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Firefight erupts across US-Mexico border

The Americas Post - US Border Patrol agents are "trained to deal with that situation"

A pitched gun battle was fought across the Rio Grande river this week between U.S. Border Patrol agents and Mexican drug traffickers, authorities announced on Friday.

The U.S. Border Patrol said gunfire broke out on Wednesday when agents confronted a band of smugglers loading marijuana bales into two vehicles on the banks of the Rio Grande near Roma, Texas,  about 250 miles south of San Antonio.  It was only the latest in a series of similar cross-border shootings in recent months.

Agents reported held their fire until smugglers attempted to run them over while fleeing in a vehicle.  Armed accomplices on the Mexican side of the river then shot at the agents, who returned fire into Mexico, the Border Patrol said in a statement.

“Our agents had a posed threat,” Rosalinda Huey, a spokeswoman with the Border Patrol’s Rio Grande sector said. “They’re trained to deal with that situation.”

No agents were injured by the gunfire and it was not clear whether any of the smugglers in Mexico were hit, she stated.

The agents captured nearly two tons of marijuana, with an estimated street value of over $3 million.  The incident remains under investigation; no arrests were made.

Drug traffickers often utilize rafts and ropes to haul marijuana across the Rio Grande to Texas from Mexico’s northern Tamaulipas state, frequently under the protection of gunmen.

Huey claimed that traffickers opening fire on agents was “just another tactic”, and a sign that border patrol efforts are working.

“Obviously, they’ve gotten more desperate,” she said. “They’re going to use more tactics to avoid apprehension or seizure of their narcotics.”

That particular stretch of the Rio Grande, which Mexicans call the Rio Bravo, had one other shooting incident involving Border Patrol agents since October 2011, she said.  No injuries were reported in that episode, either.

U.S. politicians are growing more concerned about “spill over” violence from Mexico, where some 50,000 people have been killed since President Felipe Calderon launched an army-backed offensive against powerful drug cartels in late 2006.

A review of recent cross-border shootings in Texas include a firefight between U.S. law enforcement officials and suspected drug runners last year near the south Texas town of Abram, according to news reports. In another incident, a West Texas road crew east of El Paso also came under fire from Mexico.  Then in September 2010, U.S. citizen David Hartley was fatally shot while riding a personal watercraft on Falcon Lake, which straddles the Texas-Mexico border.