Mexican President Felipe Calderon urged the United States Thursday to launch a “thorough, impartial” probe into the deaths of two Mexican nationals, including a 14-year-old boy, at the hands of US border police.
“I demand the United States government conduct a thorough, impartial… investigation, concluding with an establishment of the facts and punishment of the culprits,” said Calderon, whose call has been backed by Mexican lawmakers and agencies in recent days.
Monday’s killing of the teen Sergio Hernandez, after a rock-throwing incident near a crossing at Ciudad Juarez, left Mexico seething, with authorities demanding an explanation from Washington.
The incident followed the death last week of Anastasio Hernandez Rojas at the US-Mexican border after being beaten and getting shocked by a taser by border police at the southwest crossing between Tijuana and the US city of San Diego.
US President Barack Obama has been briefed on the teen’s death, National Security Council spokesman Mike Hammer said Thursday, adding that the US government “deeply regret(s)” the action.
“The US Government takes such incidents very seriously, and federal authorities have begun a thorough investigation of the circumstances that led to his death,” said Hammer in a statement.
Washington has received a formal diplomatic note from the Mexican government expressing concern over the incident, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said.
“We, like Mexico, absolutely regret, you know, the loss of life,” he told a news conference in Washington, saying its southern neighbor had asked for a “transparent investigation” and that that was “exactly what we plan to do.”
Meanwhile, Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder also weighed into the incident, insisting the teen’s death would not affect bilateral relations between the neighboring countries.
“The incident we’re talking about is certainly a regrettable one, one we’re looking into, but I think the relationship that exists between law enforcement in Mexico and (the) US is based on a series of solid accomplishments, the sharing of intelligence and information,” Holder told reporters.
The death is being probed by the Federal Bureau of Investigations, Holder noted.
He also said a recording of the incident from a witness’s cellphone camera, aired by US television news, “is something obviously (that) will be a part of what the investigator will be looking at; a critical piece.”
The teen’s death has left Mexican politicians and residents seething, with the foreign ministry releasing figures that show 17 nationals have been killed or injured this year in incidents involving use of force by US authorities, up from five for all of 2008 and 12 in 2009.
Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa said earlier this week Mexico was “insisting on an exhaustive investigation” into the killing.
“There are specific protocols regarding violence on the border,” Espinosa said in a statement. “We are asking for a review of these protocols that allow us to have a clear set of guidelines” for US and Mexican authorities, she said.
Espinosa also stressed that officers must act under the principle of “proportionate use of force, depending on the aggression in question.”
US authorities have acknowledged the shooting by a US Border Patrol agent as the officer responded to “a group of suspected illegal immigrants from Mexico.” The border agent has been put on administrative leave.
The teen had been on a “most wanted” list of juvenile smugglers that was compiled by US authorities, Fox News reported Wednesday, citing sources close to the investigation.
Ciudad Juarez, with a population of 1.3 million, is Mexico’s most violent city. It is a nexus of the Mexican drug trade and, sitting just across the border from El Paso, Texas, serves as a choke point for drugs on their way north into the United States.
An estimated 10.8 million illegal immigrants live in the United States. Roughly half a million people attempt to cross the 3,200-kilometer (2,000-mile) border from Mexico into the United States each year, according to official figures.