REPORTING FROM MEXICO CITY -- The United States government has yet to brief Mexican authorities on the failed Fast and Furious gun-running operation that led to scores of American weapons being smuggled purposefully into a raging drug war, Mexico's top law enforcement official told The Times.
"At no time did we know or were we made aware that there might have been arms trafficking permitted," said Atty. Gen. Marisela Morales in comments from a recent interview with Times reporters published Tuesday. "In no way would we have allowed it, because it is an attack on the safety of Mexicans."
Morales said she first learned about the program -- which U.S. officials contend was meant to trace weapons up cartel ranks to top capos -- through news reports.
Mexico's attorney general also said the U.S. has not apologized for the violence inflicted by guns smuggled into Mexico under the watch of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives in the secret program based out of the ATF's field office in Arizona. Morales characterized the operation's main tactic, letting guns "walk" into Mexico, if, she said, that is what actually happened, as a potential "betrayal."
The U.S. Embassy in Mexico and an acting ATF attache in Mexico City have also complained of being kept in the dark about the program.
At least one high-profile assassination has been linked to a weapon sent into Mexico through Fast and Furious: the killing of the brother of a former top prosecutor in violence-ravaged Chihuahua state. Hundreds more Fast and Furious weapons have reportedly turned up at crime scenes in Mexico.
The operation basically resulted in both sides in Mexico's drug conflict receiving weapons, as The Times has reported. The Mexican government has been receiving weapons and combat hardware through the Merida Initiative aid package, and suspected drug traffickers were receiving weapons as a result of the secret U.S. gun program.
At least 40,000 people have been killed in almost five years of fighting in Mexico, and there are estimates that more than 150 people have been killed or wounded by Fast and Furious weapons. Meanwhile, drugs continue to flow north to the United States despite the take-down of several top cartel figures in Mexico.
Congressional probes in Washington now have their eye on three national security officials in the White House who received emails alluding to Fast and Furious far before ATF whistle-blowers brought it to public light. In Mexico, officials say they want answers from their U.S. counterparts.
"Yes, it was bad and wrong, and you have to ask yourself, what were they thinking?" a senior official in President Felipe Calderon's administration told The Times, referring to Fast and Furious. "But, given the river of weapons that flows into Mexico from the U.S., do a few more make a big difference?"
Full coverage of the Fast and Furious scandal.
-- Daniel Hernandez
Photo: Mexico's attorney general, Marisela Morales. Credit: Reuters