, I've managed to repost some of them. So they're still there. But you can clearly see a video of the Mexican army leadership, shaking hands with the cartel guys, basically coming to a gentlemanly agreement to not engage.
[00:39:06] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:39:07] Ed Calderon: There's a few of those that I posted up that people like. I have the advantage of having a few generations of federal police and state police and local police that have trained when I was still active. And I still work for the government and I still did training for the government. My DMs and my WhatsApp get lit up when something like that happens and I'd always get all of the videos, they get sent my way. That's how I get all the information mostly.
[00:39:32] To somebody like me, that was in it, it was shocking to see such a display of force, by a group that is clearly completely detached from many sort of government leadership, as far as what they're doing. Imagine that a criminal group like that taking over LA and having the US military send in people and then retreat. Just imagine that. You know, that would be mind blowing to people.
[00:39:56] Jordan Harbinger: Even for the police to retreat is mind blowing. The army would never even, and should never even be there in the first place. But at that point, the LAPD's already been defeated. And then the military comes in and they go, "You know what? These guys have too many guns. We're out of here. We're going back."
[00:40:10] Ed Calderon: I think it's a posse comitatus or something like that it's called when the military shouldn't be involved until there's a posse comitatus. And then the military can intervene, but in Mexico, I think that's — there's people screaming for the military not to be involved. And I think it's a national security type of issue now.
[00:40:27] Jordan Harbinger: It's a civil war from the sound of it, man.
[00:40:29] Ed Calderon: Yeah. It's a civil war where the leadership on the military side has been clearly found to be compromised by the people that they're fighting. So the reason why the raid for El Chapo was done by the Mexican Marines and not by the Mexican Army Special Forces is because the Mexican Army Special Forces are no longer to be trusted by US law enforcement and government. They don't trust them anymore because they are clearly aware of how corrupted that organization is. So they decided to bet everything on the Mexican Marines.
[00:41:00] And now, we live in a day and age when some of these Mexican Marine units have been clearly found to be indulging in abduction for ransom. There were a few of them found guarding a high-level Sinaloa cartel operative in Sinaloa with all their equipment. So who can you trust? You know, and who's in the middle, the citizenship. The citizenship that doesn't have a second amendment. A citizenship that doesn't have a clear voice or any sort of trusted political establishment that they can influence or move with any sort of power or influence and a bordering super power to the North. That seems to not want to really audit what the money that they are sending down to Mexico is doing. So it's a hopeless place to be in.
[00:41:48] Jordan Harbinger: I assume you got asked to work for the cartel when you were working in the police unit. I mean, does everyone get asked kind of early on like, "Hey, what, what are you going to do?"
[00:41:55] Ed Calderon: There's always people inside will tell, "Hey, Ed, do you want — there's a side job. Do you want to do that?" It's like, "No, I'm good." Or you can indirectly be working for a cartel by having the director of whatever unit you're working for basically say, "Well, we're going to go after these guys over here, but not these guys over here." You don't know why he's doing that because that's above your pay grade, but clearly I never took anything that wasn't mine. I never indulged in any of that. Yeah, people around me were corrupted. People around me were compromised. I was drug tested sporadically during the year. I had FBI background checks done on me constantly when I went through my certification process. I was certified by a US-based police certification company called Calea. My organization that I work with was one of the first ones in the country, if not the only one that it was actually certified by a US-based certification process.
[00:42:49] Jordan Harbinger: To make sure you guys weren't corrupt.
[00:42:50] Ed Calderon: Yeah, because we had access to liaison that would share information with us. So they wanted to verify if we were trustworthy. Even with all that, every now and then, you would then find out that the guy that you work with, like two years was on the take and he was arrested and you saw him on the news. And all of us had to change phones, that type of stuff.
[00:43:09] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, man.
[00:43:10] Ed Calderon: Eventually, it got to a point in my career where politics changed like they always do. Mexico goes through six a year, a president comes in, then he goes out and then another party comes in. Mexico is in a two-party system place like the US. We actually have some sort of a multi-party system going and going on where different parties have actually been taken power in Mexico. But every six years, basically everything gets tossed into the garbage as far as whatever was successful. It doesn't matter if it's attached to the past political system.
[00:43:41] Jordan Harbinger: They just burn the manual and just start over.
[00:43:43] Ed Calderon: So that's what happened to the group that I work with in a way. I got basically called into an office, told that all the people that were in charge were no longer in charge. And the new people that were in charge were clearly working for an organization.
[00:43:57] Jordan Harbinger: Clearly, because they're driving cars that are worth more than three years of their salary — or like, how do you know?
[00:44:02] Ed Calderon: People just know, you know, people just know that some of the people that came in were Sinaloa Cartel guys or New Generation Cartel guys. It's just like a spoken secret. Then it got to a point where I was told basically, "You want to work? Or do you want to leave?" I left,
[00:44:21] Jordan Harbinger: Here's a trailer with Charles Ryu here on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:44:24] Charles Ryu: When I was 14, I got my first opportunity to escape North Korea and go to China. Police came to our house. We are getting deported to North Korea. I got transported to a detention center. They are brainwashing us for nine months. I started working in a coal mine when I was paid only in rice. So one morning, instead of entering the mind, I walked up the path and began, and in the distance I saw a train come to a stop. This is my chance I need to get on the train. I finally made it to the border town. I'm already determined the next day, right? I walked into the river that divides North Korean, China, which is the Yellow River. And then I slowly walked into the water. I slipped on a rock and let out a scream. A flashlight was on back. And I heard a soldier screaming at me.
[00:45:12] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, man.
[00:45:13] Charles Ryu: [Foreign Language] Stop, stop, or I will shoot!" The guard kept screaming at me, but he never pulled the trigger. And then I went into the cornfield. I'm in China now. So I embarked on another long journey to Southeast Asia. I got to Thailand. That was the best day of my life. Going to Thai prison. And then I was trying to apply for South Korea, but they didn't recognize me as a refugee. And they're like, "We would have to send you back to China." Chinese government sent me back to North Korea, but those guys don't want to tell me.
[00:45:45] Jordan Harbinger: And that's just the tip of the iceberg. He escaped the police. He had to run with secret police in China. I mean, this guy just has an absolutely amazing sense of survival and story. And that's episode 84 with Charles Ryu, Confessions of a North Korean Escape Artist part one and part two, episode 84 of The Jordan Harbinger Show. Make sure you check it.
[00:46:06] All right. We're going to wrap one year. Part two comes out in a few days or depending on when you're listening, it's already out. So go check that out. Links to everything Ed does will be in our show notes at jordanharbinger.com/podcast. If you buy anything from any of our guests, please do use the links in our show notes that helps support the show. Worksheets for this episode are in the show notes. Transcripts of this episode are in the show notes. And there's a video of this interview going up on our YouTube channel at jordanharbinger.com/youtube. I'm at @JordanHarbinger on both Twitter and Instagram, or hit me on LinkedIn. I love hearing from you there.
[00:46:38] I'm teaching you how to connect with great people and manage relationships using systems, using tiny habits over at our Six-Minute Networking course. The course is free. It's all the same stuff I use to grow my business, to grow my personal life, to make sure I don't lose touch with my friends and family. That's all at jordanharbinger.com/course. Dig the well before you get thirsty. And all the guests you hear on the show, they contribute to the course in some way. So come join us, you'll be in smart company.
[00:47:04] This show is created in association with PodcastOne. My amazing team is Jen Harbinger — yes, that's my wife — Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Ian Baird, Millie Ocampo, Josh Ballard, and Gabriel Mizrahi. Remember, we rise by lifting others. The fee for this show is that you share it with friends when you find something useful or interesting. If you know someone interested in drug cartels, the occult law enforcement, Mexico, corruption — I don't know all of those things combined somehow — share this episode with them. I hope you find something great in every episode of the show. Please do share the show with those you care about. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
[00:47:44] Siva Vaidhyanathan: This season on Democracy in Danger.
[00:47:47] There's a refrain we keep hearing. I'm not totally convinced that the USA represents democracy in any substantial, ideal sense.
[00:47:58] Will Hitchcock: You know, Winston Churchill famously said that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others. And our guests often show us how autocrats and populists can twist the rule of the people into the rule of the mob.
[00:48:12] Guest: There's a lot to learn from the Berlusconi experience. He didn't wreck democracy. He wrapped it around his finger.
[00:48:22] Will Hitchcock: In January, right here in the United States, we saw just that kind of threat and it nearly thwarted a presidential transition.
[00:48:31] Guest: There was a kind of a valid, you know, white supremacists group Vanguard, that was really at the forefront of rally and march to offensive operation against the Capital
[00:48:41] Will Hitchcock: But on our show, we're not just looking at the problems, we're also searching for hope in civil discourse and maybe when needed the power of activism and resistance.
[00:48:55] Siva Vaidhyanathan: It may sound crazy 11 students deciding to take on the dictator but when you don't have other choice, you find a strength in you to fight for the things you believe
[00:49:06] Will Hitchcock: I'm Will Hitchcock.
[00:49:07] Siva Vaidhyanathan: And I'm Siva Vaidhyanathan. Join us every week on Democracy in Danger wherever you get your podcasts.
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