A major figure in the Gulf cartel has been arrested by Customs and Border Protection (CBP). But this is no coup de main. It is symbolic of the failure of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to gain or maintain control of the border. You see, Luis “Comandante Wicho” Zuniga Hernandez surrendered to CBP on the American side of the Los Indios International Bridge.
The Monitor November 2, 2011
BROWNSVILLE – Chains rattled as a man known for his ruthless approach to business shuffled into the courtroom. As he approached the microphone, the man known by many as “Comandante Wicho” glanced toward the entrance and gave a nodding smile to the few gathered there even though none of his friends or family members attended the Tuesday afternoon hearing.
U.S. Marshals stood cautiously as Jose Luis “Comandante Wicho” Zuniga Hernandez took to the microphone in order to speak before U.S. Magistrate Ronald Morgan.
During the hearing, a firm, but respectful Zuniga waived his right to a detention hearing and an examining trial, Morgan granted the motions and ordered he be held without bail.
Zuniga was arrested Friday afternoon by U.S. authorities; however details of the arrest remain unclear. Court records state that he was arrested by U.S. Border Patrol agents near Santa Maria, a town along the Rio Grande near the Cameron-Hidalgo County line.
However, a source outside law enforcement but with knowledge of the case said that Zuniga, his brother, a man named Juan Del Rincon and a fourth unnamed man turned themselves in to the U.S. authorities at the Los Indios International Bridge.
The source also said Del Rincon is either a current or former Tamaulipas police officer. That information couldn’t be confirmed with U.S. authorities; however court records show that at the time of the arrest, Zuniga was in possession of a .38 caliber handgun and freely admitted to being a Mexican national without documents in the U.S.
No matter where he was arrested, in the interior by the Border Patrol or at the Port-of-Entry by CBP Field Operations. The fact remains an armed major cartel member and associates were able to enter the United States unhindered and then surrender themselves to officers. This shows that the border remain wide open in Texas and needs a double layer border fence.
Also of interest is that Comandante Wicho appears to be angling for political asylum much like Jay Nordlinger`s girlfriend:
Zuniga’s arrest comes amid fierce infighting within the Gulf Cartel since at least early September, when Samuel “Metro 3” Flores Borrego, the plaza boss for the Reynosa area, was found fatally shot.Since then, widespread firefights have broken out across the Gulf Cartel’s territory in northern Tamaulipas, with much of the bloodshed coming from rivals once loyal to the same side.
The source said Zuniga called it quits after a lot of his forces were decimated during the infighting and that he crossed to the U.S. in an effort to save himself, presumably in exchange for cooperation.
One day before Zuniga turned himself in, the two warring factions of the Gulf Cartel, more commonly referred to as the Metros and Rojos, clashed in Control Ramirez, a town near Matamoros and that is known as Wicho’s home base.
“What we’re seeing on a daily basis is ... a lot of changes in the Gulf Cartel,” said one U.S. law enforcement official. “We just don’t know, but what I think everybody agrees on is there’s some infighting that’s going on, and the landscape is changing a bit.”
So, unless DHS has the criminal goods on Commandante Wicho and gets a life sentence, his next step will be a claim that he will be killed if he is deported. Then, after six months in prison, he gets released. And by that time, who will know which faction will be on top. We could have a top cartel member in the U.S. legally with political asylum and he will be back in business.