Tijuana: “No, it really is a great success!”

October 14, 2010

Mexican President Felipe Calderon visited Tijuana last week to proclaim a great victory in cleaning the city of drug cartel-related violence as brutal as that seen in any northern Mexican city.

Less than a week later, the hanged corpses and severed heads have returned:

A rash of decapitations and other gruesome killings have hit Tijuana since Mexican President Felipe Calderon visited the border city last week and called it a success in his drug war.

The most recent killing occurred just before midnight Tuesday when motorists found a decapitated body underneath a bridge on a road leading to the beachside neighborhood of Playas de Tijuana, according to a police report Wednesday.

Reporters at the scene saw a rope hanging from the bridge, suggesting the man had been hung from his feet but was too heavy and plunged into oncoming traffic.

The discovery came a day after two other beheaded bodies were found hanging from their feet in Tijuana.

Police said they were still conducting forensic tests on the body found Tuesday and had no immediate comment on the identity of the man or the circumstances of his death.

Earlier Tuesday, police found a human head inside a bag in another Tijuana neighborhood, but it did not belong to the body found underneath the bridge.

According to police reports, at least 16 people have been killed in the city since Sunday — a surge from the normal rate of about two homicides a day.

Calderon had come to Tijuana as part of a promotion for a two-week convention promoting the city as a place to do business. So, as part of their convention fun, the guests get to play “guess where the next corpse will be found.”

Helluva success story, there, Felipe.

To be fair, the Mexicans have made some progress in TJ, and the current round may be remnants of a smashed cartel striking back, or a new group moving in. Either way, the message to the Mexican government is clear: “We rule here. Not you.”

This is only going to get worse before it gets better.


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)


When crooks no longer fear the cops

October 12, 2010

I’ve used that subject line before, about Chicago. But it’s just as fitting for Mexico, where cartel gunmen ambushed a police convoy in the state of Sinaloa, killing eight officers:

The gunmen, travelling in three or four vehicles, “began shooting with automatic weapons”, an official said.

The state is home to one of the country’s most powerful drug gangs, the Sinaloa cartel run by Mexico’s most wanted man, Joaquin “Shorty” Guzman.

(…)

The police officers were patrolling a road 80km (50 miles) form the state capital, Culiacan, when they were attacked on Monday.

The killings highlight the challenges for Mexico’s police as they and other security forces seek to take on the drug gangs.

Yeah, challenges such as “just staying alive.” Of course, when the cartels can trap even the Mexican Army in one of its bases, what a mere patrolmen supposed to do?

I think I’ll postpone that trip to Mazatlan for a while…

RELATED: President Calderon aims to deal with the serious problem of corruption in the local police forces by eliminating local departments and having the states provide local policing. Given the well-known problems of corruption at the state police-level (example), I can’t see how this is much more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Still, one can hope that it’s a start to purging corrupt cops from the local ranks.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Mexico: four bodies found hanging from bridge

October 2, 2010

The nightmare continues in Mexico, this time in Tampico, the main city of violence -wracked state of Tamaulipas:

The bodies of three men and a woman were found Thursday hanging off a bridge in the Mexican Gulf coast city of Tampico, officials said.

The bodies were discovered around 5:30 a.m. in one of the city’s most important business and financial districts.

Soldiers and marines cordoned off the area and removed the bodies from the bridge.

Scenes like this have become common in recent years in Mexico, where drug cartels have used decapitations, massacres and other acts of violence in an attempt to strike fear into rivals and the government.

The northern border state of Tamaulipas, where Tampico is located, has become one of Mexico’s most violent states due to the war between the Gulf cartel and Los Zetas for control of turf and smuggling routes into the United States.

Imagine seeing that on your morning commute to work.


Failing states: is Mexico the new Colombia?

September 28, 2010

I’ve suggested in recent postings that Mexico and its cartel-spawned violence is coming to resemble Colombia’s war with leftist guerrillas and allied drug cartels, including the loss of state sovereignty over territory. Secretary of State Clinton made a similar observation, causing a minor diplomatic flap.

A recent article in the Los Angeles Times criticizes this comparison, arguing that the analogy to Colombia is flawed:

As the death toll from drug-related violence nears 30,000 in four years, the impression that Mexico is losing control over big chunks of territory — the northern states of Tamaulipas, Chihuahua, Nuevo Leon and Durango at the top of this list — is prompting comparisons with the Colombia of years past. Under the combined onslaught of drug kingpins and leftist guerrillas, the South American country appeared to be in danger of collapse.

The Colombia comparison, long fodder for parlor debates in Mexico, gained new energy this month when Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the tactics of Mexican cartels looked increasingly like those of a Colombia-style “insurgency,” which the U.S. helped fight with a military and social assistance program known as Plan Colombia that cost more than $7 billion.

But is Mexico the new Colombia? As the Obama administration debates what course to take on Mexico, finding the right fix depends on getting the right diagnosis.

The article then look at four facets of the comparison to see if the Colombian experience really does map to Mexico:

The Enemy: the authors correctly point out that Colombia’s problem originated with political rebellion – various flavors of Marxists trying to overthrow the state- while Mexico’s is, so far, more one of organized crime. Very bold and violent, but there is no political agenda. However, Colombia’s Leftist (and some Rightist) guerrilla groups eventually allied with the drug lords and even went into the business, themselves. There’s no reason to think the Mexican cartels couldn’t evolve in the opposite direction, to out and out rebellion, if the Mexican state weakens.

Land Grab: Journalist Ken Ellingwood is somewhat right when he asserts that, while the Colombian guerrillas at one time controlled vast swathes of territory from which Colombian authorities were banned, that hasn’t happened in Mexico. I say “somewhat,” because it almost seems like a distinction without a difference. Yes, no territory has been formally ceded to the cartels, as happened in Colombia. But what’s the practical difference when the Mexican Army gets blockaded in its bases; a newspaper gives up and says to the cartels “You win;” and the police chief of a major city has to live in an office closet with a gun under his pillow for his own safety? The cartels may not claim territory, but it’s clear who rules.

Who Gets Killed: Ellingwood  argues that the Colombian guerrillas attacked government officials and business men in an effort to topple the state. The Mexican cartels, on the other hand, while they they have killed cops and mayors (and even a gubernatorial candidate), are doing so as part of their war with each other. Yes, but the difference is… what? If government officials are getting whacked, it represents the breakdown of the state and civil society, regardless of whether it is part of an attempt to overthrow the government, or simply because they backed the wrong cartel. As with the territory issue, the end result is roughly the same.

A Weakening State: Here the article seems to argue that Colombia was in a better situation than that in which Mexico currently finds itself. State institutions fought back with the active support of the media and the public, particularly after an aggressive president, Alvaro Uribe, came to power. In Mexico, while President Calderon has launched his military against the cartels in some area, they’ve been largely ineffective. In addition, the police and court are notoriously corrupt. While Ellingwood describes the Mexican Army as more reliable that the police, it may be a question of relative positions on the scale of rottenness.

The article concludes with an argument, correct in my opinion, that Plan Colombia, which was tailored to specific Colombian needs, cannot be applied to Mexico as a “one size fits all” solution. Any solution (or solutions) will have to be designed with the particular qualities of Mexico’s problem in mind.

To come back to the original question, the analogy of Mexico now to Colombia of the 1980s and 1990s, while Mr. Ellingwood draws useful distinctions between the two nations, in my opinion they are largely academic. The essential quality of the situations in both countries is that rule of law, government, and civil society are under deadly assault by armed groups, whether directly targeted in an act of rebellion or as a byproduct of a war between criminal gangs. In that regard, the comparison is quite valid.


Another Mexican mayor assassinated

September 27, 2010

At this rate, being elected mayor in northern Mexico is beginning to resemble getting a promotion to admiral in the Imperial Navy in Star Wars. This time, it was the mayor of Doctor Gonzalez, in Nuevo Leon:

Armed assassins have killed a fourth Mexican mayor in less than six weeks’ time as drug war violence continues to engulf formerly calm parts of the country, authorities said Friday.

Gunmen Thursday night ambushed Prisciliano Rodriguez Salinas at his ranch home near the industrial center of Monterrey in northern Mexico. Rodriguez was mayor of the town of Doctor Gonzalez, just northeast of Monterrey.

Also Friday, Ricardo Solis, who was to be sworn in as mayor of another town in two weeks, was shot by an armed commando in the border state of Chihuahua, news reports from the region said. He was in critical condition.

Rodriguez was killed along with an employee by gunmen who lay in wait for the mayor, said Alejandro Garza, attorney general for the state of Nuevo Leon, where Doctor Gonzalez and Monterrey are located. Garza said the motive for the shootings remained under investigation.

The Mexican President expressed his condolences  and condemned the killing, which is about as effective as a sternly worded letter of concern from the UN.

I’ve written recently about Monterrey .

UPDATE: Have they implemented Shariah law? A Mexican mayor has been found stoned to death. (via quirky1too)


Baylor ends study-abroad in Mexico due to violence

September 23, 2010

In recent months, I’ve focused on Mexico and the cartel-related violence there, which directly relates to the security of our own southern border and that of the people who live in the area. Occasionally, I’ve been accused of demonizing Mexico and Mexicans by grossly exaggerating the problem. Perhaps, though I don’t believe so. But, if I am guilty of scaremongering, so is Baylor University:

Drug war violence in Mexico is escalating to an all-time high, forcing Baylor study abroad programs in Mexico to halt.

Baylor has suspended every program in Mexico, with the exception of the law school in Guadalajara, until the conditions change, said Dr. Michael Morrison, director of the Center for International Education. Guadalajara has not experienced the violence seen along the northern border of Mexico and in Monterrey.

More than 28,000 people have died in drug-related violence in Mexico since President Felipe Calderon launched a military offensive against drug traffickers in late 2006.

Two Baylor students studied in Monterrey in the spring. Following an outbreak of violence outside the gates of Monterrey Tech, Baylor arranged for one student to return immediately and worked with the other student and the student’s parents to determine that the student would remain for the last few weeks to finish the Monterrey Tech program.

“We are not currently taking students on that program, as Monterrey is one of the most dangerous places,” Morrison said.

Dr. Sijefredo Loa, associate professor of Spanish, directed the last Baylor in Mexico program to Xalapa, Veracruz, in June 2009.

“There are a few facts that are very alarming,” Loa said. “The road blocks the cartels have set up, for instance. They’re stopping tourists with vans and buses because they want to check the traffic. So this has alarmed and scared a lot of people.”

I can see why.

To borrow a phrase from our President, let me be clear: I do not believe Mexico is a failed state or likely to fail in the near future; Colombia, for example survived far worse and came through it.  However, I think those who dismiss the discussion of Mexico’s security problems as hysteria or (you guessed it) racism are burying their heads in the sand to avoid seeing a very real, very serious problem that has serious implications for our own security.

Same with those who think the whole problem could be solved with a libertarian-style legalization of the drug trade: these are not simple businessmen fighting for the right to pursue a trade. The cartels are criminal-terrorist enterprises with much in common with our jihadist enemies (perhaps even allying), such as perceiving any accommodation as weakness. Legalizing their poisonous trade wouldn’t make honest merchants of them; rather, they would be like Edward G. Robinson’s “Johnny Rocco,” in Key Largo:

Johnny Rocco: There’s only one Johnny Rocco.
James Temple: How do you account for it?
Frank McCloud: He knows what he wants. Don’t you, Rocco?
Johnny Rocco: Sure.
James Temple: What’s that?
Frank McCloud: Tell him, Rocco.
Johnny Rocco: Well, I want uh …
Frank McCloud: He wants more, don’t you, Rocco?
Johnny Rocco: Yeah. That’s it. More. That’s right! I want more!
James Temple: Will you ever get enough?
Frank McCloud: Will you, Rocco?
Johnny Rocco: Well, I never have. No, I guess I won’t.

And neither will the cartels, no matter how much we give them.

RELATED: The El Paso Times reports that Juarez’s largest newspaper, El Diario de Juarez, has asked for a truce with the cartels after the assassination of its second journalist in two years. I wrote about the situation in Monterrey yesterday.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


State Department: “Get your kids out of Monterrey”

September 22, 2010

The security situation in northern Mexico continues to worsen as an attempted kidnapping sparks a warning for Americans living in Monterrey and an order from the State Department: Get your children out.

Affluent Americans living in Monterrey became extremely worried in late August that they were in danger after a gun battle erupted  in front of the American School Foundation, which many children of American as well as Mexican business executives attend. The firefight took place between bodyguards working for the Mexican beverage company Femsa SAB de CV and cartel attackers, who were apparently attempting to kidnap young relatives of a high-level company employee. In the course of the ensuing battle, two bodyguards were killed and two others captured. Flying bullets caused students in the school to scramble for shelter in the school cafeteria.

U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Charles Pascual then cautioned employees of the Monterrey consulate to keep their children home, “while we assess the risks and what measures can be taken to reduce it (sic.)” Pascual gave that recommendation even though there was no hard evidence that the children of consular personnel had been targeted.Following the incident, the U.S. consulate in Monterrey also posted an advisory on its website, directed to Americans living in the area. “The sharp increase in kidnapping incidents in the Monterrey area, and this event in particular, present a very high risk to the families of U.S. citizens,” the message read.

Three days later, the State Department escalated its warnings and issued a stunning edict. “U.S. government personnel from the consulate general are not permitted to keep their minor dependents in Monterrey,” a U.S. Embassy spokesman stated. “As of September 10, no minor dependents, no children of U.S. government employees will be permitted in Monterrey.” That was the kind of restriction, designating the Monterrey consulate a “partially unaccompanied post” for U.S. diplomats, is normally imposed only in war zones and other extremely high-risk areas. It underscored just how seriously the State Department took the surge in fighting and the extent of the kidnapping danger.

While the State Department travel warning couches it in much softer language, the message is clear: the cartel wars have made previously safe Monterrey too risky.

And it’s not just the children of diplomats: Caterpillar has told its executives to move their families out of the city, and well-off Mexicans are doing the same. The lack of security was accentuated by the discovery of a mass grave containing the bodies of what are assumed to be cartel victims, and the kidnapping and murder of the mayor of a neighboring town.

Mexico’s third-largest city and an economic powerhouse, the descent of Monterrey into “cartel chaos” would be devastating to Mexico. With the growing inability of local authorities to provide security in such an important city, the reflex reaction would be to “send in the Army.” But that hasn’t worked out so well in other Mexican border cities. In fact, in many cases, the Mexican Army is part of the problem.

Take a look at this map:

(Click to enlarge)

Monterrey is dead center. To the west is Torreón, while to the east is Reynosa, both of which I’ve written about before. North lies Nuevo Laredo, where things have become so rough that they spurred crazy rumors about ranch takeovers in Texas. And we’ve all heard about the problems in places farther west, such as Juarez and Tijuana.

It’s plain that Mexico has more than just an organized crime problem in its northern territories: there is a growing challenge to the government’s authority there. While I don’t believe there’s any realistic danger of a state failure in Mexico City, it is not inconceivable that Mexican state and federal authorities might find it easier to throw up their hands and surrender de facto control of the area to the cartels, much as Colombia did with the FARC in the 1990s. The risk of that and the potential threats it would hold for our border regions makes Mexico’s internal security a vital interest for our national security.

More than just increasing border security itself (and worthwhile as that is), the Obama administration* needs to intensify cooperation with Mexico to bolster its capacity and resolve to restore its crumbling writ in its northern states. Perhaps some variant of the highly successful Plan Colombia would work. Just as important, the Mexican government** has to be brutally honest with itself and its people about the problems they face; no more trying to distract attention by lecturing us over a minor state immigration law. Their current efforts are a failure; no progress has been made. It’s time for both countries to admit there’s a serious problem and deal with it before it goes critical.

*More like “the next administration.

**Call me a cynic, but I have doubts Calderon has it in him to do this.

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Mexico, a failing state?

September 19, 2010

One of the marks of a dying polity, at least in my estimation, is when the criminals no longer fear the police. When that happens, the government can no longer enforce law and order and a state of anarchy prevails. Mexico may not be a failed state –yet– but there are numerous and growing signs of breakdown, such as the kidnapping and murder of the police, themselves:

Police in Mexico say eight officers who were abducted by gunmen in the southern state of Guerrero on Friday have been found shot dead.

A ninth member of the unit has been found alive with wounds to his head. The bodies of some of the dead officers are reported to have been mutilated.

The police patrol was investigating a murder when it was ambushed.

Guerrero state has been a focus of the drugs-related violence that has killed more than 28,000 Mexicans since 2006.

The nine agents from the federal investigative police had travelled to the Teloloapan district after a man was reported shot dead.

As they went in pursuit of the suspected killers they were stopped by a large group of gunmen.

Two officers were found shot dead close to where they were abducted. The other six bodies were found about 15km away after a search by police and troops.

Note that these were federal cops, Mexico’s equivalent of the FBI or Justice Department investigators. Imagine if a group of FBI agents were kidnapped and executed in the US. This isn’t just criminal activity; it’s insurrection. These cartels are not just running drugs, they’re denying the authority of the government itself and saying they rule, instead.

In one of the rare times I’ll ever agree with Hillary Clinton on anything, she was right to say Mexico more and more resembles Colombia as it was 20 years ago.

Only this time the problem is right on our border, rather than 3,500 miles away.

LINKS: The AP has an earlier article on the kidnapping and murder.

(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)


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)


Call me naive, but…

July 1, 2010

Shouldn’t American buildings and civilians  coming under fire from across the Mexican border be considered just a wee bit newsworthy?

Several gunshots apparently fired from Juárez hit El Paso City Hall on Tuesday afternoon.

No one was hurt, but nerves were rattled at City Hall in what is thought to be the first cross-border gunfire during a drug war that has engulfed Juárez since 2008.

El Paso police spokesman Darrel Petry said investigators do not think City Hall was intentionally targeted but rather was struck by stray shots.

“It does appear the rounds may have come from an incident in Juárez,” Petry said.

City Hall, whose east and west sides are covered by glass windows, sits on a hill about a half-mile north of the Rio Grande.

About 4:50 p.m., city workers were going about a regular day when a bullet penetrated a ninth-floor west side window of the office of Assistant City Manager Pat Adauto.

Police said the bullet flew through the window, then through an interior wall before hitting a picture frame and stopping.

And this isn’t the only incident, as Big Journalism reports: UT Brownsville was closed for a weekend when shots came from across the border, and incidents are happening so often that the Texas Attorney General has complained to the Federal government. While these shootings are the results of drug wars in Mexico and not direct attacks on the US, it’s only a matter of time before Americans are seriously killed or injured. Mexico has effectively lost or is losing control of its northern border cities, which is endangering our citizens as well as theirs.

But this isn’t covered in the major media, nor does the Obama administration seem concerned. (As with so many things)  I’d ask if it will take someone’s death for them to notice, but that mattered little in the murder of an Arizona rancher, a story briefly in the news and now largely forgotten.

A news media worthy of the name would be all over these stories, bringing the public a true picture of the increasingly troubled situation on our border. A president worthy of his office would make it clear to his Mexican counterpart that, if he can’t control his own cities, we’ll do it for him.

Call me naive, but is it too much to expect our political and cultural leaders to do their jobs?


Border? What border?

June 22, 2010

Okay, this is getting ridiculous:

Mexican Gangs Maintain Permanent Lookout Bases in Hills of Arizona

Mexican drug cartels have set up shop on American soil, maintaining lookout bases in strategic locations in the hills of southern Arizona from which their scouts can monitor every move made by law enforcement officials, federal agents tell Fox News.

The scouts are supplied by drivers who bring them food, water, batteries for radios — all the items they need to stay in the wilderness for a long time.

(…)

“To say that this area is out of control is an understatement,” said an agent who patrols the area and asked not to be named. “We (federal border agents), as well as the Pima County Sheriff Office and the Bureau of Land Management, can attest to that.”

Much of the drug traffic originates in the Menagers Dam area, the Vekol Valley, Stanfield and around the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation. It even follows a natural gas pipeline that runs from Mexico into Arizona.

In these areas, which are south and west of Tucson, sources said there are “cartel scouts galore” watching the movements of federal, state and local law enforcement, from the border all the way up to Interstate 8.

“Every night we’re getting beaten like a pinata at a birthday party by drug, alien smugglers,” a second federal agent told Fox News by e-mail. “The danger is out there, with all the weapons being found coming northbound…. someone needs to know about this!”

The area they’re talking about is roughly that of the Gadsden Purchase, land bought from Mexico to secure a southern route for a transcontinental railroad.

I hadn’t heard of any plans to give it back, have you?

Hello? Sovereignty? Bueller? Anyone?

I realize the border has been a bipartisan problem through several administrations, but it’s safe to say it’s getting much worse when foreign paramilitary criminal gangs are setting up forward observation posts on your own territory.

Dear Mr. President:

Rather than take over car companies and health care and instead of trying to regulate the very air we breathe, how about doing the job you’re assigned to do?

Thank you.

Love,

The American People


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.