Freedom Folks

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Our "Good" Friends?

Source: LATimes
Perched on a ridge a few hundred yards from the international line, an A-frame house with a wraparound balcony gives smugglers a 180-degree view of U.S. border defenses.

Spotters track the movement of Border Patrol agents with binoculars and use two-way radios to steer drug runners and human traffickers through unguarded areas.

As agents closed in on suspected smugglers last summer, lookouts on the Mexican side bombarded them with rocks and retreated to the A-frame.

"They have the high ground on us," said Sonia Spaulding, the supervising Border Patrol agent during the attack. "They can see our every move."

Jacume is a "black hole," an enclave largely beyond the control of authorities on either side of the border because of its remote location, complicit residents and corrupt Mexican police.

Jacume has flourished as a launch pad for smuggling of drugs and people since U.S. authorities stiffened border defenses near San Diego a decade ago. Traffickers simply moved their operations east, into the forbidding valleys and mountain passes surrounding the village.

As President Bush prepares to use National Guard troops to help seal the border, Jacume and places like it represent a formidable challenge and illustrate why the U.S., as Bush noted, "has not been in complete control of its borders" — and may never be.

Mile-for-mile, more drugs are seized in this area than almost anywhere else along the California line. In the last fiscal year, federal agents captured an average of 400 pounds of marijuana and 660 migrants each month. In the first eight months of this fiscal year, drug seizures are nearly triple last year's total.

Jacume residents have become beholden to smugglers whose activities pump cash into the community. Mexican federal agents have been taken hostage here. Police won't enter the town without heavily armed backup, so entrenched are the traffickers and their supporters.

"They own the place," said Armando Vale Saldate, civilian director of the Tecate Police Department, which oversees Jacume.

Little is known publicly about the inner workings of Jacume's smuggling economy. But confidential law enforcement documents, as well as interviews with residents, smugglers and U.S. and Mexican officials, reveal layers of corruption extending from the traffickers to top police officials and the ruthless Arellano-Felix drug cartel.

The A-frame with the strategic vantage point is used by a convicted drug felon who is "the leader of an immigrant trafficking organization," according to a report by the Mexican attorney general's office and other sources.

Complaints filed secretly by officers of the Tecate Police Department and reviewed by The Times say a top commander and other supervisors collected thousands of dollars a week in protection money from smugglers moving drugs and migrants across the frontier.
Well I don't know about you, but with Mexico "assisting" us with border security, getting it under control should be a lead pipe cinch!

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