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President Barack Obama listens as Mexico President Barack Obama listens as Mexico's President Felipe Calderon speaks during their joint news conference, Thursday, March 3, 2011, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)  

Calderon spokesman: Mexico unaware DOJ was passing laundered cash to cartels

Photo of Matthew Boyle
Matthew Boyle
Investigative Reporter

According to a spokesperson for Mexican president Felipe Calderon, Mexico’s government was left in the dark about a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration drug money laundering scheme that allegedly facilitated the transfer of millions of dollars to Mexican drug cartels.

The program was similar to Operation Fast and Furious in that the U.S. Department of Justice, under Attorney General Eric Holder, was allegedly furnishing narcotics traffickers with laundered drug proceeds in an attempt to discern how those funds would move, and to whom.

On this week’s Al Punto, a Sunday news program on the Spanish-language television network Univision, Calderon spokeswoman Alejandra Sota said the Mexican government was not aware of, or involved with, any DEA money laundering scheme.

According to a New York Times report, “in operations supervised by the Justice Department and orchestrated to get around sovereignty restrictions” drug enforcement agents “laundered or smuggled millions of dollars in drug proceeds as part of Washington’s expanding role in Mexico’s fight against drug cartels.”

Almost immediately after the Times published the story, and House oversight committee chairman Rep. Darrell Issa’s subsequent announcement that he will expand his investigation of Operation Fast and Furious to examine reports of DEA-facilitated money laundering, the Department of Justice released a public statement disclaiming the practice as perfectly ordinary.

In that statement, the Obama administration claimed it was “working collaboratively with the Mexican government” on the efforts to fight more widespread money laundering.

“As our partners in Mexico have stated, the joint investigations to detect and dismantle money laundering networks have led to important advances and detentions in each country,” the DEA and DOJ jointly said. “The cooperation between the United States and Mexico is based on principles of shared responsibility, mutual trust and respect for the jurisdiction of each country.”

This weekend’s interview with Calderon’s spokesperson contradicts those Obama administration claims.

Al Punto host Jorge Ramos asked Sota about the allegations. “The New York Times has just filed a report days ago in which it assures that there was an operation or various operations of money-laundering by American DEA agents along with Mexican agents to try to identify drug traffickers,” Ramos said, according to a translated transcription. “I saw an interview with President Felipe Calderon. It was suggested there that Mexico did not know about this operation. And that’s my question. Did the Mexican Government know about this DEA operation to launder drug traffickers’ money in Mexico?”