Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Why District Attorney Luis Saenz Initiated the 8-Liner Crackdown~Blame It On the Bishop!

Bishop Daniel Flores
Former two-time Mayor, Patricio Ahumada, saw it as the proverbial "sure thing," operating an 8-liner at the former Waffle House location along the Interstate 77 access road at Price Rd.

The 68 year old politico knew better than to jump into a "gray area" business enterprise without the so-called due diligence, checking first with local law enforcement, as in his consultation with former Brownsville Police Chief Carlos Garcia about enforcement regarding such operations.


Pat Ahumada, May 3, 2013
So, it did come as somewhat of a surprise when Goldmine 777, Ahumada's operation at 854 N. Expressway 77/83 was raided by law enforcement officials on May 3, 2013. Ahumada, like other 8-liners offered "winners" certificates for necessities at H.E.B. and other local businesses.  If cash was illegally offered, it was certainly done, as it is told, without the owner's knowledge or permission.

District Attorney Luis Saenz, in a 2013 Year-End Report inserted into Sunday's Brownsville Herald, has made crystal clear his desire to abolish 8-liner operations in Cameron County.  Until now, we may have misinterpreted Saenz' motivation for closing down these edge-of-the-law gaming operations.

Juan Montoya, publisher of the El Rrun Rrun blog, assuming the role of a de facto Public Information Officer for the Cameron County District Attorney's Office, revealed today what motivated District Attorney Luis Saenz to go after Cameron County 8-liner operations:

"Saenz said that Operation Bishop was named after new Brownsville Catholic Diocese Bishop Daniel E. Flores since the clergyman complained about the establishments because he felt that they were diminishing the amount of money made in local parish bingo halls and church collection plates."


Montoya continues on his blog, quoting District Attorney Saenz:

"It got to me second hand that the bishop had visited our county judge (Carlos Cascos) and had implored on him to do something because his collections had fallen down on Sundays and that's understandable," he laughed. "So when it came around to pick a name for the operation, we said, well, why not Operation Bishop? It was a catchy name and it just stuck. I am very proud of that...we started in April and within a matter of four or five months we had shut down the vast majority of them. I'm very proud to say that we were able to do in a matter of months what other administrations hadn't been able to do in years."

District Attorney Luis Saenz
So, the bitter reality is that Saenz motivation was not based primarily on legality, morality or even the monies lost by the poor and elderly who frequent 8-liner establishments.  He was responding to a request made by an official of the hugely affluent, but still money hungry Catholic Church.  He even named the operation after the official title of the papal officer making the request, Bishop Daniel Flores.  Yes, Operation Bishop! Flores and Saenz were concerned about loss of revenue by the Catholic Church!

Interestingly, Time Magazine names Pope Francis "Person of the Year," perhaps rightfully, and, in the same year, District Attorney Luis Saenz names a law enforcement operation "Operation Bishop," in honor of Brownsville Bishop Daniel Flores.  

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Abbott Campaign Desperate for My Five Bucks

Wayne Hamilton (info@gregabbott.com)
4:00 PM
To: rvpark645@hotmail.com
Picture of Wayne Hamilton
Jim,

I wanted to make sure you saw this message. The campaign's end-of-the-year fundraising deadline is only a few days away.

Can you contribute $5 today? With your contribution, you will be entered for a chance to have lunch with the next First Lady of Texas!

Sincerely,

Wayne Hamilton, Campaign Manager
Texans for Greg Abbott

Borderland Beat~Mexican Official Prepares Letters for Mexican Nationals to Seek Asylum in the U.S.


A Civil Servant in Mexico Tests U.S. on Asylum

Sunday, December 29, 2013 |  


DD note;  La Ruana, located near the border of Michoacan and Jalisco has become an epicenter of violence and a city under siege from attacks by the Caballeros Templar.  As one resident, a mother of 2 children, and widowed by the Templars put it;  "they won't let us work.  We are dying of hunger.  There is no doctor, no money, no gasoline, no work, and no food.  There is nothing.  Then, on what are we going to live?....The doctors have begun to go, and they took the priest too."  Borderland Beat Story 

civil servant C. Ramon Contreras Orozco writes letters for asylum seekers.

All Photos by Rodrigo Cruz-Perez for The New York Time
By Damien Cave, NYT

Jittery families cram into his tiny office here, daily. Hundreds more have appeared at the San Diego border 1,500 miles away, clutching an official-looking letter bearing his name, gambling that its description of the violence in this blistering stretch of central Mexico will help them gain asylum in the United States. 

The letter has quickly become a document of hope for the desperate. And the writer, an obscure local official named C. Ramon Contreras Orozco, keeps delivering, creating an unusual bureaucratic tangle that is testing American asylum policy. 

“I’m trying to help,” said Mr. Contreras, the jefe de tenencia, or occupancy chief, of this battle-scarred town, where a drug cartel has declared war on residents. “People keep coming, telling me: ‘I’m afraid for me and my children. I need to go.’ ”

Asylum requests along the border with Mexico are soaring: claims more than doubled to 36,000 in fiscal 2013, from 13,800 in 2012. American officials believe that Mr. Contreras’s letters were presented in nearly 2,000 of the most recent cases, turning him into a focal point for the anxiety over violence in Mexico and making his letter a case study for contentious issues on both sides of the border. 

Indeed by furiously churning out documents that highlight Mexico’s inability to protect civilians in this region of avocados, citrus and drugs, Mr. Contreras, 38 — a hefty lime farmer in his first government job — has managed both to shame his own country and to sign his way into the latest immigration feud in the United States.

“I’m just verifying reality,” Mr. Contreras said, sweating at a too-small desk in an office without air-conditioning. “I’m not doing anything wrong.” 

Mexican officials have nonetheless become frustrated by attention to this agricultural area’s slide into chaos, with drug cartels battling armed self-defense groups. And in Washington, influential lawmakers, including Robert Goodlatte, the Republican chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, are increasingly concerned that criminals are abusing the asylum process, cheating their way into the country and disappearing for at least a few years until their cases are heard. 

Mr. Contreras’s efforts rouse both concerns. In the 2013 fiscal year, most of the petitions for asylum based on a “credible fear of persecution or torture” came from Central America. But of the roughly 2,500 cases that came from Mexico, Mr. Contreras estimated that nearly 80 percent of them involved his letters. Officials with the Department of Homeland Security said they considered that more or less accurate. 

And each case is a riddle. Are Mr. Contreras’s assertions of the dangers here enough to give emigrating families a chance of asylum in the United States? Are the letters showing up at the San Diego border even originals?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no, immigration authorities say. The circumstances are often so murky that even members of the same family, carrying the same letter, say they have received different decisions on their requests to stay in the United States and apply for asylum. 





 Isamar Gonzalez was deported to Mexico when she sought asylum, but her mother was allowed to stay in the United States to await a court date.




“The letters are a product of need,” said the Rev. Manuel Amezcoa, 49, a Roman Catholic priest who works in this part of Mexico. “But the results are complicated.”

It all began in mid-March, Mr. Contreras said, when a young woman appeared in his office begging for a way to reach her grandfather in the United States. Just a few weeks earlier, on Feb. 24, residents had formed a self-defense group and publicly challenged the Knights Templar drug cartel, which led to a vicious gun battle near the town plaza just across from Mr. Contreras’s office.

The Knights Templar then made it deadly to pick or pack limes, taking away this fertile valley’s main livelihood. Gas had also become scarce because suppliers feared driving in, and the municipal president had just fled amid accusations of cartel ties, suddenly making Mr. Contreras, who used to spend much of his time certifying property transfers, all that was left of local government. 

The letter, he said, was a response to desperation, hatched by him and his secretary while the young woman waited for a response. By that point, he said, it was obvious that his home state of Michoacán, which has struggled with drug war violence for nearly a decade, was no longer just lawless; it was uninhabitable. 

A neighbor, Amparo Zavala, left, and her daughter-in-law, Blanca Figueroa, also were deported though other relatives remained.
“This is a failed state,” Mr. Contreras said. “The government can’t follow through on anything.”

Federal officials have rejected that assessment, noting that additional troops have quieted violence in some areas. 

But here in a part of the country that security experts now describe as Mexico’s toughest battleground in its war on organized crime, entire families have been turning to Mr. Contreras for a way out.








One resident, Amparo Zavala, 56, collected her letter from him after paying about $4. Hoping for asylum, she then traveled to Tijuana with her two grown daughters, a niece, her son and his wife. A bullet had already pierced the tin walls of her two-room home; she said she feared the next gunfight would lead to death.

District Attorney Luis Saenz' YEAR-END REPORT~An Odd Insert in Sunday's "Brownsville Herald"

Advertising Notice on
Front Page of 12/29/2013
Brownsville Herald
District Attorney Luis V. Saenz is not up for re-election until 2016, but nevertheless felt it necessary to issue to Brownsville voters a "2013 YEAR-END REPORT," as an insert in Sunday's Brownsville Herald.  While a simple "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year" from the former and current District Attorney might have sufficed, a detailed, two-sided printout, likely prepared by Information Officer Melissa Zamora, recaps the accomplishments, priorities and special operations of the office.

The back page of the document enumerates the bond forfeitures collected during Saenz' current tenure(2012-2013) and contains a quote from Chief Jailer Mike Leinart testifying that inmate count is "the lowest it's been in eight years" due to the "leadership and direction of the District Attorney."

Melissa Zamora, Public Information
Officer at Cameron County
District Attorney's Office
The document hints at its purpose at the top of Page 1, declaring the office's "Priority Mission" as "To Regain the Public's Trust in the Office" and "To Capture Amit Livingston."

Considering that the previous District Attorney, Armando Villalobos, has been convicted of racketeering, bribery and extortion, public trust has to be an issue.  An $80,000 bribe to Villalobos was instrumental in convicted murderer convicted murderer Amit Livingston's release and disappearance.

The insert also highlights a "renewed working relationship with federal agencies," stating that the Department of Homeland Security was a "primary
District Attorney Luis V. Saenz
partner" is "Operation Bishop," the DA's enforcement blitz against 8-liners.

Establishing a "new, sexual assault of children unit," resulting in "tougher sentences" was included in the report.
The printout also cites a "reestablished" relationship with the U.S. District Attorney's Office.

"We haven't had this cooperative effort in a very long time," states Rick Lara, Assistant U.S. Attorney, Brownsville Branch.  "I attribute that to Luis coming to me."

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Corruption in Hidalgo County Sheriff's Department, Ode to Tomas "El Gallo" Gonzalez by Deceased Singer Chuy Quintanilla





From the editor:  The song linked below is said to be about Tomas "El Gallo" Gonzalez, 
recently arrested by the DEA for transporting cocaine and marijuana to northern U.S. cities via his Weslaco company, T&F Produce.  The songwriter/singer, Chuy Quintanilla, was found dead next to his SUV in an orchard north of Mission back in April.

In a sealed indictment dated 12/20/2013, Tomas Gonzalez, Hidalgo Sheriff Commander Jose Padilla and 12 others are indicted. 

Earlier this year, two other Hidalgo County Sheriff's Department fixtures,  Jame Flores and Jorge Garza, were prosecuted on similar charges.


Borderland Beat's 12/27 Report on Hidalgo County Sheriff's Department Commander Jose Padilla's Arrest

Texas: José Padilla Pleads Not Guilty on Drug and Money Laundering Charges

Friday, December 27, 2013 |  
Borderland Beat

Attorneys started preparing termination paperwork Thursday morning for disgraced Hidalgo County Sheriff's Office Cmdr. José Padilla, said Sheriff Lupe Treviño.
Federal agents arrested Padilla early Tuesday morning, when prosecutors unsealed an indictment against him for marijuana smuggling and money laundering. Agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration and Immigration and Customs Enforcement conducted the investigation.
Padilla worked with a Weslaco-based drug trafficking operation run by Tomas "El Gallo" Gonzalez, who co-owns a trucking business called T&F Produce. The drug traffickers moved marijuana and cocaine from Texas to Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee and other states, according to federal court records.
Sheriff Treviño said he expected the attorneys from McAllen-based law firm Atlas Hall and Rodriguez to finish the termination paperwork Thursday. They'll also have to determine whether to attempt to deliver the documents to Padilla — in federal detention — or his attorney.
"It's not like he's going anywhere," Sheriff Treviño said.
update:

Padilla appeared in federal court at 11:30 a.m. on Friday for a detention hearing.
Former Hidalgo County Sheriff's Office Cmdr. Jose Padilla pleaded not guilty Friday to federal marijuana trafficking and money laundering charges.
Hands clasped behind him, Jose. A "Joe" Padilla, 53, pleaded not guilty Friday morning at Bentsen Tower. Federal Magistrate Judge Dorina Ramos set bond at $100,000 — Padilla must post a 5 percent cash deposit — and ordered house arrest
Federal agents arrested Padilla early Tuesday morning, when he arrived at McAllen-Miller International Airport from Las Vegas.

Source: The Monitor-Thank you to "Luis" for the heads up
 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Abbott Campaign Selling Chances to Dine with Mrs. Abbott

Cecilia Abbott
From the editor:  The letter below from the Greg Abbott for Governor Campaign gives me an opportunity to lunch with Cecelia Abbott for a minimum $5.00 contribution to the campaign.  The letter does not offer a disclaimer indicating my odds of winning the dining opportunity or state where I would have to travel to collect my winning meal.

If given a choice of cuisine, I would prefer Thai, although a meal with the kind of vegetables Luby's used to offer(fresh, steamed broccoli, fresh green beans sauteed with garlic, almonds), before they downgraded their menu, would interest me.  

Clicking on the CONTRIBUTE link below opens a window with boxes starting at $5.00 all the way to $2,500.00 and a box where you fill in your contribution.  There is also a box to fill in your credit or debit card number.  

Raffling off a lunch date with the wife seems like a novel way to raise money for a campaign. Another point of interest is that Mrs. Abbott is said to have joined the campaign full time "to help make sure General Abbott wins this election."  That might explain why Mrs. Abbott did not accompany her husband on his recent visit to Brownsville as she had not as yet joined the campaign "full time." 





Date: Thu, 26 Dec 2013 23:17:36 +0000
From: info@gregabbott.com
To: rvpark645@hotmail.com
Subject: Lunch with Cecilia


Jim,
Mrs. Abbott has joined the campaign full-time to help make sure General Abbott wins this election.

A former educator and healthcare professional, Mrs. Abbott is truly one of the most fascinating people I’ve met. She wants to meet as many Texans as she can during the campaign.

I want to make sure you have the chance to meet her.

Every donation of $5 or more before December 31st will allow you the chance to have lunch with Mrs. Abbott.

Help the campaign reach our year-end online fundraising goal, and get the opportunity to meet Mrs. Abbott.

Will you contribute $5 or more today for a chance to have lunch with Mrs. Abbott?

Sincerely,

Kim Snyder
Texans for Greg Abbott
 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Is Tripling Parking Fees Downtown the Best Approach for Brownsville?

While the City of Harlingen offers free parking downtown, Brownsville's Planning and Traffic Engineering Departments appear to be headed in the opposite direction, tripling parking meter fees downtown from 25 to 75 cents per hour.

City ordinances have also been amended to allow for expansion of the current 1,200 parking meters to include more streets and possibly even lots for metered parking.

Concerning these proposed parking lots, City Traffic Engineer Robert Esparza states:  "It’s better for the public, much safer for the handicapped, much safer for the kids when you park there. It’s controlled, you don't park in the streets with cars passing by and you have a lot better safety overall."

With the meter fees tripling, fines for non-payment are projected to increase from $5.00 to either $10.00 or $15.00.  Currently, fees and fines generate over $500,000 annually in gross revenue for the city.

City employees, members of city boards, the disabled, the mayor and city commission and those who use the city's downtown post office are given free parking.  There is also free parking available across from City Plaza and in the adjacent parking garage.

As recently as 2011, a candidate for City Commissioner, District 4, Tony Zavaleta, proposed free parking for downtown Brownsville:  "As Brownsville City Commissioner for District 4, I will recommend an immediate moratorium be placed on all downtown parking meters, with an indefinite period of free parking to be put in place. During that time I would call for an examination of the city's total monthly parking meter revenue, versus the expense of meter readers and repair. In forcing people to pay for downtown parking, I believe the city gains little, and even loses money. On the other hand, if we want people to come to our downtown, free parking would be a reasonable start."

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Ralph Cowen Speaks Out Against Proposed Changes to Texas Southmost College Foundation By-Laws

Ralph Cowen
From the editor:  Ralph Cowen, a Port of Brownsville Commissioner with a longstanding familial attachment to Texas Southmost College, shared his concerns about recent developments with the TSC Foundation in an article published in the Brownsville Herald's "My Turn" on Sunday.  We share excerpts from Cowen's article here, interspersed with our observations:  

Cowen:  I recently found out that somehow the TSC Endowment money was transferred to a foundation that that wants to change the purpose and scope of our TSC Endowment Trust, even removing TSC from its name.

Mean Mister Brownsville:  The TSC Foundation was scheduled to meet December 13, 2013 with an item on the agenda to propose and take action on "proposed amendments to the Bylaws and Articles of Incorporation of TSC Foundation as Recommended made by the Bylaws Committee," which would permit the assets of the Foundation to be used for other purposes.  After TSC President Dr. Lily Tercero and the TSC Board of Trustees moved forward with legal action to thwart the move, the TSC Foundation postponed their meeting.

Cowen:  The TSC Board set up the TSC Endowment Fund investment in such a way that 7th through 12th grade students who made good grades could start earning and banking TSC Endowment Dollars.  By the time they graduated they could have earned the endowment dollars to pay their TSC tuition.  It was an amazing program that got both local praise and national acclaim.

Mean Mister Brownsville:   Here is the critical language Dr. Rose Gowen and her cronies desire to change: “…no activities shall be carried on, or distributions or applications of funds or property made…which are not made for the benefit of Texas Southmost College, for the support of its educational and public activities and programs or otherwise for the purposes necessary in the conduct by Texas Southmost College of its function as a public school.” The foundation members likely want this language changed to include UTB or UT-RGV.   As Mr. Cowen stated changing the name of the foundation was also on the agenda:

 1. Name change. The TSC Foundation Board of Directors will be considering action to rename the Foundation as the Historic Fort Brown Foundation for Higher Education or another name.  

Cowen:  I beg the members of our TSC Endowment Foundation to stop, think again and redirect their efforts to reviving the TSC Endowment Dollars program where students can earn their way through our college by making good grades.  I understand that there are about $7 million in the fund today.  The money is there as a result of a lot of hard work, sweat and tears of people from all walks of life in the TSC district and very wise, careful investments from the beginning.

TSC President Dr. Lily Tercero
Mean Mister Brownsville:  According to Dr. Lily F. Tercero, President of Texas Southmost College, "It is extremely disappointing that we have been forced to take legal action to preserve the intent and purpose of a foundation that was originally created to support only TSC."

Cowen:  The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley will have a development department to build scholarship endowments.  TSC will have no budget or ability to compete for these scarce dollars from the small pool of donors in the poorest region in the nation.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Enrique Escobedo's Campaign Speech At Cobbleheads


Our Last Conversation with BISD Board President Enrique Escobedo

Enrique Escobedo
The Escobedo brothers, Enrique and Jaime, had reserved the dining area of Cobbleheads for their announcement event Thursday night. 
Enrique, the candidate, came quickly to our table.  "Are you going to write anything bad about me, Mr. Barton?" He asked.  I shook my head, thinking to myself that I try not to write badly.

"What are you running for?" I asked, thinking I might get sort of a foregleam before the official announcement.

"Oh, I'm weighing my options, analyzing the candidates in the different races.  You will know in an hour," Escobedo responded coyly. 
The candidate was nervous, but with sort of a genteel nature, reminiscent of an older generation, reminding me of Gustavo Hernandez Beltran, a salesperson from Mexico City I worked with in the late 60's.  His brother Jaime, who also welcomed us along with his wife, seemed very young, but with a similar nature.  Perhaps the personable nature of the two brothers simply masks their aggressive pursuit of contracts for several kinds of services with BISD, the Port of Brownsville, Cameron County and the City of Brownsville.(Commenters with personal knowledge of the deal-making will certainly fill us in.)

Pat Ahumada
The rarely seen two-time Brownsville mayor, Pat Ahumada, worked the crowd, accompanied by a blondish lady friend.  He greeted us with no seeming ill will from our Facebook arguments of three years ago about the Fly Frontera proposal.  In the closing days of the last mayoral election, Ahumada toured the city in a Mustang convertible with an American Surveillance(one the the Escobedo's companies) security vehicle, acting as sort of a pseudo police escort.

County Judge Carlos Cascos, a Republican who easily crosses party lines, when told that some thought Escobedo might run for county judge, said:  "Well, I certainly wouldn't be here if I thought that."

Enrique Escobedo, after an introduction from Commissioner Ricardo Longoria, added some force to his voice when he said he was "tired of Brownsville being declared the poorest city in America." He stated that his vision for Brownsville was complicated, but detailed, but then gave us none of the details.  It seemed anti-climactic when, after a sort of powerful buildup, he asked for the audience's support in pursuing the position of District Clerk, an office holder no one ever hears about unless they arrange for a slap-on-the wrist for a son who steals $70,000 from a charity. 

FROLICKING, SKIPPING, LEVITATING THROUGH MARKET SQUARE

Grandson Jack in Market Square Walking with grandson Jack downtown is a challenge.  He frolicks, skips, cuts in front of you, runs ahead,...