THE MOST DANGEROUS JOB IN THE WORLD
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
463 POLICE OFFICERS
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…
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.
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.