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)

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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)