Mexico has invaded the US over 216 times
A confrontation between sheriff's deputies and uniformed drug traffickers along the Texas border (1/23/06) has intensified concerns about illegal incursions into the United States by Mexican soldiers while heightening bilateral tensions over border violence. U.S. officials are demanding that Mexico fully investigate an incident Monday (1/23/06) in which several men wearing Mexican military uniforms and carrying high-grade military weapons helped marijuana traffickers escape into Mexico after almost being apprehended by sheriff deputies. Of course Mexican officials deny that real Mexican soldiers were involved, even though numerous pictures and videos have been taken inside the US clearly showing Mexican soldiers. The incident has refocused attention on the Mexican military soldiers and police personnel have crossed onto U.S. territory over 216 times in the past 10 years.
West, the county sheriff, said such incursions occur several times a month, and that he and others have been trying to get federal officials to focus on the problem. "I'm sick and tired of the federal government calling us liars," said West, a Democrat re-elected last year. "Just about every time we catch a big load (of marijuana), every time we chase them back, Mexican soldiers are there.”They're sitting there with Humvees and state-of-the-art military equipment. We're sitting there with (patrol cars). We're sitting there with limited high-powered rifles and sidearms versus machine guns," West said. He noted one case in 2002 when a Border Patrol agent reported a Mexican military vehicle inside Arizona. To avoid a problem, the agent tried to drive away but said the Mexican soldiers fired at him, shattering his back window. In another case in 2000, Border Patrol agents confronted two Mexican army Humvees a mile inside New Mexico. One of the vehicles stopped, but the soldiers in the other fled and fired two shots at the border agents.
"It was no doubt that it was Mexican military, because I've seen them and I've dealt with them all my life down here," said Arvin West, sheriff of Texas' Hudspeth County, whose officers filmed Monday's incident using cameras he bought to back up his allegations. West has said Monday's clash was among the more serious incidents, in which soldiers helping drug smugglers "are sitting there waiting with their machine guns to make sure the drugs get back OK."
The U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Antonio Garza, sent a diplomatic protest to the Mexican government Wednesday, demanding an explanation and questioning Mexico's commitment to combating violence along the border. Local authorities in Texas and U.S. Border Patrol officials have been even more strident in their criticism, saying the incursions by Mexican soldiers are very common and worrisome. They also have condemned federal officials for not taking the matter seriously enough.
While Mexico's Defense Ministry is investigating Monday's incident, a spokesman for President Vicente Fox asserted that the suspected soldiers were actually traffickers wearing fake uniforms. Foreign Ministry officials said the traffickers' equipment did not match that of local army units. Yet for all Mexican analysts, the fact that drug traffickers can operate along the border in Mexican army uniforms, even if fake, raises disturbing questions by itself.
Monday's border incident began when Texas authorities tried to stop three SUVs on an interstate highway near El Paso. The vehicles fled toward the border, where people in Mexican army-style uniforms with army-style weapons in an army Humvee appeared to be waiting for them on the other side of the Rio Grande. The state officers and sheriff's deputies had their guns drawn, as did the smugglers, but no shots were fired. More than 1,400 pounds of marijuana was found in one of the vehicles, which blew a tire and was abandoned on the Texas side, while the armed, uniformed men flanked a second vehicle stuck in the river while it was unloaded then burned the stuck vehicle before fleeing into Mexico.