This story in the Los Angeles Times today about escalating clashes between the U.S. Border Patrol and Tijuana’s most notorious neighborhoods for human smugglers is pretty crazy.

The story cites “witnesses, Mexican authorities and human rights groups” as making the accusation that Border Patrol agents have fired tear gas and pepper spray into densely populated Mexican neighborhoods.

Here’s a snippet from the lede of the story:

The more aggressive approach reflects the tense climate in this city’s most notorious smuggling neighborhood, Colonia Libertad, where U.S. agents say they have had to counter human traffickers’ increasingly aggressive tactics by ramping up their own use of force.

Agents have used pepper spray in the past, but usually aimed directly at the smugglers. The new tactics, which saturate large areas, have forced dozens of temporary evacuations and sent some residents to hospitals, according to witnesses.

Border Patrol officials say tear gas and pepper spray rarely cause serious injury or damage. They say that they use them against assailants trying to divert attention from border crossers by pelting agents, and that residents are not targeted.

The story goes on to say that the Border Patrol has seen a five-fold increase in the number of assaults on its agents since last year.

And the reporter includes several interviews with residents of Colina Libertad, which is just east of the San Ysidro port of entry.

The story is well worth reading in full, but here’s one last nugget I can’t resist reproducing:

Agents say smugglers — by wearing cardboard shields or heavy jackets to deflect the projectiles — long ago adapted to the original tactic of shooting pepper balls directly at them. The agents say the pepper balls, which explode on impact, don’t seem to affect some of the hardened smugglers.

Wow. Hardened is right.


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