Mexican army releases 61 kidnap victims

The Mexican army has freed 61 people who were being held captive by a criminal organization in the northern state of Coahuila, officials said on Sunday.
 
Troops found the victims in a house in the town of Piedras Negras during an intelligence operation which was being carried out on Saturday.
 
A total of 61 males were rescued while three suspected kidnappers were captured. According to a statement from the Secretariat of National Defense, one of the victims is Honduran while the rest are from various parts of Mexico. They were allegedly forced to work in the criminal organization.
 
Meanwhile, troops were also able to locate six tons of marijuana during the operation. Mexico`s northern areas are marred with organized-crime-related violence due to the heavy presence of drug cartels.
 
In April, Mexican authorities managed to rescue 119 people in the northern state of Tamaulipas in one week. Police first rescued 68 people, who were allegedly kidnapped by a regional drug cartel, during an operation in Reynosa municipality. Then they rescued 51 individuals, including 15 Guatemalans, 2 Hondurans, 2 Salvadorians, 6 Chinese and 26 Mexicans.
 
MassacrePiedras Negras, across the border from Eagle Pass in Texas, is thought to be a stronghold of the Zetas.Last year the Zetas were blamed for the massacre of 72 foreign migrants in the northern state of Tamaulipas after they apparently refused to work for the cartel.

They were also blamed for the murder of more than 100 people whose bodies were found in mass graves in Tamaulipas after apparently being kidnapped from buses.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-15329489

WARNING GRAPHIC VIDEO OF POLICE RESCUE OF KIDNAP VICTIMS – NOT SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN

Drug Cartel Kills American While He Jet Skied with Wife on Falcon Lake, Texas

Tiffany Hartley and her husband David Michael Hartley

BROWNSVILLE — Gunmen presumed to be Mexican drug operatives opened fire today on a couple riding water skis on the binational Falcon Lake reservoir, possibly killing the husband and sending the woman fleeing frantically to the U.S. side.

Zapata County Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez said the couple — believed to be from McAllen — had crossed to the Mexican side when they came under a spray of bullets by two boatloads of men. The man, 30, was shot in the head and his wife said she fears he is dead.

“They saw them approaching and started revving it up back to the U.S. side,” Gonzalez told the Associated Press. “The guys just started shooting at them from behind.”

According to unconfirmed reports, the woman circled back to get her husband but the gunmen continued shooting, even after she crossed back to the U.S. side.

Gonzalez said he had contacted the Mexican consulate for help finding the husband. As of late Thursday afternoon, he was tracing down leads with the FBI, said Mary Pulido, a dispatcher fielding a barrage of press calls.

“I do know that it happened on the Mexican side, that’s what’s making the investigation very difficult,” she said.

The shooting follows reports in May that boaters in the famed bass fishing oasis were at risk of being shaken down by “pirates” lurking on the Mexican side.

The 60-mile long Rio Grande reservoir is shared by the United States and Mexico, and due to its location along sparsely populated Starr and Zapata counties is believed to be a favorite location for trafficking drugs.

Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, who along with state Rep. Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City, recently traveled to the area for a briefing by the Texas Department of Public Safety on Falcon Lake dangers said that any gunfire that took place on the U.S. side of the lake — in some places demarcated by floating markers — would represent a serious step over the line for a drug war that’s “getting out of hand.”

“These guys are getting very aggressive,” he said. “It’s a significant incident, but it has international ramifications if the shots continued into our side. This was just a couple of people having a good time.”

Peña, as chair of the emergency preparedness committee, said the incident strengthened his resolve to fight budget cuts for DPS, who along with Border Patrol agents patrol the lake.

“They’re essentially the Texas marine force,” he said. “We need them to protect our citizens and keep our lakes safe.”

Thursday’s reported shooting comes during what may be the most deadly and prolonged streak of Mexican drug cartel violence in memory.

In May, the Texas Department of Public Safety reported several incidents of pirates shaking down U.S. boaters. The robbers in at least one case posed as Mexican federal law enforcement, searching fishing boats for guns and drugs and then demanding cash at gunpoint.

The DPS issued a statement warning people not to cross to the Mexican side of the lake. Boaters were encouraged to file a float plan with family members.

“The robbers are believed to be members of a drug trafficking organization or members of an enforcer group linked to a drug trafficking organization who are…using AK-47s or AR-15 rifles to threaten their victims,” it said. “They appear to be using local Mexican fishermen to operate the boats to get close to American fishermen.”

The warning came as the county of Zapata geared up for a summer of fishing tournaments, prompting the chamber of commerce to say that the warning was drastic and that people were safe if they stayed in U.S. waters.

Falcon Lake was formed by a dam in 1953 to conserve water for agriculture and control downstream flooding.

http://oneoldvet.com/?p=23289

David Michael Hartley riding his Jet Ski at home in Colorado

Mexican Pirates Attack US Couple on Falcon Lake; Husband Missing, Feared Dead

Mexican pirates operating on Falcon Lake, which is shared by the United States and Mexico, on Thursday shot an American tourist who had crossed the border on a Jet Ski.

Tiffany Hartley, 29, said her husband, David Michael Hartley, 30, was shot in the back of the head as they tried to escape an ambush on the lake, The Associated Press reports.

Hartley tried to turn around to save her husband but said she had to continue to retreat when she heard bullets whizzing by. Today, search teams continue to comb the Texas side of the lake for David, who is presumed dead. Zapata County Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez said he had asked the Mexican consulate to conduct a search on his country’s side of the lake as well.

Falcon Lake pirate gangs in May after a spat of robberies prompted the Texas Department of Public Safety to issue a bulletin warning Americans to stay in U.S. waters. Authorities believe the pirates are offshoots of Mexican drug gangs operating in the area.

On April 30, five American fishermen crossed the border to explore Guerrero Viejo, a town that was abandoned and flooded when the Rio Grande was dammed to create Falcon Lake in 1953. The Americans’ boat was boarded by four men who said they were federal police but were not wearing uniforms.

The Texas Department of Public Safety said the men demanded to know if the fishermen had drugs before making off with $200. They also had several tattoos of the letter “Z,” raising suspicions that they were members of the Zetas drug cartel, which controls territory in northern Mexico.

Like the fishermen, the Hartleys had crossed the border Thursday to see Guerrero Viejo. Gonzalez said today that the gunmen chased the couple into American waters, according to the AP. He also said he suspects they returned for Hartley’s body or let it sink to the bottom of the lake in the hopes of destroying evidence of his murder.

Falcon Lake, which is approximately 50 miles south of Laredo, Texas, is a water sports and fishing destination, making it a prime target for an unusual brand of piracy. There have been at least five reported attacks on the lake this year, although none of them was deadly.

Texas Parks and Wildlife Department spokesman Mike Cox told the AP that the last reported sighting of the pirates was on Aug. 31, when boaters reported seeing gunmen in a small craft with “Game Wardin” spelled out in duct tape on the side of the boat.

http://www.aolnews.com/surge-desk/article/falcon-lake-pirates-ambush-american-couple-shoot-husband-in-head/19657660

Search resumes for US man shot in Mexican waters

SAN ANTONIO — Texas officials planned Friday to renew warnings about pirates marauding on a U.S.-Mexico border lake after a Colorado tourist was gunned down in Mexican waters while his wife dodged bullets and raced her Jet Ski back to American soil.

Search teams combed the U.S. side of Falcon Lake for David Michael Hartley, 30, whose wife told police he was shot in the back of the head Thursday after being ambushed by gunmen on boats.

The gunmen are suspected pirates who have turned Falcon Lake, a waterskiing and bass fishing hotspot down the border from Laredo, into uneasy waters for fishermen and boaters. There have been at least five reported run-ins with pirates on the lake this year, though prior holdups had never been deadly.

Hartley’s fate was unclear. Zapata County Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez said 29-year-old Tiffany Hartley fears her husband is dead. She circled back on her Jet Ski to rescue him but had to retreat when she heard bullets whizzing by.

Gonzalez said he had contacted the Mexican consulate to ask them to search for Hartley on its side of the lake.

“I’m not trying to place the blame on her or him,” Gonzalez said. “But we’ve told people not to go over there, and now this happens.

Texas Parks & Wildlife Department spokesman Mike Cox said Friday that the state planned to issue a fresh warning to boaters about staying on the U.S. side of the lake. The last warning came in May, and some campers on the lake have taken to arming themselves.

Falcon Lake is a dammed section of the Rio Grande that straddles the border. The border is marked by 14 partially submerged concrete towers that mark the Rio Grande’s path before the lake was created in 1954.

According to Gonzalez, Tiffany Hartley told police that the couple rode their Jet Skis for sightseeing and to take pictures of a famous church in Old Guerrero. They were riding back when they saw the armed gunmen on the boats, and immediately began racing back to U.S. waters.

David Hartley didn’t make it. His wife told authorities he was shot in the back in the head; Cox said one of the boats may have crossed into U.S. waters briefly while trying to run down Tiffany Hartley.

Cox said Tiffany Hartley estimated that the shooting took place about five to six miles from the Texas shoreline where she parked and called for help.

In April, pirates robbed another group of boaters who also went to Old Guerrero to see the church. Cox said the most recent reported pirate sighting had been Aug. 31, when boaters saw gunmen riding a small skiff with “Game Wardin” misspelled in duct tape on the side of the vessel.

Cox said it appeared the pirates were trying to imitate state game warden boats they have seen patrolling the lake.

Gonzalez has previously chalked up the dangerous waters as the product of fighting between rival Mexican drug gangs.

Violence on the Mexican side of the lake has been climbing for several months, as a fractured partnership between the region’s dominant Gulf Cartel and its former enforcers, the Zetas, plunged many of the area’s Mexican border cities into violence.

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5haMJhn6enRPZBA8z3GreQPLl8SMQD9IJ0RLG0?docId=D9IJ0RLG0

Agents feared Mexican drug cartel attack on border dam

Falcon Lake 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.

The dam along the lower Rio Grande was finished in 1954 as part of a joint U.S.-Mexico project to collect water for flood control, hydroelectric power and water for drinking and agriculture.

Gonzalez’s agency was among many that responded, as did the U.S. Border Patrol, the Texas Department of Public Safety and even game wardens, who put more boats on the water.

Citing security concerns, neither Homeland Security nor DPS commented.

“We trust that DPS and their federal and local law enforcement partners are constantly collecting intelligence and monitoring all threats to Texas and taking the appropriate action to protect our citizens from those who would do us harm,” said Gov. Rick Perry’s deputy press secretary Katherine Cesinger.

Varying credibility

Law enforcement officials huddled at the dam, near Rio Grande City, to discuss the threat and how to stifle it, said an officer who attended the meeting.

Officers interviewed by the Chronicle gave the warning varying degrees of credibility. They noted that among the Zetas ranks are Mexican military defectors who were trained in special forces tactics, including demolition.

Special cameras were set up along the dam, which has six 50-foot-tall steel gates, and lawmen hid in brush.

A Mexican military spokesman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said he had not heard of any threat to the Falcon Dam and expressed doubt that the Zetas would try such an attack.

“This isn’t the way these groups operate, they have never attacked installations like that,” he said.

Rick Pauza, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, in Laredo, said the port of entry at the dam had been at a heightened alert due to violence in Mexico.

Residents warned?

The attack may have been thwarted in Mexico. It raises the fear of what the powerful cartels could do.

“It would have been a hell of a disaster,” said Gene Falcon, director of emergency preparedness for Starr County, site of the dam. “There was plenty of concern.”

With handbills and bullhorns, members of the Zeta cartel are said to have warned the civilian population on the Mexican side of the river near the dam to get out of the area, according to residents and intelligence information from law enforcement officials.

A border law enforcement official told the Chronicle the warnings originated in part by the seizure of small amounts of dynamite near the dam, and the discovery of a copy of the alert on the Mexican side of the border.

Capt. Francisco Garcia, of the Roma (Texas) Police Department, said there was no way to know what the traffickers were capable of doing, but bringing down the dam would require nearly a tractor-trailer full of dynamite.

“As far as blowing it up — making it fall apart completely — it would have to be something like 9/11,” he said. “By the time they’d start to do something, there will be so much law enforcement there it’d be ridiculous.”

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/7033818.html

Small-town mayor stoned to death in western Mexico: Drug Cartel’s Blamed for Murder of 5th City Leader

By GUSTAVO RUIZ
Associated Press Writer

MORELIA, Mexico (AP) – A small-town mayor and an aide were found stoned to death Monday in a drug-plagued western state, the fifth city leader to be slain in Mexico since mid-August.

Michoacan state Attorney General Jesus Montejano said the bodies of Tancitaro Mayor Gustavo Sanchez and city adviser Rafael Equihua were discovered in a pickup truck abandoned on a dirt road near the city of Uruapan.

Montejano’s spokesman, Jonathan Arredondo, said initially that the victims were hacked to death with a machete, but the attorney general said they were killed with stones.

Arredondo said police were trying to determine a possible motive.

Tancitaro, a town of 26,000 people, is in a region where soldiers have destroyed more than 20 meth labs in the last year and several police officers have been killed by suspected drug gang members.

Last year the city council chief, Gonzalo Paz, was kidnapped, tortured and killed. Then in December, the mayor and seven other town officials resigned saying they had been threatened by drug traffickers and local police were not showing up to work.

Soon after, the department’s entire 60-officer force was fired for failing to stop a series of killings and other crimes, and Michoacan state police and soldiers took over security in the town. Sanchez was named mayor in January.

Also Monday in Michoacan, five gunmen and a marine were killed in a shootout in Coahuayana on the Pacific coast, the navy said in a statement. A second marine was wounded, and authorities were searching for more gunmen.

Coahuayana authorities canceled school and warned people to stay indoors.

The navy said another gunbattle across the country in the Gulf coast state of Tamaulipas left eight gunmen and one marine dead in the border city of Reynosa.

Meanwhile, the Defense Department said soldiers arrested a man suspected in the kidnapping and killing of the mayor of Santiago in the border state of Nuevo Leon. It said in a statement that Miguel Cervantes was arrested Monday.

In the border state of Chihuahua, gunmen broke into a police complex, subdued the guards and stole at least 40 automatic rifles and 23 handguns, police spokesman Fidel Banuelos said.

Banuelos said 10 officers who were in the building at the time were being questioned. He said it was not clear whether the assailants were members of a drug cartel.

In Ciudad Juarez, a border city in Chihuahua, the Public Safety Department announced the capture of a drug gang member who allegedly helped set up a car bomb that killed three people.

Suspect Jose Contreras allegedly killed a man and dressed him in a police uniform to lure federal agents to the area where the car bomb exploded, killing a federal police officer and a doctor who was helping the shooting victim.

Contreras is a member of La Linea gang, which works for the Juarez drug cartel, the department said in a statement.

Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas, has become one of the world’s most dangerous cities amid a turf war between the Sinaloa and Juarez cartels.

http://www.abc-7.com/Global/story.asp?S=13224935

A 4th Mexican Mayor Slain By Drug Cartels this Fall as the Cartel violence escalates …

State Attorney General Alejandro Garza y Garza

MONTERREY, Mexico – Gunmen killed a town mayor near the drug-plagued industrial city of Monterrey, authorities said Friday, the fourth mayor in northern Mexico to be murdered in little more than a month.

Prisciliano Rodriguez Salinas was gunned down late Thursday along with one of his personal employees in the town of Doctor Gonzalez, about 30 miles (50 kilometers) east of Monterrey, the Nuevo Leon state Attorney General’s Office said.

Eliseo Lopez Riojas was killed as he was picking up equipment from the mayor’s house, and a white car waiting outside started firing. Investigators found 19 shells from two different weapons at the scene.

Drug gangs warring for territory and smuggling routes in northern Mexico have increasingly targeted political figures in the region, though the attorney general said there were aspects of the crime uncharacteristic of gangs.

“The act, in terms of waiting for the mayor outside his house … is not a very common tactic for organized crime,” state Attorney General Alejandro Garza y Garza. “So we’re not ruling out any line of investigation.”

Garza Y Garza said he was unaware of any threats against the mayor.

Two police officers had been taken in for questioning about the killings, though Garza y Garza said they were not under arrest.

Nuevo Leon Gov. Rodrigo Medina

In a short press conference Friday, Nuevo Leon Gov. Rodrigo Medina said soldiers stationed in his state had achieved some successes combating organized crime.

“We will not give up this fight,” Medina said.

President Felipe Calderon condemned the attack and sent his condolences to the family as his government reiterated its commitment to the security of all Mexicans. The government has attributed the spike in violence in the border states of Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas to a breakup between the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas.

Monterrey-area mayor Edelmiro Cavazos

Monterrey-area mayor Edelmiro Cavazos was kidnapped in August and his body dumped three days later. Seven police officers who authorities said were paid monthly salaries by the Zetas gang were arrested in connection with that killing.

It was followed two weeks later by a fatal attack on Mayor Marco Antonio Leal Garcia in Hidalgo, a town in violence-plagued Tamaulipas.

Hooded gunmen shot to death Mayor Alexander Lopez Garcia in the town of El Naranjo in San Luis Potosi state on Sept. 8. The methods used in all three slayings were similar to those used by Mexico’s drug cartels.

In June, gunmen killed the leading gubernatorial candidate in Tamaulipas state.Mayor Marco Antonio Leal Garcia in Hidalgo

More than 28,000 people have been killed by drug-related violence since Calderon launched his attack on drug cartels in late 2006.

http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=11715222

Nuevo Leon, Mexico: 8 Hours, 13 Executed, 6 Kidnapped from Hotels, and 18 Injured

Despite the unanimous demand of citizen leaders urging the Governor of Nuevo Leon to act after Wednesday’s wave of narco violence left a record of 13 dead, six people kidnapped from two downtown hotels and 18 people injured, the State Government of Nuevo Leon recommended: Carry on, Go about with life as Normal. Perhaps he should have added: And try not getting shot while doing it.

http://jacqui.instablogs.com/entry/nuevo-leon-mexico-8-hours-13-executed-6-kidnapped-from-hotels-and-18-injured/#ixzz10SfVePlr

Army soldiers walk by the body of a man lying in the street in Acapulco, Mexico, Thursday Sept. 23, 2010. Authorities say seven people were killed in a shootout between rival drug gangs. (AP Photo/Bernandino Hernandez)

Cartel Shootout Leaves 7 Dead in Acapulco

Mexican authorities say seven people were killed in a shootout between rival drug gangs in the Pacific resort city of Acapulco.

Guerrero state investigative police director Fernando Monreal says gunmen used grenades and automatic rifles to attack a house in a residential area of Acapulco on Thursday.

The state of Guerrero, where Acapulco is located, has become a drug cartel battleground.

Authorities on Wednesday found the decapitated bodies of two men inside a car abandoned in the community of Kilometro 30, near Acapulco.

Nationwide, more than 28,000 people have died in drug violence since December 2006, when President Felipe Calderon launched a crackdown against drug traffickers.

Mexican Drug Cartel Violence Spills Over, Alarming U.S. Citizens

TUCSON — Sgt. David Azuelo stepped gingerly over the specks of blood on the floor, took note of the bullet hole through the bedroom skylight, raised an eyebrow at the lack of furniture in the ranch-style house and turned to his squad of detectives investigating one of the latest home invasions in this southern Arizona city.

A 21-year-old man had been pistol-whipped throughout the house, the gun discharging at one point, as the attackers demanded money, the victim reported. His wife had been bathing their 3-month-old son when the intruders arrived.

“At least they didn’t put the gun in the baby’s mouth like we’ve seen before,” Sergeant Azuelo said. That same afternoon this month, his squad was called to the scene of another home invasion, one involving the abduction of a 14-year-old boy.

This city, an hour’s drive north of the Mexican border, is coping with a wave of drug crime the police suspect is tied to the bloody battles between Mexico’s drug cartels and the efforts to stamp them out.

Since officials here formed a special squad last year to deal with home invasions, they have counted more than 200 of them, with more than three-quarters linked to the drug trade. In one case, the intruders burst into the wrong house, shooting and injuring a woman watching television on her couch. In another, in a nearby suburb, a man the police described as a drug dealer was taken from his home at gunpoint and is still missing.

Tucson is hardly alone in feeling the impact of Mexico’s drug cartels and their trade. In the past few years, the cartels and other drug trafficking organizations have extended their reach across the United States and into Canada. Law enforcement authorities say they believe traffickers distributing the cartels’ marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and other drugs are responsible for a rash of shootings in Vancouver, British Columbia, kidnappings in Phoenix, brutal assaults in Birmingham, Ala., and much more.

United States law enforcement officials have identified 230 cities, including Anchorage, Atlanta, Boston and Billings, Mont., where Mexican cartels and their affiliates “maintain drug distribution networks or supply drugs to distributors,” as a Justice Department report put it in December. The figure rose from 100 cities reported three years earlier, though Justice Department officials said that may be because of better data collection methods as well as the spread of the organizations.

Gov. Rick Perry of Texas has asked for National Guard troops at the border. The Obama administration is completing plans to add federal agents along the border, a senior White House official said, but does not anticipate deploying soldiers.

The official said enhanced security measures would include increased use of equipment at the ports of entry to detect weapons carried in cars crossing into Mexico from the United States, and more collaboration with Mexican law enforcement officers to trace weapons seized from crime scenes.

Law enforcement officials on both sides of the border agree that the United States is the source for most of the guns used in the violent drug cartel war in Mexico.

“The key thing is to keep improving on our interdiction of the weapons before they even get in there,” said Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security and the former governor of Arizona, who will be testifying before Congress on Wednesday.

Familiar Signs

Sergeant Azuelo quickly began to suspect that the pistol whipping he was investigating was linked to a drug dispute. Within minutes, his detectives had found a blood-spattered scale, marijuana buds and leaves and a bundle of cellophane wrap used in packing marijuana.

Most often, police officials say, the invasions result from an unpaid debt, sometimes involving as little as a few thousand dollars. But simple greed can be at work, too: one set of criminals learns of a drug load, then “rips” it and sells it.

“The amount of violence has drastically increased in the last 6 to 12 months, especially in the area of home invasions, “ said Lt. Michael O’Connor of the Pima County Sheriff’s Department here. “The people we have arrested, a high percentage are from Mexico.”

The violence in the United States does not compare with what is happening in Mexico, where the cartels have been thriving for years. Forbes recently listed one of Mexico’s most notorious kingpins, Joaquin Guzmán, on its list of the world’s billionaires. (No. 701, out of 793, with a fortune worth $1 billion, the magazine said.)

At times, the police have been overwhelmed by the sheer firepower in the hands of drug traffickers, who have armed themselves with assault rifles and even grenades.

Although overall violent crime has dropped in several cities on or near the border — Tucson is an exception, reporting a rise in homicides and other serious crime last year — Arizona appears to be bearing the brunt of smuggling-related violence. Some 60 percent of illicit drugs found in the United States — principally cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine — entered through the border in this state.

The city’s home-invasion squad, a sergeant and five detectives working nearly around the clock, was organized in April. Phoenix assembled a similar unit in September to investigate kidnappings related to drug and human smuggling. In the last two years, the city has recorded some 700 cases, some involving people held against their will in stash houses and others abducted.

The state police also have a new human-smuggling squad that focuses on the proliferation of drop houses, where migrants are kept and often beaten and raped until they pay ever-escalating smuggling fees.

“Five years ago a home invasion was almost unheard of,” said Assistant Chief Roberto Villaseñor of the Tucson Police Department. “It was rare.”

Web of Crime

Tying the street-level violence in the United States to the cartels is difficult, law enforcement experts say, because the cartels typically distribute their illicit goods through a murky network of regional and local cells made up of Mexican immigrants and United States citizens who send cash and guns to Mexico through an elaborate chain.

The cartels “may have 10 cells in Chicago, and they may not even know each other,” said Michael Braun, a former chief of operations for the Drug Enforcement Administration.

Elizabeth W. Kempshall, who is in charge of the drug agency’s office in Phoenix, said the kind of open warfare in some Mexican border towns — where some Mexican soldiers patrol in masks so they will not be recognized later — has not spilled over into the United States in part because the cartels do not want to risk a response from law enforcement here that would disrupt their business.

But Mrs. Kempshall and other experts said the havoc on the Mexican side of the border might be having an impact on the drug trade here, contributing to “trafficker on trafficker” violence.

For one thing, they say, the war on the Mexican side and the new border enforcement are disrupting the flow of illicit drugs arriving in the United States. The price of cocaine, for instance, a barometer of sorts for the supply available, has surged.

With drugs in tighter supply, drug bosses here and in Mexico take a much harder line when debts are owed or drugs are stolen or confiscated, D.E.A. officials said.

Although much of the violence is against people involved in the drug trade, law enforcement authorities said such crime should not be viewed as a “self-cleaning oven,” as one investigator put it, because of the danger it poses to the innocent. It has also put a strain on local departments.

Several hours after Sergeant Azuelo investigated the home invasion involving the pistol whipping, his squad was called to one blocks away.

This time, the intruders ransacked the house before taking a 14-year-old boy captive. Gang investigators recognized the house as having a previous association with a street gang suspected of involvement in drug dealing.

The invaders demanded drugs and $10,000, and took the boy to make their point. He was released within the hour, though the family told investigators it had not paid a ransom.

“You don’t know anybody who is going to pay that money?” the boy said his abductors kept asking him.

The boy, showing the nonchalance of his age, shrugged off his ordeal.

“No, I’m not scared,” he said after being questioned by detectives, who asked that his name not be used because the investigation was continuing.

Growing Networks

Not all the problems are along the border.

The Atlanta area, long a transportation hub for legitimate commerce, has emerged as a new staging ground for drug traffickers taking advantage of its web of freeways and blending in with the wave of Mexican immigrants who have flocked to work there in the past decade.

The Atlanta area, long a transportation hub for legitimate commerce, has emerged as a new staging ground for drug traffickers taking advantage of its web of freeways and blending in with the wave of Mexican immigrants who have flocked to work there in the past decade.

Last August, in one of the grislier cases in the South, the police in Shelby County, Ala., just outside Birmingham, found the bodies of five men with their throats cut. It is believed they were killed over a $450,000 debt owed to another drug trafficking faction in Atlanta.

The spread of the Mexican cartels, longtime distributors of marijuana, has coincided with their taking over cocaine distribution from Colombian cartels. Those cartels suffered setbacks when American authorities curtailed their trading routes through the Caribbean and South Florida.

Since then, the Colombians have forged alliances with Mexican cartels to move cocaine, which is still largely produced in South America, through Mexico and into the United States.

The Mexicans have also taken over much of the methamphetamine business, producing the drug in “super labs” in Mexico. The number of labs in the United States has been on the decline.

While the cartel networks have spread across the United States, the border areas remain the most worrisome. At the scene of the pistol-whipping here, Sergeant Azuelo and his team methodically investigated.

Their suspicions grew as they walked through the house and noticed things that seemed familiar to them from stash houses they had encountered: a large back room whose size and proximity to an alley seemed well-suited to bundling marijuana, the wife of the victim reporting that they had no bank accounts and dealt with everything in cash, the victim’s father saying over and over that his son was “no saint” and describing his son’s addiction problems with prescription drugs.

A digital scale with blood on it was found in a truck bed on the driveway, raising suspicion among the detectives that the victim was trying to hide it.

The house, the wife told them, had been invaded about a month ago, but the attackers left empty-handed. She did not call the police then, she said, because nothing was taken.

Finally, they saw the cellophane wrap and drug paraphernalia and obtained a search warrant to go through the house more meticulously.

The attackers “were not very sophisticated,” Sergeant Azuelo said, but they somehow knew what might be in the house. “For me, the question is how much they got away with,” he said. “The family may never tell.”

All in all, Sergeant Azuelo said, it was a run-of-the-mill call in a week that would include at least three other such robberies.

“I think this is the tip of the iceberg,” Detective Kris Bollingmo said as he shined a light through the garage. “The problem is only going to get worse.”

“We are,” Sergeant Azuelo added, “keeping the finger in the dike.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/23/us/23border.html?pagewanted=3&_r=1

Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano dodges questions from U.S. Senate while delaying implementation of “the Anti-Border Corruption Act”

Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) may be getting tired of prodding Department of Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano. He’s been dealing with her bureaucracy since spring on the issue of Mexican border security.
On Thursday, Pryor nudged again. [This issue is deadly serious, however, Pryor’s concern is purely political. After two years the Obama Administration continues on a reckless of course of “open borders” and “selective law enforcement”. The question is why has the Senate not acted …. the Country needs more than “gentle” political “nudges” that fo nothing more than provide political cover to the man in charge of Homeland Security Oversight]
As chairman of a subcommittee of the Department of Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Pryor sent Napolitano a letter requesting she answer a series of questions surrounding corruption of U.S. Custom and Border Protection (CBP) agents.
In July, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee passed Pryor’s legislation, the Anti-Border Corruption Act, to help prevent rogue border agents from being hired or retained. It requires the Custom and Border Protection agency to give polygraph tests to all applicants for law enforcement positions. The requirement has to be implemented within two years, providing the agency time to hire and train examiners. The bill also requires the agency to initiate background checks on all backlogged employees within six months.

In an April letter to a group of senators that included Pryor, Napolitano wrote: “We are engaged in a thorough review of the issues raised . . . and a long-term solution to ensure that we root out corruption and effectively prosecute those who threaten our country.”

She added, “We are also assessing our integrity policies to ensure they include adequate background and checks on CPB employees.”

The Department of Homeland Security did not return phone calls Thursday about Pryor’s new letter to Napolitano.

Internal corruption cases have escalated in recent years. Since 2003, there have been 129 corruption arrests of CBP officers. Last year, there were 576 allegations of corruption. Many centered on drug smuggling.
In his letter to Napolitano, Pryor cited that President Obama signed a bill into law on Aug. 13 that would provide emergency supplemental appropriations to hire more border security agents.
“In that vein, I remain concerned about the failure to conduct polygraphs on new hires, as well as the growing periodic reinvestigations backlog,” Pryor wrote.
He wants Napolitano to clarify the link between the background check measures and the current investigations by Sept. 21. Pryor’s is the sole signature on the letter.
“As we increase the number of agents patrolling our borders, we need to be confident that these men and women have been thoroughly screened and are fully committed to protecting our country,” Pryor told Politics Daily. “If we don’t seal the cracks in our hiring process now, we risk wasting taxpayer dollars and creating a false sense of security.”

Border Corruption: Drugs Now, Dirty Bombs Next?

While there are many complicated problems along the U.S.-Mexico border, one piece of the puzzling crisis is corruption.

Sadly, Mexican drug cartels are corrupting U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents at startling rates.

Internal corruption cases have escalated in recent years. Since 2003, there have been 129 corruption arrests of CBP officers. Last year, there were 576 allegations of corruption.

A recent hearing by the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Ad Hoc Subcommittee on State, Local and Private Sector Preparedness and Integration highlighted the issue.

One person gained employment as a border inspector specifically to smuggle drugs. The person imported more than 1,000 kilograms of marijuana to the United States and received more than $5 million in bribe payments. He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy.

Another case included two CBP officers in Brownsville, Texas, who assisted an illegal-immigrant and narcotics-smuggling organization. A search of one of the officer’s houses yielded $85,250 in cash.

The main reason for such cases? Failure to properly screen potential employees.

Such dangerous cracks in the agent-screening process concern Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), chairman of the subcommittee. He says it allows drug cartels to infiltrate this country’s law enforcement. Pryor has introduced legislation — the Anti-Border Corruption Act — to curb such crime.

“We need to clamp down on this now,” Pryor said. “By my estimates, it is already out of control, but it’s really about to get out of control if we’re not careful.”

The legislation includes a more rigorous system of polygraph testing. Pryor’s bill would require such tests of all applicants for law enforcement positions.

During the March hearing, which Pryor was the only senator to attend, CBP officials said that fewer than 15 percent of job applicants receive a polygraph test, even though standing policy states everyone should be examined. Sixty percent of those who do receive a polygraph test are deemed not suitable for hiring. “These tests are a critical part of the screening process to weed out bad apples,” Pryor said.

Every five years CBP employees are required to undergo a background check. Currently, there is a backlog of 10,000 cases. That number will nearly double by year’s end. Pryor’s legislation would require the CBP to eliminate the current employee background check backlog within six months.

The problem isn’t just polygraph tests, however. Pryor says there should be drastically improved coordination between the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies. DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano has received a letter from the Senate stating that the Senate wants better sharing of information and prevention of duplicative investigations. They cited a memo dated Dec. 16, 2009, from the DHS Inspector General’s office that claimed jurisdiction over corruption investigations currently being carried out by the Customs and Border Protection Internal Affairs.

“My message to DHS is clear: either fix your problems voluntarily, or I will make sure you do it by law,” Pryor said.

If Napolitano doesn’t address the issue, Pryor said he will move to put the bill into law because border security is a national security issue. Today, drug smuggling, he says; tomorrow, dirty bombs.

http://www.politicsdaily.com/2010/04/28/border-corruption-drugs-now-dirty-bombs-next/

Mexican Newspaper Surrenders To Drug Cartels: Tell Us What We Can Print – Give Us A Truce

Mourning the Death of Diario de Juarez newspaper photographer Carlos Santiago

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico — The largest newspaper in Ciudad Juarez asked the border city’s warring drug cartels Sunday for a truce after the killing last week of its second journalist in less than two years.

In a front-page editorial, El Diario de Juarez asked the cartels what they want from the newspaper so it can continue its work without further death, injury or intimidation of its staff.

“Leaders of the different organizations that are fighting for control of Ciudad Juarez: The loss of two reporters from this publishing house in less than two years represents an irreparable breakdown for all of us who work here, and, in particular, for their families,” the editorial said.

“We ask you to explain what you want from us, what we should try to publish or not publish, so we know what to expect.”

Crime scene investigators remove the body of photojournalist Luis Carlos Santiago

It was the newspaper’s second front-page editorial since gunmen attacked two El Diario photographers Thursday — one a new employee and the other an intern. One died and the other was seriously wounded as they left for lunch in Mexico’s most dangerous city.

In 2008, a crime reporter for El Diario was slain outside his home as he was about to take his daughters to school.

The editorial Sunday said drug gangs in the city across from El Paso, Texas, are the de facto authorities, and criticized both the Chihuahua state government and President Felipe Calderon for their lack of protection for journalists.

“We don’t want to continue to be used as cannon fodder in this war because we’re tired,” Diario’s editor, Pedro Torres, told The Associated Press.

He said the staff felt great rage, helplessness and despair after burying new employee Luis Carlos Santiago, 21, on Saturday.

“Burying the body does not bury the impunity or pain,” Torres said. “There is a feeling of great anxiety and impotence surrounding this situation.”

Reporter Armando Rodriguez - Protesting Violence Against Reporters Prior To His Murder

The Committee to Protect Journalists, a New York-based watchdog group, said in a recent report that at least 22 Mexican journalists have been killed since December 2006, when Calderon intensified a crackdown on drug cartels by deploying tens of thousands of troops and federal police across the country.

At least eight of the journalists were killed because of their reports on crime and corruption, the group said.

Mexican journalists are increasingly under siege from drug cartels seeking to control the flow of information, and many media outlets, especially in border areas, have stopped covering the drug war.

Until Sunday, El Diario was not one of them.

“Even in one of the places where violence is worst … El Diario was still doing a lot of good reporting on crime,” said Carlos Lauria, a CPJ senior coordinator. “The fact that they’re giving up is really bad. It’s an indication that the situation is out of control.”

In a front-page editorial Friday, El Diario said journalists have nowhere to turn for protection because of the inability of Mexican security forces to solve most attacks on the media.

Drug violence the past two years has killed nearly 5,000 people in Ciudad Juarez, a city of 1.3 million people.

http://www.cleveland.com/world/index.ssf/2010/09/what_should_we_not_publish_mex.html

Drug Cartel Violence. Young Woman Murdered - Mutilated By Cartel

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