HomeNewsAnalysisTwo US Agents Attacked: One Dead, Many Questions
ANALYSIS

Two US Agents Attacked: One Dead, Many Questions

MEXICO / 16 FEB 2011 BY INSIGHT CRIME EN

InSight has learned that the unidentified gunmen, responsible for killing one and wounding another U.S. agent in northern Mexico on Tuesday, may not have known the identities of their victims. According to sources consulted by InSight, the agents were detained while traveling on Highway 57, which connects San Luis Potosi to Mexico City. It is unclear whether the pair were stopped at a roadblock or forced off the road. The agents then rolled down the car window, reinforcing the theory that the assailants may have been wearing military garb, perhaps confusing the agents or causing them to believe this was a military roadblock. A perpetrator then stuck an AK-47 in the window, shooting one agent in the leg and another in the chest.

The two agents worked for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City. The agent shot in the chest, identified as Jaime Zapata, died from his injuries. The second agent, who remains unidentified, is hospitalized and in stable condition.

The shooting raises the question of whether the killings represent random acts of violence or a more sophisticated targeting of U.S personnel. This latest attack comes just under a year after the killing of Lesley Enriquez, who worked at the U.S Consulate in Juarez, and her husband. Both were shot and killed in their car in Juarez in March 2010. The murders remain unsolved.

In 2008, members of the Gulf Cartel attacked the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey, firing shots and launching a defective grenade at the building. But the most famous attack involving Mexican gunmen against U.S. personnel was the murder of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent Enrique 'Kiki' Camarena. The subsequent crackdown, aided substantially by a bulked-up DEA investigative unit, led to the eventual dismantling of the Guadalajara Cartel.

The main question raised by this most recent attack on U.S. personnel is whether this indicates powerful drug cartels have moved beyond random acts of violence and have adopted a strategy of targeting American agents. InSight however is not yet prepared to draw such conclusions. Many basic facts still remain unclear but so far it appears this was an attack by chance, committed by assailants who were most likely wearing military uniform, possibly prompting the agents to lower their car window. Therefore it is unlikely that this action will prompt similar attention from U.S. authorities, as occurred with the targeted killing of Camarena in 1985.

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