Mexican authorities doubt DPS warning about holiday travel to Nuevo Laredo
The Monitor/Ildefonso Ortiz
McALLEN -- A warning issued by the Texas Department of Public Safety claiming that the Zetas will target American citizens traveling to Nuevo Laredo over the holiday weekend raised the eyebrows of Mexican law enforcement officials who said they hadn’t heard that news.
The DPS issued a news release Saturday morning stating that they and the Webb County Sheriff’s office were warning travelers to avoid going to Nuevo Laredo because of a possible surge in criminal activity such as robberies, extortions, car-jackings and vehicle thefts targeting U.S citizens.
The release stated that the information came from credible intelligence gathered by multiple sources and claimed that the Zetas would carry out the activities over the Fourth of July weekend.
In Tamaulipas, the state where Nuevo Laredo is located and that borders with Laredo, Texas, a state law enforcement official not authorized to speak to the media said this team had not been notified by DPS of the release nor had they received any information corroborating the statement.
“El for de que?” the official, who added his team is in touch with U.S. officials at all levels of government, said in Spanish. “We have nothing like that. We have the violent events that have become commonplace, but we have nothing that says Americans are a target. If you are in bad steps, you will get what’s coming. But they are not going to come after you only because you are from that side of the river.”
The official said civilians have been caught in the crossfire before and carjacked. But according to their investigations, the victimes were either at the wrong place at the wrong time or were in “bad steps,” he said, referring to criminal activity.
A member of the U.S. intelligence community said the threat to civilians in the northeast part of Mexico is a permanent fact that is not particular to one city or one time frame. It doesn’t get better or worse, and violent incidents can’t be predicted, he said.
In the past, DPS has issued similar warnings that didn’t pan out.
The most publicized came in early 2010, when the agency issued a statement to other law enforcement agencies saying it had unconfirmed information that the Zetas planned to blow up Falcon Dam. Authorities beefed up patrol, but the attack did not occur. In June 2010, media outlets found out about the slip-up and publicized it.
In May 2010, DPS sent an alert to other law enforcement agencies warning them of a flier allegedly found in Brownsville that claimed that the weekend of May 15-17 would be the “most violent weekend in Mexican history” because two rival gangs planned to do battle.
Law enforcement efforts in Cameron County were beefed up, but no battle occurred. The message described by DPS had appeared before in various forms. Valley Freedom Newspapers received exact copies of the flier on April 28, March 24 and March 4 of that year, but no firefights occurred.