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Border accident or bounty hunting?
Posted By Jon Dougherty On 03/28/2000 @ 1:00 am In Front Page | Comments Disabled
Against a sinister backdrop of possible bounty-hunting by Mexican
soldiers, U.S. Border Patrol officials say they are increasingly worried
about “armed incursions” into U.S. territory by heavily armed Mexican
army units, citing a recent incident in which Mexican soldiers chased –
then fired shots at — Border Patrol agents.
The National Border Patrol Council, a
nationwide union that represents all 8,250 “non-supervisory Border
Patrol employees,” said although the shooting aspect was unique, Mexican
anti-drug police and specialized anti-narcotic army troops make routine
“incursions” into U.S. territory.
On Mar. 14, shortly after 10 p.m. local time, “two Mexican army
Humvees carrying about 16 armed soldiers drove across the international
boundary and into the United States near Santa Teresa, New Mexico.”
There the vehicles pursued a Border Patrol vehicle, which was “outfitted
with decals and emergency lights (that were activated for much of the
pursuit) over a mile into the United States.”
The lead Mexican army vehicle, the Border Patrol council said,
contained nine soldiers “armed with seven automatic assault rifles, one
submachine gun, and two .45 caliber pistols,” and was eventually
apprehended by other Border Patrol units. The second Humvee, however,
“pursued a Border Patrol agent on horseback and fired a shot at him. The
soldiers then disembarked their vehicle, fired upon one more Border
Patrol agent and chased another agent before fleeing [back] to Mexico in
U.S. Border Patrol agent
Union officials said the members of the lead Mexican army vehicle
were debriefed and eventually allowed to return to Mexico with their
arms and vehicle.
Though the incident “is the most serious to date,” the council said,
“it is but one of hundreds of incursions that have been reported over
the past several years,” and it has led union officials to call on
Congress and the Clinton administration to deal with it.
“We will pursue all avenues to bring out the truth,” said Martin L.
Wilson, president of the Border Patrol union’s Local 1929, which
includes the Santa Teresa district. “We will not let this incident go
away without looking for answers and changes for the betterment of the
members of our local.”
Martin said the agents involved had “promised to give us a first-hand
account of the incident,” and he emphasized that “this local has not
called for the ouster of the (Border Patrol) chief (Gus de la Vina),
regardless of what has been put out by outside groups.”
Mariela Melero, regional spokesperson for the Immigration and
Naturalization Service, based in Dallas, told WorldNetDaily high-level
contacts with the Mexican government regarding the incident are in the
works, but had no specifics. The Border Patrol is part of the INS, and
both agencies fall under the jurisdiction of the Justice Department.
The El Paso, Texas Border Patrol office told WorldNetDaily, “in both
instances, Mexican soldiers apparently were not aware they had crossed
into U.S. territory.” The El Paso office acknowledged that two shots had
been fired by the Mexican soldiers, but said that after “Border Patrol
agents identified themselves and explained” that the Mexicans were on
U.S. soil, one of the Humvees carrying the soldiers “retreated” south
while the occupants of the second vehicle “surrendered to the Border
INS officials said that shortly after the incident, the Mexican
colonel in charge of the two squads met with Luis Barker, chief Border
Patrol agent in charge in El Paso.
“The Mexican colonel explained that the Mexican vehicles and officers
were part of a counter-narcotics unit that had previously been working
primarily in the interior of Mexico and were unfamiliar with border
areas,” INS said.
Paul M. Berg, chief of the Border Patrol Agent’s Association, said
that U.S. border officers had been caught armed in Mexico before as
well, and so far U.S. officials have been able to negotiate their
release “with their weapons over the outcry of the Mexican people, who
wanted the agents prosecuted.
“The return of the (Mexican) soldiers will continue to build the
relationships necessary to be able to accomplish this in the future,” he
said. Berg added that an “official protest has been lodged by the
(U.S.) Ambassador to Mexico with the Mexican government and they will
Earlier, however, the Border Patrol agents’ union alleged a far more
sinister explanation for the shooting — that the Mexican soldiers who
shot at U.S. agents may have been attempting to collect a drug
trafficker’s bounty by killing U.S. law enforcement personnel.
“That was no accident,” Joseph Dassaro, vice president of the
National Border Patrol Council, told reporters in El Paso, Texas. “The
Mexican military was well into U.S. territory for way over a mile and
chased and fired at agents.”
As confirmed by Border Patrol officials, the Juarez cartel, one of
Mexico’s biggest drug gangs, has indeed placed a bounty of $200,000 on
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