Chertoff downplays Mexican military
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff downplayed reports by the U.S. Border Patrol of more than 200 incursions by the Mexican military over the last 10 years, calling them "scare tactics."
While acknowledging the Border Patrol reports of crossings by uniformed troops, Chertoff told reporters in Washington yesterday he believes many of the incursions could have been innocent mistakes, according to the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin in Ontario, Calif.
"I think the stories are overblown," Chertoff said. "I asked the chief of the Border Patrol about it. The number has not increased; in fact, it had decreased a little bit."In some cases, Chertoff suggested, it could be a matter of Mexican authorities crossing where the dividing line is unclear or criminals in camouflage are mistaken for soldiers.
T.J. Bonner, the president of the National Border Patrol Council, asserted Chertoff is uninformed.
"Were he to go out there on actual patrol with Border Patrol agents ... and experience what we experience – where you encounter a group of highly trained, very well-armed Mexican soldiers coming across our border, and your closest backup is an hour or more away – I think he would be a lot more concerned about it," he told the Ontario newspaper.
Some Border Patrol agents contend Mexican military officers have been colluding with drug-smuggling cartels.
The Border Patrol has tracked 216 incursions by Mexican military or police forces since 1996, the Daily Bulletin first reported Sunday.
The paper said the highest total was 40 in 2002, while last year there were nine.
Chertoff confirmed there have been about 20 incursions a year in the last decade.
The Homeland Security chief also acknowledged reports of corruption among Mexican troops were true, but didn't see them as significant.
"We do have instances where we have Mexican police or military who have deserted and become involved with criminal activity," Chertoff said. "But we've also had bad cops in the United States, too. It happens."
Emphasizing the collaborative relationship between the U.S. and Mexico, Chertoff called attempts to call the incursions a problem "scare tactics," the Daily Bulletin said.
A spokesman for the Mexican consulate, Rafael Laveaga, denies any Mexican military incursions have taken place.
Pointing out the few times U.S. Border Patrol has accidentally crossed into Mexico, Bonner insisted the incursions were not just innocent mistakes, and he criticized Chertoff for playing down the number.
"For him to say this is only a few hundred – come on," Bonner said. "One is far too many."
As WorldNetDaily reported in February, an American law enforcement officer and news crew in Texas witnessed another armed incursion into the United States by men dressed in Mexican army attire, the second such incident in two weeks.
As before, several men dressed in Mexican military garb appeared to violate the international boundary, in Hudspeth County, Texas, some 50 miles east of El Paso, local affiliate KFOX-TV reported. There, the U.S.-Mexico border is separated only by a shallow stretch of Rio Grande River. The incursion was witnessed by a KFOX news crew and Hudspeth County deputy, photos of which are posted on the affiliate's website.
Mexican officials have said their military is forbidden from traveling within three miles of the border, though U.S. border residents repeatedly have spotted mobile patrols of Mexican military units traversing roads that run directly parallel to the international boundary. Mexico says the armed men crossing into the U.S. are paramilitary forces loyal to drug-smuggling cartels.