By Alan Bean
A Mexican newspaper has published a thoroughly documented expose that makes a stunning case. Beginning in the 1990s, the American Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) made a deal with one of Mexico’s deadliest drug cartels. If the Cartel gave the DEA accurate information on rival cartels, the DEA would allow the Sinaloa Cartel to import narcotics into Chicago.
I know this sounds crazy. If the goal was to staunch the import of illegal drugs into the United States, what difference did it make which cartel was bringing in the drugs?
But, as anyone associated with the Drug War realizes, the goal has never been to stop, or even slow the importation of illegal narcotics into the United States; the goal has been to make a series of highly publicized drug busts in order to justify the continual flow of federal funds to the DEA.
That was the the game in its entirety.
When I published “The Law Falls Silent” in May of 2012, many found it difficult to believe that the American government would allow a Mexican drug kingpin to leave the United States in exchange for setting up an innocent man, Ramsey Muñiz . In that case, neither the US Attorney who prosecuted the case, nor any one who testified at the 1994 trial, understood the first thing about the relationship between Donacio Medina (a Mexican drug dealer) and Ramsey Muñiz, a para legal based in Corpus Christi. No one questions that Muñiz drove Medina’s vehicle from one motel to another. But did Muñiz know the car, which he claimed to be moving as a favor to Medina, contained $800,000 worth of powdered cocaine?
Muñiz says Medina approached him because the Mexican national was looking for an attorney to assist two family members who were incarcerated in federal prisons. Although no one involved with the trial knew it at the time, the feds arrested Medina in Houston and told him he was going to prison unless he could give them something or somebody of value. Medina set up the scenario in Dallas that brought Muñiz down and told his DEA handlers to arrest the guy driving the Camry. As soon as the trunk was opened, Medina was allowed to leave the country a free man.
The story Ramsey Muñiz told at trial sounded incredible to the jury. Why would the federal government put a man in prison for the rest of his life unless they knew for certain he was a dangerous drug dealer? More to the point, why would the feds release a man they knew was importing millions of dollars of cocaine into the United States knowing full well that he would continue his illegal activities? It made no sense.
Read the story below and you will know why neither the DEA nor the DOJ cared who put the drugs in the car or whether Ramsey Muñiz knew he was driving a hot car. It didn’t matter. Medina gave them a high-profile narcotics case on a silver platter. The fact that Muñiz, two decades earlier, their suspect had run for Governor of Texas only sweetened the story.
Once again, the legitimization of the drug war, and the vast sums of money that came with it, were all that mattered. If you doubt that, read on.
January 13, 2014
An investigation by El Universal has found that between the years 2000 and 2012, the U.S. government had an arrangement with Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel that allowed the organization to smuggle billions of dollars of drugs in exchange for information on rival cartels.
Sinaloa, led by Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, supplies 80% of the drugs entering the Chicago area and has a presence in cities across the U.S.
But the El Universal investigation is the first to publish court documents that include corroborating testimony from a DEA agent and a Justice Department official.
The written statements were made to the U.S. District Court in Chicago in relation to the arrest of Jesus Vicente Zambada-Niebla, the son of Sinaloa leader Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada and allegedly the Sinaloa cartel’s “logistics coordinator.”
Here’s what DEA agent Manuel Castanon told the Chicago court:
“On March 17, 2009, I met for approximately 30 minutes in a hotel room in Mexico City with Vincente Zambada-Niebla and two other individuals — DEA agent David Herrod and a cooperating source [Sinaloa lawyer Loya Castro] with whom I had worked since 2005. … I did all of the talking on behalf of [the] DEA.”
A few hours later, Mexican Marines arrested Zambada-Niebla (a.k.a. “El Vicentillo”) on charges of trafficking more than a billion dollars in cocaine and heroin. Castanon and three other agents then visited Zambada-Niebla in prison, where the Sinaloa officer “reiterated his desire to cooperate.”
El Universal, citing court documents, reports that DEA agents met with high-level Sinaloa officials more than 50 times since 2000.
Then-Justice Department prosecutor Patrick Hearn told the Chicago court that, according to DEA special agent Steve Fraga, Castro “provided information leading to a 23-ton cocaine seizure, other seizures related to “various drug trafficking organizations,” and that “El Mayo” Zambada wanted his son to cooperate with the U.S.
A screenshot from the documents published by El Universal.
“The DEA agents met with members of the cartel in Mexico to obtain information about their rivals and simultaneously built a network of informants who sign drug cooperation agreements, subject to results, to enable them to obtain future benefits, including cancellation of charges in the U.S.,” reports El Universal, which also interviewed more than one hundred active and retired police officers as well as prisoners and experts.
Zambada-Niebla’s lawyer told the court that in the late 1990s, Castro struck a deal with U.S. agents in which Sinaloa would provide information about rival drug trafficking organizations while the U.S. would dismiss its case against the Sinaloa lawyer and refrain from interfering with Sinaloa drug trafficking activities or actively prosecuting Sinaloa leadership.
“The agents stated that this arrangement had been approved by high-ranking officials and federal prosecutors,” Zambada-Niebla lawyer wrote.
After being extradited to Chicago in February 2010, Zambada-Niebla argued that he was also “immune from arrest or prosecution” because he actively provided information to U.S. federal agents.
Zambada-Niebla also alleged that Operation Fast and Furious was part of an agreement to finance and arm the cartel in exchange for information used to take down its rivals. (If true, that re-raises the issue regarding what Attorney General Eric Holder knew about the gun-running arrangements.)
A Mexican foreign service officer told Stratfor in April 2010 that the U.S. seemed to have sided with the Sinaloa cartel in an attempt to limit the violence in Mexico.
El Universal said that the coordination between the U.S. and Sinaloa peaked between 2006 and 2012, which is when drug cartels consolidated their grip on Mexico. The report ends by saying that it is unclear whether the arrangements continue.
The DEA declined to comment to El Universal.