A Republican congressman Thursday threatened Mexico with a travel boycott until a former Marine who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan is released from prison after his arrest by Mexican authorities for being in possession of an antique shotgun.
The cause of former Marine Jon Hammar, beaten by other inmates in a Mexican jail and shackled to a wall, has received strong bipartisan support in Congress, with 69 members urging the State Department to press Mexican authorities for a “speedy resolution to this extremely unfortunate situation.”
“I’m calling on all Americans to boycott travel to Mexico until U.S. citizen and Marine combat veteran Jon Hammar is released,” said Rep. Duncan Hunter of California, a former Marine who also saw combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. “I’m also prepared – along with several of my colleagues – to go to Mexico and ask for his immediate release.”
“We need to know that the State Department is doing everything it can to secure his release. So far, I haven’t seen the aggressiveness that’s necessary and expected under the circumstances,” Mr. Hunter said. “Getting this Marine out of prison and home to his family must be a priority. Marines don’t leave each other behind, and I’m willing to do whatever I can to see that he comes home safely.”
Mr. Hammar, a 27-year-old Miami resident, is being held in a prison in Matamoros following his arrest in August while on a surfing trip from Florida to Costa Rica with a friend to help them both cope with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican who also has worked for Mr. Hammar’s release, urged in a letter Thursday to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano that they “exhaust any and all diplomatic means to ensure the well-being of this U.S. citizen and Marine veteran” and bring him home.
Sixty-eight other lawmakers signed the letter.
“A bipartisan group of my colleagues and I are extremely concerned over the continued incarceration of Jon Hammar in a Mexican jail,” Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen said. “The details of Jon’s incarceration that the family has relayed to me are outrageous and appalling. This must be settled now, and Jon must be allowed to come home immediately.”
In a brief telephone interview Thursday from her home in Miami-Dade County, Mr. Hammar’s mother, Olivia Hammar, said the family isn’t discussing details about her son’s plight or the legal strategy aimed at bringing him back to the United States while an important legal ruling remains pending. It was expected as soon as Friday.
However, she did say the family had filed a motion in the Mexican courts essentially saying her son’s rights under Mexico’s constitution haven’t been honored.
“We feel like we have a really strong case,” she said. “Our lawyer said he’s feeling cautiously optimistic. We’re waiting to comment until that happens.”
He was diagnosed with PTSD – having seen his Marine battalion suffer a large number of casualties in Fallujah and elsewhere – and voluntarily checked himself into an inpatient facility in August 2011, graduating from the program in May. Shortly after graduation, Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen said, Mr. Hammar and a fellow Marine from the inpatient program purchased a recreational vehicle and planned the surfing trip to help them cope with his stress.
Along with his surfboards, Mrs. Ros-Lehtinen said, Mr. Hammar brought with him one of his most prized possessions – his great-grandfather’s old-fashioned Sears & Roebuck .410 shotgun. She noted that this is the smallest of the traditional shotgun sizes, used for small-game hunting.
“Jon took all the precautions he believed necessary and honestly sought to fully abide by all laws and regulations regarding transporting his shotgun across the border, including asking the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents for the proper procedures to do so,” the lawmaker wrote in her letter. “The CBP agents informed him that he could take his shotgun into Mexico as long as he registered it with the Mexican authorities.