The U.S. government announced today it is offering a reward of up to $5 million for information that leads to the arrest and possible conviction of the assailants who murdered a U.S. federal agent in Mexico last month.
On Feb. 15, special agent Jaime Zapata, with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and a South Texas native, was murdered in the Mexican state of San Luis Potosí during a roadside ambush believed to have been orchestrated by the Zetas criminal gang. Special agent Victor Avila was also wounded in the attack and is currently recovering.
The Mexican government has also offered 10 million pesos as part of the reward, according to a statement released by the U.S. Department of State. The proposed compensation comes despite the Mexican government’s assertion earlier this month it was making progress in the investigation. The Brownsville Herald reported this month that Mexican federal police detained Mario Jimenez Perez, a Zetas leader known by as "El Mayito," in connection with the assault. At least 16 others were arrested in the round up.
The attacks further strained tensions between the two governments and resurrected debate over whether U.S. agents working in Mexico should be allowed to arm themselves. The Mexican government forbids the practice, which has drawn the ire of several U.S. lawmakers.
The Mexican government, for its part, argues that the U.S. does a poor job of stopping gun smuggling into Mexico. Those guns, they say, are responsible for much of the violence and bloodshed that has ravaged the country. Mexico's argument was bolstered when the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives announced after Zapata’s murder that the weapon used in the attack against him was traced back to Texas. Brothers Ranferi and Otilio Osorio were arrested in Lancaster after the shooting for illegally purchasing weapons with the intent to smuggle them into Mexico. The ATF alleged that Otilio Osorio purchased the weapon in October 2010, in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex.
Indictments against the Osorio brothers were officially returned last week. The brothers and a third defendant, Kelvin Leon Morrison, are charged with six counts relating to their alleged involvement in the weapons-smuggling operation.