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Mexico Army inspecting at local bridges

BY ROBERT GARCIA
Laredo Morning Times city editor

April 5, 2002

Much like their American counterparts, Nuevo Laredo Customs inspectors are being assisted by Mexican Army soldiers, checking traffic moving into the U.S.

The big difference between the two armies is that Mexican soldiers are armed.

The Mexican soldiers are looking for drugs or anything that is restricted from leaving Mexico.

Now, both sides are looking at an international incident after Mexican soldiers working at the McAllen Hidalgo-Reynosa International Bridge wounded an 18-year-old U.S. resident who was driving across the border.

U.S. Customs inspectors at Laredo remained in "heightened alert," but no extra measures were taken as Hidalgo County officials began investigating the shooting," said U.S. Customs Information Officer Rick Pauza.

"We are already at level one alert, at the highest state of alert, as it is," he said.

Pauza said the shooting incident at Hidalgo County was handled with precautions while looking out for the victim.

"We allowed the emergency vehicle to approach the area and started the traffic back up. We searched a 1996 Thunderbird and found no contraband. Because there were no arrests, we don't have any names," Pauza said.

Pauza was asked if Mexico had advised U.S. Customs in advance that they would be setting up military inspections at each international bridge.

"Mexico is a sovereign country, and we are not going to comment on what they do in their own country," he answered.

As far as the shooting in Hidalgo County, Pauza said he could only comment on what happened on the U.S. side when asked if the Mexican soldiers had crossed into the U.S. side of the bridge during the shooting.

As far as seeing something positive by having additional security, "we certainly try to work in cooperation with other law enforcement authorities, the extent that law enforcement work together is a good thing," he added.

Asked if the shooting at the international bridge would prompt U.S. Customs to discuss the situation with Mexico, Pauza said, "no shooting took place on the U.S. side."

(City editor Robert Garcia can be reached at 728-2585 or by e-mail at robert@lmtonline.com.)