US Envoy: US Asking Mexico to Let In DEA and Other Agents

MEXICO CITY (AP) -- The new U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Ken Salazar, said Saturday the United States has asked the Mexican government to allow agents, including those from the Drug Enforcement Administration, to work in Mexico.

Last year, Mexico pulled foreign agents' immunity from prosecution and imposed strict limits on their contacts with their Mexican counterparts. Analysts say that inevitably affects the DEA's ability to do intelligence gathering on Mexican drug cartels.

Since some DEA personnel are already in Mexico, it appears the U.S. request is for more to be allowed in, or for those here to be allowed to work more freely.

The United States has been inundated by fentanyl that is largely produced in Mexico using precursor chemicals from China. Salazar said Mexico has committed to fighting drug cartels under the new bilateral Bicentennial Framework for Security announced Friday to replace the Merida Initiative.

"We are going to have cooperation from the Mexican government, that was what was agreed upon yesterday, to make sure that law enforcement resources that we have functioning here in conjunction with Mexican law enforcement authorities, have the ability to do so," Salazar said in his first press conference since he arrived in Mexico City in September.

"So yes, that includes our request, and we're working this with the government on having the opportunity to again bring agents including our DEA agents, but we're doing in this in a way where we're doing it in partnership with Mexico," Salazar said.

Salazar also spoke about the need for a "regional response" to another major U.S. concern, the tens of thousands of migrants -- many from Haiti -- who are either in Mexico or heading there from South America.

Last month, thousands of Haitian migrants crossed the Rio Grande and set up an encampment under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas.

"It is a very significant issue for both countries, it is a very significant issue for the western hemisphere," Salazar said. "Secretary (Antony) Blinken is very committed to working on developing a regional solution, and it has to be one that is led both by the United States and Mexico."

That was an apparent reference to the fact that many Haitian immigrants already had asylum or refugee status in countries like Brazil or Chile, before setting out this summer for the United States.

Mexico, for its part, has begun flying some Haitians home on repatriation flights to Port-au-Prince.

Salazar called the new Bicentennial Framework "a milestone," and said it marked "a new era of partnership."

The Merida Initiative, in its early years, focused largely on U.S. donations of law enforcement equipment, including aircraft. The Bicentennial agreement is expected to focus more on economic development.

The name is a reference to the 200th anniversary of Mexico's independence and relations with the United States.