Friday, June 4, 2010

Agents feared Mexican drug cartel attack on border dam

By DANE SCHILLER and JAMES PINKERTON
Copyright 2010 Houston Chronicle
June 2, 2010, 10:15PM

An alleged plot by a Mexican drug cartel to blow up a dam along the Texas border — and unleash billions of gallons of water into a region with millions of civilians — sent American police, federal agents and disaster officials secretly scrambling last month to thwart such an attack, authorities confirmed Wednesday.

Whether or not the cartel, which is known to have stolen bulk quantities of gunpowder and dynamite, could have taken down the 5-mile-long Falcon Dam may never be known since the attack never came to pass.

It may have been derailed by a stepped-up presence by the Mexican military, which was acting in part on intelligence from the U.S. government, sources said.

The warning, which swung officials into action, was based on what the federal government contends were “serious and reliable sources” and prompted the Department of Homeland Security to sound the alarm to first responders along the South Texas-Mexico border.

Mexico's Zeta cartel was planning to destroy the dam not to terrorize civilians, but to get back at its rival and former ally, the Gulf cartel, which controls smuggling routes from the reservoir to the Gulf of Mexico, said Zapata County Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez, head of the Southwest Border Sheriff's Coalition, as did others familiar with the alleged plot.

But in the process, massive amounts of agricultural land would stand to be flooded as well as significant parts of a region where about 4 million people live along both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.

The dam along the lower Rio Grande was finished in 1954 as part of a joint U.S.-Mexico project to collect water for flood control, hydroelectric power and water for drinking and agriculture.

Gonzalez's agency was among many that responded, as did the U.S. Border Patrol, the Texas Department of Public Safety and even game wardens, who put more boats on the water.

Citing security concerns, neither Homeland Security nor DPS commented.

“We trust that DPS and their federal and local law enforcement partners are constantly collecting intelligence and monitoring all threats to Texas and taking the appropriate action to protect our citizens from those who would do us harm,” said Gov. Rick Perry's deputy press secretary Katherine Cesinger.

Varying credibility
Law enforcement officials huddled at the dam, near Rio Grande City, to discuss the threat and how to stifle it, said an officer who attended the meeting.

Officers interviewed by the Chronicle gave the warning varying degrees of credibility. They noted that among the Zetas ranks are Mexican military defectors who were trained in special forces tactics, including demolition.

Special cameras were set up along the dam, which has six 50-foot-tall steel gates, and lawmen hid in brush.

A Mexican military spokesman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said he had not heard of any threat to the Falcon Dam and expressed doubt that the Zetas would try such an attack.

“This isn't the way these groups operate, they have never attacked installations like that,” he said.

Rick Pauza, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, in Laredo, said the port of entry at the dam had been at a heightened alert due to violence in Mexico.

Residents warned?
The attack may have been thwarted in Mexico. It raises the fear of what the powerful cartels could do.

“It would have been a hell of a disaster,” said Gene Falcon, director of emergency preparedness for Starr County, site of the dam. “There was plenty of concern.”

With handbills and bullhorns, members of the Zeta cartel are said to have warned the civilian population on the Mexican side of the river near the dam to get out of the area, according to residents and intelligence information from law enforcement officials.

A border law enforcement official told the Chronicle the warnings originated in part by the seizure of small amounts of dynamite near the dam, and the discovery of a copy of the alert on the Mexican side of the border.

Capt. Francisco Garcia, of the Roma (Texas) Police Department, said there was no way to know what the traffickers were capable of doing, but bringing down the dam would require nearly a tractor-trailer full of dynamite.

“As far as blowing it up — making it fall apart completely — it would have to be something like 9/11,” he said. “By the time they'd start to do something, there will be so much law enforcement there it'd be ridiculous.”

9 comments:

  1. Now this is insane. If the Zetas did drop the dam that would almost certainly create huge pressure on the US to "do something". Would the US send troops to the border, crossing the Rio Grande to set up a "buffer zone"? What would Mexico do if we did that? A nightmare scenario for sure.

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  2. with the permission and cooperation Mexico, a buffer zone is probably a good idea...i don't think the Mexican govt is able to deal with the problem , the corruption is too ingrained...there are too many of these malo hombres and they are too bold/desperate/stupid/violent to stop at the US border....the small border towns would welcome a safe environment, no matter who provided it ...deny them the towns , push them into the desert and let the ejercito Mexicano exterminate them ...sooner or later the USA is gonna have to get involved, might as well be sooner...somebody needs to do something for the good people of Mexico, they are defenseless against these pinche madre culeros

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  3. ejercito Mexicano - seems like they have not been very sucessfull up to now unfortunately. I saw them lining the main drag in Nuevo Laredo and they do seem serious and disciplined but the corruption is the issue as is stated above.

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  4. this war will never stop if everyone has notice the Zetas are the only cartel who are well trained by U.S green barets and now these are the consequences,now to stop these monsters we would have to go over and just identify and put out of service.As bad as that sounds its the truth dont want harm on anyone but those who involve kids under the age of 5 should not live to see another day.

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  5. the problem is not with the Mexican soldado o police man, he is tough ,smart and can shoot straight, it is in the corruption inside the higher echelon , both in the army y el policia, and how can you stop it when , when an honest man says no to the narcos money, they then sentence their family to death, plata o plomo is real , and effective, that is why Americans could deal with them, no familys inside Mexico to threaten, and for the most part cannot be bought off...Mexico should request help from the USA in this way, i am sure there would be many volunteers , as like myself there are many Americans who love Mexico and have felt the fear and pain that is an everyday fact for the people there ....just ask , and we will come

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  6. if america wanted to neutralize the problem, we would have done so a long time ago. there's too much money involved in what's happening, the only way it would happen is their malicious activity affects the states more directly.

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  7. The mexican government should formally declare war on these criminals. The Mexican government should set up what is talked about on this side as FEMA type prison camps and round up anyone and I mean anyone suspected of being Cartel member. If they hang around like a gangsta then just send them packing. Only release them if they are proven to not be. Harsh but no other recourse.

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  8. I don't see a viable solution, long or medium term, to the growth of cartel-related violence in Mexico. It will threaten both sides of border operations more and more and gradually spill over deeper into US territory.

    Short term, overt US Military Special Ops (Green Berets, NAVY SEALS, Coast Guard Spec Ops) participation inside Mexico could drive cartel ops deeper into Mexico but their forces would filter back into the "buffer" zone. The public and political outcry, in Mexico, Latin America, and internationally would be immense, a real firestorm, alleging US "invasion."

    It would appear that any participation by US personnel inside the territory, land and sea, of Mexico would have to be completely covert, "CIA Black Ops" style. That might work.

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  9. Mexican cartels are no match to what our troops have been dealing with in Iraq and afganastan. Let us in to finish them off take towns back and stay and support them. Then find law abiding polygraph proven honest people to run there towns. Half the problem is the politicians on the payroll.

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