MEXICO CITY – The Navy Secretariat has denied a story published in The Wall Street Journal that claimed that U.S. law enforcement personnel were participating in operations targeting drug cartels in Mexico.
“We categorically deny that American authorities or those from any other country have participated with Mexican navy personnel in tactical operations in the field against organized crime utilizing Mexican uniforms and arms,” the secretariat said in a statement.
The U.S. business newspaper reported Saturday that U.S. Justice Department personnel regularly participated in operations targeting drug traffickers while using Mexican uniforms and firearms.
The secret missions were agreed to by high-level U.S. Marshals Service officials and Mexican marine corps commanders, and are approved at the highest levels of Mexico’s government.
The missions are not without risk, the newspaper said.
“The risks became clear on July 11, when Mexican Marines and a handful of U.S. Marshals personnel dressed as Mexican Marines were fired on as they walked through a remote field in Sinaloa state. One American was shot and wounded, and in the gunfight that followed, more than a half-dozen suspected cartel soldiers were killed, according to people familiar with the incident. It is unclear whether U.S. Marshals personnel shot anyone,” The Journal said.
Marines work closely with U.S. authorities, exchanging intelligence and receiving support “for the training of our personnel,” the secretariat said.
The navy constantly obtains high-technology equipment from the U.S. government, which “requires training in the field that is usually provided by personnel from, among others, the Marshals Service,” the secretariat said.
A U.S. law enforcement agent was wounded, but the incident occurred during a training exercise and not in a shootout, the secretariat said.
“The wounded agent, after receiving medical attention locally, was transferred to the medical services of his country, where he continued his recovery,” the Navy Secretariat said.
Mexican officials have acknowledged that they work with U.S. security agencies, but they say foreign law enforcement personnel are not allowed to carry firearms or participate in operations in Mexico.