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No country for ICE men

27 February 2011

Per the comment from “gtoden”, I double-checked a few sources.  My edits are in green Tahoma typeface.  Not that it significantly changes my thinking about foreign agents and their role in escalating this situation, nor that this site has any claims to be the final word on anything, but I don’t like to use dubious information when I can avoid doing so.

Since U.S. officials are not supposed to travel without an official escort Mexico per previous State Department warnings in the area where Jaime Zapata was murdered last week, I have more than a few questions about the attack on ICE agents Jaime Zapata and Victor Avila last week.

According to the BBC, Zapata was “assigned to the agency’s human smuggling and trafficking unit, and was recently on attachment to the ICE office within the US embassy in Mexico City.”  That he was in San Luis Potosí in an unmarked black SUV (the de rigueur motorized conveyance of the higher criminal classes in Mexico), and was allegedly armed, which means he was no diplomat, but was either impersonating a gangster, or was more than likely to be taken for one.

That Zapata was working in a clandestine fashion for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) — which doesn’t have any jurisdiction outside the United States — means that even if the Mexican government was aware of his activities, he was just a foreign spy. And spies dealing with criminals tend to get themselves killed, or, like fellow secret agent, Victor Avila, seriously wounded.

At Zapata’s funeral last week  ICE Director John Morton said:

Together, the United States and Mexico will bring the long, hard arm of the law down on Jaime and Victor [Avila]’s shooters,” Morton said. “Together we will look after our people. Together we will continue to see that Jaime and Victor’s work is done and that the rule of law triumphs over lawlessness and empty violence.

Suggesting that a unit of U.S. Homeland Security (which is not a Mexican police unit by any means) assumes it has the right to pursue criminals in Mexico, for crimes committed in Mexico… which is what used to be called extra-territoriality, the hallmark of imperial domination.   Under this reasoning, I would expect CISEN (the Mexican intelligence service) and PFP (the Federal Police) agents to operate in Arizona and Texas against gun runners, and in New York against money launderers.

And, if one of those CISEN or PFP agents are killed, will the United States arrest …. oh, somebody?  Preferably somebody more plausible than a gangster called  “Tweety-bird,” which — if the U.S. newspapers bothered translating their reports on Julian “El Piolín” Zapata Espinoza’s arrest — sounds ridiculous, as does the miraculously quick resolution of the crime.  As the Brownsville Herald reports:

In regard to the arrest and charges brought before El Piolín, both American and Mexican officials close to the Brownsville Herald question the true role of El Piolín in the murder.

A Mexican law enforcement official stated that Zapata Espinoza is not a top lieutenant but merely the leader of a strike group that acts under orders of the true plaza boss in the state of San Luis Potosí with influence in the states of Tamaulipas, Coahuila, Yucatán and Quintana Roo, Jesus Enrique “El Mamito” Rejón Aguilar one of the ranking members of the Zetas. Rejón Aguilar is named in a U.S. federal indictment with various counts of drug smuggling and has various arrest warrants in Mexico.

I’m trying not to be snarky about this, and the United States government police agencies have every right to kick ass and take names in their own country in retaliation for this — even if it does raise the question of why if the United States already had criminal information based on Mexican sources, they didn’t act on them until they had a sacrificial victim — Agent Zapata I mean, Tweety-Bird undoubtedly just offered up as a scapegoat.

If there is consternation over U.S. secret policemen getting killed in Mexico, a modest suggestion from John Ackerman:

Although drug consumption is clearly damaging, simply transporting illegal substances does not, in itself, create violence, economic crisis or human suffering. And even the harm of drug consumption pales in comparison to the effects of kidnappings, beheadings and human trafficking, especially when the consumption involves marijuana, sales of which make up two thirds of the profits of the Mexican cartels.

Nevertheless, due to pressure from the US government, the Mexican authorities have been forced to concentrate their scarce law enforcement resources on pursuing the least harmful crimes. This strategy has had the obvious consequence of pushing the criminals towards more dangerous and violent activities. The result: a stratospheric increase in violence, with over 35,000 assassinations in the past four years, 15,000 during 2010 alone. The problem in Mexico is, therefore, not a lack of firepower or support for the “war on drugs”, but the very strategy of “war” itself.

The real priority should be on punishing violent crimes, not the transportation of drugs. By turning the typical strategy on its head, Mexico would slowly start to separate the violent, dangerous criminals from those drug traffickers who are in the business principally for the money. Although this might not bring down the prices of illegal drugs on the streets of US cities, it would help end the violence, which today is paramount and may at some point spill over to the US.

This proposal should not be confused with either legalisation or negotiation approaches. Increased liberalisation of marijuana consumption would reduce the urgency of controlling transportation routes, but this strategy is by no means dependent on the legalisation of drug use…

…Such a change in strategy would immediately receive vigorous applause from the Mexican people. A growing number of Mexicans have come to the conclusion that peace and prosperity are more important than stopping the flow of drugs towards eager consumers in the United States. A broad new citizen movement has even emerged, rallying around the cry of: “No more blood!” Movement leaders agree that the drug cartels need to be controlled – but in a way that does not destroy the very fabric of society. It makes no sense to win the war, if it leaves the country in shambles.

Simple… if the United States wants to criminalize narcotics use, or undocumented entry, do so… but leave us out of it… for your sake and ours… yanquí go home!

6 Comments leave one →
  1. kwallek permalink
    27 February 2011 8:48 am

    When I first read the report on Zapata being bushwacked I figured he was dancing with the devil, after reading more on this matter, I’d bet money on it.

  2. Dennis permalink
    27 February 2011 2:01 pm

    you should really check your facts before writing about stories you do not have first hand knowledge of. Our ICE agents work in every country not just in Mexico

    • 27 February 2011 3:34 pm

      No one doubts that ICE does work in other countries… but I question whether it has the right to do so clandestinely. And whether “our” secret police should expect to also be afforded the special protections given to diplomatic personnel. There is a place for spies, and secret policemen, in this world, of course, but it is a high risk occupation, and foreign governments cannot expect their clandestine agents to be immune from the risks run by clandestine agents in the host country… even if the host country is aware of, and approves of, the foreign agent’s presence.

  3. Ken permalink
    27 February 2011 2:18 pm


    Not all Americans are as arrogant or stupid as Dennis!!!! Keep us the good
    work, Rich. Pretty soon America will be too broke to become involved
    in another country’s affairs.


  4. El Chismoso permalink
    28 February 2011 12:04 am

    Here is what works in mexico.


    Sócrates Rizzo Garcia, former Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) Governor of Nuevo Leon (from 1991 to 1996) during the Salinas and Zedillo PRI presidential administrations.

    In a conference with students held on Wednesday, February 23, at the Law School of the Autonomous University of Coauhuila in Saltillo, Socrates Rizzo delivered a bombshell that has rocked Mexico as the campaign for the 2012 presidential election approaches.

  5. gtodon permalink
    28 February 2011 12:41 pm

    I have three questions about your post, and one comment. Although I’ve read many articles about the killing of Jaime Zapata and its aftermath, in both the Mexican and the foreign press, I was not previously aware of several items you present as fact.

    1. “U.S. officials are not allowed to travel without an official escort in the area of Mexico where Jaime Zapata was murdered.” No other news source I’ve seen alleges that Zapata and Avila were breaking the law. Is it US law or Mexican that prohibits their traveling without an escort? And what would such an official escort consist of?

    2. “an unmarked black SUV.” Huh? Most articles say it bore US diplomatic license plates.

    3. “he . . . was armed.” This is the first mention I’ve seen that Zapata was armed. Do you have a source?

    Finally, my comment. You write, “I’m trying not to be snarky about this.” My comment is that you failed.

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