Monday, August 10, 2009

The Mouthpiece

For years, the go-to mouthpiece for drug traffickers and, sometimes, those who were merely accused of being drug traffickers was Silvia Raquenel Villanueva, It was a job that had a number of built-in hazards.

She now has bodyguards and protective glass on the office window next to her oversize desk. Still, Mexico’s most prominent “narco abogada,” or lawyer to the drug lords, continues to receive threats, which she, a religious woman with a serious demeanor, deflects with prayer, a lighted candle in her office and, on the walls, scores of crosses and images of Jesus Christ.

“I can presume that God wants me to continue working in what I’ve always done,” she said. “I’m a lawyer for people who really need one.”

...Ms. Raquenel can rattle off the exact dates of the various attempts on her life as though they were holidays. There was May 13, 1998, when an explosive went off at the front door of her office. And March 23, 2000, when she was hit by gunfire when entering a Mexico City hotel with her client, a police commander charged with working for traffickers on the side. Then came Aug. 31, 2000, when someone stormed into her office and shot her eight times, and Nov. 13, 2001, when someone fired at her on the courthouse steps in Monterrey.

“Some people would have left the country,” she said. “Not me. God has put me in the eye of the hurricane. The people I defend could be the worst of the worst or they could be innocent.”

Pretty much the definition of bad-ass, this lady. She's so gangsta, in fact, that she's had at least six "narcorridos" written about her.

The last seven years have been uneventful when it comes to actual violence against her, but threats have still come in. Being a target has not turned her into a nervous wreck though. She is fatalistic about when and where her end will come, and she vows to continue her aggressive advocacy of any client she chooses to defend.

As a single mother, though, it clearly does bother her that her teenage daughter might be orphaned one day, and that has made her turn down clients, she said, that she might otherwise have represented.

You've probably guessed how this one ends, haven't you? The moral of story is that you should never let your bodyguards drop several paces behind you in a crowded mercado, because you never know who's carrying an AR-15. Luckily, her teenage daughter got to see the whole thing.


Anonymous said...

If she defends them, why did they want her dead so badly?

Burro Hall said...

Well, she did discriminate between one cartel and another, so one group of bad guys may not have approved of her defending another group. But also, she wouldn't be the first defense lawyer gunned down by official forces here, so it would be a mistake to assume it was a gangland slaying.

Jorge Arturo said...

Why drug lords, kidnappers, other criminals and their lawyers are all very religious.

brujo said...

Jorge - why does the Church not excommunicate them? why didn't the Church excommunicate IRA terrorists?

Conspiracy minded MexFiles said...

Are you sure it was the "cartels" that offed her? Lot of theories floating around having to do with silencing her to head off any investigations into the Texas oil mafia that's been robbing PEMEX.