Mexican Drug Drop Stymied by Deputies
Military-Style Operation Thwarted by Local Law Enforcement
By Fred Lingel
US. lawmen confronted several men in military uniforms and a camouflaged Humvee with .50-caliber machine guns who had crossed into Texas and forced an armed standoff along the Rio Grande.
Arvin West, sheriff of Hudspeth County, said the incident occurred about 2:19 p.m. Jan. 24 when his deputies chased three SUVs driving north from a border area of Interstate 10.
The pursuit, which began near Sierra Blanca, ended for one of the vehicles when it blew a tire and the driver fled, West said. Deputies seized 1,400 pounds of marijuana from that vehicle.
The southbound pursuit continued for the other two vehicles and the deputies were joined by two Texas state troopers. They encountered several men dressed in combat fatigues.
They “appeared to be soldiers in a Humvee vehicle with what appeared to the officers as having .50-caliber machine guns,” West told The Washington Times.
STUCK IN THE RIVER
One of the vehicles made it into Mexico, but the other got stuck in the river, where men in civilian clothes offloaded what appeared to be bundles of marijuana, West said. The truck was then set ablaze by the “soldiers.”
No shots were fired and no injuries were reported. The incident is “just another example of what we have been saying all along: This is a serious problem and it’s not going to go away,” said T.J. Bonner, a veteran Border Patrol agent and president of the National Border Patrol Council.
“The U.S. government has got to put its foot down and take decisive action,” said Bonner, whose union represents all 10,000 of the agency’s non-supervisory personnel. “It would be nice if the Mexican government would address the problem, but it won’t even admit there is one.”
The Mexican government insists that the men in “Mexican military-style uniforms” were drug smugglers, not Mexican soldiers.
“These were not Mexican soldiers,” said Mexico’s presidential spokesman Ruben Aguilar. “It is known that these are drug traffickers who use military uniforms and they were not even regulation military uniforms.”
Mexico’s government also makes the claim that when Mexican military or law enforcement does cross the border into the United States, it is usually a mistake.
In this case, however, that explanation falls flat. Unlike in eastern California, Arizona and New Mexico, where the U.S.-Mexico border is largely unmarked, the Rio Grande in Texas separates the two countries. Even when dry, the riverbed is about 200 feet wide.
“When you see a Humvee vehicle with a .50 caliber machine gun on it, this leads you to believe this is not a vehicle being used by the drug lords, but in fact is part of the Mexican military. I think, of course, the Mexican government knows about this,” said Zapata County Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez.
“It’s been so bred into everyone not to start an international incident with Mexico that it’s been going on for years,” Chief Deputy Mike Doyal of the Hudspeth County Sheriff’s Department told local news. “When you’re up
against mounted machine guns, what can you do? Who wants to pull the trigger first? Certainly not us.”
(Issue #6, February 6, 2006)