A Texas border sheriff on Thursday said he was calling directly on Zeta operatives to simply produce the body of a missing U.S. citizen believed shot and killed last week by drug gangs on Falcon Lake reservoir.
“All we want on this side is a body,” Zapata County Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez said at a news conference here attended by three congressmen and a host of other U.S. officials.
Gonzalez said he had made his entreaty privately through channels he could not disclose, but that now he was making his request public so the Zetas — an assassination hit squad now turned full-fledged cartel — would know he had no jurisdiction to go after them.
Mexican authorities resumed their search on Thursday morning for the body of David Michael Hartley. The morning’s ongoing efforts, being conducted by at least 40 troops, comes one week after Hartley’s wife made a frantic 911 call reporting his slaying during a sightseeing trip.
U.S. officials confirmed on Thursday that the search for Hartley has been thwarted by threats of an ambush from drug gangs, the Associated Press reported.
The part of Tamaulipas state that includes Falcon Lake is overrun by violence from a turf battle between the Gulf Cartel and the Zeta drug gang, made up of former Mexican special forces soldiers, and both are battling the Mexican military, the AP said.
On Wednesday, Gov. Rick Perry called on Mexican President Felipe Calderón to do a thorough search for the body.
Speaking in Houston, Perry, who’s running for re-election, said he had not heard from Calderón. He was harshly critical of the Mexicans’ efforts to find the body.
“No, I’m not satisfied, I don’t think we’re doing enough. When you call off a search the way they did this morning, and give as the reason that the drug cartels are in control of that part of the state, something’s not right,” said Perry, after receiving the endorsement of the Houston Police Officer’s Union at their headquarters. “If they need some assistance, the United States needs to be visiting them about how we can give the assistance to take back control of that part of the state. ”
“But we do not need to let our border continue deteriorate from the standpoint of having drug cartels telling us whether or not we can go in and bring back the body of an American that’s been killed, that is irresponsible,” Perry added.
Meanwhile, three members of the South Texas congressional delegation said they had called for more federal Homeland Security resources, not only along the border, but directly on Falcon Lake and Amistad reservoirs.
The congressmen said they wanted to emphasize that the incident did happen on Mexican waters and that people were safe to visit the U.S. side of the lake.
The ambush by three boatloads, as the couple was on Jet Skis viewing Mexican ruins, was the fifth reported confrontation with “pirates” on the border lake since the spring. It was the first involving a shooting death, followed by a gun chase extending to the U.S. side.
Tiffany Hartley and her family met Wednesday night with two Mexican state police commanders at an international crossing linking Roma, Texas, with the Mexican city of Miguel Aleman.
“I took them to the Roma ….. port of entry and brought them face to face with the two people that were in charge of the search,” Webb County Sheriff Martin Cuellar said. “One of the things I wanted to do was make sure the family met up with the people in charge of the search and let them know that the Mexican government is indeed searching.”
Cuellar said officials on Wednesday searched a tributary where the reported incident had occurred, and planned Thursday morning to widen the search into the lake.
Family members said they were encouraged by the meeting.
“They were extending the courtesy to come out and to try to put us at ease,” said Paul Hartley, David Hartley’s uncle who traveled from Tucson, Ariz.
The Mexicans are frank about their fears searching an area under known control of traffickers protecting prime real estate for contraband. On either side of the 60-mile-long lake are long stretches of privately owned scrub land, with the U.S. side patrolled primarily by a handful of game wardens.
Eleven mayors have been killed, and police on all levels are under pressure to moonlight for the cartels. Kidnappings are rampant, as are threats to harm officials and their families.
“We don’t want that on our conscience,” Paul Hartley said.
Tiffany Hartley said it was difficult returning to the lake to observe the Texas efforts in the search Wednesday, as it brought back memories of how last week’s sunny day on the lake ended in horror.
Laying a wreath in the water from Tuesday night’s well-attended memorial service gave her some peace, she said, but closure won’t come until her husband’s body is found.
She said she’s hoping that by speaking publicly, the Obama administration will ramp up border security more than has already been done. She’s also dealing with a nation that largely doesn’t want to believe her, with some television personalities insinuating she killed her husband.
“How on earth could I want to live this life without him?” she said. “I can’t even imagine why people would think that I would do this to him. But there’s people who don’t know us.”
– Article from the Houston Chronicle.