McALLEN -- The ongoing debate regarding immigration reform has once
again brought the topic of border security to the forefront.
In South Texas, the area that has seen a sharp increase in drug
trafficking runs from treacherous waters of the Rio Grande to the
U.S. Border Patrol checkpoints in Falfurrias and Sarita, the last law
enforcement waypoint along the roads leading from the Texas-Mexico
border to inland metropolitan areas.
In those areas, drug smugglers tied to Mexican drug cartels work
ingenious ways of moving their drugs to their destinations without
detection by law enforcement.
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ALAMO - Tears came down the face of Alma Estrada as she recalled the
call she received two years ago telling her that gunmen had kidnapped
His fate remains a mystery.
Estrada, a lifelong Alamo resident, shared the story of her brother,
Roberto Banda, 40, who worked as a road builder in Soto La Marina,
Tamps., before his disappearance.
Tales of desperation like Estrada's were shared by the various
members of the Caravan for Peace movement, which made a stop Thursday
afternoon in the Rio Grande Valley along its way to Washington, D.C.
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ALAMO - A movement looking to end Mexico's drug war is set to arrive
here in an effort to raise awareness to that country's rising death
On Thursday, Javier Sicilia's Caravan for Peace is scheduled to make a
pit stop in Alamo for a day of events and personal testimonies related
to Mexico's ongoing cartel violence, which has produced more than
60,000 deaths and 10,000 disappearances.
Group organizers claim that drug prohibition has failed.
The war on drugs has produced painful consequences in both Mexico and
the United States, leaving a trail of death, pain and corruption in
its path, the group's news release states.
[continues 288 words]
The high walls of Alexander Estates, an affluent development nestled
near this border city's country club and golf course, were supposed to
keep the narcotics world at bay. But when federal agents raided the
stately home of a downtown perfume salesman in January, it reinforced
a notion that is feared by Texas leaders: The drug war spillover from
Mexico is much broader than shootouts and kidnappings -- it is cloaked
in the seemingly routine business transactions of the border economy.
Neighbors stood, mouths agape, as federal agents seized loads of cash
from the home of Vikram Datta, a polite family man who acquaintances
said was so concerned with the quality of Laredo schools that he moved
his teenage daughters back to their native New York. Federal agents
leveled an accusation that shocked other residents: that Datta, 51,
was a major player in the Black Market Peso Exchange, a decades-old
system of laundering drug money and reinvesting it back into the economy.
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McALLEN - A former Hidalgo County sheriff's deputy faces federal
charges that he conspired to possess and distribute pot bundles while
on the job.
Heriberto Diaz, a former burglary investigator, was indicted by grand
jurors last week in U.S. District Court in McAllen. Documents
detailing the charges were filed Friday in federal court.
Diaz's former partner, Omar Salazar, pleaded guilty last month in
federal court to the conspiracy charge. Both men also face state
charges in the corruption case.
[continues 243 words]
NEAR DONNA -- A U.S. Border Patrol agent spotted the men as they
approached the floodway levee under the moonlight early Friday morning.
She focused an infrared telescope on the figures, tracking seven men
as they marched north near Farm-to-Market Road 493 about 2:15 a.m.
Friday, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court
Each person carried a large bundle with about 35 pounds of marijuana
strapped to their backs. The agent quietly kept the LORIS scope
focused on the figures for nearly two hours.
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A dozen suspected Zetas drug cartel members and a Mexican marine died
in a battle Sunday on an island surrounded by Falcon Lake, within
sight of the U.S.-Mexico border, officials said.
The Mexican naval secretariat confirmed the shootout at a Zeta
encampment on an island on the reservoir used by the Zetas to stage
marijuana loads to be transported by boat into the United States. The
island is located less than two miles northeast of Nueva Ciudad
Guerrero, Tamps., across the border from Falcon Dam.
[continues 616 words]
Many Expected to Stay Home on Sept. 16
REYNOSA - The latest casualty of Mexico's drug violence isn't a cartel
hit man, an elected official, a cop, a soldier or even an innocent
No, that body being carted away on a stretcher is the freedom and
festivity one would typically expect as a nation celebrates the
bicentennial of its independence from its erstwhile colonial master.
After several months of escalating drug violence, some Mexican cities
have moved their bicentennial celebrations to earlier, ostensibly
safer, times or have beefed up security - even in the absence of any
specific threat. Other cities have cancelled independence celebrations
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McALLEN -- Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Trevino got his start fighting
the drug war in 1974, buying street-level heroin as an undercover
police investigator in Austin.
The war on drugs was young then. Just four years before, President
Richard Nixon launched a new battle against drug abuse in the United
Throughout his career, Trevino worked with various local, state and
federal drug task forces before he took the helm as Hidalgo County's
top cop in 2005.
* Drug war stories on TheMonitor.com
[continues 1226 words]
McALLEN -- An exhaustive 10-hour day of testimony provided no clear
agreement on whether drug violence had "spilled," "bled" or otherwise
seeped across the Texas-Mexico border.
But as one Pharr resident told a joint panel of state lawmakers
Thursday: No matter what words are used to describe it, the ongoing drug
war in Mexico is having daily impact on those living in the Rio Grande
Patricia Martinez, a licensed drug counselor, beseeched legislators
during a hearing at the McAllen Convention Center to help her efforts
to locate her 20-year-old son, a U.S. citizen who was kidnapped from a
Reynosa restaurant last year.
[continues 773 words]
Members of Congress representing areas along the border with Mexico
are asking for an emergency disbursement of at least $500 million in
federal funds to fight narcotics and organized crime along the frontier.
Nine U.S. representatives from border states - a group that includes
the entire Rio Grande Valley delegation - sent a letter to House
Speaker Nancy Pelosi urging her to include immediate funding for
border security in an emergency supplemental spending package.
The letter asks for an Appropriations Committee bill to include money
for improving communications capabilities in remote areas of the
border, supplementing a program that aids local law enforcement's
efforts to prevent spillover violence and putting more federal agents
along the border and at the nation's land ports.
[continues 566 words]
MISSION - Police Chief Leo Longoria said his city and the surrounding
area has experienced a "bleed-over of violence" coming from Mexico.
His community remains secure, he said, but he still would welcome
National Guard troops to the city, as Gov. Rick Perry has requested
from the federal government for communities along the border.
Above all, Longoria said residents should remain vigilant and aware
of their surroundings.
"I don't believe we have a uncontrollable spillover," he said. "What
we have is a bleed-over of violence."
[continues 696 words]
McALLEN -- The frequency and size of marijuana seizures in the Rio
Grande Valley continues to grow significantly compared to last year,
the U.S. Border Patrol announced this week.
During the week of May 11 to May 17, for example, the agency's Rio
Grande Valley sector confiscated more than nine tons of marijuana
compared to 3.8 tons during the same time period in 2008.
Agents conducted 60 seizures that week, according to a Border Patrol
Officials attributed the 71 percent increase in narcotics seizures to
increased manpower and a better infrastructure to prevent drug smuggling.
[continues 197 words]
I remember being worried about living so close to Mexico when I
first moved to the Rio Grande Valley. Mexico seemed like an untamed,
violent and dangerous place to a guy from Ohio who considered Taco
Bell to be Mexican food.
In the northern part of the United States, it always seemed to me
like anything made in Mexico or even associated with Mexico was
looked down upon. There were maybe one or two Latino families among
the sea of white faces in my suburban Ohio town, and no one spoke
fluent Spanish outside of Spanish class. Needless to say, my
exposure to anything Hispanic before I moved to the Valley was
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Teen Smugglers May Provide Loophole For Criminals
The two boys tried to smuggle 44 pounds of marijuana into the United
States. Soon after the authorities caught them, they were released -
free of any criminal charges - to reunite with their families and
return to their home country.
On Dec. 9, officers at the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge stopped
a northbound 2000 Ford Explorer driven by one of the two boys - both
16 years old and Mexican nationals - and found five packages stuffed
with pot inside one of the SUV's tires.
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McALLEN -- U.S. Border Patrol agents in the Rio Grande Valley seized 188
percent more marijuana the first week of December this year compared to the
same period last year, according to figures from the agency.
Agents seized more than 20,600 pounds of marijuana throughout the Valley
from Dec. 1 to Dec. 8.
The largest seizure was more than 3,600 pounds and had an estimated street
value of $16.5 million. The drugs were found inside a trailer at the
checkpoint near Falfurrias.
[continues 188 words]
Temptation Of Corruption Also Lurks Within Legal Profession
Joel Carcano Jr. stands apart from his 12 co-defendants in an ongoing
federal case against one of Texas' most violent prison gangs.
A college-educated paralegal for a McAllen law firm, he appears out
of place when lined up with the tattooed gang members, convicted
felons and other associates named in the same nine-count indictment.
The others stand accused of a slew of murders, drug smuggling
attempts and kidnappings over the past eight years - all undertaken
to protect the Texas Syndicate's criminal interests in the Rio Grande Valley.
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Local schools have been displaying banners and red ribbons in
observance of Red Ribbon Week. The National Family Partnership
organized the first nationwide Red Ribbon Campaign in honor of DEA
agent Enrique Camarena, who was tortured and killed in 1985 while
investigating drug trafficking in Mexico.
To honor his memory and his fight against illegal drugs, his friends
and family wore red badges made of red satin. From there, coalitions
of caring parents adopted red ribbons as their symbol to reduce the
demand for drugs in their communities.
[continues 274 words]
Recent U.S. efforts to disrupt drug smuggling routes through the Rio
Grande Valley have prompted threats of retaliation against
authorities on this side of the river, according to an FBI intelligence report.
Vowing to maintain control over valuable trafficking corridors such
as those in Reynosa, Matamoros and Miguel Aleman, the Gulf Cartel and
its paramilitary enforcement wing, Los Zetas, have begun stockpiling
weapons, reaching out to Texas gangs and issuing orders to "confront
U.S. law enforcement agencies to zealously protect their criminal
interests," the report states.
[continues 823 words]
For South Texas Vendors of the Ceremonial Drug, Business Is Dwindling
A sign in front of Mauro Morales' Rio Grande City home announces his
business for everyone to see. "Peyote Dealer," it proclaims in large
Each day, drivers passing by slow down for double takes and some even
pull over, get out and snap photos.
Who can blame them?, Morales asks with a mischievous grin.
He is, after all, part of a dwindling fraternity.
The slight, 65-year-old Rio Grande City man is one of only three
people in the United States - all in Starr and Webb counties
- -authorized to harvest and sell the psychedelic cactus.
[continues 1010 words]