Mexican cartels' use of explosives "represents a significant and emerging threat to Texas."
According to the DPS report, the agency is concerned that cartels might use the weapons in Texas or that Texas-based gang members could acquire training or explosive materials and weapons from the cartels.
In Brownsville, that fear hit close to home when a family living on Resaca Vista Drive woke up to a normal-looking package on their doorstep. But the family wasn't expecting any packages.
When it was brought inside, the package exploded and severely injured a young girl, her mother and father.
The ongoing investigation is now in the hands of the FBI, but investigators have declined to comment on whether the bombing might be cartel related -- or something else.
"That is something that has us gravely concerned," Rodriguez said. "They are very creative and we've seen the use of explosive devices along the border on the Mexican side -- and possibly here -- but that's not our investigation."
And according to the report, cartel members have a presence in Texas and have "demonstrated ability to carry out attacks and other criminal activity in the state, as well as elsewhere in the United States."
Cartel members and associates have been caught with explosive weapons or components smuggled into Texas from Mexico, according to the report.
"This trend is particularly concerning, due to the potential for these powerful weapons to be used in Texas," the report states.
Aside from cartels' use of explosives emerging as a threat, smugglers are showing increased aggression toward U.S. law enforcement agents.
"Recently, smugglers and others associated with Mexican cartels have shown an increase in aggression toward U.S. law enforcement officers, including shootings, vehicle assaults, and other threats to officer safety," the report states. "Some of this aggression has been targeted toward U.S. officers operating in Mexico, but multiple incidents in Texas have occurred. Since 2009, there have been 76 incidents in which shots were fired at 83 law enforcement officers in Texas."
The report notes two cases in Hidalgo County:
--June 12, 2012: "A group of armed men attempted to raid the home of a former Mexican police officer illegally residing in Mission, Texas. The man fired shots through his front door at the suspects, who returned fire."
--Late October 2011: "A Hidalgo County Sheriff's Office deputy was dispatched to a possible kidnapping near Elsa, Texas. Upon initiation of a stop of a suspected vehicle, several PRM (Partido Revolutionario Mexicano) members, working on behalf of the Gulf Cartel, exited the vehicle and began shooting at the deputy, who was wounded."
Narco-blockades in Texas
On the social media platforms of Twitter and Facebook, Rio Grande Valley residents who follow profiles in Reynosa, Matamoros and Mexico learn that narco-blockades can be a part of life as those users tweet and post to inform each other about the blockades' location.
"One dangerous cartel tactic that has recently emerged in Texas is the narco-blockade, a tactic that had previously only been used in Mexico," the report states.
The blockades are used to prevent access by first responders and isolate areas used during their operations.
"Multiple blockades can be conducted simultaneously, and, in Mexico, the vehicles are typically disabled or ignited, making their removal even more difficult," the report states.
And authorities now say narco-blockades are used in Texas and use the following examples to illustrate that point.
--Early November 2012: "Law enforcement agents from McAllen encountered several vehicles strategically placed in this manner while attempting to apprehend two subjects carrying bundles in the same area. The tactic impeded agents from apprehending the subjects, however one bundle containing 22 lbs. of cocaine was seized. The two subjects, with one bundle, were able to abscond back to Mexico."
--Late November 2012: "Law enforcement agents from McAllen seized a bundle of marijuana weighing 89 lbs. in Hidalgo, Texas. During the smuggling attempt, the seizing agents were assaulted with rocks by subjects in the brush. Responding agents encountered a total of 4 vehicles in the area attempting to block the road leading to the location of the seizure and assault."
Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Trevino said he remembers the event in early November and wouldn't describe it as an actual blockade.
"That wasn't a blockade. If I remember that deal correctly they had just loaded up and were coming up the trail from the river and they saw Border Patrol and turned their vehicles around and then they swam back across," he said.
But he couldn't recall the event in late November, which to him sounded like a blockade to stop first responders from "getting to our guys."
And according to the DPS report, "the tactic is a serious escalation that highlights the brazen nature of cartels."
"The fact that this tactic has been used on two occasions in the Rio Grande Valley also shows the sophistication, resources, planning, and personnel that are used in trafficking operations," the report states.
While the presence of organized crime has been well known to Mexico and residents of border regions for many years, Trevino said he believes it's getting worse.
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