Admiral James A. Winnefeld, Jr is a United States Navy four-star admiral who serves as the fourth and current Commander, U.S Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) and the 21st Commander, North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).
Friends of NORAD and USNORTHCOM,
Tragically, earlier this week Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency Special Agent Jaime Zapata, was shot and killed by gunmen in an attack in Mexico Feb. 15. Our sincerest sympathies go out to Agent Zapata’s family, friends and colleagues during this difficult time.
He and Agent Brian Terry of the Border Patrol, who lost his life near Rio Rico, Arizona, selflessly gave their lives for our security, and we must always remember their sacrifice. They were among many exceptionally dedicated and capable U.S. law enforcement officers committed to this struggle.
Agent Zapata’s is one of many tragedies unfolding in the ongoing struggle we share with Mexico against the transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) responsible for such deeply corrosive impacts in North America.
These impacts not only include trafficking in drugs, people and weapons back and forth across our borders, they also include murder, kidnapping, robbery and extortion committed by the TCOs against the Mexican people.
We must remember that while we lost an ICE agent this week, our Mexican partners have lost nearly 2,000 security forces agents and more than 30,000 civilians in the last four years. Many of these security forces’ family members live in the same towns where TCO violence is highest, and are often themselves targets, only heightening the respect in which we hold our counterparts.
(Friends, family, local and federal law enforcement gathered to receive Jaime Zapata body at Brownsville International Airport)
This struggle is about the future of Mexico and the safety and security of North America, and the Mexican government has shown exceptional moral, political and physical courage in confronting the TCOs.
The Mexican Army, Navy and Federal Police are gradually achieving success in unraveling these organized crime networks. In 2010 alone, they took down 15 significant players from among the seven cartels, disrupting the TCOs and their operations.
Mexico’s security organizations are undergoing many of the same transformations our forces have over the last decade, including building increased irregular operations capability, new forms of interagency cooperation, and concern for human rights—and are doing so in a very difficult operational environment.
I applaud their efforts. We must continue to assist them--and we are. Building upon the momentum established by our civilian leadership, our two militaries have forged a cooperative relationship, and we will continue to work together to counter the TCOs within clearly defined legal constraints and the guidance we receive from our respective political leadership—and always, always with complete respect for Mexican sovereignty.
We at USNORTHCOM are proud to support all of our U.S. and Mexican partners in our common effort to disrupt, degrade, and defeat the TCOs. Make no mistake, together we will confront and eventually defeat the criminal organizations that threaten our way of life. Agents Zapata and Terry understood that. It’s important that we do as well.
All the best,
Admiral Sandy Winnefeld