Posted on October 25, 2004

Border Violence On Rise

AP, Oct. 19

HARLINGEN, Texas — A weekend shootout on the banks of the Rio Grande exemplifies increasing violence related to drug and people smuggling along the Mexican border, U.S. Border Patrol officials said Tuesday.

Two Border Patrol agents escaped unharmed Saturday after machine-gun fire erupted from across the river in rural Starr County, between McAllen and Laredo. The agents had just found more than a half-ton of marijuana near the riverbank.

“We’ve had a few incidences here recently where we’ve had some acts of aggression toward our agents, mainly along the river and rural areas,” Border Patrol spokesman Eddie Flores said. “We’re noticing an increase in violence along the border.”

The incident Saturday occurred in Escobares, a small town east of Roma, at about 10:30 p.m. Agents patrolling the border said they heard crackling brush, then noticed a group of people running toward the Rio Grande and swimming across to Mexico.

The agents found about 12 burlap sacks containing 95 packages of marijuana, totaling more than 1,000 pounds. The Border Patrol estimated the street value for the drugs at $900,000.

The drugs were taken to a Border Patrol station in Rio Grande City. The agents said they returned about an hour later to where they found the drugs, heard voices and then what sounded like gunfire coming from Mexico and from people on rafts in the river, Mr. Flores said.

He said the agents returned fire, but not knowing the number of assailants, decided to retreat. They fled amid gunfire, but were not harmed, Mr. Flores said.