U.S. operations targeting drug cartel activity in Mexico have fallen flat since the country’s law enforcement and military agencies have been reluctant to collaborate, NPR reported Monday.
A Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) official said the situation is a threat to national health and security because the cartels operate without fear of Mexican law enforcement, according to NPR. Cartels are using illegal labs in Mexico to make methamphetamines and fentanyl, then smuggling the narcotics into the U.S.
“We’re willing to share [intelligence] with our counterparts in Mexico, but they themselves are too afraid to even engage with us because of repercussions from their own government if they get caught working with DEA,” DEA Deputy Chief of Operations Matthew Donahue said, NPR reported.
From brand new DEA threat assessment: “Seizures *originating in Mexico* represent a significantly larger total gross weight of fentanyl seized in the United States compared to fentanyl originating in China.” https://t.co/HCZf6aluzl
— Daniel Horowitz (@RMConservative) January 30, 2020
Cooperation between Mexican and U.S. agencies to sanction and impose drug interdictions on cartels deteriorated in the last few years when the DEA saw a “lack of engagement” from Mexico, Donahue said, according to NPR.
“It’s essential that we get [Mexico’s] cooperation for the safety of American citizens as well as to stem the flow of violence in Mexico,” Donahue said, NPR reported. “We would hope they’d want to sit down at the table and work bilaterally.”
The partnership between the countries was damaged after U.S. officials arrested former Mexican Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda in October, experts on U.S.-Mexico relations told NPR. Cienfuegos was suspected of working with a cartel connected to the Beltrán-Leyva trafficking organization.
All charges against Cienfuegos were dropped and he was released after Mexican officials pressured former Attorney General William Barr, NPR reported. However, Mexican lawmakers passed a measure restricting U.S. drug operations in the country and shared intelligence with agencies not trusted by the U.S. government following his arrest.
“They captured many, many, many of these drug trafficking operational heads and midlevel guys, cooperating with special units in the police, special units in the marines and parts of the [Mexican] attorney general’s office,” InSight Crime Drug Interdiction Expert Steven Dudley said, NPR reported.
White House Office of National Drug Control Policy Acting Leader Regina LaBelle said the U.S. will soon resume talks around drug interdiction efforts with Mexico, according to NPR.
The DEA did not respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.