By THE PULSE NEWS MEXICO STAFF
In what appears to be the fruit of some of the closed-door negotiations that took place between Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) and his U.S. counterpart, President Joe Biden, during their face-to-face meeting in Washington on Nov. 18, the United States revealed on Wednesday, Dec. 1, that Mexico has unblocked the issuing of visas for U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) agents.
Almost two months after it became known that the Mexican government had denied new visas for 24 DEA agents since the start of this year, a Biden administration spokesperson said that the visas are already being processed to allow for closer anti-crime collaboration.
“They (the Mexicans) just agreed to more visas for DEA agents in Mexico,” said Todd Robinson, U.S. undersecretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement, while appearing before the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Wednesday.
Anonymous U.S. sources confirmed that two dozen DEA agents had been waiting more than six months for the López Obrador government to grant them visas to work in Mexico, a process that normally took only a month.
After reforms to the National Security Law were passed in January, establishing restrictions on DEA agents to operate within Mexican territory, the head of the anti-narcotics agency, Anne Milgram, asked Mexico in October to reactivate cooperation, including in joint anti-drug operations.
According to Robinson, the government of López Obrador has already agreed to work more closely with agencies such as the DEA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), after reaching agreements under the High-Level Security Dialogue last month.
“Mexico has agreed to an accord that presents a list of a number of things that we are going to do, including greater cooperation in intelligence sharing and working more closely with our partners in other (U.S.) agencies, such as the FBI and the DEA,” Robinson told the committee.
According to another senior U.S. official, Undersecretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols, anti-drug cooperation with Mexico has already seen improvement in recent months.
“We have already seen progress in that area in terms of closer cooperation, better access for agents from our law enforcement agencies,” said Nichols, who also participated in the U.S. Senate hearing.
In October, the head of the DEA presented a list of requests to Mexican Attorney General Alejandro Gertz Manero, including the reactivation of cooperation and permits for his agents to participate in operations and to have more access to Mexican anti-crime intelligence.
Since the end of last year, the anti-crime cooperation between the two countries experienced a period of high tension after the arrest in the United States of former Mexican Secretary of National Defense Salvador Cienfuegos on drug charges. Cienfuegos was later passed into Mexican custody and promptly released by Mexican authorities.
Angered that it had not been informed of Cienfuegos’ arrest prior to the event, the Mexican government froze all visas for the DEA and limited their rights within the country.
To relaunch anti-crime cooperation, Mexico and the United States announced in October a new binational agreement known as the Bicentennial Agreement to replace the so-called Merida Initiative, through which the United States had transferred more than $3.3 billion in training, equipment and consultancies since 2007.