It’s no secret that the U.S.-Mexico border can be a hectic and violent place. Cartel battles are shockingly common in the area, and both illicit drugs and illegal aliens move across the border with alarming ease.
After Mexican troops pointed their weapons at U.S. military personnel who were operating on American soil, that disorientation became even worse. Demonstrating 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. The Rio Grande marks the official border between the two countries and is one of the principal rivers in the southwest United States and northern Mexico.
“Five 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 province 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, these Mexican soldiers were unaware of the fact 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 believed marked the boundary. The incident later occurred just north of the actual 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.”
The confrontation appeared to be an honest misunderstanding. However, the U.S. Army troops would almost certainly have been legally justified in reacting and defending themselves if they felt it was necessary. Thankfully, cooler heads prevailed and the situation was deescalated.
“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.
“After a brief discussion between the soldiers from the two nations, the Mexican military members departed the area,” Northern Commanded added.
It’s rather shocking that in 2019, with GPS, satellite communications and constant connectivity, there is still concern and 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 and how easily simple misunderstandings can escalate into violence, dismay and even guerrilla warfare if left unchecked.