Omar Pimentel has the most dan­ger­ous job in the world. The 37- year- old is the po­lice chief of Nuevo Laredo, a city in Mex­ico with 400,000 res­i­dents that’s lo­cated right across the bor­der from the U.S. His pre­de­ces­sor died on his first day of work— a vic

iD magazine - - A Photo And Its Story Flashback -


are un­der Omar Pimentel’s com­mand. One year prior there were 724, but then drug and lie de­tec­tor tests were man­dated: 89 failed, and 311 sim­ply quit. But again and again, Pimentel gets new re­cruits: “I train them per­son­ally,” says the chief. “They will be the core of a new and bet­ter po­lice force.” There is still hope…

50,000 DOL­LARS

is the price on Pimentel’s head. Since he be­came po­lice chief, about two dozen mur­der­ers have at­tempted to col­lect the bounty— so far in vain…


have passed since Mex­ico’s drug car­tels have put the city of Nuevo Laredo in their crosshairs. Rea­son: After Septem­ber 11, 2001, the se­cu­rity at U.S. air­ports be­came sig­nif­i­cantly stricter. There­fore the drugs must travel by land— nowhere else do as many goods flow from Mex­ico to Amer­ica as through the bor­der cross­ing with Nuevo Laredo, which is sit­u­ated at one end of the Pan-amer­i­can High­way. Since then the car­tels have vied for power. Who­ever con­trols the city also dom­i­nates the U.S. il­licit drug trade. In 2005 alone 132 peo­ple died— 17 of them were po­lice of­fi­cers.


was how long his pre­de­ces­sor lasted. Then Ale­jan­dro Domínguez Coello was shot to death. One month later Pimentel took over the post on July 6, 2005.


of his of­fi­cers are paid by the car­tels, ac­cord­ing to un­of­fi­cial es­ti­mates: “No Won­der,” says Pimentel. “A po­lice officer earns 680 dol­lars per month. And each day over 40 mil­lion dol­lars worth of co­caine flows into the U.S. So the temp­ta­tion is huge.”


wait each evening for their fa­ther to come home: “It’s be­cause of them that I do this job,” says Pimentel. “One day my chil­dren will be able to play in a safe city.” The num­ber of of­fi­cers who are cur­rently guard­ing his house: 15.


were kid­napped in Nuevo Laredo and re­leased dur­ing the course of one year. Another 19 have gone miss­ing, and four were found mur­dered. The lat­est tourism ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign cost $120,000. Nonethe­less, the num­ber of visi­tors has dropped by half since Au­gust 2004.


is how long Pimentel’s wife was hop­ing he would not ac­c­cept the job: “She cried and begged me to re­ject the of­fer,” he re­calls. “I’d been giv­ing the mat­ter some se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion; after all, my wife and I were ex­pect­ing our fourth child at that time.” Pimentel’s face is solemn: “But if I don’t do the job, then who will?”


have so far reached their tar­get. How­ever, Pimentel’s best body­guard was killed on the first day— he was rid­dled with ma­chine gun salvos fired from a pass­ing pick-up truck.

9,000 TRUCKS

must be in­spected daily by the po­lice in or­der to com­pletely end the drug traf­fick­ing— but Pimentel’s of­fi­cers can barely han­dle 5% of them. Re­sult: 90% of the co­caine in Amer­ica comes through Mex­ico, and most of it via Nuevo Laredo. An­nual sales: $25 bil­lion.

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