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.ELSEWHERE IN TEXAS: Border Patrol agents in rural Starr County found nearly 3000 pounds of marijuana in a van with Dish Network markings that they stopped and searched.
The bloody fight ensued on Mother’s Day when marines were patrolling the area in boats when they found the camp, officials said in a statement released Monday.
Upon seeing the marines, Zeta gunmen opened fire. A dozen cartel members were killed in the battle. One marine died, as well.
Officials noted no arrests after the shootout, but said they seized 19 firearms, including a Barrett .50-caliber sniper rifle and a 5.56 mm machine gun. Marines also seized gun magazines, ammunition, protective vests and other field equipment that was transferred to Reynosa.
Zapata County Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez said he learned of the deadly shootout when member of the local media contacted him late Monday morning. Had Mexican officials alerted their U.S. counterparts to the shootout, Gonzalez’s deputies would have been able “to react accordingly,”
The shootout capped a busy week along the northern Tamaulipas border for Mexican marines, who killed two suspected cartel gunmen Saturday afternoon in Valle Hermoso, about 25 miles south of Brownsville. Marines also seized weapons and a vehicle Thursday in Matamoros, and rescued a kidnap victim Wednesday in Camargo, across the border from Rio Grande City.
U.S. Border Patrol agents reported tha the seizure happened in the rural Starr County community of La Casita on Wednesday, April 20th.Vehicles with counterfeit commercial markings have become increasingly popular with smugglers over the past few years, leading to the occasional moments of hilarity such as this:
Court records were not immediately available but Border Patrol agents reportedly spotted a Dish Network van exiting a brushy area near the Rio Grande River.
Working on a tip that are drug smugglers are now using counterfeit vehicles from well-known companies as a cover, Border Patrol stopped the van.
Border Patrol agents reported immediately noticing a strong odor of marijuana.
Investigators looked inside and found 100 bundles with close to 3,000 pounds of marijuana worth $2.3 million dollars inside.
In another case, a truck painted with DirecTV and other markings was pulled over in a routine traffic stop in Mississippi and discovered to be carrying 786 pounds of cocaine.Of course, there are concerns that more competently 'cloned' vehicles with EMS, fire or law enforcement markings could be used by smugglers to evade scrutiny from police and the Border Patrol or terrorists to gain access to otherwise secure areas.
Police said they became suspicious because the truck carried the markings of DirecTV and several of its rivals. An 800 number on the truck's rear to report bad driving referred callers to an adult sex chat line.
CALIFORNIA: A former US Intelligence agent told An ABC affiliate in San Diego that the Shi'a Muslim terrorist group Hezbollah is setting up shop across the border in Mexico.
The former agent, referring to Shi'a Muslim terrorist group Hezbollah, added, "They certainly have had successes in big-ticket bombings."Hezbollah has already established a presence in the tri-border region of South America, where the borders of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay converge around Iguazu Falls. Mexico has also been home to a number of Lebanese migrants for the past century- some of whom have alerted Mexican and American intelligence to the possibility of Hezbollah operating in Mexico.
Some of the group's bombings include the U.S. embassy in Beirut and Israeli embassy in Argentina.
However, the group is now active much closer to San Diego.
"We are looking at 15 or 20 years that Hezbollah has been setting up shop in Mexico," the agent told 10News.
Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, U.S. policy has focused on al-Qaida and its offshoots.
"They are more shooters than thinkers … it's a lot of muscles, courage, desire but not a lot of training," the agent said, referring to al-Qaida.
Hezbollah, he said, is far more advanced.
"Their operators are far more skilled … they are the equals of Russians, Chinese or Cubans," he said. "I consider Hezbollah much more dangerous in that sense because of strategic thinking; they think more long-term."
Hezbolah has operated in South America for decades and then Central America, along with their sometime rival, sometime ally Hamas.
Now, the group is blending into Shi'a Muslim communities in Mexico, including Tijuana. Other pockets along the U.S.-Mexico border region remain largely unidentified as U.S. intelligence agencies are focused on the drug trade.
"They have had clandestine training in how to live in foreign hostile territories," the agent said.
The agent, who has spent years deep undercover in Mexico, said Hezbollah is partnering with drug organizations, but which ones is not clear at this time.
He told 10News the group receives cartel cash and protection in exchange for Hezbollah expertise.
"From money laundering to firearms training and explosives training," the agent said.
For example, he tracked, along with Mexican intelligence, two Hezbollah operatives in safe houses in Tijuana and Durango.
In recent years, the DEA has claimed that Hezbollah has utilized the same network of drug traffickers, gun runners and document forgers that the Mexican cartels use.
ARIZONA: An 18-month investigation by the DEA, Arizona Department of Public Safety and Tribal Police has resulted in 25 arrests and highlighting the scope of the Sinaloa cartel's operations along the Mexican border in Arizona's Tohono O'Odham Indian Reservation southwest of Tuscon.
The vast Sonoran desert is the expressway for drug smugglers to get their goods into the U.S.
DEA agent, Todd Scott says, "You've got a clear line of sight all the way here to the roads that they coordinate with smuggling loads on. Continue that way a little further that way and you've got Mexico."
Scott stood on a spot known as a spider hole. It's on the Tohono O'odham Nation where you can easily see 10 miles out on a clear day, "It allows you to observe law enforcement whether it's border patrol or TOPD , DEA anybody operating in this area from this position," says Scott.
This is where Mexico's Sinaloa drug cartel hides surveillance teams. People live there 30 to 60 days at a time.
Scott says they act as air traffic controllers, "The smuggling loads come across in either human mule trains or vehicles and the scouts here use night vision goggles or binoculars coordinate those movements of those loads with the radios."
AP Photo/ Matt YorkELSEWHERE IN ARIZONA- *GILA BEND*: Two Border Patrol agents were killed in Gila Bend earlier this month when their vehicle collided with a Union Pacific freight train while pursuing suspected drug traffickers.
Early Thursday, U.S. Border Patrol agents Edward Rojas Jr. and Hector Clark were stationed near Gila Bend, on assignment with a task force, when they got a call about marijuana smugglers moving toward Interstate 8.Agents Clark and Rojas were the first Border Patrol agents killed in the line of duty since the December 2010 shooting of Brian Terry outside of Nogales, AZ. After the wreck, deputies from the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office recovered 300 pounds of marijuana and detained eight suspects a few hundred yards from the crash site.
Even veteran officers talk about the adrenaline rush that comes with such a call, which causes a sort of tunnel vision. Rojas and Clark sped west on a frontage road parallel to railroad tracks, slightly ahead of a freight train going in the same direction at over 60 mph.
The conductor and engineer would later tell investigators that they sounded the locomotive whistle several times. Suddenly, the agents' vehicle turned left onto a private rail crossing, immediately in front of the 4,600-ton train.
*PHOENIX*: The DEA is refusing to turn over a cache of semiautomatic rifles seized in a raid earlier this month to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms when a routine check on some of the weapons revealed that they were obtained under the ATF's watch as part of Operation Fast & Furious.
The federal drug agents discovered the AK-47-type assault rifles wrapped in cellophane and hidden inside two giant trash barrels. Agents believe the confiscated weapons were heading to drug cartels in Mexico. Problem is, a serial number on at least one of the weapons traces back to the ATF.The DEA arrests took place on April 13 and the DEA has expressed an interest in keeping the seized weapons as evidence in their own case and separate from the now infamous Fast and Furious investigation.
Agencia Guatemalteca Noticias PhotoGUATEMALA: At least 27 people were massacred at a ranch in the restive northern Peten province along the borders with Mexico and Belize last weekend.
The massacre, which stretched from Saturday into Sunday, took place on a coconut farm in the lawless region of Peten province, a porous region on the Mexican border known as a gateway for drug trafficking.Authorities in Guatemala arrested a former member of the Kaibiles, a special operations unit of the Guatemalan Army, in neighboring Alta Verapaz province after coming across information left behind in a recently abandoned Zetas encampment in the same province where the ranch massacre took place. Hugo Gomez Vazquez was arraigned in court and charged with obstruction of justice, kidnapping, extortion and accesory to murder. The prosecution presented a recording of a telephone conversation where Vazquez was apparently negotiating a ransom after the abduction of a relative of the ranch's owner who was later killed and decapitated prior to last weekend's massacre.
It was one of the worst mass killings since the end of Guatemala's 36-year civil war in 1996, authorities said.
Police were investigating a link between the ranch killings and the murder of Haroldo Leon, the brother of one of Guatemala's biggest drug kingpins, Juan Jose "Juancho" Leon, who was killed in 2008.
Local reports said the ranch belonged to Haroldo Leon, who was gunned down with three of his body guards in another part of Peten early Saturday.
Hours later, heavily armed members of Mexico's Los Zetas drug gang raided the ranch, tying up their victims before killing them and then writing in blood threatening messages on the walls of the house, cops said.
One of the messages read, "Salguero, we're coming for you." Police did not say who Salguero was.
Police said that the victims - including two women and children - worked at the farm.
Late Sunday, authorities said they found one survivor of the massacre, who had pretended to be dead. Cops didn't release any other details about the survivor.
Three other Guatemalan nationals suspected of involvement in the massacre were arrested in the city of Quetzalenango on Saturday.
Investigators are also looking into ties between the owner of the ranch, Otto Salguiero, and Mexico's Gulf Cartel. Peten's location along the porous borders with Mexico and Belieze make it an attractive venue for smugglers. Guatemala's president declared a state of siege in nearby Alta Verapaz province in late 2010 after the Zetas began infiltrating the region and setting up staging areas and clandestine airstrips.
AP Photo, Marco UgarteTAMAULIPAS: Mexican federal police arrested a leading member of the Gulf cartel after raiding his birthday party at a ranch in Reynosa, Tamaulipas.
Gilberto Barragan Balderas "is considered one of the main leaders of the Gulf Cartel" and is the subject of a $5 million reward by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, said Ramon Pequeno, head of anti-drug operations for the federal police.According to the DEA, Balderas' duties included obtaining advanced information regarding military and state police patrols and mobile checkpoints in order to protect drug shipments for both the Zetas and the Gulf cartel prior to the organizations violent 2010 split. Since then, he was supposedly tasked with defending the territory from any Zetas incursion.
Barragan Balderas was allegedly in charge of the cartel's operations in Miguel Aleman, across the border from Roma, Texas. Police captured him at a party at a ranch near another border city, Reynosa, which is across from McAllen, Texas.
Police said the party was apparently in honor of Barragan Balderas' May 19 birthday. Two alleged associates were also arrested in the raid, which also netted an assault rifle and three pistols.
The fact that the DEA has a US$5 million reward out for Balderas is a pretty good indicator that he wasn't exactly a small fry in the Gulf organization.
ELSEWHERE IN MEXICO: Not surprisingly, human trafficking continues to be a lucrative side business for many of the drug cartels.
Smuggling in decades past was the business of small independent operators who helped migrants cross once they reached the U.S. border. But evading U.S. authorities has become much more difficult with increased border enforcement in recent years. At the same time, Mexico's migrant routes have become much more dangerous, controlled by drug gangs that see new moneymaking opportunities in kidnapping and extorting those who cross their territory.Added to all this is the fact that organizations like the Zetas or Gulf cartel will target the migrants transiting through territory controlled by them and extort them, hold them for ransom or press them into service as drug mules.
The harder the trip, the higher the price. Guatemalan officials, who estimate 300 to 500 undocumented nationals cross the border each day into Mexico, say those migrants are paying double what they did two years ago, as much as $10,000 for the hope of gaining work in the United States.
Unlike those running drugs, guns or other contraband, people smugglers lose virtually no upfront costs when migrants are intercepted by authorities or escape.
In the case of Mexico's southern border, no one can say exactly who the organized smuggling groups are. Some say that large transport rings operate separately from Mexico's brutal drug gangs, such as the Zetas or the Gulf Cartel, who stick to kidnapping and extortion.
Some say they are all in collusion, including authorities. Both local police and federal immigration agents have been arrested in recent raids on kidnapping operations in Reynosa, across the border from McAllen, Texas.
"It's clear that they're immigration agents, federal police, Zetas, maras, the whole gamut, along with local crime groups," said the Rev. Alejandro Solalinde, a Catholic priest who runs a migrant shelter in Oaxaca. "Those who make money off migrants are all part of the same mafia."