Lynn Brezosky and Gary Martin, San Antonio Express-News, March 12, 2010
The Zapata County sheriff Thursday was questioning why a Mexican military helicopter was hovering over homes on the Texas side of the Rio Grande.
It was one of the more jarring incidents of the fourth week of border tensions sparked by drug killings, and rumors of such killings, in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas.
Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez said he’d reviewed photos of the chopper flown by armed personnel Tuesday over a residential area known as Falcon Heights-Falcon Village near the binational Falcon Lake, just south of the Starr-Zapata county line. He said the helicopter appeared to have the insignia of the Mexican navy.
“It’s always been said that the Mexican military does in fact . . . that there have been incursions,” Gonzalez said. “But this is not New Mexico or Arizona. Here we’ve got a river; there’s a boundary line. And then of course having Falcon Lake, Falcon Dam, it’s a lot wider. It’s not just a trickle of a river, it’s an actual dam. You know where the boundary’s at.”
The sighting came amid ongoing fighting between the Gulf Cartel and its former enforcers, Los Zetas. The mounting death toll and crisis of fear in cities across from the Texas border have drawn global attention, as has a news blackout in affected cities due to the kidnappings of eight Mexican journalists, at least one of whom was killed.
Gonzalez, the Zapata sheriff, said he couldn’t confirm reports that the helicopter was scoping out the home of a drug criminal. He said the incursion about a mile over the border took place over a neighborhood populated by many U.S. Customs officers who work at area border crossings–and that they knew what they were seeing.
“My understanding is the U.S. military were informed,” he said. “I don’t know what action was taken, if any.”