According to the Mexican Attorney General’s Office, there are currently more than 500 U.S. personnel operating in Mexico, up from 60 U.S. agents in 2005, reports Juarez-based newspaper El Diaro. These presumably include agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
The headline in El Diario, which refers to the U.S. personnel as “spies,” is another indication of how sensitive the issue of national sovereignty remains in Mexico. One of the main questions pushed by analysts this year is what, if anything — the death of ICE agent Jaime Zapata, new reports about spill-over violence or the presence of Mexican cartels in U.S. cities — may push greater U.S. involvement in Mexico’s “drug war.” But both Mexico and the U.S. are approaching election years, and the issue of how much Mexico needs U.S. law enforcement expertise (and money) will likely become even more delicate.
Asides from Plan Merida, intelligence sharing between the U.S. and Mexico has already brought about results like the localization (and subsequent death) of Arturo Beltran-Leyva. But other moves, like raising the number of U.S. personnel in Mexico, will likely make rise the hackles of politicians on both sides of border. Possibly only the more controversial move would be withdrawing U.S. support from Mexico altogether.