“Human Intelligence Drys Up” – US Investigations Into Drug Cartels Halted Over Mexican Standoff 

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US law enforcement officials are flying blind with limited to no human intelligence on Mexican cartels due to a new law passed in December by the Mexican government that requires US authorities to share contacts in the country with Mexican officials (who are often corrupt). 

Current and former senior officials in both countries tell Reuters US efforts to combat powerful drug cartels inside Mexico have come to a standstill since January as relations fray between them. 

Before December, US and Mexican authorities routinely shared intelligence on drug cartels, but the new law now requires US authorities to report their law-enforcement contacts to the Mexican government first. This has temporarily halted joint efforts to prevent the flow of drugs into the US. 

Two sources said, “on-the-ground operations, including raids on Mexican drug labs, have largely ceased, and US authorities are now struggling to track movements of U.S.-bound cocaine from Venezuela and Colombia through Central America and into Mexico.”

Sources said US drug agents working on the ground had been followed by local police (who are often paid off by cartels), raising serious concerns about their safety. There’s also been the issue of US law enforcement agents who have been denied visas to work in the country. 

“Most of our most important cases are at a standstill,” a senior US law enforcement official told Reuters. “If we have to report our sources to their foreign ministry, it jeopardizes our sources and methods. The system is set up intentionally now so that Mexican law enforcement can’t help us.”

A top Mexican military official told Reuters since the new law went into effect several months ago, most anti-drug efforts with the US have been postponed. 

“Without US support – in technology and intelligence – it will be more difficult to contain crime,” the official said.

Another Mexican official described the rift between both countries as more “administrative and temporary than substantive.” 

“It’s not that cooperation is now paralyzed,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity, adding that things will normalize. 

The new law came into effect shortly after the US arrested former Mexican defense minister Salvador Cienfuegos on drug trafficking charges. The purpose of the arrest was to show close ties between drug cartels and Mexican government officials. However, in Mexico, the arrest was not well received and triggered a backlash. 

While the Biden administration is under pressure to control a migrant crisis at the US-Mexico border, US officials are having difficulty tracking shipments of drugs pouring into the US, which comes at a time when US drug overdose deaths have reached an all-time high. 

Former DEA head Timothy Shea said, “the big winners are the cartels.” He warned: “It’s just what the cartels wanted so they can expand their reach and smuggle more deadly drugs into the United States.”

He said, “human intelligence is drying up,” making it more difficult to intercept drug shipments. 

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