Mexico rolls back ‘drug war’ cooperation with US

President Barack Obama said April 30 he will wait until he meets with his Mexican counterpart Enrique Peña Nieto this week to discuss Mexico's decision to curtail access of US security agencies. "I'm not going to yet judge how this will alter the relationship between the United States and Mexico until I've heard directly from them to see what exactly are they trying to accomplish," Obama said in Washington. Mexico confirmed days earlier that it has ended direct access by US law enforcement agents to their Mexican counterparts; now all communication is to be routed through the federal interior ministry, Gobernación.

Obama said he believes Peña Nieto "continues to be concerned about how we can work together to deal with transnational drug cartels." But Larry Holified, former head of the Drug Enforcement Administration office in Mexico City, said that the new rules "will take security questions away from law enforcement officials and into the hands of politicians." Refering to the more distanced policies under Mexico's old one-party state, he added: "We're going back to the days of the old PRI. I just don't see how that will help real-time intelligence information sharing." (Dallas Morning News, April 30)

Apparently one contributing factor to the backlash is the US practice of subjecting Mexican security officials to polygraph tests—a practice that had been allowed by Peña Nieto's predecessor, Felipe Calderon. "So do we get to polygraph you?" one incoming Mexican official reportedly asked his US counterparts, implying that the lie-detector tests will now come to an end. (NYT, April 30)

Human Rights Watch voiced its own concerns over Obama's meeting. In a letter to the White House, HRW said there has been "virtually zero accountability" for those who commit crimes in the Mexican government, charging a "wide-ranging arbitrary arrests," torture, and other abuses. Complaints to Mexico's National Human Rights Commission had totalled more than 6,500 during the rule of Peña Nieto's predecessor, Felipe Calderon. In the letter, Human Rights Watch accused the US administration of consistently offering "uncritical support for Calderon's policies."

"Unfortunately, while the Pena Nieto government has taken the first step of recognising the crisis at hand and the need to change strategies, your administration has been noticeably silent," said the letter signed by Jose Miguel Vivanco, director of HRW's Americas division. "This visit provides an ideal opportunity to break that silence by demonstrating the US government's concern for Mexico's human rights problems and its commitment to supporting a new approach." (AAP, April 30)

…but still not El Chapo
Mexican authorities April 30 boasted the arrest of the father-in-law of the country's most-wanted fugitive. Ines Coronel Barrera, 45, was captured in the border state of Sonora by federal police, who also confiscated marijuana apparently destined for Arizona, weapons, vehicles and four presumed bodyguards. Coronel is the father of Emma Coronel, who married Sinaloa Cartel kingpin Joaquin Guzman AKA "El Chapo" nearly six years ago when she was an 18-year-old beauty queen. Guzman's third wife, Emma Coronel gave birth to twin girls in the Los Angeles area in August 2011. Coronel is said to be a key player in Guzman's vast empire, and in January he was added to the US Treasury Department's so-called kingpin black list, which called him a major marijuana trafficker. (LAT, April 30)

See our last post on Mexico's human rights crisis.