12 Mexican Police Officers In Custody After Attack On US Embassy Car

August 28, 2012

MEXICO – A Mexican judge ordered 12 federal police officers held for 40 days on Monday as prosecutors mull charges against them for shooting at a US embassy car and wounding two US government employees.

The officers are being treated as suspects over Friday’s incident, when a sport-utility vehicle with diplomatic plates was chased by four cars south of Mexico City and hit by a hail of bullets.

“We will continue to deepen the investigation,” Attorney General Marisela Morales Ibanez told reporters. “Right now we have an abuse of power.”

“We are cooperating with all national and international authorities that we must collaborate with to clarify the events,” Morales added.

She did not indicate what other charges the officers could face apart from abuse of power over the shooting, which the US embassy has described as an ambush. The judge must decide the degree of responsibility of each suspect.

“No crime and no investigative leads are being ruled out at the moment,” she said. “This is why we asked for provisional detention, so we have the time we need to carry out an exhaustive investigation.”

The officers will be transferred from the attorney general’s regional office in Cuernavaca, the capital of the state of Morelos, to a provisional detention center in Mexico City.

Relatives of the officers protested outside the federal prosecutor’s office in Cuernavaca, holding signs saying “Deprived of their freedom for doing their jobs” and “Mr. President, we ask for your support and justice.”

The Mexican navy and public security ministry say the officers were hunting for criminals south of the capital when they shot at the diplomatic car. A Mexican navy captain traveling with the US employees was slightly injured.

The US government employees and the Mexican navy captain were heading to a military facility when a carload of gunmen chased and fired at them on a dirt road, the navy and public security ministry said in a statement.

When the US vehicle veered back onto a highway, three more cars joined the chase and shot at the SUV, which was riddled with bullets near Tres Marias, a town 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of the capital.

The US embassy has not identified the two wounded employees or the nature of their work in Mexico, which is in the throes of a drug war that has left some 50,000 people dead since 2006.

Mexico’s ombudsman, Raul Plascencia, said the shooting was an “extremely serious mistake by the officers, which could be an orchestrated action.”

“There is no justification for such an excessive use of force,” the head of the National Human Rights Commission told a news conference.

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4 Quebec Canada Police Officers With Suspected Connections To Organized Crime Arrested

June 17, 2012

QUEBEC, CANADA – Four Quebec police officers were arrested and released this week in connection with suspected ties to organized crime.

Two officers from the Montreal police force were arrested Thursday, one day after two Longueuil policemen were taken into custody.

Several reports Thursday said the officers were arrested and questioned in connection with an attack on a Montreal officer in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico two years ago.

Montreal police won’t comment on the arrests.

One officer was reportedly suspended without pay, and the other one will be reassigned to administrative duties, said CBC reporter Lauren McCallum.

The Longueuil officers were arrested on Wednesday, questioned and released.

Authorities “don’t know as of yet if there will be any criminal accusations,” said Longueuil police spokeswoman Nancy Colagiacomo.

The South Shore officers have been suspended with pay, pending the investigation.

They are both in the early 30s, and have between five and ten years’ experience on the force.

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Disgraced US Attorney General Eric Holder – Full Of It – Questioned About His Department’s Operation That Supplied Guns To Criminals And Mexican Drug Cartel

June 6, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC  – Attorney General Eric Holder claimed during congressional testimony today that internal Justice Department emails that use the phrase “Fast and Furious” do not refer to the controversial gun-walking operation Fast and Furious.

Under questioning from Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah), who read excerpts of the emails at a House Judiciary Committee hearing on Justice Department oversight, Holder claimed that the phrase “Fast and Furious” did not refer to Fast and Furious but instead referred to another gun-walking operation known as “Wide Receiver.”

However, the emails refer to both programs — “Fast and Furious” and the “Tucson case,” from where Wide Receiver was launched — and reveal Justice Department officials discussing how to handle media scrutiny when both operations become public.

Among three of the emails, the second, dated “October 17, 2010 11:07 PM,” was sent by Deputy Assistant Attorney General Jason Weinstein to James Trusty and it states: “Do you think we should have Lanny participate in press when Fast and Furious and Laura’s Tucson case [Wide Receiver] are unsealed? It’s a tricky case, given the number of guns that have walked, but it is a significant set of prosecutions.”

In the third email, dated Oct. 18, 2010, James Trusty writes back to Weinstein: “I think so, but the timing will be tricky, too. Looks like we’ll be able to unseal the Tucson case sooner than the Fast and Furious (although this may be just the difference between Nov. and Dec).”

“It’s not clear how much we’re involved in the main F and F [Fast and Furious] case,” reads the email, “but we have Tucson [Wide Receiver] and now a new unrelated case with [redacted] targets. It’s not any big surprise that a bunch of US guns are being used in MX [Mexico], so I’m not sure how much grief we get for ‘guns walking.’ It may be more like ‘Finally, they’re going after people who sent guns down there.’”

Operation Wide Receiver was run out of Tucson, Ariz., between 2006 and 2007 by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), a division of the Justice Department.

In his testimony, Holder said that the emails only referred to Operation Wide Receiver.

Holder told the committee: “That refers to Wide Receiver, not to Fast and Furious. The e-mail that you [Rep. Chaffetz] just read [between Trusty and Weinstein] – now this is important – that email referred to Wide Receiver, it did not refer to Fast and Furious. That has to be noted for the record.”

Chaffetz, after a long pause, said, “No, it doesn’t. It says Fast and Furious. ‘Do you think we should have Lanny participate in press when Fast and Furious and Laura’s Tucson case [Wide Receiver] are unsealed?’ It’s specific to Fast and Furious. That is not true, Mr. Attorney General. I’m happy to share it with you.”

Brian Terry, border agent

U.S. Border Agent Brian A. Terry, shot and killed on Dec. 14, 2010, near Rio Rico, Arizona, while trying to catch bandits who target illegal immigrants. (AP Photo)

Operation Fast and Furious was carried out by the ATF. It began in the fall of 2009 and continued into early 2011, during which time the federal government purposefully allowed known or suspected gun smugglers to purchase guns at federally licensed firearms dealers in Arizona. The government did not seek to abort these gun purchases, intercept the smugglers after the purchases, or recover the guns they had purchased.

In some cases, as the government expected they would, the smugglers delivered the guns to Mexican drug trafficking organizations. Two rifles sold to a smuggler in the course of Operation Fast and Furious in January 2010 ended up at the scene of the murder of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry in December 2010.

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Disgraced US Attorney General Eric Holder Briefing Hundreds Of Black Pastors In Effort To Help Obama’s Campaign

May 30, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – Attorney General Eric Holder, the IRS, and the liberal lawyers at the ACLU will brief several hundred pastors in the African American community on how to participate in the presidential election — which the Congressional Black Caucus chair expects will help President Obama’s campaign.

“We will have representatives from nine denominations who actually pastor somewhere in the neighborhood of about 10 million people, and we’re going to first of all equip them with the information they need to know about what they can say and what they cannot say in the church that would violate their 501c3 status with the IRS,” Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo., told MSNBC today.

“In fact, we’re going to have the IRS administrator there, we’re going to have the Attorney General Eric Holder there, we’re going to have the lawyers’ organization from around the country, the ACLU — all giving ministers guidance about what they can and cannot do,” he noted.

Cleaver said they would not tell pastors which candidate to support. They will let them know who to regard as the bad guys, though (hint: not Democrats). “We’re going to talk about some of the draconian laws that have cropped up around the country as a result of the 17 percent increase in African American votes,” Cleaver said, describing voter ID laws as a form of Jim Crow-style “poll tax” on seniors and black voters.

The CBC chairman is confident that “President Obama is going to get 95 percent of the [African American] vote,” and wants to keep that turnout high. “We want to let them know that there is a theological responsibility to participate in the political process, at least in the Judeo-Christian tradition,” he said.

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Third World: 6th Graders Made Gay Porn Video In Mexican School

May 10, 2012

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - Authorities in Mexico’s Gulf coast state of Campeche said Wednesday they are investigating how a porn video was made by sixth-graders inside their school.

State Education Department spokesman Omar Kantun said the video was apparently made in an empty classroom during recess in late April.

“It is real, the case is real, the video exists,” Kantun said. “The Education Department is very concerned.”

He said an investigation is being conducted by his department and the teachers union to determine whether any adults were involved.

Kantun said the teacher who uses the classroom did not appear to have been present when the video was made. He said no disciplinary action has been taken against any students or teachers as of yet. He said the students involved are being given psychological counseling.

The incident occurred in late April at a grade school in the town of Calkini, which is in a relatively conservative and heavily Indian area. Three boys are seen on the video engaging in oral and anal sex recorded on a cellphone by a fourth person, apparently another student.

The mother of one of the boys saw the video on the Internet and notified authorities, Kantun said. He said the video had since been taken down.

Authorities didn’t announce the students’ ages, but sixth-graders in Mexico are generally 12 or younger.

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Effort By House Oversight Committee To Hold Disgraced US Attorney General Eric Holder In Contempt Making Progress – His Department’s Efforts Armed Mexican Drug Cartels, Then Hid Documents Amid Investigation

May 3, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – Republicans on the House Oversight Committee were to take the first formal step Thursday toward contempt proceedings against Attorney General Eric Holder over the Fast and Furious “gunwalking” operation, CBS News has learned.

The case for a citation declaring Holder in contempt will be laid out in a briefing paper and 48-page draft citation distributed to Democrats and Republicans on the committee. CBS News has obtained copies of both documents. In them, Republican members use strong language to accuse Holder of obstructing the committee’s investigation, which is now in its second year.

The documents allege that the Justice Department has issued, “false denials, given answers intended to misdirect investigators, sought to intimidate witnesses, unlawfully withheld subpoenaed documents, and waited to be confronted with indisputable evidence before acknowledging uncomfortable facts.”

“The Justice Department’s demonstrable contempt for the congressional investigation has inflicted harm on the people of two nations seeking the truth – and very pointedly on the family of fallen Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and ATF whistleblowers who now face retaliation in the wake of their own heroic efforts to expose wrongdoing,” says the brief to be distributed Thursday.

For its part, the Justice Department says it has complied with the congressional investigations, led by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) and Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa).

“We’ve done twice-a-month (document) productions since last year, and the Attorney General has testified about this matter no less than seven times,” a Justice official tells CBS News.

There have been at least three House contempt actions against the Executive Branch in the past 30 years.

In 1983, Congress found EPA administrator Anne Gorsuch Burford in contempt for failing to produce subpoenaed documents.

In 1998, the GOP-controlled House Oversight committee found Attorney General Janet Reno in contempt for failing to comply with a subpoena on campaign finance law violations.

In 2008, the Democrat-controlled House found former White House counsel Harriet Miers and Chief of Staff John Bolton in contempt for failing to cooperate with an inquiry into whether a purge of federal prosecutors was politically motivated.

In 2008, the Democratic-led Oversight Committee found two White House officials in contempt in the probe of Bush Administration firings of U.S. Attorneys. Congress went to federal court to seek enforcement of that contempt action, but a compromise was reached with the Executive Branch before any court decision was final.

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No Bond For US Border Patrol Agent Ricardo Montalvo And Girlfriend – Charged With Smuggling Guns To Mexican Drug Cartel Members

April 19, 2012

EL PASO, TEXAS – A federal judge on Wednesday denied bond for an El Paso Border Patrol agent and his girlfriend, both accused of smuggling guns to members of a Mexican drug cartel.

Federal agents arrested Border Patrol Agent Ricardo Montalvo, 28, and his girlfriend, Carla Gonzales-Ortiz, 29, last week after their indictment on conspiracy, firearms and smuggling charges. The couple showed no emotion after the judge announced his ruling.

An investigation into the allegations began in early 2011, after a man identified in court documents only as E.P. told agents he worked as a “straw purchaser” for Montalvo, who allegedly once tried to recruit other straw purchasers while wearing his Border Patrol uniform.

A straw purchaser is a person who fills out paperwork to buy a gun from a licensed dealer but is actually illegally buying the gun for someone else.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Richard Mesa made his bond ruling during a detention hearing Wednesday morning. After reviewing the possible maximum punishment of more than 10 years in prison, Mesa determined that both Montalvo and Gonzales-Ortiz are flight risks.

During the hearing, Special Agent Jesus Lowenberg, who works for Customs and Border Protection’s Internal Affairs, testified that in the fall of 2010, Montalvo and Gonzales-Ortiz became involved in buying weapons, ammunition and accessories destined for Mexico. Montalvo recruited straw purchasers by paying them for buying weapons and other items, and paid them extra if they delivered
the items to Mexico, Lowenberg testified.

The couple’s indictment states Montalvo bought ammunition and firearms, such as AK-47-type pistols favored by Mexican drug cartels. He also allegedly bought about 20,000 rounds of ammo, 97 high-capacity magazines — including 10 100-round magazines for 5.56-mm rifles — and four 37-mm flare launchers that drug cartels can convert to grenade launchers.

During a five-week span beginning in November, Montalvo allegedly spent $11,200 on weapons and ammunition, but his take-home pay as a Border Patrol agent was only $42,000 a year.

Montalvo made hundreds of calls to Mexico between November 2010 and January 2011 on one of two cellphones he kept — one apparently for personal use, and the other for “illicit activity” –ÊLowenberg testified. During the same span, Montalvo was considered a “frequent” border crosser, making six or seven visits a month to Mexico.

In January 2011, agents executed two search warrants at the couple’s home on Emerald Point Drive in far East El Paso. There, the agents seized nine weapons, a handwritten ledger with descriptions of the weapons and price markups, and a photo from Montalvo’s computer showing Montalvo, dressed in plain clothes, holding a large wad of money. Topping the wad was a $100 bill. The photo was titled “Pay Day.”

At one point, Lowenberg testified, Montalvo threatened E. P., telling him, “You know what happens to snitches? Bad things happen to snitches.” Lowenberg also said Montalvo once patted down E. P. to find out whether he was wearing a wire.

During cross-examination, Montalvo’s attorney, Sib Abraham, pointed out that the ledger didn’t have any notes indicating the weapons were indeed sold to cartel members in Mexico, although Lowenberg in turn pointed out that the weapons Montalvo and Gonzales-Ortiz allegedly bought are favored by the cartels.

Lowenberg also testified that many of the statements made between E. P. and Montalvo weren’t recorded.

Abraham also pointed out that Montalvo has several family members who live in Mexico, including siblings and his father.

Gonzales-Ortiz was charged in the case after she attempted to buy two weapons in 2010 but was denied based on her expired immigrant visa status at the time. At the time the investigation began, Gonzales-Ortiz was living illegally in the U.S. with Montalvo.

She was later granted conditional permanent legal residency, and her parents are legal permanent residents who live in Ruidoso, her attorney Leonard Morales said during the hearing.

Montalvo and Gonzales-Ortiz have a 6-month-old baby, whom Gonzales-Ortiz was breast-feeding when she was arrested, Morales said.

During the hearing, Montalvo’s U.S. citizenship was also called into question but wasn’t the basis for the federal prosecutors’ request that he be detained without bond.

Lowenberg testified that in early 2011, he and two other agents visited Montalvo’s mother and stepfather in Brownsville, where Montalvo is originally from, to find out why Montalvo’s U.S. birth certificate is flagged as fraudulent by the Texas Bureau of Vital Statistics.

Montalvo also has a Mexican birth certificate, Lowenberg said on the stand.

Lowenberg testified that Montalvo’s mother never verified whether Montalvo’s U.S. birth certificate is valid, but during cross-examination, Abraham pointed out Montalvo was enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps from 2001 to 2005, when he was honorably discharged, and that Border Patrol agents are required to be U.S. citizens.

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Truck With 268,000 Rounds Of AK-47 And AR-15 Machine Gun Ammunition Takes Wrong Turn And Ends Up In Juárez Mexico

April 19, 2012

MEXICO – The U.S. truck driver detained by Mexican authorities Tuesday with 268,000 rounds of ammunition was transporting a legal cargo to Phoenix but mistakenly exited to Juárez, the man’s employer said on Wednesday.

Dennis Mekenye, owner of Demco Transportation Inc. in Arlington, Texas, said Bogan Jabin Akeem, 27, left Dallas on Monday with a trailer with nine pallets containing the ammunition.

• Photos: Ammunition seizure in Juárez, U.S. trucker arrested

The cargo was being taken from Tennessee to an ammunition retailer in Phoenix called United Nations Ammo Co. as part of a legitimate transaction, Mekenye said.

Akeem made a stop in El Paso and, before driving the last stretch toward Phoenix, he accidentally took a wrong turn toward the international Bridge of the Americas, his boss said.

“It was a mistake for him to take a wrong turn and find himself in Mexican soil,” Mekenye said. “He missed the exit, and he went south. He asked one cop there, ‘I missed my exit, how can I turn around?’ “

Mekenye said Akeem could not turn the vehicle around at the bridge and had to continue into Mexico. Coming back,
Mexican authorities told him they had to inspect his vehicle.

Mekenye said he didn’t know whether Akeem declared he was transporting ammunition or whether Mexican authorities discovered the cargo upon inspection.

“It was a legitimate movement from Tennessee to Phoenix,” said Mekenye, who also said that his company does not ship to Mexico and that he has never been investigated for shipping contraband.

The owner of United Nations Ammo in Phoenix, who identified himself only as “Howie,” said he was expecting Akeem to arrive Tuesday night to offload the cargo Wednesday morning.

“All the media was calling it cartel ammo, but we paid for that ammo, it’s really our property. In no way whatsoever was that ammunition ever supposed to go to Mexico,” he said. “We ordered this ammunition, and it’s ammunition meant to be sold in the United States of America for legal hobbyists, legal shooters and legal enthusiasts.”

The cargo had a value of $100,000, he said.

“It’s a tremendous shipment we paid for,” he said. “We’re hoping they will release the man and our property so it can be delivered to us.”

Howie declined to comment on how large the order of ammunition rounds was compared with previous ones.

Federal officials did not respond to calls seeking comment on Mekenye’s version of the events.

Akeem was arrested Tuesday evening by Mexican federal authorities and will remain in custody until a court determines whether a criminal case will go forward. Mexican authorities have 48 hours to decide whether they will continue with an investigation.

José Angel Torres Valadez, spokesman in the Northern region for Mexico’s General Attorney’s Office, or PGR, said he could not share any details until the 48-hour period has passed but said it is possible that Akeem will be taken to Mexico City to continue the investigation.

Akeem was driving a tractor-trailer with Texas plates and the logo “McKinney Trailer Rentals.” A spokesman with McKinney confirmed that Mekenye’s company has been a McKinney client for several years.

The bullets were being transported inside metal boxes. Sources said the ammunition is of the type used for AK-47 and AR-15 rifles. The rifles are often used by members of Mexican criminal organizations.

The bullets are legal to buy in the United States, but the ammunition is banned in Mexico, which considers those types of rifles and bullets only for military use. The seizure was one of the largest made by Mexican authorities in Juárez since a vicious drug-cartel war that has killed more than 9,500 people erupted four years ago.

Mekenye said he has been in touch with the U.S. Consulate in Juárez, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Department of Homeland Security.

Olga Bashbush, spokeswoman for the U.S. Consulate in Juárez, confirmed that Akeem was a U.S. citizen and said consular officials met with him Tuesday. Representatives of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives did not return calls seeking comment.

Mekenye said that Akeem had been his employee for more than two years. A criminal background check showed Akeem did not appear to have any previous convictions or run-ins with the law.

U.S. authorities have increased enforcement to try to stop the so-called Iron River, or flow of weapons, into Mexico.

Last week, a U.S. Border Patrol agent from El Paso and his girlfriend were arrested by U.S. federal agents on gun-smuggling related charges. They are accused of lying on federal forms to buy firearms and ammo intended for Mexico.

In Juárez, local police operations have resulted in the seizure of 168 weapons so far this year.

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Obama Removing 300 US Ground Troops From US Border With Mexico

April 19, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – The Pentagon began flying military helicopters and surveillance planes over the U.S. border with Mexico last month as part of an effort to withdraw all but 300 of the National Guard ground troops who have helped patrol the rugged border since mid-2010.

The 19-month deployment of 1,200 National Guard troops on the southwest border has hurt recruiting efforts and threatened to strain diplomatic relations with Mexico, Brian J. Lepore, a director at the U.S. Government and Accountability Office, told a House homeland security subcommittee hearing Tuesday.

About 12 Blackhawk helicopters and several fixed-wing manned surveillance planes began flying regular patrols over the Rio Grande in Texas for a mission called “Operation River Watch II” in March. The 300 troops will fly the aircraft, or analyze intelligence about smuggling routes in command centers miles from the border.

The Obama administration deployed the National Guard to build access roads for border patrols and to help spot smugglers. The extra manpower was intended to bridge the gap while U.S. Customs and Border Patrol hired an additional 1,200 agents.

In the first year, the National Guard troops helped apprehend 17,887 illegal immigrants and seize 56,342 pounds of marijuana, which was 5.9 percent of all apprehensions and 2.6 percent of marijuana seizures during that time, officials said.

National Guard troops could man watchtowers and stare at closed-circuit television screens of the fence line but were prohibited from making arrests, and officials said morale suffered. The National Guard leadership became concerned that the mission, if extended, could hurt recruitment, according to a GAO report titled “Observations on Costs, Benefits, and Challenges of a Department of Defense Role in Helping to Secure the Southwest Land Border.”

Further use of National Guard troops “could create a perception of a militarized U.S. border with Mexico,” State Department officials told the GAO. The Obama administration has worked with Mexico to strengthen civilian law enforcement agencies to combat drug cartels responsible for thousands of killings.

“We need to have a long-term vision and whole-of-government approach to securing the southwest border that will replace the ad hoc application of resources that has, to date, epitomized our approach to border security,” Rep. Candice Miller, R-Mich., who chairs the subcommittee on border and maritime security, said in a statement.

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Man Treated Like A “Criminal” By US As He Tries To Enter To Attend 10 Year Old Son’s Funeral – Story Goes On To Mention He Got The Boot For Being In US Illegally In 2007…

April 1, 2012

A Mexican national said he has been barred from entering the United States to bury his 10-year-old son, a U.S. citizen who died Tuesday in a house fire in northeastern Pennsylvania that killed three other people.

Attorneys for Fidelmar “Fidel” Merlos-Lopez are trying to win humanitarian parole so he can attend the funeral, but say U.S. Customs and Border Protection has rebuffed their efforts.

Damien Lopez died in a Shenandoah row house along with his cousin, aunt and 7-month-old half-brother. The funeral is set for Monday, with burial the next day.

“I told the customs officer that all I want is a permit to see my boy for one last time. They treat me as if I am a criminal,” Lopez, 34, a bus driver, said in an interview Saturday. “Right now, I need their support, and they are refusing to help me.”

Lopez has been waiting at the U.S.-Mexico border near Laredo, Texas, since the fire.

“He’s out of his mind. Can you imagine? Your son is dead in a fire and you can’t even get across. It’s clear they are giving us the runaround,” said Elizabeth Surin, his Philadelphia-based immigration lawyer.

A spokeswoman for the border agency did not return a phone message left at her office Saturday.

Lopez was a teenager when he entered the United States illegally in 1995 and wound up in Shenandoah, a blue-collar town with a large Hispanic population. He married a U.S. citizen who gave birth to Damien in 2002. He later divorced Damien’s mother and married his current wife, Danielle Lopez, who’s also a U.S. citizen.

In 2007, police in nearby Frackville stopped Lopez for running a red light and turned him over to immigration authorities. He agreed to leave the U.S. voluntarily and began the process of applying for legal permanent residence.

Surin, his immigration lawyer, said he was well on his way to getting his green card and rejoining his family in Shenandoah when tragedy struck.

“He’s trying to comply, trying to follow the rules of U.S. immigration law, but they are using that against him now. This whole thing is really heart-wrenching,” she said.

Humanitarian parole is granted to immigrants who have a compelling emergency that requires temporary entry into the United States. It is used sparingly: The government approves only about 25 percent of the 1,200 applications it gets each year.

Surin said Lopez qualifies. In fact, the Mexican husband of Tiffany Sanchez, the 29-year-old woman who died in the fire, was granted humanitarian parole to attend the funeral, she said.

Surin said border officials told her that Lopez was denied entry because he didn’t have a relationship with Damien. She said it’s just the opposite: Lopez shared partial custody of Damien and paid his ex-wife child support before leaving the United States.

Lopez, who worked as a mechanic in Shenandoah, said he was very close to his son.

“I have a video of him. I watch it often. Of when he graduated from kindergarten, you know how they do those parties. He was wearing his cap, a shirt and a tie,” Lopez said.

Though he hadn’t seen Damien in more than three years, they spoke over the phone twice a week.

“He used to tell me, ‘Come back, come back,'” he said. “I have been thinking that maybe it’s my fault because there may have been a reason he asked me that.”

His current wife said Lopez, who lives in Naucalpan de Juarez, a suburb of Mexico City, had been looking forward to returning to the United States. Now he’s desperate to get back, if only for a few days. But time is running out.

“I don’t think it’s fair,” said Danielle Lopez, 28, a hairdresser who was born and raised in Shenandoah. “It’s his child, his flesh and blood, his firstborn son. It’s horrible.”

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Disgraced US Attorney General Still Hiding Documents Detailing His Department’s Efforts That Armed Mexican Drug Cartels – Man Be Finally Held In Contempt Of Congress

February 15, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – On Tuesday Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House committee on Oversight and Government Reform, took a major step toward holding Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress for his failure to provide subpoenaed documents and other information about Operation Fast and Furious.

In a Jan. 31 letter, Issa had threatened Holder with such a move if he failed to provide all the subpoenaed documents relating to the Fast and Furious gunwalking scandal by Feb. 9. That deadline has come and gone, and Holder’s Department of Justice still hasn’t provided most of those documents. Issa’s subpoena dates back to Oct. 12, 2011.

On Tuesday in a seven-page letter, Issa revealed that Deputy Attorney General James Cole begged Congress to extend the Feb. 9 deadline. Issa wrote that the request was “ironic” and “ignores the reality that the Department has unreasonably delayed producing these documents to the Committee.”

“On its face, the requested extension demonstrates a lack of good faith,” Issa wrote to Holder. “With one exception, the Department has only produced documents responsive to the subpoena on the eve of congressional hearings in which senior Department officials testified. The Department appears to be more concerned with protecting its image through spin control than actually cooperating with Congress.”

“We cannot wait any longer for the Department’s cooperation,” Issa continued. “As such, please specify a date by which you expect the Department to produce all documents responsive to the subpoena. In addition, please specify a Department representative who will interface with the Committee for production purposes.”

Issa added that whoever Holder designates as the go-to DOJ official for delivering subpoenaed documents “should also serve as the conduit for dealing with the contempt proceedings, should the Department continue to ignore the Committee’s subpoena.” (RELATED: Full coverage of Eric Holder)

The California Republican slammed Holder, too, for claiming the congressional investigation into Fast and Furious was a political game for Republicans.

“It is ironic that while the Department’s delay tactics have extended this investigation into a presidential election year, you have had the audacity to characterize it as an attempt at ‘headline-grabbing Washington ‘gotcha’ games and cynical political point scoring,’” Issa wrote to Holder on Tuesday. (RELATED: Read the full letter here)

Issa also attacked Holder for Justice’s failure to comply with Congressional subpoenas. “Had the Department demonstrated willingness to cooperate with this investigation from the outset — instead of attempting to cover up its own internal mismanagement — this investigation likely would have concluded well before the end of 2011. In reality, it is the Department that is playing political gotcha games, instead of allowing a co-equal branch of government to perform its constitutional duty to conduct oversight of the Executive Branch.”

Issa’s letter concluded by warning that Congress will continue to investigate Operation Fast and Furious until responsible parties are held accountable. He pointed to bipartisan support behind efforts to assign responsibility for Border Patrol agent Brian Terry’s murder, for the murders of at least 300 Mexican civilians and, likely, for the murder of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Jaime Zapata.

“This is not an ‘election year political ‘gotcha’ game,’ but rather a bipartisan sentiment,” Issa wrote. “As Ranking Member [Democratic Rep. Elijah] Cummings promised the family of slain Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry, ‘we will not rest until every single person responsible for all of this, no matter where they are, are brought to justice.’ I applaud his resolve, and I want to make it clear that Congress will not give up until this accountability has been achieved.”

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Full Of It – Disgraced U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Claims He Knew Nothing Of His Department’s Efforts To Arm Mexican Drug Cartels

February 2, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC – Attorney General Eric Holder vigorously denied a “cover-up” by the Justice Department over “Operation Fast and Furious,” telling a House panel investigating the botched gun-running program that he has nothing to hide and suggesting the probe is a “political” effort to embarrass the administration.

“There’s no attempt at any kind of cover-up,” Holder told lawmakers well into a hearing about whether he had been forthright in responding to requests of the House Oversight and Government Relations Committee led by Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif.

“We’re not going to be hiding behind any kind of privileges or anything,” he said.

The hearing came after Issa and Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, his Senate partner in the probe, asserted that top Justice officials are covering up events surrounding the flawed gun-smuggling probe.

Issa made the accusation in a letter threatening to seek a contempt of Congress ruling against Holder for failing to turn over congressionally subpoenaed documents that were created after problems with Fast and Furious came to light.

Republicans also released a report in the hours ahead of the hearing claiming that Justice Department officials “had much greater knowledge of, and involvement in, Fast and Furious than it has previously acknowledged.”

Asked whether his assistants, Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler or Assistant Attorney Lanny Breuer, head of the department’s Criminal Division, ever authorized gunwalking or the tactics employed in Fast and Furious, Holder responded not to his knowledge.

“Not only did I not authorize those tactics, when I found out about them I told the field and everybody in the United States Department of Justice that those tactics had to stop. That they were not acceptable and that gunwalking was to stop. That was what my reaction [was] to my finding out about the use of that technique,” he added.

He added that he doesn’t think that the situation warranted the kind of response Republicans were giving after his department provided thousands of documents, and planned to deliver more.

Holder also rejected arguments that his handling of the case had lost him any support for the effort he was putting forth as attorney general.

“I don’t think the American people have lost trust in me. … This has become political, I get that,” he said.

But Holder also said no one has been punished “yet” in the case, despite the fact that lost guns from the operation ended up at the crime scene where U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered in December 2010.

Terry’s family has informed the U.S. government that it has six months to respond to its inquiry into Terry’s death or face a $25 million lawsuit.

In the botched operation, more than 1,400 weapons sold to low-level straw purchasers believed to be supplying Mexican drug gangs and other criminals were lost during tracking by Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents. Another 700 firearms connected to suspects in the investigation have been recovered, some from crime scenes in Mexico and the U.S., including in Nogales, Ariz., where Terry was killed.

Holder said he didn’t learn about Terry’s murder until 24 hours after his death, and at the time did not hear that weapons tied to Fast and Furious were at the scene.

“I didn’t know about Operation Fast and Furious until the beginning parts of 2011 after I received that letter from Senator Grassley, I guess at the end of January and then that was about Operation Gun Runner. I actually learned about the Fast and Furious operation in February of that year.”

Holder told the committee, “I’m not sure exactly how I found out about the term, ‘Fast and Furious.'” He testified repeatedly that he never authorized the controversial tactics employed in the operation.

“There is no attempt at any kind of cover-up,” Holder said. “We have shared huge amounts of information” and will continue to do so, he said.

But Holder said under questioning that he has not disciplined anyone for his role in the controversial operation.

“No I have not as yet — as yet,” Holder said when questioned by Issa on the matter. “There have been personnel changes made at ATF. We obviously have a new U.S. attorney in Arizona. We have made personnel switches at ATF. People have been moved out of positions.”

Holder’s statements on the Justice Department’s role in the operation did not sit well with Republican lawmakers on the committee, who accused the attorney general of intentionally withholding key documents in the case.

“The conclusion that I come to is there are some things in there that’s being hidden that you don’t want us to see,” said Rep. Dan Burton, R-Ind. “We have every right under the Constitution to check on what you’re doing… So for you to deny this committee anything like that is just dead wrong and I don’t think you’re going to find any way that you can do it.”

Burton went on to say that 93,000 documents related to the operation are being withheld by the Justice Department even though they’ve been turned over internally to the department’s inspector general, a political appointee, Burton said.

“And you’re saying, well, the separation of powers prohibits you from (delivering them to Congress). That’s baloney. That is just baloney,” Burton said.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, also questioned Holder’s having not discussed the case with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

“When people know that I’m going to be the subject of these kinds of hearings, you know six times and all that, nobody necessarily wants to get involved in these kinds of things or get dragged into it,” Holder responded.

Issa told Holder the committee will do what is necessary to obtain the information, “If you do not find a legitimate basis to deny us the material we’ve asked for.”

Holder said earlier during testimony that he would release additional materials “to the extent that I can.”

In Holder’s defense, Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., claimed the committee has “not obtained one shred of evidence that would contradict your testimony.”

“Not one witness, not one document, not one e-mail, and still some continue to suggest that you did personally authorize gunwalking and the tactics in Operation Fast and Furious.”

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Obama Administration Hides Facts On Murdered Border Patrol Agent Amid Disgraced US Attorney General Eric Holder’s Testimony About His Department Supplying Mexican Drug Cartels With Firearms

November 30, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – And to think that Attorney General Eric Holder is getting testy about congressional calls for his resignation. After all, the Justice Department has nothing to hide, right?

The Obama Administration has abruptly sealed court records containing alarming details of how Mexican drug smugglers murdered a U.S. Border patrol agent with a gun connected to a failed federal experiment that allowed firearms to be smuggled into Mexico.

This means information will now be kept from the public as well as the media. Could this be a cover-up on the part of the “most transparent” administration in history? After all, the rifle used to kill the federal agent (Brian Terry) last December in Arizona’s Peck Canyon was part of the now infamous Operation Fast and Furious. Conducted by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the disastrous scheme allowed guns to be smuggled into Mexico so they could eventually be traced to drug cartels.

The murder of a U.S. Border Patrol agent is related to a Justice Department willingly turning over thousands of guns to Mexican criminal gangs, and Obama administration is hiding information about his death from the public. Amazing.

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Disgraced Attorney General Eric Holder To Testify About His Department’s Efforts That Supplied Guns To Mexican Drug Cartels

October 28, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – CBS News has learned Attorney General Eric Holder has agreed to appear before the House Judiciary Committee regarding “Fast and Furious.” The hearing will take place Dec. 8th.

Judiciary Committee member and head of the House Oversight Committee Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) had requested that Holder appear, in part to dig deeper into when-he-knew-what about ATF’s so-called “gunwalking” operation Fast and Furious.

In May, Holder testified that he only first heard about Fast and Furious a few weeks before. However, as CBS News reported, documents and memos indicate he had been sent multiple briefings mentioning Fast and Furious in 2010.

Holder later explained in a letter to Congress that he didn’t read those memos, and that in any event, nobody at the Justice Department who knew of Fast and Furious was aware of the specific “gunwalking” tactics used.

More Fast and Furious coverage
Memos contradict Holder on Fast and Furious
Agent: I was ordered to let guns “walk” into Mexico
Gunwalking scandal uncovered at ATF

Also today, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) requested a public hearing with the former Director of ATF: Kenneth Melson.

“A hearing with Mr. Melson would help the Committee and the American people better understand what mistakes were made in Operation Fast and Furious, how these tactics originated, who did and did not authorize them, and what steps are being taken to ensure that they are not used again,” wrote Cummings in a letter today to Rep. Issa.

Rep. Cummings says Melson’s attorney has indicated Melson would be “pleased to cooperate.”

Below is a copy of the Cummings letter.

October 28, 2011

The Honorable Darrell E. Issa

Chairman

Committee on Oversight and Government Reform

U.S. House of Representatives

Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Mr. Chairman:

As I have stated repeatedly, I believe Operation Fast and Furious was a terrible mistake with tragic consequences. As I have also stated, I support a fair and responsible investigation that follows the facts where they lead, rather than drawing conclusions before evidence is gathered or ignoring information that does not fit into a preconceived narrative.

On several occasions over the past month, you have called on Attorney General Eric Holder to appear before the House Judiciary Committee to answer questions about when he first became aware of the controversial tactics used in Operation Fast and Furious. The Attorney General has now agreed to testify before the House Judiciary Committee on December 8, 2011, when you will have another opportunity to question him directly.

With respect to our own Committee’s investigation, I do not believe it will be viewed as legitimate or credible-and I do not believe the public record will be complete-without public testimony from Kenneth Melson, who served as the Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).

A hearing with Mr. Melson would help the Committee and the American people better understand what mistakes were made in Operation Fast and Furious, how these tactics originated, who did and did not authorize them, and what steps are being taken to ensure that they are not used again.

Our staffs have already conducted transcribed interviews with Mr. Melson and the former Deputy Director of ATF, William Hoover. During those interviews, these officials expressed serious concerns about the controversial tactics employed by the Phoenix Field Division of ATF as part of this operation. They also raised concerns about the manner in which the Department of Justice responded to congressional inquiries. Both officials also stated that they had not been aware of the controversial tactics being used in Operation Fast and Furious, had not authorized those tactics, and had not informed anyone at the Department of Justice headquarters about them. They stated that Operation Fast and Furious originated within the Phoenix Field Division, and that ATF headquarters failed to properly supervise it.

Since the Attorney General has now agreed to appear before Congress in December, I believe Members also deserve an opportunity to question Mr. Melson directly, especially since he headed the agency responsible for

Operation Fast and Furious. My staff has been in touch with Mr. Melson’s attorney, who reports that Mr. Melson would be pleased to cooperate with the Committee.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Sincerely,

Elijah E. Cummings

Ranking Member

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Subpoena Issued As Congress Investigates US Justice Department Efforts That Armed Mexican Drug Cartels With High Power Assault Weapons

October 13, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – Congressional investigators issued a subpoena Wednesday for communications from several top Justice Department officials — including Attorney General Eric Holder — relating to the discredited “Fast and Furious” federal gunrunning operation.

The subpoena, issued by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, also covers communications from Holder’s chief of staff, Gary Grindler, and from Lanny Breuer, head of the department’s criminal division.

Among other things, the subpoena includes a request for information regarding relevant Justice Department communications with the White House, as well as details about the death of a U.S. Border Patrol agent last December, the source added.

“Top Justice Department officials, including Attorney General Holder, know more about Operation Fast and Furious than they have publicly acknowledged,” said Rep. Darrell Issa, the Republican chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

“The documents this subpoena demands will provide answers to questions that Justice officials have tried to avoid since this investigation began eight months ago. It’s time we know the whole truth.”

Holder has promised to comply with any Capitol Hill subpoena, though a Justice Department spokeswoman appeared to dismiss the development as a political exercise.

“We’ve made clear from the beginning that the department intends to work with the committee to answer legitimate questions,” Tracy Schmaler said. “However, this subpoena shows that Chairman Issa is more interested in generating headlines than in real oversight important to the American people.”

Operation Fast and Furious involved agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives allowing illegal sales of guns, believed to be destined for Mexican drug cartels, to “walk” from Phoenix gun stores into Mexico.

The idea was to track the sellers and purchasers of guns to Mexican cartels. But the program became mired in controversy after weapons found at Mexican and American murder scenes were traced back to the program. Mexican officials and critics in the United States called the operation a failure, saying it exacerbated the longstanding problem of U.S. weapons getting into the hands of the violent Mexican cartels.

A GOP-led congressional investigation into the matter has become politically contentious, with administration and Capitol Hill leaders accusing each other of acting irresponsibly.

In a letter to Holder released Monday, Issa, a California congressman, accused the attorney general of actively obstructing Congress’ oversight function and damaging his own credibility as a top national law enforcement officer.

“Numerous statements” made by Holder about Operation Fast and Furious have “been proven to be untrue,” Issa said.

“The time for deflecting blame and obstructing our investigation is over,” Issa wrote in the letter, which was dated Sunday. “The time has come for you to come clean to the American public about what you knew about Fast and Furious, when you knew it, and who is going to be held accountable for failing to shut down a program that has already had deadly consequences, and will likely cause more casualties for years to come.”

Issa blasted Holder for “negligence and incompetence” on the issue, and for offering a “roving set of ever-changing explanations” designed primarily to “circle the wagons around (the Justice Department) and its political appointees.”

The operation was the Justice Department’s “most significant gun trafficking case,” Issa said. “On your watch, it went spectacularly wrong. Whether you realize yet or not, you own Fast and Furious. It is your responsibility.”

Holder testified before the Judiciary Committee in May that he had known about the Fast and Furious program for just a few weeks. Republicans insist that recently released Justice Department documents show the attorney general actually knew about the program much earlier.

Holder and his aides continue to vehemently deny that charge.

The attorney general responded angrily Friday to GOP critics of his handling of the operation, charging them with using “irresponsible and inflammatory rhetoric.”

“I simply cannot sit idly by as a (Republican) member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform suggests, as happened this week, that law enforcement and government employees who devote their lives to protecting our citizens be considered ‘accessories to murder,'” Holder said in a letter to members of Congress.

Such rhetoric, Holder declared, “must be repudiated in the strongest possible terms.”

On Sunday, Issa said the Judiciary Committee has invited Holder to “come and clear the record.”

“Clearly, he knew when he said he didn’t know,” Issa said. “Now the question is, what did he know and how is he going to explain why he gave that answer?”

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Oversight Committee Letter Questions Disgraced US Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr’s Trustworthiness And Credibility After Lies About His Department Supplying Guns To Mexican Drug Cartels

October 11, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.’s “lack of trustworthiness” in explaining what he knew about the failed “Fast and Furious” weapons investigation has “called into question his overall credibility” to serve as the nation’s top prosecutor, the chairman of a House committee investigating the operation said Monday.

In a blistering letter, Rep. Darrell E. Issa, California Republican, who heads the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told Mr. Holder that it was time for him “to come clean to the American public” on what he knew and when about the weapons investigation, saying Mr. Holder has made numerous statements about the operation that have “proven to be untrue.”

“The time for deflecting blame and obstructing our investigation is over,” Mr. Issa wrote. “Operation Fast and Furious was the department’s most significant gun-trafficking case. It related to two of your major initiatives — destroying the Mexican [drug] cartels and reducing gun violence on both sides of the border.

“On your watch, it went spectacularly wrong. Whether you realize yet or not, you own Fast and Furious. It is your responsibility,” he wrote, adding that Mr. Holder had an obligation to say who is going to be held accountable “for failing to shut down a program that has already had deadly consequences, and will likely cause more casualties for years to come.”

Mr. Issa has been investigating Fast and Furious for several months with Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. The operation involved the purchase of weapons at Phoenix-area gun shops that eventually were “walked,” or taken, into Mexico, where they were delivered to Mexican dug bosses.

Two of the weapons, both AK-47 assault rifles, were found at the scene of the killing of U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian A. Terry in December.

Mr. Issa said the Justice Department from the beginning of the probe has offered “a roving set of ever-changing explanations to justify its involvement in this reckless and deadly program.”

A Justice Department spokeswoman dismissed Mr. Issa’s letter Monday as “recycled” partisanship.

But Mr. Issa said Justice’s defenses were aimed at undermining the congressional investigation.

The Justice Department insisted from the start that no wrongdoing had occurred and asked that he and Mr. Grassley defer their oversight responsibilities because of concerns they would interfere with an ongoing investigation by the department’s Office of Inspector General, Mr. Issa said.

Additionally, he said, the department steadfastly insisted that none of the Fast and Furious guns had been “walked” into Mexico.

“Once documentary and testimonial evidence strongly contradicted these claims, the department attempted to limit the fallout from Fast and Furious to the Phoenix field division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives,” he said. “When that effort also proved unsuccessful, the department next argued that Fast and Furious resided only within ATF itself, before eventually also assigning blame to the U.S. attorney’s office in Arizona.

“All of these efforts were designed to circle the wagons around [Justice] and its political appointees,” he said.

Last month, Mr. Holder claimed Fast and Furious did not reach the upper levels of the Justice Department, Mr. Issa said, although documents discovered through the course of the investigation proved that “each and every one of these claims advanced by the department to be untrue.”

“It appears your latest defense has reached a new low,” he said, adding that Mr. Holder in a letter Friday said he was unaware of the Fast and Furious operation because his staff failed to inform him of information contained in memos that were specifically addressed to the attorney general.

“At best, this indicates negligence and incompetence in your duties as attorney general,” Mr. Issa said. “At worst, it places your credibility into serious doubt.

“Instead of pledging all necessary resources to assist the congressional investigation in discovering the truth behind the fundamentally flawed Operation Fast and Furious, your letter instead did little but obfuscate, shift blame, berate and attempt to change the topic away from the department’s responsibility in the creation, implementation and authorization of this reckless program.”

On Friday, Mr. Holder denied that emails sent to his office showed that he knew of the Fast and Furious operation and did nothing about it. He said public comments about the inquiry and his involvement with it had become “so base and so harmful to interests that I hope we all share” that he had to publicly address the matter.

Mr. Holder said he took “decisive action” when he learned earlier this year about Fast and Furious in ordering the Office of Inspector General to investigate the matter. He said he also overhauled the leadership at ATF and the U.S. attorney’s office in Phoenix, which oversaw the investigation.

“It has become clear that the flawed tactics employed in Fast and Furious were not limited to that operation and were actually employed in an investigation conducted during the prior administration,” Mr. Holder said, referring to a separate initiative known as “Operation Wide Receiver” managed by federal authorities during the George W. Bush administration.

“Regardless, those tactics should never again be adopted in any investigation,” he said.

Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said the Issa allegations, no matter how many times they are repeated, continue to be “baseless.” She said Mr. Holder took concerns about tactics used in Fast and Furious to the Office of Inspector General, where the operation is now under investigation.

“The department will continue to cooperate with both the inspector general and congressional investigations,” she said. “In the meantime, what the American people deserve is less partisan showboating and more responsible solutions to stopping gun violence on the Southwest Border.”

In the letter, Mr. Issa said documents obtained by congressional investigators show Mr. Holder was aware of Fast and Furious in the summer of 2010 at the latest, not April or May of this year as he testified. Mr. Issa said Mr. Holder was informed about the ATF investigation on at least five occasions and was told that straw buyers were responsible for the purchase of 1,500 firearms that were then supplied to Mexican drug-trafficking cartels.

“Yet, you did nothing to stop this program,” Mr. Issa said. “You failed to own up to your responsibility to safeguard the American public by hiding behind” attorneys in your office, “who you now claim did not bring this information to your attention.”

Mr. Issa said the “most disturbing aspect of this intransigence” is that the Justice Department “has been lying to Congress ever since the inquiry into Fast and Furious began.”

“These firearms were not interdicted. They were not stopped. Your agents allowed these firearms purchases to continue, sometimes even monitoring them in person, and within days some of these weapons were being recovered in Mexico,” he said.

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100+ Assault Weapons Supplied By U.S. ATF Found In Drug Cartel Enforcer’s Home In Mexico

October 9, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – High-powered assault weapons illegally purchased under the ATF’s Fast and Furious program in Phoenix ended up in a home belonging to the purported top Sinaloa cartel enforcer in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, whose organization was terrorizing that city with the worst violence in the Mexican drug wars.

In all, 100 assault weapons acquired under Fast and Furious were transported 350 miles from Phoenix to El Paso, making that West Texas city a central hub for gun traffickers. Forty of the weapons made it across the border and into the arsenal of Jose Antonio Torres Marrufo, a feared cartel leader in Ciudad Juarez, according to federal court records and trace documents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The smugglers’ tactics — quickly moving the weapons far from ATF agents in southern Arizona, where it had been assumed they would circulate — vividly demonstrate that what had been viewed as a local problem was much larger. Six other Fast and Furious guns destined for El Paso were recovered in Columbus, N.M.

“These Fast and Furious guns were going to Sinaloans, and they are killing everyone down there,” said one knowledgeable U.S. government source, who asked for anonymity because of the ongoing investigations. “But that’s only how many we know came through Texas. Hundreds more had to get through.”

Torres Marrufo, also known as “the Jaguar,” has been identified by U.S. authorities as the enforcer for Sinaloa cartel chieftain Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman. The Fast and Furious weapons were found at one of Torres Marrufo’s homes April 30 when Mexican police inspected the property. It was unoccupied but “showed signs of recent activity,” they said.

The basement had been converted into a gym with a wall covered with built-in mirrors. Behind the mirrors they found a hidden room with the Fast and Furious weapons and dozens more, including an antiaircraft machine gun, a sniper rifle and a grenade launcher.

“We have seized the most important cache of weapons in the history of Ciudad Juarez,” Chihuahua state Gov. Cesar Duarte said at the time, though he did not know that many of the weapons came from the U.S. and Fast and Furious.

Torres Marrufo has been indicted in El Paso, but authorities have been unable to locate and arrest him.

In the U.S., intelligence officials consider the Sinaloa cartel the most powerful drug trafficking organization in the world. Weekly reports from U.S. intelligence authorities to the Justice Department in the summer of 2010, at the height of Fast and Furious, warned about the proliferation of guns reaching the Sinaloa cartel.

Under Fast and Furious, begun in fall 2009, the ATF allowed illegal buyers to walk away with weapons in the hope that agents in Phoenix could track the guns and arrest cartel leaders.

Three months into the program, El Paso began to emerge as a hub, perhaps the central location, for Fast and Furious weapons. On Jan. 13, 2010, El Paso police stumbled upon 40 firearms after following a suspicious dark blue Volkswagen Jetta that backed into a garage at a local residence, according to federal court records.

Alberto Sandoval told authorities he acquired the weapons three days after they were purchased from someone he knew only as “Rudy.” He said he was paid $1,000 to store the guns and “knew the firearms were going to Mexico.”

Sandoval pleaded guilty in federal court in El Paso and was sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison. A month later, on Dec. 17, 2010, he escaped from a minimum-security prison in Tucson; officials believe he fled to Mexico.

Two others, Ivan Chavira and Edgar Ivan Galvan, were subsequently charged in that gun recovery, along with the recovery of 20 Fast and Furious weapons on April 7, 2010, in El Paso. Those guns also were discovered by chance by local authorities, and ATF trace records show that the weapons were purchased in Phoenix two weeks before they were found in El Paso.

Chavira and Galvan pleaded guilty. Chavira received eight years in prison; Galvan is to be sentenced next month.

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Attorney General Eric Holder Is Pissed Off At Critics Of His Department Arming Mexican Drug Cartels With Automatic Weapons

October 7, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – Attorney General Eric Holder angrily responded Friday to Republican critics of his handling of a controversial gun enforcement operation, charging them with using “irresponsible and inflammatory rhetoric.”

“I simply cannot sit idly by as a (Republican) member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform suggests, as happened this week, that law enforcement and government employees who devote their lives to protecting our citizens be considered “accessories to murder,'” Holder said in a letter to members of Congress.

“Such irresponsible and inflammatory rhetoric must be repudiated in the strongest possible terms,” he said.

The bitter debate follows the release this week of Justice Department documents on Capitol Hill that prompted Republican critics to charge Holder knew about the now-discredited Fast and Furious gun operation before he previously claimed in testimony before the Oversight Committee.

Holder did not mention by name anyone other than Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa in his stinging rebuke of the charges that have been leveled at the attorney general.
Obama stands by AG Holder
GOP calls for attorney general probe

Holder insisted, as his Justice Department aides have for several days, that he was not inconsistent in his testimony.

“My testimony was truthful and accurate,” Holder said. “I have no recollection of knowing about Fast and Furious or of hearing its name prior to the public controversy about it. Prior to early 2011, I certainly never knew about the tactics employed in the operation.”

The tactics Holder referred to center on Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents allowing illegally purchased guns to “walk” from Arizona gun stores to Mexico. The ATF plan was to track the weapons to Mexican drug cartels. However, many of the guns were lost in the operation, and two of them ended up at the scene where U.S. Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered.

New boss at AFT announces major shake-up

Holder insists that when he learned of those tactics he stopped “uncontrolled crossing of guns across the border,” and called for an inspector general investigation to get to the bottom of the matter.

Frederick Hill, a spokesman for the committee chaired by Issa, issued a statement in response to Holder’s letter.

“If Attorney General Holder had said these things five months ago when Congress asked him about Operation Fast and Furious, it might have been more believable. At this point, however, it’s hard to take at face value a defense that is factually questionable, entirely self-serving, and a still incomplete account of what senior Justice Department officials knew about gun walking,” Hill said.

Holder’s five-page letter included detailed explanations in response to various points raised by his critics.

He concluded by saying: “Until we move beyond the current political climate, where real solutions take a back seat to both political posturing and making headlines on cable news programs, and is deemed more important than actually solving our country’s difficult challenges, nothing is going to change. I hope we can engage in a more responsible dialogue on this subject in the future.”

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Two Top Washington DC ATF Supervisors Demoted After Agency Supplied Guns To Mexican Drug Cartels

October 6, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – Two top supervisors at ATF headquarters in Washington — the deputy director and the assistant director for all field operations — have been reassigned as the beleaguered agency attempts to remake itself amid the fallout from a failed gun-tracking operation along the Southwest border called Fast and Furious, according to two sources briefed on the changes.

William J. Hoover, the No. 2 man at ATF, will become special agent-in-charge of the agency’s Washington field office, while Mark Chait, who ran all of the field investigations around the country, is being reassigned as head of the Baltimore field office.

Thomas Brandon, who was sent to Phoenix to run the field office there and help it recover from the repercussions of Fast and Furious, will be taking Hoover’s spot as deputy director.

The new assignments, along with other job changes, were announced today by Todd Jones, the U.S. attorney in Minneapolis who was named acting head of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives this year. He succeeded ATF chief Kenneth Melson, who was reassigned to a lower-level position in the Justice Department.

Hoover had broad supervision over Fast and Furious, was given routine updates on the “gun walking” operation, and grew concerned over the number of firearms getting into Mexico without any U.S. indictments on this side of the border.

He tried to get it shut down six months after it began in the fall of 2009. But he failed, and the program continued until January of this year. During that time, a U.S. Border Patrol agent was killed in Arizona and two Fast and Furious weapons were recovered at the scene.

Under the program, the ATF allowed the illegal purchase of countless weapons and expected agents to track them to Mexican drug cartels.

Instead, more than 2,000 were lost and many turned up in at least 170 violent crime scenes in Mexico.

The furor has prompted a congressional investigation and a review by the Justice Department’s inspector general’s office.

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Department Of Justice In “Panic Mode” As Hearing Nears On Failed Anti-Gun Trafficking Program That Flooded Mexico With Assault Rifles

June 10, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – Officials at the Department of Justice are in “panic mode,” according to multiple sources, as word spreads that congressional testimony next week will paint a bleak and humiliating picture of Operation Fast and Furious, the botched undercover operation that left a trail of blood from Mexico to Washington, D.C.

The operation was supposed to stem the flow of weapons from the U.S. to Mexico by allowing so-called straw buyers to purchase guns legally in the U.S. and later sell them in Mexico, usually to drug cartels.

Instead, ATF documents show that the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms knowingly and deliberately flooded Mexico with assault rifles. Their intent was to expose the entire smuggling organization, from top to bottom, but the operation spun out of control and supervisors refused pleas from field agents to stop it.

Only after Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry died did ATF Agent John Dodson blow the whistle and expose the scandal.

“What people don’t understand is how long we will be dealing with this,” Dodson told Fox News back in March. “Those guns are gone. You can’t just give the order and get them back. There is no telling how many crimes will be committed before we retrieve them.”

But now the casualties are coming in.

Mexican officials estimate 150 of their people have been shot by Fast and Furious guns. Police have recovered roughly 700 guns at crime scenes, 250 in the U.S. and the rest in Mexico, including five AK-47s found at a cartel warehouse in Juarez last month.

A high-powered sniper rifle was used to shoot down a Mexican military helicopter. Two other Romanian-made AK-47s were found in a shoot-out that left 11 dead in the state of Jalisco three weeks ago.

The guns were traced to the Lone Wolf Gun Store in Glendale, Ariz., and were sold only after the store employees were told to do so by the ATF.

It is illegal to buy a gun for anyone but yourself. However, ATF’s own documents show it allowed just 15 men to buy 1,725 guns, and 1,318 of those were after the purchasers officially became targets of investigation.

Arizona gun store owners say they were explicitly told by the ATF to sell the guns, sometimes 20, 30, even up to 40 in a single day to single person.

And those orders, from at least one ATF case agent, are on audio recording.

“We would say, ‘Do you (the ATF) want us to stop selling, is there something we should do here?'” Brad DeSayes, owner of J&G Gun Sales in Prescott, said. “And they would say, ‘No, no, no, keep selling – just tell us after the fact.'”

Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, holds a hearing Wednesday into Operation Fast and Furious.

The hearing is billed as “Reckless Decisions, Tragic Outcomes,” and the following are among the details expected in testimony:

- The ATF allowed and encouraged five Arizona gun store owners to sell some 1,800 weapons to buyers known to them as gun smugglers.

- It installed cameras inside the gun stores to record purchases made by those smugglers.

- It hid GPS trackers inside gun stocks and watched the weapons go south on computer screens.

- It obtained surveillance video from parking lots and helicopters showing straw buyers transferring their guns from one car to another.

- It learned guns sold in Phoenix were recovered only when Mexico police requested “trace data,” which is obtained from their serial number.

The first witness in Wednesday’s hearing is Sen. Charles Grassley, who will describe what his investigative team learned from four months of interviews and thousands of documents. He will be followed by three members of Brian Terry’s family, three ATF agents and Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich, who only months ago insisted the agency did not let guns go south to Mexico, a claim contradicted by field agents in Group 7, the actual agents who ran the operation in Phoenix.

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San Fernando Mexico Police Officer Joel Resendiz-Moreno Arrested For Role In Kidnapping And Murder Of 145 Bus Passengers

April 22, 2011

SAN FERNANDO, MEXICO – A San Fernando police officer found himself on the other side of the law.

Mexican authorities have arrested officer Joel Resendiz-Moreno for allegedly participating in the kidnapping and murder of 145 bus passengers.

Mexico’s Attorney General Office (PGR) announced the arrest on Thursday evening.

Details have not been released about Resendiz-Moreno’s exact role in the case but PGR officials are expecting to take his statement and possibly file formal charges.

PGR officials are asking anyone who may have been a victim of Resendez-Moreno to come forward.

A total of 68 people have been arrested for the San Fernando massacres but the PGR reports only 55 have been arraigned or formally charged at this time.

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16 Mexican Police Officers Arrested – Linked To Mass Graves

April 14, 2011

SAN FERNANDO, MEXICO — Sixteen municipal police officers from the northeastern Mexican town of San Fernando have been arrested for allegedly protecting those responsible for the mass graves uncovered there, the country’s attorney general said.

The police officers worked to cover up the killings of the Zetas drug cartel, Attorney General Marisela Morales said.

Authorities recovered 10 more bodies from the mass graves Wednesday and Thursday, bringing the total number of bodies found to 126, state attorney general’s spokesman Ruben Dario Rios Lopez said.

Morales said that to date, investigators have identified 17 people who participated in the executions of the victims, who have been arrested.

She identified the authors of the crime as Salvador Martinez Escobedo, Omar Estrada Luna, and Roman Paloma. Paloma is the leader of the Zetas in San Fernando, Morales said. Mexico is offering a reward of 15 million pesos ($1.3 million) for information leading to their arrests.

Authorities began finding the graves earlier this month during an investigation into a report of the kidnapping of passengers from a bus in late March. The investigation led them to San Fernando, Tamaulipas — the same place where in August of last year, the bodies of 72 immigrants were found at a ranch.

Tamaulipas is one of Mexico’s most active states when it comes to drug trafficking. The Gulf cartel and the Zetas cartel operate in the state and have strongholds there.

The Zetas have been blamed for the killings of the 72 migrants found in San Fernando last year.

Nationwide, the Mexican government says there have been some 35,000 drug-related deaths since President Felipe Calderon began a crackdown on the cartels in December 2006.

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U.S. Border Patrol Agents Ordered To REDUCE Or STOP Arrest Of Illegal Immigrants Caught Invading U.S. Along Mexican Border

April 1, 2011

ARIZONA – An Arizona sheriff says U.S. Border Patrol officials have repeatedly told him they have been ordered to reduce — at times even stop — arrests of illegal immigrants caught trying to cross the U.S. border.

Cochise County Sheriff Larry Dever told FoxNews.com that a supervisor with the U.S. Border Patrol told him as recently as this month that the federal agency’s office on Arizona’s southern border was under orders to keep apprehension numbers down during specific reporting time periods.

“The senior supervisor agent is telling me about how their mission is now to scare people back,” Dever said in an interview with FoxNews.com. “He said, ‘I had to go back to my guys and tell them not to catch anybody, that their job is to chase people away. … They were not to catch anyone, arrest anyone. Their job was to set up posture, to intimidate people, to get them to go back.”

Dever said his recent conversation with the Border Patrol supervisor was the latest in a series of communications on the subject that he has had with various federal agents over the last two years. Dever said he plans to relay the substance of these conversations when he testifies under oath next month before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

“I will raise my hand to tell the truth and swear to God, and nothing is more serious or important than that,” he said. “I’m going to tell them that, here’s what I hear and see every day: I had conversation with agent A, B, C, D and this is what they told me.”

Dever’s charges were vigorously denied by a commander with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

“The claim that Border Patrol supervisors have been instructed to underreport or manipulate our statistics is unequivocally false,” Jeffery Self, commander of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Joint Field Command in Arizona, said in a written statement.

“I took an oath that I take very seriously, and I find it insulting that anyone, especially a fellow law enforcement officer, would imply that we would put the protection of the American public and security of our nation’s borders in danger just for a numbers game,” he said. “Our mission does not waiver based on political climate, and it never will. To suggest that we are ambiguous in enforcing our laws belittles the work of more than 6,000 CBP employees in Arizona who dedicate their lives to protect our borders every day.”

In recent days, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has said the U.S.-Mexican border is more secure than ever, and Homeland Security officials have used recent statistics to support those claims.

“There is a perception that the border is worse now than it ever has been,” Napolitano said at the El Paso border crossing last week. “That is wrong. The border is better now than it ever has been.”

Dever doesn’t agree.

“Janet Napolitano says the border is more secure than it’s ever been. I’ve been here for 60 years, and I’m telling you that’s not true,” he said.

The sheriff of Santa Cruz County, which borders Dever’s Cochise County to the west, said, “This is news to me,” when asked about reports that border agents were being told to turn illegal immigrants back to Mexico rather than arrest them.

“It comes as a complete surprise that that would be something that’s going around,” Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada said. “I meet with Dever all the time and I have great respect for him, so I expect he’d come forward and say what he knows and give the source.

“Not knowing who the source is, how reliable that source is, I really don’t have much of a position,” Estrada said. “I’ve been around a real long time and haven’t heard anything like this. By the same token, you learn new things every day.”

Both sheriffs are elected officials. Dever is a Republican, Estrada, a Democrat.

Others have questioned the methodology and conclusions of the Homeland Security numbers showing the border is more secure.

Mark Hanna, CEO of Real Life Enterprises, a Phoenix-based technology integration and security company, has testified before the Arizona Senate about what he called Homeland Security’s flawed methodology used to compile border security statistics. Hanna maintains the numbers are dangerously misleading.

Hanna, who is currently working on a private/public partnership pilot program along the Arizona border, said he attended a February conference at which Michael Fisher, chief of the United States Border Patrol, and Mark S. Borkowski, assistant commissioner for technology and innovation acquisition, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, showed off charts indicating arrests were decreasing and argued the border was more secure. The charts also showed an increase in marijuana seizures along the border and an increase in Border Patrol agents.

But those charts left out crucial data, Hanna said.

“Since we don’t know how many illegal crossings are occurring, then a decrease in apprehensions might mean that there are fewer illegal crossings, and the border is more secure. But it could also just as easily mean that more illegal border crossings are occurring, and we’re just not catching as many. In order to know how secure the border is, you need to know how many are crossing and the threat level of those who are crossing illegally,” he said.

“It is a very dangerous condition for the secretary of Homeland Security to be using incomplete data to form such a conclusion, and then repeatedly announce these conclusions as fact,” he said.

The Department of Homeland Security did not return repeated requests for comment on Hanna’s specific challenges to the agency’s methodology.

Whatever the methodology, Dever said the numbers don’t accurately describe what’s happening on the ground.

“We do not know who’s crossing that border, but that anyone who wants to can. That’s the message our nation needs to hear, that anyone who wants to can, and is. And our own Department of Homeland Security does not have clear definition of what securing the border even means,” Dever said.

“People are disgusted, the smiles are gone off their face, their general sense of welfare been taken away from them and until that’s returned you can throw all the numbers on the board. … I’ll tell Napolitano, in spite of all of your declarations and efforts to the contrary, things are not safe. No, they are not secure.

“You can use your numbers to say it’s more secure, but it does not define a sense of safety or well-being. You can say it’s more secure, but it’s more dangerous than ever.”

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Feds Admit That 1,825 Miles Of Mexican Border Is Not Under Control Of US Border Patrol – Nothing To Stop Illegal Crossings Between US And Mexico

March 31, 2011

WASHINGTON, DC – Richard M. Stana, director of homeland security and justice issues at the Government Accountability Office (which is responsible for “auditing agency operations to determine whether federal funds are being spent efficiently and effectively”), told the Senate Homeland Security Committee yesterday that the federal government can actually prevent or stop illegal entries into the United States along only 129 miles of the 1,954-mile-long U.S.-Mexico border.

That leaves 1,825 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border where the Border Patrol cannot prevent or stop an illegal entry.

Nonetheless, Stana told the committee, the Border Patrol itself says it has established “an acceptable level of control” along 873 miles of the 1,954-mile-long southwest border. This is because of the way the Border Patrol defines “an acceptable level of control” of the border.

“According to Border Patrol,” Stana told the committee, “an acceptable level of border control is established when it has the capability (i.e., resources) to deter or detect and apprehend incursions at the immediate border or after entry.” [Emphasis added.]

In addition to the 129 miles where the Border Patrol says it can actually “deter or detect and apprehend illegal entries” at the border itself, Stana told the committee, there are another 744 miles where the Border Patrol says it has the capability to deter or detect and apprehend illegal entrants after they have entered the county and penetrated U.S. territory to “distances of up to 100 miles or more away from the immediate border.”

The 3,918-mile-long northern border of the United States is virtually wide open, according to Stana’s testimony. The Border Patrol, Stana said, reports that it has established “an acceptable level of control” along only 69 miles of this border and that of those 69 miles there are only 2 miles where the Border Patrol can actually prevent or stop an illegal entry.

Along the remaining, 3,916 miles of the northern border the Border Patrol does not have the capability to deter or detect and apprehend an intruder.

“As we testified in February 2011 about our preliminary observations on this measure, Border Patrol indicated that in fiscal year 2010, 873 of the nearly 2,000 southwest border miles and 69 of the nearly 4,000 northern border miles between Washington and Maine were at an acceptable level of control,” Stana told the committee in his written testimony.

“Within this border security classification, Border Patrol further distinguished between the ability to deter or detect and apprehend illegal entries at the immediate border versus after entry—at distances of up to 100 miles or more away from the immediate border—into the United States,” Stana wrote.

“Our preliminary analysis of these Border Patrol data showed that the agency reported a capability to deter or detect and apprehend illegal entries at the immediate border across 129 of the 873 southwest border miles and 2 of the 69 northern border miles,” Stana testified. “Our preliminary analysis also showed that Border Patrol reported the ability to deter or detect and apprehend illegal entries after they crossed the border for an additional 744 southwest border miles and 67 northern border miles.”

Stana said that in fiscal 2010 “about $11.9 billion [was] appropriated to secure the entire U.S. border (for personnel, infrastructure, and technology).”

Only about a third of this money was spent to secure the border in the vast territories between the official ports of entry (POE). “CBP reported that $3.6 billion was appropriated in fiscal year 2010 for border security efforts between the POEs,” Stana testified.

Overall, the federal government spent $3.72 trillion in fiscal 2010, according to the White House Office of Management and Budget. That means the $11.9 billion the government spent on securing the entire U.S. border equaled 0.3 percent of federal spending and the $3.6 billion the federal government spent on securing the border between the ports of entry equaled about 0.1 percent.

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Town’s Entire Police Force Quits After Machine Gun And Grenade Attack On New Headquarters

October 30, 2010

LOS RAMONES, MEXICO – The entire police force in a small Mexican town abruptly resigned Tuesday after its new headquarters was viciously attacked by suspected drug cartel gunmen.

All 14 police officers in Los Ramones, a rural town in northern Mexico, fled the force in terror after gunmen fired more than 1,000 bullets and flung six grenades at their headquarters on Monday night.

No one was injured in the attack. Mayor Santos Salinas Garza told local media that the officers resigned because of the incident.

The gunmen’s 20-minute shooting spree destroyed six police vehicles and left the white and orange police station pocked with bullet holes, the Financial Times reported.

The station had been inaugurated just three days earlier.

The attack was the second in less than a week against police forces in Nuevo Leon. Last week, thugs threw two grenades at police in Sabinas Hidalgo, according to newspaper Noroeste.

Los Ramones is in the Mexican state of Nuevo Leon, which has been a war zone of turf violence between two of the country’s fiercest drug gangs, the Zetas and the Gulf cartel.

Police have blamed members of both cartels for attacks on several police stations throughout the area. Several mayors in the region have been assassinated.

Mexico’s municipal police forces often quit out of fear after being attacked by cartels.

About 90% of forces have less than 100 officers, and 61% of cops earn less than $322 a month, according to the Finanical Times.

Mexico’s intelligence chief said this summer that nearly 30,000 people have died in drug related crimes since 2006.

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20 Year Old Girl, The Only Candidate, Appointed Police Chief In Violent Mexican Town – Criminology Student

October 20, 2010

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - A 20-year-old criminology student, the only candidate for the position, was designated as police chief in the violence-plagued town of Guadalupe Distrito Bravo, Mexican media reported Tuesday.

Marisol Valles Garcia took charge on Monday of security in the town, population 10,000, on the US border. The community is around 80 km east of Ciudad Juarez, itself regarded as the most violent city in Mexico.

The former mayor of Guadalupe Distrito Bravos, Jesus Manuel Lara Rodriguez, was killed on June 19 at his home in Ciudad Juarez, after receiving death threats.

Valles Garcia said she will not have to fight the drug gangs, which is the responsibility of other law enforcement agencies. Instead, she will pursue preventive programmes in neighbourhoods and schools, and she will be in charge of reclaiming public spaces for the community.

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Mexico Complains About Limited Health Care For Wetbacks In U.S.

October 7, 2010

MEXICO – Mexican illegal immigrants in the United States face a higher risk of illness and death from limited access to health care, according to a new study announced this week by Mexico’s health ministry. Lack of adequate health care is likely to get worse for them as 26 American states consider legislation to crack down on illegal immigration, according to Mexican health officials.

The Mexicans also endure higher rates of drug addiction, HIV/AIDS and mental health problems when they move to the United States.

“While in Mexico addictions average 0.9 percent of the population, among Mexican migrants in the United States addictions affect 6.2 percent of members of that community, which is six times more than what is found in Mexico,” said Mexican Health Secretary Jose Angel Cordova Villalobos. “And regarding mental illnesses, in Mexico they affect 6.4 percent of the population and in the United States 15.4 percent of the migrants of Mexican origin.”

His figures were drawn from a study sponsored by the Mexican government in conjunction with the University of California.

Cordova Villalobos presented the findings Monday during a conference in Guanajuato, Mexico, on the health consequences of immigration from Mexico to the United States.

One in three Mexicans lack access to medical care when they move to the United States and only one-fifth of them have health insurance, the study found.

Results of the health study were announced at a time of growing resentment in Mexico about demands in the United States for a tougher political stance against illegal immigration.

In a recent example of the anti-immigrant sentiment, Florida Republicans are drafting a bill modeled on Arizona’s S.B. 1070, which Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law last April.

The law empowers local police to stop people they reasonably believe are illegal immigrants to ask for them for documentation of their residency status. Local police also can question witnesses at crime scenes about their immigration status.

The Arizona law is the first to extend what had been an exclusive authority of federal law enforcement to local police.

Similar legislation to crack down on illegal immigrants is pending in Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and South Carolina.

At least 11 other state legislatures are discussing anti-illegal immigrant bills.

Conservatives who identify with the Tea Party movement are making an illegal immigration crackdown part of their campaign platform for the general election in November.

Mexican health officials expressed concern any additional anti-immigrant legislation might further reduce access to health care for the immigrants.

Speakers at the health conference in Guanajuato, Mexico, on Monday said health care is a right that should not be limited by government.

Xochitl Castañeda, project director of the California-Mexico Health Initiative, a University of California program to coordinate health resources for Mexican immigrants, said that in the United States health care “is a good that is bought and sold and is offered or withheld on eligibility criteria, much of them based on citizenship or illegal immigrant status.”

Jorge Bustamante, a professor at the Northern Border College in Tijuana, Mexico, said, “Laws like the Arizona law are a consequence of the xenophobic wave that has arisen after the start of the economic and financial crisis” in the United States, Bustamante said.

He also denied that Mexicans are contributing to U.S. economic problems.

He suggested that the U.S. government work more closely with the Mexican government to resolve illegal immigration.

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85 Prisoners, Mostly Drug Cartel Members, Climbed Mexican Jail Fence And Went Home

September 10, 2010

MONTERREY, MEXICO – Eighty-five prisoners escaped from a jail near the U.S. border on Friday, authorities and media said, the latest prison break underscoring the challenges Mexico faces as it battles powerful drug cartels.

The prisoners, mainly cartel members, climbed over a prison fence in the border city of Reynosa, across from McAllen, Texas, in the early hours of Friday morning, local radio and newspapers reported, saying 85 men escaped.

A spokesman for Mexico’s attorney general’s office in Reynosa confirmed the jailbreak but declined to give details.

Police arrested more than 40 prison guards and staff who were on duty when the men escaped, and two prison guards are missing, local radio and newspaper El Norte said.

The jailbreak follows a scandal in July, when authorities discovered that prison officials had allowed convicts out of a prison in northwestern Durango state to carry out revenge attacks before returning to cells for the night.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who sent thousands of troops across the country to fight drug gangs, has vowed to clean up prisons that in the past have allowed jailed drug lords to live in luxury or escape when they please.

But the conservative leader has struggled to contain corruption and lawlessness in the Mexican prison system.

Officials say rising drug violence across Mexico is a sign the army is weakening powerful cartels, but Calderon is under enormous pressure to stop escalating drug violence that has killed over 28,000 people since late 2006.

The murders of 25 people by suspected hitmen in Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, Texas, on Thursday was the bloodiest day in almost three years in an area gripped by an escalating drug war, officials said on Friday.

Gunmen burst into several houses in Ciudad Juarez and shot people accused of working for rival drug gangs, a spokesman for the Chihuahua state attorney general’s office said on Friday.

Four bystanders were also killed on Thursday as a convoy of hitmen shot its way out of traffic in Ciudad Juarez, local newspaper El Diario said. Police declined to confirm that report, but said 25 people had died in drug violence, in the worst single day of killings in Ciudad Juarez since January 2008, when recent drug murders began.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton raised concerns this week about drug cartels in the region and said Mexico was starting to resemble Colombia 20 years ago, when drug traffickers controlled certain parts of that nation.

President Barack Obama rejected the comparison.

Mounting insecurity in Mexico could eventually pose a threat to efforts to pull Latin America’s second-largest economy out of its worst recession since 1932. Export-driven cities like Ciudad Juarez, which lost 75,000 manufacturing jobs last year, have suffered particularly during the downturn.

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Law Enforcement Officials And Witnesses Drop Like Flys Amid Investigation Into Mexican Massacre Of 72 Migrants

September 8, 2010

MEXICO CITY — The criminal gang behind the slaying of 72 migrants late last month is suspected of killing those close to the case in an attempt to shut down further investigation.

Officials said late Tuesday that they thought two bodies recovered earlier in the week are of a prosecutor and a local investigator looking into the massacre, which was discovered on Aug. 24.

The bodies contained ID cards identifying them as state prosecutor Roberto Jaime Suarez Vazquez and Juan Carlos Suarez Sanchez, a local security official. Both had been assigned to probe the massacre, the attorney general’s office of Tamaulipas state said in a statement. Officials are conducting DNA tests to confirm the identities.

They’re the latest, but not the only, people slain in the aftermath of the killings of the 58 men and 14 women, whose bound bodies were found slumped against a wall at a remote ranch in San Fernando, near the Texas border.

Also this week, police discovered the bodies of three of the alleged gunmen who carried out the massacre, a sign that the criminal gang behind the migrant abduction and murders may be systematically eliminating those who carried out the massacre and might be potential witnesses.

Alejandro Poire, a spokesman for President Felipe Calderon on security issues, said an anonymous caller helped authorities find the three bodies on a road in Abasola, a town in northeast Tamaulipas state, and were later identified by a survivor as among the gunmen in the massacre.

Poire said Wednesday that Mexican marines had arrested seven more members of the Los Zetas drug and crime syndicate in Tamaulipas thought to have been involved in the migrant killings. “These arrests will plainly help clarify what happened in San Fernando,” he said.

The slayings of the 72 migrants – who arrived from Brazil, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras – drew diplomatic protests from around the hemisphere, and the fallout continues.

El Salvador President Mauricio Funes is scheduled to arrive in Mexico City on Friday for discussions about organized crime and the safety of migrants who cross Mexico on their way to the United States.

Word of the massacre first emerged after an Ecuadorean migrant who’d been shot through the neck walked through the night and notified Mexican marines. Since then, Honduras has confirmed that one of its citizens survived the massacre and is under the protection of Mexican authorities. El Salvador said a migrant from that country also survived and is in hiding in the United States.

“The scale of the massacre is without precedent, although the kidnapping and killing of migrants happens frequently,” said Rupert Knox, a London-based researcher on Mexico for Amnesty International.

Knox called on Mexico’s national human rights commission to review the investigation by the State Attorney’s Office to ensure that links between corrupt authorities and criminal gangs that extort migrants are fully investigated.

The 18-year-old Ecuadorean migrant who survived the slayings later told a television network that the gunmen said they were from Los Zetas, a notoriously violent drug and crime syndicate. The other confirmed survivors haven’t spoken publicly.

“There’s an awful lot that’s not known” about the case, Knox said, referring to who in the criminal gang structure gave orders to slay the migrants. He added that the discovery of the three bodies of the alleged gunmen shouldn’t preclude deeper investigation.

“We hope that that doesn’t result in closure of the case,” he said.

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29 Mexican Police Officers Detained Due To Ties To Drug Traffickers

June 1, 2009

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO — Soldiers and federal agents detained 29 police officers in northern Mexico on Monday for alleged ties to drug traffickers.

It was Mexico’s latest sweep to root out corruption among police and government officials, which has been a major impediment to President Felipe Calderon’s battle against drug cartels. Last week, federal officials arrested 10 mayors and 20 other officials in the western state of Michoacan on suspicion of protecting the La Familia cartel.

Soldiers and state and federal agents detained the 29 officers at police headquarters in the cities of Monterrey, San Nicolas de los Garza, Apodaca and the state public security offices, said Nuevo Leon state district attorney Luis Carlos Trevino.

The officers were detained after soldiers found evidence linking them to drug dealers who were arrested last month, the state government said in a statement. It did not give details on the evidence.

“We are working on cleaning up forces and this is one step of many that have to be taken to achieve that,” Trevino said.

Trevino said none of the 29 had been charged.

Outside of the state police headquarters, about 60 people who said they were relatives of the detained officers protested against military intrusion in police activities.

Calderon has sent more than 40,000 soldiers to battle drug trafficking across the country and acknowledged that corruption is pervasive among Mexican police at all levels.

Local law enforcement officials have followed the president’s lead and are increasingly relying on military officers to run their police departments.

On Monday, retired Gen. Javier Aguayo took over as police chief for the northern city of Chihuahua, where drug-fueled violence has claimed hundreds of lives.

In the nearby city of Ciudad Juarez, gunmen opened fire in the lobby of a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center, killing five people Sunday, said Regional Deputy Attorney General Alejandro Pariente. Witnesses told police many of the 50 rehab patients climbed a fence to flee the attack.

Pariente says police are investigating whether Sunday’s attack was related to threats that administrators had received demanding they shut down the clinic.

It was the second shooting attack in six months at a rehab clinic in Ciudad Juarez, a city across the border from El Paso, Texas.

The city had seen a decline in drug violence since more than 5,000 extra troops were sent in to bolster security in February.

The killings capped a bloody weekend that left more than 30 people dead. Among the victims were a lawyer, a university professor and a female police officer who was shot to death after leaving work.

Also Sunday, gunmen killed four men sitting in a car in the border city of Tijuana, across from San Diego, California.

On Saturday, two gunmen died in a clash with soldiers in Michaocan. The gunmen opened fire on soldiers who were on patrol in the village of Moreno de Valencia, the Defense Department said in a statement. It said soldiers found a Kalashnikov rifle, a shotgun, a handgun and a grenade inside the gunmen’s sport utility vehicle.

More than 10,750 people have been killed in drug violence since Calderon launched a national crackdown on organized crime in December 2006.

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