Mexico Passes Law Curbing Operations of Foreign Security Agents


Andres Manuel López Obrador.

On Tuesday, the ruling party passed a new law restricting the role of foreign law enforcers in Mexico, a movement that the United States believes will undermine bilateral efforts to fight powerful drug cartels.

The bill, adopted by the House of Representatives by a vote of 329 to 98, follows the arrest of the former Mexican Defence Minister in the United States in October on charges of drug trafficking and corruption. The shocking arrest of a general

Cienfuegos El Salvador

has prompted Mr López Obrador to question the US Government’s role in enforcing drug legislation by presenting it as an unfair agency that blatantly disavows Mexican sovereignty.

Obstructing the operations of foreign agents targeting the DEA and other U.S. law enforcement agencies is an important blow to the U.S. Department of Justice, said former security officials and analysts.

Last month, the Attorney General

William Barr

to drop the charges against General Cienfuegos and extradite him to Mexico, arguing that the General’s detention would impede bilateral security cooperation. On Friday, before the law came into force, Mr. Barr said unusually frankly that the United States feared that the law would jeopardize future security cooperation between the two countries.

We are concerned about the legislation currently in place for the Mexican Congress that would make the citizens of Mexico and the United States less safe, said Barr, who is retiring before the end of the month. The law can only benefit the violent transnational criminal organizations and other criminals we fight together, he said.

Attorney General William Barr has stated that the new law will benefit criminal organizations.


Jeff Roberson/Presse Associée

The law requires local, state and federal officials in Mexico to report to the federal government on any telephone call, meeting or communication with a foreign official within three days of the occurrence of the law. Foreign officials are required to report any information they discover to the government and to report on their activities on a monthly basis.

It imposes too many conditions on the actions of foreign agents, he said.

Jorge Chabat,

Expert in international relations at the University of Guadalajara.

Meetings between Mexican officials and foreign agents must be approved in advance by a group of senior Mexican officials with the authority to arrange contacts. A representative of the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs is present at each of these meetings. Non-compliance with the new rules may lead to administrative or criminal sanctions, depending on the law.

There can’t be foreign agents arresting people or committing crimes in Mexico.

Dolores Padirna,

a congressman of the ruling Moreno party. They are not allowed to meet with state or local authorities behind the federal government’s back to decide who is a credible authority or with whom they share information.

The new law is likely to make U.S. agencies reluctant to share information with Mexican authorities they deem corrupt, and Mexican officials will not meet their American counterparts because of the disclosure requirement, said Mike Vigil, former director of international operations for the DEA. This policy will stifle bilateral cooperation, he added.

A senior Mexican government official said that the arrest of General Cienfuegos has had a major impact on strengthening security in the country. There was a strong call for clear rules and respect for Mexico, he said. The arrest was considered an insult in Mexico. The government was blind.

Mexico is working with the United States to address concerns about the compromise of sensitive information provided by the United States. We have a chance to negotiate in a way that does not jeopardize cooperation, the official added.

According to the Mexican authorities, 50 DEA agents are stationed in Mexico. Security experts and former government officials say these agents have provided most of the intelligence for a series of high-profile arrests and the capture of major drug traffickers, including a legendary drug dealer.

Joaquin El Chapo Guzman,

who escaped twice from a high-security Mexican prison before being arrested, extradited to the United States and convicted with the help of the DEA.

Approximately 70% of drug barons and politicians associated with drug cartels have been arrested thanks to DEA information.

Marta Tagle,

a member of parliament for the opposition Civic Movement. She referred to the arrest of Mr Guzmán and several state governors on the US-Mexico border, paid for by the Zeta cartel.

Many of them didn’t even have a Mexican warrant or were being investigated in Mexico. Their arrests were made possible by bilateral extradition treaties with the United States, Tagle added.

This law comes at a time when Mexico is doing a bad job by thwarting powerful cartels. Drug related violence is expected to set a new record this year, after last year’s killings reached a new peak. And a series of drug-related corruption scandals have highlighted the scale of the problem.

The former head of federal law enforcement, who led the war on drugs from 2006 to 2012, was arrested by U.S. agents for drug trafficking in 2019, followed by arrest warrants for several of his key associates.

In the case of General Cienfuegos, the prosecutors stated that several other high-ranking army officers were involved.

The turbulent history of Latin America with the DEA goes back more than five decades. The late Venezuelan leader

Hugo Chávez

the DEA expelled from Venezuela in 2005. Three years later, the President of Bolivia

Evo Morales

expelled the DEA agents along with the U.S. Ambassador.

This corresponds to the broader pattern of populist presidents in Latin America asserting their sovereignty.

John Polga-Gecimovich,

Hispanic expert at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.

M. Polga-Hecimovich said the bill is likely to establish a relationship between the elected president.

Joe Biden

and Mr. López Obrador had a difficult start. It’s a signal that López Obrador wants to draw a line under Biden, he added.

This is not the first time that relations between the two countries have improved, thanks to the efforts of the US law enforcement agencies to curb drug trafficking and reduce the power of the country’s drug barons.

1985, a DEA agent

Enrique Kiki Camarena

was abducted by local shopkeepers and tortured to death. The United States, furious at the disappearance of Mr Camarena, has effectively closed the border with Mexico.

The drug lord

Rafael Caro Quintero

was sentenced to 40 years in prison for his involvement in the murder of Mr. Camarena. In 2013, a state judge

Mr. Caro Quintero,

and claims he wasn’t properly convicted. The federal government tried to imprison the drug lord again, but he remained free. The U.S. government offered a $20 million reward for his capture, the highest on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s list of Ten Most Wanted.

poster of Rafael Caro Quintero, wanted by the FBI.


FBI/Associated Press

Many Mexicans regard the country’s violent drug barons as heroes. Their performances are the subject of popular ballads called gears, as well as television series. In this vast country, the Mexican drug cartels fight for the hearts and minds of poor Mexicans, who provide food and supplies as they struggle to survive the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

In Mexico, many people cling to the flag and claim their sovereignty, but Mexican sovereignty is more threatened by organized crime than by the United States, he said.

Eduardo Guerrero,

one of Mexico’s top security analysts.

Those who undermine sovereignty are the drug barons who intervene in local electoral processes, assassinate candidates and exercise territorial control. This control and violence disrupted the whole democratic process in the country, he added. This has implications for national sovereignty.

Write to José de Cordoba at [email protected] and Santiago Perez at [email protected].

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