Mexico’s Congress Passes Law Limiting Activities Of Foreign Law Enforcement Agents

Published: Friday, December 18, 2020 - 2:54pm
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Mexico’s Congress has passed a national security reform stripping all foreign agents of diplomatic immunity and requiring them to share any intelligence they obtain with Mexican officials.

The new law is not aimed at a specific country but will likely impact U.S. agencies like the Drug Enforcement Administration, which has a strong presence in Mexico.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who proposed the legislation and now must sign it into law, said it’s meant to regulate foreign agents. But Cecilia Farfán-Méndez, head of security research programs at the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies at UC San Diego said it could prove detrimental to transnational collaboration.

"I think it really sends the wrong message in terms of shared responsibility and just being partners," she said. "It doesn’t really achieve anything other than irritating an already complicated relationship."

Outgoing U.S. Attorney General William Barr released a statement in response to the proposed legislation last week saying it would make cooperation between the two countries more difficult and benefit "the violent transnational criminal organizations and other criminals that we are jointly fighting."

"As always, our cooperation takes place within the longstanding framework designed to address jointly our shared challenges: that is why, for example, the United States recently returned former Secretary Cienfuegos to Mexico, in order for him to be investigated there," the statement reads.

Many see the new law as retaliation for the U.S. arrest of Mexico’s former defense secretary Salvador Cienfuegos on drug charges in October. Then, the U.S. dropped the charges against Cienfuegos and repatriated him to be investigated under Mexican law in November under pressure of implicit threats the Mexico might expel U.S. officials. Cienfuegos has yet to be charged with any crime in Mexico.

"If it is the case that Cienfuegos was returned to Mexico precisely to maintain the operation of U.S. agents in Mexico, and also because he would face a process in Mexico — neither of those things are happening," she said. "So I think it just really undermines trust in this (Mexican) administration."

She added that the possible breakdown of U.S.-Mexican collaboration to address transnational issues like drug and arms trafficking could undercut Mexico's efforts to get the United States to do more to stop illegal firearms trafficking.

"The firearms piece has been so important to Mexico, and with this is U.S. is going to have very little incentive to try to move on a very delicate matter," she said.

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