SASABE, SONORA - Has a unit of Mexican Army soldiers who patrol right on the Arizona border gone rogue?
This small group has attacked U.S. citizens, and even challenged U.S. federal agents within the U.S. A News 4 Tucson investigation into the dangerous world of rogue soldiers in mexico's military.
In January, soldiers from this lonely outpost of the Mexican Army drew their guns on U.S. Border Patrol agents just 50 yards into the United States. Then in March, they opened fire on Javier Jose Rodriguez, a young Tucson man visiting family in Sásabe when he was driving around the town early on a Saturday morning after drinking beers with friends. Rodriguez was shot in the arm and in the side, he spent three weeks at University of Arizona Medical Center.
The United States' reaction has been tepid, angering people who live and patrol along the Arizona border.
U.S. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) revealed details of the January encounter between soldiers from this base and the Border Patrol. In a letter to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Coburn said a lone agent encountered two Mexican soldiers 50 yards inside the U.S. The agent and the soldiers drew their weapons; the soldiers carried G-3 rifles.
"From what I understand, this has happened hundreds of times before," says Sylvia Longmire, a border security analyst whose recent book, Border Insecurity, details the challenges and failings of some Homeland Security operations along the Arizona-Sonora border. The soldiers told the agent they'd gotten lost while pursuing a drug smuggler.
"However, I believe there was some confusion as to whether that's what the Mexican Army was doing because there was no evidence found by the Border Patrol of any drug smugglers in the area," Longmire said.
Reports obtained under the federal Freedom of Information Act show that members of Mexico's Army have crossed into the U.S. at least 300 times over the past 18 years.
On a Tuesday morning, KVOA's Lupita Murillo spoke with the commander of the base. He said the last unit rotated out and that an entirely new unit took its place.
But reports show that across the entire border, soldiers have driven into Texas, landed helicopters in Texas' Rio Grande Valley and encountered Border Patrol agents within the United States.