Mexico: did cartel organize attack on CIA agents?

US officials suspect that organized crime was behind an Aug. 24 attack by Mexican federal police on a US embassy car on a road near the Tres Marías community, south of Mexico City in the state of Morelos, the Associated Press wire service reported on Oct. 2. In the incident, a dozen police agents in several unmarked cars attacked an armored US car with diplomatic license plates in which two agents of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and a member of the Mexican Navy were traveling to a Navy installation for a training session—apparently part of the aid the US provides to Mexico’s “war on drugs.”

The police agents claimed the attack was a case of mistaken identity, and the US media and Mexican officials have tended to take the claim seriously. Speaking to AP on condition of anonymity, a US official close to the investigation dismissed the federal police version. “That’s not a ‘We’re trying to shake down a couple people for a traffic violation’ sort of operation,” the official said. “That’s a ‘We are specifically trying to kill the people in this vehicle.’ This is not a ‘Whoops, we got the wrong people.'” Asked if organized crime was involved, the official said: “The circumstantial evidence is pretty damn strong.”

Also speaking anonymously, a Mexican official told AP that Mexican authorities were investigating possible involvement by the so-called Beltrán Leyva drug cartel. The gang is active in Morelos; a top cartel leader, Arturo Beltrán Leyva, was killed by Mexican Navy special forces in December 2009 at a luxury apartment building in the state capital, Cuernavaca. (AP, Oct. 2, via News Times, Danbury, Connecticut)

The Mexican daily La Jornada reported on Oct. 5 that Mexican authorities have brought specialists in organized crime into the investigation, another indication that the authorities think a criminal gang was behind the attack. The newspaper also reported that officials of the Federal Public Ministry (MPF) went to Washington, DC the weekend of Sept. 29 to take testimony from the two CIA agents, Jess Hood Garner and Stan Dove Boss, who were wounded in the attack. The agents continued to insist that the police attacked them without provocation.

In a news conference on Oct. 4, Assistant Human Rights Secretary Facundo Rosas Rosas admitted that the federal police agents didn’t comply with protocol if they attacked the US diplomatic vehicle. However, this “does not immediately become a human rights violation,” he said, “and a series of other conditions need to be present to give it this character.” He explained that human rights violations concerned the rights of citizens, suggesting that an unprovoked attack on a Mexican marine and two US agents might not qualify. (LJ, Oct. 5)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Oct 7.