- By Joshua Keating
Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy
The country’s National Security Council said in a statement that the unmanned aircraft have flown over Mexico on specific occasions, mainly along the border with the U.S., to gather information at the request of the Mexican government.
The flights expand the U.S. role in the drug war, in which Americans already have been training Mexican soldiers and police as well as cooperating on other intelligence.
"When these operations are carried out, they are always done with the authorization, oversight and supervision of national agencies, including the Mexican Air Force," the council said.
It said Mexico always defines the objectives, the information to be gathered and the specific tasks in which the drones will be used and insisted that the operations respected Mexican law, civil and human rights.
Drones are already used to patrol the U.S.-Mexican border, but today’s story was the first acknowedlgement that they have been operating deep within Mexican territory as well. President Felipe Calderon is sure to face heat on this issue from nationalists within his own government who will point out that Mexico’s constitution prohibits foreign militaries from operating on Mexican soil. Also get ready for a new round of questions on the legality of drone operations.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was criticized in Mexico in September for describing the country’s drug violence as "morphing into, or making common cause with, what we would consider an insurgency." Now it appears U.S. forces are using some of the very tools employed against insurgents in Central Asia against the cartels. (See Robert Haddick on the question of Mexican counterinsurgency here and here. )