Dear Iran: “Of course you know, this means war!” — Updated

October 12, 2011

Or, it would, if we had an administration with the spine of a Warner Bros. cartoon character.

ABC broke the news yesterday of an Iranian assassination plot foiled by the FBI and the DEA:

The new case, called Operation Red Coalition, began in May when an Iranian-American from Corpus Christi, Texas, approached a DEA informant seeking the help of a Mexican drug cartel to assassinate the Saudi ambassador, according to counter-terrorism officials.

The Iranian-American thought he was dealing with a member of the feared Zetas Mexican drug organization, according to agents.

The DEA office in Houston brought in FBI agents as the international terror implications of the case became apparent.

The Iranian-American, identified by federal officials as Manssor Arbabsiar, 56, reportedly claimed he was being “directed by high-ranking members of the Iranian government,” including a cousin who was “a member of the Iranian army but did not wear a uniform,” according to a person briefed on the details of the case.

Arbabsiar and a second man, Gohlam Shakuri, an Iranian official, were named in a five-count criminal complaint filed Tuesday afternoon in federal court in New York. They were charged with conspiracy to kill a foreign official and conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, a bomb, among other counts. Shakuri is still at large in Iran, Holder said.

Holder identified Shakuri as an Iran-based member of the Quds force, a much feared special unit in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. The Treasury sanctions named several other members of the Iranian Quds force as well.

Arbabsiar, a naturalized U.S. citizen, expressed “utter disregard for collateral damage” in the planned bomb attacks in Washington, according to officials.

The complaint describes a conversation in which Arbabsiar was allegedly directing the informant to kill the Saudi ambassador and said the assassination could take place at a restaurant. When the informant feigned concern about Americans who also eat at the restaurant, Arbabsiar said he preferred if bystanders weren’t killed but, “Sometimes, you know, you have no choice, is that right?”

BTW, that same restaurant is known to be frequented by US senators. But, hey, sometimes “you have no choice.” Argentina was also discussed as a target, a country Iran has attacked before in their desire to kill Jews.

There’s no doubt this is a casus belli — “a cause of war.” The Iranian government has been caught red-handed organizing a terrorist operation on US soil, an operation that would not only have killed foreigners under our protection but, very likely, American citizens. And the flippant dismissal of the prospect of killing government officials makes this an attack on our government, too. While there’s no direct evidence that Khamenei or Ahmadinejad knew about this in advance, well… yeah, right. Their prime foreign covert operations agency, the Quds Force, plans an attack on the territory of the Great Satan (that’s us), and the Big Nuts in the Iranian fruitcake don’t know about it?

Like I said, “yeah, right.”

But, don’t worry, the Obama Administration is not planning any military retaliation, true to its “September 10th” values:

That a foreign government would plot to kill a foreign leader on American soil could be seen as an act of war, but Obama administration officials say the path the U.S. government will purse will align with American interests – and a military response and possible armed conflict with a third Muslim nation would not be part of that. (Though, it should be noted, the official White House position is “no option is off the table.”)

This afternoon the Treasury Department announced further sanctions against Iran, and in coming days diplomats at the United Nations and elsewhere will discuss further ways to isolate Iran, while American officials will spread far and wide throughout the region that the Iranian government was planning to kill an Arab leader.

In other words, we’re going to treat this as a law-enforcement matter, lay down sanctions, and run around telling the Arabs what they already know: that the mullahs are a bunch of dangerous psychos.

That’ll have Tehran quaking in its boots. Probably from laughing at us.

It may seem odd for me to quote Osama bin Laden, but one thing he said was very true, at least as far as life in the Muslim world goes:

“When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse.”

This is us playing the weak horse, whining when someone uses our land to carry out terror attacks. Other dictators around the world (and the people who have to live under or near them) will see this and act accordingly, as Iraq is now doing.

Let’s be honest: Iran has been at war with us since 1979, but we’ve failed to recognize this and act accordingly. Even a president as great as Reagan had a blind spot when it came to Iran and thought he could reach a grand bargain, and Bush failed to take strong action against Syria and Iran when they sponsored the guerrilla war against us in Iraq from 2004-2008. So Obama isn’t the first to naively believe that restraint would be seen as anything other than weakness.

But it’s time for it to stop.

The naked truth is that Iran is killing our soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. Whether directly or indirectly, it doesn’t matter. Their puppets Hizbullah and Hamas attack our ally, Israel. They are waging war against us (this attack was meant as much to humiliate us as to strike at the Saudis) and have taken that war to our homeland.  It’s time to stop wagging our fingers in disapproval and instead punch back — hard.

Lest someone accuse me of being a warmonger, I’m not advocating invading Iran or sinking their navy in retaliation, as emotionally satisfying as that might be. We don’t have to in order to defeat them. As Michael Ledeen has often pointed out (most recently here), the Iranian regime’s grip on power is brittle; their people hate them; they face frequent rebellion and acts of sabotage. If we simply had the moral clarity and political courage to provide the peoples of Iran with the political, propaganda, and logistical support to wage their own struggle against the tyrants, as Reagan did in Poland against the Soviets, we could win without firing a shot.

Instead, we do the diplomatic equivalent of writing them a speeding ticket.

That’s no way to win a war.

CYNICAL THOUGHT: Funny how this news breaks just as AG Holder and the administration are facing close scrutiny for the Gunwalker scandal. There’s no evidence I’ve seen that this plot had gone operational and had to be stopped now. Hmmm….

LINKS: Three must-read articles at The Long War Journal and Threat Matrix. JustOneMinute thinks Holder learned a lesson. Fausta talks about the mounting threat in Latin America from Hizbullah, an Iranian cats-paw. Let’s not forget, the Iranians tried to run this plot through Mexican drug cartels. Still think that border is secure, Mr. President? Power Line notes the “axis of evil” between Iran and Los Zetas. This isn’t just about immigration — this is a national security issue.

UPDATE: Former federal prosecutor (And no fan of Obama and Holder) Andy McCarthy puts my cynical thought to rest — a frame-up makes no sense.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Things you don’t expect to see on your commute

September 22, 2011

Such as a drug gang dumping 35 bodies on the highway:

Suspected drug traffickers dumped 35 bodies at rush hour beneath a busy overpass in the heart of a major Gulf coast city as gunmen pointed weapons at frightened drivers. Mexican authorities said Wednesday they are examining surveillance video for clues to who committed the crime.

Horrified motorists grabbed cell phones and sent Twitter messages warning others to avoid the area near the biggest shopping mall in Boca del Rio, part of the metropolitan area of Veracruz city.

The gruesome gesture marked a sharp escalation in cartel violence in Veracruz state, which sits on an important route for drugs and Central American migrants heading north.

The Zetas drug cartel has been battling other gangs for control of the state.

Prosecutors said it’s too soon to draw conclusions from the surveillance video.

“We’re not going to confirm or deny anything,” Veracruz state Attorney General Reynaldo Escobar Perez told the Televisa network Wednesday. “We’re looking at it in different ways, we’re seeing different numbers, that’s why we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves.”

Escobar said the bodies were left piled in two trucks and on the ground under the overpass near the statue of the Voladores de Papantla, ritual dancers from Veracruz state. He said some of the victims had their heads covered with blackplastic bags and showed signs of torture.

Authorities said each of the victims (including apparently a cop who had gone missing) had criminal ties, so this looks like one gang, maybe the Zetas, taking out the soldiers of another gang and throwing it in their rivals’ faces.

But it’s also a slap in the face to the Mexican federal and state governments, mocking their authority and denying their sovereignty. Doing this while the city hosts a major judicial conference says, in no uncertain terms, “We rule here, not you. Fear us.” And that’s exactly what the people do, as they lose faith with each atrocity in Mexico’s ability to protect them and render justice.

These aren’t just bodies; these are thirty-five more milestones on the road to a failed state.

RELATED: Was this a message to Los Zetas from a new cartel? (Graphic pic warning.)

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Falcon Lake killings: suspects identified

February 28, 2011

Five months ago, David and Tiffany Hartley set out to have a fun day of jet-skiing and sightseeing on Falcon Lake, in Texas on the border with Mexico. Their holiday turned into a nightmare, however, when they were attacked by members of Los Zetas, one of Mexico’s most violent drug cartels; David was shot dead and Tiffany barely escaped back to the American side after trying to rescue her husband. His body has never been found, and the investigation has largely come to a standstill; Mexican authorities have largely backed off since the lead investigator was beheaded, and US agencies are limited because of a lack of jurisdiction in Mexico. It looked as if the case would sit unsolved in a cold-case file.

But, maybe not. The one police agency still actively investigating David’s murder is the Zapata County Sheriff’s Office, and they claim to have identified four suspects:

[Sheriff Sigi] Gonzalez said the four men identified are Zetas members, but he refused to release any more details at this time.

The four of them, he added, were part of a larger group of seven men that attacked David and Tiffany Hartley as they approached the abandoned town of Guerrero Viejo, in the Mexican side of the bank.

“They were watching her with a rifle to her body and they lowered it and pick it up and lowered,” he said. “They were waiting for word whether to shoot her or not shoot her. “

Tiffany was able to get away and make it to safety, but David Hartley’s body has never been found.

Meanwhile, Gonzalez said the suspects are known to be living in Mexico, but since the attack, they have crossed into the U.S. several times.

He said his office will continue gathering enough information to arrest those responsible.

(There’s a video report at the link, too.)

Sheriff Zapata said any information gathered would be passed to the FBI and, from them, to the State Department, presumably to take up with Mexican authorities. Call me cynical, but, while I’m sure the FBI would like to nail these guys, I have my doubts about how willing State is to rock the boat with Mexico over this. And I’m even more doubtful of serious help from Mexican law enforcement; they’ve already shown themselves to be subject to intimidation, and the Zetas themselves show no restraint. I’ll be happy to be proven wrong, however. But, even if they are arrested in Mexico, Texas will have to forgo applying the death penalty, since Mexican law prohibits extradition in cases where execution is an option.

However, the fact that these killers cross regularly into the United States gives hope that Zapata County sheriff’s deputies or other law enforcement will be able to capture on our side of the border. Eventually, they’re bound to make a mistake.

I have another suggestion, however, one that crosses borders and is, one might say, traditional in the American West: name the men, put bounties on their heads, and make sure the posters are stamped “dead or alive.”

We’re dealing with outlaws, so let’s treat them as outlaws.

RELATED: An update on Tiffany Hartley. The beheading of Police Commander Rolando Armando Flores Villegas. A possible threat by Los Zetas to destroy Falcon Dam.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Tiffany Hartley, a sad update

February 26, 2011

Following up on the story of the murder of David Hartley by members of Los Zetas, a story came across my monitor yesterday about the life his widow, Tiffany, has lived since seeing her husband killed on Falcon Lake and barely escaping, herself. When not pressing for justice in the case and for better border security overall, she leads a quiet life on her parents’ farm, trying to get past what happened. As the following quote shows, it isn’t easy:

Daily life on the farm in La Salle is much different. It’s quiet. The neighbors no longer target shoot because the sound of gunfire still terrifies Tiffany Hartley.

She’s seeing a therapist and tries not to read what people write about her online. Some people still doubt her story and accuse her of plotting to kill David Hartley. They’ve also accused of her not showing enough emotion when talking about her husband.

“I mourn privately,” she said.

One life destroyed and another shattered, probably for a long time to come.

I doubt Tiffany Hartley will ever know justice in this case; her husband’s body was probably destroyed and the gunmen killed by their bosses for causing a problem, while the Mexican investigators are likely intimidated. Beheading tends to have that effect.

I just hope she someday finds some measure of peace.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


ICE agent murdered in Mexico “by mistake”

February 24, 2011

Makes all the difference in the world, you see? They didn’t mean to ambush and gun down two American officials: it was a case of mistaken identity:

Mexican soldiers arrested six men Wednesday who they say carried out last week’s ambush murder of U.S. Special Agent Jaime Zapata.

The suspects told authorities they believed Zapata and his partner Victor Avila — who was wounded in the attack – to be members of a rival gang because of the vehicle they were driving. Those arrested belong to a cell of the Zetas, the violent criminal gang headquartered in the cities bordering south Texas.

Officials identified the group’s leader as Julian Zapata Espinoza, alias “El Piolin,” or “Tweety Bird,” who they said directed a Zeta assassination cell in the state of San Luis Potosi, where Zapata was killed Feb. 15.

(…)

Zapata, 32, an ICE special agent, was fatally shot when at least eight armed men in two vehicles ran his official embassy car off the Pan American highway about 500 miles south of the Texas border at Laredo. Avila was shot but survived the assault.

“They [the alleged shooters] said this was due to a case of misunderstanding because the car they were driving was the type used by a rival band,” Trevilla, the military spokesman, said of the suspects.

The agents’ car had official diplomatic plates, and they had identified themselves as diplomats to their assailants.

I’m sure their families will understand. Nothing personal, you know.

This isn’t the first time Los Zetas have said “Ooops! Our bad!

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Mexico border violence watch: Brownsville, Texas

February 8, 2011

Battles between Los Zetas and their former bosses in the Gulf Cartel in Matamoros prompt increased patrols on the Brownsville side of the border:

Brownsville Police and Border Patrol Units are on increased patrols near the (Brownsville & Matamoros) Bridge after reports of violence inside Mexico.

Mexican soldiers have been called in to restore the peace.

It all started around 5:00pm. Mexican officials say the Gulf Cartel set some Zeta money houses on fire near the B&M Bridge.

Two hours later, sources inside Mexico tell CHANNEL 5 NEWS two grenades were thrown at a hotel near the bridge.

A little later, the Mexican Army showed up to “restore order.”

When you have to send in the soldiers, that’s more than a police problem.

 


Failing State Watch: Nuevo Laredo police chief gunned down

February 4, 2011

Tamaulipas Governor Egidio Torre came into office on New Year’s Day vowing to fight the corruption and criminal violence tearing his state apart. One of his first acts was to appoint retired general Manuel Farfán as police chief of Nuevo Laredo, just across the border from Laredo, Texas, and one of Mexico’s most violent cities.

Less than a month into his job, Chief Farfán was shot dead on the streets of his city:

Gunmen killed the recently appointed police chief of Nuevo Laredo late Wednesday in a brazen response to the new governor’s vow to restore order to the violent Mexican state bordering south Texas and the Rio Grande.

Manuel Farfán, 55, a retired army brigadier general, was shot down on a downtown street shortly before midnight. At least one of the general’s police bodyguards and his personal secretary also were killed.

Farfán was one of 11 retired army generals recently named to head municipal police departments across Tamaulipas state. He took office with the change of city and state governments on Jan. 1.

Upon taking office New Year’s Day, Tamaulipas Gov. Egidio Torre had vowed that his government would put an end to the state’s “cruel, unjust and difficult” wave of violence.

“The people of Tamaulipas want to trust again,” said Torre, who was elected following last June’s assassination by gangsters of his brother, the gubernatorial candidate of the state’s long ruling party.

“We are going to diminish violence at its root causes and extinguish impunity,” he said.

Aside from expressing condolences to Farfán’s survivors and dispatching the commander of the state police – also a retired army general – neither Torre nor other senior Tamaulipas officials commented on the assassination Thursday.

The killing is comment enough: one theory is that Chief Farfán refused to be bought or or play along with the Zeta cartel, whose “territory” Nuevo Laredo is, and they decided to show what happens. Another is that he was killed by the Gulf Cartel, which is at “war” with its former vassals and may have considered the Chief a threat to their efforts to take Nuevo Laredo back.

The killing of Chief Farfán is just the latest sign of the breakdown of the rule of law in Mexico, but he, at least, made it almost a month; in 2005, Nuevo Laredo Chief Dominguez was killed just hours after being appointed.  As the article mentions, the entire police force of one small town near Monterrey quit after two of its officers were beheaded, and the police chief of Cancún was tortured and killed in 2009 by one of his own men, who was in the pay of the local cartel. Local and state police officers are either intimidated, corrupted, or assassinated. As I’ve said before, when the State can’t even protect its own, words such as “sovereignty” and “rule of law” are meaningless.

It’s small wonder that some colleges are canceling their study-abroad programs in Mexico.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Falcon Lake killing: Ooops! Our bad!

October 14, 2010

David Hartley and his wife Tiffany were sightseeing on Falcon Lake on the Mexican Border near McAllen, Texas, taking photos of the abandoned, flooded town of Old Guerrero. The young couple was enjoying a happy day on the lake, as allowed under Article 18 of the Water Treaty of 1944.

Then the happy day turned into a nightmare.

David and Tiffany were ambushed at Old Guerrero by members of the Zeta cartel. They fled on their jet skis, pursued by “pirates” firing automatic weapons at them. David was hit in the head and killed. Tiffany tried to recover his body, but the Zetas kept shooting and she had to leave him to save her own life. To this day, David’s body has not been recovered, the killers have not been arrested, and the lead Mexican investigator into the case was beheaded.

But, let’s not get too upset. You see, the head of the Zetas, Miguel Treviño, feels really bad about what happened, because it was all a case of mistaken identity:

A global intelligence company Wednesday said the death of U.S. citizen David Michael Hartley on Falcon Lake was a case of mistaken identity in a turf war between rival drug cartels.

Hartley, who was shot during a Sept. 30 sightseeing trip to the Mexican side of the binational reservoir, was shot by Zeta cartel enforcers because he was mistaken for a spy of the rival Gulf Cartel, according to the report by STRATFOR, and Austin-based think tank specializing in intelligence and international issues.

The report goes on to say Hartley’s body likely was destroyed as Los Zetas went into “damage control” mode and that the lower-level operatives responsible for the unauthorized strike against him now are on the Zetas’ hit list.

“The cartel boss — Miguel Treviño — is highly upset over the fact that these individuals shot and killed Mr. Hartley and it’s our understanding that the cartel boss is hunting for the killers of Mr. Hartley so he can take care of them himself,” said Fred Burton, STRATFOR’s vice president of intelligence.

Oh, well, that makes all the difference in the world, doesn’t it? It was just a couple of mooks who screwed up the Zeta’s criminal and terrorist business; the Hartley’s were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Miguel himself will put things right. Don’t worry, he’ll handle it.

Except David Hartley is still dead and his wife has no body to bury.

Screw you, Treviño. Screw you and all the Zetas. If it weren’t for you and your evil, this would never have happened; you are just as responsible as the idiots you hired. You are ruining lives on both sides of the border and you are no better than the barbarians we’re fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

And just like them, you deserve to die.

Addendum: An Open Letter To President Barack Obama

Dear Mr. President,

Under Article 18 of the Water Treaty of 1944 between Mexico and the United States, American citizens have the right to use both shores of the lake freely:

Public use of the water surface of lakes formed by international dams shall, when not harmful to the services rendered by such dams, be free and common to both countries, subject to the police regulations of each country in its territory, to such general regulations as may appropriately be prescribed and enforced by the Commission with the approval of the two Governments for the purpose of the application of the provisions of this Treaty, and to such regulations as may appropriately be prescribed and enforced for the same purpose by each Section of the Commission with respect to the areas and borders of such parts of those lakes as lie within its territory.  Neither Government shall use for military purposes such water surface situated within the territory of the other country except by express agreement between the two Governments.

I submit to you, sir, that, either through complicity or impotence, the Mexican government is unable or unwilling guarantee “free and common” use of its side of Falcon Lake, as it is obliged to do under the cited article. It is therefore your obligation as President of the United States to guarantee the safety of American citizens enjoying lawful use of the lake. This is not Texas’ responsibility; this is an international treaty entered into by the United States as a whole, and it your responsibility to see that its terms are met.

With respect, I request that you take steps to establish a Coast Guard station on Falcon Lake with sufficient personnel and arms to patrol the American side of the lake and come to the aid of anyone in distress who is enjoying its lawful use.

Thank you.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Cartel city: terror in Torreón

September 17, 2010

I’ll grant that subject line sounds like it should be the title for a roleplaying game adventure or the next Grand Theft Auto release, but, sadly, it’s all too true. In the UK’s Guardian newspaper, Rory Carroll reports on the nightmare that has become life in this northern Mexican city. Once a center of transportation, manufacturing, commerce, Torreón and its surrounding area by the 1990s was a prosperous place. But now, after several years of war among the drug cartels, it is a city in which prisoners are released from jail by the warden to massacre innocent party-goers:

For a country in the throes of a war that has claimed 28,000 lives in four years it is perhaps little surprise that a transport hub such as Torreón, intersection for cocaine, heroin, marijuana and methamphetamines, is grim. Murders among the population of 550,000 average three per day. Two massacres in city bars preceded the attack on the Italia Inn party, a bloodbath made worse by the fact the victims had no connection to drug trafficking.

The atrocity’s apparent motive was a display of strength by the Sinaloa cartel in its battle to oust a rival group, the Zetas, from Torreón. “It’s a turf war, and they’ll kill anyone,” says Carlos Bibiano Villa, Torreón’s police chief. The day after the attack, the Zetas, keen to show they still controlled the city, left four human heads with a note saying the massacre’s perpetrators had been punished. Decapitation, once unheard of in Mexico, has become routine.

What came next, however, was new. The Zetas, after killing the four probably random and innocent unfortunates, really did investigate the massacre. The result was a harrowing video uploaded on YouTube. Rodolfo Nájera, bruised, swollen and stripped, gazed into the camera with a confession. The 35-year-old kidnapped policeman, flanked by masked gunmen, must have guessed how the video would end. Asked by an off-camera interrogator about the Italia Inn massacre, Nájera said the killers were Sinaloa members allowed out of prison for nocturnal hits. Guards lent them guns and vehicles. “Who let them out?” barked the voice. “The director,” replied the doomed man. The video ends minutes later with a shot to the head.

The entire article is one paragraph after another of eye-popping facts and vignettes that one would think could only happen in a movie, but are part of everyday life in Torreón. Here’s just one: the entire police force of 1,200 was fired and replaced for corruption. As the mayor says,

“The police relaxed their ethics and discipline and just gave in. In the end they weren’t working for them (the cartels). They were them.”

Carroll briefly discusses possible solutions, ranging from the libertarian “legalize drugs” to “let one cartel win.” The former strikes me as a pie-in-the-sky academic solution that would do nothing to end cartel violence; they’d fight over the legal trade as much as the illegal commerce. On the other hand, allowing one or the other gang to win in the hope of regaining peace seems to be the definition of a dying republic, one that admits the gangs are the real sovereign power.

It may not be a genuine failed state yet, but Mexico seems to be coming awfully close.

Read the whole thing.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Cartel Wars: 25 dead in Ciudad Juarez

September 15, 2010

…in three hours:

Drug-related violence continues to consume Ciudad Juarez in northern Mexico, just across the border from El Paso. Last Thursday’s toll of 25 killed over a three-hour period rattled a city that is already accustomed to numerous deaths a day.

It was the highest single-day toll recorded in the border city since the violence erupted there more than two years ago. Victims in Thursday’s shootings range in age from 15 to 67. They were mostly ambushed inside their homes, reports the El Paso Times.

Ciudad Juarez Mayor Jose Reyes Ferriz said the killings were believed to be acts of retaliation by the Juarez cartel for an alleged kidnapping of a child by the rival Sinaloa cartel. What’s not clear is what all those victims had to do with the alleged kidnapping.

Does it matter why, anymore? Public safety is all but nonexistent in several Mexican cities thanks to the gang wars and the government’s failures to rein them in. Reynosa, at the other end of the Texas-Mexican border from Juarez, is described as being under the open control of the Gulf and Zeta cartels, which are battling over the city like pirates over a captured woman, while the Mexican Army sits by, impotent.

Not only is there the human tragedy of people living in fear of their lives from bloodthirsty criminals, but what happens on their side of the border affects us, too. Not just from illegal immigration as people understandably look for a safer place to live, but also physical security. Already cartel violence is spreading into our cities. Do we have to wait for another raid on Columbus to take our border problems seriously?

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Welcome to Cartel City

September 9, 2010

That Mexico is wracked by violence as the federal government battles drug gangs and the gangs battle each other isn’t really news anymore; around 23,000 people have died since 2007, and I’ve written before about violence in Mexico’s northern border cities, as well as the possibility of it spilling over to our side. Secretary of State Clinton recently referred to this drug war as an insurgency, something the Mexican government loudly denounced.

But what do you call it when the central government loses control of a city to the drug cartels? Residents of Reynosa, Mexico, might well agree with Secretary Clinton:

“It’s hard to be sure when the Gulf cartel gained the power over the city that it has now; it didn’t happen in a single blow, reporters said. Most traced the change to three or four years ago. Before then, the cartel ran a kind of parallel government from which it strongly influenced institutions such as the police and the city government. Reynosa Mayor Oscar Luebbert Gutiérrez did not respond to written questions submitted by CPJ, but journalists say the cartel is fully embedded in the government and gets nearly whatever it wants. “

Journalists are not allowed to print stories without the cartel’s consent first. The cartel even has its own Website where it publishes stories that are okay to cover under its guidelines  (They don’t print the site’s url, though.)  There is a gun battle nearly every day in Reynosa, yet they largely go unreported by the media who have been threatened or killed for reporting on the violence.

“The editor said journalists also know what it means to go against the cartel. “They will abduct you; they will torture you for hours; they will kill you, and then dismember you. And your family will always be waiting for you to come home.” In a chilling illustration of the traffickers’ brutal enforcement methods, three Reynosa journalists disappeared in March and are now feared dead. Colleagues said the three could have done something to anger either the Gulf cartel or the Zetas, or have gotten caught up in the warfare by doing favors for one of the groups.”

The situation is so bad, according to journalist Melissa del Bosque, that gangs even hijacked trucks and used them to block the local Mexican Army base, effectively sealing troops inside to prevent them from intervening in a battle in Reynosa between rival cartels wielding assault rifles and grenades.

And that’s right across the bridge from the US city of McAllen, Texas.

Mexican President Profirio Diaz once famously said “Poor Mexico. So far from God and so close to the United States.” Nowadays he might phrase it “Pobre Mexico – y triste Reynosa!”

RELATED: Reynosa and McAllen feature in an excellent book I read recently, Robert Lee Maril’s “Patrolling Chaos.” Professor Maril spent the better part of two years riding with the agents of the Border Patrol station in McAllen and studying its operations. Far from being a dry academic work, it’s fascinating reading with compelling portraits of the people and the area. I plan to do a fuller review soon, but, for now, take this as a strong recommendation for anyone interested in border issues, illegal immigration, the Border Patrol itself, and Deep South Texas in general.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Laredo Invasion: final nail in a myth’s coffin?

August 12, 2010

Bob Price of Texas GOP Vote has done the legwork that “journalist” Kimberly Dvorak and various credulous bloggers have refused to do regarding the “news” that Los Zetas, a vicious Mexican drug cartel, had taken over some US ranches near the border city of Laredo, Texas. He went and talked to the people supposedly involved, both from law enforcement and the ranchers. It’s a long entry, well-worth your time to read, but here’s an excerpt in reference to the police blotter Dvorak produced in her “scoop:”

The author of that story would have you believe this is proof that a ranch was taken over by the Zetas. This prompted further investigation. I was able to verify the authenticity of this message from my sources within the Laredo Police Department. It verifies there was actually a call for service to a ranch outside Laredo.

But, my prior investigation had already revealed a call for service occurred. So, what is a “call for service”. Well, it is exactly what it sounds like. In law enforcement terms it means a law enforcement agency received a phone call requesting assistance from the police (or sheriff’s department in this case). Nothing more. It does not mean that anything really happened. Only that someone called.

In this case, the call itself appears to be a hoax. I have spoken with the rancher who allegedly made the call and he denies it ever happened. For several reasons detailed below, I believe him. It appears, the call actually came from a café/store located in the vicinity of the ranch. The Sheriff’s department reacted to the call and found nothing happening out of normal daily life. Perhaps the call was a hoax? Perhaps it was a diversion to draw law enforcement resources to one area while drugs or human cargo were smuggled across in another area.

So, why was this story so believable by readers across the nation? What I found was perhaps more interesting than the alleged story itself.

First, I found nothing but cooperation from all law enforcement agencies working that region. I spoke with the “originating source” of the story, the Laredo Police Department. They talked openly and honestly with me for quite some time. They even said if we want to visit they will “roll out the red carpet.” I talked with the rancher who allegedly was forced off his land. He told me the first he heard of this was Monday morning when the FBI called him to ask what was going on at his ranch. He told them, and me, everything was normal. I have also learned his ranch is really of no strategic value to a drug cartel. The ranch is situated above a high cliff facing the river which would make a border crossing extremely difficult, at best. Nothing had happened. We talked for over 30 minutes about several issues regarding this and life around Laredo.

Emphases added.

In other words, and once again, there is no evidence whatsoever that anything at all occurred outside of Laredo. Dvorak and the others’ “evidence” amounts to a case of “I can’t reveal my sources, so trust me.” They rely on an implied conspiracy (“Why is the media not covering this? They must be part of the government cover up!”) worthy of the tinfoil hat crowd, something Bob Owens rightfully calls “Laredo Trutherism.”

Price then reports on the real violence, across the border in Nuevo Laredo, something that was mentioned in a slightly misleading FOX video (see update at the end of the post) that I’ve suspected as a possible seed for this modern myth. It’s the cartel war in Mexico that is the real news and a potentially real threat to our own security, not some fantasy about US territory being invaded.

Meanwhile, as far as I’m concerned, any credibility Ms. Dvorak or her allied bloggers may have had is gone. Until they can provide credible, independent sources willing to go on the record with some sort of physical evidence -video, police radio recordings, whatever- I can only regard them as nothing more than people in desperate need of attention.

RELATED: Two earlier posts about the Laredo invasion fantasy.


Laredo “invasion” nonsense rides again

August 11, 2010

Oh, for Pete’s sake. Pseudo-journalist Kimberly Dvorak, one of the parties pushing the original Laredo invasion fairytale as real news, is at it again, claiming she has evidence that:

“proves the alleged incident did in fact happen and that multiple agencies responded to the scene of a seized U.S. ranch.”

Her “evidence” is supposedly a screen capture of a Laredo PD police blotter that reads as follows:

“On Friday 7-23-10 Laredo Webb informed that their county SWAT Team is conducting an operation in the Mines Rd. area. According to LT. Garcia with LSO (Laredo Sheriff Office) received a call from a ranch owner stating that the Zetas had taken over his ranch. As per the 17 (reporting person) he informed them that they stated La Compania (area name for Zetas) was taking the ranch and no one was permitted on the ranch without permission. SO (Sheriff Office) will have an unmarked green Ford Taurus with two officers stationed at Los Compadres and a white Chevy Tahoe with two officers stationed at Mineral Rd. The LSO (Laredo Sheriff Office) will maintain surveillance in the area and advise if action is taken. Susp (suspect) Veh (vehicle) are described as a gray or silver Audi, a BLK (black) Escalade or Navigator and a van truck with a logo of a car wash spot free on the side. Border Patrol also has their response team on scene. Also known info of BMW’s and Corvettes entering and leaving the area. Auth LT Lichtenberger if assistance is requested LPD (Laredo Police Department) will secure the outer perimeter. (07/24/10 07:42:10 NR1873)”

Bob  Owens of Confederate Yankee has been all over this garbage from the start, and he returns to poke large holes in this new “evidence:”

Digger’s Realm is now trumpeting this as absolution, as is Mondo Frazier from Death by an Thousand Papercuts and Big Journalism.

They choose to believe that a generic computer screen, obtained by unrevealed sources, that cites neither the name or address of the ranch or the person making the call to law enforcement, proves their case.

The want us to believe that the police officers and sheriffs units that weren’t ID’d were deployed, and that the lack of any report of contact or observation by these unknown LEOs is justification for the claims that the various law enforcement agencies and named officials cited in the story who said it didn’t happen, are lying.

We still don’t have an address. We still don’t have a victim. We still don’t have anyone with any eyewitness accounts, or physical evidence that such an event took place.

I’ll add that, if any of the calls regarding this ranch takeover went over a radio, then some police-radio enthusiast in the area must’ve heard it. Why hasn’t that person come forward? And do Dvorak and the other people pushing this “news” really expect us to believe that national news services and all the regional news agencies, such as the Laredo Sun-Times, would ignore or suppress the biggest story of the year, one that’s happening on their doorsteps? Really? They’re all in on it?

If I want conspiracy theories, I’ll watch Three Days of the Condor, thanks.

What I wrote before still applies:

“…spreading unchecked rumors and relying on anonymous sources with no independent confirmation will only give the pro-illegal immigration crowd a large stick with which to beat border-security advocates and conservatives, in general. The situation there is bad enough without propagating falsehoods. If you are helping to spread this fairy tale, knock it off. Don’t just read and link or tweet about it: think about sources, follow the links back.

Read critically.”

Dvorak and anyone else peddling this rumor have absolutely no credibility and should either produce hard, verifiable proof or admit they’ve got nothing except a need to feed their own egos.

In other words, Ms. Dvorak, put up or shut up.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


More about the Laredo “invasion” rumor

July 25, 2010

Bob Owens at Confederate Yankee is doing great work debunking this nonsense. Here’s an excerpt from today’s entry:

Tell Chuck Norris to stand down. Invasion USA never happened.

I contacted both the Laredo Police Department and the Webb County Sheriff yesterday and debunked claims that Los Zetas gunmen from the Gulf Cartel has crossed the border from Mexico and took over two ranches in Texas. The Laredo Morning News also refuted the claim. Pro 8 News, the NBC affiliate, didn’t think enough of the absurdity to even comment on it… they found the installation of a new traffic light more newsworthy.

Absurdly, the same trio of sites that cried wolf are still sticking by their story, utter lack of credible evidence aside.

Cypress News publisher John G. Winder is sticking with the story, not because any additional evidence has been produced, but because the two sources for his version of the story, blog Digger’s Realm and Examiner.com’s San Diego (CA) County Political Buzz Examiner blogger Kimberly Dvorak are standing by their militiamen and anonymous police sources.

The original Cypress Times story? A re-publication of the original Digger’s Realm story.

The Digger’s Realm story? Two anonymous Laredo police sources and a San Diego California Minuteman named Jeff Schwilk who claims he got his information from… an anonymous Laredo PD officer.

San Diego County Poltical Buzz Examiner Kimberly Dvorak? She claims her information also comes from two anonymous Laredo PD sources.

Are we noticing a pattern here? Every bit of of this claim, which has now scattered far and wide across the Internet, can be traced back to two anonymous police department sources of a police department that does not even have jurisdiction where the alleged invasion is taking place.

Be sure to read the rest, as well as Bob’s follow up. And if you want some thoughts on what’s behind this latest example of Internet hysteria, check out Conservative Daily News:

That lead me to ask the age old question, what’s in it for the parties involved.  For Los Zetas, not much.  They get their drugs into the U.S. just fine.  Taking over a few ranches in the U.S. brings the full brunt of the United States of America on them and will almost certainly (I say almost because of present leadership) lead to the absolute shut-down of the border.  The Zetas don’t want that because it would kill-off a huge distribution channel.  Keeping U.S. officials off of their back means they can concentrate on killing members of rival cartels.

What’s in it for Jeff [Schwilk, the Minuteman cited as the original source at Digger's Realm -Phineas]?  Well, sudden recognition, media attention, perhaps interviews or a book deal.. maybe just some ego petting – unfortunately at the expense of America-loving Conservatives that might rush off to help defend our borders.

There is another portion of the population that would love to see this circus get out-of-hand – progressives.  They would love nothing more than to use someone like Schwilk as a broad brush with which to paint all pro-immigration enforcement Conservatives.  We should and will defend America if she truly comes under threat, but we can’t get taken down on a sham.

As I wrote yesterday, spreading unchecked rumors and relying on anonymous sources with no independent confirmation will only give the pro-illegal immigration crowd a large stick with which to beat border-security advocates and conservatives, in general. The situation there is bad enough without propagating falsehoods. If you are helping to spread this fairy tale, knock it off. Don’t just read and link or tweet about it: think about sources, follow the links back.

Read critically.

And, for Heaven’s sake, stop acting as if the sky is falling.

RELATED: A Fox video has been a source of confusion, as some people think it means Laredo, Texas, is under a lockdown. But watch the video: the city where Americans have been warned to stay indoors is Nuevo Laredo, across the border in Mexico.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


No, Texas has not been invaded

July 24, 2010

An Internet rumor has been spreading for hours now claiming that Los Zetas, a notorious and extremely violent Mexican drug gang, has crossed the border and taken over two ranches near Laredo. The source seems to be a blog called Diggers Realm. See also this breathless account at examiner.com:

In what could be deemed an act of war against the sovereign borders of the United States, Mexican drug cartels have seized control of at least two American ranches inside the U.S. territory near Laredo, Texas.

Two sources inside the Laredo Police Department confirmed the incident is unfolding and they would continue to coordinate with U.S. Border Patrol today. “We consider this an act of war,” said one police officer on the ground near the scene. There is a news blackout of this incident at this time and the sources inside Laredo PD spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Word broke late last night that Laredo police have requested help from the federal government regarding the incursion by the Los Zetas. It appears that the ranch owners have escaped without incident but their ranches remain in the hands of the blood thirsty cartels.

Laredo Border Patrol is conducting aerial surveillance over the ranches to determine the best way to regain control of the U.S. ranches, according to the Laredo Police department.

One problem: It’s not true. Bob Owens of Confederate Yankee took the unusual and daring step of actually calling the Laredo PD and the local sheriff’s office to get the true story. Here’s a part of what he learned:

[Laredo PD Sgt. Perez] also provided me the number of the Sheriff’s Department. The deputy that answered the phone there was less bemused, having also dealt with this rumor multiple times in a short amount of time. She also told me that there was no invasion and no law enforcement siege, and that deputies were continuing normal operations.

So where and how Digger and Examiner.com’s Kimberly Dvorak got their “confirmations, ” I have no idea. But a simple phone call to the relevant authorities showed this was just another Internet myth.

What I do know, however, is that the situation on our border is serious and the dangers faced there are real. Those of us concerned about border security -and on the Right in general- face a hostile mainstream media and political elite looking for anything they can use to dismiss us and smear us as racists and extremists in need of being controlled.

Let’s not give them any ammunition, okay?

UPDATE: The Laredo Morning Times hasn’t heard of any trouble, either. You’d think the local paper would know, wouldn’t you?

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Gee, ya think there might be a problem?

June 5, 2010

So, in the annals of our porous southern border, we’ve had problems with illegal migrants, drug smuggling and human trafficking, vulnerability to terrorists, and even Americans being murdered on their own property.

Now we have to worry about the dam bursting. Literally.

Agents feared Mexican drug cartel attack on border dam

An alleged plot by a Mexican drug cartel to blow up a dam along the Texas border — and unleash billions of gallons of water into a region with millions of civilians — sent American police, federal agents and disaster officials secretly scrambling last month to thwart such an attack, authorities confirmed Wednesday.

Whether or not the cartel, which is known to have stolen bulk quantities of gunpowder and dynamite, could have taken down the 5-mile-long Falcon Dam may never be known since the attack never came to pass.

It may have been derailed by a stepped-up presence by the Mexican military, which was acting in part on intelligence from the U.S. government, sources said.

The warning, which swung officials into action, was based on what the federal government contends were “serious and reliable sources” and prompted the Department of Homeland Security to sound the alarm to first responders along the South Texas-Mexico border.

Mexico’s Zeta cartel was planning to destroy the dam not to terrorize civilians, but to get back at its rival and former ally, the Gulf cartel, which controls smuggling routes from the reservoir to the Gulf of Mexico, said Zapata County Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez, head of the Southwest Border Sheriff’s Coalition, as did others familiar with the alleged plot.

But in the process, massive amounts of agricultural land would stand to be flooded as well as significant parts of a region where about 4 million people live along both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.

A local Texas police captain discounted the threat, but bear in mind that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by 15 guys with box-cutters. And isn’t it comforting to know they weren’t out to get us, really; they were just after other drug smugglers. The Zetas were even courteous enough to warn residents on (the Mexican side of) the border to clear out.  Bad guys fighting bad guys! Win-win!

Speaking of holes that need plugging, Mr. President…

(via Allahpundit)

LINKS: More from Fausta.


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