Saturday, February 11, 2006

Death threats against Hudspeth County deputies

From San Antonio Express-News:
State and federal officials are investigating death threats against Hudspeth County sheriff's deputies and their families that local officials believed are tied to a recent standoff on the Texas-Mexico border.

Chief Deputy Mike Doyal said Wednesday that two deputies and the wife of third officer were warned that they should 'stay off the river' or they and their families would be killed.

Sheriff Arvin West said he believed the threats came from men connected to the Jan. 23 standoff between Texas lawmen west of El Paso and armed drug smugglers dressed in Mexican military-style uniforms. He declined to provide other details.

'All I can say for sure is that it was someone in Mexico,' West said.

Doyal said three unidentified men threatened the wife of one of the county's 12 deputies.

Andrea Simmons, an FBI spokeswoman in El Paso, said Wednesday the FBI is aware of the threats but does not have a role in the investigation.

West, who said area drug traffickers know just about everything about his deputies, was among a contingent of Texas lawmen who testified Tuesday at a congressional hearing about Mexican military incursions into the United States.
Perhaps because Hudspeth County Sheriff Arvin West announced on national radio that, "With or without federal assistance, we're going to put a stop to it." (Heard on NPR). He was referring to recent border invasions incursions.

In other border news, Governor Rick Perry (TX) has announced a new initiative called Operation Rio Grande. Part of this involves shifting Texas DPS officers "to provide more border security, but not necessarily hiring new officers." Not good enough. Hire more officers, for God's sake. Maybe then the Border Patrol can stop resorting to billboard advertisements to draw in applicants.

Other better news from this article is about some positive things that have happened since Operation Linebacker was announced back in December. I noticed especially that Kinney County, a very rural county of 1,363 square miles with about 20 miles of international border, only has 4 law enforcement officers for the entire county. This area is pretty much a free zone for drug smugglers and Operation Linebacker has apparently helped them significantly. Kinney County, with State Highways 90 and 131, provide easy access to both Del Rio and Eagle Pass/Piedras Negras.

Meanwhile, back in Nuevo Laredo, drug runners attacked the offices of the newspaper El Mañana:
The day after two hooded men burst into the lobby of their building, sprayed their newsroom with automatic weapons and tossed a grenade, reporters at El Mañana did their best to maintain a veneer of normalcy.

Monday night's attack injured one reporter, who remained hospitalized in stable condition.

By Tuesday, the pockmarked walls at the city's leading daily were filled and painted. Windows and doors were replaced, the shattered glass and debris swept away.

But the swiftness of the cleanup belied the nervousness reporters felt and the muzzling of a free press that some predict will affect other Nuevo Laredo news organizations.

"There's a psychosis of fear in the newsroom," said one reporter who witnessed the attack. "The goal for the day is to get in, write as quickly as possible and get out."

El Mañana, like other city papers, already had been censoring its own coverage to avoid provoking the drug cartels that are fighting for control of the area's smuggling routes.

"There is no point in investigating narcotrafficking," Ramon Cantu Deandar, the paper's editor, said Tuesday. "That's an international problem that not even the authorities have the will to fix."

It's common knowledge that most of the homicides in Nuevo Laredo — averaging almost one a day so far this year — are carried out on behalf of either the Gulf Cartel or the Sinaloa Cartel.

The newspaper covers the facts of a slaying, but never blames the cartels and never prints names. Cantu said it now would scale down its coverage even further, relegating the violence to its inside pages.

"We're going to cover the killings, but not highlight them on the front page," Cantu, the editor, said. "We're in the middle of a war here, and we need to be more careful."
What could have finally triggered (no pun intended) this attack?
The gunmen arrived less than two weeks after El Mañana hosted a seminar for the Inter-American Press Association on covering drug trafficking.

Cantu didn't blame the conference, but added: "Yes, it was seen as a provocation for the mafias, for the narcotraffickers."

Julio Muñoz, the IAPA executive director, said by phone from Miami that it's too soon to know a motive for the attack, but it could be payback for the seminar, in which journalists discussed how to stay safe while covering drug trafficking.
They discussed how to stay safe while covering drug trafficking. I guess the drug thugs showed them that there is no way to stay safe there, unless they just type up weather reports and stay away from the icky stuff like drug running, murders, and such.

Reporting from the safe side...