Mexico: US ICE agent killed amid growing violence

Gunmen on a highway in northern Mexico killed an agent of the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) bureau on Feb. 14, and wounded another. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the agents were assigned to the ICE attaché office at the US embassy in Mexico City, and were been shot in the line of duty while driving between the city and Monterrey. ICE identified the deceased as Special Agent Jaime Zapata and the wounded agent as Victor Avila, who was shot twice in the leg. Gunmen apparently ambushed their SUV in San Luis Potosí state. (AP, Feb. 16; NYT, Feb. 15)

The killings come amid continued cartel violence in Mexico, especially the north. The city hall, courthouse and police headquarters were all damaged in armed clashes Feb. 15 in Padilla, where seven bodies were dumped in the main square of the town, just north of Ciudad Victoria, capital of Tamaulipas state.

Officials in Nuevo Leon said the body of Homero Salcido Trevino, head of the the state police C-5 intelligence division, was found Feb. 12 inside his burnt-out car, abandoned in central Monterrey.

The killings came as authorities announced that federal troops had arrested Juan Carlos Olivera Acosta AKA “El Sonrics”—a suspected leader of Los Zetas narco-militia. An apparent henchman was also detained in the arrest, which took place in Guadalupe, near Monterrey. Three rifles, a handgun, 19 ammunition clips, 370 rounds of ammunition, a vehicle and four radios were seized from the suspects. (El Universal, Cronica de Hoy, Feb. 16; EFE, Feb. 15; AFP, Feb. 12)

Also Feb. 15, an unknown assailant threw a fragmentation grenade into the porch of a crowded bar in the western city of Guadalajara, Jalisco, and then opened fire on the patrons. Three women and three men were killed in the attack and more than 20 were wounded. (AlJazeera, Feb. 15)

Fear on the border
Three undocumented immigrants arrested near the scene of an Arizona shootout that left a Border Patrol agent dead have been cleared by federal authorities of involvement in the shooting, and will be deported to Mexico. The three were arrested near the border city of Nogales the day after Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was shot. Terry was in a stake-out with other agents in a canyon 13 miles north of the border when a shootout with apparent bandits erupted. (AP, Feb. 15)

On Feb. 15, the US Government Accountability Office released a study finding that less than half of the border with Mexico is under the “operational control” of the Border Patrol. The study found that the Border Patrol had achieved “varying levels of operational control” over 873 miles, or 44%, of the nearly 2,000-mile border by the end of last year. The report found that the number of miles under operational control increased an average of 126 miles per year from 2005 through 2010. The GAO noted that only 129 of those miles, or 15%, were classified as “controlled”—the highest level for detecting and arresting intruders. (Reuters, Feb. 15)

See our last posts on Mexico’s narco wars, the struggle for the border and the politics of immigration.

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