27 January 2006
U.S. Ambassador Asks Mexico To Probe Incident on Texas Border
Antonio Garza says incident illustrates danger facing border agents
By Eric Green
Washington File Staff Writer
Washington -- U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Antonio Garza has asked the Mexican government to investigate a January 23 incident in which people dressed in Mexican military uniforms "apparently intervened to prevent a drug shipment from being intercepted" by U.S. authorities in Texas.
In a strongly worded statement January 25, Garza said he sent a diplomatic note to the Mexican government on the matter "because this type of incident is indicative of the danger faced by our law enforcement officers daily" along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Garza said the individuals in military uniforms were carrying "military-style weapons and using military vehicles."
U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack also commented January 25 on reports that men in Mexican military uniforms had crossed over the U.S. border into Texas. McCormack said the U.S. Department of Homeland Security had been apprised of this incident and was investigating the reports.
The spokesman said reports of "these kind of incursions" are a "source of concern." He added: "I would expect that the [U.S.] Department of Homeland Security would look into each and every one of these [incursions]. I know that they would be concerned by these reports." (See related article.)
The Voice of America reported January 26 that the incident occurred in a remote area of west Texas, in Hudspeth County, about 100 kilometers east of the city of El Paso.
A note released January 26 by the Mexican government quoted Mexican Foreign Relations Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez as saying, with regard to the suspicious individuals in Hudspeth County, that "we do not know whether they are Mexican or U.S. citizens." Derbez has suggested that the individuals could have been U.S. drug criminals disguised as Mexican troops.
Garza, the U.S. envoy, said that in the last several weeks, violence in the border region has increased "markedly." Garza said he soon will deliver a second diplomatic note to Mexico "in which we express our concern about the increased violence" in the Mexican city of Nuevo Laredo "and several incidents in which our Border Patrol agents have been attacked along the [U.S.-Mexico] border."
Garza said the murder rate in Nuevo Laredo has "skyrocketed" in January, with the city recording 20 homicides so far during the month. He added that the U.S. Border Patrol in Laredo, Texas, has seen four separate incidents within the previous 30 days in which U.S. agents came under gunfire from across the Rio Grande River.
A shootout in the center of Nuevo Laredo January 23 was "reminiscent of the street battles that plagued" the city in 2005, "and caused me to make the difficult decision of [temporarily] closing" the U.S. consulate in Nuevo Laredo, said Garza.
Garza urged the Mexican government "to take this elevated violence seriously." Previously, he said, "there has been a tendency to focus on public relations instead of public security."
The ambassador said he frequently has discussed with Mexican officials our "co-responsibility" for the security and welfare of the border communities.
But Garza said the continuing flow of migrants illegally entering the United States from Mexico, the "increasing attacks against U.S. law enforcement officials from the Mexican side of the border, the public Mexican rhetoric describing U.S. efforts to control its border as 'racist,' and efforts by Mexico to promote regional opposition to measures under consideration in the U.S. Congress only serve to further polarize the debate on immigration and undermine the efforts of those who seek viable solutions to illegal immigration and border security."
Garza said the recent violence along the U.S.-Mexico border highlights the need "for increased [law] enforcement efforts by the United States and serves to bolster the arguments of those who seek the creation of physical barriers along our border."
He added that it makes "recent assertions that the United States is somehow exaggerating the problems along our border all the more untenable, and highlights the inability of the Mexican government to police its own communities south of the border."
Garza said he is "hopeful" that the U.S. and Mexican governments "can face this current challenge with resolve and focus."
Garza's statement is available on the Web site of the U.S. Embassy in Mexico.
The United States and Mexico signed a border partnership agreement in March 2002. That agreement, the White House said, was designed "to build a smart border for the 21st century -- one that better secures our borders while also speeding the free flow of people and commerce." (See fact sheet.)
For more information on U.S. policy toward Mexico, see Mexico.
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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