Mexico Cracks Down… Hard!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010
By Paul Martin

by P. T. Freeman

On my way to The Sovereign Society’s recent conference in Los Cabos, Mexico, I experienced Mexico’s security and anti-narcotics crackdown firsthand. Upon arrival of my flight to Mexico City from Panama, around 11.30p.m, uniformed officials of the National Institute of Migration (INM) met arriving passengers shortly after they deplaned, in the jet bridge. The officials asked each arriving passenger to show their passport. After that, we encountered a federal police checkpoint where officials searched our hand luggage and gave us a “pat-down.”

That was only the beginning of the “fun” for over 100 sleep-starved passengers. After we queued up for official admission to Mexico at the passport control desk, we finally reclaimed our luggage. But not before a “drug dog” sniffed it for narcotics (not to mention undeclared cash!). Next, more than 40 minutes after deplaning, we finally made it to Mexican customs to have our luggage x-rayed. The final insult for a few passengers was to have the misfortune of getting a supposedly random “red light” in the customs area. This required that they submit their luggage for a customs official to rummage through for any narcotics, cash, or other contraband the dogs may have missed. Fortunately, I got a green light.

I thought that was it, but there was another contingent of federal police looking us over as we exited customs. The officials looked at me, and I looked back at them, but they didn’t stop me.

After an overnight stay at a hotel in Mexico City, I boarded a domestic flight for Los Cabos. Since this was a domestic flight, I thought that my luggage and carry-on items would only be subjected to a routine security inspection when I checked in and then boarded the plane. I was wrong: upon arrival in Los Cabos, I was astonished to see military personnel operating an x-ray machine in the domestic baggage claim area. All baggage was once again subject to x-ray inspection. As a reminder that the search was legal under Mexican law, a poster in the baggage claim area cited the statute and text of the Mexican law granting the military special powers to conduct these searches.

Leaving Mexico was no less onerous. Once again, upon departing Los Cabos on a domestic flight to Mexico City, I had to clear Mexican customs. Officials x-rayed my luggage and I was directed to push the button to determine if I would be subject to another search of my luggage. Fortunately, I once again got a green light.

I spoke with a customs official and asked him under what authority they were conducting these searches. (As an expat, I often question authority, albeit in a polite manner.) He told me that Los Cabos is considered a frontier region outside the interior of Mexico.

Once I passed this checkpoint, my luggage was once again searched, just as it would be for an international flight. But when I arrived in Mexico City, there was no “welcoming committee” of military police. I simply went to baggage claim and collected my checked bag, without further incident. However, when I departed the following day on my flight to Panama, federal police were once again on the jet bridge conducting random checks of carry-on baggage.

Bienvenidos a Mexico!

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