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By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS

In an editorial published on Friday, Jan. 22, the U.S.-based financial and media firm Bloomberg alleged that Mexico’s war on drugs has “taken a turn for the worse.”

Focusing heavy on the bilateral fallout related to the controversial Salvador Cienfuegos case, the opinion article focuses on the dangerous consequences of a lack of bilateral cooperation in curbing illicit drug flow.

Last October, the former Mexican defense secretary was arrested in the United States on drug trafficking and money laundering charges, along with allegations that he had assisted the H-2 Cartel in smuggling drugs across the border.

Cienfuego’s arrest was met with quick condemnation from Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), who protested the fact that the arrest was made without any prior warning to his government.

After much political hemming and hawing on both sides of the border, Cienfuegos was released by the U.S. Justice Department into the hands of Mexican authorities, with the understanding that he would be tried in a Mexican court.

After much political hemming and hawing on both sides of the border, in late November, Cienfuegos was released by the U.S. Justice Department into the hands of Mexican authorities, along with a 751-page dossier on the investigation into his alleged crimes, with the understanding that he would be tried in a Mexican court on those charges.

But on Jan. 14, Mexican Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero summarily dropped all charges against Cienfuegos, declaring that the case had no legal substance and was based on evidence “fabricated” by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), an allegation that Washington has since admantly disavowed.

Also in response to Cienfuego’s arrest, Mexico implemented a new edict, drafted by AMLO, that limits DEA activities within the country, although that law was later partially walked back by the López Obrador administration.

Notwithstanding, as the Bloomberg editorial correctly noted, under Mexico’s new national security, U.S. DEA agents “will face limits on their ability to conduct undercover operations and recruit informants and will be stripped of immunity.”

Additionally, the agents will “be required to provide monthly reports on their activities to the Mexican government,” and Mexican agents “will need permission from a national-security panel before cooperating with the United States and must disclose the substance of any conversations they have with foreign officials.”

“This requirement may compromise sensitive information and put at risk sources key to fighting drug trafficking and organized crime,” the Bloomberg article warned.

The opinion piece also noted that the release by Mexican authorities of the Justice Department dossier constituted “a breach of trust that could jeopardize future U.S. cooperation with Mexican criminal proceedings.”

“Leftist allies of López Obrador now want to renegotiate the Mérida Initiative, under which the (United States) has provided Mexico with $3 billion in security assistance since 2008,” the article continued.

“Demands that the (United States) scale back its counter-narcotics activities out of respect for its neighbor’s sovereignty might be more persuasive if Mexican authorities had the ability to combat the problem on their own.”

“Demands that the (United States) scale back its counter-narcotics activities out of respect for its neighbor’s sovereignty might be more persuasive if Mexican authorities had the ability to combat the problem on their own.”

…Bloomberg Editorial

But, Bloomberg wrote, “under López Obrador, the opposite is happening.”

“Mexico’s murder rate remains high, while trafficking of fentanyl has surged — helping to contribute to a record number of overdose deaths in the (United States),” it said.

Given this sad reality, the Bloomberg editorial called on the newly instated administration of U.S President Joe Biden, to “conduct a comprehensive review of the two countries’ security relationship.”

“First and foremost, (Biden) should press the Mexican government to drop elements in the national-security law that threaten to sever cooperation between U.S. agents and local Mexican law-enforcement bodies, which rely heavily on intelligence provided by the (United States),” it read.

“The administration should also insist that López Obrador prosecute high-ranking officials accused of corruption (a clear reference to Cienfuegos), increase spending on police and reinvigorate joint operations against the most dangerous cartels, particularly those involved in the production and smuggling of fentanyl.”

“The two countries share an interest in curbing the power of Mexico’s drug cartels, but actions taken in the last month by the Mexican government would do the opposite — endangering citizens on both sides of the border in the process.”

…Bloomberg editorial

The article went on to say that, “in return, Biden should give U.S. agencies more resources to stop the illegal cross-border flow of American weapons, which account for 70 percent of firearms recovered by Mexican law enforcement.”

“While the administration should ask Congress to maintain current levels of U.S. security assistance — which the (former U.S. President Donald) Trump administration proposed cutting by one-third — it should move away from a single-minded emphasis on border security,” the editorial said.

Instead, the Bloomberg piece said that Biden “should place greater emphasis on professionalizing policing, building up the law-enforcement capacities of state and city governments, and promoting proven violence-prevention efforts.”

It also recommended that U.S. agents “agree to greater transparency about operations conducted inside Mexico, as long as it doesn’t impede critical intelligence-gathering.”

The Bloomberg editorial concluded by saying that if Biden wished to fulfill his foreign-policy mandate to repair damaged relationships with U.S. international partners, he should “start by addressing the breakdown in security cooperation between the United States and its southern neighbor, Mexico.”

In addition to being one of the United States’ largest trading partners, the editorial pointed out “Mexico is the biggest foreign source of heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine trafficking” into the United States.

“The two countries share an interest in curbing the power of Mexico’s drug cartels, but actions taken in the last month by the Mexican government would do the opposite — endangering citizens on both sides of the border in the process,” it said.

“Fighting the scourge of drug trafficking and organized crime is critical to the U.S.-Mexican relationship, and the stability of the region as a whole. Allowing such cooperation to deteriorate is a mistake that neither country can afford.”

…Jan. 25, 2021

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