The federal government has sent a diplomatic note to the United States Embassy in Mexico to seek information about the decade-old “fast and furious” gun-running sting, renewing focus on a controversial issue that dates back to the administrations of former Mexican president Felipe Calderón and his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama.
Under the 2009-2011 scheme, the United States government allowed people to buy guns illegally in the U.S. and smuggle them into Mexico so that the weapons could be tracked and law enforcement officials could locate and arrest crime bosses.
However, the United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives lost track of most of the weapons, some of which were used in fatal shootings of both Mexican and U.S. citizens.
Referring to the details of the diplomatic note in a video message, Foreign Affairs Minister Marcelo Ebrard said that if the United States government executed the gun-running scheme without the knowledge of Mexican officials, it violated Mexico’s sovereignty.
On the other hand, if the government led by Calderón did know about the “fast and furious” scheme, that administration committed “serious violations” against the constitution, Ebrard said, because former Mexican officials denied knowledge of it in statements made to Congress and society.
The foreign minister cited Obama-era U.S. attorney general Eric Holder as saying that officials of the Calderón administration knew about the scheme. The news agency Reuters said that representatives of Holder didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Ebrard said that more than 2,000 high-caliber guns were smuggled into Mexico under the scheme and that the weapons were used to commit “several crimes” in Mexico, the United States and “even third countries.”
The scheme caused “the regrettable loss of Mexican and American lives” without achieving the objectives of arresting criminals and obtaining intelligence about illegal arms trafficking in Mexico, he said.
The smuggling of arms into Mexico from the United States has only increased in recent years, Ebrard added, charging that all the while the “fast and furious” operation has not been sufficiently explained.
“The government requests that it be provided with all the information available regarding the ‘Fast and Furious’ operation,” he said.
President López Obrador said earlier on Monday that while Calderón has denied knowledge of the scheme, a media report purportedly based on declassified United States government documents says that former attorney general Eduardo Medina Mora did know about it.
López Obrador said that his administration wants the United States government to reveal whether Medina passed information about the scheme onto Calderón, a long-time political foe of the president.
He described the gun-running operation as a flagrant violation of Mexico’s sovereignty.
López Obrador first brought up the “fast and furious” scheme a week ago when responding to questions about Calderón’s public security minister, Genaro García Luna, who was arrested in the United States in December on charges that he allowed the Sinaloa Cartel to operate in exchange for multimillion-dollar bribes.
The president has used García’s arrest to support his claim that the Calderón administration and other past governments were corrupt.
The former security minister has pleaded not guilty to the conspiracy charges and Calderón denies any knowledge of his involvement in criminal activities.