Congressmen demand to know if the DEA fueled a Mexican massacre

Lawmakers are calling for closer scrutiny of two events which caused the deaths or disappearance of between 60 and 300 Mexicans.

Mar 3, 2018
Congressmen Demand To Know The DEA's Role In A Mexican Massacre

An armed man takes part in a march for the third anniversary of the citizen’s vigilante militia UPOEG “Union de Pueblos y Organizaciones del Estado de Guerrero” in San Marcos, Guerrero State, Mexico on January 5, 2016. Hundreds of civilians armed with rifles, pistols and machetes decided to provide security for the communities of Guerrero, creating a vigilante force, following robberies, kidnappings and murder by gangs. Guerrero, home to the Pacific resort town of Acapulco, has been one of the states hardest hit by Mexico’s drug violence. (Photo by PEDRO PARDO/AFP/Getty Images)

House and Senate Democrats have called for an investigation into the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) this week for their connection to counter-narcotics operations in Mexico which caused the deaths of innocent civilians.

In a letter sent to the Inspectors General of the Departments of Justice and State, the lawmakers called for closer scrutiny of two events which occurred in 2010 and 2011 that caused the deaths or disappearance of between 60 and 300 Mexicans. The letter was sent by ranking members of the House and Senate Judiciary Committees: Rep. Elliot Engel (D-NY), Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA).

The investigation is spurred by two 2017 reports published by ProPublica and National Geographic in which current DEA officials, cartel members and victims’ families provided information that suggested the DEA’s involvement in and knowledge of these incidents. The first report outlines a massacre which occurred in the Mexican town of Allende, where members of the Los Zetas cartel invaded in 2011 in search of a DEA informant. The second report investigates a 2010 incident at a Holiday Inn in the city of Monterrey, where hotel guests and staff were mistaken for undercover agents and presumably killed by Zetas after they learned of a DEA led operation in the hotel.

Both incidents deal directly with the Sensitive Investigative Unit (SIU), which is a team of Mexican police officers who are supposed to be carefully vetted by the Drug Enforcement Administration to ensure that the unit remains untouched by corruption, which is rampant among law enforcement in the country.

In both cases, it is alleged that SIU officers acted as informants for the Zetas and that the DEA knew more than they publicly acknowledged about the lack of proper vetting processes and the human toll of these operations. The letter from congressmen demanding an investigation requests the Drug Enforcement Administration be transparent about their role in these incidents, what they did afterward to compensate the victims’ families, and what they’re doing moving forward to prevent something like this from happening again.


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Derek Maltz, special agent in charge at the Drug Enforcement Agency, speaks at a news conference at the DEA headquarters on June 26, 2013 in Washington, DC. The agency announced Project Synergy, a series of law enforcement actions targeting synthetic drugs. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)

The DEA oversees 12 other units which conduct similar operations in foreign countries. At the request of reporters to address their specific operations in Mexico, the DEA has defended its operations saying that the benefits outweigh the costs. But the DEA has kept those costs a secret from the Mexican and American public.

“[I]n Mexico,” one current DEA agent told ProPublica, on condition of anonymity, “I’m sorry to say this, nobody gives a shit.”

On the record, the DEA has maintained that its SIU operations follow strict vetting procedures and that their units work closely with Mexican authorities to ensure this.


Mar 3, 2018