On October 5, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Attorney General Merrick Garland, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, Homeland Security Advisor Dr. Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, Director of National Drug Control Policy Dr. Raul Gupta, and other senior U.S. government representatives met with Mexican counterparts in Mexico City, Mexico to discuss implementation of the U.S.-Mexico Bicentennial Framework for Security, Public Health, and Safe Communities.
The Bicentennial Framework, adopted at the inaugural meeting of the High-Level Security Dialogue in October 2021, continues to guide our bilateral security cooperation. The United States and Mexico remain committed to transforming our cooperation to better protect the health and safety of our citizens, prevent criminal organizations from harming our countries, and pursue criminals to bring them to justice. Our two countries will continue working together across all three goals to protect human rights in accordance with our international obligations, share information and best practices, and prosecute those who violate our laws.
Since the 2022 High-Level Security Dialogue, the United States has made significant progress under each goal of the Bicentennial Framework.
GOAL 1: PROTECT OUR PEOPLE
- President Biden plans to continue prioritizing drug demand reduction and addiction treatment, and as such, requested $46.1 billion for drug policy efforts for Fiscal Year (FY) 2024 budget. Of that amount, $26 billion—an increase of $1.6 billion from FY2023—will work to strengthen public health interventions.
- The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) announced approximately $20.5 million in awards for 164 new Drug-Free Communities (DFC) for FY2023. The 25-year-old program now supports 751 community coalitions to prevent and reduce youth substance use.
- The Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) “One Pill Can Kill” public awareness campaign continued to provide resources and media tools to schools, public health organizations, and non-profit organizations to raise awareness of deadly counterfeit pills mass-produced by criminal drug networks. DEA also participated in two National Fentanyl Awareness Day events in partnership with non-profits and other associations.
- The U.S.-Mexico Binational Panel of Experts on Mental Health, Substance Use, and Addiction continued to develop public awareness campaigns on the risks of fentanyl and other synthetic drugs.
- Together, both countries developed material for the Spanish-speaking population in the United States to educate them about prevention, treatment, and recovery resources available in each state. The material will be distributed through the Mexican Consulates’ “Ventanillas de Salud” located in all 50 U.S. states.
- As part of bilateral commitments to expand youth prevention messaging, the White House announced an additional $1 million investment into the next phase of the Real Deal on Fentanyl campaign, which will build upon its ongoing efforts in partnership with the Ad Council to educate young people about the dangers of illicit fentanyl and life-saving naloxone. The second phase of the campaign will leverage Spanish-speaking influencers to feature bilingual content in targeted communities in the United States, and will launch later this fall. To date, the Real Deal on Fentanyl has reached almost a billion impressions.
- The Department of Health and Human Services and the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) supported the Mexican Commission on Mental Health and Addictions in training field operators to collect data for Mexico’s National Survey on Mental Health and Addictions. This data will provide insight into the levels of addiction in different communities, age groups, and types of substances used, and inform prevention efforts.
- The United States supported Mexico’s efforts to build the capacity of security and justice institutions to promote safe communities, including training over 1,000 officers in community policing, internal affairs, and tactical operations, and, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), helping more than 8,000 youth-in-conflict-with-law to develop skills to move away from a life of violence. No beneficiary of USAID’s activities with incarcerated populations have relapsed and been convicted of another crime within a year of release.
- The United States supported the National Search Commission, local search commissions, national and regional identification centers, and prosecutor’s offices to increase their capacity to search for and identify disappearance victims.
- USAID partnered with the National Protection Mechanism for Human Rights Defenders and Journalists to provide effective, tailored protection measures to 2,176 individuals, including 603 journalists. With USAID support, federal and state prosecutors used context analysis and other strategies in 47 cases to reduce impunity for crimes against journalists and human rights defenders.
- The State Department and USAID worked with Mexican partners to expand programs to prevent and respond to gender-based violence (GBV), including by training more than 1,040 Mexican police officers and emergency call center operators to respond to GBV, increasing women’s public trust in law enforcement.
Reduce Homicides and High-Impact Crimes
- Close cooperation with Mexican federal and state justice institutions to support justice system efficiency, defense and victim services, and priority prosecutions, help resolve thousands of cases and prioritize high-impact crimes, improve the Pre-trial Service Units of all 32 Mexican states to improve the effectiveness of their recommendations to courts and prosecutors to protect victims and guarantee due process, and assist in ensuring closer coordination so cases are investigated more effectively.
GOAL 2: PREVENT TRANSBORDER CRIME
Transnational Criminal Organizations
- On May 1, DEA concluded “Operation Last Mile,” a year-long national operation that targeted operatives, associates, and distributors affiliated with the Sinaloa and Jalisco Cartels responsible for fentanyl and methamphetamine distribution within the United States. Operation Last Mile comprised 1,436 investigations resulting in 3,337 arrests, seizure of nearly 44 million fentanyl pills, more than 6,500 pounds of fentanyl powder, more than 91,000 pounds of methamphetamine, 8,497 firearms, and more than $100 million.
- On July 6, ONDCP announced the designation of nine new U.S. counties to the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas (HIDTA) Program. The HIDTA Program coordinates and assists federal, states, local, and Tribal law enforcement agencies to address regional drug threats with the purpose of reducing drug production and drug trafficking in the United States. Regional HIDTAs also collaborate closely with public health partners.
- Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) cooperated closely with the Mexican Attorney General’s Office (FGR) Transnational Criminal Investigative Unit (TCIU) in FY 2022, resulting in more than 120 criminal arrests and the seizure of approximately $1.1 million and 18,200 pounds of precursor chemicals.
- On March 23, Osiel Cardenas-Salinas Jr., son of former head of the Gulf Cartel Osiel Cardenas-Guillen, was sentenced to 100 months in federal prison for attempting to smuggle firearms across the border, a conviction based on a joint HSI-ATF investigation.
- State has donated more than 500 canines, provided related equipment, and trained handlers in Mexican federal and state agencies to support safe detection of fentanyl and other drugs, arms, and currency. These canines supported more than 50 fentanyl seizures that included over 213 kilos of powder, over 485,000 pills, and 2,700 liquid doses.
- DEA’s “Operation Overdrive,” which uses a data-driven, intelligence-led approach to identify and dismantle violent gangs and drug networks operating in areas with the highest rates of violence and drug poisoning deaths in the United States, resulted in over 1,700 arrests, the seizure of over 1,300 firearms, and the seizure of over 13 million potentially deadly doses of fentanyl.
- DHS’ Operation Blue Lotus and Operation Four Horsemen, in partnership with other federal, state, Tribal, and local authorities, led to 284 arrests and the seizure of 12,500 pounds of fentanyl. Thus far in 2023, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have seized more than 39,174 pounds of fentanyl and methamphetamine precursors.
- CBP’s Operation Artemis, launched June 5, led to 29 arrests and the seizure of 12,919 pounds of fentanyl precursor chemicals, over 2,400 pounds on non-fentanyl precursors, 265 pounds of fentanyl pills and powder, more than 159 pounds of Xylazine, 650 pounds of methamphetamine, 130 pill presses and 2974 pill molds, over 10,700 pounds of other drugs, and over $265,000 in illicit proceeds.
- Operation Rolling Wave, led by U.S. Border Patrol (USBP), has seized over 5,124 pounds of cocaine, over 3,130 pounds of fentanyl, over 14,766 pounds of methamphetamine, over 108 pounds of heroin, and over $6,145,682 in illicit proceeds.
- HSI Innovation Lab, Monroe Project Task Group 1 (TG-1), applied communication data from DHS’s coordinated surges to illuminate illicit border crossing network connections for HSI investigations and CBP targeting. Between March 1, 2023, and September 30, 2023, TG-1 processed data from more than 200 seizures, provided 31 fentanyl-related leads, and illuminated 343 targets related to fentanyl seizures for further investigation to HSI and CBP.
- State and DEA, along with the Government of Mexico, hosted a series of expert exchanges to advance cooperation on addressing synthetic drugs. In March 2023, State INL sponsored the Synthetic Drug Conference, which convened more than 400 Mexican, U.S., and international experts in Mexico City to exchange expert data on trafficking and consumption trends and U.S. and international drug demand efforts.
- Since October 2022, State has sponsored four iterations of high hazard clandestine laboratory training to a total of 76 Mexican officials, delivering advanced investigative methodology and state-of-the-art equipment to effectively protect law enforcement and others from deadly synthetic drugs and chemicals.
- On June 23, 2023, DOJ announced charges against companies and employees based in China and alleged to manufacture and distribute fentanyl precursor chemicals to Mexico and the United States.
- DOJ’s Operation Southbound, led by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF) and supported by DEA and DHS, was initiated in 2020, and has resulted in a 40 percent increase in the number of investigations of firearms trafficking into Mexico and an 11 percent increase in the number of firearms seized in relation to those investigations.
- DHS expanded weapons seizures through Operation Desert Lightning in coordination with our Mexican partners. The operation targets known trafficking corridors as part of an expanded effort under DHS’s Operation Without a Trace (WaT), a unified effort by HSI and CBP to fight the illegal trafficking of guns and ammunition from the United States into Mexico. Since its inception in FY2020, WaT has initiated 803 investigations, executed nearly 800 arrests, and seized over 3,200 firearms and over 950,000 cartridges of ammunition. As of September 3, Operation Desert Lightning has seized 56 firearms, 1,268 rounds of ammunition, 79 weapon parts, $542,998 in currency, and recovered five stolen vehicles.
- With State INL support, ATF and the Criminal Investigative Agency of the Mexican Attorney General’s Office (FGR) have developed an arms trafficking investigative unit. Since January 2023, the unit has initiated eight separate investigations targeting approximately 30 suspected arms traffickers based in Mexico.
- Over the past six years, INL and ATF have supported Mexico’s expansion of eTrace capacity, which resulted in a 40 percent increase in the number of firearm traces submitted by Mexico from 2017 to 2023. INL and ATF continue to help Mexico build investigative capacity, including through training in firearms and explosives identification for 859 officials (770 since October 2022) and a further 438 on ATF’s eTrace software (248 since October 2022).
- CBP National Targeting Center’s Operation Roxanne identifies subjects traveling in or out of the United States who have a high probability of being engaged in international sex trafficking or labor trafficking. From October 2022 to September 20, 2023, CBP identified 60 subjects and took action on 47.
- In coordination with HSI and FGR’s Transnational Criminal Investigative Unit, FGR has obtained five arrest warrants and arrested 15 suspects since October 2022. Since then, Mexican authorities have also arrested priority migrant smuggling targets based on U.S. extradition requests, in coordination with the Joint Task Force Alpha (JTFA), a multiagency law enforcement task force led by the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Criminal Division’s Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section (HRSP) and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, with HSI as its primary law enforcement partner. In September, Mexico extradited Ofelia Hernandez-Salas to the United States, following her arrest in cooperation with the United States, for her role in smuggling large numbers of migrants from and through multiple countries and into the United States.
- Since its inception in 2021, JTFA has achieved over 261 domestic and international arrests, including of leaders, organizers, and significant facilitators of human smuggling; over 150 convictions; over 105 defendants sentenced, including to significant prison sentences; substantial seizures and forfeiture of assets and contraband, including hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash, real property, vehicles, firearms and ammunition, and drugs; and multiple extraditions of foreign targets from Mexico and other countries in the Northern Triangle.
- The Extraterritorial Criminal Travel Strike Force, a partnership between HSI and DOJ/HRSP, with contributions from CBP, is managed by the HSI Human Smuggling Unit and aggressively pursues, disrupts, and dismantles foreign-based transnational human smuggling networks.
- Pursuant to President Biden’s July 17, 2023 letter to Congress, the United States has engaged with Mexico, including at the October 5 HLSD meeting, on the importance of countering the illegal trade of the protected totoaba fish and strengthening the conservation of the critically endangered vaquita. The United States is prepared to support Mexico in its efforts to develop and implement measures that will help address the illegal trade in totoaba.
Secure Modes of Commerce
- State INL supported the Government of Mexico’s launch of the Port Container Control Program (CCP) with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime at Manzanillo, Mexico’s busiest maritime port. Implemented in more than 70 countries, the CCP enhances port security processes and technology to identify and interdict illicit shipments, including synthetic drugs and their chemical precursors. The program is part of broader bilateral cooperation to strengthen security at air, sea, and land ports of entry to interdict synthetic drugs and precursors.
- INL and CBP supported training for 2,091 Mexican military, customs, and migration personnel at air, land, and maritime ports of entry to improve border security while facilitating secure trade and travel, including for 810 officials since October 2022.
- INL supports the Government of Mexico with non-intrusive inspection equipment (NIIE) donations to improve Mexico’s capacity to seize illicit goods, including at ports of entry. Since October 2022, NIIE donations have contributed to the seizures of 437,426 fentanyl pills; 2,800 kilograms of crystal/methamphetamine; $314,000 worth of illicit bulk cash; and 477 arms, including ammunitions, firearms, and magazines. CBP works closely with the Government of Mexico to coordinate NIIE efforts under the 21st Century Border Management Process.
GOAL 3: PURSUE CRIMINAL NETWORKS
Disrupt Illicit Finance
- Since October 2022, the U.S. Department of Treasury’s (Treasury) Office of Foreign Assets Control has designated 53 individuals and 44 entities connected to the illicit drug trade in Mexico. Many of these sanctions have targeted individuals and entities engaged directly or indirectly in fentanyl manufacturing and trafficking. Mexico’s Financial Intelligence Unit (UIF) closely coordinated on these actions.
- In August 2023, Treasury and UIF convened their annual principal-level Strategic Dialogue on Illicit Finance (SDIF). U.S. and Mexican agencies shared financial typologies of illegal activities, including fentanyl trafficking and migrant smuggling, and briefed on operational law enforcement activities with a focus on illicit finance components of high priority investigations.
- State INL worked with the Government of Mexico to expand training, information sharing, and certification for Mexico’s money laundering experts. Since October 2022, INL has trained 361 Mexican officials on anti-money laundering best practices. In February 2023, INL offered Mexico’s first Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialist (CAMS) course to Mexican officials. Through this course, 13 participants obtained the prestigious Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists credential in investigating and prosecuting anti-money laundering crimes. INL supports a network of state financial intelligence units, which share best practices and information exchange on illicit finance.
- In May 2023, DOJ’s Office of Overseas Prosecutorial Development, Assistance and Training (OPDAT) with the support of State INL, Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations (IRS-CI), and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), trained 75 Mexican federal prosecutors on litigation techniques for prosecuting fentanyl trafficking, money laundering, asset forfeiture, and public corruption.
- In December 2022, DOJ/OPDAT with State INL, FBI, and HSI trained 120 federal prosecutors from every state in Mexico on investigating and prosecuting cybercrime, including training on cryptocurrency, the Dark Web, and digital forensics. The training also focused on techniques for presenting digital evidence at trial.
Fugitive Removals and Extraditions
- The United States removed 76 wanted individuals to Mexico in 2023 via controlled deportation. Mexican authorities charged 28 of these individuals with homicide or femicide, five with kidnapping, and four with involvement in organized crime.
- Since the last High-Level Security Dialogue in October 2022, Mexico has extradited several prominent cartel leaders, as well as other high-profile criminal actors to the United States. That includes Ovidio Guzman Lopez, a leader in the Sinaloa Cartel and son of Joaquin Guzman Loera. On January 5, 2023, Guzman-Lopez was arrested by the Mexican military in Culiacan Sinaloa, Mexico, based upon the U.S. request for his extradition.
At the October 5, 2023 HLSD, the United States and Mexico acknowledged the natural nexus between migration and the Bicentennial Framework’s goals and cooperation areas, to include transnational criminal organizations, and human trafficking and smuggling networks. As such, the countries affirmed that, going forward, migration would be among the issues discussed during the HLSD.
- Cooperation between the United States and Mexico on migration remained strong over the last year, with regular and open dialogue at all levels of both governments. CBP and Mexican counterparts also partnered to increase security and safety throughout the region and diminish irregular migration, to include engaging with the railway industry to address dangerous migrant travel aboard railcars. CBP and INM regularly coordinate enforcement efforts at the border through mirrored patrols and exchanges of information and intelligence about migratory trends. As part of a shared priority to humanely manage irregular migration, Mexico proactively announced a visitor visa requirement for Mexican airport travelers, which will go into effect October 22 to curb irregular transit through Mexico.
- In 2022, Mexico and the United States endorsed the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection. In the past year, under this framework, the United States and Mexico have worked together and with other regional partners to create the conditions for safe, orderly, humane, and regular migration, and to create innovative solutions to migration-related challenges. Through the framework, other partners across the Hemisphere are also pursuing new actions to address this challenge, including increased repatriations of Venezuelans and other migrants without valid protection claims.
- Mexico and the United States have implemented the joint initiative that President López Obrador and President Biden announced in January 2023, under which the United States has granted parole to individuals from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. This approach has expanded legal pathways while imposing consequences for irregular migration. The United States has also repatriated over 17,000 non-Mexicans to Mexico, in cooperation with the Mexican government.
- Mexico and the United States have also enhanced efforts to address the root causes of migration, prioritizing development work focused on people-to-people support. This includes programing developed via a December 2021 Memorandum of Understanding between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Agencia Mexicana de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarrollo (AMEXCID) to launch Sembrando Oportunidades, a bilateral framework to operationalize cooperation on economic and technical assistance to youth and farmers in northern Central America.