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DEA and the cartel
January 13, 2014 8:00 PM   Subscribe

DEA Negotiated With Mexican Drug Cartel Members "An investigation by El Universal (in spanish) found that between the years 2000 and 2012, the U.S. government had an arrangement with Mexico's Sinaloa drug cartel that allowed the organization to smuggle billions of dollars of drugs while Sinaloa provided information on rival cartels."
posted by dhruva (65 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
I don't know if there's a good way to express delirious, horrified laughter in text but that's about where I am with this kind of revelation.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:06 PM on January 13 [7 favorites]


We are the Good Guys, therefore anything we do is good.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 8:11 PM on January 13 [9 favorites]


welp
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 8:17 PM on January 13 [3 favorites]


We are the Good Guys, therefore anything we do is good.

More like, we had to destroy our own village to save it.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:19 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


This is not good.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:20 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


Zambada-Niebla also alleged that Operation Fast and Furious was part of an agreement to finance and arm the cartel in exchange for information used to take down its rivals. (If true, that re-raises the issue regarding what Attorney General Eric Holder knew about the gun-running arrangements.)

This is one heck of an allegation, though it seems to be shoved into the end of the BI story because it's just a reference to an earlier BI story, not something that came to light in the El Universal investigation.
posted by Going To Maine at 8:21 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


My surprised face
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:24 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


This is not good.

But hardly new or shocking. It is the cost of playing those silly games that have been played by regimes in every place and time, but it is still less offensive than listening to the feigned surprise of regular folk shouting, "Goll-y!" before they look for some other group of suckers to do that sort of dirty work for them...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 8:26 PM on January 13


This is the sort of thing everyone knew, but didn't know. Drugs enter the USA in vast quantities. Business empires, criminal or otherwise, need predictable supplies: if they depended on irregular transports by random drug traffickers they'd be out of business. Of course these suppliers are working with the help of DEA officers; it's hard to imagine how it could be otherwise. This story is a bit like the Snowden revelations: we knew it all along, but now it's harder to ignore.
posted by Joe in Australia at 8:29 PM on January 13 [23 favorites]


The so-called drug war has been about geopolitics and control since the beginning. It's never been about drugs.
posted by empath at 8:29 PM on January 13 [18 favorites]


Just as my ol' Grandma used to say:

"The enemy of my enemy is a billion dollar drug cartel that commits horrific murders who we spend billions pretending to defeat and yet allow billions of dollars of drugs to flow across borders"

Good ol' Grandma.
posted by Static Vagabond at 8:33 PM on January 13 [26 favorites]


but it is still less offensive than listening to the feigned surprise of regular folk

No, it's actually not.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 8:35 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]


Uncle Sam has jumped the Shark.
posted by MikeWarot at 8:38 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


So the DEA basically made an agreement with a rebel faction in a weird sort of quasi-civil war which has led to the descent of lawlessness and terror across a vast portion of Mexico. What can the Mexican government even say in response to this sort of thing? "We're really reconsidering that Zimmerman telegram proposal?"
posted by feloniousmonk at 8:41 PM on January 13 [6 favorites]


Uncle Sam has jumped the Shark.

Shit we jumped the shark way before The Fonz even did it.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 8:43 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


Superficially this seems just kind of incomprehensibly terrible, but I would like to know what the U.S. and Mexico actually received. If Stalin could be our ally in WW2, it's not totally crazy to side with one cartel if you actually succeed in taking out the other cartels and seeing a reduction in trafficking and violence.

So, how about it, DEA? Did you get your money's worth?
posted by fatbird at 8:44 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


Wow, big win for Sinaloa.
posted by clockzero at 8:48 PM on January 13


The cartel, that is, not the state.
posted by clockzero at 8:50 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


Law enforcement agencies in the US (and likely elsewhere) have been letting informants literally get away with murder of both rival and collateral targets in exchange for information since....forever, I think. This story horrifies but doesn't surprise me.
posted by rtha at 8:50 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]


I'm shocked... SHOCKED, to hear that there is gambling going on here the government is giving killers a free ride for informing on their business rivals.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:08 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]


what no surely not

who ever could have imagined
posted by elizardbits at 9:09 PM on January 13


I think it's the scale of the collaboration that is shocking. To let an entire cartel have an effective licence to operate without persecution is unprecedented. It's not as if they are Bankers.

oh, hang on...
posted by arcticseal at 9:10 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]


So, how about it, DEA? Did you get your money's worth?

According to wiki, in the years following the DEA's deal:
Jesus Labra of the Tijuana Cartel, Adan Amezcua of the Colima Cartel, Benjamin Arellano Felix of the Tijuana Cartel in 2002, and Osiel Cardenas of the Gulf Cartel (were arrested) in 2003...

But before the DEA made the deal with the Sinaloa cartel:
major drug-trafficking bosses Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo of the Sinaloa Cartel (were arrested) in 1989, Joaquín Guzmán Loera of the Sinaloa Cartel in 1993...

So even if the DEA didn't profit from this, a very superficial reading of the wiki article certainly indicates that the Sinaloa cartel did.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 9:11 PM on January 13 [2 favorites]


I love how at this point everyone is like: "Well, Duh!!!!"
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:13 PM on January 13


i'm relieved this stopped in 2012.
posted by bruce at 9:19 PM on January 13 [12 favorites]


drugwar SOP
posted by telstar at 9:19 PM on January 13


love how at this point everyone is like: "Well, Duh!!!!"

at this point? I wonder if there ever was a time in the history of organized government when this type of thing wasn't going on.
posted by sideshow at 9:21 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


i'm relieved this stopped in 2012.

Probably because they got too big, and now they're backing some new upstart cartel. And so it goes.
posted by empath at 9:21 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


Mmmmmmm coruscating cynicism.

Tastes like alkaloidal plant extract.
posted by lalochezia at 9:24 PM on January 13 [4 favorites]


So even if the DEA didn't profit from this, a very superficial reading of the wiki article certainly indicates that the Sinaloa cartel did.

No kidding. I wonder what the decisionmakers at the DEA were telling themselves they would do if they won and actually did end up with just one cartel that was now entrenched in the fabric of the country.

I do recall that Sinoloa seemed almost tame in comparison to Los Zetas, who are the the ones who really, really ramped up the violence, especially against civilians. These are the guys who built their own cellular network for secure communications. I can imagine, if I squint a certain way, seeing a deal with Sinoloa seeming to be choosing the lesser of two evils.

But allying with Sinoloa was also effectively triggering an all out cartel war, which of course would have huge repercussions, even in Canada (The Vancouver Drug War of 2009).

So, let's just call this one a total failure with a six figure body count and start doing like Portugal does, m'kay?
posted by fatbird at 9:24 PM on January 13


CIA Dope Calypso
posted by Golden Eternity at 9:25 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


I don't have primary information, but I have been reading the pundits on this for some time.

The Sinaloa drug business was something of a monopoly in Mexico in part because they paid the appropriate bribes to politicians who were members of the PRI political party. The PRI was losing power and, in the year 2000, their candidate lost the presidential election. This upset the established bribery framework at the same time that the U.S. was getting better at interdicting drugs coming in to Florida. So South Americans were looking for new contracts in Mexico which led to turmoil in the drug business. In 2006, Calderon was elected president and increased the militarization of the war on drugs although some observers viewed this as a war against the Zeta drug business with the goal of restoring the monopoly status of Sinaloa. Peace is to be achieved through the re-establishment of the proper framework of bribes. The U.S. (taxpayers) supported Calderon's surge in this war and so it could be guessed they are pro-Sinaloa.

The War On People Who Use Drugs is immoral and un-productive. You can expect the warriors to be immoral and un-productive.

Here is an article on the Mexican government and the Zeta and Sinaloa businesses :
http://www.insightcrime.org/news-analysis/with-zetas-decimated-sinaloa-has-won-the-war
posted by llc at 9:35 PM on January 13 [5 favorites]


Bill Conroy has been covering this story since 2011:

http://narcosphere.narconews.com/notebook/bill-conroy/2011/12/zambada-niebla-case-exposes-us-drug-war-quid-pro-quo
posted by tensegrity at 10:00 PM on January 13 [1 favorite]


I don't know if there's a good way to express delirious, horrified laughter in text but that's about where I am with this kind of revelation.

Maybe this is what you're looking for?
posted by CommonSense at 10:01 PM on January 13


Interesting that corroborating info came from a DOJ employee. I wonder if DOJ knowledge of the program had anything to do with the lax punishment/non-prosecution agreement they handed down to HSBC for laundering Sinaloa cartel money.
posted by compartment at 10:12 PM on January 13 [12 favorites]


I love how at this point everyone is like: "Well, Duh!!!!"

If you were to suggest something like this was going on, you'd be fitted for a tin-foil hat. But on some level, we all know this shit's going down, so...

yup.

It's all about the money.
posted by BlueHorse at 10:16 PM on January 13


I think the real story goes much deeper. I have talked to several ex US special forces agents who personally witnessed the US military and the CIA involved in the drug trade in places like Afghanistan and Colombia, and who said it was common knowledge in the circles they moved in. A couple of secondhand anecdotes may not proof make, but it does fit in with what we already know but don't-quite-know, as in the Snowden revelations, (remember Iran-Contra?), and for what it's worth, these were experienced and credible individuals.
posted by blue shadows at 10:24 PM on January 13 [3 favorites]


I wonder how much this will increase the support for legalization once news of this becomes widespread. Legalize and tax and the money will go to schools and hospitals and not fucking cartels.
posted by Joe Chip at 10:41 PM on January 13 [3 favorites]


This story - what a bunch of nonsense. Next thing you know they'll be telling us al-Assad, Qaddafi, Mubarak and Hussein were all propped up by the United States..
posted by phaedon at 11:44 PM on January 13 [12 favorites]


arcticseal: "I think it's the scale of the collaboration that is shocking. To let an entire cartel have an effective licence to operate without persecution is unprecedented. It's not as if they are Bankers.

oh, hang on...
"

I Know... right?

TBTF... indeed
posted by symbioid at 11:51 PM on January 13 [3 favorites]


Don't forget the Mujahideen!
posted by symbioid at 11:52 PM on January 13


It's indeed an untrustworthy business partner that could double-cross you at any time.

I'm amazed that the cartel would believe in the integrity of even a signed contract (which the link seemed to indicate they had!?) by the DEA, as if they'd be more trustworthy than the CIA.

But for all I know the condition at Noriega's US prison was comfy and safe, and he enjoyed the protective custody of the US for awhile.
posted by el io at 12:19 AM on January 14


I'm amazed that the cartel would believe in the integrity of even a signed contract (which the link seemed to indicate they had!?) by the DEA, as if they'd be more trustworthy than the CIA.

Look at it from the perspective of the Sinoloa sitting in custody, being offered the deal by, well, Hank:

"Ok, partner, here's the deal: We're gonna let you go, and in return, you're going to help us to destroy your enemies and put you back on top."

"You've got 10 seconds to decide before I repeat the offer..."
posted by fatbird at 12:27 AM on January 14 [6 favorites]


I read the documents provided. Its only some lawyer for a cartel defendant that claims that somehow the DEA agreed not to stop shipments. The agents say they were only authorized to obtain admissions. So other than the self-serving testimony of the lawyer, where's the smoking gun?
posted by Ironmouth at 12:28 AM on January 14 [3 favorites]


(remember Iran-Contra?)

You mean when the Reagan administration sold Israeli weapons to Iran (who were even then under arms embargo) and used the money to fund the Nicaraguan Contras (which Congress had made illegal to fund with US money)? Yes. You read that correctly. That really happened.

"Fast and Furious" has a better sounding scandal name than "Iran-Contra" but it doesn't rise to the same level of malfeasance. Reagan took a huge hit in popularity after that, but he wasn't impeached - although he should have been.

This "Fast and Furious" thing is just another small turd Obama leaves for Hillary to walk through on her way to the coronation.
posted by three blind mice at 12:39 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


If we're going to do glib movie quoting cynicism here's one for you.

"I want to hear about the dead people. Explain the dead people"
posted by fullerine at 1:08 AM on January 14 [3 favorites]


I'm surprised by this, well except that I heard about it last month. I'd naively bought the Soderbergh movie Traffic's claim that cartels create predictable supplies by just "throwing a lot of product at the problem", well that's doable.

I should not be surprised though because : All cults like law enforcement become criminal organizations relatively easily, especially if given special powers such as by religion or legislation.

An interesting way to get a taste of the criminal mentality and thuggish behavior of U.S. law enforcement is to subscribe to Cop Block (twitter, facebook), FilmingCops (twitter), or Police the Police (twitter, facebook) for a few months. Those feeds annoy me because they necessarily discuss "small stories", but they help you understand law enforcement.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:01 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


One might suggest that the law enforcement people in question have discovered that de facto legalisation of the drug trade (with strict controls) really is the best way to restrict the volume and reduce the level of gang violence.

Since legalisation is not likely to make its way through the normal legal system any time soon, the people who are dealing with all this at the coal face have worked out how to "make it so" on the ground using the tools they have available.
posted by emilyw at 4:02 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


Wouldn't the Sinaloa drug cartel be willing to rat out its competitors for free?

If so, then that's not why the DEA cooperated with them.

I'll speculate why the DEA provided cooperation: corruption which enriched key employees of the DEA.
posted by surplus at 4:42 AM on January 14 [4 favorites]


Well, they had the son in custody, right?

That party of the story was a little foggy to me..
posted by bird internet at 5:24 AM on January 14


Maxwell Smart: What are you talking about, 99? We have to shoot and kill and destroy. We represent everything that's wholesome and good in the world.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 6:23 AM on January 14


One might suggest that the law enforcement people in question have discovered that de facto legalisation of the drug trade (with strict controls) really is the best way to restrict the volume and reduce the level of gang violence.

The article cites Chicago as a focal point of Sinaloa's trade. I have to wonder how many people in Chicago think that the current levels of drugs and gang violence are being restricted well? Or at all?

American history keeps on teaching us that "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" is simply not true, but we don't seem to ever actually learn.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 7:49 AM on January 14 [2 favorites]


tbm, you left out the cocaine trafficking element in your Iran-Contra synopsis. Seems appropriate here
posted by lordaych at 7:50 AM on January 14 [3 favorites]


Next we discover Afghanistan was all about poppies, not bin Laden's caves.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:04 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile in Mexico...
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:13 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


but now it's harder to ignore

I highly doubt that. Attention has been brought to this sort of thing for years and it's only gotten worse.
posted by juiceCake at 9:44 AM on January 14


"Next we discover Afghanistan was all about poppies, not bin Laden's caves."
posted by five fresh fish

I know what you mean.
posted by marienbad at 9:48 AM on January 14


Since legalisation is not likely to make its way through the normal legal system any time soon, the people who are dealing with all this at the coal face have worked out how to "make it so" on the ground using the tools they have available.

Hamsterdamexico.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:51 AM on January 14


fatbird: " If Stalin could be our ally in WW2, it's not totally crazy to side with one cartel if you actually succeed in taking out the other cartels and seeing a reduction in trafficking and violence.

So, how about it, DEA? Did you get your money's worth?
"

To be fair, 20 million of his dead, ppost victims would ask the same of "allying with Stalin".
posted by IAmBroom at 11:40 AM on January 14


fatbird: "and start doing like Portugal does"

FYI, for anyone else who didn't know: Portugal made possession of less than 10 days worth of any illegal drug an "administrative offense", not a criminal one.
posted by IAmBroom at 11:48 AM on January 14 [1 favorite]


Ironmouth, I don't think there is a smoking gun, but the story comes from more than one lawyer. Wikileaks has e-mail from Stratfor on the subject :
http://wikileaks.org/gifiles/docs/1747409_re-get-follow-up-from-mx1-thx-.html
There is some analysis here :
http://www.insightcrime.org/news-analysis/is-the-us-government-facilitating-the-sinaloa-cartels-activities

emilyw, Law Enforcement has not restricted volume or reduced gang violence. There is no shortage of drugs anywhere. Violence was intentionally increased during the Calderon administration. Corruption, bribes, and political influence are not pragmatic responses to a difficult situation. Legalization is.
posted by llc at 3:03 PM on January 14


This is one heck of an allegation, though it seems to be shoved into the end of the BI story because it's just a reference to an earlier BI story, not something that came to light in the El Universal investigation.

Here are a couple more stories linking this to the ATF fast and furious 'arm the cartels' operation
posted by bartonlong at 2:22 PM on January 16


Israel has nothing on the U.S. now :
DHS blacked out recommendation that Border Patrol stop shooting at Mexicans who throw rocks
posted by jeffburdges at 5:09 AM on January 29


Mexico's Vigilante Groups Are a Force to Reckon with for Drug Cartels and Army
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:52 PM on February 1


100% chance that vigilante group becomes a new cartel in a year or two. Half the cartels started that way.
posted by empath at 5:47 AM on February 2


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