Pubdate: Thu, 09 Oct 2003
Source: Associated Press (Wire)
Copyright: 2003 Associated Press


MEXICO CITY (AP)--Mexico kept wiretaps and other intelligence secret for
nearly a year as part of a joint U.S.-Mexico anti-drug operation, a feat
Mexico's top anti-drug prosecutor cited Thursday as proof of "a new era" in
the country's once leak-prone law enforcement.

Top organized crime prosecutor Jose Santiago Vasconcelos said more long-term
drug probes like July's successful Operation Trifecta are in the works, and
more arrests are expected soon.

"This marks a new era in anti-drug cooperation," Vasconcelos said of
Trifecta, a joint drug bust that resulted in more than 240 arrests after a
19-month investigation of the Zambada-Garcia drug cartel.

"There was an investigation that was kept secret for almost a year, there
were wiretaps maintained correctly," Vasconcelos told the Associated Press.
"This was an acid test (of confidentiality) that we passed."

Vasconcelos acknowledged that in past years "there was a vicious circle of
distrust ... because the United States didn't trust Mexico" not to leak or
reveal anti-drug operations.

"We have more operations under way, and they're going to be as successful as
this one (Trifecta)," he said.

U.S. officials confirmed that cross-border cooperation on drugs has reached
a new level.

"We're having good success with some of the big guys," said a senior U.S.
official, speaking on customary condition of anonymity. "We're having
excellent cooperation now with the administration of (President Vicente)

Vasconcelos said Mexico is now turning its attention to what it views as the
biggest rising threat: synthetic drugs.

"We see a serious risk in synthetic drugs , that is the big headache of the
future for both our countries," he said.

Vasconcelos said Mexico had recently seized over a ton of a synthetic-drug
precursor chemical, ephedrine, and there was evidence that more drug cartels
were starting to get into the trade in synthetics such as amphetamines.

Such drugs can produced easily in tiny, primitive labs near consumer
markets, unlike cocaine or heroin, which must be grown in the tropics and
then smuggled to user markets.

"Criminal organizations on an international level are trying to become more
self sufficient ... and not depend as much on distant production areas,
where the cost and risk in shipments is greater," Vasconcelos noted.
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