Something tells me the Trump administration may be far more eager to help Mexico president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador get to the bottom of the Fast and Furious gunrunning scandal than the Obama administration ever was. The administration that implemented the program that sent thousands of guns across the border under the direction of the BATFE and the Justice Department headed by then-Attorney General Eric Holder never said much about how much information they gave Mexico about the fact that the American government was arming Mexican drug cartels.
Lopez Obrador said during a press conference on Friday that he wants to get to the bottom of who, if anyone, in the Mexican government was informed of the operation before it was revealed after the death of border patrol agent Brian Terry in December of 2010 by a member of a Mexican drug cartel using a firearm that the BATFE had allowed to enter into Mexico in the hands of a gunrunner.
Lopez Obrador on Friday said he will ask the U.S. government if it had alerted Mexican officials that agents were carrying out the undercover operation where U.S. agents lost track of guns they had allowed to enter the Latin American nation with the goal of tracking Mexico’s brutal drug gangs.
“What seems serious to me is that a violation of our sovereignty was carried out, a secret operation, and that Mexicans were killed with these weapons,” Lopez Obrador said during his morning press conference in Mexico City. “There is still time for the U.S. to apologize.”
Foreign Affairs Minister Marcelo Ebrard said he would send a letter to the U.S. on Friday asking for detailed information on the U.S. investigation over the operation, dubbed “Fast and Furious.”
It makes a great deal of sense for the Trump administration to offer full cooperation in helping Mexico get to the bottom of Operation Fast and Furious and what, if anything, any ATF, DOJ, or State Department employees ever mentioned to their counterparts in the Mexican government. Trump might even want to apologize to the Mexican government on behalf of the U.S. government, while noting of course that the gunrunning scandal took place under the previous administration. You know, the administration that featured Joe Biden as vice-president.
Fast and Furious has emerged as a political issue in Mexico because Lopez Obrador has blamed past president Felipe Calderon for the recent rise in homicides in the country, alleging that Calderon’s strategy of trying to crack down on drug cartels with the Mexican military only exacerbated the violence in the country without destroying or really weakening the cartels themselves and accusing Calderon of knowingly allowing the Obama administration to allow guns to be trafficked into Mexico under Operation Fast and Furious. Calderon said on Twitter on Thursday that the allegations were false, and called Fast and Furious a “secret operation” that was only disclosed to the Mexican government after Terry’s death.
Es falso que el gobierno de México haya tenido un acuerdo con el gobierno de EUA para introducir armas al país. Durante la Administración 2006-2012, el gobierno mexicano exigió firmemente al gobierno de EUA detener el tráfico de armas que llegaban a los criminales. Abro hilo…
— Felipe Calderón (@FelipeCalderon) May 8, 2020
In the former president’s Twitter thread, Calderon also made it explicitly clear that no one in the Obama administration informed him of the operation. Instead, Calderon alleges that the Obama administration spoke generally to the Mexican government about cracking down on cross-border arms trafficking, but didn’t elaborate on how they planned to do it.
At no time was the content or specific implementation of said American judicial strategy an issue that was the subject of knowledge, discussion, and least of all agreement between Presidential offices.
No one in the Obama administration has adequately explained just how exactly Operation Fast and Furious was supposed to work. The plan was supposedly to allow firearms to be trafficked into Mexico, where they would be tracked to high level members of the drug cartels. Instead, thousands of firearms flowed into the country, often while ATF agents watched from afar. No indictments were handed down until after Terry’s murder in 2010, and then the indictments were against alleged traffickers, not high ranking cartel members.
Worse, the Obama administration originally denied that they had knowingly allowed guns to be walked into Mexico, and maintained that position for months before then-Attorney General Eric Holder claimed that he had unintentionally described the program inaccurately in previous statements to Congress, while alleging that he and other top DOJ officials were completely in the dark about the gunwalking aspects of the operation.
Obama, Holder, and Joe Biden should be the ones apologizing to the Mexican president, not President Trump. However, it makes sense from both a moral and political perspective for the current administration to do what they can to provide the answers that Lopez Obrador is asking for, while making it clear that the Trump administration would never engage in the kind of underhanded, deceptive, and illegal tactics used under Barack Obama that have fueled the cartel wars in Mexico for more than a decade now.