The Michigan Daily - Thursday, September 26, 1996- 9A
Gangs push drugs across Texas border
The Washington Post
EAGLE PASS, Texas - Using night-vision devices
and walkie-talkies, scouts armed with assault rifles
sneak along trails through a jungle of dense riverside
cane to reconnoiter a rendezvous site. Then they sig-
nal their comrades to follow, and porters snake across
the river and through the cane in single file, followed
by more armed men.
STo ranchers who live in the area and occasionally
have witnessed them, such operations resemble mili-
tary exercises. But these are not soldiers on maneu-
vers. They are gangs of Mexican drug traffickers who
have become increasingly brazen as they push tons of
marijuana, cocaine, heroin and amphetamines across
the Rio Grande into the United States with virtual
According to residents and law-enforcement offi-
cials, southwestern Texas these days is a frontier under
The cattle ranches that stretch for miles along the
er dividing the United States from Mexico mark the
front lines of a kind of guerrilla war - one being
waged by armies of drug traffickers equipped with,
among other gear, cellular telephones, radio scanners,
digital pagers, fax machines and satellite global posi-
It is a war that many ranchers fear the United States
is losing, and they want the U.S. military to step in and
play a more open, active role.
Armed drug gangs are riding roughshod across
their property, ranchers say, terrorizing their families
and ravaging their lives. The gangs have torn down
fences on both sides of the border, scattered cattle,
commandeered houses and threatened citizens who
get in their way.
The Border Patrol reported 24 armed encounters
and assaults against its agents in its Del Rio Sector, a
205-mile stretch of border that includes Eagle Pass,
during the first eight months of this fiscal year, com-
pared with eight during the same period last year.
In January, a Border Patrol agent was killed in a
shootout with a drug trafficker a few miles from town.
On Sept. 10, an agent in Brownsville, Texas, was
wounded in a shootout with two suspected traffickers.
Alarmed by signs of the gangs' growing wealth,
organization and power, U.S. and Mexican ranchers
say they feel increasingly helpless against the incur-
Some are thinking of selling their ranches-even
though they know that prospective buyers are front
men for traffickers seeking to consolidate holdings on
both sides of the river to facilitate the flow of drugs.
"Our government won't admit that we have an inva-
sion going on," said one angry landowner who, like a
half-dozen other ranchers interviewed, asked that his
name not be used for fear of retaliation. "They'd rather
sacrifice us than react in a forcible manner."
"It's just not our land anymore, when armies cross
it," said the wife of another rancher. "It's a no man's
Adding to the drug-trafficking problem, officials
say, is a sharp increase in the smuggling of illegal
aliens across the border in these parts. Often the two
are intertwined: Smugglers hired by Mexican cartels
to move drugs typically started out by guiding illegal
aliens across the border, and many use the migrants
as porters to carry loads of contraband across the
river in exchange for a discounted price for their pas-
South Korean soldiers check fences along the seaside during a border
patrol near Kangnung, northeast of Seoul.
Savings based on a 3-min. AT&T operator-dialed interstate call.
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