MEXICAN PIRATES THREATEN US FISHING BOATS
ZAPATA, Texas — The waters of Falcon Lake normally beckon boaters with waterskiing and world-record bass fishing. But this holiday weekend, fishermen on the waters that straddle the U.S.-Mexico border are on the lookout for something more sinister: pirates.
Twice in recent weeks, fishermen have been robbed at gunpoint by marauders that the local sheriff says are “spillover” from fighting between rival Mexican drug gangs.
Boaters are concerned about their safety, and the president of the local Chamber of Commerce is trying to reassure people that everything’s fine on the U.S. side of the lake.
At the fishing camp his family has owned for 50 years, Jack Cox now sleeps with a loaded shotgun at his feet and a handgun within reach.
In the American waters, Cox said, “you’re safer, but you’re not safe.” Mexican commercial fishermen regularly cross to set their nets illegally, why wouldn’t gunmen do the same? he asked.
Two weeks ago, the Texas Department of Public Safety warned boaters to avoid the international boundary that zig-zags through the lake, which is 25 miles long and 3 miles across at its widest point. Authorities also urged anyone on the water to notify relatives of their boating plans to aid law enforcement in case of trouble.
Since issuing the warning, most boats have stayed on the U.S. side.
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“That’s a good indication. It means they’re getting the message,” Texas Parks and Wildlife Capt. Fernando Cervantes said Thursday as he patrolled with two other game wardens. “They’re still coming out, but they’re not going across.”
The border is marked by 14 partially submerged concrete towers that mark the Rio Grande’s path before the lake was created in 1954.
Game wardens and the U.S. Border Patrol watch over the lake but do not cross into Mexican waters, and no Mexican law enforcement is visible.
Men armed with assault rifles robbed fishermen on the Mexican side of Falcon Lake on April 30 and May 6. They traveled in the low-slung, underpowered commercial Mexican fishing boats that are familiar here. They asked for money, drugs and guns, and took what cash was available. No one was hurt.
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