[Previously by James Ryan: The Strange Tale of Obama, The Teamsters, The Sierra Club—And Those Cheap, Dirty, Dangerous Mexican Trucks]
On March 9, 1916, the Mexican bandit lord Pancho Villa attacked the small border town of Columbus, New Mexico. He stormed into the village at 4 a.m., burned houses, and slaughtered ten civilians. Armed American citizens defended their homes and an American cavalry unit of 330 furiously counterattacked Villa’s forces.
Despite being outnumbered, the Americans drove the Mexicans off, killing 80 and wounding over 100. Five Mexican raiders were captured and hanged. The Americans then launched a punitive expedition, headed by John J. “Black Jack” Pershing.
But nearly a century later, Mexican bandits have once again laid siege to Columbus. And this time the U.S. surrendered and turned the town over to the thugs. Columbus, New Mexico has dissolved its entire police force.
Two years ago, newly appointed Police Chief Angelo Vega vowed that “any illegal activity would be met with jail time”. These were truly prophetic words: Chief Vega himself is now headed to jail for allegedly committing a multitude of crimes.
His fate is not unique among the City Fathers. Police Chief Vega, Mayor Eddie Espinoza, Village Trustee Blas “Woody” Gutierrez, Gutierrez's wife, sister, and cousin, and seven other Columbus residents were arrested in March for conspiring to smuggle hundreds of guns to drug cartels over the border. Another suspect, “Nacho” Villalobos, remains at large.
According to the indictment, Gutierrez and others purchased guns that were sold and smuggled into Mexico. In at least one instance, Gutierrez drove a police vehicle to purchase the guns. On another occasion, he used a police vehicle to deliver a large black suitcase full of guns to the local bus station.
Meanwhile, Chief Vega used his police credentials to purchase thousands of dollars worth of tactical gear (including body armor) for the Mexican cartels. He also used his position to vouch for Gutierrez when federal agents began to investigate.
Gutierrez's defense so far has been to point to the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, an arm of Attorney General Eric “My People” Holder's Justice Department, as the “greater culprit”. Gutierrez's attorney, C. J. McElhinney, released a statement claiming that there was no evidence that “any of these firearms were used to commit a crime either in the United States or the Republic of Mexico”—in contrast to those involved in the ATF scandal designated “Fast and Furious”. There was also the de rigueur allegation that these charges have surfaced because of selfish (and probably white racist) politicians seeking to exploit immigration issues:
“The U.S.-Mexico border is a hot button topic which has been politically manipulated by politicians for years,” McElhinney said. “Those in power seek to maintain the appearance of tackling the violence which has beset the region, especially given the recent developments with Operation Gunrunner and Operation Fast and Furious.”
[Columbus trustee says charges are ‘politically motivated’, By Heath Haussamen, NMPolitics.net, March 13, 2011]
Meanwhile, Mayor Espinoza stepped down in May—but not before receiving $700 from the Board of Trustees in exchange for his resignation. On July 13, he pled guilty to seven separate charges and is facing up to 50 years in federal prison. On July 15, two other defendants also pled guilty, with Eva Lucie Gutierrez and Alberto Rivera facing up to 10 and 140 years respectively.
This sad conclusion to Chief Angelo Vega’s term is nothing new for Columbus. Even prior to Vega, the town's police force turned over seven times in three years. One former chief was arrested on gun charges and two others never bothered to be officially certified as police officers.
Before Chief Vega and his “if you can't beat the crooks, join them” policy, the town was already a magnet for smugglers and others associated with Mexican drug cartels. The sheriff's office estimated that a full 10% of the town was involved in illegal activity—a figure some residents considered too low. Teenagers drove fancy new cars and people bought houses with cash, despite little legitimate economic activity in the town.
In response, local law enforcement shrugged its shoulders over illegal immigration, claiming it was not its responsibility, and townspeople, said the Associated Press, didn't "seem to care either way." [Drug smugglers allegedly move into N.M. town, AP, June 1, 2009]
The resulting fiscal ruin was inevitable and predictable. The town only has about $80,000 on hand even though it may owe several hundred thousand dollars to various departments of the federal government. Rampant corruption has also jeopardized the federal grants the town relies on to pay the bills.
Recovery is questionable. City council meetings, even after the mass resignation, featured tributes—entirely in Spanish—to members of the city council that associated with those indicted. Without a full scale transformation of the town’s political culture, it’s impossible to even think of a way the town can recover fiscally. The new mayor, Nicole Lawson, frankly admits that she doesn’t know what the city owes but can say for sure that “we don’t have it”.
What has changed since 1916? Not surprisingly to anyone who doesn't work for either Reason or the CATO Institute, the transformation of the town's political culture was preceded by the replacement of the original population of the village.
Despite Mexican propaganda, the number of Mexicans actually living in the territory annexed to the U.S. by Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo after the Mexican-American War in 1848 was nugatory—fewer than a 100, 000. But New Mexico was something of an exception: there was a long-established population of “Hispanos”—supposedly descended from the original Spanish settlers—in the northern Sangre de Cristo Mountains. (A descendant of this community: Republican professional Hispanic Linda Chavez, one of several ways in which she is unrepresentative of the mestizos who comprise the more recent Mexodus).
However, down in southern New Mexico, the border town of Columbus was historically Anglo. In the days before anarcho-tyranny, communities like Columbus which wanted to incorporate were required to take a census of all their residents, so we are actually able to review who exactly lived in the village in 1913, just before Pancho Villa's brutal attack.
There were 272 American citizens living in the town, mostly of overwhelmingly Anglo-Saxon heritage judging by their surnames—"Johnson", "Hamilton", "Putnam", "Adams". There was also a minority of just over 100 Mexicans living in the town. But this was carefully noted as "non-U.S. citizens", which meant (in those benighted days) would be unable to vote.
In contrast, according to the latest census results, a full 89.1 percent of village's residents today are Latino. Half the families and individuals are below the poverty level. About eighty percent speak a language other than English at home.
This time, there will be no cavalry arriving to save Columbus, New Mexico. There will be no Black Jack Pershing. There is only President Obama and Attorney General Holder, who are busy running their own cross-border gun smuggling operation. Judging by their scandalous reaction to Arizona’s SB1070, they would be more likely to charge any townsfolk who dared to defend their town with violating the civil rights of the invaders.
The Punitive Expedition that could save Columbus NM— and America -—should be aimed, not against Mexico City, but at Washington DC.James Ryan (email him) is an intelligence analyst who lives and works in the Washington, D.C. metro area.