“Sol Prendido” for Borderland Beat

The DEA press office was closed to the Mexican press by order of the head of the DEA Anne Milgram, following changes made by President Lopez Obrador that curtailed the operations of foreign agents in Mexico.

By direct order of its administrator, Anne Milgram, the press office of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) closed the doors to the Mexican press to talk about any aspect of cooperation with Mexico.

“She made the decision, only she can talk to the non-Mexican media about what is happening in Mexico regarding drug trafficking and cooperation with the government of President (Andres) Manuel Lopez Obrador,” a source told Proceso.

As a precaution and to avoid any “administrative” misconduct, the source, a DEA official, asks the reporter not to be mentioned by name in order to explain what has happened at the headquarters of the U.S. agency with Milgram’s arrival.

Sitting at one of the tables on the sidewalk of a café a few meters from the White House, but far enough away from the DEA headquarters in a suburb of the U.S. capital, Virginia, the official explains the reasons:

“With the arrival of the government of (Andrés Manuel) López Obrador the changes began. Our agents (54 assigned to Mexican territory) got used to doing what they wanted with the previous governments and that is no longer the case. The relationship with the DEA took an unexpected turn”.

“First it happened that the Ministry of Foreign Relations (SRE) did not approve visas for some twelve agents, and then, with the law that López Obrador implemented, technically there was no longer access to what our agents had, especially with the PGR and the Federal Police,” the DEA official explains.

The two agencies mentioned by the source no longer exist.

The PGR was replaced by the Attorney General’s Office (FGR) and the Federal Police merged with military elements in the National Guard, both federal agencies were the direct counterparts in Mexico of the 54 U.S. counter-narcotics agents.

With the security law implemented by President López Obrador, the operations of foreign agents, especially those of the United States and in particular those of the DEA, were unexpectedly curtailed.

Every month, according to this law – as Proceso has documented on different occasions – the DEA has to deliver to the SRE a monthly report on the activities of its 54 agents: where they are, what they are doing and especially if they are entering or leaving Mexican territory.

“This new law was annoying from the beginning, of course,” the DEA official emphasizes, but, he notes, “when Milgram arrived as administrator, she was particularly irritated by the report and thought she could demand that the Mexican government make an exception.

“There were meetings with Mexican authorities in which the administrator imagined she was free to impose conditions and guarantee changes, her position and attitude made things worse. She knows nothing about Mexicans or their governments,” states the DEA official.

Milgram: closed-mindedness

The disagreements with the U.S. anti-drug chief had already been reported to Proceso. In a couple of interviews, former Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard had made reference to the matter.

In previous six-year terms, with emphasis on that of Felipe Calderón when he launched the militarized war against drug trafficking and unceremoniously embraced the disappeared Merida Initiative created by U.S. eagerness, the DEA had a field day in Mexico.

With Calderon, accused of having reached the presidency through fraud, DEA agents used the drug war as the platform they needed to please themselves.

During the six-year term of the former PAN president, DEA agents had a free hand, intercepting phone calls, capturing people, kidnapping them and taking them out of Mexico at will to the United States.

They co-opted drug traffickers and infiltrated them in the corruption networks of the cartels to open and elaborate judicial files on presidential cabinet officials, Genaro García Luna, for example, governors, police and military chiefs.

DEA agents, before public prosecutors, had access to preliminary investigations in the PGR. When Calderon appointed Marisela Morales as attorney general, among U.S. agents it was recurrent to say in a mocking tone that they were already in the bed of the agency in charge of federal prosecutions.

Calderon left Los Pinos, Enrique Peña Nieto replaced him and things did not change for the DEA in Mexico.

Thanks to what they had built up in terms of espionage and interference, they made relevant accusations such as the indictment against General Salvador Cienfuegos Zepeda, head of the Sedena under Peña Nieto.

“We made mistakes because our agents thought that the Mexican government would never change because they need us to contain drug trafficking, a mistake that we are paying for and will continue to pay for and that the administrator does not understand,” adds the DEA official.

For several months now, Proceso has been insisting to the DEA press office to get an interview with Milgram to talk about the cooperation in the fight against drug trafficking between the United States and the Mexican government.

When calling the DEA press office, a recorder answers the phone and asks to leave a request via email to the DEA’s general media office’s cyber address.

When the response arrives, it is also via e-mail with a return address and no contact number. The reporter’s request was answered: “at this moment it is not possible for the interview to take place”.

The DEA official who spoke with Proceso maintains that this is by direct order of Milgram.

“She, as a former prosecutor of the state of New Jersey who does not know what is happening in Mexico, does not understand that the Mexican press is essential to explain what is being done in cooperation with the Mexican government and that the media are irreplaceable to expose even drug traffickers.

“No one other than her is authorized to talk to journalists, which to many of us who have been with the DEA for many years seems like a huge mistake,” concludes the U.S. official.