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Three and a half years before he invoked executive privilege in refusing to hand over to Congress internal Justice Department documents about Operation Fast and Furious--and just eight days before his inauguration--President-elect Barack Obama met with Mexican President Calderon over lunch at the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington, D.C., and “pledged” that he would take action aimed at stopping the flow of guns into that country from the United States.
Public statements from both Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano demonstrate that they were both personally working on this issue from their first month in office.
“President-elect Obama expressed support for efforts in the border states in both the United States and Mexico to eradicate drug-related violence and stop the flow of guns and cash,” said Gibbs. “He told President Calderón that he intends to ask the Secretary of Homeland Security to lead an effort to increase information sharing to strengthen those efforts.
“He pledged to take more effective action from the United States to stem the flow of arms from the United States to Mexico,” said Gibbs.
Napolitano told the committee that stopping the southbound flow of guns into Mexico was “going to be of real priority interest over these coming months.”
That same day, Feb. 25, 2009, Attorney General Holder held a press conference in which he discussed a conversation he had had with the Mexican attorney general about guns being smuggled from the U.S. into Mexico. In the same press conference, Holder also highlighted the role of the ATF in stopping the gun smuggling
“ATF is doing all that it can to ensure that we stanch the flow of those weapons to Mexico,” Holder continued. “As good partners, I think that is one of the things that we have to do. If Mexican authorities, Mexican law enforcement personnel are going to put their lives on the line, we in the United States, it seems to me, have a responsibility to make sure that they are not fighting substantial numbers of weapons or fighting against AK-47s or other similar kinds of weapons that have been flowing to Mexico.
“And," Holder said, "it was also one of the reasons why--and you'll forgive me for the Spanish that I use--to try to express to our friends, our colleagues in Mexico, in their language, our determination to stand with them in this courageous fight that President Calderon and the attorney general have started."
“Well, as President Obama indicated during the campaign, there are just a few gun-related changes that we would like to make, and among them would be to reinstitute the ban on the sale of assault weapons,” Holder said. “I think that will have a positive impact in Mexico, at a minimum.”
Rather than “stem the flow of arms from the United States to Mexico,” as Obama pledged to Calderon he would seek to do, the administration, under Operation Fast and Furious, actually allowed guns to be purchased within the United States by known straw buyers for Mexican drug cartels.
“So working with Customs, working with ATF, we're looking at ways that we can help suppress that traffic,” said Napolitano. “But in my view, from a Homeland Security standpoint, this is going to be an issue, working with Mexico, that is going to be of real priority interest over these coming months.”
It was in his own testimony that day that Holder had insisted "ATF is doing all that it can to ensure that we stanch the flow of those weapons to Mexico."