The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, an independent auditor, has issued a highly critical report on unmanned aircraft, or drones, that patrol the country’s borders, principally with Mexico.
Border missions fly out of Sierra Vista, Ariz., southeast of Tucson — the headquarters of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center at Fort Huachuca — or Corpus Christi, Texas.
A Customs and Border Protection Predator drone. When drones were deployed eight years ago, CBP said they would patrol the entire Southwest border. The Inspector General at CBP’s parent agency, DHS, claims the drones patrol 170 miles of the border in Arizona and Texas. (Gerald L. Nino via Wikimedia Commons)
The report says there is “little or no evidence” the nine Predator B drones are worth their expensive price tag. Predator B drones each cost $18 million while the eight-year-old drone program represents $62 million a year in taxpayer money.
Mexico’s president wants to change his country’s constitution to replace local police with state police. He also wants legal authority to take over municipal governments infiltrated by organized crime.
But ongoing protests and recent polls suggest Mexicans aren’t convinced the change will make a difference.
Two officers from the Juárez Police guard a crime scene. Mexico’s president has proposed putting local police under the supervision of state police. Criminologists on either side of the border say the proposal ignores the reality that some local police forces, among them Ciudad Juárez and Tijuana, are today more professional than their state counterparts. (Lorne Matalon)
The move follows disgust in Mexico over a long delay by the federal government to investigate the murders of 43 college students.
Update: Thisstory was also featured on The Takeaway with John Hockenberry, a co-production of WNYC, the BBC World Service, and the New York Times.
Mexico has marked the 104th anniversary of the Mexican Revolution. This year, the day was transformed into a platform for nationwide protests. Anguish is mounting over the government’s response to the murders of 43 college students in September.
A mayor in central Mexico, José Luis Abarca Velázquez, his wife Maria de los Angeles Pineda, and police are accused in the crime. Several analysts maintain that Mexico is in turmoil now, that a society seen to be historically passive in the face of crime driven by the narco-political nexus in the country is incensed in a way that hasn’t been seen in generations.
The banner reads ‘fue el estado,’ translated as ‘It was the state.’ There’s no indication the murders of 43 students in Iguala, Guerrero went beyond the local level, but protesters say the alleged involvement of a mayor and police, both agents of the state imply that the Mexican state as an institution also bears some responsibility. (mioaxaca.com)
It’s not just the crime itself that’s roiling Mexico. It’s the perception that the government’s reaction was slow. It took a month before the arrest of the mayor, the politician who allegedly orchestrated the deaths of 43 students.
The mountain lion of Texas is known by many names in the Southwest. Cougars, panthers and pumas to name three.
In California it’s protected. In Arizona and New Mexico, you can hunt this predator, but with strict limitations. In Texas, mountain lions can be hunted at will. Still, preliminary results from a four-year-old study suggest that the Texas mountain lion population is stable and may be growing.
Wildlife biologist Dana Milani and landowner Bert Geary examine an adult female mountain lion. Geary is one of more than 50 landowners who’ve granted access to their land to study an animal that has been the historical object of scorn by many Texas ranchers. (Price Rumbelow)
Data from a Texas project tracking mountain lions by satellite imply a population of between 25-40 animals in one of the sky islands in Texas. Sky island refers to a mountain range surrounded by flatlands or in the case of this study, the high desert that’s a 90-minute drive north of the U.S.-Mexico border.The project, privately funded by individuals and nonprofit foundations, is an initiative of the Borderlands Research Institute (BRI) at Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas.
The notion that the Rio Grande is losing water is not new.
But one man wants to advance the conversation about watershed loss beyond platitudes.
Colin McDonald on the Rio Grande, called Rio Bravo del Norte in Mexico. He’s on a journey from the river’s headwaters in Colorado to the Gulf of Mexico. (Lorne Matalon)
He thinks prospective attempts to rescue this vital watershed are stymied by a lack of information, that the general public doesn’t consider the Rio Grande’s fate with the same intensity as it does other major rivers such as the Colorado River.
Ranchers from three southwestern states — Arizona, New Mexico and Texas — and Mexico are gathering in the high desert of West Texas to review results of an experiment to raise hardy seeds that can flourish in a demanding landscape.
Specifically, the ranchers are meeting with scientists to review results from a two-year experiment to cultivate large quantities of reintroduced Southwest native to reinvigorate lands damaged by drought and overgrazing.
Rancher Nick Garza from Sonora, Texas examines seedlings in an experimental plot near Alpine, Texas. (Lorne Matalon)
Many Central American migrants looking to cross into the United States transit Mexico on a network of cargo trains collectively known as La Bestia, which means “the beats” in Spanish. The migrants choose this option over walking overland but La Bestia is a risky trip too. Marauding gangs extract extortion fees, woman are routinely abused and raped and many people have been tossed from the train for refusing to comply with demands, losing limbs or their life.
Shadows move across the tracks as La Bestia, a cargo train known as The Beast, approaches from the southern Mexican state of Chiapas into the state of Veracruz. (Lorne Matalon)
BBC World Service anchor Julian Worricker interviewed Lorne Matalon live from London about Matalon’s experience reporting on La Bestia. You can also find Matalon’s photographs from his coverage here.
This story was also featured by Inside Energy, a public radio collaboration at Rocky Mountain PBS in Denver.
The Big Bendof Texas, so named for the way the region hugs a massive bend in the Rio Grande, is renown for its desert landscapes, open spaces and tranquility. But parts of it lie within the oil-rich Permian Basin, the nation’s highest producing oil field thanks to fracking technology.
Mexico is drilling at least 29 exploratory wells across the border from the Big Bend and saying it wants to jumpstart fracking operations there.
Dawn in the Big Bend of Texas; it shares some tectonic and geographic characteristics with the Permian Basin, home of the country’s highest-producing oil field. (Jim White III)
Fracking requires massive amounts of water. And a NY State Court of Appeals ruling may be of comfort to citizens in Texas concerned about the possibility of fracking in the Big Bend.
The new director of one of the nation’s leading astronomy research centers is quarterbacking a project that will significantly expand our understanding of the evolution of the universe.
In a broadcast recorded live at the McDonald Observatory near Fort Davis, Texas, Fronteras Desk reporter Lorne Matalon and West Texas Public Radio/Marfa Public Radio Morning Edition anchor Travis Bubenik spoke with Dr. Taft Armandroff, the recently appointed director of the observatory.
Taft Armandroff, recently appointed as new director of the McDonald Observatory in Texas, has studied both astronomy and philosophy. He says both play a role in his research. (Lorne Matalon)
The three met at the observatory’s 82-inch Otto Struve Telescope, a historic instrument that nonetheless remains on the front line of modern day astronomical research.
A Mexican Federal Police officer stands guard in a neighborhood on the outskirts of Juárez. Residents said some of their neighbors had left when the Sinaloa and Juárez cartels fought during some of the worst years of the violence. March 15, 2009 (Lorne Matalon)
Grayson has chronicled other examples of U.S. authorities paying informants inside the Mexican underworld.
Story originally published at The United States Department of Agriculture has rescinded a 2012 ban on inspectors working at what was until two years ago the largest single point of entry for Mexican cattle into the United States. The lifting of the … Continue reading →
A recently concluded trial in El Paso, Texas, has revealed the inner workings of how the Juarez Cartel used sophisticated communication technology to orchestrate murders, while United States law enforcement and intelligence operatives eavesdropped on calls between the killers. This came out while the prosecution was making its case against Arturo “Benny” Gallegos.
On Tuesday investigative reporter Jason McGahan was interviewed by Marfa Public Radio/West Texas Public Radio Fronteras Desk reporter Lorne Matalon about his work on this case.
Mistrust of law enforcement on the border is hardly rare. The ebb and flow of policing the border in a post 9-11 world means some group or someone is almost always upset.
But in Texas, there’s apparent distrust within law enforcement itself. It involves how intelligence is not shared and how that’s in turn causing stress for some citizens along the largest section of the United States-Mexico border.
Currently, Texas border sheriffs and state police, the Department of Public Safety, are trying to resolve a major difference of opinion.
In June the United States will begin enforcing a ban on ivory from the tusks of African and Asian elephants. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service calls what’s happening right now to elephants “an unprecedented slaughter.”
But the ban has forced many professional musicians to make a choice — perform without their favorite instruments or forgo work that takes them across the U.S. border.
Taddes Korris in New York. He was offered an audition in his native Canada with the Winnipeg Symphony. He declined. He didn’t want to play without his antique bow and he didn’t want to risk having the bow confiscated when he returned to the U.S. (Neville Elder)
I met up with the band called Mariachi Frontera as band members rehearsed in front of neighbors on Calle Allende in Ojinaga, a Mexican town on the Rio Grande beside Presidio, Texas. The band was preparing to to record an album it had initially planned to lay down across the border in the arts mecca of Marfa, Texas.
CHIHUAHUA, Mexico — On Feb. 22 the world’s most wanted drug trafficker — Sinaloa Cartel leader Joaquín Archivaldo Guzmán Loera, known as “El Chapo,” or “Shorty”— was captured in a joint U.S.-Mexico operation.
At the time, federal agents in both countries followed intelligence provided by one of Guzmán’s subordinates who had been captured the previous week.
As applause over the joint cooperation between two historically wary neighbors subsided, the United States and Mexico began discussing the possibility of extraditing Guzmán to face charges in the U.S.
Two camouflaged Mexican soldiers crossed into Arizona in January, touching off a standoff with U.S. Border Patrol agents. Both sides drew their weapons before the the Mexican soldiers were detained.
It happened on Jan. 26, prompting a half-hour standoff 2.5 miles west of the Port of Entry at Sasabe, Ariz. After repeated denials that the Mexicans were military personnel, Mexico now says they were indeed soldiers, adding the pair was in pursuit of drug traffickers.
Richard A. Serrano and Tracy Wilkinson of the Los Angeles Timesbroke this story. They obtained documents outlining what took place and confirmed the veracity of the documents.