by Tom Ramstack
Mexican government officials are again concerned that U.S. law enforcement agencies might have trampled their sovereignty by infiltrating drug cartels.
Media reports this week say the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration has used spies to get information that helped break up large drug gangs into smaller and less dangerous ones.
However, the Mexican Constitution forbids foreign law enforcement agencies from operating within Mexico.
"This framework of informant and intelligence networks places Mexicans in a difficult position as they see how results are achieved in the fight to dismantle cartels such as the Sinaloa, but at the cost of transparency and sovereignty of the Mexican state," wrote a political commentator for the Mexican media outlet Radio Caracol.
The Sinaloa refers to a cartel based in the Mexican state of Sinaloa that has become known for bribery of government officials and brutal murders of rivals.
Part of the blame for the foreign presence is falling on Mexican President Felipe Calderon, who ordered troops to help fight the cartels. The war has claimed the lives of about 40,000 people since it started in December 2006.
Regarding the secret infiltration of Mexican cartels, Radio Caracol said, "And now President Calderon has turned a blind eye."
The U.S. Congress is investigating other claims that U.S. law enforcement agencies overstepped their authority with Operation Fast and Furious.
The operation was spearheaded by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).
Agents from the bureau allowed guns to be bought illegally by Mexican drug cartel agents at U.S. gun shops then tried to track them back to gang leaders in Mexico.
However, the ATF lost track of some of the guns, which later were traced to hundreds of murders, attacks on police and the death of at least one U.S. Border Patrol agent.
Operation Fast and Furious was revealed publicly earlier this year through U.S. media reports.
So far, no mistakes that led to unnecessary deaths are being alleged with the DEA's infiltration of drug cartels.
The complaints have focused primarily on the fact the infiltrators operated without Mexican government authority.
However, U.S. law enforcement officials say widespread corruption among Mexican police agencies left them no choice but to act alone. Cooperating with the police could have tipped off drug cartel leaders.
The DEA infiltration was revealed in a report by The New York Times. It said American infiltrators passed on information that helped Mexican police capture or kill two dozen top drug cartel agents.
The U.S. operations are officially disapproved but tolerated by the Mexicans as they become increasingly frustrated by five years of civil strife, The New York Times reported.
The report quoted Eric L. Olson, an expert on Mexican security matters at the Woodrow Wilson Center public policy foundation, saying "The Mexicans sort of roll their eyes and say we know it's happening, even though it's not supposed to be happening. That's what makes this so hard. The United States is using tools in a country where officials are still uncomfortable with those tools."
The tools have included unmanned drone surveillance flights to monitor movements of drug cartel agents.
U.S. law agencies justify their infiltration by saying they want to prevent the violence from spilling across Mexico's northern border.
Their successes have included stopping an Iranian-American car salesman from allegedly assassinating the Saudi ambassador to the United States.
He was arrested this month after reportedly trying to hire a DEA informant posing as an assassin for the Zetas drug cartel to set off a bomb in Washington, D.C., to kill Ambassador Adel Al-Jubeir.
Information from DEA informants in Mexico also led to the arrest of suspects in the murder in February of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Jaime J. Zapata.
"Mexicans Complain About Secret U.S. Infiltration of Drug Cartels"