Mexico wants end to U.S. tear gas use at border

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico is demanding that U.S. Border Patrol agents stop using tear gas to protect themselves against increased attacks as they try to keep illegal immigrants from entering the United States.

Mexico’s Foreign Ministry also requested a U.S. probe into an incident last month where 15-year-old Cristian Saldana was struck in the nose by a tear gas canister after he threw stones at U.S. agents trying to stop people from crossing illegally from the Mexican border city of Tijuana near San Diego.

Saying the use of tear gas was unacceptable under any circumstances, the ministry sent a letter to the U.S. Embassy requesting the investigation and said it was also setting up talks with U.S. officials through its consular network.

Mexico’s human rights commission says Border Patrol agents have fired tear gas into Mexico at least six times since November.

“Launching tear gas does not contribute in any way to a climate of understanding and collaboration,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement issued late on Thursday.

The Border Patrol in Washington was not immediately available for comment but officials have told Reuters their border measures are aimed at upholding U.S. law.

Border-wide assaults on agents reached a record 250 between October 1 and December 16 last year, according to the latest U.S. figures.

U.S.-Mexico relations are strained over border issues as the United States increases its deportations of illegal immigrants and builds a fence along hundreds of miles (km) of the frontier with Mexico to keep out migrants without papers.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon says U.S. treatment of undocumented Mexican workers is “abusive” and amounts to persecution.

Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Peter Cooney