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Posted: 1/8/2006 2:16:19 PM EDT
Drug 'War Zone' Rattles U.S.-Mexico Border
Drug Groups Are Said to Be Fighting for Primacy at Laredo and Nuevo Laredo
abcnews.go.com/Nightline/International/story?id=1477964
NUEVO LAREDO, Mexico, Jan. 8, 2005 — A few weeks ago, five men were shot to death in a car repair shop in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico.

In any other city, it might be called a massacre. In Nuevo Laredo, it's called business as usual.

Across the river in Laredo, Texas, the sheriff called it something else.

"It's a war zone," said Webb County Sheriff Rick Flores. "We've got level three body armor. They've got level four. We've got cell phones. They've got satellite cell phones that we can't tap into.

"We're being outgunned," Flores added. "And that's the reason why we're concerned on this side."

The border cities of Laredo and Nuevo Laredo share four bridges across the Rio Grande, thousands of extended families and, now, the suffering caused by drug violence that, at least on the Mexico side, is out of control.

Last year in Nuevo Laredo, a city of about 500,000, the same size as Tucson, Ariz., more than 170 people were killed. Only a handful of those killings led to any arrests.

Among those slain were a city councilman, 13 police officers and the city's police chief, who had been in office seven hours when he was shot more than 50 times.

Now truckloads of federal police, similar to the U.S. National Guard, have been shipped in from across Mexico to restore some semblance of order. Last June most of the local police force was fired for being in the pockets of the drug cartels.


Drug Corridor

The federal show of force has calmed the city since a wave of particularly horrific violence last summer. But the cartels are so rich and local authorities so corrupt that no one is under any illusions that the Mexican government has them on the run. After all, they're fighting over the most lucrative drug corridor in North America, the border at Laredo, Texas.

"You have a number of the drug cartels that are in an all-out war to gain control of this area," said John Montoya of the U.S. Border Patrol. "The Laredo area is the key ingress into the United States. It's called a gateway city, not only into Mexico but into the United States as well. They use Interstate 35 to transport their illegal narcotics. They attempt to set up their infrastructure and their bases of operation not only on the Mexican side but on the U.S. side."

Each day it is estimated that more than 6,000 trucks carrying 40 percent of all Mexican exports come through Laredo. The cartels use the trucks, the warehouses and the interstate to move most of the cocaine, marijuana and methamphetamine that reaches the United States. It's a booming business worth $10 million a day, according to a senior agent at the Drug Enforcement Agency.

"By latest estimates, 92 percent of the cocaine coming into the U.S. comes in through the Southwest border," said the DEA's Rick Saldana.

The sheer viciousness of the border drug trade was made clear in a video, presumably made by one of the cartels, showing captured members of a rival gang who describe how their hit men tortured and killed those who got in their way by pouring combustibles over them and burning them with gasoline.

Saldana sees more of the same, for now.

"I think the violence will go down when one or the other cartel gets control of the area or there's a truce between the two," he said.

The area has become so traumatized with fear that the drug cartels have become the dominant institutions. They have more money, better weapons and a stronger organization than any group but the Mexican army.

The organizations that might be expected to challenge the cartels have largely given up the fight — including the mellow new police chief of Nuevo Laredo. His predecessor, who promised to crack down, was the one who lasted just seven hours before he was killed. But Omar Pimentel, who listens to rock 'n' roll in an office painted a peaceful Caribbean blue, plans to concentrate on anything but the drug violence.

"The local police department's job is to prevent robberies," he said. "People think our job is to fight the drug cartel, but it's not."

The local newspaper, El Manana, once chased the story that so dominates its backyard. Then, one of its own reporters was gunned down. It has since backed off.

"There is no guarantee that we can do our job without getting hurt," said Anna Maria Prado of El Manana.

That leaves Raymundo Ramos, who runs a tiny human rights organization, to chronicle all the bullet-ridden bodies that turn up in taco stands, car trunks and trash barrels.

"There's a lot of fear," Ramos said. "People are more worried about personal safety than the institution."


No Tourists

Still, life goes on in Nuevo Laredo, which at first glance looks like any other border town. But then you notice so many of the shops are shuttered, the cafes and bars deserted, and the American tourists nowhere to be seen.

At a high-end gift shop that caters to visitors from across the border, sales are down 80 percent from the year before.

"This last year has been a devastating year for tourism for Nuevo Laredo," said Jack Suneson, a shop owner. "It's the worst we've had on record. And we've been here for 51 years. And I've never seen it this bad. We've been through floods and fires and whatnot. But this crime wave that we hit early in this part of the year has been devastating for tourism."

In fact, more residents are voting with their feet. Their homes say "vende," for sale, as they hope for a safer life across the river in the United States.

But the deadly violence from the drug wars along this border does not stop at the Texas end of the bridge.


Americans Missing

Yvette Martinez, 27, and her friend Brenda Cisneros, 23, are among nine Americans who the FBI says have simply disappeared along the border in the last two years.

In Laredo, Martinez's mother and stepfather still wait.

"When she didn't come back, our world has been turned upside down ever since," said her stepfather, William Slemaker, who is certain Martinez was kidnapped.

Martinez and Cisneros crossed the border in September 2004 to attend a concert in Nuevo Laredo — and never came back.

"My daughter made a phone call about 4:15 in the morning," Slemaker said. "The concert finished about 3:30, 3:40. She was about five blocks from the international bridge, coming to the U.S. to have breakfast on this side. And that's the last anybody ever heard."

"At this moment, we're just waiting for a miracle, because I'm still waiting for my daughter," said his wife, Maria Slemaker. "I want to know where she is. Even if she's not here, I have the right to know. I have the right to have her here in my hands, even if she's not alive anymore."

The unsolved disappearances have frustrated American authorities, who say they have no jurisdiction in Mexico but fear the drug cartels — and even local police on their payroll — are probably involved.

In the Laredo area of Texas, the crimes have even created a growing new market for kidnapping insurance.


'No Mercy'

So far, the city of Laredo has managed avoid the spectacular shoot-outs that have so devastated its sister city across the Rio Grande. But the cartels clearly don't respect national boundaries.

Just a few weeks ago, in broad daylight, a young man was gunned down in a Laredo parking lot as his pregnant wife looked on. The ambush had all the markings of a cartel hit.

What really concerns Sheriff Flores is the level of brutality that's accompanied the cartels as they move their merchandise across the border.

"What we're seeing now is that these people have no mercy for women and children," Flores said. "You know, they're just going to hose you down along with your wife and kids. We just don't know when, God forbid, we may run into some of these people. We need to be ready."

On the Texas side, inside the border patrol's Laredo station, federal agents scan the screens that monitor dozens of thermal imaging cameras along nearly 200 miles of the border. They track the ghostly images of immigrants sneaking across the shallow Rio Grande, and watch well-worn drug routes for signs of narcotics trafficking from Nuevo Laredo.

More than a thousand border patrol agents work the Laredo section, and they seize more narcotics than any other federal agency. Just outside Laredo, checkpoints along major highways, including Interstate 35, provide a second line of defense against drugs moving north from Mexico.

But the smugglers know how to slip through by using private property to circumvent some of the border patrol check stations, Flores said.


Finger Pointing and Fear

For all the beefed-up enforcement on the border, the drug cartels appear stronger and more violent than ever. Authorities on both sides of the river give lip service to better cooperation. But, in fact, they blame each other for failing to do enough to stem the drug trafficking and its deadly consequences.

Flores points to pervasive corruption on the Mexican side, where drug cartels approach poorly paid local police with offers that they dare not refuse.

"They approach you and they tell you, 'Plata or plomo?,' " Flores said. "It means, 'Money or lead? Which one do you want?' "

But in Nuevo Laredo, many Mexicans look across the river and see a never-ending American demand for illegal drugs and a willingness to spend tens of millions of dollars on the cartels that supply them.

"If I was in Laredo, Texas, I'd be embarrassed because the drug corridor is I-35 all the way to Dallas," Nuevo Laredo shop owner Suneson said. "So if this is an easy, a lucrative corridor, this means these drugs are getting across, and the United States is not doing its job. The demand in the United States, this insatiable demand that exists, is driving this frenzy over here, and that's really the problem.

The larger problem may be a combination of American demand, Mexican supply, and a culture of corruption. The unfortunate results along the Rio Grande are one city already paralyzed by fear and another deeply worried that the deadly drug violence is steadily making its way to the American side of the border.

ABC News' Chris Bury originally reported this story for "Nightline" on Jan. 5-6, 2006.
Link Posted: 1/8/2006 2:21:49 PM EDT
Soon ??
It's been here for some time and is only going to get worse.
Link Posted: 1/8/2006 2:22:35 PM EDT
And people wonder why I'm getting the fuck outta here.....
Link Posted: 1/8/2006 2:26:49 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Zaphod:
And people wonder why I'm getting the fuck outta here.....



I think they\we were wondering why you didn't leave sooner

Link Posted: 1/8/2006 2:28:55 PM EDT
nothing to see here folks, move along. the southern border security is just fine.
Link Posted: 1/8/2006 2:29:13 PM EDT

The border cities of Laredo and Nuevo Laredo share four bridges across the Rio Grande...


Solution to problem: Blow them up. No more drug corridor, no more drug cartel violence. At least until they establish a new corridor.
Link Posted: 1/8/2006 2:31:02 PM EDT

Originally Posted By PromptCritical:

The border cities of Laredo and Nuevo Laredo share four bridges across the Rio Grande...


Solution to problem: Blow them up. No more drug corridor, no more drug cartel violence. At least until they establish a new corridor.



Which should take no more than 30 days. Nixon tried similar tactics -- wipe out the whole gang at once. They did it in several cities. It never took more than thirty days for things to be back to their previous state.

If you want a solution -- look at the similar problem during alcohol prohibition and figure out how we solved that.
Link Posted: 1/8/2006 2:40:21 PM EDT
Hooray, dont you just love the war on drugs, look at all the problems it solves....oh wait it doesnt solve a fucking thing.
Link Posted: 1/8/2006 2:49:36 PM EDT
.
Link Posted: 1/8/2006 3:08:38 PM EDT

Originally Posted By 22bad:

Originally Posted By Zaphod:
And people wonder why I'm getting the fuck outta here.....



I think they\we were wondering why you didn't leave sooner





Had to work, man.

Thank God the bitch, her cunt boss, and the screaming prick whose asshole the cunt has her tongue jammed up did what they did. God moves in mysterious ways....

You guys follow all that?
Link Posted: 1/8/2006 3:08:58 PM EDT
i know cocaine is bad and all, but i would sure prefer to see those profits going to phillip morris instead of violent mexican gangs....
Link Posted: 1/8/2006 3:13:20 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Zaphod:

Originally Posted By 22bad:

Originally Posted By Zaphod:
And people wonder why I'm getting the fuck outta here.....



I think they\we were wondering why you didn't leave sooner





Had to work, man.

Thank God the bitch, her cunt boss, and the screaming prick whose asshole the cunt has her tongue jammed up did what they did. God moves in mysterious ways....

You guys follow all that?




You coming to MN?
Link Posted: 1/8/2006 3:15:05 PM EDT

Originally Posted By OFFascist:
Hooray, dont you just love the war on drugs, look at all the problems it solves....oh wait it doesnt solve a fucking thing.




You're joking , right? The violence and murders are on the Mexican side where drugs are about as legal as they can get.
Link Posted: 1/8/2006 3:16:22 PM EDT

Originally Posted By wolfman97:


If you want a solution -- look at the similar problem during alcohol prohibition and figure out how we solved that.



As I recall, they did not solve the problem until they repealed prohibition.
Link Posted: 1/8/2006 3:17:12 PM EDT

Originally Posted By TxLawDog:

Originally Posted By OFFascist:
Hooray, dont you just love the war on drugs, look at all the problems it solves....oh wait it doesnt solve a fucking thing.




You're joking , right? The violence and murders are on the Mexican side where drugs are about as legal as they can get.



No, they're not.

Besides, they're fighting over the smuggling routes into the US, not for turf in Mexico.
Link Posted: 1/8/2006 4:06:06 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Zaphod:

Originally Posted By 22bad:

Originally Posted By Zaphod:
And people wonder why I'm getting the fuck outta here.....



I think they\we were wondering why you didn't leave sooner




Had to work, man.

Thank God the bitch, her cunt boss, and the screaming prick whose asshole the cunt has her tongue jammed up did what they did. God moves in mysterious ways....

You guys follow all that?



If it was a rough outline for a porno script, it made perfect sense
Link Posted: 1/8/2006 4:21:27 PM EDT

On the Texas side, inside the border patrol's Laredo station, federal agents scan the screens that monitor dozens of thermal imaging cameras along nearly 200 miles of the border. They track the ghostly images of immigrants sneaking across the shallow Rio Grande, and watch well-worn drug routes for signs of narcotics trafficking from Nuevo Laredo.


And if I were King, every one of those cameras would be connected to a targeting system and a .308 rifle, .50BMG rifle or minigun.

Cross the border anywhere other than an official checkpoint and the buzzards will feast on your remains.

Sorry if that sounds harsh for some but the reality is that we are being invaded, that Mexico is waging undeclared war on the United States and this nation will be toast in 10 years if something RADICAL isn't done RFN.
Link Posted: 1/8/2006 4:57:52 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 1/8/2006 4:58:05 PM EDT by OFFascist]

Originally Posted By TxLawDog:
You're joking , right? The violence and murders are on the Mexican side where drugs are about as legal as they can get.



I bet you think they are murdering each other because of drugs, and not because of the vast ammounts of money that they are worth because it is illegal.
Link Posted: 1/8/2006 5:00:36 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Zaphod:

Originally Posted By TxLawDog:

Originally Posted By OFFascist:
Hooray, dont you just love the war on drugs, look at all the problems it solves....oh wait it doesnt solve a fucking thing.




You're joking , right? The violence and murders are on the Mexican side where drugs are about as legal as they can get.



No, they're not.

Besides, they're fighting over the smuggling routes into the US, not for turf in Mexico.



It all comes down to the money.
Link Posted: 1/8/2006 5:04:26 PM EDT

Originally Posted By Zaphod:

Originally Posted By 22bad:

Originally Posted By Zaphod:
And people wonder why I'm getting the fuck outta here.....



I think they\we were wondering why you didn't leave sooner





Had to work, man.

Thank God the bitch, her cunt boss, and the screaming prick whose asshole the cunt has her tongue jammed up did what they did. God moves in mysterious ways....

You guys follow all that?



I think so...just don't kiss her goodbye
Link Posted: 1/8/2006 7:30:21 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 1/8/2006 7:31:33 PM EDT by Special-K]

Originally Posted By pale_pony:

Originally Posted By Zaphod:

Originally Posted By TxLawDog:

Originally Posted By OFFascist:
Hooray, dont you just love the war on drugs, look at all the problems it solves....oh wait it doesnt solve a fucking thing.




You're joking , right? The violence and murders are on the Mexican side where drugs are about as legal as they can get.



No, they're not.

Besides, they're fighting over the smuggling routes into the US, not for turf in Mexico.



It all comes down to the money.



Yes, it's all about the money. That's why they're here, because they can get jobs here that American's wont do and make a little bit of money to support their families with.


-K
Link Posted: 1/8/2006 8:34:05 PM EDT

"By latest estimates, 92 percent of the cocaine coming into the U.S. comes in through the Southwest border," said the DEA's Rick Saldana.


I guess THIS is why the government won't lock down the border
Link Posted: 1/8/2006 8:41:06 PM EDT
Point south
rinse and repeat
Link Posted: 1/8/2006 8:58:15 PM EDT

Originally Posted By 22bad:

"By latest estimates, 92 percent of the cocaine coming into the U.S. comes in through the Southwest border," said the DEA's Rick Saldana.


I guess THIS is why the government won't lock down the border



Well, this situation is rapidly coming to a head, like that super-zit you had when you were 14.

When it pops, you don't want to be in the same room with it.

Country's about toast.
Link Posted: 1/8/2006 11:18:05 PM EDT

Originally Posted By samsong:

Originally Posted By 22bad:

"By latest estimates, 92 percent of the cocaine coming into the U.S. comes in through the Southwest border," said the DEA's Rick Saldana.


I guess THIS is why the government won't lock down the border



Well, this situation is rapidly coming to a head, like that super-zit you had when you were 14.

When it pops, you don't want to be in the same room with it.

Country's about toast.



I wonder WHAT the Citizens will eventually do, and how long it will take them to get around to it
Link Posted: 1/9/2006 12:16:16 AM EDT
legalize it, problem solved.
Link Posted: 1/9/2006 12:37:12 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Gunplay:
legalize it, problem solved.



NOT
Link Posted: 1/9/2006 12:50:24 AM EDT

Originally Posted By Da_Bunny:

Originally Posted By Gunplay:
legalize it, problem solved.



NOT



Aw, c'mon man. Don't be a square.
Link Posted: 1/9/2006 1:55:59 AM EDT

Originally Posted By PromptCritical:

The border cities of Laredo and Nuevo Laredo share four bridges across the Rio Grande...


Solution to problem: Blow them up. No more drug corridor, no more drug cartel violence. At least until they establish a new corridor.



When I was flying in the USAF, going from the aux field at Laredo to LAFB at Del Rio TX, you flew right up the Rio Grande, at 2000ft AGL.

The river was so shallow you could drive across it with a 4WD in some spots. We'd often see dozens of illegals walking across the river.

Really curious what it's like flying there now, with all that gunfire going on. Maybe some battle damage repair work on tweets and T-38s? The tweet was built like a tank, but the T-38 a lot less so.
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