HARLINGEN, March 6 - At an ethics training symposium at TSTC-Harlingen on Sunday, Texas Ranger Shawn Palmer, of the agency’s public corruption unit, said the Rio Grande Valley is no more corrupt than other parts of the Lone Star State.
Palmer’s comments have generated lively debate among Guardian readers. Here are the thoughts of two of those readers, former state Sen. Eliot Shapleigh and Tejano historian José Antonio López.
Shapleigh, who represented El Paso in the state Senate for many years, said from where he sits, public corruption is one of the top four or five issues for the 32 border counties.
“In El Paso, epic public corruption has deeply shamed our community. Since 2005, nearly 50 elected and other officials have been indicted and/or convicted. At El Paso ISD that corruption involved putting a bounty on special education, Mexican American and military students in order to systematically ‘disappear’ them from school.
Bribors competed in the amount of the bribes not the quality of the product or services. Bribees including dozens of public officials openly corrupted office after office. Some went to jail for as little as a $500 bribe.
Public corruption is a cancer that drains the spirit and pocketbook of a community. At EPISD especially, the recent scandal is one of the darkest chapters in our great community’s history.
Voters hold the future of their community right at the ballot box. If you get a whiff of public corruption—vote it right out of office immediately.
Historian and author López writes regularly for the Guardian. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and is a USAF Veteran. He now lives in Universal City, Texas. He is the author of two books: “The Last Knight (Don Bernardo Gutierrez de Lara Uribe, A Texas Hero),” and “Nights of Wailing, Days of Pain (Life in 1920s South Texas).” Lopez is also the founder of the Tejano Learning Center, LLC, and www.tejanosunidos.org, a Web site dedicated to Spanish Mexican people and events in U.S. history that are mostly overlooked in mainstream history books.
López said Palmer’s comments about the Valley not being any more corrupt than other parts of Texas “needs to be hammered home.” He said he does not understand why all mayors, county judges, sheriffs, Catholic bishops, and elected state and national officials in South Texas form a combined response to gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott’s remarks. Abbott said that with regard to corruption, the Valley resembles a Third World Country. López said that is an insult.
“Yes, we all know that the region is longing for good jobs for unemployment, but the problem just didn’t develop with the drug trafficking violence. It has been neglected by Austin since 1848,” López said.
“Greg Abbott must not be aware that the reason for the border violence is that in the capitalist supply and demand fashion, the drugs are coming to the U.S. side to satisfy an ever-growing illegal drug appetite. When is the U.S. going to work on weaning their citizens from illegal drugs?”
López added: “I agree with Major Palmer, the Valley is as safe as any other place in Texas. We just have to believe it ourselves by not listening to the politicos’ ugly rhetoric.”
Click here to read the Major Palmer story on public corruption.