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San Clemente is the southernmost island in the Channel Islands of California group. Until June 5, 2005 it was a United States Navy intelligence and radar station monitoring the Latin American region. The crisis that took place afterwards would be the killer of Mexican-American relations.
Mexican Secretary of the Navy, Mariano Torrijos, decided after finding out about the US Navy withdrawal to make a statement by occupying San Clemente. You see, the Channel Islands of California were not included in the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the treaty forming the United States-Mexico border. Torrijos decided on the matter without consulting with President Ramirez.
On August 25, 2005 the order was given by Torrijos to take over the island by force if necessary. There was no going back now.
The Occupation Begins
On August 28, 500 men of the Mexican Naval Infantry landed on San Clemente Island. This officially began the occupation. The troops soon called in engineers and construction crews from the mainland. The reinforcements soon got to work constructing barracks and other buildings including missile launchers. The reinforcements left the island on September 18. The Mexicans soon set up a regular installation, even bringing in more forces, and swapping troops for new ones. This however, would soon come to an end.
The Crisis Begins
On December 8 a team of marine biologists from Monterrey Bay Aquarium get a federal grant to study Sea Lions in the vicinity of San Clemente. The team sets out for the island on December 26, the day after Christmas, on their ill-fated journey of scientific discovery. On the 27, they reach their destination. They move their boat to a position about one hundred yards from San Clemente. Within ten minutes the party is sighted by a Mexican patrol. The patrol fires upon the boat. A marine biologist returns fire with a hunting rifle, missing with all his shots. The boat soon powers away from the island.
The Mexicans do hit once, Doctor George Rickles is struck in the head by a bullet and is killed instantly, he was forty seven. The boat radios the nearest Coast Guard station to announce that they have been attacked. The boat is quickly rescued by a USCG cutter.
The United States military, and media for that matter, learn of the incident, soon the Navy orders a blockade of the island. The crisis continues on for fourteen long days. The media issues several reports of confrontation and impending war, all prove to be false. The military decides that action is needed.
On January 10, 2006, a landing party of United States Marines lands on the island. An hour long standoff soon begins with the Mexicans. After approximately ten minutes a Marine radios Rear Admiral Alan Thatcher aboard the USS Oliver Hazzard Perry to inform him of the standoff. This message is then relayed to the National Incident Command Center at the Pentagon, who then relays it to the White House. President Morgan picks up the phone and calls President Ramirez. After a long conversation, Ramirez orders the Naval Infantry to surrender to the Marines. The Naval Infantry surrenders soon.
The prisoners are taken to Camp Pendleton by helicopter, processed, and released in Tijuana. Meanwhile, the Marines sweep the island and find missile launchers. The missiles are destructive enough to destroy a city block, and are pointed at targets all over Southern California.
The incident greatly strained Mexican-American relations. It also serves as a very embarrassing moment for Mexico in the international community. The crisis also takes away much public approval of the Ramirez Administration, and takes away almost all trust the Americans had given him. Also, Secretary Torrijos is convicted of treason and executed. The incident is commemorated by memorials at the Monterrey Bay Aquarium, and on San Clemente itself.