AMU Homeland Security Intelligence North America

Reality Hits Hollywood After ‘Narcos’ Location Scout Murdered in Mexico

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Sylvia Longmire IHSBy Sylvia Longmire
Contributor, In Homeland Security

The dramatic series ‘Narcos’ has taken the Netflix audience by storm, bringing to life the tangled—and often bloody—true-life story of infamous Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. The second season ended with the death of Escobar, and the third season examined the inner workings of the notorious Cali cartel. While some have debated historical errors in each season, no one predicted the intrusion of reality upon production when Narcos location scout Carlos Muñoz Portal was murdered in central Mexico while conducting research for the series’ fourth season.

‘Narcos’ Scout’s Body Riddled With Bullets

The details of Portal’s death are still sketchy. According to the Spanish daily El País, a friend of his said Muñoz Portal got in a car and drove towards the State of Mexico (known locally as Edomex) to take some photographs for production. Several hours later, Mexican authorities found his body riddled with bullets in the car. The vehicle was on an unnamed dirt road in the community of San Bartolo Actopan, in the municipality of Temascalapa in northeastern Edomex near the border with Hidalgo state.

Per El País, authorities are having trouble determining the sequence of events leading up to the shooting. The incident occurred in a rural area, and there were no witnesses—at least, none that are willing to come forward. Muñoz Portal’s friend, who wished to remain anonymous, speculated that perhaps locals found a foreigner with a camera to be very suspicious, and maybe someone followed him. Police didn’t know if he was in Edomex and headed towards Hidalgo state, or the other way around.

Muñoz Portal is a veteran in the film industry, in addition to the smash-hit ‘Narcos,’ he had worked on projects including Man on Fire, Apocalypto, and Sicario. He is a native of Mexico’s Puebla state, also currently being affected by cartel-related violence. Netflix made the following statement: “We are aware of the passing of Carlos Muñoz Portal, a well-respected location scout, and send our condolences to his family. The facts surrounding his death are still unknown as authorities continue to investigate.” Netflix carefully guards its production details, but the fourth season of ‘Narcos’ is reportedly set to focus on Mexico’s Juárez cartel. Many industry professionals in Mexico are concerned that Muñoz Portal’s death will force Netflix to relocate production, costing hundreds of local jobs.

Mexican Organized Crime Groups

Drug cartels in Mexico are notorious for moving operations to places that are most profitable, and violence often follows. Edomex and Hidalgo state have been two of the quieter spots in Mexico, but that has recently changed. In July, Al Jazeera reported that masked men burst into a children’s party in Tizayuca, Hidalgo state, and hacked 11 people to death. They stabbed to death seven women, two men and two minors, and the state prosecutor said the murders appeared to be a settling of scores between organized crime groups. Tizayuca is located only 9 kilometers east of where Muñoz Portal’s body was found.

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While the U.S. State Department has issued no advisories for Hidalgo state, the latest Mexico travel warning (dated August 22) said the following about Edomex: “U.S. citizens should defer all non-essential travel to the municipalities of Coacalco, Ecatepec, Nezahualcoyotl, La Paz, Valle del Chalco, Solidaridad, Chalco, Ixtapaluca, and Tlatlaya due to high rates of crime and insecurity, unless traveling directly through the areas on major thoroughfares. Avoid traveling on any roads between Huitzilac, Morelos, and Santa Martha, Estado de Mexico, including the Lagunas de Zempoala National Park and surrounding areas.”

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