Monday, May 5, 2014

México: Government Cares Little About "Mistakes," Marine Vet Jailed for Possessing Firearms

According to The Associated Press, California Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA), in a letter to the US Department of State, appealed to US Secretary of State John Kerry to secure the release of a US Marine Afghanistan war veteran Andrew Tahmooressi, 25, who has been jailed at the La Mesa Penitentiary in Tijuana for having three firearms in his truck when he inadvertently entered México.

According to the Marine veteran, when he "missed" the last US exit on April 1, he was forced by circumstances to cross the border into México.
 
Road closures due to checkpoints and construction added to the confusion, resulting in no opportunity for drivers such as Mr. Tahmooressi  to return to the US, Hunter added.

The 25-year-old was arrested by Mexican federal authorities on weapons charges and is being held at the La Mesa Penitentiary in Tijuana. 

COMMENT:  The truly sad part is in all of this is that despite the significant foreign assistance the US provides to México, US diplomats have failed to adequately negotiate reasonable expectations and treatment of US citizens who get lost and end up in México with firearms.

To begin with, the US Department of State might do a better job of helping US citizens by providing them a printable road map that precludes their getting lost along the border.

For several years now I have emphasized until I'm virtually blue in the face that all US citizens should go to http://www.travel.state.gov and access all warnings relative to traveling in México.

Without even going to the US Department of State website, I simply typed in "taking guns into México," which produced the two search results found below: 

http://www.mexonline.com/mexguns

http://tijuana.usconsulate.gov/tijuana/warning

It is regrettable that for a country that prides itself in being the most powerful  country on Earth, the US State Department offers NO options to US citizens to telephone a US Embassy or consulate toll-free.

Additionally, the  Marine veteran could also have gone to:

http://www.usembassy.gov, that could have provided him the phone number of the Mexican Consulate General in Tijuana, which is:

(664) 977-2000

Had the above two links been accessible to Tahmooressi, he easily could have been spared time in a Mexican prison, even if he had gone to a public library in San Diego to access these warnings.

US citizens continue to find themselves at cross purposes with Mexican law enforcement on something as avoidable as being charged for taking firearms illegally into México.

I would personally like the US Department of State to disclose the number of US citizens who access http://www.travel.state.gov travel warnings in México annually as it seems clear that very few Americans are "actually getting the word."

Perhaps the real issue is that few young Americans have daily access to the Internet, which might well explain why so many US tourists don't realize that taking guns into México will provide you an all-expense paid trip to see the interior of a Mexican prison.

 Another way that the US Department of State can help US travelers avoid accidentally going into México is to provide a printable roadway map on the Consulate General Tijuana's website for those who might inadvertently travel into México.

US State Department officials said they were aware of an arrest of a US citizen in México, but they do not comment on arrests of private individuals without the person’s permission.

Assuredly, the above statement voiced by the Department is simply a "canned" bureaucratic response of a true "pencil pusher."

Hunter wrote that Tahmooressi was recently treated at the prison infirmary for a knife wound to his neck, Hunter said.

Andrew's mother, Jill Tahmooressi, said her son took one wrong turn in the dark and found himself in México. She visited him April 14, and he told her he initially was threatened by other detainees, though he did not explain the neck wound. 

The Marine vet told his Mom that he had been placed in solitary confinement briefly. He called her Sunday (May 4) and told her had been chained to a cot.

Jill Tahmooressi said her son moved to San Diego to get treatment for his recently diagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), after returning from his second tour to Afghanistan in 2012. He finished active duty in 2012 and is now in the Marine Corps Reserve.

There have been similar cases in the past. In 2008, an active-duty Army soldier was jailed in Ciudad Juarez, across from El Paso, TX, for driving into México with guns, knives and ammunition.

Last year another Marine vet was traveling with friends to Costa Rica when he was jailed for having firearms in his truck.

Former US Army Specialist Richard R. Medina Torres also said he was lost and missed the last US exit. He spent a month in jail before being released.