Media in South Texas are citing a leaked FBI intelligence report that apparently warns that the Zetas, paramilitary arm of Mexico’s Gulf Cartel, are planning attacks on US Border Patrol agents in retaliation against stepped-up interdiction efforts. Law enforcement agencies on the US side of the Rio Grande Valley have reportedly been placed on high alert in response to the threat. (KVEO, Brownsville, Oct. 30)
The Valley’s Monitor newspaper claims to have obtained a copy of the FBI report, dated Oct. 17,. It apparently says that in response to recent arrests and seizures in Texas, regional Zeta leader Jaime “El Hummer” González Durán has ordered dozens of reinforcements to Reynosa. “These replacements are believed to be armed with assault rifles, bulletproof vests and grenades and are occupying safe houses throughout the McAllen area,” the document reportedly states.
The FBI joined dozens of Valley police chiefs to discuss the growing threat of gangs in the region in October. “Let’s face it,” Laredo police chief Carlos Maldonado said at a news conference after the meeting. “The only people that recognize jurisdictional and international boundaries are us.” Following an attack from across the Rio Grande on US Border Patrol agents near Mission, TX, last month, Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño announced his deputies would return any fire that came from the other side of the border.
In September, US federal authorities arrested more than 175 supposed cartel operatives and associates working in the United States. The long-term investigation— dubbed “Project Reckoning”—netted cartel players from the Valley to states such as Georgia, New York and North Carolina. In Texas’ Starr County, 22 were arrested on supposed cartel links in October— including the purported local cell leader, Juan Carlos Hinojosa, and the county’s Sheriff Reymundo “Rey” Guerra.
Other key operatives, including the purported top Zeta, Heriberto Lazcano Lazcano, and alleged Gulf Cartel kingpin Jorge Eduardo Costilla Sánchez, were indicted on conspiracy and drug trafficking charges in a Washington DC federal court. Both men remain at large. (The Monitor, Oct. 28)
In related news from the other side of Texas, an FBI informant, testifying in a federal racketeering trial in El Paso, told the jury the local Barrio Azteca gang has links to “La Linea,” a Ciudad Juárez drug gang. Johnny “Conejo” Michelletti, a former Azteca gang member, said that the money collected from the rentas, or extortion fees, charged to street-level drug dealers in El Paso was sent to bosses in Juárez.
He named Azteca boss David “Chicho” Meraz as in contact with a Juárez man named Eddie “El Tablitas” or “Tablas” who is connected with “La Linea.” “Tablas is the direct guy with the people in Juárez… He is the ears and eyes for El Paso,” Michelletti testified. He also recounted a trip to Juárez with Eugene “Gino” Mona, a taxi driver accused of being a gang lieutenant. (El Paso Times, Nov. 5)
El Paso has remained peaceful even as Ciudad Járez across the border has descended into murderous violence this year.