Mexican president confirms closure of counter-narcotics unit working with the United States

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Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador presents his quarterly report on his government’s programs, at the National Palace in Mexico City, Mexico April 12, 2022. REUTERS/Henry Romero/File Photo

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MEXICO CITY, April 21 (Reuters) – Mexico’s president said on Thursday that an elite unit that worked on narcotics investigations with the United States had been shut down last year, confirming a Reuters report and alleging that the group had been infiltrated by criminals.

On Tuesday, Reuters reported that Mexico had disbanded the group that for a quarter century had worked hand in hand with the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to fight organized crime. Read more

The shutdown complicates U.S. efforts to help fight organized crime in Mexico, one of the epicenters of the global multi-billion dollar narcotics trade, and makes it harder to arrest and prosecute cartel leaders, according to the security experts.

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Speaking at a regular press conference, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said the unit was shut down “over a year ago” and cooperation with international security bodies continues, provided that the sovereignty of Mexico is respected.

“This group, which was supposed to be a high-level strategic group, was infiltrated (by criminals),” he said.

The president said he had “tidy up” Mexico’s relationship with the United States. Past administrations had allowed those ties to undermine Mexico’s sovereignty, he argued.

“It’s a different kind of relationship now,” he said.

In Mexico, the officers of the Sensitive Investigative Units (SIU) police unit were considered some of the best in the country and worked on the biggest cases such as the 2016 capture of capo Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman , former boss of the Sinaloa Cartel.

Although the SIU’s reputation was tarnished when its former leader, Ivan Reyes Arzate, was arrested in 2017 and pleaded guilty in US court to accepting bribes to leak tips to a gang drugs, the unit was considered vital by DEA officials who needed Mexican officers. to help their investigations in the country.

Following the Reuters report, US Congressman Michael McCaul – the Republican head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee – expressed concern about the Mexican decision.

“Mexico’s continued weakening of security cooperation is deeply troubling,” he said on Twitter. “Both nations benefit from the fight against the narcotics trade.”

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Reporting by Kylie Madry, Valentine Hilaire, Writing by Stephen Eisenhammer, Editing by Alexandra Hudson

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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