Falcon Lake 'pirate' murder: Is beheading 'message to the Americans'?
The beheading of a Mexican detective investigating the shooting of American David Hartley on Falcon Lake raises the stakes for both the US and Mexico. The Hartley probe appeared to be narrowing to two alleged members of the Zeta cartel.
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To be sure, some have doubted Ms. Hartley's story of how the couple was chased by pirates and her husband killed. Others, including some US politicians, have questioned why the Hartleys ventured into Mexico despite warnings about pirate attacks.Skip to next paragraph
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But the beheading of the Mexican detective, says Mr. Peña, creates a new level of outrage in the US-Mexico border lands.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) last week urged the Obama administration to bring more national guard troops and to add armed aerial drones to patrol Falcon Lake. Governor Perry has resisted sending the Texas Rangers, who are under his command, to Falcon Lake in fear of political repercussions should someone get killed or hurt.
Last weekend, Sigifredo Gonzalez, sheriff of Texas's Zapata County, declined offers to help Mexican state authorities search the Mexican side of the lake, fearing a shootout. That came as other incidents of "spillover violence" from the drug war in Mexico, which has claimed more than 26,000 lives in the past four years, began to worry many in the borderlands.
Did detective have a lead?
Though Mexican authorities had publicly said they had no suspects, the Mexican homicide detective, Mr. Flores, delivered documents to KRGV-TV over the weekend that named two suspected Zeta members, Juan Pedro and Jose Manual Saldivar Farias, in Hartley's shooting, the TV station said.
According to the documents, the pair are members of the pirate contingent that has terrorized US boaters and residents of a nearby Mexican town, and both men are already wanted by Mexican authorities on murder and robbery charges, the TV station's statement alleges.
"I would assume he was killed because he was either trying to assist in the rescue operation or search operation, or because he may have provided some documents to the media, from what I understand," Sheriff Gonzalez told KRGV Tuesday.
In the wake of the new murder, border politicians stepped up calls for President Obama to become more directly involved in the US response, which has so far involved a contingent of local, state, and federal law enforcement authorities.
"There's no excuse for Obama not getting down here," says Peña. "We're only going to resolve it with a federal response. Just hoping that it's going to go away is not going to happen."
While much of the political debate in the US has focused on illegal immigration, the gruesome Falcon Lake cases could reshape the border debate as the cartels attempt to intimidate state and federal governments on both sides, says Professor Freeman.
"Our concern about migration … is missing the point," he says. "Now it's really lawlessness on both sides and the spread of violence across the border that has really created a great crisis. With the increase in violence, people are going to have to rethink their attitude toward the border and think of that river or line in the sand as being something that might need to be seriously enforced."