Mexico’s Curbs on U.S. Role in Drug Fight Spark Friction

drug dog sniffing suitcaseThe New York Times, 4/30/13

In their joint fight against drug traffickers, the United States and Mexico have forged an unusually close relationship in recent years, with the Americans regularly conducting polygraph tests on elite Mexican security officials to root out anyone who had been corrupted. But shortly after Mexico’s new president, Enrique Peña Nieto, took office in December, American agents got a clear message that the dynamics, with Washington holding the clear upper hand, were about to change.

There have long been political sensitivities in Mexico over allowing too much American involvement. But the recent policy changes have rattled American officials used to far fewer restrictions than they have faced in years. Asked about security cooperation with Mexico at a news conference on Tuesday, President Obama said: “We’ve made great strides in the coordination and cooperation between our two governments over the last several years. But my suspicion is, is that things can be improved.”

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Mexico ends open access for US security agencies in fight against cartels

IMG_7195Associated Press, 4/30/13

Mexico is ending its unprecedented open relationship with U.S. security agencies that developed in recent years to fight drug trafficking and organized crime. All contact for U.S. law enforcement will now go through “a single window,” the federal Interior Ministry, the agency that controls security and domestic policy, said Sergio Alcocer, deputy foreign secretary for North American affairs.

Alcocer confirmed the change to The Associated Press on Monday, three days before U.S. President Barack Obama visits for his first bilateral meeting with his Mexican counterpart, Enrique Pena Nieto, who took office Dec. 1. The new policy is a dramatic shift from the direct sharing of resources and intelligence between U.S. and Mexican law enforcement under former President Felipe Calderon, who was lauded by the U.S. repeatedly for increasing cooperation between the two countries. FBI, CIA, DEA and border patrol agents had direct access to units of Mexico’s Federal Police, army and navy and worked closely with Mexican authorities in major offensives against drug cartels, including the U.S.-backed strategy of killing or arresting top kingpins.

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U.S. role at a crossroads in Mexico’s intelligence war on the cartels

Mexican Police catch drug dealer photo by Jesús Villaseca P Latitudes PressThe Washington Post, 4/27/13

For the past seven years, Mexico and the United States have put aside their tension-filled history on security matters to forge an unparalleled alliance against Mexico’s drug cartels, one based on sharing sensitive intelligence, U.S. training and joint operational planning. But now, much of that hard-earned cooperation may be in jeopardy.

The December inauguration of President Enrique Peña Nieto brought the nationalistic Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) back to power after 13 years, and with it a whiff of resentment over the deep U.S. involvement in Mexico’s fight against narco-traffickers. The new administration has shifted priorities away from the U.S.-backed strategy of arresting kingpins, which sparked an unprecedented level of violence among the cartels, and toward an emphasis on prevention and keeping Mexico’s streets safe and calm, Mexican authorities said.

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Videos reveal that the attack in Tres Marias was unjustified [in Spanish]

La Jornada, 9/12/12

Reconstructions indicate that Federal Police officers shot at the SUV carrying two CIA agents and a member of the Navy without any provocation, and evidence points towards a cover up in the Federal Police since all the police involved have not been brought forth even though higher-up members of the Federal Police are thought to know who the police officers are.  There is also evidence that higher-up members of the Federal Police ordered the police officers to kill the CIA agents.  Videos show that the police in civilian wear initially shot at the SUV, and that they were later backed up by police in uniform, all evidence points towards an ambush as the U.S. Embassy initially stated.  There is no evidence linking the event in Tres Marias with the kidnapping of Salvador Vidal Flores Pérez (the PR Director at INAH), even though there were initial rumors that he had been kidnapped in the same SUV that the CIA agents were driving.

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Impunity and human rights, pending Federal Police [Op-Ed, in Spanish]

Raúl Benítez Manaut, CNN Mexico, 9/3/2012

An opinion piece on the facts of the Tres Marias shooting.

The incident at Tres Marias, Morelos on August 24th, which involved an alleged attack of the Federal Police (PF) against a diplomatic vehicle with three crew-presumably two of them CIA (Central Intelligence Agency), according to U.S. sources quoted in newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post, and a member of the Navy of Mexico,has left many open questions about the performance of the PF in the war on drugs and the impunity of its members, and the presence CIA of providing training to members of the Navy of Mexico.

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Americans Shot in Mexico Were C.I.A. Operatives Aiding in Drug War

The New York Times, 8/28/12

The two Americans who were wounded when gunmen fired on an American Embassy vehicle last week were Central Intelligence Agency employees sent as part of a multiagency effort to bolster Mexican efforts to fight drug traffickers, officials said on Tuesday.

The two operatives, who were hurt on Friday, were participating in a training program that involved the Mexican Navy. They were traveling with a Mexican Navy captain in an embassy sport utility vehicle that had diplomatic license plates, heading toward a military shooting range 35 miles south of the capital when gunmen, some or all of them from the Federal Police, attacked the vehicle, Mexican officials have said.

Eric Olson, an expert at the Woodrow Wilson Center’s MexicoInstitute in Washington, said the shooting could only sow some doubts about the police, and at best pointed to a lack of communication among Mexico’s military and the police.

“This seems to suggest there isn’t better communication between the various elements of the Mexican government,” he said. “One fundamental issue is the lack of trust.”

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Agents shot at in Tres Marias are CIA agents (in Spanish)

La Jornada, 8/28/12

La Jornada reports that officials close to the case of the shooting of a an SUV with diplomatic plates and U.S. officials by  Mexican federal police agents have confirmed that the two Americans shot were, in fact, CIA agents.  They were apparently on their way to give shooting lessons to members of the Mexican military.  They were also, apparently, initially attacked by civilians in a Dodge Van.

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Mexico solicited presence of CIA agents in the country, says Washington (in Spanish)

CNN México, 8/16/11

El gobierno de México solicitó que agentes de Estados Unidos realizaran acciones en el país, afirmó este martes el subsecretario de Estado estadounidense, William Burns, una semana después de que un reporte periodístico indicara que elementos de la Agencia Central de Inteligencia (CIA, por sus siglas en inglés) laboran en territorio mexicano en actividades como el interrogatorio de sospechosos.

Burns —segundo al mando en el Departamento de Estado, debajo de Hillary Clinton— aseguró en conferencia de prensa en la embajada estadounidense en México que esas acciones están dentro de la ley, respetan la soberanía mexicana y no interfieren con las tareas de seguridad pública de las autoridades.

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