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When visiting Laredo, Texas, sleep with one eye open

September 26, 2010|By LLOYD "PETE" WATERS

A few weeks ago, I found myself on a plane headed for Laredo, Texas. I checked my itinerary to make sure I was landing in Laredo, Texas and not Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. There is a significant difference, and I soon discovered that "what happens in Mexico doesn't always stay in Mexico."

As I departed the Laredo Airport and headed for my hotel, I enjoyed the ride down Saunders Street. I tried to engage the shuttle driver in conversation, but she didn't speak English and I didn't speak Spanish, so I simply enjoyed the scenery.

I did find it a little peculiar that a cemetery on the left side of the street had a sprinkler system that was providing water for the brown grass which covered the graves.

Someone apparently had a respectful desire to see some green grass of life grow on top of the graves that served as a sanctuary for the dead.

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Just on the other side of the nearby Rio Grande, there is a Mexican town by the name of Nuevo Laredo. This town is in the Mexican state of Tamaulipas.

Back in July, several Mexican Federal Police officers and members of a drug cartel engaged in a shootout in Nuevo Laredo that left 12 people dead and 21 others wounded. I suspect you could almost hear the gunfire from across the river in Laredo, Texas.

In other recent violence in Mexico, several beheaded corpses were hung from a bridge; 72 illegal immigrants were slaughtered and found dead near the U.S. border; and three mayors were slain in recent attacks. Some 28,000 have died in the last four years due to the drug violence.

There is apparently little respect for either a life or a corpse in Mexico.

Rumors had even circulated that some of the cartels had taken over a ranch just outside Laredo, Texas, to establish a drug house on this side of the border but that information, at least for now, has proven false.

It is estimated that illegal drugs provide a $20 billion market each year from Mexico to the states.

The presence of the border patrol is visibly seen on the U.S. side and there are established checkpoints.

In last week's Washington Post, a major front page story chronicled the sentencing of a border agent who had been paid off by one of the drug cartels to assist in the smuggling of drugs.

Laredo, Texas, is also home to our country's largest inland port and several bridges span the Rio Grande there.

As I talked with several other citizens of Laredo, I could understand better just how those folks who live in these border towns are becoming more concerned as a result of the invading violence that seems to be marching across Mexico toward the United States.

There are no easy answers to this dilemma.

The Mexican border with the U.S. spans from San Diego to Brownsville, Texas, and totals almost 2,000 miles.

The problem is further exacerbated by an insatiable U.S. appetite which gorges itself on illegal drugs.

Many of the guns used in the increasing violence are manufactured and sold illegally in Mexico from this country.

While many illegals simply attempt to improve their economic plight by looking for a job in the United States, many others see an opportunity to make some big money by trafficking drugs, and more recently have engaged themselves in the trafficking of desperate human beings as well.

What is the solution?

Perhaps President Obama could convene a brainstorming committee, much in the same way he has done to look at ways of reducing the deficit, to examine the many problems confronting our border with Mexico.

Or maybe he might want to visit a border town to examine the problem firsthand and to gather some vital information.

One thing for sure, if he decides to visit Laredo, Texas, he might want to sleep with one eye open. The violence is just across the bridge and getting closer.

Lloyd "Pete" Waters is a Sharpsburg resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.

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