Are high-profile suspects in Mexican drug cartels also paid informants for U.S. federal investigators? If so, could a brewing scandal in Washington implicate more U.S. agencies in the ongoing drug-related violence in Mexico?
Kenneth Melson, the embattled chief of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), made the earth-shaking revelation in testimony early last week, The Times reports. Melson reportedly told congressional leaders that Mexican cartel suspects tracked by his agents in a controversial gun-tracing program were also operating as paid informants for the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the FBI.
The revelation is further complicating an already tangled scandal unfolding in Washington that ties U.S. weapons to the violent drug war in Mexico. The conflict has left about 40,000 dead in 4 1/2 years. In effect, the scandal also points to a deeper involvement of the U.S. government in Mexico's drug war than the public has previously known or suspected.
The Fast and Furious scandal may perhaps be related to the Obama Administration looking to gin up a politically correct set of bad guys to blame for Mexican violence. If Mexican narco-cartels are obtaining guns in the U.S., they're probably mostly using immigrants and Mexican-Americans as their conduits, but that's not the kind of thing we're supposed to think about. Diversity is good!
But that gets me thinking about a more general topic: Mexico is to the U.S. as Afghanistan is to Pakistan. Nobody is surprised to find out that Pakistan's ISI spy agency pulls a lot of strings in Afghanistan.
Does the U.S. pull a lot of strings in Mexico the way Pakistan does in Afghanistan?
You know, that's an interesting question. What's even more interesting is that I've never heard anyone ask it before.
My guess would be "not really," but what do I know? Nobody in America pays much attention to Mexico.
Well, not exactly nobody. The Bush family, for one, has long paid close attention to Mexico.
Now that I think about it, it seems to me that you could write a Secret History of the Three Bush Administrations that could provide a coherent tale that the central plan of the Bushes, father and son, was to unify North America, economically and politically, under Washington's hegemony.
George H.W. Bush, owner of Zapata Oil was doing business, illegally (through a Mexican cutout who went on to be head of Pemex and then to jail for corruption), in Mexico from earlier than a half century ago. His son Jeb married a Mexican girl.
Look at it from GHW Bush's point of view coming into office in 1989. G.H.W. Bush is often derided as an "in-box President" who didn't have big ambitions like Reagan, but who felt up to dealing with events, like Iraq seizing Kuwait.
But I suspect that understates GHWB's strategic vision, which was directed at a place that nobody in New York or Washington cares much about, but is highly relevant to the business and political leadership of Texas: Mexico. Bush probably felt that Mexico should be a highly profitable country for American business.
But ever since the overthrow of dictator Porfirio Diaz in 1911, the government of Mexico has been overtly anti-American (e.g., the Plan of San Diego of 1915 or the Zimmerman Telegram of 1917). This reigning philosophy of anti-Americanism helped Mexico avoid being a banana republic minion of Washington like poor Honduras. But, it came with costs, especially for American companies, but also for Mexicans. Much of the Mexican economy was locked up in stodgy government owned monopolies. Nobody in Mexico could do much in the way of offshore oil drilling the way GHWB's Zapata could, but he had to hire a Mexican frontman, Jorge Diaz Serrano (who later became head of Pemex and then was one of the three symbols of 1970s corruption sent to prison by the new President who came in in 1982.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, President Salinas of Mexico decided to get very cozy with President Bush. He sold off many of the government-owned businesses to insiders and allies (this is the source of the fortune that made Carlos Slim the world's richest man). And they negotiated NAFTA.
But the Mexican public wouldn't let the politicians sell off the crown jewel, Pemex, the national oil monopoly, which long remained lusted-after by the Bush coterie. GHWB's Commerce Secretary Robert Mossberger said his dream job was CEO of Pemex.
The second Bush concentrated more on integrating the two countries' labor markets, with perhaps a hazy view toward eventual political integration of some sort under Jeb's half-Mexican son George P. Bush.