The governments of Mexico and the United States are considering allowing armed U.S. federal air marshals on board commercial cross-border flights, according to a report by the news agency Reuters.
The report is based on documents seen by the agency and an account given by a Mexican government official, and is the sign of a shift in policy.
Since the 9/11 attacks on the U.S., Mexico has agreed to place its own security agents on certain flights, but never armed U.S. officials on board its commercial airlines.
That policy appears to be up for discussion given the contents of a document that came out of a meeting on January 18 at the Secretariat of Foreign Affairs (SRE) at which officials from both countries agreed to “study the convenience of negotiating an agreement for the deployment of federal air marshals on commercial flights.”
The SRE declined to comment on the information, as did U.S. Federal Air Marshal Service spokesman Thomas Kelly. He did say that air marshals “are armed federal saw enforcement officers with the mission of in-flight protection of U.S.-flagged aircraft, crew members and passengers.”
The sharpshooters are placed on domestic and international flights to and from the United States.
The Mexican official with knowledge of the meeting told Reuters that the hardest part of the deal would be allowing U.S. officials to carry arms, as the use of weapons by foreigners is sensitive and tightly regulated.
The information available did not make it clear if the marshals would travel only on U.S.-owned airlines or on Mexican carriers as well.
The document showed that both countries have agreed to tackle “transnational criminal organizations” through joint security efforts, which include a plan to create a bilateral investigative agency for probing international criminal groups.
Additional measures include the negotiation of a maritime drug seizures treaty, and the use of ships and radars in certain operations. Bilateral efforts to eradicate marijuana and opium poppy plantations will be strengthened.
The two countries will also “identify specific transnational criminal organizations, map their business models in both countries and design a joint operational strategy to combat them.”
Mexico has been attempting to improve cooperation with the U.S. on security, immigration and foreign policy in the hopes of persuading it to soften its stance on the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Source: CNBC (en)