Friday, February 5, 2016

EX-GUERRILLA FIGHTER, DIPLOMAT, HAS BOOK SIGNING


By Juan Montoya
In a story that tells how a former guerrilla fighter against the repressive government of her native El Salvador during her formative years blossomed into a diplomatic representative of that Central American nation, Sandra E. Agreda will introduce her first book after having left that country's diplomatic corps.
The book signing and presentation will be held at Las Delicias Restaurant, 5550 Padre Island Hwy, Brownsville, at noon Saturday.
Agreda served as the first consul from El Salvador in the Rio Grande Valley.
It is a story filled with dramatic and heart-wrenching moments such as when she fought in the guerrilla war against the US-backed repressive military government of El Salvador, seeing her younger brother shot before her eyes by government soldiers, and – after defeating the repressive regime – going on to the university and joining the diplomatic corps to represent her country.
It was largely through her efforts that the plight of Central American immigrants in the Rio Grande Valley began to be addressed.

RACE TO REPLACE DAN SANCHEZ IN PRECINCT 4 HEATS UP

By Juan Montoya
If attorney Gus Ruiz thought that being the hand-picked candidate of outgoing Cameron County Pct. 4 Commissioner Dan Sanchez to fill his seat was going to be a cinch, this literature against him in his race should disabuse him of that fantasy.
In the circular, the writer says that Ruiz approached his opponent and former Harlingen city commissioner Basilio "Chino" Sanchez and urged him not to run against him. 
When Chino demurred, Ruiz is said to have sent him a threatening text. Ruiz has been a vocal supporter of his benefactor Dan Sanchez from the get go. That's no surprise since Ruiz is the attorney in Dan's brother David in the 445th Veterans Court. (That's him wearing a Sanchez T-shirt and holding a Sanchez sign in the graphic above.)
But perhaps more serious is the fact that commissioner Sanchez went out of his way to pave a long section of Retama Road where the only house there belongs to Ruiz. 
Why pave that road, critics ask, when there have been many people waiting in line to have their roads paved?
Dan Sanchez has already encountered blow back in his precinct over his failure to maintain roads and clear bar ditches alongside county roads that encourage littering and crimes like the increasing burglaries in the area. But it seems that roads like Ruiz's where developers have expressed interest in building (and selling) subdivision lots are taking priority with the portly commissioner.
Already, local residents are researching the paving of certain roads where realtors signs have popped up almost as soon as the county's road-building equipment is leaving the work site.
Is that why so many of Dan Sanchez's contributors are developers, architects and engineers?

IN THE COUNTY COURT-AT-LAW #5 RACE, SAY NO TO ESTELA

By Juan Montoya
With early voting set to begin in the Democratic Primary this Feb. 16 – 11 days from now – we thought we'd get an early start and say who we don't endorse in the coming contest for at least one office.
We refer to the Cameron County Court-at-Law #5 race between Estela Chavez Vasquez, Jesus T. "Chuy" Garcia, Jr., and Noe Robles.
Robles, a former county court-at-law judge is coming around after a long hiatus from public service, probably has the most judicial experience of the three as far as we can tell. "Chuy," on the other hand, is said to be respected by his legal peers and so far we have heard nothing that would turn us off on  his candidacy. Stay tuned, however, the political season is just beginning. 
But it is Estela who we look on with apprehension as the election looms nearer.
Brownsville residents remember her as the former city commissioner At-Large during Tony Martinez's first mayoral reign and that is one of her big minuses.
During her stint on the city commission, she was noticeable for her absolute adherence to Da Mayor's agenda. When Tony spoke, Estela just jumped and didn't bother to ask how high.
She was silent when the city commission was ready to give away Lincoln Park to the oil-and-gas wealthy University of Texas and was there at Martinez's beck and call.
The same goes for the city's purchase of Martinez's pal Abraham Galonsky's Case Del Nylon store downtown for an incredible $2.3 million when most appraisers put the price tag at closer to $650,000.
She also signed off on the hiking of the Brownsville Public Utility Board rates that started in 2013 and will continue into the year 2017. The rates were hiked to pay for Da Mayor's Tenaska boondoggle $500 million 800 MW power plant. Construction of the plant has been delayed until the company can sell 600 MW of power to other customers. With two other plants coming online before it is built (one in Edinburg and another in Harlingen), it is doubtful that the Brownsville plant will be built soon.
But the rate hikes stay in place and PUB ratepayers see no end in sight.
Thanks, Estela.
On January 2015, and four months before her term was up, Chavez-Vasquez handed in her letter of resignation where she explained that because of “circumstances beyond my control” she would be unable to complete her term that ended in May.
She didn't tell the city or her constituents that she had been living in Los Fresnos for weeks – maybe months – before she had to step down because she no longer lived in her district. The cat, she knew, was out of the bag.
Between the time she no longer lived in the city and the time she resigned, Chavez-Vasquez voted on city matters brought before the commission. All those votes – if challenged in a court – would have been illegal. And before someone hurls the mysoginist label at us, it wouldn't have mattered to us if she had been a woman or a man. If Ricardo Longoria was running, we'd non-endorse him, too, for the very same reasons.
Because of her demonstrated lack of independence and the fact that she remained on the city commission illegally when she no longer lived in the district, we have to part ways with her as a candidate for the County Court-at-Law #5 judgeship, a position that demands independence and integrity.
Anyone but Estela. Sorry.

ARE WE BACK TO COMPADRISMO IN CAMERON CTY. HIRINGS?

By Juan Montoya
In 1997, when the Brownsville-Matamoros Bridge Company erected a new concrete, four-lane toll bridge adjacent to the original (old) bridge to handle automobile traffic, the late bridge manager Prax Orive was asked to say a few words.
Orive, who would die a few years later, was already infirm and his voice shook as he addressed the dignitaries gathered for the grand opening.
Pointing to federal judge Reynaldo Garza who was seated with other U.S. and Mexico dignitaries, he said he had risen to the position of manager because of the judge.
"I was free3sh from the U.S. Marines and I had a wife and baby at home and I needed a job," he said. "I went to talk to judge Garza and he picked up te phone and told them that he was sending over a veteran who needed a job and I got it. If it hadn't been for the judge I wouldn't be where I am today."
Judge Garza was visibly chagrined that Orive had told that story but smiled wanly as the crowd clapped politely.
The way that Orive got the job at the bridge mirrors how hiring and firing was done in those days. Find someone with enough influence, get him to move a few palancas, and the job was yours.
Granted, the B and M Bridge was privately owned and personnel polices that apply in public service were niceties to them.
Now that Human Resource polices are in place in the City of Brownsville and Cameron County there are rules to follow to make sure that influence and compadrismo no longer guide public employment.
Cameron County, for example, consolidated the four county precincts from Road and Bridge to Public Works back in 2002 to remove the hiring and firings by individual commissioners and give everyone an equal chance at the jobs available.
They adopted the Civil Service for all county employees below supervisory rank in 2006.
As former county Pct. 2 commissioner John Wood wrote in a letter to the local daily, "The Commissioners Court adopted a Civil Service system that prospective county workers as well as those seeking advancement. These tests are administered without regard to whom you know; they are based on what you know, and hiring and promotions are to be based on those most qualified."
Yet, even as late as 2011, Pct. 2 county commissioner Ernie Hernandez was indicted and later resigned over his role in the "fixing" of the system to hire his brother in law Roberto Cadriel. Testimony in the trial of Hernandez's assistant Raul Salazar indicated that Cadriel had flunked the civil service exam twice before a HR staffer was told to take it for him and he passed.
We feel a little sorry for poor Ernie because we can only imagine the henpecking that his wife Norma gave him over getting her brother Robert a job. During the trial, Cadriel testified that it was Norma who filled out his application for employment since he could neither read nor write. To begin with, he was a convicted felon and couldn't be an armed security guard.
Later, it was disclosed at the trial that Salazar gave Cadriel the answers to a test for a noncommissioned security guard at a county international bridge. Cadriel – as well as Robert Lopez, the HR director at the time – resigned after the facts in the matter were revealed.
Salazar was later convicted of Tampering With a Government Documents and is waiting to serve a 10-month sentence pending his appeal with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. A previous appeal to the 13th Court of Appeals was denied.
And just when one though the system was fixed, we get yet another report that county administrators and supervisors are finding ways to circumvent the system.
We have learned, to cite one example, of the hiring of one Juan Carlos Olivarez with the Precinct 2 Road and Bridge crews by a method that calls into question the performance of both the Human Resources Dept. and the Public Works Road Administrator Ruben Gonzalez.
Olivarez, who had previously worked with the county and resigned but later returned to work part time with the Public Works colonia crew, applied January 7, 2016 for a position with the Pct. 2 Public Works crew.
His application was filled out and the pertinent answers were given.
Gilbert Elizondo Jr., who took over the HR Dept. about four months ago, said the county had posted the opening online for the required 10 days and that Gonzalez had looked over the application and hired Olivarez. But he said he didn't know how it was that the HR Dept. missed vetting some important items on the man's application.
For example, the county application asks all interested employment seekers: "Have you ever been convicted of a felony, misdemeanor, or receive a differed (sic) adjudication? (Disclosure of criminal record does not automatically disqualify you for employment.)
Olivarez crossed off the "no" box.
Just above, in the preceding question, the application form also asks: Are any of your relatives employees of Cameron County?
Olivarez crossed off the "no" box there as well.
It also whether the applicant has any licenses and Olivarez wrote that he had a Class A CDL, but did not include the date received or the license number as required in the form.
When Elizondo was shown the Texas Department of Public Safety record details of Olivarez's conviction DWI on May 19, 2011 and told that the county salary schedules show that he has two brothers working for the county, one in Public Works and the other in Pct. 1, he said it was impossible for HR to investigate whether anyone had relatives working for the county and counted on the applicant to be straightforward. Salary schedules indicate that one of Olivarez's brothers is a road crewman for Public Works and the other is employed with the Pct. 1 Road and Bridge crew.
As for the DWI conviction, Elizondo said that lying on an application could carry serious consequences.
Elizondo referred us to the pertinent Cameron County Personnel Policy Manual on what consequences applied to anyone caught lying on the application and we came across this:
4.08 DISQUALIFICATION An applicant is disqualified from employment by the County if... he or she "knowingly has made a false statement on the application form; has committed fraud during the selection process; or is not legally permitted to hold the position. An employee may be terminated if it is later discovered that he or she knowingly falsified information on the application form."
Who was ultimately chosen, he said was up to Gonzalez.
We asked Elizondo if the county was serious about its own personnel policies or whether it has regressed to hiring people based on who you know and not what you know.
Olivarez just happens to be a good friend (compadre) of Public Works Construction Foreman Santana Vallejo and in turn Vallejo is Road Administrator Gonzalez's pal. In fact, Gonzalez is listed as a reference in Olivarez's application. Yeah, that's the way the sausage is made.
Just about now Ernie is beginning to look better and better.
(P.S. HR Director Elizondo said he'd get back to us after he investigates the matter further.)

Thursday, February 4, 2016

SKINFLINT TONY MARTINEZ DOESN'T WANT TO PONY UP

By Juan Montoya
Once in a while, one has to marvel at the gentility of some legal representatives of local governmental entities.
This is especially true in the case of Cameron County's Civil Litigation counselor Juan Gonzalez.
Gonzalez told the local daily that the sticking point that was not permitting the City of Brownsville (read Tony Martinez) from starting construction of Morrison Road west of McAllen Road (by Academy) was that the city had not followed the correct application process, or protocol, to begin construction.
Once that is done, Gonzalez said, then there would be no hangup there.
Apparently, the county is owner of the abandoned railroad easement and requires the city to go through the application process for a construction permit. The county would have to deed the easement over to the city before the crews can come in and start the construction.
As Paul Harvey used to say, there's more to the story. And here it is.
Remember when Mayor Tony Martinez pulled all the stops and had a ceremony celebrating the opening of the West Rail Bridge project? Martinez had the ceremony and invited everyone and their mother to the event, mindful that the county had already had their opening ceremonies before.
Well, Martinez was celebrating the first international rail bridge in more than 100 years on someone else's nickel. In Spanish it's called "la corva." In fact, Martinez held a banquet for all the dignitaries he invited with the exception of the city commissioners, which made them all sore afterwards. It is said that commissioner rick Longoria was upset he didn't get the DJ gig.
Martinez knew full well (or should have known) that the city had welshed (with apologies to those of Welsh origin) on the county-city agreement to share the costs of the relocation and purchases of right-of-way to build it. In fact, the city had issued bonds to pay their share.
Apparently, Martinez probably didn't get the legal briefing from his cracker jack city attorney Mark Sossi that the city owed the county about $2.5 million for its share of the relocation. But that's about par for ethics-challenged Sossi who had to have a court order him to pay a $160,000 settlement after his former law firm sued him charging he kept the firm's money instead of depositing into their account.
It's this little $2.5 million sticking point that has made the county call in its debt before issuing the construction permit the city needs to go forward with the Morrison Road improvements.
In fact, county sources have told us that the city had actually gotten a construction permit from the county via the good offices of county administrator David Garcia and had acted to rescind it when they found out that it had been issued. Garcia, apparently, had no authority to ask the engineering department to issue it.
The county's legal counsel overrode Garcia's interference and sent the city a cease and desist letter before they started the improvements.
"The county got the deed to the abandoned easement from the railroad," said a county insider. "They can't build on county property."
Then there's another little issue of abatement that has to be dealt with, they said.
Over the years, the passing of hazardous cargo through the easement may have deposited hazardous chemical or other materials on the grade that have to be cleaned up (abated) before any construction can begin.
And what happened to the city's share of the costs that were supposed to be paid through the bond money?
"Maybe Martinez used it to buy La Casa del Nylon for $2.3 million," quipped a county worker.
County legal counsel expect the city to own up to its debt either in money or though some other consideration before the required permits are issued.
"If Sossi had written the code of ethics Martinez told him to write some five years ago, maybe we wouldn't even have this problem," the county worker said.
"And that's the rest of the story..."

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

HIDALGO CTY, DEVELOPER DONORS WANT DAN CTY JUDGE

By Juan Montoya
The campaign reports for 3- days before the March 1 elections are in and to no one's surprise, the campaign contributors to the candidacy of Cameron County  Pct. 4 commissioner Dan Sanchez in his bid for county judge are predominantly from outside the county.
Also, they are heavily tipped toward land developers, engineers and contractors.
Texas Election Code requires that candidates file periodic contribution and expenditure reports and a cursory glance at Sanchez's report indicates that of the 55 contributors listed on the 30-day-prior to the election period from Jan. 1 to Jan. 21, Sanchez had received $63,850 from 55 contributors.
Thirty three of those listed their address outside Cameron County.
Only 22 listed their address from cities inside the county.
By contrast, Eddie Treviño, a Brownsville attorney and former Brownsville mayor reported $3,300 in donations from only four contributors, three from inside Cameron County and one from Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas.
The other candidate in the race, Brownsville attorney Elizabeth Garza, listed no contributions.
The tally was not much different in the Jan.15 report, with Treviño reporting no contributions and loans to himself in the report, and Sanchez reporting $52,850 in contributions,. Of those, 15 were from outside the county (notably contractors, architects and engineers from Hidalgo County) and 13 from Cameron County.
In the latest report, Sanchez listed Kevin and Scot Campbell, Harlingen land developers, as having contributed $9,000 between them to his campaign.
Anthony Gray,a  developer from Austin also chipped in $1,500. (See graphic, click to enlarge)
The Campbell's contributions have raised some eyebrows in the courthouse because they are said to have several items come up before the commissioners court, including one in executive session in today's meeting.
The item in question is the court's agenda concerning potential legal issues in the planned opening of Morrison Road between McAllen Road and Alton Gloor where the Campbells are said to have real-estate interests. The issue also concern the abandonment of the railroad easement located there.
Sanchez – allowed to remain on the court despite having resigned to run for county judge – has been allowed to remain as a voting member by County Judge Pete Sepulveda under the holdover provision by not appointing someone else to his position. As such, Sanchez can discuss and vote on the matter even if it could be a matter concerning his campaign contributors' interests.
A vote on the Morrison Road issue could come up before the voting in the primary. Early voting begins Feb 16 and the election is March 1.



JURY FINDS GONZALEZ NOT GUILTY OF CAPITAL MURDER; VERDICT BLOW TO D.A. LUIS V. SAENZ'S REELECTION BID

By Juan Montoya
After nearly three days of deliberations, a Cameron County jury has found Marco Antonio Gonzalez not guilty on a capital murcder charge in the shooting of fellow jailer Ivan Reyes last June 4, 2014.
The verdict was rendered by the six-man, six-women jury today in the 404th District Court presided by Judge Elia Cornejo-Lopez. Corneljo-Lopez had ordered the jury to stop deliberating on Tuesday and resume on Wednesday due to an illness of a juror's relative.
The not guilty verdict will likely have repercussions on the reelection bid of Cameron County District Attorney Luis V. Saenz. Asst. DA Peter Gilman was the lead prosecutor in the case.
This morning, the jury requested a copy of the jury charge made by Cornejo-Lopez last Friday.
Prosecutors said Gonzalez has shot Reyes as a result of a love triangle between corrections officers at the Rucker-Carrizales Detention Center that went bad.
Defense attorney Ernesto Gamez represented Gonzalez in the capital murder charge, but made a motion to the court that he willwithdraw after today;s verdict and will not represent his client on other pending charges. Gamez and his daughter Erin said the shooting was done nin self defense after Gonzalez entered the home of Monica Robles and found Reyes inside pointing  agun at him.
Gamez submitted his motion to withdraw Monday morning as the jury continued its deliberations.
Prosecutors say Gonzalez shot and killed Reyes at the home of Robles, his ex-girlfriend, on the 200 block of Orchid Path. During the standoff between Gonzalez and local authorities which lasted for hours, Gonzalez kept Robles captive at gunpoint while the body of Reyes was in the house.
Gonzalez was also arraigned on one count of aggravated kidnapping, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and 10 counts of aggravated assault on a public servant.
Gamez and attorney daughter Erin Gamez defended him over the last two weeks on the capital murder charge only. Still pending are the rest of the charges that included counts of kidnapping, assault with a deadly weapon and assault on the police.
Last Friday, 404th District Court Judge Elia Cornejo-Lopez sent the jury home for the weekend after they asked for the transcripts of the testimony of Gonzalez and Monica Robles, the woman over who prosecutors say the defendant Gonzalez shot Reyes, a fellow corrections officer. Robles was a staff member at the jail's infirmary.
The shooting June 4, 2014 in Brownsville. touched off and eight-hour standoff with authorities.
Prosecutors say Gonzalez shot and killed Reyes at  Robles' home on the 200 block of Orchid Path. During the standoff between Gonzalez and local authorities which lasted for hours, Gonzalez kept Robles captive at gunpoint while the body of Reyes was in the house.
Gonzalez was first tried on a capital murder charge for Reyes’ death in June 2015, but that ended in a mistrial after the jury failed to reach a consensus in the verdict.
The lead counsel for the prosecution then was Gilman.
Gonzalez, who testified on his own behalf in his retrial, told the jury that on the morning of June 4, 2014, he had called Robles because he planned to drop off a .223 Bushmaster rifle she had given him as a Christmas present at her home.
The woman said she told Gonzalez not to go to her home and he insisted on going there.
In her testimony, Robles said Reyes was in the house at the time and was armed with a gun.
She said Gonzalez forced his way into the home pulling her by the hair after accusing her of having another man in the house, she testified.
During her testimony, she said “I was trying to hold the door closed, and I remember saying, ‘He has a gun,’ several times,” Robles said. “At (that) point, I (didn’t) care if anyone (heard)…I wanted anybody to hear.”
Reyes had his gun aimed at Gonzalez, telling him to put the rifle down, Robles testified.
Reyes was shot twice by Gonzalez and died instantly from a shot fired from the .223 Bushmaster rifle to the top of his head.
Police released recordings of the dispatchers’ radio communications in response to an open-records request from the local daily.At first, police were responding to a call from the home that someone being shot. Once there, the officers learned that a suspect inside the home was holding a woman hostage.“Suspect has the (caller’s) sister at gunpoint locked in a room” the recordings reveal.
As more officers were dispatched to the home, police were told that a “victim is male subject laying in the kitchen floor. He’s not moving.”
A few minutes later, one officer quickly shouted on the radio, “Shots fired headquarters. He’s got an AK 47… subject is shooting out of one of the bedrooms in the front. Units stay covered. He’s got an AK 47.”
The not guilty verdict came as a political blow to the reelection campaign of DA Luis Saenz, who opted to retry Gonzalez on the capital murder charge after the first trial ended in a hung jury instaed of lowering the charge .
Gonzalez will remain at the Rucker-Carrizalez corrections unit awaiting his trial on the other pending charges. 

HEY FELLAS, WHO'S THE BABE? AND CAN SHE VOTE?


SOROLA TO ADDRESS CHILD CUSTODY LAW IN CLE THURSDAY

Special to El Rrun-Rrun
Cameron County Continuing Legal Education
Jon Schmid, coordinator of the Law Library Committee of the Cameron County Bar Association, has announced that Brownsville attorney Louis Sorola will speak on "Ch​ild Custody: Issues & Burdens" in County Court-at-Law 1e of the Cameron County Courthouse Thursday, Feb. 4 2016, at noon.
Schmid said that Sorola's session is part of a monthly continuing education series sponsored by the Law Library Committee.
​No admittance fee is charged and CLE credit is awarded to those attorneys present who sign in on the sign-in sheet. Cameron County Bar members are encouraged to attend.
The CLE series features local attorneys who are recognized specialists in the subject matter. 

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

SALINAS "EN EL AVION" OVER GOV'S AEROSPACE APPOINTMENT

By Juan Montoya
We were mildly surprised over the news item today in the local daily that our former newspaper colleague Gilbert Salinas, vice president of the Brownsville Economic Development Council, was named to the State of Texas Aerospace and Aviation Advisory Committee by gov. Greg Abbott.
Doubtless, his assistance in doing heavy lifting for the state to lure SpaceX to Boca Chica to construct the first commercial vertical launch pad in the country helped his candidacy to the committee.
Besides, the state and BEDC's shelling out $25 million in monetary incentives for billionaire Elon Musk to bring his SpaceX down here didn't hurt either.
We have known Gilbert for many years since he was a newspaper reporter, a Low Rider car magazine editor and designer, and now, an economic development guru for the BEDC under Jason Hilts, another heavy hitter.
Aside from the bringing down of SpaceX – for which a number of elected officials and bureaucrats have taken credit – we figure it's because of Salinas promotion of the project which clinched the nomination for him up in Austin.
Salinas was an avid SpaceX booster and sometimes went over the edge with his pronouncements while shilling for the BEDC and his good buddy Elon.
Here's a few of the gems that probably endeared him to the Guv.

1. That Brownsville's geographic position close to the equator so it can create a "slingshot" effect and save the SpaceX craft fuel to go into orbit (not space) gives it a foot up on other competitors such as Florida and Puerto Rico. "The location is ideal for a number of reasons. It allows for a launch over a vast body of water, in this case the Gulf of Mexico. It also is near the Equator and its gravitational field, providing a faster, more efficient “slingshot” launch that conserves fuel," Salinas told the Brownsville Herald's Emma Perez-Treviño.
 Well, not really. The last time we looked at the global map, the location of the competing site in Puerto Rico is a lot closer to the equator than Boca Chica. In fact, Cape Canaveral, the other competitor, is less than three degrees in latitude than Brownsville (25.9014 to 28.4556) , a negligible difference. So much for geographic advantage.

2. Then the other was that the RP1 fuel that was going to be used to launch the SpaceX rockets into orbit were going to be propelled by kerosene, "such as the one you use in your campfire."
Well, that might have been the biggest fib out intrepid Mr. Salinas told. It turns out that highly-refined kerosene used as rocket fuel is nothing at all like you would use in a campfire. In fact, if you tried to use that in a campfire, you might end up blown to bits and end up washed up on the beach as fodder for the crabs and sea gulls.

3. The next one was that there was a "lot of nothing" out there on Boca Chica. That was blown out of the water by the documentation provided the Federal Aviation Administration by the State of Texas Dept. of Fish and Wildlife that affirms that, aside form numerous endangered species such as the sea turtles, ocelot, jaguarandi, Piping Plovers, etc, there were scores of endangered flora in the "lot of nothing" around the site.

4. And the winner is. "the prospect of 600 jobs with a beginning salary of $55,000 each was a huge selling point (a la Trump) with local residents. In some interviews, Salinas and Hilts whittled it down to 400. In others, different numbers were quoted. But they were all "huge" gamechangers.
In fact, the real numbers, according to SpaceX's own declarations in their EIS with the FAA are listed below.
Table 2.1-2. Personnel for Proposed SpaceX Texas Launch Site Operations

Year                      Full-time SpaceX                                   Full-time SpaceX
                            Employees/Contractors                           Employees/Contractors plus
                               Working On-Site                           Additional Local/Transient Workers
                                                                                         during Launch Campaigns

2013                                          30                                                       130
2014                                          75                                                       175
2015                                         100                                                      200
2016                                         100                                                      200
2017                                         110                                                      210
2018                                         130                                                      230
2019                                         150                                                      250
2020                                         150                                                      250
2021                                         150                                                      250
2022                                         150                                                      250

Notice that it is now 2016 and SpaceX was supposed to have hired only 100 full-time employees. And the first launch date has been moved from the original date of 2013 to 2016, and now to 2018.
The Guv is right. Gilbert will fit right in with the aviation guys mientras no se baje del avion.



READER SAYS: IS BORDER PATROL ABOVE THE LOCAL LAWS?

(Ed.'s Note: Quick, what is worng with this picture? If tou will notice closely, the Border Patrol driver operating the van (la perrera) is clearly parkd in the middle of the pedestrian crossing at this intersection. Asks the reader: "I wonder why federal agencies don't feel (they have to) abide by local laws, this vehicle is clearly over the pedestrian crossing path. Pic was taken on 1/26 at 11:30 am.)

GOP SHERIFF CANDIDATE DISSES BROWNSVILLE, OPPONENT

By Juan Montoya
Using DEA-inspired scorched earth political tactics, Republican Party candidate for Cameron County Sheriff Victor Cortez heaped contempt on the "Brownsville mentality" and crowed over the fact that he had a direct hand in the conviction of his opponent for the same position.
Cortez, who left Luis Saenz's Cameron County District Attorney Office Public Integrity Unit (PIU) to run for the Republican sheriff nomination this March 1, briefly posted his comments on his Facebook page before cooler minds convinced him to remove it.
Cortez made the post in response to an offending post by former Los Fresnos Police Dept. Chief Johnny Cavazso, a supporter of former Indian Lake P.D. Chief Johan Chambers for the Republican Party's county sheriff nomination.
Chambers is appealing his conviction on 14 counts of Tampering With a Government Document where he was accused of directing a confidential informant – his assistant chief Alfredo Avalos – to put together files on his 30 deputies' firearm certification. Avalos, after receiving immunity from the DA's Office – told a jury that he was acting under Chambers' orders, the Nuremberg Defense.
In it, he refers to the "Brownsville Mentality" and insists that there is noting but facts coming from his side.
Then, gratuitously, the former DEA agent posted a photo of Chambers' booking photo and tells Cavazos, "In case you missed it, here it is again, enjoy."
We wonder what Cortez – himself a Brownsville native allegedly from La 421 – meant by the "Brownsville mentality."
Funny how Cortez doesn't mention all the "facts."
1. It is a "fact," for example, that while he was the chief at the PIU, Cortez imitated at least two investigatio9ns into Chambers following the disclosure that Chambers had gone to the FBI with information on wrongdoing at the DA's Office.
2, It is a "fact" that on two occasions, the charges against Chambers were dropped because of lack of evidence to back the charges.
3. It is a "fact" that the investigation into the gun certification changes originated with a Cortez-inspired investigation.
4 It is a "fact" that Cortez – during Chamber's trial, assisted his former DEA colleague George Delaney to try Chambers even though he was his opponent for the GOP sheriff nomination in the upcoming March 1 elections. (He is the guy in the baseball cap kneeling in the hallway outside the corridor conferring with investigator Delaney in the graphic at left.)
5. It is a "fact" that DA Saenz is supporting Cortez's candidacy for the eventual faceoff with the Democratic Party nominee, probably incumbent Sheriff Omar Lucio by inviting him to his campaign functions.
6. Since Cortez says he is from Brownsville, is it the "Brownsville mentality" to use the power of the state to discredit your political opponent by taking a direct hand in his prosecution when you stand to benefit directly from it?
Is this a Republican thing, something Cortez picked up in DEA training, or a talent that was nurtured and finessed in the Luis Saenz academy of selective prosecution?

Monday, February 1, 2016

GONZALEZ VERDICT ON HOLD TILL WEDNESDAY, GAMEZ BOLTS

By Juan Montoya
A Cameron County jury has delayed its deliberations on the capital murder trial of Marco Antonio Gonzalezin the shooting of fellow jailer Ivan Reyes last June 24, 2015.
404th District Court Judge Elia Cornejo-Lopez ordered the jury to stop deliberating on Tuesday and resume on Wednesday.

And even as a six-men and six-women jury were continuing their second day of deliberations Monday in what prosecutors said was a love triangle between corrections officers at the Rucker-Carrizales Detention Center that went bad, the defendant can be sure of one thing: defense attorney Ernesto Gamez will not be representing him on the other charges.
Gamez submitted his motion to withdraw Monday morning as the jury continued its deliberations.
Prosecutors say Gonzalez shot and killed Reyes at the home of Monica Robles, his ex-girlfriend, on the 200 block of Orchid Path. During the standoff between Gonzalez and local authorities which lasted for hours, Gonzalez kept Robles captive at gunpoint while the body of Reyes was in the house.
Gonzalez was also arraigned on one count of aggravated kidnapping, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and 10 counts of aggravated assault on a public servant.
Gamez and attorney daughter Erin Gamez defended him over the last two weeks on the capital murder charge only. Still pending are the rest of the charges that included counts of kidnapping, assault with a deadly weapon and assault on the police.
Last Friday, 404th District Court Judge Elia Cornejo-Lopez sent the jury home for the weekend after they asked for the transcripts of the testimony of Gonzalez and Monica Robles, the woman over who prosecutors say the defendant Gonzalez shot Reyes, a fellow corrections officer. Robles was a staff member at the jail's infirmary.
The shooting June 4, 2014 in Brownsville. touched off and eight-hour standoff with authorities.
Prosecutors say Gonzalez shot and killed Reyes at  Robles' home on the 200 block of Orchid Path. During the standoff between Gonzalez and local authorities which lasted for hours, Gonzalez kept Robles captive at gunpoint while the body of Reyes was in the house.
Gonzalez was first tried on a capital murder charge for Reyes’ death in June 2015, but that ended in a mistrial after the jury failed to reach a consensus in the verdict.
The lead counsel for the prosecution is Asst. DA Peter Gilman.
Gonzalez, who testified on his own behalf, told the jury that on the morning of June 4, 2014, he had called Robles because he planned to drop off a .223 Bushmaster rifle she had given him as a Christmas present at her home.
The woman said she told Gonzalez not to go to her home and he insisted on going there.
In her testimony, Robles said Reyes was in the house at the time and was armed with a gun.
She said Gonzalez forced his way into the home pulling her by the hair after accusing her of having another man in the house, she testified.
During her testimony, she said “I was trying to hold the door closed, and I remember saying, ‘He has a gun,’ several times,” Robles said. “At (that) point, I (didn’t) care if anyone (heard)…I wanted anybody to hear.”
Reyes had his gun aimed at Gonzalez, telling him to put the rifle down, Robles testified.
Reyes was shot twice by Gonzalez and died instantly from a shot fired from the .223 Bushmaster rifle to the top of his head.
Police released recordings of the dispatchers’ radio communications in response to an open-records request from the local daily.At first, police were responding to a call from the home that someone being shot. Once there, the officers learned that a suspect inside the home was holding a woman hostage.“Suspect has the (caller’s) sister at gunpoint locked in a room” the recordings reveal.
As more officers were dispatched to the home, police were told that a “victim is male subject laying in the kitchen floor. He’s not moving.”
A few minutes later, one officer quickly shouted on the radio, “Shots fired headquarters. He’s got an AK 47… subject is shooting out of one of the bedrooms in the front. Units stay covered. He’s got an AK 47.”

I.C.E. M.O.U. WITH DENTON COUNTY SHERIFF SAME AS BISD'S?

By Juan Montoya
Several of our seven readers have expressed some interest in the proposed Memorandum Of Understanding between the U.S. Dept. of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the  the Brownsville Independent School District Police Dept. to be considered Tuesday by the board of trustees during their 4 p.m. meeting.
The BISD – unlike the City of Brownsville and the Cameron County judge's office – does not make the backup materials to agenda items public or posts them online. So the public has no idea what the justification for the MOU and, more importantly, the obligations that the BISD will have under the terms of the agreement.
Now, since the ICE mission statement is "to promote homeland security and public safety through the criminal and civil enforcement of federal laws governing border control, customs, trade and immigration," we can only surmise it has to do something with these topics.
The beauty of the MOU is its vagueness. We obtained a sample MOU that ICE executed with the Denton County Sheriff's Dept. (Click on bottom graphic to enlarge) and in it both parties stipulate that it is "for the purpose of the reimbursement of costs incurred by (Denton County Sheriff) in providing resources to joint operations."
District cops will be paid overtime if the operations are included in the annual ICE Fiscal Plan and money is available within the Treasury Forfeiture Fund to satisfy the reimbursement of overtime expenses related to joint operations.
The MOU states that – to the extent that the BISD Police Dept. submits requests for reimbursement and there are forfeiture funds available – ICE will pay district police for overtime and other expenses.
Now, we know that I.C.E., among other things, investigates all types of cross-border activities including : "Immigration, document and benefit fraud, narcotics and weapons smuggling/trafficking, and transnational gang activity."
Will BISD police be asked to participate in investigations of students who they suspect may be here illegally using fake addresses to attain residence requirements to attend school? Will they launch sting operations to nab students selling pot to others? And will they launch surveillance of students they think may be members of Tamaulipas gangs or the cartels?
And once in the MOU, will the BISD cops be under the control of their ICE handlers or the BISD board of trustees?
None of this, we're sure, will be included in the BISD-ICE MOU. But is the mission of the district cops to be enlarged to include federal mandates followed by ICE?
After all, the mission and goals of the BISD PD are: "dedicated to promoting safety, health, education, cultural awareness, good character, and leadership skills. It is our mission to help young people improve their lives by building self-esteem, and developing good values and skills during critical years of growth.
"Our goal is to continue to provide a culture of safety, security, and emergency preparedness that must be integrated into the overall school culture in a balanced, rational, and comprehensive way that is non-alarmist, but proactive and progressive in nature."
Aren't these two distinctively  differing missions mutually exclusive in their scope? Or will the district allow ICE to use the district's cops to moonlight as federal informants against the student body?

Sunday, January 31, 2016

IS SAENZ COMPROMISING FBI DIRECTOR WITH CAMPAIGN AD?

By Juan Montoya
After we posted the criticism of Cameron County District Attorney Luis V. Saenz for running a wad that insinuated that he had the full trust of Federal Bureau of Investigation Director James Comey and an alphabet soup of federal agencies, we received supplementary information from one of our seven readers.
The reader told us that he had been a federal official once and that as such, he had been reprimanded for writing a letter on the nomination of an individual to a federal position. The seemingly innocuous mention of the candidate in a letter was enough to warrant an admonishment.
Now, we know that the Saenz ad is political hype, but the intent of the ad is to convince the reading public that Saenz has the trust (and support?) of Comey and the federal agencies. The ad then goes on to say that "You can Trust Him, too."
If anything comes close to a supposed endorsement from Comey and the feds for Saenz's reelection, this would be it.
Unfortunately, as much as Saenz would like to convince us that Comey and the feds have his back by insinuating that he has earned their public approval, these people would be in violation of federal law.
In fact, the penalties for any of those federal employees or members of agencies – which includes Comey and the FBI – is removal from office.
The 1939 Hatch Act forbade the intimidation or bribery of voters and restricts political campaign activities by federal employees. It prohibits using any public funds designated for relief or public works for electoral purposes.
It forbade officials paid with federal funds from using promises of jobs, promotion, financial assistance, contracts, or any other benefit to coerce campaign contributions or political support. 
It provided that persons below the policy-making level in the executive branch of the federal government must not only refrain from political practices that would be illegal for any citizen, but must abstain from "any active part" in political campaigns, using this language to specify those who are exempt.
Later, the advocates for removing or modifying restrictions on the political activities of federal employees succeeded in enacting the Hatch Act Reform Amendments of 1993  that removed the prohibition on participation in "political management or political campaigns." 
Federal employees are still forbidden to use their authority to affect the results of an election. They are also forbidden to run for office in a partisan election, to solicit or receive political contributions, and to engage in political activities while on duty or on federal property.
We have also been told that a copy of the ad has been sent to FBI offices in Washington to see whether the director knew tor approved that the photo-op where he stood one-on-one with the scores of local law enforcement be used for the election of one of those attending. A copy is said to have also been mailed to The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) which is in charge of upholding the act.
The Hatch Act also applies to employees of the Dept. of Homeland Security and Treasury and prohibits the use official authority or influence to interfere with an election and to engage in political activity while on duty.

WILL BISD WANNABE COPS TURN STUDENTS OVER TO ICE?

By Juan Montoya
After our post about the Memorandum of Understanding between the Brownsville Independent School District Police Dept., city police and and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), several of our readers wondered why.
"Is the district now getting in line with the Cameron County DA's Office and the feds to get in on taking people's stuff without due process. And what joint operations are they conducting?," asked one.
And, even more alarming to some, are the BISD cops now empowered to turn in students they suspect of being undocumented over to ICE?
The item reads:
41. Recommend approval of Memorandum of Understanding between Brownsville Independent School District Police Department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Local, County, or State Law Enforcement Agencies for the reimbursement of Joint Operation Expenses from the Treasury Forfeiture Fund.
Will there be civil forfeitures in which law enforcement takes people stuff without due process? And the BISD will profit from this?
Just what is included in the Memorandum of Understanding?
The BISD, like Cameron County (and unlike the City of Brownsville) does not post the backup information on agenda items so unless you get the full packet as do trustee and administration, the public won't know until the vote is taken on the MOU.
 The MOU with BISD and BPD is so BISD can turn over students who commit crimes to BPD. Now are they asking to be able to turnover undocumented students to ICE for deportation?
We'll try to find out just what the responsibilities of the BISD police will be to ICE in return for forfeiture dollars. How much will they get for one student?

Saturday, January 30, 2016

REARRANGING THE DECK CHAIRS ON THE USS BISD


By Juan Montoya
And you though the scandal involving the Brownsville Independent School District serving students rotten barbacoa meat processed in Mexico stunk?
Take a gander at the agenda for the BISD agenda for next Tuesday.
There are some items there that bear watching. Take item 11, for example.
1. Recommend approval to reclassify the position of Coordinator for Finance at Pay Grade 3 for 226 days to Pay Grade 4 at 226 days on the Employee Compensation Plan effective February 3, 2016. (D.G., C.V., M.A.A.)
 It is an item to reclassify an administrator's (Coordinator for Finance) position and pay grade between budget cycles. IS this a new move by incoming interim CFO Lorenzo Sanchez to hand out goodies to his buddies? Sanchez is a favorite of trustee Joe Rodriguez, who has a majority on the board so it will pass. The fact that these changes are usually made each June conjunction with the annual approval of the compensation plan matters little to this bunch. Looks like Sanchez and Rodriguez are making sure their buddies are covered and students be damned.
Or how about Item 12?
12. Discussion and consideration regarding job duties and the renaming of titles of both District Internal Auditors to Co-Auditors for the BISD Board of Trustees.
Now the question that comes immediately to mind is: Why does the BISD need two auditors?
Is it because the original one, the award-winning Margarita Pizano Flores, is honest and the board majority (and administration) need the new guy to rubber stamp questionable deals?
Or how about this intriguing Item 41?
41. Recommend approval of Memorandum of Understanding between Brownsville Independent School District Police Department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Local, County, or State Law Enforcement Agencies for the reimbursement of Joint Operation Expenses from the Treasury Forfeiture Fund.
Just What The Fudge are these civil forfeitures carried on by the BISD Wannabe Cops?
Is the district now getting in line with the Cameron County DA's Office and the feds to get in on taking people's stuff without due process. And what joint operations are they conducting?
And if you are covered with the BISD's Health Insurance Plan, take a look at Item 27.
27. Recommend approval of changes to the BISD Self-Funded Health Insurance Plan Document to reduce and curtail insurance costs. The changes to be retroactive to January 1, 2016 for any procedures completed January 1, 2016 to February 2, 2016.
What? retroactive? And you thought your procedure was covered, but it's not?
These are just a few of the juicy tidbits in plan for your favorite school district courtesy of the board majority and the Esperanza Zendejas administration.
Along the way, take a look at the number of llegal and architectural and insurance payments tat will be approved Tuesday. Is it any wonder no one is making a peep? Everyone is getting theirs except for the teachers and the students.
You know, right about now that spoiled barbacoa seems to be small potatoes and the least of BISD's problems.

EVEN BACK IN 2014, MARIL SAW CARTELS CORRUPT LAWMEN

By Robert Lee Maril
 While the American media devotes much time and effort to pinpointing the violence and corruption generated by the drug cartels in Mexico, far less attention is devoted to crimes in this country which are a direct result of these same criminal organizations.
The corruption of American law enforcement has become a significant problem along the border.
The Mexican drug cartels which control drugs and human smuggling are directly responsible for a spiraling level of violence and crime which instills fear among residents on both sides of the border even as it lowers the quality of life for all who call the U.S.-Mexican borderlands their home.
While the American media devotes much time and effort to pinpointing the violence and corruption generated by the drug cartels in Mexico, far less attention is devoted to crimes in this country which are a direct result of these same criminal organizations.
A case in point is the Panama Unit in south Texas.
A street-level task force created by Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Trevino in 2009, one unit leader was the son of the police chief of the city of Hidalgo along with Mission police detective Johnathon Trevino, Sheriff Lupe Trevino’s own son.
Also included were members of the Mission police department who, along with other members of the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Crime Stoppers unit, began guarding drug loads for known traffickers. Another member of the Panama Unit was Mission police department’s Alexis Espinoza, the son of Chief Rudy Espinoza who is head of the Hidalgo police department.
For more than three years the Panama Unit provided protection for drug traffickers and, at the same time, stole drugs from these same smugglers as they made a mockery of law enforcement along the Mexican border (Ildefonso Ortiz, “Feds Arrest Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Commander,” The Monitor, 24 December 2013)).
Witnesses said that the son of the Hidalgo County Sheriff and the son of the Hidalgo’s police chief both believed they were invulnerable to arrest for their crimes because of their fathers’ status in local law enforcement. Charges were finally brought against the Panama Unit when Miguel Flores, in the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Department wore a wire for the FBI (Melissa del Bosque, “Exclusive: The Man Behind Hidalgo County’s Biggest Law Enforcement Scandal,” Texas Observer, 28 May 2013). Recently demoted from his position in law enforcement, Flores believes that Sheriff Lupe Trevino is punishing him for providing information which led to the arrest of the Sheriff’s son. Officer Flores filed a whistleblower’s lawsuit against Sheriff Lupe Trevino. Also arrested, after nine former members of the Panama Unit pleaded guilty, was Jose Padilla. Padilla is the former Commander of the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s office, Sheriff Trevino’s second in command. He is accused of protecting drug traffickers from rival gangs as they smuggled and distributed illegal drugs throughout Hidalgo County.
(Treviño later pleaded guilty to charges he took campaign took from the drug trafficker, Tomas “El Gallo” Gonzalez of rural Weslaco and was sentenced to five years in prison followed by two years of supervised release and a $60,000 fine.)
Commander Padilla is described as, “…a ruthless enforcer who forced (Sheriff) deputies to bring cash to him for political purposes…” in a county which is one of the poorest in the country.
While Lupe Trevino staunchly maintained his innocence and stated he was not aware of the illegal activities of his Panama Unit, corruption in the Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office runs very deep. Former Hidalgo Sheriff Brig Marmolejo served time in prison for his participation in drug-related crimes.
Former Sheriff Conrado Cantu, who was the head of law enforcement in adjacent Cameron County, was sentenced to twenty-four years in prison without parole for accepting bribes from drug traffickers, laundering drug money, and related crimes which included accepting $10,000 to protect a drug smuggler.
The presiding judge in Sheriff Cantu’s trial characterized the defendant’s crimes as, “…egregious activity that only served to promote the illegal narcotics trade.” (Robert Lee Maril, The Fence, pages 54-55; and Sergio Chapa, “Cantu Sentenced to 24 Years,” 14 December 2006, McAllen Monitor, p. 1.)
Another alarming example of increased violence among border law enforcement is the recent kidnapping and sexual assault of three females who illegally crossed the Rio Grande near Mission in March, 2014.
A Customs and Border Protection agent, Esteban Manzanares, has been identified by the victims and by film surveillance in the case now being investigated by the FBI. Agent Manzanares, who committed suicide before he was about to be arrested in his apartment where he took one of his victims, is accused of detaining these three women, including two teenagers, as they sought to surrender to authorities.
Agent Manzanares stands accused of taking these women to an isolated area where he slit the wrists of the mother of one of the victims, assaulted one of the teenagers, then took the remaining teenager to his apartment in nearby Mission. (Juan Carlos Llorca, FBI: Dead Border Agent Suspected in Kidnapping, Associated Press, 13 March 2014).
Several days after the assaults and kidnapping, Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske, head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, apologized for Manzanares’ crime saying, “I am deeply sorry that this incident occurred and am committed to doing everything in my power to prevent incidents like this from occurring again.” (Ildefonso Ortiz, “After Immigrants attacked, CBP chief apologizes, Reps. Cuellar and Castro chime in, civil rights attorney slams Border Patrol, The Monitor, 14 March 2014).
CBP Agent Manzanares joined the Border Patrol in 2008 during a time when Congress mandated a rapid increase of agents from a modest number of about 4,000 to the present 23,000. The professional training for all new agents at the Border Patrol academy was reduced from six months to just fifty-three days allowing little time to develop the professional law enforcement skills of all CBP agents who received less than two months of classroom and field experience in immigration law, Spanish, and weapons training.
The Panama Unit and the crimes against three Honduran females by a CBP agent in south Texas are symptomatic of border violence and corruption with direct ties to illegal drugs and human trafficking. The corruption of American law enforcement has become a significant problem along the border. The Mexican drug cartels which control drugs and human smuggling are directly responsible for a spiraling level of violence and crime which instills fear among residents on both sides of the border even as it lowers the quality of life for all who call the U.S.- Mexican borderlands their home.

(Robert Lee Maril, a professor of Sociology at East Carolina University is the author of The Fence: National Security, Public Safety, and Illegal Immigration along the U.S.-Mexico Border. He blogs at leemaril.com. He can be reached at E-mail: marilr@ecu.edu)

WALMART GIVETH...AND BROWNSVILLE TAKES IT AWAY

(Ed.'s Note: Now, that's real incentive. The photo above was sent tyo us by Jerry McHale's Baker Boys who were on the hunt for specials at the Walmart on Boca Chica and FM 802. That store is closing as is another and the corporation is consolidating its stores in Brownsville. To liquidate its remainig investory, the store had everything marked to 50 percent. What the bargain-shopping shamuses didn't count on was the diligent parking officer from the Cioty of Brownsville parking division who pounced upon the bargain seekers who had left thier cars parked alongside the building in the fire zone. Whatever savings they got probably ended up in that department's budget which just recently got a boost from increasing the fines for parking from $5 to $10. Parking in a fire zone is probably a bit more. Rememebr shoppers, today is Yellow Tag Day.)

Friday, January 29, 2016

JURY WILL COME BACK MONDAY TO CONTINUE DELIBERATIONS ON GONZALEZ'S LOVE TRIANGLE HOMICIDE TRIAL

By Juan Montoya
A jury of six men and six women will be back Monday to continue deliberations into the fate of Marco Antonio Gonzalez accused of capital murder of shooting fellow jailer Ivan Reyes in what prosecutors said was a love triangle between corrections officers at the Rucker-Carrizales Detention Center that went bad.
404th District Court Judge Elia Cornejo-Lopez sent the jury home for the weekend after they asked for the transcripts of the testimony of Monica Robles, the woman over who prosecutors say Gonzalez shot Reyes, a fellow corrections officer.
The shooting June 4, 2014 in Brownsville. touched off and eight-hour standoff with authorities.
Prosecutors say Gonzalez shot and killed Reyes at the home of Monica Robles, his ex-girlfriend, on the 200 block of Orchid Path. During the standoff between Gonzalez and local authorities which lasted for hours, Gonzalez kept Robles captive at gunpoint while the body of Reyes was in the house.
Gonzalez was first tried on a capital murder charge for Reyes’ death in June 2015, but that ended in a mistrial after the jury failed to reach a consensus in the verdict.
Representing the defendant is local attorney Ernesto Gamez and his daughter Erin.
The lead counsel for the prosecution is Asst. DA Peter Gilman.
Gonzalez, who testified on his own behalf, told the jury that on the morning of June 4, 2014, he had called Robles because he planned to drop off a .223 Bushmaster rifle she had given him as a Christmas present at her home.
The woman said she told Gonzalez not to go to her home and he insisted on going there.
In her testimony, Robles said Reyes was in the house at the time and was armed with a gun.
She said Gonzalez forced his way into the home pulling her by the hair after accusing her of having another man in the house, she testified.
During her testimony, she said “I was trying to hold the door closed, and I remember saying, ‘He has a gun,’ several times,” Robles said. “At (that) point, I (didn’t) care if anyone (heard)…I wanted anybody to hear.”
Reyes had his gun aimed at Gonzalez, telling him to put the rifle down, Robles testified.
Reyes was shot twice by Gonzalez and diesdinstantly from a shot fired from the .223 Bushmaster rifle to the top of his head.

SAENZ SHORT-CIRCUITS HEARING, GOES TO GRAND JURY TO INDICT


By Juan Montoya
Fearful that the case against Cameron County Tax Assessor-Collector Tony Yzaguirre and three other men arrested with him January 6 would not survive an evidentiary hearing before a magistrate scheduled for Thursday, District Attorney Luis V. Saenz presented evidence to a grand jury a day before that issued a 24-count indictment Wednesday.
The hearing had been scheduled before Magistrate Cordova at 3:30 p.m. for this Thursday in the 103rd District Court.
Defense attorneys for the four men – Tax Assessor-Collector Yzaguirre, county tax investigator Sgt. Pedro Garza, dealer/notary supervisor Omar Sanchez-Paz and Chief Lt. Jose Mireles – had complained that they would not have enough time to question the evidence presented to magistrate Alfredo Padilla Jan.6 when they were first arrested.
According to sources close to the defense, the attorneys felt that once Cordova saw the evidence that allowed Texas Department of Public safety Special Agent Rene A. Olivarez to get a warrant signed by 404th District Court Judge Elia Cornejo-Lopez, the charges might be dismissed outright.
So, apparently, did Saenz, they say.
"Saenz knew that the evidence was iffy and he rushed the process and presented it to the grand jury on Tuesday," said our source. "Once he got the indictments from the grand jury, the evidentiary hearing was cancelled."
The rush with which Saenz moved on the case against the four men differs markedly from the pace at which the DA's Office has handled the nine counts against informant Melquides Sosa. Sosa has been identified as the CI through the indictments issued by the grand jury as the man who left $100 bills in envelopes on top of Yzaguirre's desk at least five times while cooperating with the DA's Office.
Sosa – who was arrested in August 2015 –has yet to be indicted by a grand jury and was one of the witnesses who had been subpoenaed by the four men's defense attorneys for the hearing ebfore Cordova.
"Luis didn;t want to take a chance that Codrova would dismiss the cases and rushed them through the grand jury instead," they said.
The men's attorneys say that the cases have been politicized because Saenz is fearful that he will lose the Democratic Party's primary election this March 1.
Early voting in that election begins Feb. 16.

YZAGUIRRE INDICTMENT IDENTIFIES CONFIDENTIAL INFORMANT

By Juan Montoya
The recently issue indictments against Cameron County Tax Assessor-Collector reveal that the confidential informant is a man who himself is facing eight Tampering With a Government Document charges and on count of providing a fake name to register a vehicle.
Melquides Sosa, the informant, was charged with the offenses Aug. 28, 2015.
Yzaguirre was charged with four counts of bribery, a second-degree felony, engaging in organized criminal activity, a first-degree felony, and official oppression, a Class A misdemeanor.
Mireles was charged with bribery, a second-degree felony, engaging in organized criminal activity, a first-degree felony, and official oppression, a Class A misdemeanor.
Garza was charged with bribery, a second-degree felony, engaging in organized criminal activity, a first-degree felony, and official oppression, a Class A misdemeanor.
Omar Sanchez-Paz, who was charged with engaging in organized criminal activity, a first-degree felony, and abuse of official capacity, a Class A misdemeanor.
The indictments against the four men name 59-year-old Sosa, was arraigned  August 28, 2015 and was charged with eight counts of tampering with a government document and one count of False Name, Info Forgery Vehicle Registration.
The Texas Penal Code statute 37.10(a)(4) makes it a third-degree felony if a defendant "possesses, sells, or offers to sell a governmental record or a blank governmental record form with intent that it be used unlawfully."
So far county records show that DA Saenz has never presented the evidence against Sosa to a grand jury for an indictment since he came before Padilla in August.

The offenses alleged in the Sosa cases indicate that five of the Tampering with Government Documents offenses occurred on May 8, and five on June 5, 2015, and the use of a false name on a car registration also on June 5. He was arrested on Aug. 28 and charged with the offenses.
So far, there has been no movement in these cases.
Courthouse sources tell us that Sosa may have been cooperating with the DA's Office, the Texas Attorney General and the alphabet soup of law enforcement agencies to develop a case against Yzaguirre and the other defendants. In the affidavit made public by the DA's Office, it states that a confidential informant left $300 on Yzaguirre's desk after he had acquired three fake car titles from a tax office clerk.
The first incident allegedly took place last September 14 and involved three cars. The second affidavit for probable cause states that later that year, on Dec. 15, the informant procured two car titles from Yzaguirre's office and left $200 on his desk.
In the current indictments, Sosa is said to have paid Yzaguirre a bribe at least 10 times for registering cars without having the required identification a person normally has to present to make the transaction.
The transactions between Sosa and Yzaguirre were said to have taken place Sept. 14, 2015 (2), October 7, 2015 (2), Dec. 15, 2015 (2), and January 6, 2015 (2).
Sosa was wearing a wire, or recording device, in the last transaction. Immediately after he had placed an envelope on Yzaguirre's desk, members of a joint task force raided his office and arrested all four men, including Omar Sanchez-Paz, a clerk at the tax office.
Mireles and Garza are named in the first two bribery counts and then again twice in the 11 counts of Abuse of Official capacity and one count of Official Oppression.
The three men are also charged with one count of Engaging In Ongoing Criminal Activity.
The last count charges that the three took money and that it was not a political contribution and was not reported in Yzaguirre's campaign expenditure reports.
Former District Court Judge Robert Garza has alluded to Sosa;s legal troubles and said the prosecution will have a difficult time establishing his credibility. According to the information provided by the DA's Office to the magistrate, Sosa was said to have placed money in an envelope and left it on Yzaguirre's desk after each transaction.
Garza charged that the charges were filed by DA Saenz in a desperate attempt to boost his chances for reelection. He is being challenged by local attorney and Brownsville Navigation District commissioner Carlos Masso, a candidate he barely beat in a runoff in 2012.    

Thursday, January 28, 2016

IN 1910, ATTORNEY J.T. CANALES RAN FOR COUNTY JUDGE


(Ed.'s Note: The year was 1910. Running that year as a candidate for Cameron County Judge was none other than Brownsville attorney J.T Canales. In this ad published in the "El Cronista Del Valle," whose publisher was A. Correa, H.B. Verhelle, a local saddle and blanket manufacturer was running for secretary of the district court, L.C. Hill, who established Mercedes, Harlingen and the first irrigation district in the state for Bailiff, F.E. Starck,a member of the local Jewish community, for Tax Collector, Antonio Iznaga, a Customs officer for Tax Collector, Charles More for Treasurer, and a host of other candidates with pioneer family names like Agustin Celaya, Celedonio M. Garza, G.N Scanlan, etc. We don;t know the outcome of that year's election, but we don't believe that Canales was ever a Cameron County Judge although he later served as a Texas State Representative. Does anyone of our seven readers know? Well, someone did. Here's a link to his story:
https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fcaag )

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

WHEN U.S. ALLOWED MEXICAN TROOPS TO CROSS INTO TEXAS


















By Juan Montoya
Few people know that Pancho Villa's March 9, 1916 invasion of Columbus. N.M. was not the only time that Mexican troops had crossed into United States territory.
In fact, there was another instance just eight years later when some 2,000 Mexican troops not only crossed into U.S. territory, but were transported from Naco, Az., to El Paso, Texas, and were able to do so at the request and with the approval of the the United States government.
This bizarre event came about as a result of a series of events which had their roots in the Mexican Revolution. During the Porfirio Diaz dictatorship, foreign corporations were allowed to purchase huge swaths of land in Mexico and controlled vast agricultural empires and oil-producing and mineral-rich lands. After Diaz was overthrown, subsequent governments were not so kind toward the foreign owners and investors.
After all, as historian John Mason Hart has observed, during the Diaz regime:

"Americans took over 100 percent of Mexico's infrastructure. They acquired 70 percent of the country's coastlines and frontiers. 28 percent of the nation's surface. That's 28 percent of 465,000,000 acres. 70 percent of all incorporated businesses. All of the copper. And with their Anglo allies, all of the oil. Internally, Mexico was characterized, politically, with a military dictatorship. When you look at the incorporated entities...and the copper and oil companies, they were characterized by segregated housing and labor, and even forced labor and slavery. Some of the companies involved are familiar names, Phelps Dodge, International Harvester, Pennsylvania Railroad, and so on."

And, further on, "..(The Mexican) peasants wanted their land back, including the 28 percent of the nation's surface that had been taken by big American capital...161 American entities owned 93,000,000 acres of Mexico...Overall (Americans) owned 130,000,000 (acres) [of Mexico's 465,000,000 acres]. And the British (owned) another 20,000,000 (acres).

The governments after Diaz passed edicts and embedded them in the Constitution of 1917.
One of these, Article 27, had to do with the subsoil deposits and decreed that all the minerals under Mexican soil belonged to the nation. Likewise, Article 123 dealt with the distribution of lands to the ejidos and impacted the American holdings directly. The U.S. government also objected to decrees issued by by then-president Venustiano Carranza during the years of 1915-1920 that it felt restricted U.S. interests.
The outcry from U.S. investors brought forth heavy repercussions from the U.S. government, first under President Warren Harding, and later under Calvin Coolidge. As a result, recognition of the Alvaro Obregon government (1920) was not forthcoming from Washington for the first three years of his administration. (He's the one lacking a right arm in graphic.)
U.S. Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes, who served under both U.S. administrations, suggested that a Treaty of Amity and Commerce be signed by Obregon and the U.S. Dept. of State prior to any recognition by the U.S. In the "treaty," U.S. recognition would be withheld until the interests of U.S. investors would be protected and Articles 27 and 123 would not be applied retroactively to their claims of subsoil deposits (petroleum) or mines, and landholdings subject to appropriation under the country's agrarian reforms.
Hughes later went on to become a U.S. Supreme Court Justice.
Obregon, governing a country whose economy had been wrecked by 10 years of revolution, desperately needed foreign loans to keep his administration afloat. Recognition by the U.S. would open up the coffers of other nations and international banks.
Mexico was mired in debt to international bankers, some of them American, and the U.S. was using the debt to demand that the proposed treaty be signed before recognition was granted. Instead, Obregon's Minister of Finance, Adolfo de la Huerta ably negotiated with the international bankers and removed that obstacle. As Governor of the northern state of Sonora, he led the Revolution of Agua Prieta that put an end to the presidency of Venustiano Carranza who was killed during the revolt. It was then that de la Huerta was appointed interim President by congress, a post he relinquished after Obregon was elected.
However, the American administration was not satisfied with the repayment of the debt negotiated by De la Huerta and wanted more.
Unbeknownst to De la Huerta, Obregon, through his Minister of Foreign Affairs Alberto J. Pani Arteaga, had agreed not only to meet and discuss the differences between the two countries, but also suggested that both sides meet in Mexico City to iron out their differences. The result was the Bucareli Treaties which exempted American oil and land interests from the Mexican Constitution.
The treaties could only take effect once the Mexican Senate approved, them and Obregon made sure that they did. His most vocal critic, Sen. Francisco Field Jurado, was murdered on the corner of Álvaro Obregón Ave. and Córdoba Street, very close to his home at 134, Colima Street in the Roma sector of Mexico City. The senator had been opposed to signing the Bucareli Agreements. Three other senators were kidnapped at the same time that Field Jurado was assassinated.
A few days earlier, in the Chamber of Representatives, the oil-related Bucareli Treaties were discussed. Luis N. Morones, the labor leader, was accused of being the intellectual assassin because he had, in previous sessions said “that the old, dust-covered men who display their anguished absurdity in the Senate chambers will suffer direct action.”

Obregon's acceptance and the Senate's coerced approval of the secret Bucareli Treaties touched off a firestorm.
Led by de la Huerta, nearly half of the generals in the Mexican Army defected to the rebellion and took arms against Obregon. For a while, the Obregon regime looked doomed. Desperate, he turned toward Washington for help and sought military assistance. Coolidge declared an embargo of arms to the rebels and sent military supplies to Obregon's forces.
He also ordered naval forces to maintain the ports open to international commerce to allow the arms to flow to Obregon and scatter the rebels who had established a blockade to starve Obregon of customs duties and military supplies. Included in the military assistance were 5,000 Enfield rifles, 1917 model, 10 million 30-30 caliber cartridges, and 18 4-cylinder Dehaviland planes that some historians claim Obregon used American pilot mercenaries to fly them and attack the resistance.

As the war threatened to topple Obregon, one part of his army in the north was besieged by De la Huerta's in his Sonora stronghold and was threatened with destruction. It was then that Obregon called for assistance from the U.S. government to remove them from Naco, Sonora, across the border toe Naco, Az., and then transport them on to Laredo or El Paso by rail. When Texas Gov. T.W. Davidson objected to their introduction to Texas territory, Hughes sent off an urgent telegram saying the move was necessary to insure stability in Mexico and protect American citizens and interests. Davidson relented and the troops came across the border.
And thus, on January 19, 1924, the Mexican army was allowed into United States territory in the U.S. government's efforts to protect Obregon (and the favorable rights granted Americans under the Bucareli Treaties) and defeat his enemies.

SANEZ/FBIGATE: THE "TRUST RESTORED" PLOT THICKENS

By Juan Montoya
Well, after we posted about Cameron County District Attorney Luis V. Saenz's ad in the local daily saying that he was trusted by no less than James Comey, the Director of the FBI, one of our seven readers sent us the photo originally used by Saenz in his Facebook page May 1, 2015.
In it, Saenz doesn't say anything about regaining the feds' trust as he does in the his newspaper ad. In fact, the post in his Facebook page only states that Comey had "expressed great interest in the violence occurring across the border and in assisting us in fighting corruption."
"They met again in McAllen to discuss border violence and spillover issues," the reelection campaign ad asserted.
Nowhere in the ad did it say that Saenz was one of scores, if not hundreds of prosecutors, police chiefs, sheriffs, and other law enforcement officers who were invited to open the new FBI office in McAllen.
Out of that chance photo-op, Saenz asserts that now the Director of the FBI trusts him. Oh, yeah, and "You Can Trust Him Too!"
Now, we're sure that Comey didn't travel to South Texas just to meet with Luis and compare notes on the ongoing travails of border residents. And we're doubly sure that Comey wouldn't appreciate that Saenz is basically claiming his endorsement for his reelection campaign.
Saenz really should be more worried about not making any such grandiose claims about his cozy relationship with the FBI director before he loses the little trust he has left among the voters of Cameron County.

HEADS ROLL AT BISD BECAUSE OF SPOILED BARBACOA MEAT


By Juan Montoya
The director of the Brownsville Independent School District's Food and Nutrition Service has been placed on administrative leave as the district investigates how meat processed in Mexico that went bad was served in its cafeterias.
BISD sources tell us that FNS director Silverio Capistran has been placed on administrative leave pending the findings of the district's investigation.
And, despite the assertions by the BISD that the company that has the $3.2 million contract for the barbacoa with the Region I school districts cooperative had bought the meat in the U.S. and that it was inspected by the United States Department of Agriculture before export to Durango, suspicions linger that it was meat grown and processed in Mexico.
According to a June 23, 2015, posting on the Region 1 Education Center, On May 20, 2015 its Service Center Child Nutrition Program – South Texas Cooperative (CNP-STC) – acting on behalf of its members (among them BISD), obtained thirty-three (33) proposals for Discounted Warehouse Proposal 15-04-12.
Valco Foods was approved to provide Region 1 member school districts with 20,000 pounds per month of shredded beef, barbacoa style, from July 1, 2015 through June 30, 2017 with 1 two‐year extension option. It is unknown how many pounds that Valco Foods delivered under the Region 1 contract have been bought by the BISD, although one BISD source says the district has spent a little over $500,000 on the product.
If fulfilled, the company stands to make $3,019,200 over the 24 month period of deliveries to Region 1 member school districts. No one has said whether the Region 1 directors knew that Valco has been using a Mexican processor to supply its member district schools with barbacoa.
Part of the award letter states that " Food and beverage items must meet the USDA Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act (HHFKA) of 2010 requirements and/or the USDA Smart Snacks in Schools Standards, as well as any additional requirements mandated by the Texas Department of Agriculture."
A BISD source tells us that staff at Food and Nutrition Service has seen numerous deliveries of the meat to the district food warehouse by vehicles with Mexican license plates.
Valco Foods is not on a USDA list of plants and wholesale meat companies who are authorized to export meat to Mexico or import the processed product to the United States. However, its supplier Empacadora Frape, S.A. de C.V., is.
That was in November 2015.
 Only after the district got wind that several social media blogs were onto the story did the
administration acknowledge the incident and assured the parents of students in the BISD that all was well and that the meat had been returned.
The letter to parents was issued January 19, 2016.
Why wait that long to inform parents of something that had happened two months earlier?
Critics say the the choice of barbacoa to feed the BISD students and employees is a poor one.
"How nutritious is barbacoa, carne de cachete?" asked a former board member. "That is one of the cuts that just loaded with grease. Then to pay $6.29 a pound, pay a Mexican processor and then feed it to kids is almost criminal. You're buying expensive meat using federal dollars and paying a vendor to pay a processor in Mexico. Does this make any sense?"
Other sources have revealed that the product in question originated from a processor operating in an industrial park in Gomez Palacio, Durango. The firm in question – Empacadora Frape, S.A. de C.V. – however, uses Mexican-grown  meat, processes it, and exports it to the United States. It is listed as Valco's main meat supplier. A USDA list of approved meat importers indicates the company was certified in July 10, 2009, decertified for unspecified reasons on January 28, 2011 and recertified to import meats again on May, 24, 2011.
"This meat product was raised and purchased in the United States from a USDA approved vendor but was processed in Mexico according to USDA guidelines and under the supervision of a USDA inspector," the BISD letter to parents stated.
Questions about the fact that the BISD admitted in the letter that the meat had been processed in Mexico raised doubts that it could have been raised and purchased in the United States. Valco's office is located in an office suite in McAllen. It is listed on the website as "Valco en los Estados Unidos.," indicating that its parent company is in Mexico.
A BISD source tells us that staff at Food and Nutrition Service has seen numerous deliveries of the meat to the district food warehouse by vehicles with Mexican license plates.
Valco Foods is not on a USDA list of plants and wholesale meat companies who are authorized to export meat to Mexico or import the processed product to the United States. However, Empacadora Frape is.
In the BISD post, the administration said that a suspicious delivery of meat was discovered last November and that a batch of meat products for students and employees consumption "was not up to district standards was immediately recalled from all BISD cafeterias when several district and campus. FNS employees noticed that the product was defective and proactively reported their concerns. The product was returned to the vendor for full credit and the BISD has discontinued the purchase of meat products that are processed in Mexico."
"HEB sells barbacoa for $5 a pound," said the nBISD teacher. "Why are we paying $6.29 a pound for greasy meat to feed the kids of the BISD? Is this what Dr. (Superintendent Esperanza) Zendejas meant when she said that she wanted to feed them taquitos?"
Indications of the burgeoning scandal first appeared in Erasmo Castro's Cheezmeh FB page.

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