In October 2012, a US Border Patrol agent fired through the 20 foot steel fence separating Nogales, Arizona from Nogales, Mexico and killed an unarmed 16-year-old Mexican boy with 10 bullets through his body. This was not an isolated incident by a rogue agent, but just the latest in a string of cross-border shootings that raise serious questions about oversight and accountability of the Border Patrol. In the last three years, Border Patrol agents have killed 6 Mexican citizens on their native soil, firing through the border to threaten and injure even more. One man was shot while picnicking with his family on the banks of the Rio Grande. Another 15 year-old-boy was hit between the eyes with a bullet for allegedly throwing rocks. None of these cases has led to any known disciplinary action or criminal charges against the border police, and US courts have rejected claims made by victims’ families, asserting that Mexican citizens do not have the same constitutional protections as US citizens, effectively giving the agents carte blanche to act with impunity. In this episode, Fault Lines travels to the border town of Nogales – presently the nexus for this increasingly lawless law enforcement – to meet the Mexican families who have lost their young sons at the hands of US agents who many accuse of being immune from the law.
Premieres this Sunday, September 8, 2013 at 7:00 and 10p EST on Al Jazeera America. Episode will premier on Al Jazeera English in the coming week. Episode produced by Singeli Agnew with Wab Kinew as Correspondent.
Crossing the line at the border, Brian Epstein for Need to Know on PBS, April 20, 2012 (VIDEO)
Eight people have been killed along the border in the past two years. One man died a short time after being beaten and tased, an event recorded by two eyewitnesses[…]
Because border agents are part of the Department of Homeland Security, they are not subjected to the same public scrutiny as police officers who use their weapons.
Border Patrol Blasted At UN For Killing Mexicans, Roque Planas for The Huffington Post, October 26, 2012
The U.S. Border Patrol is facing criticism at the United Nations for killing Mexicans.
On Thursday, The American Civil Liberties Union brought a list of alleged human rights violations at the U.S.-Mexico border before the U.N. General Assembly. The ACLU’s remarks were made in front of a a panel discussing human rights issues on international borders organized by the U.N. High Commissioner on Human Rights.
“We are deeply concerned by these systematic abuses,” said ACLU researcher Jennifer Turner. “It is essential that the United States launch a comprehensive external investigation in addition to the Department of Homeland Security’s internal review.”
Border Killings Prompt Scrutiny Over Use Of Force,Ted Robbins for NPR, November 24, 2012
In less than two years, U.S. Border Patrol agents have killed 18 Mexican citizens there — including eight people who were throwing rocks.
Last month, Border Patrol agents responded to a report of two drug smugglers jumping the fence between the twin cities of Nogales, Ariz., and Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora. As the agents approached, a group of people on the Mexican side began throwing rocks. The Border Patrol says the agents told the people to stop. When they didn’t, one agent opened fire.
Within days, news outlets in Tucson and Phoenix identified the victim: 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodríguez. The teen, who was not one of the smugglers, was shot numerous times through the fence, on Mexican soil.
It was not an isolated incident. Since 2010, six of the eight people killed by Border Patrol agents while throwing rocks were on the Mexican side of the border.
Report: Border Patrol Shot 16-Year-Old 11 Times In The Back, Rebecca Leber for Think Progress, February 7, 2013
On October 10, a U.S. Border Patrol agent shot and killed 16-year-old Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez at the border of Mexico and Arizona. According to details in a new autopsy report, Elena Rodgriguez may have been shot as many as 11 times, all but one bullet hitting the teen from behind.
The details are still emerging in an ongoing FBI investigation. Officials say an agent opened fire on the Mexican teen, who was throwing rocks over the border fence. Under the Border Patrol’s current policy, lethal force can be used against someone throwing rocks if agents view a threat. But according to Nogales, Arizona police, it is extremely unlikely those rocks could have hit someone standing next to the fence.
“Over the Line: Why are U.S. Border Patrol agents shooting into Mexico and killing innocent civilians?”, John Carlos Frey for Washington Monthly, May/ June 2013
Fatal shootings by Border Patrol agents were once a rarity. Only a handful were recorded before 2009…But a joint investigation by the Washington Monthly and the Investigative Fund at the Nation Institute has found that over the past five years U.S. border agents have shot across the border at least ten times, killing a total of six Mexicans on Mexican soil.
… following a rapid increase in the number of Border Patrol agents between 2006 and 2009, a disturbing pattern of excessive use of force has emerged.
In one case, agents killed a thirty-year-old father of four while he was collecting firewood along the banks of the Rio Grande. In another, a fifteen-year-old was shot while watching a Border Patrol agent apprehend a migrant. In yet another, agents shot a thirty-six-year-old man while he was having a picnic to celebrate his daughters’ birthdays.
In 2006, the Bush administration began rapidly increasing the size of the Border Patrol, ushering in a fanatic recruitment drive. Customs and Border Protection spent millions on slick television ads that ran during Dallas Cowboy football games and print ads that appeared in programs at the NBA All-Star Game and the NCAA playoffs. CBP even sponsored a NASCAR race car for the 2007 season.
In less than three years, the agency hired 8,000 new agents, making Customs and Border Protection one of the largest law enforcement agencies in the United States. Because qualified recruits were so hard to find, the Border Patrol had to lower its standards, deferring background checks and relaxing training regimens. Lie detector tests, which were previously common practice, were often omitted.
“Shootings by Agents Increase Border Tensions”, Fernanda Santos for The New York Times, June 10, 2013
Since January 2010, not a single agent has been criminally charged in cases of lethal use of force, and the agency would not say whether disciplinary action had been taken.
Scrutiny heightened last year when the Department of Homeland Security’s acting inspector general, Charles K. Edwards, began a review of policies governing the use of force by the Border Patrol’s parent agency, Customs and Border Protection. He acted after 16 members of Congress signed a letter criticizing the “appalling behavior” of agents in San Diego, where a man in their custody died in 2010 after being stunned by a Taser several times, his hands restrained behind his back. The signers questioned whether the episode was “part of a larger cultural problem.” The review is still under way.
Customs and Border Protection has also commissioned an analysis, looking at episodes in which its agents fired weapons or otherwise used force. A spokesman for the agency said it was reviewing the findings, which have not yet been made public.
Above: Our full Fault Lines episode on “Mexico’s Hidden War" from June 2011. Reposting with this week’s news about Z-40.
The capture of drug lord Miguel Angel Trevino Morales has dealt a blow to organised crime and scored political points for Mexico’s government, but it remains to be seen if the high-profile arrest will dampen the scourge of trafficking and violence.
Trevino - the leader of the ruthless Zetas cartel and nicknamed “Z-40” - was captured by helicopter-bourne Mexican marines, who intercepted a pickup truck carrying him and two foot soldiers. Some $2m in cash and several weapons were also recovered on a road on the outskirts of the border city of Nuevo Laredo on Monday.
The US government had offered a $5m reward for information leading to Morales’ capture, making him one of the most-wanted drug dealers in the world.
Mexico’s bloody drug war pits the military against rival gangs battling it out for control of the lucrative narcotics trade, worth tens of billions of dollars. More than 60,000 people may have been killed since 2007 after former president Felipe Calderón deployed 50,000 soldiers to patrol the streets.
“Drug boss takedown shakes up Mexican drug war,” Elizabeth Melimopoulos, Al Jazeera English, July 17, 2013.
Members of the Torres family in the hamlet of La Morena in Tiearra Caliente region of the state of Guerrero, Mexico. The area is a hotbed of marijuana and poppy growth, as well as pockets of leftist guerrillas. We filmed an episode of Fault Lines in the area earlier this year. Torres family members told us they feel trapped between the local drug kingpin Rogaciano Alba and the military, who they claim are in collusion. Members of the Torres family have been arrested by the military and others killed by both the military and local drug forces. (Photo by Josh Rushing)
Fault Lines- Mexico:Impunity and profits
“Al-qaeda could not do what the US did to Juarez.”
And Americans wonder why other countries hate them…
Thanks for posting! Always nice to find posts and comments on our episodes. (We’re working on new episodes right now that begin airing in March.)
Infographic: The ever expanding death toll in Mexico’s sprawling drug war
(Source: National Post)
New Al Jazeera report, “Drug trafficking for ‘justice’ in Mexico,” July 20, 2011.
CAMSIM is the name of the Canadian mining company that is conducting silver exploration in Guerrero, and that signed the agreement with the community of Paraje Montero.
Neither CAMSIM nor the UK-based Hochschild mining companies returned Fault Lines phone and email requests for information about their activities in Guerrero, but CAMSIM has posted a video about one of its projects in Guerrero.
Fault Lines episode “Mexico’s Hidden War” includes reactions from the Guerrero community where CAMSIM is conducting silver exploration: start around 19:38.
If you missed this before, it’s Friday. Watch it now.
Jon Stewart is a favorite around the Fault Lines office, and while next Monday’s episode is on the protests at the University of Puerto Rico, we will continue to comment on and post on the ongoing drug war violence.
- from Fault Lines “Mexico’s Hidden War" about indigenous and campesino communities fighting narco-violence in the southern state of Guerrero