The directive for Drug Enforcement Administration officials to not use the term “Mexican cartel” came directly from the Biden administration to ease relations with the Mexican government, two recently retired DEA officials told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
The DCNF exclusively obtained an email in August that instructed DEA officials to “now avoid saying ‘Mexican cartel’” when speaking with the media. The email was sent as drugs continued to surge across the U.S.-Mexico border.
One recently-retired DEA official told the DCNF that when the new administration came in, the Department of Justice (DOJ) required DEA to submit news interview requests for approval. The retired official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the DOJ declined many of the national news requests on top of the language guidance, but eventually eased up and allowed some to do local interviews where he used the term “Mexican drug cartel” and called each by its name.
“They didn’t want us to say Mexican cartels,” the retired official said. “I think they wanted just to say transnational criminal organizations because I don’t think they wanted to lay all the blame on Mexico, they thought it was misleading. But they didn’t give us a lot. They weren’t very transparent with certain things.”
The DOJ didn’t respond to the DCNF’s request for comment, nor did the DEA and the White House. The DOJ earlier declined to comment on whether the DEA’s public messaging is required to go through the DOJ for approval.
The retired official said that despite government corruption in Mexico, there still exists some Mexican police officers who genuinely want to combat drug trafficking. The Biden administration, he said, hasn’t properly negotiated with Mexican officials.
“Trying to talk honestly about it is a balance because these guys are taking a chance,” the former official said. “So you have good guys and bad guys that you’re dealing with in the government there and you don’t want to make them too bad.”
“Within DEA I will tell you that for some reason with regards to the messaging on Mexico, I thought we were very slow out of the gate with the new administration,” he said.
The administration’s handling of the situation has worsened its relationship with Mexico, putting the U.S. “at a very bad place right now,” according to the retired official.
“The situation with the relationship that we have with Mexico right now, the unwillingness of our government to engage on it, to even engage on it, that’s the bad thing,” he said. “They’re not engaging on it. When you think about it, maybe I would ask the question ‘if Mexico is your biggest threat because all the drugs are coming from there, why hasn’t the new administrator flown to Mexico and sat down and started meeting with people and putting all the stakeholders together to fight it?’”
“The Mexican cartels, they are from Mexico, they are powerful, and they basically, whether they get support from the government where it’s just a hands off approach or they’re actively supporting one group and not supporting another, those types of things. From a policy standpoint right now, it’s not being dealt with appropriately.”
He also explained that the current situation at the border is not being properly dealt with, saying that law enforcement is poorly equipped to handle the situation. On top of that, he continued, issues are being addressed from a political standpoint, rather than being looked at from a national security perspective.
Border officials continue emphasizing that drug trafficking and human trafficking continues to be an issue.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) seized 437,244 pounds of drugs at the southern border between Oct. 2020 and Sept. 2021. The seizures included 181,970 pounds of methamphetamine and 10,586 pounds of fentanyl.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has mobilized Texas law enforcement to address the issue, resulting in the arrests of thousands of illegal migrants.
Another recently retired DEA official called the directive “political correctness gone amok” and a denial of “reality,” saying that it will harm agency morale.
“I think this is an attempt by DOJ at détente with the corrupt leadership in Mexico to try to enhance cooperation between DEA and Mexico, which is from what I understand at a pretty low point,” he said. “Although, I don’t believe that it will be effective at all.”
The U.S. government is negotiating with the Mexican government to allow DEA agents to work in Mexico after the country limited foreign law enforcement operations and stopped issuing visas to their officials, CNN reported in Oct.
The retired official said that the Biden administration, in restricting the use of the term Mexican cartel, was attempting to appease Mexico when it should be holding officials accountable.
“It seems more like an appeasement measure to me than trying to hold them accountable because if we’re trying to hold them accountable, then why are we avoiding the fact that it’s actually Mexico-based DTOs [Drug Trafficking Organizations] — that you’re not even allowed to name them that,” he said. “This looks more like a détente measure to me. This being something to hold them accountable doesn’t make any sense to me.”
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