Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Mexico City's boss Marcelo Ebrard wants to know: are CIA agents operating undercover in his country?

The Federal District's governor suggests he knows something which no one else has admitted

*Updates below*
Marcelo Ebrard is a powerful politician in Mexico. He's the Head of Government of the Federal District, and for all practical purposes the guy who runs Mexico City. A charismatic member of the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD) in a state where leftists politicians usually do well, Ebrard stand a very good chance of being his party's 2018 presidential candidate. In fact, Ebrard announced in July that he'll begin his campaign later this year. Recognizing that perhaps no candidate could defeat Enrique Peña Nieto in 2012, Ebard wisely yielded the PRD spot to Manuel López Obrador, who insists that he was defrauded at the polls on July 1. A decision on the disputed election by a special federal court is imminent.

Ebard wants to know if U.S. federal agents, specifically from the Central Intelligence Agency, are working in Mexico. The issue is perennial, but resurfaced full strength last week when an armored vehicle belonging to the U.S. Embassy was strafed by Mexican troops in the state of Morelos. The occupants, two American officials and a Mexican naval attache, may have been on their way to the capital city of Cuernavaca. But for what purpose is unknown.

In fact, there are far more questions about the troublesome event than there are answers. Everybody agrees that the badly shot-up Toyota Land Cruiser, carrying diplomatic plates issued by Mexico's Secretary of Foreign Relations, was attacked near the rural hamlet of Tres Marías (Three Marys). But there the accounts diverge. According to the Milenio news network, there are at least four competing versions of what happened, depending on the source - the Mexican government, the U.S., or locals.

One theory holds that the armored cruiser and another vehicle following it (possibly unlicensed) failed to yield to a military patrol. Another suggests that the soldiers who fired on the small convoy believed one of the units was stolen. Some say that the trailing vehicle abruptly reversed course and vanished from the area. The American version is that the Toyota was suddenly approached by vehicles carrying men in civilian dress who displayed firearms. When the U.S. driver of the armored diplomatic car tried to make a break for it, all hell broke loose. There's little doubt the Mexican units were prepared to kill, although just whom they thought they were shooting at remains muddled - and of great interest to all.

Twelve soldiers who were on the scene have been detained for 40 days while the case is further investigated. The American passengers, slightly injured, have been identified, but the federal agency or department for which they worked has not. The U.S. Embassy and Washington have offered few meaningful details, saying only that the matter was Mexico's obligation to investigate. During a speech today attended by American ambassador Anthony Wayne, president Felipe Calderón promised that his government would do just that. "Whether this regrettable incident was the result of negligence, or of inadequate training or a deliberate attack, we'll get to the bottom of it," he assured the audience.

Those are exactly the things Marcelo Ebrard would like to know. "There are so many questions," he said today. "The Mexican government should make a full report on what the CIA was doing there, who it was working with and how far its involvement went. It's a very delicate matter." The U.S. has made no such admission, although American officials have expressly denied that the injured officials were DEA or FBI agents, or members of the military.

Late today Mexico's Secretary of Marines said that the two wounded Americans were in Mexico to attend an unspecified training course (in what capacity is not clear), and that the naval attache was along solely to act as translator and aide. Contrary to earlier press reports, he denied that the attache was operating the armored Toyota at the time of the attack. "At all times the vehicle was being driven by one of the Americans. The captain, in back, used his phone to call for help." The Secretary didn't address the issue of whether the men are CIA agents.

Shortly after the Toyota came to a halt with one of its tires blown out, Mexican Federal Police arrived on the scene and ordered a cease fire. It's a good thing they did, because projectiles had penetrated the vehicle. It was a very close call for the two Americans, whatever the nature of their business. (Sept. 1 - Mexican investigators say that at least 15 men fired at the Toyota, which was hit by 136 rounds of AK-47 and AR-15 ammo. They were reloading when the police pulled up. If it can happen to a vehicle carrying diplomatic tags it can happen to anybody, just as it did to these two U.S. agents.)

Aug. 28 - The Milenio network reported this evening that both of the American officials have already left the country, without giving declarations to investigators. In Mexico a declaration is a preliminary statement which every witness to a crime must tender before a judicial magistrate; it is not optional. Obviously the law was not followed in this case. Milenio, quoting family members of the detained Mexican soldiers, also reported that the U.S. officials were "not accredited diplomatic personnel."

More amazing still, the men may have entered the country without even the routine visas required of ordinary tourists. Attorneys for the soldiers claimed this evening that on their way out of Mexico, the only visas the men were able to present to immigration control (INM) agents were from a recent visit to Afghanistan. If that's true, someone went to great lengths to conceal their presence in Mexico. But they were allowed to leave anyway. Diplomáticos de EEUU dejan México sin declarar.

In 2008 one of the detained soldiers now facing criminal charges was selected for special training by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms pursuant to the Mérida Initiative, an agreement between the United States and Mexico which provides for the training and equipping of police and security forces here. The soldier was instructed in light firearms and bomb deactivation. The MGRR search engine will yield more articles on the Mérida Initiative, or click here.

Aug. 29 - The wounded American officials probably used bogus identities, according to today's Washington Post. Last week many U.S. and Mexican media sources gave the victims' names as Stan Dave Boss, 62, and Jess Garner, 49. The Post said Steve D. Boss is a name which has surfaced before in CIA undercover operations, and there is no indication that such a person exists. Details here: U.S. workers shot in Mexico may be CIA employees. All things considered, it looks like Marcelo Ebrard got it right. The "Incident at Tres Marías" was a Central Intelligence job in progress which backfired. Little wonder the Mexican militares were trigger happy, and shot up that nice Land Cruiser. The U.S. agents probably won't return for an encore any time soon.

Aug. 29 - Attorneys for 12 soldiers ask a court to overturn 40 day preliminary detention period and dismiss charges against them.

Aug 28 - American CIA agents went to Mexico to supervise a weapons training course for marines, according to an El Universal columnist.

Fallout continues after attack on CIA agents, as Mexico and U.S. disagree over Tres Marías

U.S. ICE agent Jaime Zapata, murdered by Los Zetas in Feb. 2011
Feb. 26 - Rolling down Mexico Highway 57, a door lock design could have saved a life
Jan. 25 - Accused Zeta killer of U.S. ICE agent returns to D.C. federal court for hearing
Jan. 13 - Top Zeta leader arrested; linked to 50 murders, including U.S. ICE agent in 2011
Dec. 21 - Los Zetas accused killer makes his first appearance in D.C. federal court
Dec. 21 - Los Zetas killer charged in death of U.S. immigration agent is extradited by Mexico

Feb. 8 - U.S. issues new travel alert for Mexico

Nov. 7- U.S. has drug commandos throughout Central America, says New York Times

No comments:

Post a Comment