US government officials secretly met and struck deals with the leaders of Mexico's most notorious drug cartel, allowing it to traffic billions of dollars worth of dangerous drugs into the United States in exchange for information on rival cartels.
The meetings between agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Justice Department (DOJ) occurred between 2000 and 2012, without the presence, or even knowledge, of Mexican authorities, claims a new investigative report by El Universal, one of the Mexico's most respected newspapers. The report confirms allegations made in court documents in the US federal trial of Jesus Vicente Zambada-Niebla, son of Sinaloa cartel leader Ismael "El Mayo" Zambada. Zambada-Niebla claimed he should not have been arrested and tried because he had a deal with the DEA, allegedly part of Operation Fast and Furious, that allowed him to run his narcotics empire with impunity in exchange for information on rival cartels. According to a court document: The United States government at its highest levels entered into agreements with cartel leaders to act as informants against rival cartels and receive benefits in return, including, but not limited to, access to thousands of weapons which helped them continue their business smuggling drugs into Chicago and throughout the United States, and to continue wreaking havoc on the citizens and law enforcement in Mexico. According to documents made public for the first time in the El Universal investigation, DEA agent Michael Castanon detailed a March 17, 2009 Mexico City hotel room meeting between himself, DEA agent David Herrod, Zambada-Niebla and an informant. The following day, Zambada-Niebla was arrested by the Mexican military. Castanon visited the trafficker in prison, where he reiterated his desire to cooperate with US authorities. Led by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, the Sinaloa cartel, which US intelligence calls the most powerful drug trafficking organization in the world, is responsible for importing hundreds of tons of cocaine and other drugs into the United States. It supplies around 80 percent of the drugs sold in Chicago and has a dangerous presence in many other American cities.