US Agents Laundered Money, Shipped Drugs for Cartels

The same old drug war tactics lead to more powerful cartels and illicit activity by US authorities

U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents laundered millions in cash for a powerful Mexican drug trafficker and his Colombian cocaine supplier, according to documents made public Monday.

With the help of Mexican federal police officers, the DEA agents and their Colombian informant conducted at least 15 wire transfers to banks in the United States, Canada and China and smuggled about $2.5 million in the United States.

The efforts aimed to infiltrate the Mexican Beltran Leyva drug cartel and a cell of money launderers for Colombia’s Valle del Norte cartel in Mexico and included flying at least one shipment of cocaine from Ecuador to Madrid through a Dallas airport on behalf of the cartels.

Money laundering is a favored tactic of the DEA. The illicit activity – specifically sanctioned as Attorney General Exempt Operations – often violates Mexican sovereignty, facilitates additional criminal activity on the part of the drug cartels, and may be counterproductive, especially in the shadow of the failed gun-running operation Fast and Furious.

Mexican military and law enforcement, trained and armed by the U.S., typically assist the Americans. But Mexico’s over-reliance on harsh law enforcement and militaristic approaches to the drug war – actively promoted by the United States – has resulted in a dramatic increase in violence and an unaccountable police and military force that is responsible for widespread human rights violations.

Human Rights Watch recently released a report providing evidence that U.S.-supported Mexico’s security forces participated in “more than 170 cases of torture, 39 ‘disappearances,’ and 24 extrajudicial killings since Calderón took office in December 2006.”

“Instead of reducing violence, Mexico’s ‘war on drugs’ has resulted in a dramatic increase in killings, torture, and other appalling abuses by security forces, which only make the climate of lawlessness and fear worse in many parts of the country,” said José Miguel Vivanco of Human Rights Watch. What’s more, claimed the report, is that most of these crimes are committed with impunity.

President Calderon’s policy to deploy 50,000 Mexican troops and thousands more federal police officers – forces that are trained by the United States – appears only to have increased the violence, which has left about 50,000 dead in recent years,including 12,000 dead in 2011.

Author: John Glaser

John Glaser writes for