Opinion

Marooned in Mexico

Photo of Chet Nagle
Chet Nagle
Former CIA Agent
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      Chet Nagle

      Naval Academy graduate and Cold War carrier pilot, Chet Nagle flew in the Cuban Missile Crisis. After a stint as a navy research officer, he joined International Security Affairs as a Pentagon civilian -- then came defense and intelligence work, life abroad for 12 years as an agent for the CIA, and extensive time in Iran, Oman, and many other countries. Along the way, he graduated from the Georgetown University Law School and was the founding publisher of a geo-political magazine, The Journal of Defense & Diplomacy, read in over 20 countries and with a circulation of 26,000. At the end of his work in the Middle East, he was awarded the Order of Oman in that allied nation’s victory over communist Yemen; now, he writes and consults. He and his wife Dorothy live in Virginia.

There are two reasons this happens. First, the corrupt Mexican judicial system permits a prosecutor to arrest anyone, and then to require the prisoner to prove he is not guilty. There is no “presumed innocent until proven guilty.” There is no trial by jury. In fact, there is no trial at all. A judge makes decisions behind closed doors, when and if he is ready. Meanwhile, fixers promise to “make it go away” if money is paid. Being a Mexican prosecutor must be a lucrative profession.

The second reason Americans are tortured and die in Mexican jails is the absolute silence of the White House, State Department, and Congress. The exception is Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), who promised to help Marine Jon Hammar (one hopes she will also remember her fellow Floridians Steeve Knight and Walter Stephens). There are no outraged statesmen in the Obama administration.

Since the White House and State Department refuse to protect Americans abroad, what is to be done? Let’s talk money. Instead of crafting aid programs for the country with the world’s 14th-largest GDP, we should be putting economic pressure on Mexico to release innocent Americans from its slammers.

The most sensitive pressure point is remittances by immigrant workers. In 2009, Mexican workers in the U.S. sent home $21.2 billion (a 2010 Pew study showed 57% of those immigrant workers are illegal aliens). The U.S. Post Office wire service to Mexico, Dinero Seguro, allows transfers of up to $2,000 per day. The sender must be a documented worker. So, to put the squeeze on 57% of an untaxed $21.2 billion, Mexico’s second-biggest source of revenue, Congress can require the Post Office to see real documentation, not just phony Matricula Consular cards handed out to illegal aliens by Mexican consulates.

But instead of hoping Congress might do the right thing, we can all poke Mexico’s second pressure point: tourism. Mexico expects over 20 million American tourists in 2013. So help Marine Jon Hammar and Steeve Knight and don’t be a tourist. Why risk dying in a Mexican prison for some tequila and a tan?

Stay out of Mexico until another Teddy Roosevelt is president.

Chet Nagle is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, a former Pentagon official, and author of “Iran Covenant.”