HOUSTON — For decades, Falcon Lake was known primarily as an anglers’ paradise, a tranquil reservoir straddling the border with Mexico where a clever fisherman could catch enormous largemouth bass. These days, however, the lake is developing a reputation for something else: piracy.
As a prolonged conflict between drug dealers and the government has eroded civil order in Mexico, gangs of armed thugs in speedboats have begun robbing fishermen and tourists on the lake.
Last week, gunmen in three boats reportedly shot and killed an American as he and his wife toured the lake on Jet Skis.
The shooting has strained tense relations between the Texas authorities and the Mexican government. A week after David M. Hartley, 30, was reported shot in the head, Mexican authorities have yet to find a body or any trace of his watercraft.
On Wednesday, Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican running for re-election, criticized the Mexican government as being slow to investigate the incident. He also denounced the Obama administration as not having provided more National Guard troops to patrol the border.
“Frankly, these two presidents need to get together with their secretaries of state and say, ‘What are we going to do about this?’” Perry said.
Hartley’s wife, Tiffany, has complained that the Mexican police are not trying hard enough to find him. She has made teary appeals on a national morning news show and on local television stations.
The Mexican Foreign Relations Ministry, meanwhile, released a communique saying that the authorities in Tamaulipas state had “stepped up their actions with the support of specialized personnel, boats and helicopters.”
Ruben Dario Rios, a spokesman for the Tamaulipas state police, said in an interview that officers continued to dredge the lake and scan the water from a helicopter but had yet to find any trace of the missing man.
The Texas Rangers have warned Americans to keep to the U.S. side of the 60-mile-long reservoir, which was formed in 1953 when the Rio Grande was dammed. The Border Patrol and the Coast Guard have increased their patrols on the lake in response to Hartley’s disappearance, federal officials said.
The shooting was the latest in a string of attacks by pirates on the lake. The gangs carry AK-47s and sometimes claim to be Mexican federal police or U.S. game wardens. State police say the robbers are believed to be members of a drug gang, although it is unclear if the attacks are the work of one group or several.