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The Source: Public Corruption On The Border

Hidalgo County

Last month, the FBI launched a special investigative unit in the Rio Grande Valley, with the one major focus: to find and prosecute corrupt elected officials 

The task force was formed after several high-profile cases of public corruption were discovered throughout the valley. School boards, county sheriff's, and many others have been implicated in vote buying and drug trafficking, using state salaries to finance sordid activities. 

The most notable was a narcotics team called the "Panama Unit," under the Mission Police Department in Hidalgo County. The unit was reportedly the brainchild of Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Treviño. His son, Jonathan Treviño, led it. 

The anti-narcotics unit was successful at first, seizing hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of pounds of drugs. But as detailed in court proceedings and media coverage, the unit began robbing drug dealers of drugs and money for personal gain. 

This is just the most sensational corruption case of what some describe as a pernicious issue in the valley and others insist is stereotyping. Even Governor-Elect Greg Abbott was chastised when. during his campaign, he equated corruption on the Texas-Mexico border with third-world behavior. Many insisted this was stereotyping.

The federal government requested $25 billion to fight the war on drugs last year. This number is close to the the estimated $25 billionthat Mexican cartels make each year from illegal drugs. The amount of money and drugs coming into the country has many saying that this impoverished part of Texas is ripe for corruption.


Aaron Nelsen, Rio Grande Valley reporter for the San Antonio Express-News (@amnelsen)

Melissa del Bosque, writer for the Texas Observer (@MelissaLaLinea)

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Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org