As the Mexican government claims to be getting closer to capturing the country’s most notorious drug lord, an ex-president claims that the US is negotiating the terms of “El Chapo’s” surrender.
According to a Milenio interview (see video below) with former President Vicente Fox, the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is in the process of negotiating with several high-profile cartel leaders, offering them reduced prison sentences if they turn themselves in. Among them is Joaquin Guzman, alias “El Chapo,” the head of the powerful Sinaloa Cartel.
Fox also pointed out that drug consumption in the US is the cause of much of the violence in Mexico. He argued that, for this reason, the US should take more responsibility in the fight against drug cartels, asking: “Are we not doing their work for them?”
This is not the first time that Fox has made a controversial statement regarding the drug war. In August the former head of state called for the Mexican government to “gather the violent groups to a truce and evaluate the advantages of an amnesty law,” in a bid to reduce violence. Two months later, in an October interview with the BBC, he argued that the US should legalize drugs in order to reduce the demand for illicit substances in Mexico. He has also advocated drug legalization.
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Although Fox did not cite a source for his assertion about Guzman, it would hardly be surprising if the US were holding talks with the drug lord. Such negotiations are a hallmark of successful law enforcement work. The DEA has engaged in negotiations with drug traffickers in Colombia for years, and is currently rumored to be talking to the leaders of the Rastrojos drug gang as well as trafficking kingpin Daniel Barrera Barrera, alias “El Loco.”
Indeed, there is reason to suspect that such negotiations have already taken place in Mexico. Jesus Vicente Zambada Niebla, the son of a Sinaloa Cartel head, was arrested in 2009 and extradited to the US. He has alleged that US officials worked out an agreement with the cartel to reduce the law enforcement pressure on the gang in exchange for information on other groups.
If more evidence of these negotiations emerges, it will put the administration of President Felipe Calderon in a tight spot. Calderon has flatly denied rumors that his government engages in negotiations with drug gangs, and has criticized suggestions that it should consider doing so. It will be especially damaging to the president if it comes out that US officials are communicating with Guzman, because the Mexican government has attempted to portray itself as on the verge of capturing him.