Politicians, law enforcement clash over true extent of violence spillover from Mexico

Ildefonso Ortiz
The Monitor
November 17, 2011 10:40 AM

A recent shooting that wounded an Hidalgo County sheriff’s deputy and killed a gunman allegedly working for the Gulf Cartel has reignited the debate on spillover violence from Mexico’s drug war.

While Mexico continues a bloody battle against cartels, a different clash is taking place in the U.S. — among law enforcement and politicians over the true extent of spillover violence.

One side, made up mainly of local law enforcement and U.S. federal agencies, claims that the violence mostly stops at the border. The other side claims the border region is being overrun by drug cartels.


Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño said the deputy shooting is the only confirmed case of spillover violence that his agency has handled.

Treviño bases his assessment on the definition of spillover set forth by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security: any crime in the U.S. directly linked to a violent conflict in Mexico, either between Mexican authorities and drug trafficking organizations, or between two rival drug trafficking organizations.

That’s in stark contrast to the way Texas Department of Public Safety defines spillover: any drug-related violence.

By DPS’s standard, a conflict in New York between the Chinese triads and the Italian mafia over a drug deal gone wrong would be considered spillover, Treviño said.

“While 98 percent of the marijuana comes from Mexico, the majority of the violence that comes from that is not linked back to Mexico but to individuals here in the U.S.,