DECEMBER 18, 2007
U.S. Border Patrol agents near Mexico are using pepper spray and tear gas, rather than lethal force, to fend off a surge in attacks by violent human smugglers and Mexican officials have accused the federal officers of using the chemicals to ruthlessly assault their nationals.
Border Patrol agents began using the pepper spray and tear gas recently because violence has escalated tremendously along a stretch of the border in San Diego, specifically in a Tijuana neighborhood notorious for smuggling humans and drugs. The chemicals are a temporary deterrent preferred over fire power, which of course, can be lethal.
In the last few months alone, officers have been assaulted nearly 100 times with rocks, bottles and bricks launched from south of the border and several agents have suffered serious head injuries. In the last year, Border Patrol agents have been violently attacked in this manner about 1,000 times.
U.S. officials say agents are taking action because Mexican authorities have practically ignored their pleas to intervene even though the attacks originate in their jurisdiction. Either the Mexican police never arrive or officers take hours to get to the scene, long after the culprits have vanished.
Mexico’s inaction has left U.S. officers with no choice, according to the president of the National Border Patrol Council, because he says when you get that close to the fence your agents are sitting ducks. Besides rocks and bottles, they are regularly hit with a hail of ball bearings from slingshots in Mexico.
Still, Mexico’s consul general in San Diego (Ricardo Pineda) has demanded that U.S. officers immediately stop firing chemicals into Mexican soil. He actually said that the Mexican government cannot tolerate having Mexican nationals hit with these kinds of devices on Mexican soil by U.S. authorities, regardless of the reason.
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