Antonio Palacios/AFP/Getty Images
A state police officer runs during a confrontation with members of a gang in the neighborhood of Casa Blanca in Xalapa, State of Veracruz, Mexico, on January 13, 2011.
A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent, now identified as Jaime J. Zapata, was shot and killed yesterday while driving from Mexico City toward Monterrey. Zapata was traveling with another agent who was wounded in the shooting but is reported by the Department of Homeland Security to be in stable condition. Reports indicated that the agents were stopped at a fake roadblock, or “narco-blockade,” popularly set up by drug-traffickers and cartels to halt law enforcement and other enemies. It’s unclear who exactly is responsible for the shooting, but clues point to the notorious Zetas gang who has been ramping up activity in the state of San Luis Potosi where the attack occurred. Though cartels have killed more than 34,000 people in four years, violence against American officials has been extremely rare – two consular employees were shot and killed last March, but this is the first American law enforcement agent to be killed in Mexico since 1985. It is still unclear whether or not Zapata and his partner were deliberately targeted or if they happened to be the unfortunate victims in a case of mistaken identity.
Dudley Althaus, Mexico City bureau chief for the Houston Chronicle
Andrew Selee, Director, Mexico Institute, Latin American Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars