Mexico's Drug Cartel Violence is This...
Madison

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#723 May 11, 2010
Donna Raid Led To Drug Trafficking, Money Laundering Operation

Reported by: Polo Sandoval

DONNA - Investigators say a raid in Donna led to one of the largest drug trafficking and money laundering operations in the Valley.

Eight men were arrested in last week’s raid. They were identified as David Tijerina, 41, Jesus Davila, 28, and Jaime Galvan, 29, all of Weslaco; Ramon De Luna, 53, and Jesus De Luna, 31, both of San Juan; Ramiro Gracia-Cantu, 36, and Carlos Valdez, 30, both of Edinburg; and Juan Guerra, 29, of Donna.

Federal court records were partially unsealed just today.

The men were charged with money laundering and drug trafficking. ICE agents say some of the men laundered millions of dollars in drug proceeds and helped smuggle marijuana and cocaine to other states.

The eight arrests are in addition to four others made last year.

The nine-count indictment will remain partially sealed since federal investigators expect more arrests in this case.

The eight people arrested in connection with the raid are expected in federal court Wednesday morning.

http://www.krgv.com/news/local/story/Donna-Ra...
Madison

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#724 May 11, 2010
Pickup in Arizona ditch had $1.2 million in pot

May. 11, 2010
Associated Press

TUCSON - An abandoned vehicle found Monday in southeastern Arizona held 1,500 pounds of pot worth more than $1.2 million.

The U.S. Border Patrol said Tuesday its agents assigned to the Willcox Station found a pickup truck in a ditch.

Inside the truck, agents found 74 bundles of marijuana. A search of the area did not lead to smugglers or more drugs.

The Border Patrol said its Tucson sector has recovered over a half million pounds of marijuana valued at $441 million between Oct. 1, 2009 and April 30.

http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2010/0...
Madison

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#725 May 11, 2010
Man shot near Guadalupe main plaza in Valley of Juárez

By Daniel Borunda
El Paso Times
Posted: 05/11/2010

A man was shot and killed this morning in front of the main plaza in the village of Guadalupe in the Valley of Juárez, Chihuahua state police said.
Shortly before 10 a.m., the man was shot multiple times by gunmen using an AK-47 and other firearms. The victim was in the passenger seat of a gray 1984 Ford-150 pickup, police said. The man had not been identified but appeared to be 45 to 50 years of age.

In Juárez, assailants fired 83 rounds in an attack that killed Ricardo Martinez Covarrubias, 39, state police said.

Police said Martinez was in a brown Nissan Altima when he was attacked at about 8:45 a.m. this morning in the area of Calle Lago Manitoba and Avenida de la Raza in the Mascareñas area.

http://www.elpasotimes.com/newupdated/ci_1506...
Madison

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#726 May 11, 2010
Police confirm bodies found were Juárez wedding kidnapping victims

By Aileen B. Flores
El Paso Times
Posted: 05/11/2010

Chihuahua state police confirmed Tuesday that three of the four bodies found in the back of a pickup truck in east Juárez on Monday were those of the U.S. citizens abducted during a wedding last week.
Police identified the victims as the groom Rafael Morales Valencia, 29; his brother Jaime Morales Valencia, 25; and their uncle Guadalupe Morales Arriola, 51. The identity of the fourth victim was not released.

The Morales were taken away after gunmen burst into the wedding ceremony on Friday evening at El Señor de la Misericordia Catholic church. Family members said the men are U.S. citizens from La Mesa, N.M., halfway between El Paso and Las Cruces.

http://www.elpasotimes.com/newupdated/ci_1506...
Madison

“Enforce our Immigration Laws!”

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#727 May 11, 2010
Border agents find $1.2M of pot near Willcox

The Associated Press
May 11, 2010

An abandoned vehicle found Monday in southeastern Arizona held 1,500 pounds of pot worth more than $1.2 million.

The U.S. Border Patrol said Tuesday its agents assigned to the Willcox Station found a pickup truck in a ditch.

Inside the truck, agents found 74 bundles of marijuana. A search of the area did not lead to smugglers or more drugs.

The Border Patrol said its Tucson sector has recovered over a half million pounds of marijuana valued at $441 million between Oct. 1, 2009 and April 30.

http://azstarnet.com/news/local/border/articl...
Madison

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#728 May 11, 2010
PD: Routine traffic stop leads to cache of drugs, cash, guns

Reported by: Deborah Stocks
VIDEO

PHOENIX -- Police say a routine traffic stop led to the discovery of a cache of drugs and weapons in a north Phoenix apartment Sunday.

Phoenix police say officers stopped a vehicle near 58th and Grand avenues for a minor violation and after getting permission to search the vehicle found a "significant" amount of cocaine and a rental agreement for a truck in the 10,000 block of N. 7th Street.

The suspects, Rogelio Flores, 20, and Juan Jose Perez-Castro, 26, were arrested on drug charges.

Officers went to the address on the truck rental agreement to make contact with the occupants.

When no one answered, officers spoke again with the two suspects and gathered probable cause to obtain a search warrant for the apartment.

According to police, no suspects were found in the apartment during the initial search, but officers did see what appeared to be illegal drugs and weapons in plain view.

A second search warrant was obtained and police seized about two pounds of cocaine, about 13 pounds of heroine, marijuana, assault rifles, hand guns, ammunition, and thousand of dollars in cash.

Police credit the patrol officers, who they say immediately recognized the need for follow up investigations stemming from a "routine" traffic stop.

http://www.abc15.com/content/news/phoenixmetr...
Madison

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#729 May 12, 2010
Man shot near Guadalupe main plaza in Valley of Juárez

By Daniel Borunda
El Paso Times
05/11/2010

A man was shot and killed this morning in front of the main plaza in the village of Guadalupe in the Valley of Juárez, Chihuahua state police said.
Shortly before 10 a.m., the man was shot multiple times by gunmen using an AK-47 and other firearms. The victim was in the passenger seat of a gray 1984 Ford-150 pickup, police said. The man had not been identified but appeared to be 45 to 50 years of age.

In Juárez, assailants fired 83 rounds in an attack that killed Ricardo Martinez Covarrubias, 39, state police said.

Police said Martinez was in a brown Nissan Altima when he was attacked at about 8:45 a.m. this morning in the area of Calle Lago Manitoba and Avenida de la Raza in the Mascareñas area.

http://www.elpasotimes.com/news/ci_15062223...
Madison

“Enforce our Immigration Laws!”

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#730 May 12, 2010
Police find pile of bodies in northern Mexico

May. 12, 2010
Associated Press

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico - Mexican prosecutors say a pile of five bodies has been found in a northern city near the U.S. border, with two other corpses discovered nearby.

The seven dead are all apparently young men who were shot or tortured to death.

The Chihuahua state attorney general's office says two men were found dead early Wednesday with their heads bound in duct tape in Nuevo Casas Grandes.

Five more bodies bearing signs of torture and bullet wounds were discovered piled up in another part of town.

Cartridges found at the scene were from 9 mm weapons frequently used by Mexico's drug gangs.

More than 22,700 people have been killed in drug violence since the government began its offensive against cartels in late 2006.

http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2010/0...
Madison

“Enforce our Immigration Laws!”

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#731 May 13, 2010
Mexican candidate killed in drug-plagued region

May. 13, 2010
Associated Press

MEXICO CITY - Gunmen killed a candidate for mayor Thursday in a northern border region where his party says politicians are too scared to run for office because of death threats and rampant drug gang violence.

Jose Mario Guajardo was gunned down in the offices of his agricultural supplies company, along with his son and an employee, said Francisco Garza, leader of the National Action Party in Tamaulipas state.

Guajardo was running on the party's ticket for mayor of Valle Hermoso, a town about 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of Brownsville, Texas.

It was unclear who killed Guajardo or why. The Tamaulipas state government confirmed his killing in a brief statement.

Leaders of National Action - the center-right party of President Felipe Calderon - had warned recently of trouble recruiting candidates for three mayorships and two other local posts in Tamaulipas because many politicians are too scared to run in the July 4 elections.

Nine other states are also holding elections that day for governors, mayors and other local posts.

Violence has swept Tamaulipas recently amid a fierce turf battle between the Gulf cartel and its former ally, the Zetas gang. Federal troops, deployed to the state under Calderon's nationwide offensive against cartels, have come under systematic attack, and civilians have increasingly been caught in the crossfire.

Jose Julian Sacramento, the National Action candidate for Tamaulipas governor, said recently that several candidates had been threatened. He said he and party leaders were discussing the possibility of letting candidates run without campaigning.

"We've been left without candidates because of the fear of organized crime," Sacramento told the Mexican newspaper El Universal.

At a news conference, Garza, the state party leader, declined to comment on the possible motive for Guajardo's killing.

"Authorities must tell us what is happening. We want them to investigate and give us an answer," he said.

Mexico has long struggled to keep organized crime from infiltrating politics. Twelve mayors in the Pacific coast state of Michoacan were arrested last year for allegedly protecting a drug cartel, though most have been let go for lack of evidence. Last week, an ex-governor of eastern Quintana Roo state was extradited to the U.S. on drug trafficking charges.

Calderon stepped up the battle against Mexico's brutal drug cartels after taking office in December 2006, deploying thousands of troops and federal police across the country. Drug gang violence has surged since then, claiming more than 22,700 lives.

http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2010/0...
Madison

“Enforce our Immigration Laws!”

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#732 May 13, 2010
AP IMPACT: US drug war has met none of its goals

Posted 5/13/2010
By Martha Mendoza,
Associated Press Writer

MEXICO CITY — After 40 years, the United States' war on drugs has cost $1 trillion and hundreds of thousands of lives, and for what? Drug use is rampant and violence even more brutal and widespread.
Even U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske concedes the strategy hasn't worked.

"In the grand scheme, it has not been successful," Kerlikowske told The Associated Press. "Forty years later, the concern about drugs and drug problems is, if anything, magnified, intensified."

This week President Obama promised to "reduce drug use and the great damage it causes" with a new national policy that he said treats drug use more as a public health issue and focuses on prevention and treatment.

Nevertheless, his administration has increased spending on interdiction and law enforcement to record levels both in dollars and in percentage terms; this year, they account for $10 billion of his $15.5 billion drug-control budget.

Kerlikowske, who coordinates all federal anti-drug policies, says it will take time for the spending to match the rhetoric.

"Nothing happens overnight," he said. "We've never worked the drug problem holistically. We'll arrest the drug dealer, but we leave the addiction."

His predecessor, John P. Walters, takes issue with that.

Walters insists society would be far worse today if there had been no War on Drugs. Drug abuse peaked nationally in 1979 and, despite fluctuations, remains below those levels, he says. Judging the drug war is complicated: Records indicate marijuana and prescription drug abuse are climbing, while cocaine use is way down. Seizures are up, but so is availability.

"To say that all the things that have been done in the war on drugs haven't made any difference is ridiculous," Walters said. "It destroys everything we've done. It's saying all the people involved in law enforcment, treatment and prevention have been wasting their time. It's saying all these people's work is misguided."
(continued)

http://content.usatoday.net/dist/custom/gci/I...
Madison

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#733 May 14, 2010
Killings of gays increase in Mexico, report says.

MEXICO CITY (AP)— Killings of gays and lesbians have risen in Mexico despite a government tolerance campaign and a law legalizing same-sex marriage in the capital, according to a report released Thursday by a coalition of civic groups.

A review of more than 70 newspapers in 11 Mexican states found an average of nearly 30 killings a year motivated by homophobia between 1995 and 2000, compared to nearly 60 a year between 2001 and 2009, the report said.

Ricardo Bucio, president of the government’s National Council for the Prevention of Discrimination, backed the report, saying it gave visibility to a lingering problem.

The government launched a radio campaign in 2005 to promote tolerance of homosexuals.

In December, the Mexico City legislature approved the first law in Latin America explicitly giving gay marriages the same status as heterosexual ones. The legislation, affecting only the capital, also allows same-sex couples to adopt children.

Mexico City’s annual gay pride parade draws tens of thousands of people, and in some neighborhoods gays openly hold hands.

But violence against gays seems to have increased as more become public about their sexual orientation, said Alejandro Brito, director of Letter S, one of the groups that released the report.

Mexico City had the most homophobia-motivated killings, with 144 between 1995 and 2009, according to the report.

Despite the federal government’s push to promote tolerance, President Felipe Calderon’s conservative administration campaigned against the Mexico City law allowing same-sex marriage.

http://www.svherald.com/content/2010/05/13/ki...
Madison

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#734 May 14, 2010
Mexican police question, release drug lord's wife

MEXICO CITY (AP)— The wife of Mexico’s most-wanted drug lord was questioned and released after she was found during raids on seven houses linked to the fugitive trafficker, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, prosecutors said Thursday.

The Attorney General’s Office said Griselda Lopez Perez was in one of the houses raided Wednesday and was taken to the offices of investigative police, where she made a statement and was let go early Thursday.

The office did not reveal the contents of her statement, but said it had no outstanding warrants or criminal cases open against Lopez Perez, or an alias she allegedly was known by, Karla Perez Rojo.

She has been identified by authorities as Guzman’s wife since at least 2002.

Authorities said they seized six of the seven houses as well as seven luxury vehicles, computer equipment and five safes containing jewelry. It was not clear if any of that property belonged to Lopez Perez.

The combined raids by police, soldiers and prosecutors’ agents were carried out in at least four upscale neighborhoods in the northern city of Culiacan. The city is the capital of Sinaloa state, long considered the cradle of Mexico’s most powerful drug lords.

Guzman, head of the Sinaloa cartel, has reportedly built alliances with other cartels and trafficking gangs stretching along the country’s northern border region and is reportedly leading an offensive against the rival Zetas gang.

He has long been reported to hide out and operate in the mountains of Sinaloa.

The government has traditionally denied it pursues relatives of drug suspects unless they are suspected of involvement in crimes.

Last August, prosecutors released the mother of reputed La Familia drug cartel leader Servando “La Tuta” Gomez after holding her two days.

His gang had threatened to retaliate against police if they bothered his family; federal police suffered violent attacks in the cartel’s home state of Michoacan both before and after the mother’s detention.

The Mexican army also reported Thursday that it had detained five suspected cartel gunmen with assault rifles and hand grenades in the northern state of Chihuahua, after troops came under fire from the group. The soldiers also destroyed an opium poppy field of about one acre (½ hectare).

http://www.svherald.com/content/2010/05/13/me...
Madison

“Enforce our Immigration Laws!”

Since: Dec 06

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#735 May 14, 2010
Former Federal Police Officer Gunned Down in Mexico

Reported by: Lisa Cortez
VIDEO

REYNOSA - Reports out of Mexico say the Director of Public Works for the city of Reynosa was gunned down today in his truck.

Roberto Ramos was gunned down this afternoon a few blocks west of the Reynosa Hidalgo International Bridge.

Authorities have not released any solid information on why Ramos was targeted,
but do say he was a former Federal Police Officer.

Mexican authorities are looking for those responsible.

http://www.topix.com/forum/news/immigration/T...
Madison

“Enforce our Immigration Laws!”

Since: Dec 06

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#736 May 14, 2010
Fear of Violence in Mexico Impacting Businesses

Reported by: Camaron Abundes
5/13/2010
VIDEO

BROWNSVILLE - Fear is now a constant issue for business owners in the Valley.

They tell CHANNEL 5 NEWS they're concerned their businesses will go broke.

"Once you have that fear factor no body is moving. No body is going in and out. It's really scary," says Angel Gonzalez

Gonzalez has owned the same fabric store for the past 42 years.

He says he thinks the fear is keeping people from crossing the border, and shoppers out of his store.

http://www.krgv.com/news/local/story/Fear-of-...
Madison

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#737 May 16, 2010
6 killed in shooting near kindergarten in Mexico.

MEXICO CITY (AP)— Gunmen killed six men Friday and wounded two more in a drive-by shooting near a kindergarten in a northern Mexico region besieged by drug gang battles.

Gunmen in a car opened fire on a van carrying eight men, Chihuahua state prosecutors’ spokesman Arturo Sandoval said. Investigators said more than 100 shots were fired at the scene, on a highway in Loma Blanca, a small town outside the border city of Ciudad Juarez.

Dozens of children were outside the nearby school for recess. The children panicked but no one was hurt

Towns outside Ciudad Juarez, which sits across from El Paso, Texas, have been terrorized by shootings and torching of homes. Many residents have fled, often heading across the border into the U.S.

Also Friday, police in the southern state of Chiapas reported that four policemen were killed and two others seriously wounded when gunmen attacked a convoy carrying payments for a government anti-poverty program.

Police were able to drive off the assailants, who blocked the road with rocks and opened fire on the government vehicles Thursday. The gunmen were apparently trying to rob the payroll of Oportunidades, a government cash-support program for poor families.

Also Friday, prosecutors said a federal judge ordered two Colombians to stand trial on money laundering charges. They were arrested at Mexico City’s international airport May 4 as they allegedly prepared to board a flight to Panama trying to smuggle out more than $350,000 in cash in various currencies.

http://www.svherald.com/content/2010/05/13/6-...
Madison

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#738 May 16, 2010
Former Mexico presidential candidate missing.

MEXICO CITY (AP)— A former Mexican presidential candidate who has remained a power broker in the ruling party was missing amid signs of violence, the federal Attorney General’s Office said Saturday.

Prosecutors said that the car of Diego Fernandez de Cevallos was found near his ranch in the central state of Queretaro. It said some of his belongings were found inside the car as well as unspecified “signs of violence.”

The Mexican newspaper El Universal reported that federal sources said Fernandez de Cevallos had been kidnapped, but a federal prosecutor’s spokeswoman said she could not confirm that.

Queretaro state Attorney General Arsenio Duran told the radio station Formato 21 that investigators found some of Fernandez de Cevallos’ belongings inside the car and a small pair of scissors with traces of blood on the ground near the car.

Duran said a night watchman told police Fernandez de Cevallos was supposed to arrive to his ranch in the town of Pedro Escobedo on Friday night but that he never made it.

Relatives who had planned to have breakfast with him Saturday morning reported him missing, Duran said. Relatives told authorities no one had contacted them to ask for a ransom.

Fernandez de Cevallos, 69, was the 1994 presidential candidate of the National Action Party that now governs Mexico and he has continued to be an influential figure, as well as one of Mexico’s most successful attorneys.

The bearded, cigar-chomping candidate emerged from relative obscurity during Mexico’s first televised debate by presidential candidates in 1994, striking a chord with the middle class with his calls to topple the Institutional Revolutionary Party, which had held power since 1929.

He finished second to Ernesto Zedillo that year, but his party finally won the presidency six years later when Vicente Fox was elected.

President Felipe Calderon said in a statement he has ordered federal authorities to help Querataro state investigators in the search for Fernandez de Cevallos, calling him “a key politician in the Mexican transition to democracy.”

Fernandez de Cevallos became an elder statesman for the party, a power broker who split his time between Mexico’s Senate and his practice as an attorney for some of Mexico’s richest businesses.

He shrugged off critics’ allegations that there was a conflict of interest in representing companies that won lucrative lawsuits against the government while serving in Congress.

Fernandez de Cevallos’ father helped found the PAN in 1939.

One of 15 children, Fernandez de Cevallos grew up in the central state of Queretaro and eventually joined law firms linked to some of the PAN’s founders, creating ties that continued throughout his life. He was a close friend of several senior Cabinet ministers, including current Interior Secretary Fernando Gomez-Mont.

Kidnappers often target the wealthy in Mexico but rarely go after such high-ranking politicians or public officials.

http://www.svherald.com/content/2010/05/15/fo...
Madison

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#739 May 16, 2010
Candidates threatened in local Mexico elections.

MEXICO CITY (AP)— One candidate was gunned down with his son inside his business. Another is missing after assailants torched her home. In some towns near the U.S. border, parties can’t find anyone to run for mayor.

The violence is intensifying fear that Mexico’s drug cartels could control July 4 local elections in 10 states by supporting candidates who cooperate with organized crime and killing or intimidating those who don’t.

Nowhere has the intimidation been worse than in the border state of Tamaulipas, where Mexican soldiers are trying to control an intensifying turf battle between the Gulf cartel and its former ally, the Zetas gang.

Gunmen burst into the farm supplies business of Jose Guajardo Varela Thursday and killed him and his son, after he ignored warnings to drop his bid for mayor of Valle Hermosa, a town about 30 miles (50 kilometers) south of Brownsville, Texas.

“Organized crime wants to have total control over local elections,” said Carlos Alberto Perez, a federal lawmaker for Calderon’s conservative National Action Party, known as the PAN.

On Saturday, authorities said former Mexican presidential candidate Diego Fernandez de Cevallos had disappeared, and his abandoned car was found near his ranch in the central state of Queretaro. Officials said there were indications of violence but could not confirm if the 69-year-old attorney and power broker, who ran unsuccessfully for president on a PAN in 1994, had been kidnapped.

The election climate highlights how difficult it is to stop drug gangs from controlling Mexican elections, because the influence doesn’t normally appear as campaign contributions.

The federal government makes it difficult to for drug money to infiltrate national and local campaigns with lavish public financing, free television and radio ads, and tight restrictions on private donations. No candidate has been charged with receiving donations from drug traffickers since Calderon took office in 2006.

Instead, candidates have rumored ties to cartels that predate their campaigns and that benefit their businesses or private lives in a country that bans consecutive terms.

Such ties are hard to prove.

When 12 mayors from President Felipe Calderon’s home state of Michoacan were arrested on charges of protecting the La Familia cartel last year, all but two were released for lack of evidence — a blow to Calderon’s attack on political corruption.
(continued)

http://www.svherald.com/content/2010/05/15/ca...
Madison

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#740 May 16, 2010
Gunmen kill 8 at bar in northern Mexico.

PIEDRAS NEGRAS, Mexico (AP)— Authorities in northern Mexico say gunmen opened fire on a bar in the city of Torreon. Eight people are dead and 20 wounded.

Coahuila state prosecutors say at least six gunmen arrived before dawn Saturday at a bar that was being inaugurated in the city of Torreon and started shooting.

Prosecutors say no arrests have been made and that a motive for the attack has not been determined.

Coahuila state in northeast Mexico has seen a spike in drug-related violence that authorities attribute to a fight between the Gulf cartel and former enforcers known as the Zetas.

Drug-related violence in Mexico has claimed more than 22,700 lives President Felipe Calderon launched a crackdown against drug traffickers in December 2006.

http://www.svherald.com/content/2010/05/15/gu...
Madison

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#741 May 16, 2010
Ramón Rentería: Prayers go out to find a solution to violence

By Ramón Rentería
El Paso Times
05/16/2010

EL PASO -- A young Mexican, perhaps in his mid-20s, said the other day that Juárez is still standing.

"Juárez does not need to rise," he said. "It never fell."

This young man was among young Juárez Catholics who came to the Chamizal National Memorial to participate in Rosa Guerrero's day of prayer for Juárez, a city changed by horrific violence.

The event was poorly attended, considering that it was well-publicized and that a few thousand churches exist in El Paso.

But the couple hundred people who did show up were a reflection of El Paso, the colorful tapestry that Rosa, an educator and powerful voice for peace and harmony on the border, often talks about.

The audience was white, black and brown. Anglos, African-Americans, Chicanos, Mexican-Americans and Mexicans from both sides of the border brought together to advocate for peace, hope and security in Juárez, a city where the culture of death and violence has become an unfortunate daily fact of life.

One by one, the speakers reflected on the lack of respect for life in Juárez.

Guerrero reminded us that "we are one people, one river, one border, one human race." City Rep. Susie Byrd made an emotional plea for peace. State Sen. Eliot Shapleigh said he visited Juárez and saw entire neighborhoods empty.

Another woman described Juárez as a city of God, a city of faithful, hopeful and hard-working people longing for peace, people praying for the violence and strife to end.

But it was the young man from Juárez who made the most impassioned speech.
"As Catholic youth, we cannot accept the culture of death," he said. "We want to give hope to those who live in fear, anguish and indignation because of the violence that affects our population and, in particular, young people."

And he pointed to the causes of so much pain in Juárez: corruption, impunity, lack of opportunities and lack of respect for life.

As he urged young people to help reconstruct the social fabric of Juárez and urged public officials to abandon their personal agendas and do more for Juárez in general, you could not help but think of the crying mothers we see daily on the Juárez newscasts.

And you see the anguish, the frustration in the faces of the television anchors and street reporters who cover and report the bloodshed day in and day out.

And you can't help but think of the long-term psychological damage that's being done to a whole generation of young people.

As you sit on the slopes of the bowl in the Chamizal, listening to all these people filled with hope and prayer, you become a bit sadder at the realization that you miss the peaceful, embracing Juárez we all once knew.

For us on this side, secure and safe, Juárez exists only in our memories.

http://www.elpasotimes.com/ci_15095536
Madison

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#742 May 16, 2010
Crackdown is called largest of its kind by tribal authorities

O'odham police bust coke-smuggling ring

Brady McCombs
Arizona Daily Star
May 16, 2010

Tohono O'odham police arrested nine tribal members and one other person Saturday in connection with a cocaine smuggling ring.

Officials are calling it the largest drug enforcement operation in the Tohono O'odham Nation's history.

The early Saturday morning sweep of seven homes in Sells marked the culmination of a five-month, multiagency investigation that was led by the Tohono O'odham Police Department, said U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman Wyn Hornbuckle.

It was the first time tribal police officers have executed federal warrants on the Tohono O'odham Nation, said Dennis Burke, U.S. attorney for Arizona.

Tribal police recently completed training given by the U.S. Attorney's Office and the Bureau of Indian Affairs that certified officers to investigate and make arrests on federal charges, which are stiffer than tribal charges.

Burke called it a watershed moment for drug enforcement on the Tohono O'odham Nation, which stretches across 75 miles of U.S.-Mexico border and is one of the busiest drug smuggling corridors in the country.

"At the end of the day, what this says is:'Dealing drugs on Indian country is not a safe haven,' " Burke said.

Eight of the 10 arrested face federal charges of possession with intent to distribute cocaine. If convicted, those eight would each face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

Two others were arrested on state and tribal charges. Two more people whom police couldn't find Saturday are wanted on federal intent to distribute cocaine charges.

Officials now plan to interview the suspected drug smugglers in an effort to gather more information about where the drugs are coming from, how they're being smuggled north and who they are connected with south of the border.

"It will lead up the chain one way or another," Burke said.

During the investigation, which began in December, undercover agents made 39 cocaine purchases weighing a total of 250 grams from targets of the probe, authorities said.

During the Saturday sweeps of the homes, officers seized two guns (an assault rifle and a pistol), 10 vehicles, nearly 45 grams of cocaine, four computers, two big-screen TVs and marijuana and ecstasy, Hornbuckle said.

Burke credited the leadership of Tohono O'odham Nation Chairman Ned Norris Jr. to make the investigation happen.
(continued)

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