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US Envoy Demands Explanation of Mexican Border Incident

The U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, Tony Garza, has sent a formal diplomatic note to the government of Mexico regarding an incident on the border with Texas on January 23 in which men who appeared to be Mexican soldiers crossed over the border. Texas lawmen on the scene say the soldiers were there to guard an illicit drug shipment.

In a diplomatic note issued late Wednesday by the U.S. embassy in Mexico City, Ambassador Garza, requests a full investigation of the incident. The Ambassador also read his statement in Spanish for use by the news media in Mexico.

He said that men wearing military uniforms, carrying military weapons and driving in military-style vehicles apparently intervened to prevent U.S. authorities from seizing a drug shipment.

Garza said that he sent the diplomatic note because "This type of incident is indicative of the danger faced by our law enforcement officers daily along the border."

He also laments the increase in drug-related violence in Mexican cities on the border and notes that there have been numerous cross-border attacks on U.S. Border Patrol agents.

The U.S. Ambassador also protested what he refered to as rhetoric in Mexico that characterizes U.S. efforts to control its border as racist. He said that Mexican efforts to oppose measures under consideration in the U.S. Congress further polarize the debate on immigration and border security. He added that the Mexican actions, "only serve to polarize the debate on immigration and undermine the efforts of those who seek viable solutions to illegal immigration and border security."

The recent approval by the U.S. House of Representatives of a bill that would fund the construction of a reinforced fence along some sections of the border drew strong criticism in Mexico. Mexican President Vicente Fox called the idea "shameful" and Mexican diplomats sought help in condemning the proposal from other Latin American nations and the European Union. Supporters of the enhanced border security proposals cite the need to stop terrorists at the border as well as the ongoing problems of illegal immigration and drug trafficking. The measure would need approval by the U.S. Senate and President Bush before taking effect.

On Thursday, the Mexican government dropped a plan to distribute maps to its citizens seeking to cross illegally over the border into the United States. The maps showed the safest routes through the Sonoran desert in southern Arizona, where hundreds of illegal crossers have died in recent years from dehydration and exposure. The maps were produced by a humanitarian group in the United States that has also placed water stations in the desert to aid immigrants in distress. Groups favoring strict enforcement of U.S. immigration laws have criticized such efforts for what they describe as encouraging illegal entry.