It’s no secret that the U.S.-Mexico border can be a chaotic place. Cartel battles are shockingly common in the area, and both illicit drugs and illegal aliens move across the border with alarming ease.
That confusion hit even higher levels just over a week ago after Mexican troops pointed their weapons at U.S. military personnel who were operating on American soil, highlighting just how complex and potentially deadly the region can be.
The tense situation occurred on April 13, while two U.S. Army members were conducting an operation very close to the Rio Grande, which marks the official border between the two countries.
“[F]ive to six Mexican military personnel questioned two U.S. Army soldiers who were conducting border support operations in an unmarked [Customs and Border Protection] vehicle near the southwest border in the vicinity of Clint, Texas,” the Department of Defense told CNN.
Although the American troops were on U.S. soil, confusion about where Mexican territory begins led to an international incident which could have easily spiraled out of control. The foreign soldiers pointed weapons and confronted the Americans, even temporarily disarming them.
Because the Americans were using an unmarked vehicle, Mexican soldiers armed with rifles did not immediately know that it was an official military operation.
Adding to the chaos was the fact that the U.S. troops apparently drove past a border fence which the Mexicans thought marked the boundary, while the incident actually took place just north of the official border.
“The encounter took place south of the border fence in the area but north of the Rio Grande,” CNN reported. “However, the officials said the river in that area consists of brush-filled and dried-out riverbed, making it ‘very easy’ for people to be confused as to what side of the border they are on.”
While the confrontation appeared to be an honest misunderstanding on the part of the Mexican soldiers, the U.S. Army troops would most likely have been legally justified in defending themselves while rifles were pointed at them. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed.
“One of the American soldiers spoke some Spanish and was able to explain the situation to the Mexican forces. The two sides talked the incident over and promised to de-conflict in the future,” CNN stated.
The Pentagon appeared to confirm that a misunderstanding about the location of a fence the Americans drove past triggered the confrontation.
“Though they were south of the border fence, US soldiers remained in US territory, north of the actual border,” a military statement from Northern Command said.
“An inquiry by (Customs and Border Patrol) and (the Department of Defense) revealed that the Mexican military members believed that the US Army soldiers were south of the border,” the military explained.
“[A]fter a brief discussion between the soldiers from the two nations, the Mexican military members departed the area,” Northern Commanded added.
It’s rather jaw-dropping that in 2019, with GPS, satellite communications and constant connectivity, there is still uncertainty about where one sovereign nation ends and another begins. But the reality is that the Mexican military and police are underfunded and under-equipped, leaving the ball in America’s court when it comes to securing the border.
This situation could have been far worse, but it highlights just how hectic this region is. It is certainly possible that a much more substantial border barrier, such as the wall proposed by the president, could help avoid similar mix-ups in the future.
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