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Arming U.S. agents in Mexico stalling trade agreement
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Arming U.S. agents in Mexico stalling trade agreement

  • New Federal Inspection Station encompassing Mexican and US Customs at Laredo International Airport, Tuesday, March 11, 2014.
    Jennifer Whitney/Texas TribuneNew Federal Inspection Station encompassing Mexican and US Customs at Laredo International Airport, Tuesday, March 11, 2014.

LAREDO — Call it one of the most heralded binational agreements between the United States and Mexico you have probably never heard of.

For more than a year, a Mexican customs inspection station has been open at the Laredo International Airport, the only airport in the U.S. where Mexican agents preclear cargo headed south of the border.

Though officials in Laredo have praised the station as a signal of cooperation between the two countries the celebration since the initial opening at the airport has been muted, mostly because of delays in setting up a similar station across the border in Mexico. Mexican officials would like to have the same type of customs operation, but the issue of American agents carrying weapons is stalling progress.

The issue of American law enforcement officers carrying weapons in Mexico has long been a sensitive one between the two countries. It came to a fever pitch after the 2011 slaying of Jaime J. Zapata, a Brownsville native who worked in Mexico as a special agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Zapata was fatally wounded in a streetcar ambush on a Central Mexican highway. His colleague, Victor Avila, of El Paso, was wounded in the attack. They were unarmed, in compliance with Mexican law.

For Mexico, the question is one of sovereignty. Despite the years of bloodshed because  of drug-related violence, Mexico is one of the countries in which it is most difficult to legally obtain a gun.

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