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.
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Stratfor says the apparent case of mistaken identity may prove costly for some of the Zeta "pirates" who have terrorized US bass fishermen on the Mexican side of the lake at least five times this year. According to the report, after the men apparently broke cartel protocol by not getting authorization to confront the Jet Skis, the No. 2 Zeta cartel chief, Miguel “Z-40” Trevino Morales, is hunting for the men so he can "take care of them himself."Skip to next paragraph
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"[A] damage control campaign is currently under way … to identify and eliminate those who engaged the Hartleys without proper authorization," according to the Stratfor report. "Once Hartley was identified as an American, his body was destroyed the same day as the incident to prevent a backlash from the US government against the group."
The Zetas are fighting against their former bosses, the Gulf Coast Cartel, for control of parts of the border, including Falcon Lake.
Battles in Mexico
Gun battles have been reported near Falcon Lake in the aftermath of the Hartley murder. On Oct. 8, Mexican military engaged cartel members near New Guerrero in a battle that left six dead, including one soldier. On Thursday, an American traveler along the Rio Grande reported hearing a two-hour gun battle near the lake.
“The gunfire started at 9 a.m. this morning," Jay Johnson-Castro, a US environmentalist, told the Rio Grande Guardian newspaper. "As long as we were outside, we heard it. We were outside for quite a few minutes. It sounded like a real battle going on. It was automatic fire; then you would hear individual shots and then more automatic fire, and then rifles going."
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Thursday on ABC's "Good Morning America" that the United States is "doing everything that we know how to do" to find Hartley. "I hope that we can [find him]. I mean, the beheaded body of the brave Mexican investigator that just showed up shows what we're dealing with."
Mexican authorities on Thursday denied Mr. Flores' killing had anything to do with the Hartley investigation, saying he had many enemies in the area. But a Rio Grande Valley TV station says Flores, a few days before his murder, handed off documents to the station pointing to two specific Zeta cartel members, a pair of brothers who are wanted in Mexico on murder and robbery charges.
On Thursday, a search-and-rescue effort on the Mexican side that had involved more than 100 boats and divers ended. "Our investigators have taken a temporary recess so that we can better assess the strategies we are using to find the body. We are currently considering other approaches to our search," said Ruben Dario Rios, Tamaulipas state attorney general, according to CNN.
Falcon Lake, a historic smuggling route, has just this year turned into a major flashpoint in Mexico's drug war, raising worries on the US side about "spillover violence" that will affect Americans more directly. At the same time, it has given Americans a personal glimpse into the workings of fearless and ruthless cartels involved in a war with the Mexico government that has cost more than 26,000 lives, including cartel-ordered assassinations of mayors and police officials.