Pubdate: Mon, 06 Aug 2012
Source: El Paso Times (TX)
Copyright: 2012 El Paso Times
Author: Diana Washington Valdez


A weapon tied to "Operation Fast and Furious" was seized in Tijuana in
connection with a drug cartel's conspiracy to kill the police chief of
Tijuana, Baja California, who later became the Juarez police chief,
according to a U.S. government report.

The firearm was found Feb. 25, 2010, during an arrest of a criminal
cell associated with Teodoro "El Teo" Garcia Simental and Raydel "El
Muletas" Lopez Uriarte, allies of the Sinaloa cartel.

Tijuana police said they arrested four suspects in March 2010 in
connection with a failed attempt to take out Julian Leyzaola, and that
the suspects allegedly confessed to conspiring to assassinate the
police chief on orders from Tijuana cartel leaders.

The suspects had an arsenal of weapons and ammunition, and one of the
firearms traced back to the operation that the Bureau of Alcohol,
Firearms, Tobacco and Explosives (ATF) was monitoring from its field
office in Phoenix.

Adrian Sanchez, spokesman for Leyzaola, said Leyzaola was unavailable
for comment.

Leyzaola, a retired Mexican army officer, reportedly survived several
attempts on his life while trying to bring order to Tijuana, a city
torn apart by turf battles following the arrests and deaths of
Arellano Felix cartel leaders.

A native of Sinaloa, Culiacan, Leyzaola became the Juarez police chief
in March 2011, where brutal battles by competing cartels have claimed
more than 10,000 lives.

On July 31, the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee 
released a 2,359-page report titled "Fast and Furious: The Anatomy of a 
Failed Operation," based on numerous interviews from hearings, and 
reviews of more than 10,000 pages of documents.

U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa and U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley led the
investigation into the ATF's operation that ended abruptly after
Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was murdered in December 2010, and two
weapons traced to Fast and Furious were found near Terry's body in the
Arizona desert.

Officials said bandits preying on immigrant and drug smugglers fired
on Terry, who first shot at the bandits with only bean bags.

The Department of Justice Office of Inspector General plans to issue a
separate report within weeks on Fast and Furious.

In addition to Terry and Leyzaola, Fast and Furious-traced weapons
also were connected to a drug cartel cell in Chihuahua state that
kidnapped and murdered the brother of ex-Chihuahua Attorney General
Patricia Gonzalez, as well as to crime scenes in Juarez and other
places in Mexico.

Under the ATF operation, about 2,000 firearms purchased at U.S. stores
by straw buyers were allowed to walk across the border. The ATF's goal
was to dismantle an arms-trafficking network by identifying and
arresting its leaders.

Hundreds of the operation-monitored firearms are unaccounted for, and
legislative investigators speculate that more people could be killed
on either side of the border with these weapons.

According to the U.S. joint report, at one point the Federal Bureau of
Investigation, Drug Enforcement Administration and ATF were
investigating some of the same targets that the ATF was after, but
failed to coordinate their efforts so that the ATF could end Fast and
Furious before Terry and others were killed.

"We know the DEA was actively giving information to the ATF, but the
ATF dropped the ball," Grassley and Issa said in a statement.

The report said that "Shortly after the (ATF's) case began, in
December 2009, DEA supplied ATF with extensive information on what
would become the ATF's prime target. At that point, ATF should have
shut Fast and Furious down, but it failed to recognize that
significance of the information the DEA had shared."

A year before Terry was killed, the information the DEA had was
sufficient to make arrests of the same targets, the report said.

"Both the FBI and DEA had key information," the report

A key arms-trafficker that the ATF was after was detained three times
by law enforcement, and was set free each time, reportedly after
promising different U.S. federal agents that he would provide them
with useful intelligence about the drug cartels.

The same target admitted to U.S. law enforcement later that he was
trying to start his own drug-trafficking organization.

The U.S. joint report also said that DEA had provided the ATF with
information on Dec. 21, 2009, about a shipment of 32 weapons that
suspects obtained in Arizona and planned to transport to El Paso and
possibly on to Juarez.

"(U.S. law enforcement) Group VII could have at least tried to
intercept the firearms transfer through El Paso, as well as connect
the trafficking with evidence of intent from the DEA wire," the report
said. "Yet Group VII apparently failed to act on these more specific
(wiretap) intercepts."

Last month, "Proceso," Mexico's national investigative magazine,
reported that a Mexican lawyer and law experts in the United States
are preparing a lawsuit against the ATF over Fast and Furious. Such a
lawsuit has not been filed yet.

The U.S. Attorney General's Office said it does not plan to disclose
any more documents related to the ATF's operation because doing so
might jeopardize ongoing investigations.

Operation Fast and Furious came into public view after ATF
whistleblowers disclosed details about the gunwalking operation.
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