Smugglers of drugs and aliens, desperate to protect their illicit cargoes, are committing more violence against U.S. Border Patrol agents involved in a new law-enforcement initiative aimed at gaining “operational control” of the Arizona-Mexico border, reports the Washington Times. Eighty-nine agents have been assaulted this year in an escalating series of attacks by the smugglers – some shot at with automatic weapons. Others were attacked with block-sized rocks or had their vehicles rammed by armed smugglers, Border Patrol Chief David V. Aguilar said yesterday.
Some suspected smugglers, known as “coyotes,” threw rocks at a Border Patrol helicopter last week in an unsuccessful attempt to disable the aircraft. Aguilar believes the smugglers are attacking because they are beginning to suffer financial losses as a result of the border enforcement program, known as the Arizona Border Control Initiative, although incidents of violence have increased this year all along the U.S.-Mexico border. Assaults against Border Patrol agents so far this year are coming at a rate of one every 2½ days. Last year, the Border Patrol registered 115 attacks on agents. In May, the government began a $10 million initiative to detect, arrest and deter all cross-border illicit trafficking; significantly reduce the ability of alien and drug smugglers to operate along the Southwest border; and put a stop to the rising rate of violent crime throughout Arizona.