THE JEENYUS CORNER
US border patrol agents have killed a Mexican teenager for throwing rocks, prompting strong protests by Mexican officials and human rights groups, amid a sharp rise in fatal shootings by American guards along the US-Mexico border.
US authorities admitted that 16-year-old Antonio Elena Rodriguez was shot dead Wednesday night by American border guards after they ordered a group of youths in the Mexican border city of Nogales to stop throwing rocks, the Los Angeles Times reported Saturday.
Local Mexican officials in the state of Sonora, across from the US state of Arizona, add that Rodriguez died from “several bullet wounds.” The US considers use of bullets in response to rock throwing as a legitimate defense by its border patrol agents, arguing that rocks can inflict serious injuries on its officers.
“The agents came under attack by rock throwers and ordered them to stop,” US authorities are quoted as saying in the report. “They didn’t cease and agents discharged their weapons,” said Victor Brabble, a spokesman for US Customs and Border Protection.
The teenager, a Nogales resident, fell face-down on a sidewalk across the street from the border fence.
The shooting, however, was described as “discriminatory” by Alberto Jose Rodriguez, a spokesman for the state human rights commission in Sonora. “There were 14 shots. They treated him like an animal, completely violating his human rights.”
The report further states that critics have become increasingly vocal against the frequency of such harsh measures by US guards as well as the lack of transparency demonstrated by American authorities during follow-up investigations.
Wednesday’s shooting by US border guards was the third fatal incident since September; at least 15 other Mexican civilians have been shot dead by American patrols since 2010.
“The disproportionate use of lethal force in the exercise of immigration control functions is unacceptable under any circumstances,” the Mexican Ministry of Exterior Relations said in a statement, as quoted in the report. “These kinds of acts, especially because they are recurring, have been rejected by Mexican society and all of the country’s political powers.”
The US daily also noted that American agents involved in such shootings are rarely prosecuted. “Investigations typically conclude that they acted in self-defense.”
Meanwhile, US Customs and Border Protection claimed in a statement that the agency’s “law enforcement personnel are trained to use deadly force in circumstances that pose a threat to their lives, the lives of their fellow law enforcement partners and innocent third parties.”
The circumstances around some of the recent shootings have raised fears among critics who say “a culture of impunity has taken hold among US border agencies.” They insist that some victims of shootings by American patrols had been shot in the back. Some were teenagers throwing rocks from long distances, which did not seem to pose any immediate threat to the agents.
In September, according to the report, Guillermo Arevalo Pedroza was killed on the banks of the Rio Grande in Nuevo Laredo after agents on an airboat allegedly came under a rock attack. Mexican officials say Pedroza was picnicking with his family.
“This father was not trying to cross the border; he was trying to pass a good day with his kids,” Mexican President Felipe Calderon told the Wall Street Journal in an interview last month.
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