U.S. death toll in Mexico at 92 for year

November 01, 2010 12:30 AM

On the same day Tiffany Young-Hartley claims to have watched her husband die after being shot by Mexican attackers, another man was shot on a bus near Matamoros.

Jonathon Torres was one American who was killed in the violence over the border. David Michael Hartley is another American who is presumed to have been killed in Mexico.

Yet, as the Hartley case gained national notoriety, it seems as though Torres’ death and many others were forgotten, said U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo.

Torres, 18, died on Sept. 30 when a bus he was riding was hijacked in southern Tamaulipas. He was a freshman at the University of Texas at Brownsville and Texas Southmost College.

Hartley, 30, is widely presumed dead after what his wife, Young-Hartley, has described as an attack by cartel "pirates" on the Mexican side of Falcon Reservoir, which spans that country’s border with the United States.

She has said three boats of gunmen opened fire on them, fatally shooting her husband in the head, as the couple rode separate personal watercraft during a sightseeing trip to a partially submerged church in the abandoned Mexican town of Old Guerrero.

According to the U.S. Department of State, 92 Americans have been reported as victims of homicide in Mexico from June 2009 to June 2010.

Cuellar said it’s a shame that all cases aren’t treated with the same seriousness and aggressiveness as the Hartley case.

"This is only one family. ... There’s been a drug war going on in Mexico (for years) that folks that live on the border see as reality. But folks who are seeing this for the first time are surprised that this is happening. But there are many more people that this is happening to other than this one case."

The Hartley case may have gained more concern because of the location, said U.S. Rep. Solomon Ortiz, D-Corpus Christi.

"I think one of the reasons why (the Hartley case) had a lot of publicity is because there’s a lot of tourism that goes there (to Falcon Lake)," he said.

Hartley’s death gained national coverage when his wife, Young-Hartley began calling on American officials to do something to help her.

However, according to Gov. Rick Perry’s office, the U.S. government can’t do anything to help. Since the Hartleys were attacked in Mexican territory, U.S. law enforcement agencies have no power to investigate Perry’s deputy press secretary Katherine Cesinger said.

"Texas does not have jurisdiction to investigate the death of any U.S. citizen killed on foreign soil," she said in an e-mail.

Yet Perry’s office claimed to work diligently in aiding the investigation into Hartley’s disappearance by pushing both Mexican authorities and American federal authorities to continue investigating the case, Cesinger said.

"Gov. Perry reached out to the Hartley’s to offer his condolences and any assistance that we might be able to provide," she said. "Once he became aware of Mr. Torres death, he also began speaking about it to the media but his comments have not been widely reported."

On Sept. 10, the Department of State issued a travel warning for Americans planning to head to Mexico. It warned against taking unnecessary trips to Michoacán, Tamaulipas, parts of Chihuahua, Sinaloa, Durango and Coahuila because of the ongoing drug violence.

One of the tips the department issued for travelers planning to cross the border was to keep U.S. consulate and embassy phone numbers accessible at all times. The department also reminded citizens traveling abroad to always register with the U.S. consulate in destination cities.

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