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In December 2013, the National Security Archive, with the help of partners at ProQuest, will publish their latest document collection, Mexico-United States Counternarcotics Policy, 1969-2013.

The collection of 1,877 documents, which will be by far the most comprehensive collection of primary source material on the subject available, will let the public delve directly into critical events in the evolution of Mexico-U.S. drug policy, including policy reviews, internal assessments, intelligence and investigation reports, memoranda of conversation, and diplomatic cables, which provide an intimate view of the dynamics of the U.S.-Mexico relationship.

This collection focuses on one aspect of the complex and multifaceted US-Mexican relationship: counternarcotics policy. Using records of high-level bilateral meetings; reports of counternarcotics operations, ground-level arrests, and drug seizures; and day-to-day reporting on the rise of drug trafficking, violence, and official corruption, this set traces U.S.-Mexican drug-control cooperation from the Nixon administration through the first term of the Obama presidency.

These documents follow the often-contentious relations between the hemisphere’s largest consumer of illegal drugs and the 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 counternarcotics aid in the form of equipment, training, and joint eradication programs; and the transformation of drug control from a law enforcement to a national security issue.

Among the important topics covered are:

  • Operation Intercept and subsequent U.S. and Mexican drug control campaigns;
  • The controversial use of herbicides for opium and marijuana crop eradication;
  • The rise of Mexican cartels, drug violence, and official corruption;
  • The 1985 murder of Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) special agent Enrique Camarena by Mexican drug traffickers;
  • The abduction and transfer to the U.S. of Guadalajara physician Humberto Álvarez Machaín at the behest of the DEA;
  • Bilateral talks over conditions governing U.S. drug control aid;
  • Cooperative law enforcement efforts, including information sharing, joint operations, and extradition treaty negotiations
  • Mexican concerns about U.S. deployment of Joint Task Force Six along the southwest border;
  • U.S. efforts to tie foreign aid to drug control through the counternarcotics certification process;
  • The effect of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on the drug trade; and
  • Development and implementation of the Mérida Initiative.

Mexico-U.S. Counternarcotics Policy, 1969-2013 presents a uniquely detailed compendium of declassified documents, with some publicly available records integrated for context, to help researchers gain an in-depth understanding of more than four decades in the history of one of the United States’ most important bilateral relationships.  These documents are the result of a long-term, intensive effort by the National Security Archive’s Mexico Project, led by Senior Analyst Kate Doyle, to obtain the declassification and release of materials under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Mandatory Declassification Review (MDR) process.  FOIA and MDR requests targeted the State Department (including the embassy in Mexico City and consulates in Mexico), Defense Department, Drug Enforcement Administration, Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan and George H.W. Bush presidential libraries, and the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).


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.

-- Thank you to Lauren Harper, National Security Archive, for this article.

If you don’t already have DNSA, sign up for a free trial today. And, be sure to also sign up for free trials of complementary history resources, including History Vault and Congressional Collections.

Humanities Matter:  See how the humanities teach us where we’ve been from insights gained through history.

09 Dec 2013 | Posted by Shannon Janeczek

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