U.S. risks 'another Benghazi' under Mexican rules barring U.S. agents from arming

December 3, 2012

U.S. agents on assignment in Mexico, where they are helping the local authorities go after violent drug cartels, are not allowed to carry weapons for their own protection, a situation that one lawmaker says could turn into "another Benghazi."

Because the official role of U.S. agents south of the border is limited to intelligence gathering and training their Mexican counterparts, they are barred by Mexico from carrying weapons. The danger they face was underscored last month, when 15 Mexican National Police were arrested in connection with the attempted murder of two CIA agents in August.

"I don't want another Benghazi, absolutely do I feel our agents should be armed," Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas), the incoming chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, told FoxNews.com.

U.S. agencies involved in intelligence and training operations in Mexico include the CIA, FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and others. Their presence has increased since the launching of the 2008 Merida Initiative, in which American operatives help Mexican law enforcement officials go after the violent and ruthless Mexican drug cartels, according to law enforcement sources.

President Obama gave tacit approval to Mexico's prohibition against U.S. agents carrying weapons in March 2011, following the ambush killing of ICE agent Jaime Zapata and the wounding of his partner, Victor Avilla.

"There are laws in place in Mexico that say our agents should not be armed," Obama said.

And DEA spokesman Michael Rothermund said it's for Mexico to decide if American agents can carry guns in Mexico, not the U.S.

"The Drug Enforcement Administration respects the sovereignty and rules of the Government of Mexico that says United States Law Enforcement is not allowed to carry firearms," Rothermund said.

But U.S. lawmakers are concerned that law enforcement agents are being put in harm's way without the ability to defend themselves despite working under the assumed protection of diplomatic association.

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