Monday, February 16, 2004

Blood meridian

Trouble has been brewing along the U.S.-Mexico border the past year in Arizona, particularly with the rise of so-called "border militias," right-wing extremists who have penchant for brandishing their hardware and stirring up trouble with property owners along border areas.

Now, according to this story in the Tucson Citizen, it's reaching a point where an international incident -- a tragic one, most likely -- is on the verge of occurring:
Vigilantes targeting Mexican military:

Troops help drug, people smugglers and will be shot, says leader of armed patrol in Douglas.

The story describes how a group of "border vigilantes" is threatening to shoot members of the Mexican military because they believe the army is aiding and abetting drug and people smuggling:
The next time a Mexican soldier sets foot on the small chunk of border property owned by a Ranch Rescue member group, members plan to open fire, their leader said.

"Two in the chest and one in the head," warned Jack Foote, president of Ranch Rescue, a civilian group that patrols in search of illegal immigrants and drug smugglers. He said his group is protecting the rights of property owners.

Chances are rising for an international shootout, thanks to patrols along the Cochise County border by people other than law enforcement, said Douglas Mayor Ray Borane.

"This isn't a game," Borane said. "That's the thing that has always worried me, that these people would cause an international incident and not only hinder relations with Mexico, but that they'd make this area become a hotbed for other organizations like that."

The group that is the cause of these problems is a far-right anti-immigrant outfit called Ranch Rescue, whose activities I have detailed previously at my blog. To recap:
[Ranch Rescue], as the SPLC explains, is "a group of vigilantes dedicated to patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border region in an effort to deter and repel border crossers and trespassers. They conduct paramilitary operations and equip themselves with high-powered assault rifles, handguns, night-vision devices, two-way radios, observation posts, flares, machetes, all-terrain vehicles, and trained attack dogs."

As you can see from the SPLC legal report, one of the members of the Arizona chapter of Ranch Rescue, Casey Nethercott, was arrested earlier this year for assaulting two illegal immigrants in Texas.

Now it turns out that while Nethercott awaits trial, his property in Arizona is being converted to a heavily armed compound -- one, perhaps, designed both for "hunting" illegal aliens and for repelling federal authorities. In the meantime, the local sheriff is minimizing the potential threat.

[According to a report from the local weekly:]

The complaints allege the Ranch Rescue compound has constructed observation and guard towers from the remnants of a water tower and windmills, and workers are in the process of completing bunkers, barracks, a helicopter landing pad and indoor weapons range.

These people are Trouble with a capital T.

[Cross-posted at The American Street.]

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