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TribBlog: Cattle, Catfish and Cartels

Nearly two months after border-area cattle inspection stations in Mexico ceased operations amid security concerns, the sites have reopened on the Texas side of the border. A popular South Texas lake, however, is now on the radar.

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Not even Texas’ cattle or its fishing industry are protected from drug-cartel activity.

Nearly two months after two border-area cattle inspection stations in Mexico ceased operations amid security concerns, the sites have reopened on the Texas side of the border.

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, or the APHIS, announced today its new cattle processing plant at the City Vat Pens in Laredo. The former site in Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas is temporarily closed due to increasing violence in the border state.

The old site inspected between 200 to 300 head of Mexican cattle daily before they were approved for transport to the U.S. and employed a number of ranchers, custom brokers and other trade brokers, said the office of U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a member of the House Committee on Agriculture.

The Laredo opening comes just a week after the inspection site on the Pharr, Texas-Reynosa, Tamaulipas border was relocated to a safer location in Hidalgo County.

And now some bad news: The Texas DPS, Texas Parks and Wildlife and the Zapata County Sheriff’s Office are warning would be patrons of Falcon Lake, the freshwater fishing haven for South Texas sportsmen, to practice vigilance following three reported armed robberies in less than a month. Two of the incidents involved U.S. citizens who chartered past the international water marker, and authorities are now warning people to steer clear of a particular type of vessel.

“Fishermen are advised to stay as far away as possible from any of the Argos-type fishing boats typically used as fishing vessels by Mexican fishermen,” reads a statement from DPS. The boats have a large prow, small outboard motors that lack cowlings or identification numbers on their hulls.

The victims alleged that men armed with either AR-15s or AK-47s demanded “money” or “drugs” as they searched the vessels. Law enforcement believes the alleged pirates are employed by one of the Mexican cartels with a presence in the area and may try to impersonate Mexican law enforcement officials.

The warning comes just weeks in advance of planned fishing tournaments on Falcon Lake, which Zapata County officials eye as an opportunity to bring needed revenue to the area.

Authorities ask that boaters file a float plan outlining for family members and authorities their time and place of departure, destinations, travel direction and contact information.

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