Saturday, November 5, 2011
Mexico's chief prosecutor knew about secret arms sales to cartels, says U.S.
The allegations were made against Eduardo Medina Mora, who now serves as Mexico's ambassador to the United Kingdom. The sales were under a program known as Wide Receiver, which lasted from 2006 to 2007. Earlier this week an assistant U.S. attorney general told a congressional investigative committee that president Bush had personally approved the sale of 350 weapons to straw purchasers during Wide Receiver, who in turn transferred the firearms to drug cartels. Most of the sales were through licensed gun dealers and shops in Arizona, near the border. Federal agents referred to the arms as "guns gone walking."
Weapons sold under Wide Receiver were embedded with tracking chips. The purpose of the program was to identify the ultimate purchasers and users of the firearms. A subsequent operation known as Fast and Furious lasted from 2009 to early 2011, but was quickly closed down when a whistle blower revealed its existence. Wide Receiver was operated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), and Fast and Furious was run by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Congressional committees are investigating both programs, and criminal indictments are expected. President Barack Obama, while denying knowledge of either operation until earlier this year, has promised that those responsible will be prosecuted. His attorney general, Eric Holder, has been the primary target of Republican legislators, who allege that he concealed both long after he became aware of them.
Yesterday's revelation opened a new chapter in the ongoing investigations, which have strained relations between Mexico and the United States and have been a public relations embarrassment for the Obama administration. Mexico's president Felipe Calderón has repeatedly expressed anger and dismay over the secret arms sales by U.S. law enforcement agencies. His government says that 80% of the weapons used by the drug cartels come from the United States -- a number which is close to that acknowledged by the Justice Dept. this week. Now, one of Calderón's high level justice ministers has been directly linked to the first operation, Wide Receiver.
Eduardo Medina Mora was appointed ambassador to the U.K. in December 2009. Before that he headed the Procuraduría General de la Republica, Mexico's highest law enforcement department. Felipe Calderón, who took office in December 2006, was Mexico's president during Medina Mora's service as the country's chief prosecutor.
According to the documents published by AP yesterday, Bush administration officials told Medina Mora about Wide Receiver, and asked him to designate Mexican law enforcement officers to work with ATF agents who were running the operation from Arizona. He agreed, according to U.S. officials quoted in the documents.
Medina Mora flatly denied the allegations yesterday. "My answer is no. As chief prosecutor of the Republic, I never authorized any strategy of controlled arms sales between the United States and Mexico," he said.
He added a curious qualification when pressed for details. "The controlled sale of weapons is an established practice in international law, and one recognized by Mexican law, for gathering evidence to present to a court. But in this case, it wasn't done." Medina Mora said that in numerous meetings with U.S. law enforcement officials, the possibility of controlled sales to Mexican drug traffickers was never discussed.
Mexican political leaders reacted with outrage to the news. "We demand an explanation," said the PRI Senate leader. A PAN official said, "We're not talking about the mere transfer of arms, we're talking about thousands of murders committed with those weapons."
Previous reports on U.S. secret arms sales to Mexican drug cartels:
and: ; http://mexicogulfreporter.blogspot.com/2011/10/obama-will-stand-by-his-man-even-though.html.
at 1:33 PM