Sunday, August 26, 2012
Mexican Standoff Over August 24 Shooting Incident
Mexican authorities are still being tight-lipped about Friday's shooting incident, in which two U.S. Embassy employees and a Mexican Navy officer were wounded by gunfire while driving to a naval facility south of Mexico City. The first report from the Associated Press called the incident "a confused running gunbattle," and that remains the case nearly three days later. See Diplopundit's write-up (here) for details of what little is known.
The first official Mexican press release came from the Naval Ministry, and it placed blame on the federal police for misidentifying the embassy vehicle. A Mexican Attorney General's Office spokesman confirmed Saturday that all the shots were fired by federal police units, and he added that Mexico's top police official, Public Security Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna, personally went to the site of the shooting, indicating how seriously he is taking the incident. I've seen unconfirmed reports that twelve federal policemen were relieved of duty pending investigation, however, federal police spokesman Ramon Salinas told CNN yesterday that he would have no further comment and that in the future all information must come from the office of Mexican President Felipe Calderon. President Calderon's office did not respond to a request from CNN.
The U.S. Embassy in Mexico City waited about twelve hours before sending out its first, and so far only, press release.
So, what exactly happened? Did narcos attempt to stop the embassy vehicle, thereby provoking a chase by federal police? If so, it seems they got away clean, leaving no trace behind. Or did federal police mistakenly assume the embassy vehicle was operated by narcos using fake diplomatic plates - which would be an entirely plausible scenario - and fire on it when it evaded their ambush? Did the embassy employees mistake a cluster of federal police vehicles for a narco ambush and flee, leading to mutual confusion? Were the federal police posing as narcos, in some kind of a ruse? Were the federal police themselves narcos?
That last question is the big one, and such suspicion is warranted. Just last week Mexico announced that it replaced all 348 federal police officers assigned to security details at the Mexico City International Airport as a result of the June 25 incident in which three officers were shot to death by fellow officers who were involved in trafficking drugs through the airport.
Mexican press reports say the two embassy employees were treated at a hospital in Cuernavaca for only two hours before they were taken elsewhere. From that, I conclude that somebody thought it prudent to get them into U.S. control as soon as their conditions were stable enough for them to travel.
Since there are two witnesses to the incident who are not under the control of the Mexican government, I assume we will eventually get a satisfactory explanation of what happened.
FYI, Google Earth has good overhead and Street View imagery of the location of the incident. Search for "El Capulin, Morelos, Mexico" and look for the intersection of two east-west highways, Mexico 95D and the Cuernavaca-Ciudad De Mexico. The shooting reportedly took place on a side road about 100 meters north of the large square paved space (which is a Pemex gas station) in between the two highways.
The Mexican news media report that I've embedded above has a depiction of the incident starting at about the 1 minute mark, and well as more still photos and video of the Mexican response to the crime scene than I've found anywhere else.