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Brownsville Mired By Corruption, Racism, and Compadrismo

Published Thursday, 19, 2017

Former Fire Chief Carlos Elizondo Indicted

By J. Noel Espinoza/RioGrandeInfo

When Carlos Elizondo was appointed Brownsville fire chief last year, former City Manager Charles Cabler vetted him as the best candidate among a couple of dozen applicants who made a bid for the position.

“The burden falls on me to make the ultimate call and I felt that I have selected the best possible candidate at this time,” said Cabler, who resigned last week amidst a scandal of corruption and compadrismo, roughly translated as cronyism.

On Tuesday, Elizondo turned himself in to the DA’s office after Brownsville police issued a warrant charging him with felony theft.

Noe Garza, Elizondo’s attorney and a figure on a leaked audio that went viral on social media, is mentioned as part of the compadrismo factions vying for power. Garza denies his client committed any wrongdoing.

“The charges are bogus and we intent to litigate them fully in court,” Garza said after Elizondo’s house was searched.

On Wednesday, Elizondo was indicted on one count of theft by a public servant and one count of misapplication of public property.

The disgraced fire chief, who’s also a member of the Brownsville Independent School District Board of Trustees, has been embroiled in a series of controversies since his promotion to lead the fire department.

The leaked audio reveals former City Commissioner Cesar De Leon using racial slurs, foul language, and other expletives which have opened a Pandora’s box within the city’s political power structure.  It also describes an atmosphere where most of the powerful figures working for the city are either corrupt or after personal vendettas if they don’t get their way.

De Leon resigned his position after the leaked audio, but rescinded it four day later.

No one knows, though De Leon believes it was Elizondo himself, who disclosed the audio tapes, according to a local newspaper.

In the tapes, De Leon uses the N-word and F-word to describe a couple of black attorneys hired by Cameron County District Attorney Luis Saenz.

“There are a couple of (F-word and N-word) that Luis Saenz is getting, and I don’t know where he is getting them from,” De Leon is recorded saying. “They are coming down to my (F-word) city and now they are trying to (F-word) put everybody in jail because they think we are a bunch of Mexicans that hit our wives, which couldn’t be further from the [F-word] truth, but that is how they see us.

“They are [F-word] … and I would say this, that I would never dare use that word, but you know what, yes, there are a couple of [N-word] in there that think that all of us are [F-word] taco eaters,” De Leon said.

De Leon also refers to other people with political connections as “mojados (wetbacks),” and  “muertos de hambre,”(  starving lowlifes).

At the beginning, the conversation between De Leon and Elizondo seems to be centered on how the former fire chief can avoid a theft by a public servant complaint that was filed against him in August by the Brownsville Firefighters Association.

As the audio continues, it appears a diatribe of De Leon against all the political figures who had enriched themselves using their political clout.

“De todos los comisionados que han habido, yo soy el que menos ha agarrado,” De León states in Spanish.

“Of all the commissioners we’ve had, I’m the one who has taken the less,” he says.

De Leon also talks about how Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez is the one who has stolen the most and how former City Manager Charles Cabler hired and used an assistant city fire chief to do contract work in his own home.

De Leon also complains how current Cameron County Judge Eddie Trevino promised him to be the county administrator before he was elected and how he double-crossed him.

“Pero después que gano no me dijo ni thank you,” De León says in Spanish.

Meaning that after Trevino won, he not even thanked De Leon.

De Leon also considers Garza, the attorney representing Elizondo on his theft’s charges, a good guy but who belongs to a rival faction.

“He’s not on our side,” De Leon said referring to Garza. “He’s on the side of Luis Saenz, (current Cameron County District Attorney who’s prosecuting Elizondo), and the Betancourts.”

City officials are mute as to whether there is an independent investigation going on about De Leon’s allegations.

City Spokeswoman Roxanna  G. Rosas and Brownsville Police Spokesman J. J. Trevino didn’t respond to emails regarding about any city or independent investigation.

There is, however, a social media post by City Commissioner Jessica Tetreau Kalifa stating an investigation and intimidation within city hall.

“There is a major criminal investigation currently taking place at the city,” part of the post reads. “On many occasions, certain commissioners were asked to stop or change the direction of the investigation and the probe of who was being looked at. When we refused to comply, we were threatened, and what you are seeing is a result.”

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