Mexico Seeks to Curb Foreign Agents After General’s Arrest

Mexico wants to restrict the activities of foreign agents after the arrest of a former top general in Los Angeles sparked diplomatic tension with the U.S. The proposed measures may put at risk the Drug Enforcement Agency’s operations with Mexican informants.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador sent a bill to senators to tweak the national security law to help regulate the presence of foreign agents in Mexico so they act within the framework of bilateral cooperation, Ricardo Monreal, the leader of Lopez Obrador’s party in the Senate, said on Twitter.

According to a summary on Monreal’s personal website, the proposal aims to regulate activities of foreign law enforcement in Mexico. It would limit foreign agents to liaison activities for exchanging information with Mexican authorities. Foreign agents would have no immunity for crimes or for overstepping the limits of their authority.

The proposals will regulate “a long-standing complaint about the presence and participation of foreign agents in Mexico,” Monreal said on his official Twitter account.

They would force agents to hand over any information they gather to the government and produce a monthly report on what they’ve been up to. It would also require Mexican local authorities or federal employees to inform the government of any meetings or phone calls with foreign agents.

“Recruiting informants can come to a screeching halt, which would be more detrimental to Mexico than the U.S.,” Mike Vigil, a former head of the DEA’s international operations, said in an interview. “We have a large platform of informants in Mexico. Many times we do go out on operations with Mexican government officials. We don’t make the arrest, we work under cover in coordination and under the auspices of security forces. All of that would stop.”

Lopez Obrador’s administration was caught off guard when a former defense minister, General Salvador Cienfuegos, was arrested in the U.S. on charges that included drug trafficking and money laundering. Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said the U.S. violated a 1992 pact that required Mexico be notified of the investigation, and because of that the nation threatened to cut off cooperation with the U.S.

The U.S. later dismissed its case against Cienfuegos, allowing him to return to his home country. Prosecutors said in a court filing that sensitive and important foreign policy considerations outweighed the government’s interest in pursuing the prosecution.

The proposed amendment has “implications for national security, faced with the risk of breaches of sovereignty and the constitutional order,” according to his website.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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