Israeli military advisors were in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas last month to aid local law enforcement officials in new strategies to combat security threats, according to the Mexican media.
While widely reported in Mexico, the report was denied by Israeli officials in Mexico City.
Early last month, the Secretary of Security and Civil Protection in Chiapas, Jorge Luís Abarca, met with Yaron Yugman, a representative from Israel’s Ministry of Defense to discuss coordinated strategies in police training, prison security and the use of technology in law enforcement, the government said.
“In this sense, we prioritized the needs for each area, which were selected, analyzed and improved based on the representative of the Ministry of Defense of Israel’s experience on the subject,” a press release from the Chiapas government stated. “We must focus our experiences in police training, which allows not only to be more prepared, but strengthened professionally, preventing corruption and putting the issue of Human Rights first."
While this meeting was thoroughly reported in the Mexican press, including in more respectable newspapers such as El Universal and Excelsior, Israeli officials in Mexico City denied knowledge of the meeting, calling the news reports “nonsense” and “completely wrong.”
“I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry,” Yael Hashaviet, deputy chief of mission at the Israeli Embassy in Mexico City told Fox News Latino. “This never happened and this will never happen.”
Embassy staff said that the only knowledge they had of talks between Israeli officials and those in Chiapas were on ongoing cultural and educational exchanges between the countries.
The meeting in May appears to have been only a preliminary hearing, where Israeli officials heard the needs of various Mexican officials in attendance and gave their analysis. Besides Abarca, the meeting was allegedly attended by members of the state’s tourism and roads departments as well as various police officials.
“The security of a country is essential for growth, we must focus our experiences in the training of police,” Yugman said, according to Excelsior.
The Israeli Embassy’s denial of its government working in Chiapas is puzzling given the long history that Israel’s government has of working with Mexico. Since the early 1970s, the Mexican government has purchased airplanes, helicopters, missile boats, small arms and other weapons from either the Israeli army or Israeli military contractors.
Fox News Latino was unable to reach the Israeli Embassy for follow up questions.
Some analysts believe that the training in Chiapas is due to the presence of the Zapatista rebel movement that still operates in the region – albeit at a much smaller level than in its heyday in 1994. The indigenous, anti-globalization armed movement has weakened the past few years, but some cite the group’s sympathy with Palestinian causes as the reason for an Israeli entry into Mexican affairs.
“The military relationship between Israel and Mexico is how the Zapatistas themselves have long recognized their connection to the Palestinian struggle,” stated the left-leaning Canadian think tank Global Research.
To a number of experts, the Zapatista argument runs a bit thin as the movement is not a true threat to public safety in Chiapas. The border state, however, does face threats from drug traffickers and smugglers using the porous border with Guatemala to sneak drugs, people and illicit substances into Mexico.
“Chiapas is of course a border state and deals with all the challenges that border states in the northern part of the country deal with,” said Andrew Selee, a senior advisor at the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center. “Organized crime groups and smugglers can use the Guatemala-Chiapas border to smuggle contraband into Mexico very easily.”
While reports on the Chiapas meeting don’t go into detail about what security threats the Israeli’s will focus on during police training, it is clear that Chiapas expects help from Israel – even though its embassy denies proving any assistance.
“The relations between countries are achieved through collaboration that enables mutual growth, leading to create an atmosphere of stability in the population,” Abarca said in the press release. “This visit will definitely pay the strengthening of knowledge that contributes greatly to the safety of Chiapas.”
Follow Andrew O'Reilly on Twitter @aoreilly84.