Lupita Murillo and Michel Marizco report from Sásabe, Sonora, for KVOA News4 Tucson, April 30, 2014, asking if “a unit of Mexican Army soldiers who patrol right on the Arizona border” has “gone rogue.”
This small group has attacked U.S. citizens, and even challenged U.S. federal agents within the U.S.:
- In January 2014, soldiers from this lonely outpost of the Mexican Army drew their guns on U.S. Border Patrol agents just 50 yards into the United States. The Mexican soldiers carried G-3 rifles and claimed they’d gotten lost while pursuing a drug smuggler.
- In March, they opened fire on Javier Jose Rodriguez, a young Tucson man visiting family in Sásabe when he was driving around the town early on a Saturday morning after drinking beer with friends. Shot in the arm and in the side, Rodriguez spent three weeks at the University of Arizona Medical Center. His medical bills are now over $43,000 and he wants justice.
The United States’ reaction has been tepid, angering people who live and patrol along the Arizona border.
“From what I understand, this has happened hundreds of times before,” says Sylvia Longmire, a border security analyst whose recent book, Border Insecurity, details the challenges and failings of some Homeland Security operations along the Arizona-Sonora border. Referring to the incident between the Border Control agents and the Mexican soldiers, Longmire says, “I believe there was some confusion as to whether that’s what the Mexican Army was doing because there was no evidence found by the Border Patrol of any drug smugglers in the area.”
Reports obtained under the federal Freedom of Information Act show that members of Mexico’s Army have crossed into the U.S. at least 300 times over the past 18 years. The reports show that across the entire border, Mexican soldiers have driven into Texas, landed helicopters in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley and encountered Border Patrol agents within the United States.
“I mean, it’s very nerve-wracking,” said Art del Cueto, President of the Border Patrol’s union in the Tucson Sector, Local 2544. “A lot of these encounters happen in the middle of the night where, you know, the lighting is low and you don’t know who you’re encountering. You’re sitting there and seeing a group of guys coming up to you and they’re all carrying long-arms, you don’t know what you’re encountering.”
Sources in the U.S. State Department say they believe Mexico’s Attorney General is looking into that March attack. But nobody is investigating why these soldiers cross into Arizona.
Arivaca resident, Ronald Ayers said in 2006, a Mexican Army helicopter in the area crossed the border and landed in the U.S. about 300 yards across the border. “A helicopter flew very low. Flew around behind the barn, landed and then several men got out all clad in black with masks over their face and body armor, carrying what looked to be full automatic weapons,” Ayers recalls. What frustrates him, even now, is that he never heard another word about the incident after he was interviewed by both the FBI and Customs and Border Protection.
U.S. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) had ordered the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to produce answers into the Mexican Army incursion by early February. But as of April 30, 2014, DHS hasn’t responded to the senator’s demand.
UPDATE (June 28, 2014):
On June 26, 2014, a Mexican military helicopter flew across the border into Arizona, west of the San Miguel Gate on the Tohono O’odham Indian Nation, and fired two shots at two U.S. Border Patrol agents.
Tomás Zerón, the director of the Mexican attorney general’s office investigative office, denied the incident ever happened. But Border Patrol Tucson Sector union president Art Del Cueto and Border Patrol spokesperson Andy Adame said the Mexican chopper did fire two shots at the border agents who were a mere 15 yards away, and that the Mexican government apologized. (Source: CBS Las Vegas and the AP)