US Drug Enforcement Agency: Blatant Corruption

Former Drug Enforcement Agency Regional Director in Mexico Nicholas Palmeri had improper contacts (that is, he socialized and vacationed) with Miami lawyers defending Latin American drug lords, which is why in May 2021, he was abruptly transferred to headquarters in Washington until he finally resigned last March.

According to a confidential investigation leaked yesterday, Palmeri took other questionable action in the 14 months he held the DEA’s top overseas post. In 2020, he organized a meeting in the resort city of Mazatlan, during a U.S. government order to avoid face-to-face meetings and unnecessary travel due to the pandemic. As a result, two agents became seriously ill and underwent emergency repatriation. He also reportedly asked to be reimbursed with public funds for his birthday party and approved the purchase of “ineligible items” during trips abroad. Despite this accumulation of missteps, the agency allowed him to resign rather than expel him, and the DEA declined to press charges.

Just two months after Palmeri left the DEA, an agent and a supervisor were indicted for leaking confidential information to Miami lawyers in exchange for $70,000, another sign of the increasingly evident corruption networks ensnaring the agency and the entire drug money economy in the United States.

But the case that has completely blown up the DEA’s reputation is that of José Irizarry, sentenced to 12 years in prison after admitting he spent a decade conspiring with Colombian cartels to launder money, during which time he traveled the world indulging in a life of luxury and excess in the company of the people he was supposedly investigating.

In an admission about his acts, Irizarry assured authorities he would not go down alone, noting that dozens of federal agents, prosecutors and informants participate in a form of permanent tour to collect money laundered in cities on three continents. Even more devastating to Washington’s official discourse, the disgraced agent claimed that he and his colleagues were doing this because they had long ago become aware of how futile the war on drugs is.

Although former DEA and other intelligence officials have been quick to refute Irizarry’s allegations, it is increasingly difficult to maintain the pretense that corrupt individuals and criminals live only outside U.S. borders, just as it is impossible to hide the utter failure of the punitive and militaristic approach to drug control advocated by Washington over the last half century.

To corroborate this, one need only look at the number of people who have died from an overdose of drugs in the U.S., a reminder of the consequences of spending billions of dollars — money that could be spent on addiction prevention and public health — to interfere in the affairs of 69 countries (the number of countries the DEA officially operates in).

Last April, it was reported that the Mexican government had disbanded a select counter-narcotics unit, which for a quarter of a century had worked hand in hand with the DEA in the fight against organized crime. Mike Vigil, the former head of the DEA’s international operations, criticized Mexican authorities for shooting itself in the foot.

In less than a year, the facts shown that La Jornada was right when it said the DEA has proved to be corrupt and that it lacks any authority to dictate how the fight against organized crime should be conducted.

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About Patricia Simoni 178 Articles
I began contributing to Watching America in 2009 and continue to enjoy working with its dedicated translators and editors. Latin America, where I lived and worked for over four years, is of special interest to me. Presently a retiree, I live in Morgantown, West Virginia, where I enjoy the beauty of this rural state and traditional Appalachian fiddling with friends. Working toward the mission of WA, to help those in the U.S. see ourselves as others see us, gives me a sense of purpose.

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