The small town of Potrero on the California/Mexico border was where one of the first fires broke out on Sunday (see photo) before the whole county became engulfed in fires. Potrero, southwest of Campo, is where the first person died in the San Diego fires. Potrero is also where Blackwater is planning to build a border training camp. (Photo of smoke from Potrero area fire, known as the Harris fire, viewed from a hilltop south of Campo on Sunday afternoon/Brenda Norrell)
Blackwater's run for the border
October 23, 2007
The notorious security contractor has plans for a military-style complex near the U.S.-Mexico border. Critics worry the firm's "mercenary soldiers" could join the U.S. Border Patrol.
By Eilene Zimmerman
There are signs that Blackwater USA, the private security firm that came under intense scrutiny after its employees killed 17 civilians in Iraq in September, is positioning itself for direct involvement in U.S. border security. The company is poised to construct a major new training facility in California, just eight miles from the U.S.-Mexico border. While contracts for U.S. war efforts overseas may no longer be a growth industry for the company, Blackwater executives have lobbied the U.S. government since at least 2005 to help train and even deploy manpower for patrolling America's borders. Blackwater is planning to build an 824-acre military- style training complex in Potrero, Calif., a rural hamlet 45 miles east of San Diego. The company's proposal, which was approved last December by the Potrero Community Planning Group and has drawn protest from within the Potrero community, will turn a former chicken ranch into "Blackwater West," the company's second-largest facility in the country. It will include a multitude of weapons firing ranges, a tactical driving track, a helipad, a 33,000-square-foot urban simulation training area, an armory for storing guns and ammunition, and dorms and classrooms. And it will be located in the heart one of the most active regions in the United States for illegal border crossings.
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