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Digital National Security Archive (DNSA): Mexico-United States Counternarcotics Policy, 1969-2013

About this Collection

With a nearly 2000-mile shared border, the economic, security, and social concerns of Mexico and the United States are deeply intertwined. This National Security Archive collection focuses on one aspect of that complex and multifaceted bilateral relationship: counternarcotics policy. 

Comprising 1,877 documents, these records trace the impact of U.S. drug policy on Mexico-U.S. relations from the Nixon administration through the first term of the Obama presidency.

The collection begins with Operation Intercept, President Nixon’s unilateral attempt to stem drug traffic by nearly closing the Mexico-U.S. border, and follows the often contentious relations between the hemisphere’s largest consumer of illegal drugs and a principal producer and transit point for those substances. It chronicles the impact of U.S. drug policy on Mexico-U.S. relations; the infusion of U.S. counternarcotics aid in the form of equipment, training, and joint eradication programs; the transformation of drug control from a law enforcement issue to a national security concern; the increased role of the Mexican military in drug control; the rise of Mexican cartels, drug violence, and official corruption; and efforts, through the Merida Initiative, to support judicial reform, institution-building, and institutionalization of rule-of-law.

The set includes detailed reporting on crop eradication campaigns such as Operation Trizo, Operation SEAM, and Operation Condor; Federal Bureau of Investigation reports on the 1985 killing of agent Enrique Camarena; and records on the U.S. extraordinary rendition of Humberto Alvarez Machaín. The documents also examine the effects of the North American Free Trade Agreement on the drug trade, the escalation of drug-related violence in Mexico and on the U.S. border, and implementation of the Merida Initiative.

Research Value of the Collection

This collection is by far the most comprehensive and detailed compilation of primary-source materials available on this subject. It will permit students and scholars to delve directly into issues of central importance in the evolution of Mexico-U.S. drug policy, including policy reviews, internal assessments, intelligence and investigation reports, memoranda of conversation, and diplomatic cables that provide an intimate view of the dynamics of the U.S.-Mexico relationship. Because of the significance of counternarcotics to that relationship, users of the collection will gain important perspective on how the two governments have shaped their overarching policies toward each other over more than a 40-year period.

With such a rich assortment of policy-level material, the collection can be used to glean invaluable insights into subjects of even broader reach and import – U.S. relations with Central America and Latin America, and the worldwide narco-crisis, for example. Moreover, researchers studying presidential decision-making, the interagency policy process, the intelligence community, federal-state cooperation, the nexus between policy-making and law enforcement – not to mention international relations, U.S. history and international law – will find much of interest to explore.

Selected documents, 1969-2010

Enrique Salazar Camarena