Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador told reporters on Friday that the U.S. may need to apologize for failing to inform Mexican authorities about the botched ATF sting known as “Fast and Furious.”
The operation, which ran out of the ATF bureau in Phoenix from 2009 to 2011, allowed violent Mexican cartels to obtain over 2,000 firearms in the United States but failed to recover over 1,400 of them.
“What seems serious to me is that a violation of our sovereignty was carried out, a secret operation, and that Mexicans were killed with these weapons,” Lopez Obrador said in Mexico City. “There is still time for the U.S. to apologize.”
“We have to shine light on this so that an action of this type will never be carried out again,” he said.
Lopez Obrador made the comments after former Mexican President Felipe Calderon said on Twitter last week that he had no knowledge of the gun-running scheme. Calderon was president from 2006 and 2012. Lopez Obrador speculated that Calderon’s comments indicate that the sting was illegal because it may have been carried out without the president’s knowledge.
“Fast and Furious was a scandal of monumental proportions,” Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms Chairman Alan Gottlieb said in response to Lopez Obrador’s statements.
“We can certainly sympathize with Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador,” Gottlieb said. “Mexico and every U.S. citizen deserves not only an apology but [then Attorney General Eric] Holder and several other former Obama/Biden administration officials should have been criminally prosecuted. Bad actors should be punished, not law abiding American gun owners, as Joe Biden has proposed with his gun control agenda if elected president.”
Investigators believe over 100 Mexicans were killed by those who obtained firearms through the Fast and Furious program, including a police chief in the state of Jalisco. At least one American was killed due to the program when Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry died in a shootout with Mexican “bandits” in 2010. It was later determined that two of the AK-47’s used by the bandits were sold as part of Fast and Furious.
The program was ostensibly designed to track firearms from straw purchases in the United States to high-level Mexican drug cartel leaders. By allowing firearms to be purchased illegally, ATF agents hoped to uncover the methods and procedures of cartel firearms traffickers.
But the program was a failure from the beginning, according to a review by the Inspector General for the Department of Justice. The ATF was unable to trace the firearms agents allowed to “walk,” and the guns were only recovered at crime scenes much later.
“Almost from the outset of each case, ATF agents learned that the purchases were financed by violent Mexican drug trafficking organizations and that the firearms were destined for Mexico,” the report states. “We believe the limitations and the ineffectiveness of the surveillance should have prompted ATF and U.S. Attorney’s Office personnel responsible for conducting and supervising the case to assess whether they could responsibly conduct investigations as large as Operations Wide Receiver and Fast and Furious under these circumstances.”
Mexican authorities have a right to be upset, according to the report. The public safety threat of allowing known criminals to purchase so many weapons far exceeded the potential benefits of the operation’s stated goals.
“We also concluded that the speculative long term gain of foregoing enforcement action should have yielded to the immediate risk to public safety, both in the United States and Mexico, created by the subjects’ substantial trafficking activities,” the report states.
Former U.S. congressman Darrell Issa also speculated in 2012 that the program was designed to advance the gun control agenda in the U.S. He claimed to have access to emails from officials who were involved in the program that indicated their intentions.
“Could it be that what they really were thinking of was, in fact, to use this — this walking of guns — in order to promote an assault-weapons ban? Many think so, and they haven’t come up with an explanation that would cause any of us not to agree,” Issa said at the 2012 NRA conference.