The botched Fast and Furious gun-running operation is big news in Washington today, with Attorney General Eric Holder waiting to find out whether he will be held in contempt of Congress. But across the border, in Mexico, the scandal is only helping to reaffirm a widely-held conspiracy theories that the US government is actively supporting the Sinaloa cartel.
James Verini of Foreign Policy writes that even the most respectable, brave journalists he knows in Mexico — such as Ismael Bojórquez, the editor of Ríodoce — say it's true:
Bojórquez is as sapient as they come, and no conspiracy-theorizing pundit. His sources in government and the criminal underworld are extensive. He is also very prudent, a necessity when as many people want you dead as want him dead. Yet he takes it as a given that the ATF intentionally supplies the Sinaloa cartel with guns. U.S. agencies have long been in bed with the Sinaloans, he explained to me, and this scheme to move massive numbers of weapons into the country is more of the same. He noted that it coincides directly with the cartel wars of the late 2000s. Project Gunrunner and later Fast and Furious were, Bojórquez is sure, a way for America to arm Chapo, with whom it's in business. To him, this connection is as clear as day.
Comments threads for Mexican newspapers are full of wilder theories, and last year an editorial in Mexican newspaper La Prensa called Fast and Furious just the latest attempt at Manifest Destiny.
To be fair, who can blame them? Not only is the US government believed to have supplied guns to the cartels, but the DEA is also known to have moved and laundered money for the cartels.
Verini argues that the most common theory is that Mexican President Felipe Calderón cut a deal with the drug lords that would allow them to go after the other cartels if they left Sinaloa, the most powerful cartel, alone. Calderón would never have been able to do this without active US government support, the theory goes.
Thankfully, this idea seems to have only caught the imagination of a minority. The latest Pew data shows that 56% of the Mexicans polled view the US positively, and only one-in-five said that the US alone was to blame for the drug war.
However, the theory should give some context to Sunday's election, where Enrique Peña Nieto, the candidate of PRI, is easily winning polls. Like all the other main candidates, Peña Nieto has run not on a campaign of ending the drug war, but of ending the violence associated with it.
And, if his platform is to be believed, that Mexico will not “subordinate to the strategies of other countries".