DEA’s ‘El Chapo Fiasco’ Sets Drug War Back for ‘Years’ (El Universal, Mexico)
Embarrassing, unprofessional, clumsy, self-destructive: all of these adjectives and more could describe last week’s arrest in Mexico of a man thought to be the son of one of the Hemisphere’s most wanted: Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán. According to columnist J. Jaime Hernández of Mexico’s El Universal, the mistake has badly damaged U.S. and Mexican authorities in terms of compromised intelligence assets like their soon-to-be-dead informants, undermined efforts to uncover cartel infiltration of the Mexican Army, and has exposed members of the Mexican ruling party as shameless political opportunists just days before the Mexico presidential election.
Night had already fallen in Washington, when the DEA reluctantly accepted that the presumed son of “El Chapo” was not the man their informants had pointed out. After almost 48 hours of frenetic communications between DEA agents, members of the Mexico Army and the [Mexico] Attorney General’s Office, they all came to the same conclusion: the faulty intelligence provided by informants of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, the immediate reaction of the family of Felix Betrán León, and clumsy handling by the Mexico government had landed them in the midst of one of the worst ever intelligence fiascos and an embarrassing spectacle of political opportunism.
For those of us who followed the operation from Washington, the speed with which the government of Mexico, the DEA and media had acted the night before, displaying their long-coveted prey like a hunting trophy, was in stark contrast to the subsequent spectacle of stupidity, confusion and disbelief that resulted in a day of denials on the part of Felix Beltrán León and his lawyers.
Like a terrible serial novel, early on Friday, DEA spokesman Rusty Payne modified his account from the previous day, assuring listeners that his anti-drug agency had never confirmed the identity of the presumed son of El Chapo; rather, they had simply congratulated the government of Mexico.
A few hours later, after a series of losing encounters with the facts, agents and operatives of the DEA, who had repeatedly insisted that they had the son of El Chapo, in the end had no choice but to surrender to the accumulating evidence and admit it was a case of mistaken identity; a setback brought about by the haste and unreliability of some informants, who in their apparent clumsiness (and here I stress “apparent”) had dealt a major blow to the DEA and to the armed forces of Mexico, delaying, perhaps of years, the much-anticipated capture of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán.
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