Thursday, October 7, 2010

Why Mexican 'pirates' are targeting US tourists on Falcon Lake

The attack that allegedly killed the missing American tourist David Hartley on Sept. 30 while he was jet-skiing with his wife was not the first such incident on the 60-mile-long body of water straddling the United States and Mexico. According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, gunmen armed with AK-47s and AR-15 rifles have attacked US tourists on Lake Falcon in a string of robberies in recent months. Using Argos-type fishing boats, some attackers are dressed as Mexican police, while others have used crude duct-taped signs to disguise their boats as Texas Parks and Wildlife vessels, according to victims' reports.

Since April 30, five incidents of armed robberies or attempted theft have been reported on Falcon Lake: one in April, two in May, and one in August. The fifth ambush allegedly ended in gunfire last week with the possible death of Mr. Hartley. “This is a new situation where [drug-trafficking] groups feel they own public spaces,” says Humberto Palomares, a security expert at the Tamaulipas campus of the Colegio de Frontera Norte (COLEF). Targeting US tourists on an international reservoir is just another sign that the cartels feel more in control of swaths of Mexican territory and don’t have to hide in wait for moments to strike, Mr. Palomares says. Lurking in the night. So dangerous is Lake Falcon, in fact, that Mexican law enforcement refuses to patrol it at night.

Mexican authorities have been searching Falcon Lake since Thursday for the body of Mr. Hartley. Their search is hampered in part by the danger of the lake, says Juan Antonio Jara, a Tamaulipas state prosecutor in the Miguel Aleman municipality office. Once it starts getting dark, he says, police and investigators must return to shore because "it's a high risk area due to [lack of] security." Some report that the bandits attacking tourists and fishermen on Lake Falcon have been brandishing “Z” tattoos, for the ruthless Zetas drug-trafficking group. But questions have emerged over why a well-funded crime syndicate would bother harassing US fishermen for a few hundred dollars, and whether there is only one gang involved. While the Zetas are the most powerful drug cartel in Tamaulipas, the state bordering Falcon Lake, small organizations associated with the Zetas may also be engaging in acts of piracy.



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Who am I?

I am a law enforcement professional with over 35 years experience in both sworn and civilian positions. I have service in 3 different countries in both the northern and southern hemispheres.

My principal areas of expertise are: (1) Intelligence, (2) Training and Development, (3) Knowledge Management, and (4) Administration/Supervision.

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