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How two Texas teens became deadly drug cartel assassins

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How two Texas teens became deadly drug cartel assassins

Post by Admin on Thu Dec 01, 2016 4:40 pm



AUSTIN - Dan Slater was in New York, freshly laid off from The Wall Street Journal and wondering what was next for him. On a June morning in 2009 a headline in The New York Times caught his eye: "Drug Cartels in Mexico Lure American Teenagers as Killers."

His attention piqued, Slater read the story. Then he read it again. And again. He soaked up the details of Gabriel Cardona and Rosalio "Bart" Reta, who were recruited as assassins for the Zetas drug cartel when they were still teens. The details haunted him. How did two kids from Laredo become hired killers for a fearsome narcotics ring across the border? He couldn't stop thinking about it.

From such obsessions books are born. After seven years and thousands of pages of correspondence we have Wolf Boys (Simon & Schuster, $26.95), Slater's evenhanded, exhaustively reported and frighteningly intimate snapshot of a dark, bloody corner of the drug trade.

As Slater recounted over coffee at the Texas Book Festival, he had a lot of questions: "Where do these kids come from? Is this a thing? I knew very little, next to nothing, about Laredo. I really didn't know what it all added up to at the time. It was just one of those stories that stuck in my head."



It stuck there as he visited Cardona and Reta, both doing life in prison. It stuck as they exchanged letters, and as Slater began getting some answers to his questions. Reta, who was 13 when the Zetas recruited him, eventually cut off correspondence; he felt he'd been burned by other media accounts. But Cardona kept writing back. A stone killer of ambiguous remorse, he held little back.

"He's a very sensitive guy and a very detail-oriented guy," says Slater, a 39-year-old Minneapolis native. On his feet are customized Wolf Boys Nikes."In a weird way being in solitary confinement sharpened his senses a lot. He's very attuned to the physical feel of a place."

That was Slater's task: get a feel for the border culture of Laredo without coming off as a complete tourist. Over seven trips he spent about two and a half months poking around and talking to residents. He found an area where poverty is never far away, where opportunity is limited.

Where a smart, ambitious teen might see the allure of becoming a gangster.


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