An alleged plot by a Mexican drug cartel to blow up a dam along the Texas border — and unleash billions of gallons of water into a region with millions of civilians — sent American police, federal agents and disaster officials secretly scrambling last month to thwart such an attack, authorities confirmed Wednesday.
Whether or not the cartel, which is known to have stolen bulk quantities of gunpowder and dynamite, could have taken down the 5-mile-long Falcon Dam may never be known since the attack never came to pass.
It may have been derailed by a stepped-up presence by the Mexican military, which was acting in part on intelligence from the U.S. government, sources said.
The warning, which swung officials into action, was based on what the federal government contends were “serious and reliable sources” and prompted the Department of Homeland Security to sound the alarm to first responders along the South Texas-Mexico border.
Mexico’s Zeta cartel was planning to destroy the dam not to terrorize civilians, but to get back at its rival and former ally, the Gulf cartel, which controls smuggling routes from the reservoir to the Gulf of Mexico, said Zapata County Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez, head of the Southwest Border Sheriff’s Coalition, as did others familiar with the alleged plot.
But in the process, massive amounts of agricultural land would stand to be flooded as well as significant parts of a region where about 4 million people live along both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.
The last time I posted that securing the border is a matter of national security, a commenter got off the subject to talk about how narcos have money to cross the border legally. The issue is national security. Investor’s Business Daily stresses exactly that point:
If still more proof is needed that the border needs to be secured, the latest threats emerging from Mexico should do the trick. Together, they signal that the country’s war could advance to a more savage stage.
Last month, the Los Zetas paramilitary drug cartel tried to blow up the Falcon Dam near Zapata, Texas, on the Rio Grande River. The motive was to destroy a smuggling route controlled by the rival Gulf Cartel. Had it succeeded, 534 billion gallons of water could have been unleashed onto a region of 4 million people.
The plot was primitive, and U.S. lawmen took preemptive steps to foil it. But it showed motive, and the threat remains. On Friday, Texas Gov. Rick Perry called it a reminder that more federal resources are needed to secure the border. Perry said he hoped he never had to tell U.S. officials “we told you so” after a major attack.
Moreover, the threat is no longer just over smuggling routes. Last Tuesday, the Washington Examiner quoted Mexican and U.S. intelligence sources as saying Mexico’s Ejercito Popular Revolucionario (EPR), a Marxist terror organization aligned with drug cartels, is secretly receiving funds from Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chavez.
The group seeks to overthrow the Mexican government while engaging in drug trafficking, much as the FARC guerrillas do in Colombia. What’s disturbing here is not just EPR’s growing ties to the drug trade — which in time could lead to an alliance with the Zetas. It’s the threat to Mexico’s democracy, as well as the group’s expertise in destroying infrastructure like gas lines, which EPR did in 2007.
FARC itself has also begun operating in Mexico, cutting out drug trafficking middlemen to forge closer ties with Mexico’s cartels. StrategyPage, an intelligence forecaster, warned that FARC could begin launching attacks against the U.S. from Mexico in an effort to stop the U.S. from helping Colombia in its war on drugs back home.
These blood-chilling scenarios aren’t fantasies. They are signs of an emerging threat that gets little attention from U.S. lawmakers. Instead of focusing on making the border secure, they play partisan political games, pandering to potential voting blocs by dangling amnesty in front of illegal immigrants, grandstanding against Arizona’s effort to enforce federal law and coming up with one excuse after another for not erecting a border fence.