Monday, July 2, 2012

the Mexican Dirty War

Anything Goes in Dirty War

Miguel A. Rodríguez

Margarito Genchi Casiano -- the former Mayor of Florencio Villarreal and local congressional candidate for the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) -- was assassinated in the Costa Chica of Guerrero. The tragic event took place June 11 in Llano Largo, near the municipality of Cruz Grande. Just four days earlier, Genchi Casiano had attended a campaign rally for PRD's presidential candidate, Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

The remains of 14 unidentified bodies were found  inside a pick-up truck stationed a few blocks away from the Mayor's office of Mante, Tamaulipas. The Governor of Tamaulipas has confirmed that the corpses were abandoned in broad daylight inside a privately owned pick-up truck.

Authorities add that the Police and Forensic Medical Examiners have been unable to identify the cadavers of the 11 men and three women.

Banks funded by drug trade

On 10 April 2006, a DC-9 jet landed in the port city of Ciudad del Carmen, on the Gulf of Mexico, as the sun was setting. Mexican soldiers, waiting to intercept it, found 128 cases packed with 5.7 tons of cocaine, valued at $100m. But something else – more important and far-reaching – was discovered in the paper trail behind the purchase of the plane by the Sinaloa narco-trafficking cartel.

During a 22-month investigation by agents from the US Drug Enforcement Administration, the Internal Revenue Service and others, it emerged that the cocaine smugglers had bought the plane with money they had laundered through one of the biggest banks in the United States: Wachovia, now part of the giant Wells Fargo.

The authorities uncovered billions of dollars in wire transfers, traveller's cheques and cash shipments through Mexican exchanges into Wachovia accounts. Wachovia was put under immediate investigation for failing to maintain an effective anti-money laundering programme. Of special significance was that the period concerned began in 2004, which coincided with the first escalation of violence along the US-Mexico border that ignited the current drugs war.

Criminal proceedings were brought against Wachovia, though not against any individual, but the case never came to court. In March 2010, Wachovia settled the biggest action brought under the US bank secrecy act, through the US district court in Miami. Now that the year's "deferred prosecution" has expired, the bank is in effect in the clear. It paid federal authorities $110m in forfeiture, for allowing transactions later proved to be connected to drug smuggling, and incurred a $50m fine for failing to monitor cash used to ship 22 tons of cocaine.

More shocking, and more important, the bank was sanctioned for failing to apply the proper anti-laundering strictures to the transfer of $378.4bn – a sum equivalent to one-third of Mexico's gross national product – into dollar accounts from so-called casas de cambio (CDCs) in Mexico, currency exchange houses with which the bank did business.

"Wachovia's blatant disregard for our banking laws gave international cocaine cartels a virtual carte blanche to finance their operations," said Jeffrey Sloman, the federal prosecutor. Yet the total fine was less than 2% of the bank's $12.3bn profit for 2009. On 24 March 2010, Wells Fargo stock traded at $30.86 – up 1% on the week of the court settlement.

The conclusion to the case was only the tip of an iceberg, demonstrating the role of the "legal" banking sector in swilling hundreds of billions of dollars – the blood money from the murderous drug trade in Mexico and other places in the world – around their global operations, now bailed out by the taxpayer.

At the height of the 2008 banking crisis, Antonio Maria Costa, then head of the United Nations office on drugs and crime, said he had evidence to suggest the proceeds from drugs and crime were "the only liquid investment capital" available to banks on the brink of collapse. "Inter-bank loans were funded by money that originated from the drugs trade," he said. "There were signs that some banks were rescued that way."

Wachovia was acquired by Wells Fargo during the 2008 crash, just as Wells Fargo became a beneficiary of $25bn in taxpayers' money. Wachovia's prosecutors were clear, however, that there was no suggestion Wells Fargo had behaved improperly; it had co-operated fully with the investigation. Mexico is the US's third largest international trading partner and Wachovia was understandably interested in this volume of legitimate trade.

José Luis Marmolejo, who prosecuted those running one of the casas de cambio at the Mexican end, said: "Wachovia handled all the transfers. They never reported any as suspicious."

"As early as 2004, Wachovia understood the risk," the bank admitted in the statement of settlement with the federal government, but, "despite these warnings, Wachovia remained in the business". There is, of course, the legitimate use of CDCs as a way into the Hispanic market. In 2005 the World Bank said that Mexico was receiving $8.1bn in remittances.

During research into the Wachovia Mexican case, the Observer obtained documents previously provided to financial regulators. It emerged that the alarm that was ignored came from, among other places, London, as a result of the diligence of one of the most important whistleblowers of our time. A man who, in a series of interviews with the Observer, adds detail to the documents, laying bare the story of how Wachovia was at the centre of one of the world's biggest money-laundering operations.

Martin Woods, a Liverpudlian in his mid-40s, joined the London office of Wachovia Bank in February 2005 as a senior anti-money laundering officer. He had previously served with the Metropolitan police drug squad. As a detective he joined the money-laundering investigation team of the National Crime Squad, where he worked on the British end of the Bank of New York money-laundering scandal in the late 1990s.

Woods talks like a police officer – in the best sense of the word: punctilious, exact, with a roguish humour, but moral at the core. He was an ideal appointment for any bank eager to operate a diligent and effective risk management policy against the lucrative scourge of high finance: laundering, knowing or otherwise, the vast proceeds of criminality, tax-evasion, and dealing in arms and drugs.

Woods had a police officer's eye and a police officer's instincts – not those of a banker. And this influenced not only his methods, but his mentality. "I think that a lot of things matter more than money – and that marks you out in a culture which appears to prevail in many of the banks in the world," he says.

Woods was set apart by his modus operandi. His speciality, he explains, was his application of a "know your client", or KYC, policing strategy to identifying dirty money. "KYC is a fundamental approach to anti-money laundering, going after tax evasion or counter-terrorist financing. Who are your clients? Is the documentation right? Good, responsible banking involved always knowing your customer and it still does."

When he looked at Wachovia, the first thing Woods noticed was a deficiency in KYC information. And among his first reports to his superiors at the bank's headquarters in Charlotte, North Carolina, were observations on a shortfall in KYC at Wachovia's operation in London, which he set about correcting, while at the same time implementing what was known as an enhanced transaction monitoring programme, gathering more information on clients whose money came through the bank's offices in the City, in sterling or euros. By August 2006, Woods had identified a number of suspicious transactions relating to casas de cambio customers in Mexico.

Primarily, these involved deposits of traveller's cheques in euros. They had sequential numbers and deposited larger amounts of money than any innocent travelling person would need, with inadequate or no KYC information on them and what seemed to a trained eye to be dubious signatures. "It was basic work," he says. "They didn't answer the obvious questions: 'Is the transaction real, or does it look synthetic? Does the traveller's cheque meet the protocols? Is it all there, and if not, why not?'"

Woods discussed the matter with Wachovia's global head of anti-money laundering for correspondent banking, who believed the cheques could signify tax evasion. He then undertook what banks call a "look back" at previous transactions and saw fit to submit a series of SARs, or suspicious activity reports, to the authorities in the UK and his superiors in Charlotte, urging the blocking of named parties and large series of sequentially numbered traveller's cheques from Mexico. He issued a number of SARs in 2006, of which 50 related to the casas de cambio in Mexico. To his amazement, the response from Wachovia's Miami office, the centre for Latin American business, was anything but supportive – he felt it was quite the reverse.

As it turned out, however, Woods was on the right track. Wachovia's business in Mexico was coming under closer and closer scrutiny by US federal law enforcement. Wachovia was issued with a number of subpoenas for information on its Mexican operation. Woods has subsequently been informed that Wachovia had six or seven thousand subpoenas. He says this was "An absurd number. So at what point does someone at the highest level not get the feeling that something is very, very wrong?"

In April and May 2007, Wachovia – as a result of increasing interest and pressure from the US attorney's office – began to close its relationship with some of the casas de cambio. But rather than launch an internal investigation into Woods's alerts over Mexico, Woods claims Wachovia hung its own money-laundering expert out to dry. The records show that during 2007 Woods "continued to submit more SARs related to the casas de cambio".

In July 2007, all of Wachovia's remaining 10 Mexican casa de cambio clients operating through London suddenly stopped doing so. Later in 2007, after the investigation of Wachovia was reported in the US financial media, the bank decided to end its remaining relationships with the Mexican casas de cambio globally. By this time, Woods says, he found his personal situation within the bank untenable; while the bank acted on one level to protect itself from the federal investigation into its shortcomings, on another, it rounded on the man who had been among the first to spot them.

On 16 June Woods was told by Wachovia's head of compliance that his latest SAR need not have been filed, that he had no legal requirement to investigate an overseas case and no right of access to documents held overseas from Britain, even if they were held by Wachovia.

Woods's life went into freefall. He went to hospital with a prolapsed disc, reported sick and was told by the bank that he not done so in the appropriate manner, as directed by the employees' handbook. He was off work for three weeks, returning in August 2007 to find a letter from the bank's compliance managing director, which was unrelenting in its tone and words of warning.

The letter addressed itself to what the manager called "specific examples of your failure to perform at an acceptable standard". Woods, on the edge of a breakdown, was put on sick leave by his GP; he was later given psychiatric treatment, enrolled on a stress management course and put on medication.

Late in 2007, Woods attended a function at Scotland Yard where colleagues from the US were being entertained. There, he sought out a representative of the Drug Enforcement Administration and told him about the casas de cambio, the SARs and his employer's reaction. The Federal Reserve and officials of the office of comptroller of currency in Washington DC then "spent a lot of time examining the SARs" that had been sent by Woods to Charlotte from London.

"They got back in touch with me a while afterwards and we began to put the pieces of the jigsaw together," says Woods. What they found was – as Costa says – the tip of the iceberg of what was happening to drug money in the banking industry, but at least it was visible and it had a name: Wachovia.

In June 2005, the DEA, the criminal division of the Internal Revenue Service and the US attorney's office in southern Florida began investigating wire transfers from Mexico to the US. They were traced back to correspondent bank accounts held by casas de cambio at Wachovia. The CDC accounts were supervised and managed by a business unit of Wachovia in the bank's Miami offices.

"Through CDCs," said the court document, "persons in Mexico can use hard currency and … wire transfer the value of that currency to US bank accounts to purchase items in the United States or other countries. The nature of the CDC business allows money launderers the opportunity to move drug dollars that are in Mexico into CDCs and ultimately into the US banking system.

"On numerous occasions," say the court papers, "monies were deposited into a CDC by a drug-trafficking organisation. Using false identities, the CDC then wired that money through its Wachovia correspondent bank accounts for the purchase of airplanes for drug-trafficking organisations." The court settlement of 2010 would detail that "nearly $13m went through correspondent bank accounts at Wachovia for the purchase of aircraft to be used in the illegal narcotics trade. From these aircraft, more than 20,000kg of cocaine were seized."

All this occurred despite the fact that Wachovia's office was in Miami, designated by the US government as a "high-intensity money laundering and related financial crime area", and a "high-intensity drug trafficking area". Since the drug cartel war began in 2005, Mexico had been designated a high-risk source of money laundering.

"As early as 2004," the court settlement would read, "Wachovia understood the risk that was associated with doing business with the Mexican CDCs. Wachovia was aware of the general industry warnings. As early as July 2005, Wachovia was aware that other large US banks were exiting the CDC business based on [anti-money laundering] concerns … despite these warnings, Wachovia remained in business."

On 16 March 2010, Douglas Edwards, senior vice-president of Wachovia Bank, put his signature to page 10 of a 25-page settlement, in which the bank admitted its role as outlined by the prosecutors. On page 11, he signed again, as senior vice-president of Wells Fargo. The documents show Wachovia providing three services to 22 CDCs in Mexico: wire transfers, a "bulk cash service" and a "pouch deposit service", to accept "deposit items drawn on US banks, eg cheques and traveller's cheques", as spotted by Woods.

"For the time period of 1 May 2004 through 31 May 2007, Wachovia processed at least $$373.6bn in CDCs, $4.7bn in bulk cash" – a total of more than $378.3bn, a sum that dwarfs the budgets debated by US state and UK local authorities to provide services to citizens.

The document gives a fascinating insight into how the laundering of drug money works. It details how investigators "found readily identifiable evidence of red flags of large-scale money laundering". There were "structured wire transfers" whereby "it was commonplace in the CDC accounts for round-number wire transfers to be made on the same day or in close succession, by the same wire senders, for the … same account".

Over two days, 10 wire transfers by four individuals "went though Wachovia for deposit into an aircraft broker's account. All of the transfers were in round numbers. None of the individuals of business that wired money had any connection to the aircraft or the entity that allegedly owned the aircraft. The investigation has further revealed that the identities of the individuals who sent the money were false and that the business was a shell entity. That plane was subsequently seized with approximately 2,000kg of cocaine on board."

Many of the sequentially numbered traveller's cheques, of the kind dealt with by Woods, contained "unusual markings" or "lacked any legible signature". Also, "many of the CDCs that used Wachovia's bulk cash service sent significantly more cash to Wachovia than what Wachovia had expected. More specifically, many of the CDCs exceeded their monthly activity by at least 50%."

Recognising these "red flags", the US attorney's office in Miami, the IRS and the DEA began investigating Wachovia, later joined by FinCEN, one of the US Treasury's agencies to fight money laundering, while the office of the comptroller of the currency carried out a parallel investigation. The violations they found were, says the document, "serious and systemic and allowed certain Wachovia customers to launder millions of dollars of proceeds from the sale of illegal narcotics through Wachovia accounts over an extended time period. The investigation has identified that at least $110m in drug proceeds were funnelled through the CDC accounts held at Wachovia."

The settlement concludes by discussing Wachovia's "considerable co-operation and remedial actions" since the prosecution was initiated, after the bank was bought by Wells Fargo. "In consideration of Wachovia's remedial actions," concludes the prosecutor, "the United States shall recommend to the court … that prosecution of Wachovia on the information filed … be deferred for a period of 12 months."

But while the federal prosecution proceeded, Woods had remained out in the cold. On Christmas Eve 2008, his lawyers filed tribunal proceedings against Wachovia for bullying and detrimental treatment of a whistleblower. The case was settled in May 2009, by which time Woods felt as though he was "the most toxic person in the bank". Wachovia agreed to pay an undisclosed amount, in return for which Woods left the bank and said he would not make public the terms of the settlement.

After years of tribulation, Woods was finally formally vindicated, though not by Wachovia: a letter arrived from John Dugan, the comptroller of the currency in Washington DC, dated 19 March 2010 – three days after the settlement in Miami. Dugan said he was "writing to personally recognise and express my appreciation for the role you played in the actions brought against Wachovia Bank for violations of the bank secrecy act … Not only did the information that you provided facilitate our investigation, but you demonstrated great personal courage and integrity by speaking up. Without the efforts of individuals like you, actions such as the one taken against Wachovia would not be possible."

The so-called "deferred prosecution" detailed in the Miami document is a form of probation whereby if the bank abides by the law for a year, charges are dropped. So this March the bank was in the clear. The week that the deferred prosecution expired, a spokeswoman for Wells Fargo said the parent bank had no comment to make on the documentation pertaining to Woods's case, or his allegations. She added that there was no comment on Sloman's remarks to the court; a provision in the settlement stipulated Wachovia was not allowed to issue public statements that contradicted it.

But the settlement leaves a sour taste in many mouths – and certainly in Woods's. The deferred prosecution is part of this "cop-out all round", he says. "The regulatory authorities do not have to spend any more time on it, and they don't have to push it as far as a criminal trial. They just issue criminal proceedings, and settle. The law enforcement people do what they are supposed to do, but what's the point? All those people dealing with all that money from drug-trafficking and murder, and no one goes to jail?"

One of the foremost figures in the training of anti-money laundering officers is Robert Mazur, lead infiltrator for US law enforcement of the Colombian Medellín cartel during the epic prosecution and collapse of the BCCI banking business in 1991 (his story was made famous by his memoir, The Infiltrator, which became a movie).

Mazur, whose firm Chase and Associates works closely with law enforcement agencies and trains officers for bank anti-money laundering, cast a keen eye over the case against Wachovia, and he says now that "the only thing that will make the banks properly vigilant to what is happening is when they hear the rattle of handcuffs in the boardroom".

Mazur said that "a lot of the law enforcement people were disappointed to see a settlement" between the administration and Wachovia. "But I know there were external circumstances that worked to Wachovia's benefit, not least that the US banking system was on the edge of collapse."

What concerns Mazur is that what law enforcement agencies and politicians hope to achieve against the cartels is limited, and falls short of the obvious attack the US could make in its war on drugs: go after the money. "We're thinking way too small," Mazur says. "I train law enforcement officers, thousands of them every year, and they say to me that if they tried to do half of what I did, they'd be arrested. But I tell them: 'You got to think big. The headlines you will be reading in seven years' time will be the result of the work you begin now.' With BCCI, we had to spend two years setting it up, two years doing undercover work, and another two years getting it to trial. If they want to do something big, like go after the money, that's how long it takes."

But Mazur warns: "If you look at the career ladders of law enforcement, there's no incentive to go after the big money. People move every two to three years. The DEA is focused on drug trafficking rather than money laundering. You get a quicker result that way – they want to get the traffickers and seize their assets. But this is like treating a sick plant by cutting off a few branches – it just grows new ones. Going after the big money is cutting down the plant – it's a harder door to knock on, it's a longer haul, and it won't get you the short-term riches."

The office of the comptroller of the currency is still examining whether individuals in Wachovia are criminally liable. Sources at FinCEN say that a so-called "look-back" is in process, as directed by the settlement and agreed to by Wachovia, into the $378.4bn that was not directly associated with the aircraft purchases and cocaine hauls, but neither was it subject to the proper anti-laundering checks. A FinCEN source says that $20bn already examined appears to have "suspicious origins". But this is just the beginning.

Antonio Maria Costa, who was executive director of the UN's office on drugs and crime from May 2002 to August 2010, charts the history of the contamination of the global banking industry by drug and criminal money since his first initiatives to try to curb it from the European commission during the 1990s. "The connection between organised crime and financial institutions started in the late 1970s, early 1980s," he says, "when the mafia became globalised."

Until then, criminal money had circulated largely in cash, with the authorities making the occasional, spectacular "sting" or haul. During Costa's time as director for economics and finance at the EC in Brussels, from 1987, inroads were made against penetration of banks by criminal laundering, and "criminal money started moving back to cash, out of the financial institutions and banks. Then two things happened: the financial crisis in Russia, after the emergence of the Russian mafia, and the crises of 2003 and 2007-08.

"With these crises," says Costa, "the banking sector was short of liquidity, the banks exposed themselves to the criminal syndicates, who had cash in hand."

Costa questions the readiness of governments and their regulatory structures to challenge this large-scale corruption of the global economy: "Government regulators showed what they were capable of when the issue suddenly changed to laundering money for terrorism – on that, they suddenly became serious and changed their attitude."

Hardly surprising, then, that Wachovia does not appear to be the end of the line. In August 2010, it emerged in quarterly disclosures by HSBC that the US justice department was seeking to fine it for anti-money laundering compliance problems reported to include dealings with Mexico.

"Wachovia had my résumé, they knew who I was," says Woods. "But they did not want to know – their attitude was, 'Why are you doing this?' They should have been on my side, because they were compliance people, not commercial people. But really they were commercial people all along. We're talking about hundreds of millions of dollars. This is the biggest money-laundering scandal of our time.

"These are the proceeds of murder and misery in Mexico, and of drugs sold around the world," he says. "All the law enforcement people wanted to see this come to trial. But no one goes to jail. "What does the settlement do to fight the cartels? Nothing – it doesn't make the job of law enforcement easier and it encourages the cartels and anyone who wants to make money by laundering their blood dollars. Where's the risk? There is none.

"Is it in the interest of the American people to encourage both the drug cartels and the banks in this way? Is it in the interest of the Mexican people? It's simple: if you don't see the correlation between the money laundering by banks and the 30,000 people killed in Mexico, you're missing the point."

Woods feels unable to rest on his laurels. He tours the world for a consultancy he now runs, Hermes Forensic Solutions, counselling and speaking to banks on the dangers of laundering criminal money, and how to spot and stop it. "New York and London," says Woods, "have become the world's two biggest laundries of criminal and drug money, and offshore tax havens. Not the Cayman Islands, not the Isle of Man or Jersey. The big laundering is right through the City of London and Wall Street.

"After the Wachovia case, no one in the regulatory community has sat down with me and asked, 'What happened?' or 'What can we do to avoid this happening to other banks?' They are not interested. They are the same people who attack the whistleblowers and this is a position the [British] Financial Services Authority at least has adopted on legal advice: it has been advised that the confidentiality of banking and bankers takes primacy over the public information disclosure act. That is how the priorities work: secrecy first, public interest second.

"Meanwhile, the drug industry has two products: money and suffering. On one hand, you have massive profits and enrichment. On the other, you have massive suffering, misery and death. You cannot separate one from the other.

"What happened at Wachovia was symptomatic of the failure of the entire regulatory system to apply the kind of proper governance and adequate risk management which would have prevented not just the laundering of blood money, but the global crisis."

 Last Modified: 03 Nov 2010 16:04

It was a brutal massacre even by the gruesome standards of Mexico’s drug war: 72 migrant workers gunned down by the "Zetas" - arguably the country's most violent cartel - and left rotting in a pile outside a ranch in Tamaulipas state near the US border in late August.

The Zetas have a fearsome reputation, but the real surprise comes not in their ruthless use of violence, but in the origins of where they learned the tricks of their bloody trade.

Some of the cartel's initial members were elite Mexican troops, trained in the early 1990s by America’s 7th Special Forces Group or "snake eaters" at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, a former US special operations commander has told Al Jazeera.

“They were given map reading courses, communications, standard special forces training, light to heavy weapons, machine guns and automatic weapons,” says Craig Deare, the former special forces commander who is now a professor at the US National Defence University.

"I had some visibility on what was happening, because this [issue] was related to things I was doing in the Pentagon in the 1990s," Deare, who also served as country director in the office of the US Secretary of Defence, says.

"Other cartels have accused the Zetas of not following the 'gentlemen's code' of drug trafficking"

Kristen Bricker, NACLA Research Associate

The Mexican personnel who received US training and later formed the Zetas came from the Airmobile Special Forces Group (GAFE), which is considered an elite division of the Mexican military.

Their US training was designed to prepare them for counter-insurgency and, ironically, counter-narcotics operations, although Deare says they were not taught the most advanced commando techniques available at Ft. Bragg.

Military forces from around the world train at Ft. Bragg, so there is nothing unique about Mexican operatives learning counter-insurgency tactics at the facility. However, critics say the specific skills learned by the Zetas primed them for careers as contract killers and drug dealers.

“The Zetas definitely have the reputation of being the most dangerous, the most vicious, the most renegade of the cartels,” says Kristen Bricker, a Mexico-based research associate with the North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA).

About 29,000 people have died since Felipe Calderon, Mexico’s president, declared war on the drug cartels in 2006.

Extreme violence

The group has mounted the severed heads of its victims on pikes in urban areas, posted torture and execution videos on the internet, forced poor migrants into prostitution and massacred college students during house parties.

"Other cartels have accused them of not following the 'gentlemen's code' of drug trafficking and causing undue violence," Bricker told Al Jazeera.

"At one time, it was considered bad form to kill pregnant women, but not any more." For safety concerns, Bricker didn’t want to say where she lives in Mexico.

Deare estimates "probably more than 500" GAFE personnel received special forces training. He is unsure exactly how long the programme lasted. The Zetas came to the attention of Mexico’s Attorney General’s office in 1999.

After US training, GAFE operatives defected from the Mexican military to become hired guns, providing security to the Gulf cartel, a well established trafficking organisation, according to Laura Carlsen, director of the Americas program of the International Relations Center.

"They split from the Gulf cartel and formed as a cartel in their own right," Carlsen, based in Mexico City, told Al Jazeera.

The Zetas' alleged current leaders, Heriberto Lazcano, known as Z-3 and Miguel Trevino, or Z-40, were first recruited by Osiel Cardenas, the now-jailed leader of the Gulf cartel. The name "Zetas" originates from the radio code "Z" used by top military commanders in Mexico.

But unlike Zorro, the Mexican outlaw hero who also used the "Z" alias, Los Zetas steal from everyone, not just the rich. And they certainly don’t give much back to the poor, except the corpses of their relatives. "They are just known for being a different kind of human being," says Bricker.

Frequent defections

The number of initial defectors from GAFE is thought to be somewhere between 30 and 200, but "the exact number is unclear", says Deare. However, the possibility of defections should not have come as a surprise to US trainers.

The Mexican state "does not pay soldiers enough" Deare says. "I am not saying they [the government] have to pay as much as the cartels, but they [security forces] must be paid decently if they aren’t going to be susceptible to corruption."

The GAFE’s desertion rate of an estimated 25 per cent is high, even by the low standards of Mexico’s security forces. Between 2000 and 2005 more than 1,300 of the elite troops defected, La Journada newspaper reported.

The Zetas decided forming their own cartel was more profitable than working for the military or even other drug gangs [Reuters]
"The US really needs to examine their vetting procedures and manuals to see why so many people who they train do so many terrible things when they go back home," Bricker said.

But just blaming Uncle Sam for the rise of the Zetas and increasing drug violence is too simplistic, says Bricker.

"It wasn't just US training. The GAFE were also trained by the Kaibiles of Guatemala, a notoriously brutal special operations force from that country’s dirty war in the 1980s," said Bricker.

And even without special training for cartels, there is little trust that Mexican security forces can deal with the drug trade.

In May 2006, "La Barbie" a leader of the rival Sinaloa cartel, took out a full page advert in a Mexico City daily newspaper, to allege that Mexican police were protecting the Zetas.

For their part, the Zetas have long complained that the Sinaloa cartel enjoys police protection.

Despite debacles surrounding the Zetas and increasing violence, Deare - who physically resembles the tough but fair minded under-secretary of defence played by Harrison Ford in the fictional drug war thriller Clear and Present Danger - thinks Mexico needs more, not less, US involvement.

America has pledged some $1.3bn to assist Mexico in the drug war through the 2007 Merida initiative, but much of that cash hasn’t been spent because it has been stalled in Congress, Deare says.

Ulterior motives

Other analysts are critical of the initiative because it allows the US to "meddle" in Mexico’s affairs and has not garnered the desired results.

"For citizens here, Merida causes two great concerns: it raises questions of national sovereignty and there is a lot of fear that under the cover of the drug war there will be increasing attacks on grassroots movements," says Carlsen.

GAFE, for example, was established in 1994 to fight Zapatista rebels in southern Mexico, La Journada reported.

The Zapatistas, a poorly armed primarily indigenous militia, rose up against the Mexican government on January 1, 1994, the same day the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) came into effect between the US, Canada and Mexico.

The Zapatistas called NAFTA a "death sentence", in part, because the agreement would allow subsidised US crops to enter the Mexican market, pushing small farmers off the land.

After battling the insurgency, GAFE gained additional training and support from the US to fight the drug trade, a business which arguably benefited more than any other from NAFTA. Relaxed borders increased trade flows in many goods, illegal drugs in particular, and rural displacement swelled the ranks of unemployed young men eager to make quick cash by any means necessary.

Valued between $19bn and $40bn dollars on a yearly basis – exact figures aren’t available for obvious reasons- the drug trade has massive power as a corrupting influence.

And despite 50,000 Mexican troops fighting the cartels, despite the mangled bodies and US assurances of support, Bricker speaks for all three analysts from divergent political outlooks when she states: "No one has been able to present any evidence that the Mexican government is winning this war."

And, if winning the war on drugs is the goal, training the most violent cartel probably isn't a great start.

Mexico Seems To Favor Sinaloa Cartel In Drug War

 May 19, 2010

Mexican President Felipe Calderon is in Washington on Wednesday for an official state visit. His battle against the violent drug cartels is high on the agenda.
Calderon has deployed 45,000 federal troops and police to combat the drug gangs. Yet in the midst of this crackdown, the Sinaloa cartel — the largest, oldest and richest in Mexico — appears to be flourishing.

Where The Cartels Are

An NPR News investigation has found strong evidence of collusion between elements of the Mexican army and the Sinaloa cartel in the violent border city of Juarez.
Dozens of interviews with current and former law enforcement agents, organized crime experts, elected representatives, and victims of violence suggest that the Sinaloans depend on bribes to top government officials to help their leader, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, elude capture, expand his empire and keep his operatives out of jail.
"I work in the police and because of this I know the government is protecting Chapo Guzman. It's hitting all the cartels but Chapo," said Luis Arturo Perez Torres, 25, until recently a federal police officer stationed in a suburb of Mexico City.
This NPR series was reported in collaboration with investigative producer Bruce Livesey.
You can find Livesey's reporting from Juarez atCBC Dispatches, CBC Radio's weekly foreign affairs program.
Guzman is the world's most wanted drug lord. His home base is the Pacific coastal state of Sinaloa, known as Mexico's "Sicily." It's the premier narco-state, with a long coastline for smuggling cocaine from South America, and rugged mountains to hide cannabis crops.
Manuel Clouthier, a congressman from Sinaloa state and a member of Calderon's political party, is deeply frustrated by his country's drug war. He says drug-related murders average 200 a month in his state.
'We Should Be Tearing It Out By The Roots'
"The Calderon government has been fighting organized crime in many parts of the republic, but has not touched Sinaloa," said Clouthier. "I know this. I'm Sinaloan. My family lives in Sinaloa. It is like we're trimming the branches of a tree, when we should be tearing it out by the roots."
Asked if the government is going soft on the country's biggest drug cartel, Clouthier responds, choosing his words carefully. "I believe that much of the problem of not combating a certain cartel in a certain state has much to do with corruption and lack of will," he said.
On Tuesday, reporters asked a senior White House official, in light of Washington's large package of security aid to Mexico, if Calderon's government is protecting Chapo Guzman. The U.S. is giving $1.3 billion in military and judicial aid to Mexico for its drug war, as Mexican drug cartels are major suppliers to the illicit U.S. narcotics trade.
The Obama administration official said the president has a long-term commitment to Calderon's struggle against the cartels. He mentioned that Mexico has arrested and extradited important cartel figures in recent months.

Arrests Of Cartel Members

The Mexican federal attorney general's office reported arrests and other enforcement actions on more than 2,600 members of major drug cartels since December 2006. Among six major cartels, the largest number of defendants came from the Gulf-Zeta cartel.
Chart shows the breakdown of drug cartel enforcement actions by the mexican federal government.
NPR Analysis Of Arrest Data
In an effort to find out whether federal forces are favoring the Sinaloa cartel, NPR analyzed thousands of news releases on the federal attorney general's website announcing arrests for organized crime, weapons and drug offenses. The information surveyed spanned from the day Calderon assumed the presidency in December 2006 until last week.

Understanding The Data

NPR took news releases from the Mexican federal attorney general's office (Procuraduria General de la Republica) about criminal action the office has taken since December 2006 against figures from six major drug cartels. We created a computer database of the defendants listed in the releases to get a picture of enforcement patterns.
What We Found
After analyzing data on more than 2,600 criminal defendants, we found that the Gulf-Zetas cartel (which recently split into two independent groups) represented more than 40 percent of the individuals arrested — more than 1,100. The rest were spread among the other cartels. The Sinaloa, Beltran-Leyva and Tijuana cartels each accounted for about 12 percent of the arrests.
NPR also looked at releases for arrests in the Ciudad Juarez area starting in March 2008, when the Mexican army arrived in Juarez as part of the country's drug war. Since then, the Mexican government has announced criminal action against only 16 Sinaloa cartel affiliates arrested in Chihuahua state, including Juarez. In contrast, there were 88 arrests associated with the Juarez cartel listed in the government releases. There are four individuals who were associated with both cartels, according to separate news releases.
NPR also analyzed cases that involved charges of cartel bribes of public officials (see chart below). Municipal officials were involved in most of the cases. The data suggest that bribes by the Sinaloa cartel focused on federal and military officials. Out of 19 cases, 14 of them involved federal and military officials. The Juarez cartel was charged with bribing 10 officials, and nine of them were municipal.
NPR created a database and screened the information for every person the government arrested, prosecuted or sentenced who was associated with one of the seven major drug cartels.
The analysis showed that the Mexican government crackdown has not hit the Sinaloans as hard as it has other cartels.
Nationwide, 44 percent of all cartel defendants are with the Zetas and Gulf cartels. Only 12 percent of the defendants are with the Sinaloa cartel. The numbers contradict the Mexican government, which claims it has arrested twice the percentage of Sinaloa gang members.
U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX), a former federal prosecutor who sits on the Homeland Security Committee, was asked to review the NPR analysis.
"I think you've identified an issue of concern," he said. "And that is, why is the Sinaloa doing so much better than the others and why is the Sinaloa cartel been the one that has escaped a lot of the prosecutions compared to the other cartel numbers?"
In response to NPR's findings, the Mexican Interior Secretariat on Tuesday said all drug cartels are being "attacked proportional to their size." A spokesman re-released figures the agency put out three months ago: 72,000 persons have been arrested for drug crimes; of those, 24 percent are members of the Sinaloa cartel, and 27 percent are Gulf cartel and Los Zetas.
A veteran Mexican crime journalist says this figure may include every drug arrest, including street-corner dealers. NPR only counted federal arrest records of named cartel associates.
Calderon Denies Selectively Fighting The Cartels

Cartel Bribes Of Mexican Public Officials

The growing criticism in Mexico that Calderon is selectively fighting the cartels prompted him to speak out at a press conference in February.
"These accusations are totally unfounded, false. In most cases, it reflects a misunderstanding of the facts, the result of other interests, I want to be clear," he said.
The Mexican president went on to name several Sinaloa crime bosses the government has arrested — the biggest being Vicente "El Mayito" Zambada, son of El Mayo Zambada, a close ally of Guzman's.
NPR's analysis is supported by a Mexican law professor and organized crime expert, Edgardo Buscaglia. He teaches at ITAM, a Mexico City university, and at Columbia University in New York. Buscaglia has done his own analysis of cartel arrests.
"If you look at the main organized crime group in Mexico, that is, the Sinaloan confederation, it has been left relatively untouched," he said.
Senior U.S. officials, who declined to speak on the record for this report, say they believe Calderon is sincere about rooting out corruption in his government and taking down all the drug mafias.
'Extraordinarily Brazen' Drug Cartels
A senior DEA official, speaking on background, said certain cartels are so "extraordinarily brazen, they've demanded the government's attention first."
Los Zetas, for instance, are involved in everything from drugs to extortion to stealing gasoline. La Familia Michoacana beheads its rivals, and has even threatened the president. They are more of a public threat than the Sinaloans — who U.S. law enforcement sources say stick to narcotics and money laundering and try to stay out of the spotlight.

January 16, 2008
by Daniel Hopsicker
Two American-registered drug planes busted  in Mexico carrying four and 5.5 tons of cocaine are just the "tip of the iceberg"  in a blockbuster aviation deal which sold 50 American-registered aircraft to the Sinaloa Cartel, the MadCowMorningNews has learned.

According to an indictment released over the holidays by Mexico’s Atty.General, Pedro Alfonso Alatorre, already indicted as the cartel’s chief financier, purchased the DC9 (N900SA) airliner, the Gulfstream II business jet (N987SA), and 48 other planes not yet identified for Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel with laundered drug money, using a company he controls which owns currency exchanges at major airports in Mexico.

Now we know who bought the airplanes. The trickier question is: who sold them?  The answer, normally, would be, "Their local counterparts in international organized crime."

But these aren't normal circumstances. Why? Because the U.S. doesn't even have any Drug Lords. Ask anybody at the DEA. Apparently, we don't even bother to field a team.

Elusive seldom-photographed American Drug Lords

News of a 50-plane fleet of drug smuggling aircraft being sold to a Mexican Cartel by mysteriously unnamed American owners confirms rumors of a mushrooming scandal, one which may eventually implicate top officials in the U.S., Mexico, and Colombia. 
The reason was left unspoken in the Mexican Atty. General’s statement,  because it lies on the American side of the equation, in the identity of the sellers of the planes...  
The DC9 and the Gulfstream II, the two American jets now known to be part of a 50-plane sale, share interlocking ownership. The stock of two corporations which owned the planes was used in the massive recent Adnan Khashoggi-led stock fraud.
Khashoggi, currently a fugitive from justice in the case, engineered the biggest brokerage bankruptcy in America since the Great Depression, costing investors and taxpayers over $300 million.
With gas prices over $3 a gallon, you wouldn't think the Saudi billionaire needed the money. So, what did 'they' do with the money? 

Upcoming Presidential elections, perhaps?

The operation was manned by “retired” CIA and military intelligence personnel, had close ties to major Bush backers and the national Republican Party, (Sen. Mel Martinez, until recently the Chairman of the GOP, flew free on Skyway’s Cocaine One DC9 during the crucial final two weeks of his campaign in Florida for the Senate.)
And with seeming impunity the operationengaged in multi-ton load drug trafficking, as well asmassive financial fraud.
What began as a minor scandal without fanfare in April of 2006 with the bust of an American-registered DC-9 airliner carrying 5.5 tons of cocaine on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula gathered momentum when a Gulfstream business jet flying out of the same airport was busted in the Yucatan 18 months later carrying 4 tons of cocaine. 
The level of citizen outrage increased with the crash-landing of the second American plane. With the news that the number of American planes sold to Mexican drug traffickers was not just one or two planes—but 50—the scandal is now threatening to mushroom into something much larger.

Kingpin Airlines welcomes you aboard

The brazen fleet-sized sale of American planes to Mexican drug traffickers has huge implications. 
"The extraordinary similarity,” to use the phrase used by Mexican newspaper Por Esto, between the DC9 airliner and the Gulfstream II...
The American owners of the drug planes have suffered no adverse consequences whatsoever to date.
If you own an airliner or business jet discovered hauling pure cocaine into the U.S., literally by the ton,  authorities are sympathetic. They know the hazards unauthorized charter flights pose to innocent business owners, and the confusion that can result when you've inadvertently purchased an airplane from someone known to be involved with international organized crime.

"Our Story Thus Far"

As this amazing information begins to sink inthat owning a drug plane may have little downside and be a terrific hedge against coming hard timesa brief recap of "Our Story Thus Far" may be in order.
Two American-registered airplanes with clear ties to the U.S. Government—a DC9 airliner (N900SA) painted to resemble an airplane from the U.S. Dept of Homeland Security, and a Gulfstream business jet (N987SA) formerly used by the CIA for renditions—were busted in Mexico 18 months apart carrying multi-ton loads of cocaine . 
Both planes flew from St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport to Mexico, then on to Colombia, where they loaded the cocaine, before being caught on their return journey to (supposedly) Fort Lauderdale,  stopping to refuel on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.  
Just before both plane's ill-fated final flights, the “ownership” papers were  shuffled around like peas being moved underneath shells on a card table in a billion dollar game of three-card monte by people known as “aircraft brokers.

Bush Rangers, cardboard-thin cutouts

However, the MadCowMorningNewslearned from an FAA official that neither of the two “aircraft brokers”  bought or sold any other planes during the entire year.
They aren’t really “aircraft brokers.” Aircraft brokers buy and sell planes. 
They’re “cut-outs,” a spy trade term for the layers of insulation relied on to provide plausible deniability.  They play a critical role in the cover story, shielding the plane's true owners from scrutiny.  
Both busted airplanes give every indication of having been involved in a “protected” drug trafficking operation. Imagine the surprise and shock back in the Home Office.  No wonder the cover story is, in many places, exceedingly thin.
A shameless plug:
Almost two weeks before the Mexico’s Atty. General’s announcement in early November that both planes had been used in the same drug smuggling operation,  readers of the MadCowMorningNews already knew of connections between the two downed American drug planes, and their interlocking ownership.

The "W" Connection

Stephen Adams, a secretive Midwestern media baron and Republican fund-raiser, owned the Gulfstream II at the same time he was personally purchasing one million dollars of billboard advertising for George W. Bush during the 2000 Presidential Campaign. 
Adams was also in business, in two separate companies, with Michael Farkas, the man who founded SkyWay Aircraft, which owned the DC9. Both men control companies used in Adnan Khashoggi’s $300 million stock fraud rip-off.   
The multi-ton drug busts, as well as the numerous murders already surrounding the case,  are part of a continuing "Mexican stand-off"between rival Mexican drug cartels allied with dueling factions contesting Mexico's unsettled political landscape.
The contest has so far resulted in more than 2500 murders in Mexico last year.  Mexico’s internecine drug war is a hotter theater of operations than Iraq. 

Bank robbers for Equal Justice Under Law

When a bank robber steals a few thousand dollars before holing up with a hostage, does the FBI take more than eighteen months before divulging the name of the suspect?
Certain cases involving politically-connected Americans suspected of involvement in drug smuggling, through ownership of drug smuggling aircraft,  seem to be being treated, not as crimes, but as urgent matters of national security.  
But the American owners of the two airplanes busted in Mexico do not look like innocent victims of mean and nasty Mexican drug traffickers, but their  American counterparts... the elusive and almost never-photographedAmerican Drug Lords.
The Gulfstream, for example, picked up its multi-load of cocaine at the international airport in Rio Negro, just outside of Medellin. Although the city became famous as Pablo Escobar’s hometown, today Medellin is known for being current Colombian President Alvaro Uribe’s home turf…
So it wasn’t FARC dope.
And there is no way the shipment can be blamed on the guerrillas, which may yet prove inconvenient if—after all the pieces are fitted into the puzzle—government-to-government drug connections are visible between the U.S. and Colombian governments.  

An official issue get-out-of-jail-free card

The first plane to go down was a DC9 airliner (N900SA) which left Colombia carrying 5.5 tons of cocaine
The DC9’s owner regularly engaged in illegal, and as yet unpunished, activity, as if he had an official issue get-out-of-jail-free card.
One example: Forgetting legal niceties--like "don't sell a plane you don't own, dude"-- the DC9 was passed from “Skyway Aircraft” to a company controlled by a company insider, “Royal Sons LLC.
But the real owner of the plane at the time was the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Tampa. And they weren’t even told of the sale.
Maybe it helped their legal cause that Skyway's Chairman, Glenn Kovar, had been a U.S. Forest Service employee who boasted of long-standing ties to the CIA.
And several of the firm’s top executives, including its President, have backgrounds in U.S. military intelligence.  That probably didn't hurt either.

Paint your car like a police car! Comes with own siren!

Skyway’s DC9 was painted with the distinctive blue-and-white with gold trim used by  official U.S. Government planes, and an official-looking U.S. Seal, featuring the familiar Federal eagle clutching an olive brand, had been painted alongside the door. 
If you look closely, however,  the legend wrapping around the outer edge of the Seal says “SkyWay Aircraft: Protection of America’s Skies.” 
Still, most who saw the DC9 sitting on the apron of the St-Petersburg Clearwater International Airport figured the aircraft belonged to the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security.
The DC9 was clearly impersonating an aircraft from the Dept of Homeland Security. Yet it sat unmolested by authorities at the St Pete-Clearwater Intl' Airport, parked less than a hundred yards from the US Coast Guard's major Caribbean Basin Air Facility.
Skyway’s SUV's, by contrast, were painted with a bogus U.S. Government Seal were pulled over by local police, and ordered to remove the seals.

Pretty lucky? Or pretty well-connected?

Another intriguing fact is that several years ago Skyway's listed address in plane ads was a hanger at Huffman Aviation at the Venice Fl. Airport.  Huffman trained both pilots who took down the World Trade Center, Mohamed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi, to fly.
The Gulfstream II (N987SA) 
The biggest clue to date to the true identity of the individuals or organization operating behind the scenes is in the name of the dummy front company which was the last registered owner of the Gulfstream business jet that crash-landed with 4 tons of cocaine may lie in the firm's initials.
"Donna Blue Aircraft"  is "DBA," for "doing business as," the kind of clever nomenclature "the boys" are fond of.
When we visited the company’s listed address, it was in an empty office suite with a blank sign out front.

What This is Really All About

Mankind’s knowledge about who owns large commercial and business jets which get busted carrying narcotics appears severely limited for several reasons.
1. It is completely governed, like the movement of subatomic quarks, byHeisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, with one teensy change.
2. Ownership Uncertainty fluctuates with the level of influence the plane's owner is able to exert. 
3. Prospects are especially poor of ever identifying the owners of planes associated with national Republican figures.
The whole business, suggested a story from the Associated Press, ratherquickly moves beyond the realm of human ken.
“How the U.S.-registered Gulfstream ended up in the hands of suspected drug traffickers remains a mystery,” the AP reported.
And not by accident, either. 

On April 23, two patrol cars were ambushed by armed gunman in downtown Ciudad Juarez. In the ensuing firefight, seven policemen were killed as well as a 17-year old boy who was caught in the crossfire. All of the assailants escaped uninjured fleeing the crime-scene in three SUVs. The bold attack was executed in broad daylight in one of the busiest areas of the city. According to the Associated Press:

"Hours after the attack, a painted message directed to top federal police commanders and claiming responsibility for the attack appeared on a wall in downtown Ciudad Juarez. It was apparently signed by La Linea gang, the enforcement arm of the Juarez drug cartel. The Juarez cartel has been locked in a bloody turf battle with the Sinaloa cartel, led by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman.

"This will happen to you ... for being with El Chapo Guzman and to all the dirtbags who support him. Sincerely, La Linea," the message read." ("7 Mexican police officers killed in Ciudad Juarez", Olivia Torres, AP)

The massacre in downtown Juarez is just the latest incident in Mexico's bloody drug war. Between 5 to 6 more people will be killed on Saturday, and on every day thereafter with no end in sight. It's a war that cannot be won, but that hasn't stopped the Mexican government from sticking to its basic game-plan.

The experts and politicians disagree about the origins of the violence in Juarez, but no one disputes that 23,000 people have been killed since 2006 in a largely futile military operation initiated by Mexican president Felipe Calderon. Whether the killing is the result of the ongoing turf-war between the rival drug cartels or not, is irrelevant. The present policy is failing and needs to be changed. The militarization of the war on drugs has been a colossal disaster which has accelerated the pace of social disintegration. Mexico is quickly becoming a failed state, and Washington's deeply-flawed Merida Initiative, which provides $1.4 billion in aid to the Calderon administration to intensify military operations, is largely to blame.

The surge in narcotics trafficking and drug addiction go hand-in-hand with destructive free trade policies which have fueled their growth. NAFTA, in particular, has triggered a massive migration of people who have been pushed off the land because they couldn't compete with heavily-subsidized agricultural products from the US. Many of these people drifted north to towns like Juarez which became a manufacturing hub in the 1990s. But Juarez's fortunes took a turn for the worse a few years later when competition from the Far East grew fiercer. Now most of the plants and factories have been boarded up and the work has been outsourced to China where subsistence wages are the norm. Naturally, young men have turned to the cartels as the only visible means of employment and upward mobility. That means that free trade has not only had a ruinous effect on the economy, but has also created an inexhaustible pool of recruits for the drug trade.

Washington's Merida Initiative--which provides $1.4 billion in aid to the Calderon administration to intensify military operations--has only made matters worse. The public's demand for jobs, security and social programs, has been answered with check-points, crackdowns and state repression. The response from Washington hasn't been much better. Obama hasn't veered from the policies of the prior administration. He is as committed to a military solution as his predecessor, George W. Bush.

But the need for change is urgent. Mexico is unraveling and, as the oil wells run dry, the prospect of a failed state run by drug kingpins and paramilitaries on US's southern border becomes more and more probable. The drug war is merely a symptom of deeper social problems; widespread political corruption, grinding poverty, soaring unemployment, and the erosion of confidence in public institutions. But these issues are brushed aside, so the government can pursue its one-size-fits-all military strategy without second-guessing or remorse. Meanwhile, the country continues to fall apart.


The big cartels are engaged in a ferocious battle for the drug corridors around Juarez. The Sinaloa, Gulf and La Familia cartels have formed an alliance against the upstart Los Zetas gang. Critics allege that the Calderon administration has close ties with the Sinaloa cartel and refuses to arrest its members. Here's an excerpt from an Al Jazeera video which points to collusion between Sinaloa and the government.

"The US Treasury identifies at least 20 front companies that are laundering drug money for the Sinaloa cartel...There are allegations that the Mexican government is "favoring" the cartel. According to Diego Enrique Osorno, investigative journalist and author of the "The Sinaloa Cartel":

"There are no important detentions of Sinaloa cartel members. But the government is hunting down adversary groups, new players in the world of drug trafficking."

International Security Expert, Edgardo Buscaglia, says that "of over 50,000 drug related arrests, only a very small percentage have been Sinaloa cartel members, and no cartel leaders. Dating back to 2003, law enforcement data shows objectively that the government has been hitting the weakest organized crime groups in Mexico, but they have not been hitting the main crime group, the Sinaloa Federation, that's responsible for 45% of the drug trade in this country." (Al Jazeera)

There's no way to verify whether the Calderon administration is in bed with the Sinaloa cartel, but Al Jazeera's report is pretty damning. A similar report appeared in the Los Angeles Times which revealed that the government had diverted funds that were earmarked for struggling farmers (who'd been hurt by NAFTA) "to the families of notorious drug traffickers and several senior government officials, including the agriculture minister." Here's an excerpt from the Los Angeles Times:

"According to several academic studies, as much as 80% of the money went to just 20% of the registered farmers...Among the most eyebrow-raising recipients were three siblings of billionaire drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, head of the powerful Sinaloa cartel, and the brother of Guzman's onetime partner, Arturo Beltran Leyva". ("Mexico farm subsidies are going astray", Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times)

There's no doubt that if the LA Times knows about the circular flow of state money to drug traffickers, than the Obama administration knows too. So why does the administration persist with the same policy and continue to support the people they pretend to be fighting?

In forty years, US drug policy has never changed. The same "hunt them down, bust them, and lock them up" philosophy continues to this day. That's why many critics believe that the drug war is really about control, not eradication. It's a matter of who's in line to rake in the profits; small-time pushers who run their own operations or politically-connected kingfish who have agents in the banks, the intelligence agencies, the military and the government. Currently, in Juarez, the small fries' are getting wiped out while the big-players are getting stronger. In a year or so, the Sinaloa cartel will control the streets, the drug corridors, and the border. The violence will die down and the government will proclaim "victory", but the flow of drugs into the US will increase while the situation for ordinary Mexicans will continue to deteriorate.

Here's a clip from an article in the Independent by veteran journalist Hugh O'Shaughnessy:

"The outlawing and criminalizing of drugs and consequent surge in prices has produced a bonanza for producers everywhere, from Kabul to Bogota, but, at the Mexican border, where an estimated $39,000m in narcotics enter the rich US market every year, a veritable tsunami of cash has been created. The narcotraficantes, or drug dealers, can buy the murder of many, and the loyalty of nearly everyone. They can acquire whatever weapons they need from the free market in firearms north of the border and bring them into Mexico with appropriate payment to any official who holds his hand out." ("The US-Mexico border: where the drugs war has soaked the ground blood red", Hugh O'Shaughnessy The Independent)

It's no coincidence that Kabul and Bogota are the the de facto capitals of the drug universe. US political support is strong in both places, as is the involvement of US intelligence agencies. But does that suggest that the CIA is at work in Mexico, too? Or, to put it differently: Why is the US supporting a client that appears to be allied to the most powerful drug cartel in Mexico? That's the question.


In August 1996, investigative journalist Gary Webb released the first installment of Dark Alliance in the San Jose Mercury exposing the CIA's involvement in the drug trade. The article blew the lid off the murky dealings of the agency's covert operations. Webb's words are as riveting today as they were when they first appeared 14 years ago:

"For the better part of a decade, a San Francisco Bay Area drug ring sold tons of cocaine to the Crips and Bloods street gangs of Los Angeles and funneled millions in drug profits to a Latin American guerrilla army run by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, a Mercury News investigation has found.

This drug network opened the first pipeline between Colombia's cocaine cartels and the black neighborhoods of Los Angeles, a city now known as the "crack'' capital of the world. The cocaine that flooded in helped spark a crack explosion in urban America

and provided the cash and connections needed for L.A.'s gangs to buy automatic weapons.

It is one of the most bizarre alliances in modern history: the union of a U.S.-backed army attempting to overthrow a revolutionary socialist government and the Uzi-toting "gangstas'' of Compton and South-Central Los Angeles." ("America's 'crack' plague has roots in Nicaragua war", Gary Webb, San Jose Mercury News)

Counterpunch editor Alexander Cockburn has also done extensive research on the CIA/drug connection. Here's an excerpt from an article titled "The Government's Dirty Little Secrets", which ran in the Los Angeles Times.

"CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz finally conceded to a U.S. congressional committee that the agency had worked with drug traffickers and had obtained a waiver from the Justice Department in 1982 (the beginning of the Contra funding crisis) allowing it not to report drug trafficking by agency contractors. Was the lethal arsenal deployed at Roodeplaat assembled with the advice from the CIA and other U.S. agencies? There were certainly close contacts over the years. It was a CIA tip that led the South African secret police to arrest Nelson Mandela." (The Government's Dirty Little Secrets, Los Angeles Times, commentary, 1998)

And then there's this from independent journalist Zafar Bangash:

"The CIA, as Cockburn and (Jeffrey) St Clair reveal, had been in this business right from the beginning. In fact, even before it came into existence, its predecessors, the OSS and the Office of Naval Intelligence, were involved with criminals. One such criminal was Lucky Luciano, the most notorious gangster and drug trafficker in America in the forties."

The CIA's involvement in drug trafficking closely dovetails America's adventures overseas - from Indo-China in the sixties to Afghanistan in the eighties....As Alfred McCoy states in his book: Politics of Heroin: CIA complicity in the Global Drug Trade, beginning with CIA raids from Burma into China in the early fifties, the agency found that 'ruthless drug lords made effective anti-communists." ("CIA peddles drugs while US Media act as cheerleaders", Zafar Bangash, Muslimedia, January 16-31, 1999)

And, this from author William Blum:

"ClA-supported Mujahedeen rebels ... engaged heavily in drug trafficking while fighting against the Soviet-supported government," writes historian William Blum. "The Agency's principal client was Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, one of the leading druglords and a leading heroin refiner. CIA-supplied trucks and mules, which had carried arms into Afghanistan, were used to transport opium to laboratories along the Afghan/Pakistan border. The output provided up to one half of the heroin used annually in the United States and three-quarters of that used in Western Europe...."

And, this from Portland Independent Media:

"Before 1980, Afghanistan produced 0% of the world's opium. But then the CIA moved in, and by 1986 they were producing 40% of the world's heroin supply. By 1999, they were churning out 3,200 TONS of heroin a year--nearly 80% of the total market supply. But then something unexpected happened. The Taliban rose to power, and by 2000 they had destroyed nearly all of the opium fields. Production dropped from 3,000+ tons to only 185 tons, a 94% reduction! This drop in revenue hurt not only the CIA's Black Budget projects, but also the free-flow of laundered money in and out of the Controller's banks." (Portland Independent Media)

The evidence of CIA involvement in the drug trade is vast, documented and compelling. Still, does that mean that there is some nefarious 3-way connection between the Sinaloa Cartel, the Calderon administration and the CIA? Isn't it more likely that US policymakers are simply stuck in an ideological rut and are unable to break free from the culture of militarism that has swallowed Washington whole? Author John Ross answers these questions and more in a speech he delivered at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington D.C. in April 2009. Here's an excerpt:

"What does Washington want from Mexico? On the security side, the U.S. seeks total control of Mexico's security apparatus. With the creation of NORTHCOM (Northern Command) designed to protect the U.S. landmass from terrorist attack, Mexico is designated North America's southern security perimeter and U.S. military aircraft now has carte blanche to penetrate Mexican airspace. Moreover, the North American Security and Prosperity Agreement (ASPAN in its Mexican initials) seeks to integrate the security apparatuses of the three NAFTA nations under Washington's command. Now the Merida Initiative signed by Bush II and Calderon in early 2007 allows for the emplacement of armed U.S. security agents - the FBI, the DEA, the CIA, and ICE - on Mexican soil and contractors like the former Blackwater cannot be far behind. Wars are fought for juicy government contracts and $1.3 billion in Merida moneys are going directly to U.S. defense contractors - forget about the Mexican middleman.

On the energy side, the designated target is, of course, the privatization of PEMEX, Mexico's nationalized oil industry, with a particular eye out for risk contracts on deep sea drilling in the Gulf of Mexico utilizing technology only the EXXONs of this world possess." (John Ross, "The Big Scam : How and Why Washington Hooked Mexico on the Drug War)

The drug war is the mask behind which the real policy is concealed. The United States is using all the implements in its national security toolbox to integrate Mexico into a North America Uberstate, a hemispheric free trade zone that removes sovereign obstacles to corporate looting and guarantees rich rewards for defense contractors. As Ross notes, all of the usual suspects are involved, including the FBI and CIA. That means the killing in Juarez will continue until Washington's objectives are achieved.

Mike Whitney is a frequent contributor to Global Research. Global Research Articles by Mike Whitney

Richard Cain, Mexico City, Bill K. Harvey and Staff D

« on: July 19, 2011, 06:45:44 PM »

"Arguments for exclusivity go only so far. The better question is how explain the Kurt Vonnegut Cat's Cradle line turned to song:

Nice, nice, very nice
so many people in the same device"

~Phil Dragoo

The Mexican Security Police, known as the Dirección Federal de Seguridad, or DFS was a government security agency created in 1947 during the presidency of Miguel Alemán. Organizationally part of the Secretaria de Gobernación, the DFS was assigned the official duty of preserving the internal stability of Mexico against all forms subversion and terrorist threats. Following a drug scandal that concluded with criminal prosecution of its top executives, the DFS was abolished, with operational elements restructured and merged into the Centro de Investigación y Seguridad Nacional (CISEN) in 1985.

Professor Peter Dale Scott has written that the DFS was in part a CIA creation, and "the CIA's closest government allies were for years in the DFS." DFS badges, "handed out to top-level Mexican drug-traffickers, have been labelled by DEA agents a virtual 'license to traffic.'" Scott says that "The Guadalajara Cartel, Mexico's most powerful drug-trafficking network in the early 1980s, prospered largely because it enjoyed the protection of the DFS, under its chief Miguel Nassar (or Nazar) Haro, a CIA asset.

What is relevant to our interests is the fact that the DFS, in addition to being deeply involved with illicit drug related organized crime, and a corrupt tool of enforcement for the state, staffed and monitored the CIA's Mexico City telephone intercept program LI/ENVOY, the source of the infamous "Oswald" tapes which were transcribed by husband and wife team, Boris and Anna Tarasoff.

What this means is that the LI/ENVOY operation which produced the original reports (subsequently transcribed) of an Oswald speaking with Soviet and Cuban diplomatic officers was not only technically insecure, it was manned, apparently, by Mexican State Police whose activities were well documented as being open to manipulation by criminal elements.

Which leads to...

Richard Cain

Richard Cain (alias Scalzetti) can properly be described as a notorious Chicago mob figure, a veteran who served in the US Army stationed in both Japan and the Virgin Islands, an allegedly crooked Security Officer for UPS, an allegedly corrupt Chicago Police Department detective and employee of the Cook County Sheriff's Office, a lie-detector operator, a Spanish speaking associate of pro-Batista, anti-Castro Cubans, a close personal friend of Chicago mob boss, Sam Giancana (at whose request was allegedly brought into the CIA's Castro assassination plans), a business operator (Accurate Detective Laboratories), a recruiter for Spanish speaking volunteers sent to South Florida and Central American CIA training camps specializing in guerrilla warfare/commando tactics, an FBI informant, an electronic surveillance expert who specialized in telephone tapping, and, among many other things including being shot in the mouth at point blank range with a shotgun on 20 Dec., 1973, the person identified in official CIA files as having visited the CIA's Mexico City Station in April of '62, at which time "he stated he had an investigative agency in Mexico...for the purpose of training Mexican government agents in police methods, in investigative techniques, and in the use of the lie detector."

During the period of 1950 - 52, Cain had tapped the telephones of Cuban revolutionary leaders on behalf of the US supported Batista regime. In 1960 he was approached to install phone taps on behalf of former Cuban President (and exiled resident of Mexico), Carlos Prio. The Chicago Tribune reported that the CIA had engaged Cain in 1960 because of his Havana mob contacts, and also to wiretap the Czech embassy in Havana.

It seems plausible that "technical assistance" referred to in official CIA reports confirming that the CIA Mexico City Station provided support to the DFS on the LI/ENVOY operation was in the form of a man who was deeply and personally connected with Sam Giancana, Giancana's anti-Castro CIA intrigues, and the Chicago underworld milieu of Jack Ruby.

A detailed examination of Richard Cain suggests that from 1960 through '63, he was close to, or possibly deep inside, the connection between the CIA and the Mafia's recruitment to assassinate Fidel Castro. An HSCA report presents credible arguments that Cain was not only involved (by Giancana) in the plots against Castro, but that he himself may have been the "assassin-to-be" mentioned by his boss, Giancana, on 18 Oct., 1960.

Which leads to...

Bill K. Harvey and Staff D

The most sensitive and restricted operation by the CIA against Castro was run out of CIA's Staff D (FI/D), headed by William King Harvey. Officially, Staff D was "a small Agency component responsible for communications intercepts." Quoted from Inspectors General Report, 37. In fact and in practice, the very stringent restrictions on clearances for COMINT (communications intelligence) made FI/D especially well suited to house sensitive operations that CIA officials (such as Agent In Charge, Harvey) wished to conceal from the rest of the Agency. The most notorious of these projects was ZR/RIFLE, Harvey's program for "Executive Action Capability."

FI/D was responsible for the LI/ENVOY program in Mexico City. LI/ENVOY reports were filed regularly from Mexico City Station to Harvey at CIA HQS. It is important to know that Ann Goodpasture, Mexico City Station officer responsible for bringing DFS intercept product into the station and who supplied mistaken and misleading identification of Oswald as being "age 35 and balding," was an FI/D employee.

Harvey's Staff D controlled the CIA-Mafia assassination plots, and it controlled the LI/ENVOY intercept intake inside the Mexico City Station. If Richard Cain trained and possibly supervised the recruitment of Mexican (DFS) monitors, the CIA-DFS LI/ENVOY collaboration represents a pre-assassination matrix connecting three possible conspirators in operations which would be seen post-assassination to have very great significance in the implication of Lee Harvey Oswald.

This is a model of an ultra-secretive compartment of CIA, elements of the Mafia already associated with the CIA in their Castro assassination plots, and the infiltration of an officially recognized Mexican agency which would have been thought to have acted in the service of the CIA in its reporting of electronic listening posts, working with each other in ways not apparent to any who would have been uninvolved.

For us to truly recognize what this may mean in terms relevant to the hypothesis that LHO was set up to take the blame for an act he did not commit, it's essential that we fully understand that all of the above should not result in a rush to judgement that these elements at work through the actions and associations of Richard Cain, Sam Giancana, Ann Goodpasture, and Bill K. Harvey represent proof of their collaboration on the incrimination of Oswald as part of a sinister plot to kill President Kennedy.

While exploring the possibility that the incrimination of Oswald was piggy-backed upon authorized counterintelligence operations which employed these resources and was possibly directed by these authorities, we raise more questions than we answer. I'm hopeful that even a modest introduction such as this will be encouragement -- especially to those of you whose minds seem to have already been made up -- to continue the search for new answers.

My thanks to Phil Dragoo whose contributions here should be required reading for all.


The Mexican Drug War is an ongoing armed conflict between rival drug cartels fighting each other for regional control, and Mexican government forces. The government's principal goal has been to put down the drug-related violence that was raging between different drug cartels before any military intervention was made.[27] In addition, the Mexican government has claimed that their primary focus is on dismantling the powerful drug cartels, rather than on drug trafficking prevention, which is left to U.S. functionaries.[28][29][30]

Although Mexican drug cartels, or drug trafficking organizations, have existed for several decades, they have become more powerful since the demise of Colombia's Cali and Medellín cartels in the 1990s. Mexican drug cartels now dominate the wholesale illicit drug market by controlling 90% of the drugs that enter the United States.[31][32] Arrests of key cartel leaders, particularly in the Tijuana and Gulf cartels, have led to increasing drug violence as cartels fight for control of the trafficking routes into the United States.[33][34][35]

Analysts estimate that wholesale earnings from illicit drug sales range from $13.6 billion[31] to $49.4 billion annually.[31][36][37]

Some sources say that the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been involved in several drug trafficking operations. Some of these reports claim that congressional evidence indicates that the CIA worked with groups which it knew were involved in drug trafficking, so that these groups would provide them with useful intelligence and material support, in exchange for allowing their criminal activities to continue,[1] and impeding or preventing their arrest, indictment, and imprisonment by U.S. law enforcement agencies.[2]

According to Peter Dale Scott, the Dirección Federal de Seguridad was in part a CIA creation, and "the CIA's closest government allies were for years in the DFS". DFS badges, "handed out to top-level Mexican drug-traffickers, have been labelled by DEA agents a virtual 'license to traffic.'"[21] Scott says that "The Guadalajara Cartel, Mexico's most powerful drug-trafficking network in the early 1980s, prospered largely because it enjoyed the protection of the DFS, under its chief Miguel Nazar Haro, a CIA asset."[21]

Vicente Zambada Niebla, the son of Ismael Zambada García one of the top druglords in Mexico, claimed after his arrest to his attorneys that he and other top Sinaloa cartel members had received immunity by U.S. agents and a virtual licence to smuggle cocaine over the United States border, in exchange for intelligence about rival cartels engaged in the Mexican Drug War.[22][23]

The Dirección Federal de Seguridad (Federal Security Directorate, DFS) was a Mexican intelligence agency. Created in 1947 under Miguel Alemán Valdés with "the duty of preserving the internal stability of Mexico against all forms subversion and terrorist threats",[1] it was merged into the Centro de Investigación y Seguridad Nacional (CISEN) in 1985.

According to Peter Dale Scott, the DFS was in part a CIA creation, and "the CIA's closest government allies were for years in the DFS". DFS badges, "handed out to top-level Mexican drug-traffickers, have been labelled by DEA agents a virtual 'license to traffic.'"[2] Scott says that "The Guadalajara Cartel, Mexico's most powerful drug-trafficking network in the early 1980s, prospered largely because it enjoyed the protection of the DFS, under its chief Miguel Nazar Haro, a CIA asset."[2]

  1. ^ Dirección Federal de Seguridad (Mexico) Security Reports, Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection, University of Texas Libraries, the University of Texas at Austin,Dirección Federal de Seguridad (Mexico) Security Reports, 1970-1977
  2. ^ a b Peter Dale Scott (2000), Washington and the politics of drugs, Variant, 2(11)

Mexican Miguel Nazar Haro was protected by the CIA

By Víctor Hugo Michel (Mexico City) and Dora Irene Rivera (Monterrey)


Miguel Nassar Haro* (aka Nazar Haro; or Nasar Haro), Mexico’s ex-director of the Federal Security Directorate (DFS), received help from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the U.S. Justice Department to avoid incarceration in the U.S. when he was under investigation for participating in a car theft ring, revealed Peter K. Nuñez, the former U.S. Attorney in charge of the case in San Diego, California.

In an interview with Milenio, Nuñez said that when he tried to arrest and prosecute Nassar Haro in the early 1980s, the “intelligence agencies” in Washington began to meddle in the case and they even pressured him not to pursue the investigations.

“It was a very complicated circumstance. We [in San Diego] had spent considerable time trying to charge him, and the Justice Department in Washington and some of the U.S. intelligence agencies did not want us to go ahead,” Nuñez said.

Asked if he believes the CIA got involved to influence the escape of Nassar Haro from the U.S. — after (he) spent a few hours in a San Diego jail, Nuñez dryly responded “yes.”

The CIA considered Nassar Haro, according to different reports, “the most important source in Mexico and Central America” for the U.S. espionage services.

From the beginning of the call, upon hearing the reporter’s nationality, Nuñez guessed the subject of the interview. “You want to talk about Miguel Nassar Haro,” he anticipated. “Let me tell you: I am not surprised that he has been arrested in Mexico.”

Nuñez, a favorite of Ronald Reagan who was famous for having detained the ex-director of the DFS for a few hours in a San Diego jail, affirmed that he and his team of attorneys had gathered “sufficient information” to link Nassar Haro with car theft in Southern California.

(Reporter:) How was the connection between Nassar Haro and this gang of car thieves discovered, was it through an informant?

(Nuñez:) In part, yes. Many people had already been arrested, and many of them had cooperated with the U.S. government. And among other things, they revealed the role of Nassar Haro in the case.

(The reporter continued with several questions about extradition, then and now. In a concluding comment Nuñez said that) the arrest warrants against Miguel Nassar Haro, for car theft in California, “are still open and they have not expired.” As such, “an eventual extradition request” cannot be dismissed.

Nuñez said, that according to the U.S. justice (system), two decades after being indicted in a federal court for his alleged participation in an organization dedicated to stealing vehicles in San Diego Nassar Haro is still a “fugitive.”

“The statute of limitations would not apply because Nassar Haro had already been processed,” said the ex-U.S. Attorney who was the prosecutor in the case that culminated with the Mexican agent fleeing to Tijuana, from the U.S., after he paid his bail.

Nuñez explained, that in spite of the more than 22 years that have passed, the crimes committed in the U.S. are not yet resolved. “Arrest warrants do not expire,” he said. “He paid his bail but he never returned to face the charges.”

Nuñez said that even without a U.S. extradition proceeding, the Mexican justice (system) could try Nassar Haro for crimes committed in the U.S., according to Article 4 of the Federal Penal Code of Mexico. Article 4 states that crimes committed abroad by a Mexican will be punishable in Mexico, in accordance with federal laws, if the accused is in the country and (if the accused) has yet to be tried abroad.

Nuñez revealed, that as a result of what happened with Nassar Haro, there were political damages in Washington — mostly from friction caused by the involvement of intelligence agencies and the Justice Department in a case that took place on the other side of the country, in California.

According to memory, there was a leak in Washington about the investigations of the U.S. Attorney in San Diego. “Someone leaked the information and made it public, that we were considering the indictment of Nassar Haro,” he recalled. “That was not authorized.”

The leak, that put the name of Nassar Haro in the headlines of the main newspapers in the U.S., brought down a Justice Department official, Bill Kennedy, who the Reagan administration blamed for revealing the “sensitive information.”

“Nassar Haro then came to the U.S., to file suit against the newspapers for printing his name. It was not the best choice he ever made. While he was here we charged and arrested him,” Nuñez said, remembering the moment the ex-director of the DFS was taken into custody.

* Miguel Nazar Haro was recently detained, in Mexico, on an arrest warrant issued by a Monterrey, Nuevo León, judge. The ex-director of the infamous DFS, a now defunct domestic intelligence and security agency, is charged with authorizing the 1975 kidnapping of a youthful leftist — one of Mexico’s “disappeared” who were never to be heard from again.

— translation

The Guadalajara Cartel (Spanish: Cártel de Guadalajara) was a Mexican drug cartel which was formed in the 1980s by Rafael Caro Quintero, Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo and Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo in order to ship heroin and marijuana to the United States. Among the first of the Mexican drug trafficking groups to work with the Colombian cocaine mafias, the Guadalajara cartel prospered from the cocaine trade.

After the arrest of Rafael Caro Quintero and Ernesto Fonseca Carrillo, Félix Gallardo kept a low profile and in 1987 he moved with his familyGuadalajara city. Félix Gallardo ("The Godfather") then decided to divide up the trade he controlled as it would be more efficient and less likely to be brought down in one law enforcement swoop.[1]In a way, he was privatizing the Mexican drug business while sending it back underground, to be run by bosses who were less well known or not yet known by the DEA. Félix Gallardo convened the nation's top drug narcos at a house in the resort of Acapulco where he designated the plazas or territories. The Tijuana route would go to the Arellano Felix brothers. The Ciudad Juárez routewould go to the Carrillo Fuentes family. Miguel Caro Quintero would run the Sonora corridor. The control of the Matamoros, Tamaulipas corridor – then becoming the Gulf Cartel- would be left undisturbed to Juan García Abrego. Meanwhile, Joaquín Guzmán Loera and Ismael Zambada García would take over Pacific coast operations, becoming the Sinaloa Cartel. Guzmán and Zambada brought veteran Héctor Luis Palma Salazar back into the fold. Félix Gallardo still planned to oversee national operations, he had the contacts so he was still the top man, but he would no longer control all details of the business; he was arrested on April 8, 1989.[2]

According to Peter Dale Scott, the Guadalajara Cartel, Mexico's most powerful drug-trafficking network in the early 1980s, prospered largely because it enjoyed the protection of the Dirección Federal de Seguridad, under its chief Miguel Nazar Haro, a CIA asset."[3]

Miguel Ángel Félix Gallardo (born January 8, 1946) is a convicted Mexican drug lord known as "El Padrino" (Spanish: "The Godfather") who in the 1980s formed the Guadalajara Cartel and became the first drug czar in Mexico to control all illegal drug traffic in Mexico and the corridors along the Mexico-U.S.A. border

The Mexican Drug War is an ongoing armed conflict between rival drug cartels fighting each other for regional control, and Mexican government forces. The government's principal goal has been to put down the drug-related violence that was raging between different drug cartels before any military intervention was made.[27] In addition, the Mexican government has claimed that their primary focus is on dismantling the powerful drug cartels, rather than on drug trafficking prevention, which is left to U.S. functionaries.[28][29][30]

Although Mexican drug cartels, or drug trafficking organizations, have existed for several decades, they have become more powerful since the demise of Colombia's Cali and Medellín cartels in the 1990s. Mexican drug cartels now dominate the wholesale illicit drug market by controlling 90% of the drugs that enter the United States.[31][32] Arrests of key cartel leaders, particularly in the Tijuana and Gulf cartels, have led to increasing drug violence as cartels fight for control of the trafficking routes into the United States.[33][34][35]

Analysts estimate that wholesale earnings from illicit drug sales range from $13.6 billion[31] to $49.4 billion annually.

The timeline of the most relevant events in the Mexican Drug War

Although violence between drug cartels had been occurring for three decades, the Mexican government held a generally passive stance regarding cartel violence through the 1980s and early 2000s. That changed on December 11, 2006, when the newly elected President Felipe Calderón sent 6,500 Mexican Army soldiers to the state of Michoacán to end drug violence there. This action is regarded as the first major retaliation made against the cartel violence, and is generally viewed as the starting point of the Mexican Drug War between the government and the drug cartels.[1] As time passed, Calderón continued to escalate his anti-drug campaign, in which there are now about 45,000 troops involved along with state and federal police forces.

Arturo Guzmán Decena, a.k.a. Z-1 (January 13, 1976 − November 21, 2002) was a Mexican Army soldier who defected to become a mercenary and commander of the mercenary gang called Los Zetas at the service of Osiel Cárdenas Guillen, the Gulf Cartel's drug lord.[1] Los Zetas are considered by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as the most technologically advanced, sophisticated and violent drug cartel in Mexico

A federal judge in Chicago refused Thursday to dismiss charges against a reputed Mexican drug kingpin who claimed he was working as an informant for the government.  Vicente Zambada-Niebla failed to provide evidence to rebut the government’s contention that he was never granted immunity from prosecution on drug-trafficking charges, U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo found.
Zambada-Niebla is the highest-ranking reputed member of the Sinaloa cartel in U.S. custody in a case being tried in Chicago against members of the drug-trafficking organization which authorities say is headed by Joaquin “Chapo” Guzman, described by the U.S. Treasury Department as the “world’s most powerful drug trafficker.”
Castillo’s written ruling offers a glimpse into the secret workings of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration in Mexico.
According to the judge’s ruling, Sinaloa cartel lawyer Humberto Loya-Castro was a confidant to Guzman and right-hand man Ismael Zambada-Garcia, who is Zambada-Niebla’s father.
After Loya-Castro was charged in a narcotics case in California in 1995, he started providing information to DEA agents about Mexican drug trafficking. The case against Loya-Castro was dismissed in 2008 at the request of prosecutors.

In 2008, he proposed a meeting between his DEA contact and Zambada-Niebla. On March 17, 2009, they met with DEA agents at a hotel in Mexico City. Hours later, Zambada-Niebla was arrested by Mexican officials.
Prosecutors say Loya-Castro brought Zambada-Niebla to meet DEA agents at the hotel against the agents’ instructions.
“According to the government, [Zambada-Niebla] conveyed his interest and willingness to cooperate with the U.S. government, but the DEA agents told him they ‘were not authorized to meet with him, much less have substantive discussions with him,’ ” the judge wrote.
Zambada-Niebla argued that Loya-Castro had negotiated an immunity deal for him; that he provided information to Loya-Castro about rival cartels that was then passed on to the U.S. government; and that he traveled to Mexico City at great risk to himself for the meeting with DEA agents because he was assured he had immunity from prosecution.
The judge said Zambada-Niebla didn’t present enough evidence to refute the government’s position that he was never granted immunity.
Last year, Zambada-Niebla was moved from the federal lockup in Chicago to a prison in Michigan after complaining about conditions in the Chicago lockup. Federal authorities were concerned he was an escape risk and potential assassination target.
In an unrelated drug-trafficking case in Chicago last year, a defendant testified that he met Zambada-Niebla in the federal lockup here and that Zambada-Niebla sought information to have two co-defendants killed. Those defendants — Chicago natives Pedro and Margarito Flores — are cooperating with prosecutors in the case against Zambada-Niebla, court records show.
Guzman and Zambada-Niebla’s father remain fugitives in the case

For Backstory Information read my Borderland Beat Post....Paz, Chivis   link here

The son of a heavy hitter in a powerful Mexican drug trafficking organization has filed explosive legal pleadings in federal court in Chicago accusing the US government of cutting a deal with the the “Sinaloa Cartel” that gave its leadership “carte blanche to continue to smuggle tons of illicit drugs into Chicago and the rest of the United States.”
The source of that allegation is Jesus Vicente Zambada Niebla, the son of Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada Garcia, one of the purported top leaders of the Sinaloa drug-trafficking organization — a major Mexican-based importer of weapons and exporter of drugs.
The top capo of the Sinaloa drug organization, named after the Pacific Coast Mexican state where it is based, is Joaquin Guzman Loera (El Chapo) — who escaped from a maximum security prison in Mexico in 2001, only days before he was slated to be extradited to the United States. Chapo has since gone on to build one of the most powerful drug “cartels” in Mexico. With the death of Osama Bin Laden in May, Chapo (a Spanish nickname meaning “shorty”) jumped to the top of the FBI’s “Most Wanted” persons list. He also made Forbes Magazine’s 2010 list of “The World’s Most Powerful People.”

Drug War Zone : Frontline Dispatches from the Streets of el Paso and Juárez
Campbell, Howard
Pages: 337
Publisher: University of Texas Press
Location: Austin, TX, USA
Date Published: 10/2009
Language: en
(CBS News)
WASHINGTON – Federal agent John Dodson says what he was asked to do was beyond belief.
He was intentionally letting guns go to Mexico?
“Yes ma’am,” Dodson told CBS News. “The agency was.”
An Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms senior agent assigned to the Phoenix office in 2010, Dodson’s job is to stop gun trafficking across the border. Instead, he says he was ordered to sit by and watch it happen.
Investigators call the tactic letting guns “walk.” In this case, walking into the hands of criminals who would use them in Mexico and the United States.

Stephen Downing, a retired deputy chief of the Los Angeles Police Department and board member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, responds to The Times' Oct. 5 Op-Ed article, "Prohibition's real lessons for drug policy." If you would like to respond to a recent Times article, editorial or Op-Ed in our Blowback forum, here are our FAQs and submission policy.

Drug prohibitionists like former White House drug czar staffer Kevin A. Sabet seem to be in a panic over Ken Burns' PBS documentary broadcast "Prohibition" because of its clear and convincing parallel to today's equally disastrous war on drugs. The earlier experiment lasted less than 14 years, but today’s failed prohibition was declared by President Nixon 40 years ago and has cost our country more than $1 trillion  in cash and much more in immeasurable social harm. As a student of history and a retired deputy chief of police with the Los Angeles Police Department, I can attest that the damage that came from the prohibition of alcohol pales in comparison to the harm wrought by drug prohibition. In the last 40 years drug money has fueled the growth of violent street gangs in Los Angeles, from two (Bloods and Crips) with a membership of less than 50 people before the drug war to 20,000 gangs with a membership of about 1 million across the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Justice. These gangs serve as the distributors, collection agents and enforcers for the Mexican cartels that the Justice Department says occupy more than 1,000 U.S. cities.
Sabet, a former advisor to the White House drug policy advisor, ignores these prohibition-created harms, making no mention of the nearly 50,000 people killed in Mexico over the last five years as cartels have battled it out to control drug routes, territories and enforce collections. When one cartel leader is arrested or killed, it makes no impact on the drug trade and only serves to create more violence, as lower-level traffickers fight for the newly open top spot. U.S. law enforcement officials report that as much as 70% of cartel profits come from marijuana alone.  There's no question that ending today's prohibition on drugs -- starting with marijuana -- would do more to hurt the cartels than any level of law enforcement skill or dedication ever can. Worse than being ineffective, though, the war on drugs creates dangerous distractions for police officers who would rather focus on improving public safety. For example, the LAPD announced this week that it will take 150 police officers off the streets to accommodate the state's shuffling of prisoners to the county level. The state must do this to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court's order to cut our drug-war-induced overcrowded prison population by 30,000 -- and our state has already laid off thousands of teachers thanks in part to funding diverted to building more prisons and hiring more guards. This follows on the heels of another reallocation of police resources in Los Angeles when the LAPD and the L.A. Sheriff's Department woke up to a three-year backlog of rape kits. Police labs have only a finite amount of resources, and drug testing often takes priority over other cases that demand attention. Detectives (and victims) waiting for lab results related to rape and other serious crimes stood in line for months while tests for custody-related possession of pot and other drugs took precedence. There's no doubt that the violence, the growth of cartels and gangs, the overpopulation of our prisons and the squandering of our police resources would not occur if we eliminated illegal drug profits and implemented a non-criminal approach to regulating drugs. We did this once with alcohol, and there's no reason we can't do it with other drugs today. 
-- Stephen Downing
Prohibition is not the solution
I am totally against the Drug Prohibition Regime and can't wait to see it thrown away into the dustbin of history greatest inequities humankind has inflicted on itself. I would have thought that any rational, responsible and caring individual could see that drug abuse and its profoundly disruptive consequences calls for enlightened policies where education, health and regulation would play central roles; that it calls for policies where no room is left for the Victorian values Prohibitionists seem so keen on: abstinence or punishment.
One can only assume that something deeply ideological, prejudicial or irrational prevents people from understanding that the problem is prohibition, and not the drugs themselves; that no matter what drug one is considering, prohibition is not the solution … far from it. If anything, what decades of pursuing and enforcing the prohibition regime and its dastardly offshoot, the so-called War on Drugs, have taught us is that it can only make things worse! […]
The government's hypocrisy 
It is a stretch to assume that the social and health problems associated with alcohol abuse can in any way be compared to those caused by the use of cannabis.  Alcohol destroys the internal organs of abusers.  Marijuana has no known long-term effects.  Alcohol is highly addictive.  Alcohol withdrawal can be fatal.  Cannabis is less addictive than caffeine and withdrawal, at worst, amounts to a few restless nights and a few days of low appetite.  Alcohol is the fuel of all kinds of violence.  Marijuana users tend to be quiet and communal.
What is amazing to me is that our government supports and collects taxes on the two deadliest drugs in our society, alcohol and tobacco, but wants to send people to jail for making the much more rational choice to use marijuana recreationally instead.
-- herbalmagick
What would Thomas Jefferson do?
The cruelest irony of this issue is that many far right goons, the so called champions of getting the government out of our lives and expanding freedom, have always been the biggest advocates of this outdated, morally wrong,  government intrusion into our lives and denying us our "right to happiness", which Thomas Jefferson, the hard drug alcohol drinker, so correctly protected us with.  George Washington gave his troops rum every day to keep them happy.
My life, my decision
The overriding question that the Mr Sabet clearly misses is this: Should the government be in the business of telling responsible adults what they can and cannot ingest? Many of us say "no" to that, while many folks who call themselves conservative and say they want less government in their lives nonetheless accept that nanny-state role. What I believe government should do is offer factual education regarding what drugs of all kinds can do to people, regulate the purity of drugs, continue to punish irresponsible behavior that endangers innocent people (such as driving under the influence, etc), and then trust the rest of us grown ups to enjoy life responsibly in whatever way we choose.
Nothing will change
This article is a laugher for many reasons:
1. Part of the human condition is to seek mood-altering substances, aka get "buzzed." Been going on for about 100,000 years or so, live with it.
2. In spite of all the laws that prohibit it, Americans continue to pursue an artificial high, regardless of the consequences. Laws DO NOT have a deterrent effect on consumption.
3. The cost of drug laws on society has been astounding.  We have incarcerated generations of minorities, forced the status of "convicted felon" on hundreds of thousands of people with the attendant impact on society - with no impact on drug consumption.
4. The war on drugs has been an epic failure in every measurable category except one: a growth industry for the criminal justice system.
5. The public is already saturated with the harmful effects of drugs and alcohol.  A change of legalization will not change consumption patterns that much.  Those inclined to use will continue to, those that do not want the risk will refuse.
6. The odds of getting busted for drug possession, unless you are a minority in a gang neighborhood, is virtually non-existent.  Therefore, in practical terms, it's already available on demand.
7. The impact of alcohol and tobacco dwarfs the impact of drugs, legal or not.  We lose over 400,000 to nicotine addiction, and another 50,000 or so to booze EVERY YEAR.
Secret: nothing will change.
killing for peace is like fucking for virginity A group of masked men are threatening Mexico’s powerful (and notorious) Zetas drug cartel on the Internet. The Mexican site Blog del Narco posted this video of the group, that appears well-armed and says it’s committed to fighting against the Zetas cartel. Videos with a similar message and style have been posted earlier this year. While no group has formally taken credit for the videos, they are thought to be the work of the Sinaloa-based group called the “Mata Zetas,” or “Zeta Killers.” In their videos they call themselves “anonymous warriors” speaking for the people of Mexico. Authorities say they are investigating the video threats and the Mexican government has condemned vigilante justice. The Mata Zetas claim to adhere to a moral code that prevents them from engaging in kidnappings or extortion—tactics often used by drug cartels, particularly the Zetas. While the Mata Zetas claim to respect law enforcement, they admit they are working beyond the reach of the law to eliminate organised crime. “Armed forces should be aware that our only objective is to get rid of the Zeta cartel,” they said in one recent video. Despite such overtures, Mexican authorities are speculating the group may be responsible for dumping 35 bodies in the middle of rush-hour traffic in Veracruz last week. The murders, which appear to have involved torture, were initially blamed on the Zetas cartel until authorities identified the victims, including 12 women and two minors, as Zetas-affiliated. The bodies were dumped near a building where some of Mexico’s top prosecutors were convening, and the gesture was apparently intended to goad lawyers into pursuing cases more aggressively against drug cartels and narco leaders. The Mata Zetas then issued a sort of apology for their tactics, saying “[i]f society, Mexican populace, and federal authorities feel offended by what we've done, on behalf of the group, we apologize. Our intention was to let Veracruz know that this social scourge is not invincible.” Mexico’s drug trade currently represents a multi-billion dollar industry (some estimates claim the total economy of the illicit drug trade in Mexico alone is approaching $50 billion annually), and the reach of drug gangs has been rapidly expanding in recent years, according to U.S. Department of Justice reports.
(CBS News)
WASHINGTON – Federal agent John Dodson says what he was asked to do was beyond belief.
He was intentionally letting guns go to Mexico?
“Yes ma’am,” Dodson told CBS News. “The agency was.”
An Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms senior agent assigned to the Phoenix office in 2010, Dodson’s job is to stop gun trafficking across the border. Instead, he says he was ordered to sit by and watch it happen.
Investigators call the tactic letting guns “walk.” In this case, walking into the hands of criminals who would use them in Mexico and the United States.
  legal pleadings in federal court in Chicago accusing the US government of cutting a deal with the the “Sinaloa Cartel” that gave its leadership “carte blanche to continue to smuggle tons of illicit drugs into Chicago and the rest of the United States.” The source of that allegation is Jesus Vicente Zambada Niebla, the son of Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada Garcia, one of the purported top leaders of the Sinaloa drug-trafficking organization.  Joaquin Guzman Loera (El Chapo) — who escaped from a maximum security prison in Mexico in 2001, only days before he was slated to be extradited to the United States.  With the death of Osama Bin Laden in May, Chapo  jumped to the top of the FBI’s “Most Wanted” persons list. Zambada Niebla, himself a key player in the Sinaloa organization, was arrested in Mexico City in March 2009 and in February 2010 extradited to the United States to stand trial on narco-trafficking-related charges. The indictment pending against Zambada Niebla claims he served as the “logistical coordinator” for the “cartel,” helping to oversee an operation that imported into the US “multi-ton quantities of cocaine … using various means, including but not limited to, Boeing 747 cargo aircraft, private aircraft … buses, rail cars, tractor-trailers, and automobiles.” Zambada Niebla also claims to be an asset of the US government. His allegation was laid out originally in a two-page court pleading filed in late March with the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois in Chicago. The latest allegations being advanced by Zambada Niebla, who is now being held in solitary confinement in a jail cell in Chicago, are laid out in motions filed late this week in federal court. Those pleadings spell out the supposed cooperative relationship between the US Department of Justice and its various agencies, including DEA and the FBI, and the leaders of the “Sinaloa Cartel” — including Zambada Niebla. That alleged relationship was cultivated through a Mexican attorney, Humberto Loya Castro, whom Zambada Niebla claims is a Sinaloa Cartel member and “a close confidante of Joaquin Guzman Loera (Chapo).” From Zambada Niebla’s court pleadings, filed on July 29: [Humberto] Loya was indicted along with Chapo and Mayo [Zambada Niebla’s father] in 1995 in the Southern District of California and charged with participation in a massive narcotics trafficking conspiracy (Case No. 95CR0973). That case was dismissed on the prosecution’s own motion in 2008 after Loya became an informant for the United States government and had provided information for a period of over ten years. Sometime prior to 2004 [when George W. Bush was president], and continuing through the time period covered in the indictment, the United States government entered into an agreement with Loya and the leadership of the Sinaloa Cartel, including Mayo and Chapo. Under that agreement, the Sinaloa Cartel, through Loya, was to provide information accumulated by Mayo, Chapo, and others, against rival Mexican Drug Trafficking Organizations to the United States government. In return, the United States government agreed to dismiss the prosecution of the pending case against Loya, not to interfere with his drug trafficking activities and those of the Sinaloa Cartel, to not actively prosecute him, Chapo, Mayo, and the leadership of the Sinaloa Cartel, and to not apprehend them. The protection extended to the Sinaloa leadership, according to the court filings, included being “informed by agents of the DEA through Loya that United States government agents and/or Mexican authorities were conducting investigations near the home territories of cartel leaders so that the cartel leaders could take appropriate actions to evade investigators.” In addition, the pleadings allege, the US government agreed not to “share any of the information they had about the Sinaloa Cartel and/or the leadership of the Sinaloa Cartel with the Mexican government in order to better assure that they would not be apprehended and so that their operations would not be interfered with.” More from the July 29 pleadings: Zambada Niebla was a party to the agreement between the United States government and the Sinaloa Cartel and provided information to the United States government through Loya pursuant to the agreement. … Loya arranged for Mr. Zambada Niebla to meet with United States government agents at the Sheraton Hotel in Mexico City in March [17th] of 2009 [after the Obama administration took power] for the purpose of introducing Mr. Zambada Niebla to the agents and for the purpose of his continuing to provide information to the DEA and the United States government personally, rather than through Loya. Loya’s federal case had been dismissed in 2008 [while Bush was still in the White House] and the DEA representative told Mr. Loya-Castro that they wanted to establish a more personal relationship with Mr. Zambada Niebla so that they could deal with him directly under the agreement. Mr. Zambada Niebla believed that under the prior agreement, any activities of the Sinaloa Cartel, including the kind described in the indictment, were covered by the agreement, and that he was immune from arrest or prosecution. Zambada Niebla claims, in the court pleadings, that he attended the meeting in March 2009 at the hotel in Mexico City as scheduled, with Loya present, and while there, even though he was then under indictment in the US, was told by US federal agents that he would not be arrested and that arrangements had been made “at the highest levels of the United States government” to assure his immunity from prosecution in exchange for his cooperation in providing information on rival narco-trafficking groups. However, Zambada Niebla contends he was double-crossed, despite the assurance of the US agents. He alleges in his pleadings that government agents “were satisfied with the information he had provided to them” at the meeting at the Sheraton Hotel on March 17, 2009, and that “arrangements would be made to meet with him again.” "Mr. Zambada Niebla then left the meeting,” the court pleadings assert. “Approximately five hours after the [hotel] meeting, Mr. Zambada-Niebla was arrested by Mexican authorities.”
Fast, Furious and the House of Death
Zambada Niebla’s pleadings also reference the controversial U.S Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) weapons-trafficking interdiction program Fast and Furious — an operation, now the subject of Congressional hearings, that allegedly allowed some 2,000 guns to be smuggled across the US/Mexican border under ATF’s watch. Zambada Niebla contends that Fast and Furious is yet another example of the US government’s complicity in the carnage of the drug war. From Zambada Niebla’s pleadings: The United States government considered the arrangements with the Sinaloa Cartel an acceptable price to pay, because the principal objective was the destruction and dismantling of rival cartels by using the assistance of the Sinaloa Cartel — without regard for the fact that tons of illicit drugs continued to be smuggled into Chicago and other parts of the United States and consumption continued virtually unabated. Essentially, the theory of the United States government in waging its “war on drugs” has been and continues to be that the “end justifies the means” and that it is more important to receive information about rival drug cartels’ activities from the Sinaloa Cartel in return for being allowed to continue their criminal activities, including and not limited to their smuggling of tons of illegal narcotics into the United States. This is confirmed by recent disclosures by the Congressional Committee’s investigation of the latest Department of Justice, DEA, FBI, and ATF’s “war on drugs” operation known as “Fast & Furious.” As a result of Operation Fast and Furious, the pleadings assert, about “three thousand people” in Mexico were killed, “including law enforcement officers in the sate of Sinaloa, Mexico, headquarters of the Sinaloa Cartel.” Among those receiving weapons through the ATF operation, the pleadings continue, were DEA and FBI informants working for drug organizations, including the leadership of those groups. “The evidence seems to indicate that the Justice Department not only allowed criminals to smuggle weapons, but that tax payers’ dollars in the form of informant payments, may have financed those engaging in such activities,” the pleadings allege. “… It is clear that some of the weapons were deliberately allowed by the FBI and other government representatives to end up in the hands of the Sinaloa Cartel and that among the people killed by those weapons were law enforcement officers. “… Mr. Zambada Niebla believes that the documentation that he requests [from the US government] will confirm that the weapons received by Sinaloa Cartel members and its leaders in Operation ‘Fast & Furious’ were provided under the agreement entered into between the United States government and [Chapo Guzman confidante] Mr. Loya Castro on behalf of the Sinaloa Cartel that is the subject of his [Zambada Niebla’s] defense [regarding] public authority.” The Zambada Niebla pleadings even reference the infamous House of Death case, so named by Narco News, which has published an exhaustive series of investigative stories on the mass-murder case dating back to 2004. From the pleadings: Mr. Zambada Niebla also requests … that the United States government produce material relating to the … “House of Death” murders, which took place in Juarez, Mexico, and were committed by United States government informants. As confirmed in the Joint Assessment Report [JAT] prepared by government authorities investigating those murders, agents of the United States government had prior knowledge that murders were going to be committed by their informants but did not take any measures to either inform the Mexican government or the intended victims, because government representatives determined it was moreimportant to protect the identity of their informants. The informants were assisting the United States government in the investigations of major drug traffickers and the government determined that the killings of over a hundred Mexican citizens was an acceptable price to pay for enabling them to continue their narcotics investigations. The Great Pretense Unmasked In its response to Zambada Niebla’s claim that he was working under “public authority” as an informant or confidential source, US federal prosecutors don’t claim outright that he was not a US government asset. They argue, instead, only that “the government denies that defendant [Zambada Niebla] exercised public authority when he committed the serious crimes charged in the indictment.” In other words, even if Zambada Niebla was offered some type of deal in exchange for his cooperation, that deal did not extend to the specific acts he is accused of in the indictment against him. Federal prosecutors also ask that the court order Zambada Niebla to produce, prior to trial, “evidence that a specific American official or officials with actual or apparent authority expressly authorized [him] to import multi-kilogram quantities of cocaine and heroin into the United States, as charged in the indictment, or expressly assured [him] that these acts were not criminal, and that [he] reasonably relied on these communications.” Narco News spoke with several former DEA and FBI agents about Zambada Niebla’s contention that he worked, in essence, as an informant for the US government. Not one of those former agents, who asked that their names not be revealed, considered it out of the realm of possibility that Zambada Niebla might have cut a deal with the US government. In fact, one former DEA agent said that by making such a claim, Zambada Niebla was essentially putting his life in jeopardy by outing himself as an informant, an extreme move that would seem to indicate that at least he believes he had a deal in place. But, in the end, all of the former federal agents agree that unless Zambada Niebla has proof of his allegations that passes legal muster, he has little chance of prevailing — and at least one of those former agents said prosecutors would not likely have challenged him to produce such proof if they did not have a high degree of confidence that it does not exist. A former FBI agent explained it this way: The U. S. Attorney General Guidelines for Informants requires that there be a written document called an “otherwise criminal activities memo” signed by both parties. This document spells out exactly what the informant is authorized to do and tells him that he may be prosecuted for any other illegal activities. This should be provided to the defense in discovery; however, it does not always happen. Some attorneys are not aware of this and do not ask for it in discovery and the government does not willingly give it up. I suspect that the government did not provide this document to the defense and that is why they are demanding that he provide proof of his status. ... It would be very easy to prove what he was authorized to do by having the memo. [So] this may be a case of where the memo was never done…. The former DEA agent, who has extensive overseas experience, added: My instincts say he was an informant. It’s [Zambada Niebla’s pleadings are] an effort to “scare” or “frighten” the government to dismiss or reduce charges. Posturing, as it were. But there is a substantial risk for him. It’s pretty much a last ditch effort. Were it otherwise, the defendant would not want to be exposed as having cooperated with the government agents. However, he will have an enormous challenge proving his allegations. … An agent [or US government agency would approve such a cooperative relationship with a narco-trafficker] … so the agent can snag a higher-level trafficker and garner the resulting awards, commendations and promotions. Sometimes, there is outright bribery or gifts of value. It’s a win for the criminal informant because he may earn more money from trafficking and at the same time receive cash payments from the government for arrests he orchestrates. And that isn’t all: the informant’s own fear of arrest is reduced and he has a unique opportunity to effectively destroy his unwanted competition or archenemies. And yet another DEA agent points out that “there is such an animal called an Attorney General-exempt operation, where the Attorney General of the United States [in the Zambada Niebla case, which allegedly dates back to at least 2004, it would have been the Bush administration’s Attorney General] could authorize that laws be violated [by an informant to advance a case].” “This is usually done in money laundering investigations, however,” the DEA source said. The other possibility, the former DEA agent adds, is that Zambada Niebla was tricked on an even deeper level, and was, in fact, not dealing with US law enforcement agencies, but rather a CIA intelligence operation. “This would not be the first time CIA has used an informant and led them to believe it was an FBI, ICE or DEA operation,” the DEA source said. If that is the case, the former DEA agent adds, Zambada Niebla’s case is sunk, since even if documents and other evidence exist to prove his allegations of US government complicity, that evidence would almost certainly be deep-sixed under claims of national security that would be invoked by that very same US government.

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