Mexico Passes Bill Limiting Foreign Agents, Risking U.S. Ire

Mexico‘s lower house passed a bill Tuesday to limit foreign agents’ activities in the country, in a move that threatens yet more tension in a rocky period of U.S.-Mexico national-security relations.

The bill aims to restrict activities of foreign intelligence and law enforcement officers in Mexico. Foreign agents would have no criminal immunity under the bill, and would have to hand over any information they gather to the government and file a monthly report on their movements.

It now goes to President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador for signature. Lopez Obrador sent the bill to the Senate weeks after Mexico’s goverment was blindsided by the U.S. arrest of former Defense Minister Salvador Cienfuegos on drug-related charges in October.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr said last week he was “troubled” by the bill, which he said could damage cooperation between the two countries. It “can only benefit the violent transnational criminal organizations and other criminals that we are jointly fighting,” he said.

The U.S. eventually dropped its charges against Cienfuegos, allowing him to return home. Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said Mexico had threatened to end bilateral cooperation over the affair, saying the arrest violated a 1992 pact that required it be notified of the investigation.

U.S. prosecutors said in a court filing that sensitive and important foreign policy considerations outweighed the government’s interest in pursuing the prosecution.

The bill would also require Mexican local authorities or federal employees to inform the government of any meetings or phone calls with foreign agents.

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