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Mexico reportedly disbands elite anti-drug unit that worked with DEA
April 19, 2022 1:00pm
” The Mexican government has disbanded an anti-narcotic investigative unit that worked closely with the US Drug Enforcement Administration for more than two decades — dealing a blow to America’s ability to target drug cartels and stop the flow of illegal drugs across the border, according to a report on Tuesday.
The elite squad of about 50 officers was one of a number of Sensitive Investigative Units trained by the DEA in about 15 countries to help dismantle smuggling rings and bust drug lords, Reuters reported.
The Mexican unit took part in some of the country’s most celebrated cases, including the 2016 capture of Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, head of the Sinaloa drug cartel.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s administration formally notified the DEA a year ago that it was shutting down the unit, the report said.
Reuters said it couldn’t determine why the closure, which has not previously been reported, was not announced publicly by the Mexican government when it happened.
“They strangled it,” a DEA agent told the wire service. “It shatters the bridges we spent decades putting together.” The Mexican government has reportedly disbanded an anti-drug unit that has worked with the US Drug Enforcement Administration.
A second unit, based inside the Mexican attorney general’s office and independent of Lopez Obrador’s government, continues to operate, the outlet added.
The DEA and Mexico’s Public Security Ministry did not respond to Reuters’ requests for comment.
The unit, created in 1997, played a critical role in the DEA’s ability to share leads about drug shipments and other tips with the Mexican government.
Members of the group, who had to undergo a comprehensive vetting process, including taking polygraph tests, were trained by the DEA at Quantico, Va., on the latest in surveillance and policing techniques.
Mike Vigil, the DEA’s former chief of international operations, told Reuters that the closure of the unit “will mean more drugs going to the United States and more violence in Mexico.”
In fiscal year 2021 — which ended Sept. 30 of last year — Customs and Border Protection officials seized 11,201 pounds of fentanyl, the synthetic opioid that is tearing through American communities and is one of the leading causes of overdoses.
The closure of the unit is the latest example of a breakdown in cooperation between the DEA and Mexico since Lopez Obrador took office in 2018 amid vows to overhaul security, the report said.
The Mexican president pledged to take a less severe approach to policing than his predecessors, focusing more on the root causes of violence, such as poverty, rather than targeting drug cartels.
Lopez Obrador also made it more difficult for agencies like the DEA to operate in Mexico.
In December 2020, the Mexican government removed diplomatic immunity from foreign agents and required Mexican officials to write reports on their interactions with security officers from abroad.
“That was the nail in the coffin,” a DEA agent told Reuters.”
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