Search thwarted by drug gangs

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A man on a U.S. Coast Guard boat uses binoculars Thursday on Falcon Lake, where where David Hartley is still missing, in Zapata, Texas. Hartley’s wife says her husband was shot to death by Mexican pirates chasing them on speedboats across the lake on Sept. 30.

ZAPATA, Texas (AP) — A search for a missing American tourist presumably shot and killed by Mexican pirates on a border lake has been thwarted by threats of an ambush from drug gangs, U.S. officials said Thursday.

U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar told reporters Mexican authorities are doing everything they can to find David Hartley’s body while trying to keep their own crews safe.

“When darkness was falling (Wednesday evening), they got word that there might be an ambush,” Cuellar said. “People that are trying to do their job on the Mexican side are facing a risk, they’re right inside the hornets’ nest ... they had to suspend the search.”

Cuellar said the search resumed midmorning Thursday.

Tiffany Hartley said her husband, David, was shot to death by Mexican pirates chasing them on speedboats across Falcon Lake Sept. 30 as they were returning on Jet Skis from a trip to photograph a historic church in Mexico. Neither his body nor the Jet Ski has been recovered. Texas officials have warned boaters and fisherman that pirates frequent the Mexican side of the lake.

That part of Tamaulipas state is overrun by violence from a turf battle between the Gulf Cartel and the Zeta drug gang, made up of former Mexican special forces soldiers, and both are battling the Mexican military.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, campaigning for re-election in Houston, said such threats were no excuse.

“I don’t think we’re doing enough. When you call off the search the way they did ... and give as the reason because the drug cartels are in control of that part of the state, something’s not right,” Perry said. “We do not need to let our border continue to deteriorate from the standpoint of having drug cartels telling whether or not we can go in and bring the body of an American citizen who was killed. That is irresponsible.”

Zapata County Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez said he has sent word to the Zetas that he wants the body returned and has no plans to prosecute.

“We just want a body,” Gonzalez said.

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