Thousands of Edinburg residents, including political, business, and community leaders featured in the background, showed up at the University of Texas-Pan American on Friday, February 22, to rally support for the presidential bid by Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, featured center, shown greeting inspired UTPA students. Only a handful of Rio Grande Valley elected leaders showed up to support Obama, who was dueling with Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, a South Texas favorite, for the Democratic Party presidential nomination. Mayor Joe Ochoa and Councilmember Gus García, Jr., along with Edinburg school board trustee Robert Peña, Jr., bucked conventional political wisdom and threw their public support behind Obama, who will be sworn into office on the front steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, January 20.
Dr. Beverly Fridie, Ph.D., and her husband, Dr. David Fridie, II, DPM, from Edinburg shared their joy and pride with a Chicago Tribune newspaper distributor in the Windy City on Wednesday, November 5, following the historic election of Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, and the first black president in the nation’s history. The Fridie family traveled to Illinois to be part of what they hoped would be a monumental transformation in U.S. politics. Mrs. Fridie, who along with her husband are longtime community and business leaders in Edinburg, recently reflected on their visit to Chicago to help rally support for Obama. "Weeks after David and I visited Grant Park in Chicago to see and hear Barack Obama’s victory speech, I still feel a since of elation, pride and joy to be present at the historical presidential announcement of the first African American president. Standing amongst millions of enthusiastic people of all ethnic backgrounds who were holding hangs, crying and chanting, "Yes we can” and “Change has come” was an experience, I will cherish for a lifetime. Not a day has passed since that night, November 4, that I have not reflected on that event. As grand as Barack Obama’s victory rally was portrayed in the media, it was certainly an ‘out of body’ experience in person. As we share our history with our future generations, I can say, “I was there” when the first African American was elected as our president of the United States."
Texas Speaker of the House Tom Craddick, R-Midland, featured center in this file photo last year with Hollis Rutledge (left), the chairman of the Hidalgo County Republican Party, and Pharr Mayor Polo Palacios, announced on Sunday, January 4, that he will not seek a fourth two-year term as leader of the 150-member legislative chamber. Instead, a relative newcomer, Rep. Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, on Monday, January 5, said he has more than enough votes to be elected Speaker when the Texas Legislature returns to Austin on January 13 for its five-month regular session. The Speaker of the House, who has the power of life and death over all legislation, is elected every two years if he or she can secure 76 votes from fellow lawmakers. If Straus is able to hold on to his support until the official vote is taken, he will owe his election to House Democrats, including all the Valley state representatives, who represented the majority of the votes needed to become Speaker. See story later in this posting.
Mayor Joe Ochoa, center, flanked by Gov. Rick Perry, right, and former Mayor Richard García left, addressed a July 2 gathering at the University of Texas-Pan American to announce that a South American textile company will build a $180 million denim-manufacturing plant in Edinburg, which, when completed, will create 800 new jobs and pump millions of dollars into the local economy. In December, the city continued to receive some more good news, according to the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, when Standard and Poor’s, one of the nation’s top three credit rating firms, gave a positive report about the health of the city’s economy, predicting it will continue to grow. See lead story in this posting.
Edinburg economy expected to grow, predicts Standard & Poor’s, one of nation’s top rating firms
By DAVID A. DÍAZ
The city’s strong economy and the prospects for more growth, coupled with how the local municipal government carefully handles taxpayer money, has earned Edinburg a positive review from one of the nation’s most influential credit-rating agencies, according to the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation.
The EEDC is the jobs-creation arm of the Edinburg City Council.
It’s five-member governing board, which is appointed by the Edinburg City Council, includes Mayor Joe Ochoa; former Mayor Richard García, who serves as board president; Fred Palacios; Dr. Glenn A. Martínez, Ph.D.; and Elias Longoria, Jr.
In a report published November 25 by Standard & Poor’s, and released to the Edinburg City Council a few days later, the three-time All-America City’s economic growth over the past decade was predicted to continue.
"The stable outlook reflects Standard & Poor’s expectation that the city’s economic and property tax bases will continue to expand and provide sufficient revenues to meet the city’s operational and capital expenses while allowing management to maintain its strong reserves," cited the report, written by Jim Tchou, the primary credit analyst for the agency on Edinburg rating. "Standard and Poor’s also expects the city’s limited additional capital needs will ensure debt levels remain manageable."
Standard & Poor’s, headquartered in New York City, publishes financial research and analysis on stocks and bonds. It is one of the top three companies in this business, along with Moody’s and Fitch Ratings.
The latest financial analysis was prompted by a recent review by Standard and Poor’s of the general obligation debt currently being held by city taxpayers.
A general obligation bond is a common type of debt in the United States that is secured by a state or local government’s pledge to use legally available resources, including tax revenues, to repay bond holders.
"Standard and Poor’s Rating Services raised its underlying rating (SPUR) on Edinburg, Texas’ general obligation (GO) debt one notch to ‘AA’ from "A+" based on the city’s consistently strong financial position, supported by good financial practices," Tchou stated. "Standard and Poor’s also assigned its "AA-" standard long-term rating, and stable outlook, to the city’s series 2008 certificates of obligation."
A credit rating by Moody’s of "A", "AA", or "AAA" means that a government’s debt, packaged through bonds, represents a great investment with the lowest risk for default.
Various outstanding general obligation bonds previously taken out by the city, through action by the Edinburg City Council, were also upgraded in their credit ratings. The agency noted that many of the issues were enhanced by bond insurance taken out by the city.
The latest debt involves $5.98 million in certificates of obligation, Series 2008, dated December 1, 2008 and due on September 1, 2029. This debt will be used to fund street improvements, according to the report.
A certificate of obligation is a lawful debt incurred by a government’s elected leadership, such as a city council or school board, but does not require a vote by the public.
The city leadership does not plan to raise the property tax rate due to this latest issuance and plans to issue additional debt in the near future, Tchou reported.
"Edinburg’s performance has been very strong"
"In our opinion, the ratings reflect: the city’s stable and diversifying local economy, which is decreasing its dependency on agriculture; expanding property tax base; and moderate overall debt levels," Tchou noted.
"Edinburg’s financial performance has been, in our opinion, very strong. The city has reported operating surpluses for the past 10 consecutive years; and management maintains general fund reserves, by policy, in excess of 25 percent of annual expenditures."
The rating upgrade also provide some insight into the city’s economic development, noting that Edinburg is part of the nation’s fourth fastest-growing metropolitan statistical area (MSA).
Edinburg, McAllen and Mission are considered a metropolitan statistical area.
An MSA is defined as a large population nucleus, together with adjacent communities, having a high degree of social and economic integration with that core, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Metropolitan areas comprise one or more entire counties, except in New England, where cities and towns are the basic geographic units.
"The city’s population estimate is 70,000," Tchou added. "A significant part of the local economy involves providing services and retail trade to adjacent agricultural areas in the Rio Grande Valley; even so, the economy is becoming less dependent on agriculture."
UTPA, medical community key economic engines
Higher education and medical resources also play important roles in the economic vitality of the community, the report emphasized.
"The University of Texas-Pan American, with an enrollment of more than 17,000, stabilizes the area economy, Tchou stated. "The city’s medical community is also growing with a new $67 million medical tower currently under construction; project completion is expected by the summer 2009. Edinburg, a gateway to Mexico, has many winter resort and retirement facilities."
The city’s unemployment rate of 4.8 percent in 2007 was considerably lower than Hidalgo County’s combined 6.6 percent rate that year, the report noted.
"In our view, median household effective buying income remains an adequate 74 percent of the national level while per capita effective buying power is a lower 59 percent, signifying large family sizes and considerable youth population" Tchou observed. "We believe the city’s property tax base has experienced solid growth over the past five years."
According to the report, taxable assessed value of properties in Edinburg has increased by 48 percent to $2.9 billion for fiscal (year) 2009. Much of the growth is due to the addition to two power plants to the tax rolls, but residential and commercial development has also added to that growth.
FY 2009 covers the period from October 1, 2008 through September 30, 2009.
Other fiscal notes of interest
Edinburg’s municipal government ended fiscal (year) 2007 with another $497,000 surplus, after transfers, due to a combination of conservative budgeting and higher-than-expected property and sales tax revenue, the report found.
Fiscal year 2007 ran from October 1, 2006 through September 30, 2007.
"The surplus increased the fund balance to $11.9 million, or 36.4 percent of expenditures, which we consider very strong," Tchou said. "Operating revenues exceeded expenditures by $986,000 for unaudited fiscal (year) 2008; but officials used $1.7 million of the fund balance on one-time capital projects resulting in a net loss of $335,000 in the fund balance. Despite the drawdown, the estimated $11.6 million fund balance at fiscal year end 2008 continued to represent, in our opinion, a very strong 34.7 percent of expenditures."
Fiscal year 2008 ran from October 1, 2007 through September 30, 2008.
The fund balance is the difference between the assets and liabilities reported in a governmental funds balance sheet.
A drawdown is the act, process, or result of depleting of money from the city treasury.
The latest Edinburg city budget (FY 2009) is balanced, but the local government has budgeted for higher fuel and utility costs, which could positively contribute to the city’s year-end result if they remain at current levels, the report stated.
Ad valorum (52 percent of general revenue funds) and sales (31 percent) taxes and franchise fees (eight percent) were the key components of the 2007 general funds.
The city’s general fund accounts for the majority of revenue and expenditures for the Edinburg municipal government.
Standard and Poor’s deems Edinburg’s financial management practices "good" under its Financial Management (FMA) methodology, indicating financial practices exist in most areas but that governance officials might not formalize or regularly monitor all of them, the report stated.
Area state representatives predict Speaker Straus, a San Antonio Republican, will be good for South Texas
By DAVID A. DÍAZ
Texas Speaker of the House Tom Craddick, R-Midland, on Sunday, January 4, announced that he will not seek a fourth two-year term as leader of the 150-member legislative chamber. Instead, a relative newcomer, Rep. Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, on Monday, January 5, said he has more than enough votes to be elected Speaker when the Texas Legislature returns to Austin on January 13 for its five-month regular session.
The Speaker of the House, who has the power of life and death over all legislation, is elected every two years if he or she can secure 76 votes from fellow lawmakers. If Straus is able to hold on to his support until the official vote is taken, he will owe his election to House Democrats, including all the Valley state representatives, who represented the majority of the votes needed to become Speaker.
Reactions to the apparent victory by Straus were issued on Sunday and Monday by Rep. Aaron Peña, D-Edinburg, Rep. Verónica Gonzáles, D-McAllen, and Rep. Armando "Mando" Martínez, D-Weslaco. All three lawmakers predicted good fortune for key Valley priorities with the pending election of Straus.
Their insights, along with a biographical sketch of Straus, follow:
The so called "Gang of 11", a Republican group opposed to Republican Speaker Tom Craddick, chose state Rep. Joe Straus as their consensus candidate to take on the sitting speaker.
I consider Rep. Straus to be a close friend and half-jokingly call him a South Texas legislator, because part of his district lies on the boundary of cultural South Texas. By his selection this race for speaker has sufficiently narrowed to allow uncommitted members to make their selection. I would look for the other candidates to drop off and consolidate soon. By the end of this weekend we will have a better idea of our speaker for the 81st session.
When the Texas Legislature convenes next week for the 81st Legislative Session, the Texas House of Representatives will begin under new leadership. I am proud to have been an early supporter, along with many of my colleagues from both parties, of Representative Joe Straus as Speaker of the House.
Joe and I began our career in the Legislature at the same time and I have always known him to be fair, a man of his word and someone who is willing to work with both sides. It is refreshing that Joe is from San Antonio because he understands the needs of South Texas and areas with high Hispanic populations.
Electing a new speaker marks a new era in the Texas House. I believe Joe Straus will lead the Texas House of Representatives in a new direction, focusing on improving our state rather than advancing political agendas.
Both Republicans and Democrats have come together to do what is best for Texas. I am hopeful we can continue that bipartisan collaboration as we tackle the challenges facing our state this year. I promise to keep fighting for our region, to ensure our families are safe and healthy and have many economic opportunities.
I am proud to be one of Rep. Straus’ initial supporters. I have had the pleasure and good fortune to get to know Joe since the 79th Legislature. With his office directly across the hall from mine, I have been able to see Joe and his staff work the hours necessary to meet the needs of his constituents. I am confident that Joe will do the same for all Texans after he is formally elected Speaker of the House. Joe will be a friend not only to the Rio Grande Valley, but he will also be a friend to every individual in our great state of Texas.”
Elected to the Texas House of Representatives in a special election in February 2005, Straus represents District 121, which includes the communities of Alamo Heights, Olmos Park, Terrell Hills, Windcrest, and northeast San Antonio. During the most recent legislative session, he was appointed to the Committee on Economic Development, where he serves as vice-chairman, the Committee on Regulated Industries, and the Local and Consent Calendars Committee.
As a member of the Regulated Industries Committee, Straus chaired the Subcommittee on Energy Conservation and Efficiency, which developed a major bill that puts Texas on the cutting edge of energy efficiency. Straus has also been appointed to the Select Committee on Electric Generation Capacity and Environmental Effects, which will study the state’s energy demand and expected growth for the next 50 years in order to develop long-term energy plans for Texas.
In the summer of 2007, Straus was presented the Texas Public Power Association’s Public Official Award for leadership and contributions to public power. He was also given the Legislative Service Award by the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club for his work in the area of energy efficiency. Additionally, Straus received the Defender of the American Dream Award in 2008 from Americans for Prosperity for his record of commitment for protecting taxpayers.
As an active Republican, Straus has previously served on the Management Committee of the Bexar County Republican Party, as a precinct chairman, and on numerous campaign committees for federal, state, and local candidates. He served in the administration of President George H. W. Bush from 1989 through 1991 as Deputy Director of Business Liaison at the U.S. Department of Commerce and also in the Reagan administration as Executive Assistant to the Commissioner of Customs. In 1986, he was U.S. Representative Lamar Smith’s campaign manager in Smith’s first race for Congress. In the Texas House, Straus serves as a member of the House Republican Caucus Policy Committee.
Straus was selected by the Speaker of the House Tom Craddick to attend the National Conference of State Legislatures’ 2006 Leadership Institute for legislators who show outstanding leadership promise and the ability to effect change. In 2008, Texas Monthly selected Straus as one of the 35 Texans who will shape the future of the state.
Straus is a principal in the insurance and executive benefits firm of Watson, Mazur, Bennett & Straus, L.L.C. He is affiliated with National Financial Partners, a leading financial services company in the insurance, investments, and benefits industry.
A lifelong San Antonian, Straus currently serves on the Board of Governors of the Cancer Therapy and Research Center as well as on the Texas Cord Blood Bank. Previously Mr. Straus served on the Board of Directors of the San Antonio Zoological Society, the Texas Nature Conservancy, the Southwest School of Art and Craft, and the Winston School.
Straus is a graduate of Vanderbilt University with a B.A. in Political Science. He is an avid sportsman with a lifelong passion for Thoroughbred horseracing and breeding. He is married to Julie Brink Straus. They have two daughters, Sara and Robyn.
McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to host free seminar for minority-, women-owned businesses
Want to do business with the state of Texas, the federal government or Corporate America? Join the thousands of minority and women owned business owners who have taken the time to get 8-A and HUB certified and now hold contracts worth millions.
The McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, SBA and the University of Texas-Pan American’s HUB Program will host a free seminar for Historically Underutilized Business (HUB), 8-A and Minority Business enterprise certifications from 9 to 11:00am on Thursday, January 15th at the MHCC Offices located at 24 N.12th Street, McAllen.
The 8-A Business Development Program assists socially or economically disadvantaged firms that are interested in federal government contracting. Federal government agencies award a percentage of their contracts to certified 8-A firms and participants are eligible to receive sole-source contracts and allowed to form joint ventures to bid on contracts. In addition, the HUB Program and benefits of being HUB certified, will also be discussed at the seminar.
“Becoming a certified HUB business provides businesses with increased exposure to buyers across the state” said Cynthia M. Sakulenzki, president and CEO of the McAllen Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
Representatives from state and federal agencies, along with Corporate America, will be attending the Texas Association of Mexican American Association (TAMACC) Convention that the McAllen Hispanic Chamber is hosting from July 29 through August 1, 2009. They will be looking to do business with certified HUB and 8-A companies.
“We recommend that companies start taking steps to become certified and become eligible to bid on million-dollar contracts that are available to Minority Owned businesses. Attending this workshop will definitely be your first step," Sakulenzki added.
To register for the seminar and/or for more information call the MHCC office at 928-0060. Limited seating is available.
Former Comptroller Sharp files for Democratic nomination for post now held by Sen. Hutchison
Making good on his pledge to get into the race, John Sharp on Wednesday, January 1, filed the official papers to run for the Democratic nomination for the United States Senate seat held by Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas. Sharp also launched a streamlined campaign website that features a survey on his innovative plan to stop bailing out Wall Street and instead use existing emergency funds to provide nationwide mortgage relief for current and future homeowners.
"The challenges we face at home and abroad demand innovative solutions, not politics as usual," Sharp said. "Texans are looking for that kind of leadership."
Sharp filed his campaign papers with the Federal Elections Commission and took his campaign website live.
Visitors to the site can sign up for regular campaign updates, make financial contributions, and complete a brief survey on Sharp’s plan to allow every current U.S. homeowner to refinance his or her mortgage at a fixed rate of 4.5 percent during the next year. Homebuyers would also qualify for the fixed rate during the same period.
"All Americans should have the right to participate in our economic recovery, and that means no more bailing out of the speculators who caused this crisis in the first place," Sharp said. "The real problem is residential mortgages so let’s solve it there with a plan that benefits all homeowners and creates a housing demand that will not only solve the foreclosure problem but lower monthly payments for virtually every homeowner in America."
The mortgage buy-down plan would cost less than $100 billion while helping as many as 2.5 million households, according to an analysis by the respected Barron’s. In November, Congress appropriated $700 billion for the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) to bolster the nation’s financial system. About half that amount went to financial institutions and insurance corporations with little accountability. Meanwhile, credit markets remain frozen, confidence in the banking system is at record lows, and home foreclosures and plunging home values continue to threaten families and communities across the country.
Sharp said he will expand his website and add new features and detailed information about his campaign in the weeks and months ahead.
A former Texas Comptroller, Sharp earned a national reputation for innovative solutions that saved taxpayers more than $8.5 billion, helped divert a proposed state income tax, and safeguarded vital public services. His efforts served as the model for Vice President Al Gore’s National Performance Review, which Sharp set up and directed.
Sharp is a native of the South Texas farming community of Placedo, near Victoria. He graduated from Texas A University, where he was elected student body president and commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserves. He earned his master’s in public administration from Texas State University in San Marcos while working full-time as a fiscal analyst at the Legislative Budget Board in Austin.
Houston Mayor White says he intends to seek election to the U.S. Senate post being sought by former Comptroller Sharp
Houston Mayor Bill White on Tuesday, December 16, announced that he intends to seek election to the U.S. Senate from Texas.
"Working for my neighbors as mayor has been a great honor," said White. He was re-elected as mayor of the nation’s fourth largest city with 91 percent and 86 percent of the vote.
"Texas needs a new voice in decisions that will be made in Washington, and my business experience and administrative expertise will ensure utilizing fiscally responsible means to get our economy moving," White added. During White’s five years as mayor, Houston added more jobs than any other city in the United States.
"Representing Texans in the Senate will allow me to work for energy policy which is more secure and affordable," said White, who has decades of experience in energy business and policy, including service as U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy.
Under White’s leadership, the City of Houston expanded parks, libraries and health clinics, while cutting the property tax rate and raising the property tax exemption for our senior citizens every year. The FBI presented Mayor White with the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award, noting that "Mayor White made public safety one of his highest priorities, as evidenced by Houston’s decreasing crime rate."
White is known for his work in promoting energy efficiency, fighting pollution, and redeveloping blighted neighborhoods.
White received the prestigious Profile in Courage Award after Hurricane Katrina "in recognition of his political courage in leading a compassionate and effective government response to the disaster."
Before serving as mayor, White led businesses in the energy, real estate, and engineering and construction industries.
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, has told other senators and many constituents that she does not intend to seek re-election or serve out her current term. White has filed a statement of organization, designating a campaign treasurer.
White will make a formal announcement tour around the state in early 2009.
Pulitzer Prizes broadened to include online-only publications primarily devoted to original news reporting
The Pulitzer Prizes in journalism, which honor the work of American newspapers appearing in print, have been expanded to include many text-based newspapers and news organizations that publish only on the Internet, the Pulitzer Prize Board has announced.
The board also has decided to allow entries made up entirely of online content to be submitted in all 14 Pulitzer journalism categories.
While broadening the competition, the board stressed that all entered material – whether online or in print – should come from United States newspapers or news organizations that publish at least weekly, that are "primarily dedicated to original news reporting and coverage of ongoing stories," and that "adhere to the highest journalistic principles.”
Consistent with its historic focus on daily and weekly newspapers, the board will continue to exclude entries from printed magazines and broadcast media and their respective Web sites.
"This is an important step forward, reflecting our continued commitment to American newspapers as well as our willingness to adapt to the remarkable growth of online journalism," said Sig Gissler, administrator of the Prizes. "The new rules enlarge the Pulitzer tent and recognize more fully the role of the Web, while underscoring the enduring value of words and of serious reporting.”
The board will continue to monitor the impact of the Internet, Gissler said.
Beginning in 2006, online content from newspaper Web sites was permitted in all Pulitzer journalism categories, but online-only newspapers were not allowed to submit entries, and entirely-online entries were permitted in only two categories, breaking news coverage and breaking-news photography.
In addition to text stories, the competition will continue to allow a full range of online content, such as interactive graphics and video, in nearly all categories. Two photography categories will continue to restrict entries to still images.
The board adopted the changes at its November meeting at Columbia University after a lengthy study by a committee.
The board also refined the definition for its prize on Local Reporting of Breaking News. To emphasize immediacy, the new definition states that "special emphasis" will be given to "the speed and accuracy of the initial coverage."
The board, Gissler said, hopes that this will encourage the submission of more online material in the category.
Internet overtakes newspapers as main source for national, international, and campaign news, gaining on television, according to Pew Research Center
The Internet, which emerged in 2008 as a leading source for campaign news, has now surpassed all other media except television as a main source for national and international news, according to the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.
Currently, 40 percent say they get most of their news about national and international issues from the Internet, up from just 24 percent in September 2007. For the first time in a Pew survey, more people say they rely mostly on the Internet for news than cite newspapers (35 percent). Television continues to be cited most frequently as a main source for national and international news, at 70 percent.
For young people, however, the Internet now rivals television as a main source of national and international news. Nearly six-in-ten Americans younger than 30 (59 percent) say they get most of their national and international news online; an identical percentage cites television. In September 2007, twice as many young people said they relied mostly on television for news than mentioned the internet (68 percent vs. 34 percent).
The percentage of people younger than 30 citing television as a main news source has declined from 68 percent in September 2007 to 59 percent currently. This mirrors a trend seen earlier this year in campaign news consumption. (See "Internet Now Major Source of Campaign News," News Interest Index, Oct. 31, 2008.)
The survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted December 3 – 7 among 1,489 adults, finds there has been little change in the individual TV news outlets that people rely on for national and international news. Nearly a quarter of the public (23 percent) says they get most of their news from CNN, while 17 percent cite Fox News; smaller shares mention other cable and broadcast outlets.
The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press is an independent opinion research group that studies attitudes toward the press, politics and public policy issues. We are sponsored by The Pew Charitable Trusts and are one of seven projects that make up the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan "fact tank" that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world.
The Center’s purpose is to serve as a forum for ideas on the media and public policy through public opinion research. In this role it serves as an important information resource for political leaders, journalists, scholars, and public interest organizations. All of the Pew Research Center’s current survey results are made available free of charge.
Ten major drug defendants, including two with ties to South Texas, extradited from Mexico to the U.S.
On Wednesday, December 31, the Mexican government extradited 10 major drug defendants to the United States. Those defendants, whose charges are listed separately below, are accused of being associated with some of the most notorious Mexican drug trafficking organizations, including the Gulf Cartel, the Arellano Félix Organization and the Sinaloa Cartel. The defendants arrived on December 31 in Texas and will face criminal proceedings in the Southern District of Texas, the Southern District of California, the Central District of California and the Northern District of Georgia.
In announcing the extraditions, Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey said, “The courageous action of the Mexican government in extraditing these 10 defendants – each of whom is accused of major drug offenses or other serious federal felonies – shows the unrelenting commitment of Mexican President Calderón to break the power of the Mexican drug cartels. We stand with him, with Mexican Attorney General Medina Mora, and with all our Mexican law enforcement colleagues, in this fight. Today’s extraditions demonstrate that the cartels cannot operate with impunity, and that Mexico and the United States will work together ceaselessly to defeat them.”
The extradition of these 10 defendants brings the total number of extraditions from Mexico to the United States to 95 for 2008, the highest yearly number of extraditions from Mexico to date, surpassing last year’s record number of 83.
DEA Acting Administrator Michele Leonhart stated, “Extradition is one of the most powerful weapons we have to battle drug cartels. The cartels fear not only the U.S. justice system, but the strength of our partnership with President Calderon and the Mexican government in this fight.”
The extradited defendants, and the charges they face, are listed below:
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS
1) Rubén Saucedo Rivera, a Mexican citizen, is an alleged member of the Osiel Cardenas Guillen Gulf Cartel drug trafficking organization. He was charged by superseding indictment on April 9, 2002, with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute cocaine and marijuana; conspiracy to import cocaine and marijuana; possession with intent to distribute cocaine; and conspiracy to launder money. He is alleged to be the leader of a drug distribution cell of the Gulf Cartel that imported at least 250 kilograms of cocaine and 1,500 pounds of marijuana from Mexico to the United States from 1998 to 2002.
2) Juan Carlos De La Cruz Reyna, a Mexican citizen, is an alleged member of the Osiel Cárdenas Guillen Gulf Cartel drug trafficking organization. He was charged by superseding indictment on April 9, 2002, with two counts of threatening to assault and murder federal agents. Those charges were based on allegations that De La Cruz Reyna, Cárdenas Guillen and others threatened a DEA agent and an FBI agent with firearms in Matamoros, Mexico, in November 1999.
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF GEORGIA
3) José Manuel Barrientos, a Mexican citizen, is alleged to be a leader of a distribution cell in the Atlanta area. Barrientos was charged by indictment on June 26, 2001, with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute and to distribute cocaine; possession with intent to distribute cocaine; and assault of a federal agent. According to the indictment, in June 2001, DEA agents seized a 250 kilogram shipment of cocaine near Atlanta from a van. Prior to the discovery of the cocaine in the van, Barrientos allegedly rammed the car of a DEA agent in an effort to prevent the agents from stopping the van.
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA
4) Armando Martínez Duarte, a Mexican citizen, is a former Procuraduría General de la República (Mexican attorney general’s office) official who was the alleged chief of security for the Arellano Felix Organization. He was charged by a seventh superseding indictment on December 4, 2003, with substantive racketeering based on drug and money laundering crimes; conspiracy to commit racketeering; and other drug trafficking and money laundering crimes. He allegedly protected the Arellano Félix Organization’s activities from interference by Mexican law enforcement, and is alleged to have “policed” the Mexicali area by kidnapping, torturing and murdering the organization’s enemies.
5) Jesus “Chuy” Labra Avilés, a Mexican citizen, was charged by a seventh superseding indictment on December 4, 2003, with substantive racketeering based on drug and money laundering crimes; conspiracy to commit racketeering; and other drug trafficking and money laundering crimes. He is an alleged member of the Arellano Félix Organization and was allegedly responsible for shipping thousands of kilograms of cocaine and marijuana from Mexico to the United States from 1986 to 2001.
6) Efraín Pérez Arciniega, a Mexican citizen, was charged by a seventh superseding indictment on Dec. 4, 2003, with substantive racketeering based on drug and money laundering crimes; conspiracy to commit racketeering; and other drug trafficking and money laundering crimes. He is alleged to be a lieutenant in the Arellano Félix Organization, responsible for handling logistics relating to the receipt of large cocaine and marijuana shipments.
7) Jorge Aureliano Félix, a Mexican citizen, was charged by a seventh superseding indictment on December 4, 2003, with substantive racketeering based on drug and money laundering crimes; conspiracy to commit racketeering; and other drug trafficking and money laundering crimes. He is a former Mexican state judicial police officer who allegedly acted as a top lieutenant for the Arellano Félix Organization. He was allegedly responsible for safeguarding the storage of drugs and for taking delivery and keeping account of drug proceeds.
8) Fidel Chan Amador, a Mexican citizen, was charged by a third superseding indictment filed on Sept. 26, 2000, with marijuana distribution and importation conspiracies. He is alleged to be a large scale broker of marijuana, responsible for the importation of approximately 11,500 pounds of marijuana seized in the United States between 1996 and 1999, and for approximately eight tons of marijuana destined for the United States but seized by Mexican authorities.
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF FLORIDA
9) Juan Diego Espinosa, a Colombian citizen, is an alleged member of the Sinaloa cartel along with Sandra Ávila Beltrán, a.k.a. “The Queen of the Pacific.” He was charged by superseding indictment on June 7, 2002, with conspiracy to import cocaine into the United States; conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine; distributing cocaine knowing it would be imported into the U.S.; and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine on board a vessel subject to U.S. jurisdiction. He was allegedly involved in coordinating large shipments of cocaine from Colombia through Mexico to the U.S. in 2001. In November 2001, Espinosa, Beltrán and others allegedly arranged the shipment of cocaine from Colombia to the United States by ship. The ship was boarded by U.S. agents near Mexico with permission of Mexico, and the agents seized 9,291 kilograms of cocaine.
CENTRAL DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA (with the Los Angeles County Office of the District of Attorney)
10) Luis Octavio Arellano Enciso, a Mexican citizen, was charged by indictment on July 6, 2001, with conspiracy to import cocaine and marijuana, and conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute marijuana. Arellano and his organization allegedly discussed selling cocaine and marijuana to an undercover officer, which led to the delivery of 1,400 pounds of marijuana in July 2000 by Arellano and his organization. In 1994, Arellano allegedly sold one kilogram of cocaine to a cooperating individual. A subsequent search of Arellano’s home led to the discovery of more cocaine, $436,000 and weapons. In March 1995, Arellano failed to appear for sentencing in state court in Los Angeles following his guilty plea in another matter, and was sentenced to 36 years in prison.