Ted Poe says Mexican military flights over Texas are “very disturbing” - (Read Full Article)
With a Mexican navy helicopter whirring low over a rural community on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande, an American military veteran armed with marksmanship skills and a hefty rifle hankered from the ground to shoot it down.
“Don’t do it,” Zapata County Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez Jr. recalled warning the man on that Sunday afternoon last year.
The flight is one of as many as 10 in the past 17 months in which South Texans – in broad daylight – have spotted Mexican helicopters hovering overhead. The aircraft was so close to the ground military personnel could be seen inside, Gonzalez said.
While an array of U.S. federal and state agencies declined to comment, a Mexican government official confirmed that Mexican military helicopters have permission to use Texas as a staging ground for missions into Mexico to fight drug traffickers.
“Yes, I can tell you they exist, they are going on,” said the official, who has knowledge of the flights. “Certainly, for the last couple of years,” he said, noting that the U.S. government also has permission to fly unmanned surveillance planes in Mexico.
Most sightings have been in the vicinity of Falcon Lake, a region where authorities in Mexico are fighting the Zetas cartel.
In some instances, American civilians snapped photos of the flights and shared them with police. In the most recent incident last month, a Mexican military helicopter landed at Laredo’s airport.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection offered minimal details, saying the pilot was lost.
U.S. Rep Ted Poe, whose district stretches from Spring to Beaumont, asked for an explanation for at least one flight which occurred over Starr County, not far from Falcon Lake.
“My office contacted Homeland Security and they confirmed that there was an unauthorized flight over Falcon Heights that day, but they said it was impossible to confirm whether or not it was actually a Mexican military helicopter or the drug cartels flying in a helicopter painted to look like a Mexican military helicopter,” he said, “The Mexican military denies that they had any military helicopters flying the area that day.”
Neither scenario is acceptable, he said.
“It is very disturbing that here are incursions into American air space by any aircraft originating from foreign countries and no one seems to be held accountable.”.