Berenice Garcia

Berenice Garcia covers Western Hidalgo County and Starr County for The Monitor. She can be reached at or (956) 683-4432.

Healthcare forum to examine cost, access

Health care has emerged as one of the top issues of the 2020 presidential elections with several minutes of the Democratic presidential debates dedicated to questions on the topic. The conversation among the candidates usually focuses on access to health insurance, specifically, on the concept of Medicare for All. However, during a Wednesday public forum, titled "The Future of Health Care,” legislators, educators and leaders in the industry will engage in other aspects of the conversation, such as the costs of care, legislation and innovation. Read the full story at

Rep. Cuellar highlights international bonds at annual Mission brunch

As per tradition, the city of Mission kicked off Saturday’s Citrus Fiesta activities with the Mayor’s International Brunch, inviting U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar to be this year’s keynote speaker. Cuellar, D-Laredo, who is currently running for re-election, used the opportunity before a crowd of Mexican and local officials to criticize President Donald Trump’s attitude toward Mexico, to highlight the bonds between the United States and Mexico, and to point out the Spanish influences throughout the country. Read the full story at

Mission bond election pushed to November

The city council is pushing a proposed bond election to November after members expressed a desire for more time reduce the number of propositions they want to place on the ballot and more time to communicate with the public about the need for the projects. The consensus among the council members to delay the bond election until November was reached during a workshop held Wednesday evening during which they also suggested cutting down the number of propositions from the 18 that were initially proposed. Read the full story at

Roma seeing loss in police officers

As the city council continues its review of complaints within the police department, officers have started leaving the city to work for other law enforcement agencies. Within the last few weeks, one officer left the department to join the Roma school district’s police department, another submitted their two weeks’ notice to join the Starr County Sheriff’s Office and two more are likely to leave soon, according to Roma Police Chief Jose H. Garcia. Additionally, another officer is currently being vetted to possibly join a federal agency. Read the full story at

Challenger outspends Starr DA 3 to 1

Gocha Ramirez, the attorney challenging current 229th District Attorney Omar Escobar in the upcoming election, once again outspent his opponent during the last half of 2019, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Texas Ethics Commission. The reports, which detail campaign contributions and expenditures from July 1 through Dec. 31, 2019, were filed last week. Escobar spent $15,546 during that period while Ramirez spent $58,318, more than three times as much. Read the full story at

Starr Co. child advocacy center funding stirs controversy

With the Primary elections less than two months away, allegations against current 229th District Attorney Omar Escobar and his opponent, Gocha Ramirez, have intensified with the latest focusing on the creation of a children's advocacy center in the county. Funding for the proposed nonprofit, called the Butterfly Haven, was pulled unexpectedly, according to the group trying to launch it, who also believes this happened because Escobar allegedly intervened. Dr. Daria Babineaux, a local pediatrician and a school board trustee for the Rio Grande City school district, is a member of the Child Wellness Network, the group behind the Butterfly Haven. Read the full story at

Superseding indictment filed against former La Joya housing officials

A superseding indictment was filed against Sylvia Garces Valdez, the former vice chair of the La Joya Housing Authority, which includes the charges filed against Frances A. Salinas, the former interim executive director of the housing authority. The indictment, filed on Jan. 14, combines the cases of the two women who were arrested last year on allegations that they participated in a bribery scheme through which Salinas allegedly helped Garces Valdez obtain a public relations contract with the city and, in exchange, Garces Valdez allegedly paid Salinas a portion of the money she made from that contract. Read the full story at

Sheriff, state rep candidates participate in forum

Candidates for two hotly contested races made their case Thursday before the Rio Grande Valley Builders Association for their candidacy ahead of the March primary elections. Four candidates, two running for Hidalgo County Sheriff and two running for District 41 State Representative, participated in a candidate forum hosted by the association. Hidalgo County Sheriff J.E. “Eddie” Guerra and one of his challengers, Frank Guerrero, participated in the event, addressing issues of overcrowding, response times and crime rates. Read the full story at

Zamora Quezada convicted on multiple counts of healthcare fraud; wife acquitted

A jury found Dr. Jorge Zamora Quezada guilty of healthcare fraud Wednesday following a month-long trial during which the government presented evidence alleging he intentionally misdiagnosed patients for profit. The Edinburg-based rheumatologist was convicted of counts 1 through 11 of the superseding indictment, with the exception of count 5, in which he was found not guilty, and count 10, which was dismissed before the start of deliberations. Read the full story at

Deliberations in healthcare fraud case to resume Wednesday

The jury will continue their deliberations Wednesday in the trial for Dr. Jorge Zamora Quezada, the Edinburg-based rheumatologist accused of healthcare fraud. Jurors deliberated for about seven hours Tuesday before requesting to break for the day due to one of the jurors having to attend a class Tuesday evening. U.S. District Judge Ricardo H. Hinojosa excused the jury for the day but instructed them to resume deliberations at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday. Read the full story at