Mistaken identity theory gains traction in Falcon Lake 'pirate' attack
An intelligence firm suggests that Americans David Hartley and Tiffany Hartley, who were attacked on Falcon Lake along the Texas-Mexico border, were mistaken as drug cartel spies by junior members of a rival Mexican gang.
Officials on the US side of Falcon Lake, where David Hartley, a US tourist, was shot on Sept. 30 while Jet Skiing, are giving some credence to a theory that Mr. Hartley and his wife were mistaken as drug cartel spies by "pirates" linked to another cartel, setting in motion a tense, and ongoing, international incident.Skip to next paragraph
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US and Mexican authorities so far have no official explanation for the shooting of Hartley, but a report by a global intelligence firm posited this week that Mr. Hartley and his wife, Tiffany Hartley, stumbled into an ambush engineered by lower-level cartel members – perhaps teenagers – who made an unauthorized decision to confront and fire upon the couple.
Howard Campbell, author of "Drug War Zone," told CNN Friday that the shooting may be the result of the Zeta cartel, which is believed to be behind Hartley's murder, growing more desperate beneath a government crackdown and intensifying battles with other drug lords.
"There are reports that recently the Zetas have become a bit desperate and have been using ill-trained, reckless teenagers which can lead to mistakes of this kind," he told CNN in an e-mail Friday. "The leaders of Mexican drug cartels try to minimize attacks on Americans because they know this would bring pressure on their organizations."
Ms. Hartley told police in the US that lake "pirates" shot her husband and chased her into Texas waters before she got away.
A test for Mexico
That confrontation appears now to have roiled the local cartel wars, even as it has called into question the Mexican government’s ability to withstand intimidation from fearless cartels.
According to the anonymously sourced Stratfor report, the beheading this week of a Mexican investigator looking into the attack, Rolando Armando Flores Villegas, was roundly seen as a stern message to both Mexican and US authorities "that no body will be produced and to leave the situation alone."
On Thursday Mexican authorities ended a two-week search for Mr. Hartley.
"[As illustrated by the Falcon Lake situation], the stability of the Mexican political system seems to be under threat," says Gary Freeman, a political scientist at the University of Texas, in Austin. "These narcotrafficking drug lords seem to have no fear, and there's such corruption in the police that I just wonder how they can put the cap back on the bottle."
The Stratfor report has been neither confirmed nor denied by US law enforcement authorities.
According to the report, the Hartleys, who had recently moved back to the US from Mexico for safety reasons, showed up at Falcon Lake with a Jet Ski trailer bearing Tamaulipas state tags. The Stratfor report, which notes that rival drug cartels routinely use Jet Skis to spy on one another, says scouts from the notorious Zeta gang may have instead pegged them as spies from the Gulf Coast Cartel. Stratfor says a radio communication reporting the presence of the Jet Skiing couple was monitored.