Wednesday, October 29, 2008

FBI warns of looming drug cartel violence in South Texas

Associated Press

McALLEN — Frustrated by a crackdown on South Texas drug smuggling routes, the Mexican Gulf Cartel is stockpiling high-powered weapons and recruiting local gang members on both sides of the border to prepare for possible confrontations with U.S. law enforcement, according to an FBI intelligence report.

The regional leader of the cartel's enforcer group, the Zetas, Jaime "El Hummer" Gonzalez Duran ordered dozens of reinforcements to Reynosa, Mexico, across the river from McAllen, the report said.

"These replacements are believed to be armed with assault rifles, bulletproof vests and grenades and are occupying safe houses throughout the McAllen area," the report obtained by The McAllen Monitor said.

The Monitor reported in today's editions that the local FBI office refused to comment on the report.

Erik Vasys, an FBI spokesman in San Antonio, refused to discuss the details of the report but told The Associated Press "we acknowledge the Zetas are a significant problem in Mexico and they have the potential to pose a significant problem to law enforcement on this side of the border."

Less than two weeks ago, the Border Patrol, the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Hidalgo County sheriff announced that they would not be intimidated by cartel violence. At the time, they would only say that they felt the smugglers had become increasingly confrontational and the agencies planned to increase their coordination.

Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Trevino said at the time that his deputies patrolling near the Rio Grande would be issued high-powered rifles and authorized to return fire.

U.S. law enforcement has had several recent successes that have likely frustrated the cartel.

In September, "Project Reckoning" nabbed more than 175 cartel members and affiliates in the U.S.

The sheriff of neighboring Starr County was indicted and is being held without bond on conspiracy charges alleging that he shared intelligence with the head of a cartel cell operating in his county.

The Rio Grande Valley and its Mexican sister cities have largely avoided the drug war massacre that has plagued Ciudad Juarez, Mexico across the border from El Paso. More than 1,100 people have died in the violence there this year.

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