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#188 Mar 3, 2010
Violence Along Border Changing Border Fest

HIDALGO - Violence along the border is forcing changes to this year's BorderFest in Hidalgo.

BorderFest organizers do not expect the recent violence in Reynosa to interfere with this year's festival, but they aren't taking chances. Kay Wolf, the Hidalgo Assistant City Manager says, "The recent border violence has made us careful, has made us think about he things we need to think about. We need to be cautious, know our surroundings"

Changes are underway for the Hidalgo International Bridge Festivities. High school students will not participate in the Abrazo ceremony, and square dancing will be moved to the state farm arena.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS spoke to the superintendent of Valley View ISD. He didn't want to comment on camera, but told us the school band won't perform at the ceremonial hug. He says student safety must come first. They will participate in all other BorderFest activities.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection will also be on guard. Officer Rick Garza says,“After Sept. 11, we elevated our level to a high level of readiness. Since then, we continued to operate at a high state. If there is any challenge that comes our way, we are here and ready to meet that challenge. Those students and school district have to do what they feel is right. We accept their decisions."

Garza could not comment on specific security measures.

More people than ever are expected to attend BorderFest this year.


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#189 Mar 3, 2010
The Death of Edgar Tovar and FARC's Cocaine Pipeline

Douglas Farah
March 3, 2010

Relatively unnoticed in Colombia, last week that nation’s government confirmed the death of Edgar Tovar, a senior FARC commander and one of the group's chief ties to Mexican drug cartels.

Tovar, aka Gentil Gomez Marin or Angel Gabriel Losada Garcia, was the commander of the FARC's 48th Front, which operates primarily along the Ecuador/Colombia border, which has recently grown into the main cocaine conduit for supplying Mexican drug cartels. This makes him a key figure in the FARC's financial structure.

With the FARC leadership being relatively unable to communicate with each other and the contacts with the Mexican organizations a closely guarded among a few members of the 48th Front, Tovar's death is a significant blow. It removes one of the key facilitators of a terrorist group in dealing with transnational organized criminal groups.

Because of these ties, as outlined in my recent Ecuador study, Tovar was a primary target for the Colombian police and military. Tovar had also been in charge of the security of Raul Reyes, the FARC's second-in-command, killed in Ecuador on March 1, 2008 by a Colombian attack.

One of the most interesting elements about the FARC in recent times is how groups like the 48th Front, which provide much of the logistical support for the rest of the FARC while collecting most of the cocaine money, have become more independent from the General Secretariat.


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#190 Mar 4, 2010
Mayors' release a setback in Mexican drug war

Associated Press Writer
Posted: 03/04/2010

URUAPAN, Mexico (AP)- Antonio Gonzalez insists he has no idea why he was among 12 Mexican mayors arrested last year in an unprecedented roundup of elected officials accused of protecting drug traffickers.
During his eight months in jail, he says, investigators told him only that he once had lunch with a man they claimed was a cartel member.

Now, Gonzalez and six other mayors are free for lack of evidence, embarrassing the government of President Felipe Calderon, which had set out to show Mexico that no politician would be immune in his U.S.-supported war with drug gangs.

"It must be some horrible mistake," Gonzalez said he kept thinking during his time in a high-security federal prison. He even tried to keep training for a planned marathon, fashioning shorts from his pillow case so he wouldn't get his prison uniform sweaty.

"I kept thinking, this nightmare will end in the next hours, in the next days," Gonzalez said during an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press at his gated, stylishly furnished home in Uruapan, a western mountain city surrounded by lucrative avocado farms.

Gonzalez, who is a member of Calderon's conservative National Action Party, was among the first 10 mayors arrested in a stunning May 2008 operation mounted across the president's home state of Michoacan.

The state is a battleground between the Gulf cartel and the newer La Familia cartel. It is one of four Mexican states that the U.S. government urges its citizens to avoid.


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#191 Mar 4, 2010
DEA agent links defendants in drug trial to high-level cartel leaders

By Diana Washington Valdez
El Paso Times
Posted: 03/04/2010

EL PASO -- A DEA agent testified Wednesday that telephones seized as evidence in a major drug trial linked many suspects to high-level Mexican drug leaders affiliated with the Sinaloa cartel.

The agent and other witnesses in the trial of Fernando Ontiveros-Arambula and Manuel Chávez-Betancourt also revealed the new hierarchies of organized crime in Chihuahua state since the drug wars began two years ago.

For example, witnesses said Joaquin "Chapo" Guzmán's Sinaloa drug cartel toppled Vicente Carrillo Fuentes' drug-cartel leaders in the Valle de Juárez -- a corridor across the border from Fabens, Fort Hancock and Tornillo.

Witnesses said Gabino "Ingeniero" Salas-Valencio is in charge of the Valle de Juárez smuggling route for Guzmán, and José Antonio Torres-Marrufo is his new top man in Juárez.

Noel Salguero, who is wanted by the DEA, is a high-level leader of La Gente Nueva (the new people). U.S. drug investigators have said La Gente Nueva is an emerging group that has made incursions into drug-trafficking in Juárez.

Contacts on telephones seized from Ontiveros-Arambula and his associates included those of operatives who adopted feline animals for nicknames -- "puma," "pantera" (panther) and "jaguar."

The DEA agent said "pantera" is the nickname of a Mexican military official who provided the Sinaloa cartel with intelligence about rival drug dealers.

Another contact was for a man who directed the Sinaloa cartel's operations in Juárez out of Panama.


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#192 Mar 4, 2010
Trafficking probe nets 10 Mexican migration agents

The Associated Press
Posted: 03/03/2010

MEXICO CITY -- Mexico's interior department says prosecutors have detained 10 Mexican immigration agents and three airline workers at Cancun's international airport on suspicion of trafficking Chinese migrants.

The department says in a statement that the agents, along with the two Mexicana Airlines employees and a worker of Livingston Air, allegedly allowed Chinese citizens into the country with false passports.

A statement issued Tuesday by the department says the arrests are part of an investigation that resulted in the detention of 26 immigration agents at Cancun's airport in January.


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#193 Mar 4, 2010
3 kidnappers get 23 years in prison each

Daniel Borunda
El Paso Times
Posted: 03/04/2010

Three convicted kidnappers were sentenced in Juárez to 23 years in prison and were fined, the Chihuahua state attorney general's office said.

César Abel Melendez Torres, Jessica Alvarez Alvarez and Fortin Alonso Alderete Heredia were sentenced by a tribunal on Wednesday after being found guilty on Feb. 26 of kidnapping a woman.

On Jan. 5, 2009, the group kidnapped a woman at gun point when she arrived at her business in downtown Juárez, officials said. The victim was held for 12 hours at Alvarez's home until her family paid a ransom of 68,000 pesos (about $534 U.S.).


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#194 Mar 4, 2010
Mexican Drug Cartels Active Nationwide, Obama Administration Officials Say

Tuesday, March 02, 2010
By Penny Starr, Senior Staff Writer

( CNSNews.com )– A senior Obama administration official said on Monday that Mexican drug cartels are being targeted inside the United States more than along the border with Mexico, echoing remarks last week by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano that cartels are operating throughout the country.

Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs David Johnson made the remarks at a State Department press briefing when CNSNews.com asked if the plan to combat drug trafficking and money laundering around the world included dealing with Mexican drug cartels in the United States.
Johnson said that U.S. law enforcement agencies are in charge of combating the cartels, but that those agencies have had success targeting those operations on America soil.

“Yes, there’s a broad impact in the United States of cartel operations that are based inland from Mexico,” Johnson said.“I think that illustrates another point that bears some exploring. When people think about, quote end quote,‘spillover,’ you tend to think of a glass and things that are spilling over right at the border.

“It doesn’t tend to be that way,” Johnson said.“The spillover, if you will, is more broadly in the United States, and some of the border communities would be not nearly as effective than (sic) some of the more inland areas are.”

Testifying at a Feb. 24 hearing on the Department of Homeland Security 2010 budget before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano said Mexican drug cartel operations are widespread in the United States.


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#195 Mar 4, 2010
Border Violence Affecting Flea Markets

Reported by: Rob Hughes

WESLACO - Border violence is boosting business for some Valley flea markets and causing trouble for others.

Jesus Sanchez is one of the many Mexican nationals shopping at local flea markets. He tells us he doesn't want his daughter to see anyone killed. We're told they want to escape the bullets and shop in peace.

"It's ugly over there," says the Reynosa native. "Why go near there? There's shooting from every which way, people dying."

Alamo vendor Santiago Mendoza says he's seeing more Mexican nationals shop at the flea market. Juan Contreras, another vendor, also notes business is booming.

"They're coming for what they need," he tells us.

But other vendors have a different story.

They say the violence in Mexico is making it difficult to import products from Mexico. We spoke to one vendor who is struggling to buy shoes and boots across the border.

"My provider doesn't pass the product too often," he tells us.

Vendors struggling to buy products from Mexico tell us they plan to buy more products in the Valley. But the higher cost could be passed to shoppers.


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#196 Mar 4, 2010
Suspected Smuggler Caught $572,000 of Pot

PENITAS - Border Patrol Agents working near Penitas seized more than half a million dollars worth of marijuana during a bust.

The agents were patrolling when they spotted a red SUV speeding near the river. Authorities followed the driver but he tried to getaway. The suspected smuggler lost control of the SUV and crashed into a family's fence.

Inside the SUV agents found 344 bundles of pot worth $572,000. The driver and the drugs were confiscated and turned over to DEA officials.


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#197 Mar 4, 2010
Two Raids Land Five in Custody

Reported by: Camaron Abundes

MISSION - Officers raided two homes in Mission and found drugs and weapons. The homes were less than two miles from each other.

Police took five people into custody.

The raids happened at a home on Aaron Road in Mission and a home on Shuerbach Road. Officers say they collected evidence linking the suspects to at least one home invasion.

Police tell us they still don't know when the suspects will go before a judge. They're continuing to interview witnesses.

Coming up tonight on CHANNEL 5 NEWS you'll hear from a woman who says nearby neighbors were living in fear.


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#198 Mar 5, 2010
Former police captain: Juárez, Chihuahua state authorities took cartels' cash

By Diana Washington Valdez
El Paso Times
Posted: 03/05/2010

EL PASO -- A former Juárez police captain testified in U.S. District Court on Thursday that all police in Juárez and Chihuahua state were on the payrolls of drug cartels.

Jesús Fierro-Méndez, alias "Puma," testified that drug cartels paid the police agencies a monthly fee to protect the drug traffickers.

Fierro-Méndez took in the stand in the drug-smuggling trial of Fernando Ontiveros-Arámbula and Manuel Chávez-Betancourt.

"Any (cop) who did not want to be on their payroll still had to obey orders," Fierro-Méndez said. "If they did not obey, they would be killed."

The DEA arrested Fierro-Méndez in October 2008 on a conspiracy charge out of Indiana related to cocaine. He allegedly had a loaded AK-47 rifle and cocaine at his house when agents arrested him in El Paso.

Before his arrest, Fierro-Méndez testified, he was an informant for Immigration and Customs Enforcement and kept the agency updated on drug cartel activities in Juárez.


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#199 Mar 5, 2010
6 die in Valley of Juárez assault: Attackers with AK-47s kill men at ranch

By Daniel Borunda
El Paso Times
Posted: 03/05/2010

Six men were shot and killed Wednesday night at a ranch near the village of Praxedis G. Guerrero in the Valley of Juárez.

The gunmen, armed with AK-47s, arrived in a truck or a van and opened fire on the victims at Rancho Nuevo, a spokesman for the Chihuahua state attorney general's office said Thursday.

Killed were Saul Martinez Rodriguez, 40; his brother Ernesto Martínez Rodríguez, 37; Gerardo Hernández Rosales, 37; Julio Ruiz, 60; Victor Manuel Rosales, 37; and an unidentified man in his late 20s.

Investigators counted 30 bullet casings and seized a black Ford Ranger with Texas plates. It is unclear whether any of the victims are from Texas.

Six other homicides were reported Wednesday in the Juárez area.

Murders continued Thursday afternoon when two men were killed within 90 minutes near the village of Porvenir across the border from Fort Hancock.

At 2:21 p.m., Benito Favela Montoya, 32, was found shot to death on the side of a road.

About 3:50 p.m., Fidel Montoya Favela, 69, was fatally shot with an assault rifle in a home, police said.

The valley, east of Juárez, is a battleground in the war between the Sinaloa and Juárez cartels for control of the lucrative drug-smuggling corridor.

The control of that corridor has been a topic raised in a drug-smuggling trial under way in U.S. District Court in El Paso.

In other news, a man was unhurt in a Juárez street shooting in which his wife was killed and their 9-month-old daughter was wounded.

The family was in a Ford Bronco that was fired on about 12:30 a.m. Thursday in colonia Granjas de Chapultepec, police said.

Magaly Bernal, 24, was killed.

The infant was hospitalized with a bullet graze to the head.

The man apparently returned fire with a handgun.

Police arrested five suspects after a 17-year-old boy, whose name was not released, showed up at a hospital with a gunshot wound and was identified as one of the attackers by the victim.

Police also arrested Juan Carlos Salas Salas, 23; Abel Antonio Rodríguez Rodríguez, 22; Rodolfo Alanís Irigoyen, 27; and Patricio David González Perea, 26.


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#200 Mar 5, 2010
Violence Stretches Roma Budget Thin

ROMA - The city of Roma says border violence is stretching their budget thin. Roma officers have had to stand their ground at the Roma port-of-entry at all hours lately. Their overtime dollars are breaking the bank.

Some 11,000 people live in Roma. Even city leaders agree, their city is small. That means their budgets are just as little.

Mayor Rogelio Ybarra says, "Protecting our citizens is the number one priority."

The mayor and city officials do not think twice when residents start worrying about violence across the border. When things get bad in Miguel Aleman, they immediately send police to the bridge to back up federal agents.

Ybarra says the problem is, "It takes a toll on our budget, with what's happening."

The 1.8 million dollar budget for the police and fire department is taking a hit. Ybarra says, "We can't budget for that, and didn't know it was coming."

Only three months into the year, city leaders are scrambling to make sure they don't overspend. "We're trying not to exhaust the budget for the PD or change anything for the city," says Ybarra.

Roma isn't the only city affected, Starr County Sheriff Deputies and Rio Grande City Police budgets are also being stretched.


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#201 Mar 5, 2010
Man Arrested for Human Trafficking

Michael Garza was sent to a detention center on federal charges of human trafficking.

Friday, March 05, 2010

LAREDO, Tx.- A resident from Rio Grande, Texas was arrested by Border Patrol agents as he transported 13 undocumented immigrants in a vehicle.

Michael Garza was sent to a detention center on federal charges of human trafficking. Reports indicate that federal officials detected two units circulating on road FM 1017 in east Laredo, a Chevrolet pick up and a Ford van.

Agents noticed that the vehicles carried a lot of weight, especially the Ford van so officers decided to stop the van. The driver then tried to escape by speeding away into a dirt road where he abandoned the vehicle and fled on foot.

Inside the van 10 people were found that confessed to being illegal immigrants. Authorities then followed the Chevrolet pick up driven by Michael Garza.

Three other men that also traveled in the pick up declared they were Texas residents in spanish.

The subjects later confessed that they were from México and Garza was transporting them to Corpus Christi. Garza mentioned that he would be paid 100 to 200 dollars per person, after picking them up in Mission, Texas.

The immigrants indicated that someof them were headed to Houston and they were to pay 1,500 dollars for the trasportation.


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#202 Mar 5, 2010
Another Arrested on Laredo International Bridge

Jorge Rodríguez had been deported from the United States in July 2009.

Friday, March 05, 2010

LAREDO, Tx.- People that have been deported from the United States and then returning illegally continue to multiply on the international bridges.

In the most recent case, Jorge Rodríguez, 22, a mexican citizen, now faces serious problems after presenting a legal resident card with his picture on the Juárez-Lincoln international bridge.

Rodríguez arrived in a vehicle declaring that was returning from Nuevo Laredo after visiting his relatives.

The youth was sent to secondary and during a thorough inspection with the IDENT system, authorities were able to detect Rodriguez's past record.

Rodríguez was deported to Mexico in July 2009 through Del Rio, Texas where his legal residency was removed.


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#203 Mar 5, 2010
Drug Valued at 1.5 Million Dollars Confiscated

Customs inspectors confiscated some drugs in two separate operations that occurred on the international bridges.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

LAREDO, Tx.- Customs inspectors confiscated some drugs valued at 1.5 million dollars in two separate operations that occurred on the international bridges.

Customs and Border Patrol spokeswoman Mucia Dovalina, informed that in the first case, federal agents confiscated 45 pounds of pure cocaine in a 2004 Mitsubishi Endeavor.

The unit was driven by a 34 year old Laredo man, who arrived at one of the boothes on the Juárez-Lincoln bridge, and then sent to secondary.

Agents found 18 packages in the interior of the vehicle and was arrested. The drug has a street value of 440,000 dollars.

The second case also occurred on the Juárez-Lincoln bridge, when customs inspectors found 24 packages weighing 99 pounds of marijuana in a 2001 Ford Taurus.

The driver was a 31 year old Mexican citizen who was arrested after the drug was found in the tires of his vehicle by a trained canine.


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#204 Mar 6, 2010
Testimony reveals drug lord 'strategy'

By Maggie Ybarra
El Paso Times
Posted: 03/06/2010

EL PASO -- Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin "Chapo" Guzman insulated himself from his soldiers on the streets of Juárez by having his wife be a go-between, a witness testified Friday in U.S. District Court.

The witness, Jesús Fierro-Méndez, a former Juárez police captain, said Guzman wanted to "remain removed from the lower levels of his organization."

Fierro-Méndez was on the stand for the second day in the drug trial of Fernando Ontiveros-Arambula and Ma nuel Chavez-Betancourt.

Guzman's Sinaloa drug cartel has been muscling in on the Juárez drug cartel to take over the lucrative drug corridor through the El Paso area. Since January 2008, more than 4,700 people have been killed in the city in what Mexican authorities have called a drug war.

Fierro-Méndez testified that the tactic used by Guzman to insulate himself and to not know some of his people is common in the drug underworld. People at the top of the chain of command would never associate with the people at the bottom, Fierro-Méndez said.

"That is a drug-trafficking strategy for them not to know each other," he said.

Prosecutors were trying to show that Ontiveros-Arambula was high in the organization and knew the right names at the top, something lower members of the organization would not know.

A DEA agent testified Friday that Ontiveros-Arambula created suspicion when he began to use the names of known drug traffickers and would tell people to limit their conversations on the telephone, which were being recorded while he was in jail.

The DEA agent said that Ontiveros-Arambula would use certain names in a sequence to get a message to the drug organization hierarchy.

"It's like a combination on a lock. You have to go through one person to the next person to get where you need to go," the agent testified.

Prosecutors have alleged that Ontiveros-Arambula worked directly under Guzman to gain control over the Juárez smuggling corridor. Fierro-Mendez testified that Guzman would have high-level meetings on how to take control of Chihuahua and push Vicente Carrillo Fuentes out of the picture. He said Ontiveros-Arambula was a key part of the plan in the attempted takeover.

Ontiveros-Arambula and Chavez-Betancourt are on trial on charges of smuggling of hundreds of pounds marijuana into the U.S.

The trial will continue Monday before U.S. District Judge David Briones.


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#205 Mar 6, 2010
Ambush kills 2 Mexican federal police, wounds 3

The Associated Press
Posted: 03/05/2010

MORELIA, Mexico -- Heavily armed gunmen ambushed a convoy of federal police on a highway in one of Mexico's drug battleground states Friday night, killing two officers and wounding three, officials said.

The unknown attackers hid on both sides of the road near the port city of Lazaro Cardenas and opened fire with a barrage of bullets when the convoy passed, Michoacan state prosecutors said.

The state, which is the base for La Familia cartel, has seen increasing fights among rival gangs and attacks on authorities involved in the anti-drug war.

Also Friday, military officials said soldiers seized 28,000 pounds of marijuana, seven vehicles and 18 high-powered weapons in Altar, Sonora, 35 miles south of the Arizona border. There were no reported arrests.

Drug violence has killed more than 15,000 people nationwide since President Felipe Calderon launched a crackdown on cartels after taking office in late 2006.


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#206 Mar 6, 2010
Author: Prohibition turned Juarez into Sin City for Texans

Latin American Herald Tribune
Posted: 03/06/2010

MEXICO CITY – Prohibition in the United States drove Texas bars and brothels to the Mexican border city of Ciudad Juarez and helped create an image problem that Mexico’s murder capital has been unable to repair, according to a newly published book.

A total of 2,600 murders attributed to organized crime were committed last year in Juarez, home to almost 1.5 million inhabitants. By some measures, the gritty metropolis just across the Rio Grande from El Paso has the world’s highest homicide rate.

“El Paso had been a corrupt place since the end of the 19th century. The Puritans took control there and expelled everything that sullied the image of that area to the Mexican border (region),” Mexico’s Rutilio Garcia Pereyra, author of “Ciudad Juarez la fea”(Ugly Ciudad Juarez), told Efe.

He says the process was reinforced after World War I when the United States adopted Prohibition.

“After the dry laws, none of the 150 canteens that had once been in El Paso remained. All were moved to Juarez, where they continued to operate with the same owners and the same rationale,” the author said.


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#207 Mar 6, 2010
Woman Caught With Counterfeit Inspection Stickers

Reported by: Polo Sandoval

WESLACO - A 57-year-old Reynosa woman is behind bars. She's accused of trying to smuggle hundreds of counterfeit inspection stickers into the country.

CHANNEL 5 NEWS asked licensed inspection stations what the stickers really mean.

Inspectors tell us they do a thorough inspection of each vehicle, before issuing the sticker.

Once the sticker is issued, they scan it electronically and send the information to the state.

Each sticker is issued by the state of Texas, and must be accounted for.

Investigators fear the bogus stickers could be being sold illegally and putting dangerous vehicles on the streets.

Texas Department of Safety investigators say they are working to find out where the counterfeit stickers were made.

The woman arrested faces felony charges of possesion of fraudulant documents.


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