Agents of the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) worked with an informant and with Mexican enforcement agents in 2007 to launder millions of dollars for Mexico’s Beltrán Leyva cartel, according to reports in the New York Times and the Mexican magazine emeequis. The information comes from the Mexican government’s response to a US request for the extradition of Harold Mauricio Poveda-Ortega, a Colombian drug trafficker arrested in Mexico in November 2010.
According to documents the Mexican government supplied in the extradition case, in January 2007 a DEA informant began seeking money-laundering jobs from Poveda-Ortega, who was supplying Colombian drugs to the Mexican cartel headed by Arturo Beltrán Leyva and his three brothers. In July, the informant and a group of DEA agents laundered about $1 million through a Bank of America branch in Dallas and had it delivered to someone in Panama. In August and September they worked with an undercover Mexican agent to launder $499,250 on one occasion and $1 million on another. In October the DEA helped the Beltrán Leyva cartel ship 330 kilograms of cocaine through Dallas from Ecuador to Madrid, where Spanish authorities seized the drugs after being tipped off by the DEA.
As reported by the New York Times in December, the US government claims that this type of operation is useful in tracking criminal activity and leads to the arrests of cartel leaders. Arturo Beltrán Leyva was killed in a shootout with Mexican security forces in 2009, and apparently information from the US led to the Mexican operation. But the Beltrán Leyva cartel remains a major criminal organization. Morris Panner, a former assistant US attorney and an adviser on drug policy at Harvard University, described the DEA’s strategy “a slippery slope. If it’s not careful, the United States could end up helping the bad guys more than hurting them.” (NYT, Jan. 9)
On Jan. 10 the Mexican government gave its official statistics on drug-related homicides for 2011. The Mexican Attorney General’s Office (PGR) reported that 12,903 deaths of this sort had occurred as of Sept. 30, giving a total of 47,453 drug-related homicides since President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa took office in December 2006. The Los Angeles Times reports that with the presidential election coming up in six months, Calderón’s government was reluctant to release the numbers and only did so under pressure. (LAT, Jan. 11; La Jornada, Mexico, Jan. 12)
Crime reporting is inconsistent in Mexico, with the result that official and non-governmental figures sometimes differ considerably. Earlier this month the Mexican daily La Jornada gave a much lower figure, 11,890, for homicides in 2011 but a much higher figure, 51,918, for the total since December 2006.
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Jan. 15.