One of the largest and most constant concerns for any drug cartel is the security of its product. From rival drug lords on the outside to would-be entrepreneurs on the inside, a lot of effort was put into making sure there were as few opportunities for anything to go missing as possible. Shortages are dealt with harshly and publicly, displays designed to reinforce total and unwavering loyalty – out of fear if nothing else.
Security was one of the main pillars we were going after in order to topple the forces controlling Bolivia. Experience showed that if they couldn’t guarantee their product, either in quality or quantity, smaller fish would start getting ideas, and start taking bites. Fewer “bad guys” for us to deal with, all things considered. Looking at the regions where the cartel had the most sway, again usually through brute force, we picked a strong target to start swinging at – “El Comandante.”
The cartel had to know by now that we were both in-country and aiming to seriously cramp their style. If we were to take down the most senior of their security lieutenants, the rest wouldn’t be able to consolidate as they would if we worked from the bottom up. We heard rumors that this guy had strong ties with the federal army, and had been greasing palms on both sides to get the military looking at the rebels instead of the cartel. With the increased military presence we were seeing, getting some sand between those two sides seemed a great way to cause friction.
We could have gone for a little bit of deception, hitting a cartel safe house while dressed like the military or vice versa, but the two of us together couldn’t sell it. We’re soldiers, not actors. Media Luna was a rural region scarred by large canyons, without too much apparent strategic value, other than the fact that the military’s top brass often met with cartel big-wigs in the sleepy province. If one of their meetings didn’t go as planned, the cartel’s ability to secure locations would start to become a question, as would the military’s unofficial support.
We were fortunate enough to have the rebels provide a beat-up chopper for us – I did mention the newly-installed SAM sites all over, didn’t I? – making an otherwise nausea-inducing road trip a short, if careful, hop through the air. Apparently our handlers’ information was good and we soon located a high-level meet at a private estate out in the back country. Not intending to kill the military leaders outright, Gaz took aim at the external security while I held us stable a few hundred meters away, just above the treeline.
Only after all of the guards were dead, which took some careful repositioning on my end and quick targeting on hers, did we let a few shots fly through the large plate-glass windows behind which the generals were meeting. We didn’t hit any of them, nor were we trying to, but it sure gave them a fright, and the realization that all of the guards outside were dead or dying made for some very heated conversations with their hosts, I’m sure.
Without wanting to stick around to see what fireworks the military sent our way, Gaz and I returned to a low-key rebel base of operations and sacked out for the night. It was a good day, productive.
I even managed to get the bird back to the rebels in one piece, belying my growing reputation.