An innocent man treated and paraded around like one of the
most wanted criminals: The monumental misidentification of the man
above, Felix Beltran Leon, for the son of the Sinaloa Cartel’s Joaquín
‘El Chapo’ Guzmán, has likely set Mexico's ‘Drug War’ back for
DEA’s ‘El Chapo Fiasco’ Sets Drug War Back for Years (El
“After a series of losing encounters with the facts, agents and operatives of the DEA, who had repeatedly insisted that they had the son of El Chapo, in the end had no choice but to surrender to the accumulating evidence and admit it was a case of mistaken identity ... this has dealt a major blow to the DEA and to the armed forces of Mexico, delaying, perhaps of years, the much-anticipated capture of Joaquin 'El Chapo' Guzmán.”
Car salesman Felix Betrán León being displayed by Mexico federal police as the son of Joaquín 'El Chapo' Guzmán, one of the world's most wanted men. The intelligence blunder is a major embarrassment and operational blow to the U.S. DEA, and is 'an embarrassing spectacle of political
opportunism' for Mexico's ruling party in the run-up to the presidential election on July 1.
Night had already fallen in Washington, when the DEA
reluctantly accepted that the presumed son of "El Chapo" was not the man their informants had pointed out.
After almost 48 hours of frenetic communications between DEA agents, members of
the Mexico Army and the [Mexico] Attorney General’s
Office, they all came to the same conclusion: the faulty intelligence
provided by informants of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, the immediate
reaction of the family of Felix Betrán León, and clumsy
handling by the Mexico government had landed them in the midst of one of the
worst ever intelligence fiascos and an embarrassing spectacle of political
For those of us who followed the operation from Washington,
the speed with which the government of Mexico, the DEA and media had acted the
night before, displaying their long-coveted prey like a hunting trophy, was in
stark contrast to the subsequent spectacle of stupidity, confusion and
disbelief that resulted in a day of denials on the part of Felix Beltrán León and his lawyers.
Like a terrible serial novel, early on Friday, DEA spokesman
Rusty Payne modified his account from the previous day, assuring listeners that
his anti-drug agency had never confirmed the identity of the presumed son of El
Chapo; rather, they had simply congratulated the
government of Mexico.
A few hours later, after a series of losing encounters with the
facts, agents and operatives of the DEA, who had repeatedly insisted that they
had the son of El Chapo, in the end had no choice but
to surrender to the accumulating evidence and admit it was a case of mistaken
identity; a setback brought about by the haste and unreliability of some
informants, who in their apparent clumsiness (and here I stress “apparent”) had
dealt a major blow to the DEA and to the armed forces of Mexico, delaying,
perhaps of years, the much-anticipated capture of Joaquín
“El Chapo” Guzmán.
To recap, the following list is an initial forecast of the
damage done to the DEA and government of Mexico:
1.The capture of
JoaquínGuzmánLoaera may have been set back by several years. After
confirming the penetration of one of its networks in Jalisco by way of
infiltration or buying-off informants, the Sinaloa Cartel will make
certain to identify and bury anyone who has collaborated with the DEA in this
failed attempt to capture one of its sons, Jesús
Alfredo Guzmán Salazar, who, in an open Chicago court indictment, is listed at the logistical overseer of the Sinaloa Cartel in
the United States.
unreliability of the DEA’s Mexico intelligence has left the Mexico Army in one
of the most absurd situations in its history. After this fiasco, future collaboration
between the two entities - the most effective tool against the grave problem of
narco-infiltration into the Mexico Army - will long
be burdened by suspicion and mistrust.
3.The Mexico government’s
growing dependence in matters of intelligence on the network of informants that
has been carefully embedded into its territory by U.S. federal agencies has necessarily put it in a subordinate position in every action taken against the cartels,
and above all, in the political calculations of Washington.
of growing dependency will seriously compromise the efforts of whatever
government emerges out of the next election, when it has to implement a national policy against the cartels with any chance of lasting more than one term [six years].
One of the questions that arise from this embarrassing and
flagrantly-foolish DEA operation with Mexico Army units is: How was it possible
for them to make an error of this magnitude?
In May 2011, when special units of the U.S. Navy (SEALs) descended as one on the complex that hid the leader
of al-Qaeda in the town of Abbottabad, Pakistan, the margin of error had been
reduced to a minimum by the White House.
During intense and meticulous meetings of the National
Security Council headed by President Barack Obama, every last element of
information collected over two years was corroborated to make certain that the
object of the operation was indeed Osama bin Laden - and that success was assured to
a probability of over 95 percent.
Apparently, in the case of the alleged son of El ChapoGuzmán, the urgency of
scoring political points in the context of a fierce electoral contest
eliminated any hint of prudence or intelligence.
This miscalculation, therefore, has not only seriously
compromised the intelligence mission of capturing the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel,
whom the DEA has compared to Osama bin Laden, but it has made fools of those
that from the very beginning, with clear political anticipation, have made fighting
the cartels into a cause.