(courtesy Judicial Watch)
Sinaloa Drug Lord’s Defense
Obama’s scandalous Mexican gunrunning operation could help in the defense of a notorious drug lord on trial in New York and the feds are trying to ban its mention in the courtroom. It’s yet another ripple effect of a shameful Obama experiment known as Fast and Furious that let Mexican drug traffickers obtain U.S.-sold weapons.
The failed program was run by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) and allowed guns from the U.S. to be smuggled into Mexico so they could eventually be traced to drug cartels. Instead, federal law enforcement officers lost track of hundreds of weapons which were used in an unknown number of crimes, including the murder of U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry in Arizona.
Now Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, head of the Sinaloa drug cartel, wants to use Fast and Furious to strengthen his defense. The Sinaloa cartel is one of Mexico’s most powerful criminal organizations and Guzman has been charged with a multitude of crimes, including drug trafficking, illegal firearms, money laundering, and conspiracy.
Federal prosecutors say Guzman smuggled enormous amounts of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and marijuana into the U.S. and, as the leader of a multi-national criminal enterprise, used violence—including torture and murder—to maintain an iron-fisted grip on the drug trade across the U.S.-Mexico border. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) refers to Guzman as one of the most dangerous and feared drug kingpins. He was extradited from Mexico last year.
In 2016, Judicial Watch obtained Justice Department documents showing that Fast and Furious weapons have been widely used by members of major Mexican drug cartels, including Guzman. The documents reveal that 94 Fast and Furious firearms have been recovered in Mexico City and 12 Mexican states, with the majority being seized in Sonora, Chihuahua, and Sinaloa. Of the weapons recovered, 82 were rifles and 12 were pistols. Twenty were involved in “violent recoveries,” which means they were utilized in several mass killings.
Among them was a .50 caliber rifle seized from Guzman’s hideout in Los Mochis, Sinaloa, where he was eventually arrested. Guzman’s attorneys want to use Fast and Furious as part of the defense strategy, according to a New York newspaper covering the trial, and federal prosecutors are trying to stop it. “They’re asking a federal judge to block any defense questions about the program in which federal agents allowed illegal weapons to flow over the border to Mexico in an effort to gain intelligence on drug cartels,” the article states. Why? Prosecutors assert that, by focusing on the failures of the Fast and Furious (and there are many), Guzman will “distract and confuse the jury.”
The government pulled the same stunt when two of the men involved in Terry’s murder were tried in federal court. A seasoned Border Patrol agent and Marine Corps veteran, Terry was killed by a Mexican gang member in 2010 in Peck Canyon, Arizona. Federal authorities say he was fatally shot when he and other agents encountered a group of men known as a “rip crew” (a criminal gang that attempts to steal from drug and alien smugglers) operating in a rural area north of Nogales.
The guns—assault weapons known as AK-47s—were traced through their serial numbers to a Glendale, Arizona dealer that led to a Phoenix man the feds repeatedly allowed to smuggle firearms into Mexico. Six men have been charged with crimes involving Terry’s murder and earlier this year, the assailant was extradited from Mexico. A few years ago, when two members of the rip crew were tried in connection to Terry’s murder, federal prosecutors asked the judge to ban mentioning Fast and Furious during proceedings.
The judge agreed, ruling that defendants could not refer to or elicit any testimony regarding the failed gunrunning operation. Terry’s brother, Kent Terry, told Judicial Watch the government wants to keep Fast and Furious out of the limelight for political reasons. “It’s upsetting,” Kent Terry said this week. “If I commit a crime with a gun don’t you think it’s relevant to ask where I got that gun? They’re protecting the criminal.”
Even Mexican media has reported that the Sinaloa drug cartel was able to access more weapons thanks to Operation Fast and Furious. One outlet published an in-depth piece titled “Fast and Furious: Arms for El Chapo” that reveals U.S. intelligence agencies knew from the start that the Sinaloa cartel was the prime recipient of weapons. Regardless, the U.S. continued the operation and lied to the Mexican government, the article states.