Remember Fast and Furious – the two-year Phoenix operation that began in 2009, where Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) agents watched as more than 2,000 guns were sold to suspected traffickers? The operation to link guns to a Mexican drug cartel went south after two of the guns were found at the scene of a shootout that killed a U.S. border agent. It was Attorney General Eric H. Holder’s undoing. Now there’s a new twist.
Sources confirmed Tuesday to Fox News that a .50-caliber rifle found at Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman’s hideout in Mexico was funneled through the gun-smuggling investigation Fast and Furious. A .50-caliber is a massive rifle that can stop a car or, as it was intended, take down a helicopter.
On Jan. 8 in the city of Los Mochis where Guzman was staying, officials found a number of weapons inside the house, including the rifle. Five of his men were killed and one Mexican marine was wounded, officials said. When ATF agents checked serial numbers on the eight weapons found in his possession, they found one of the two .50-caliber weapons traced back to Fast and Furious. This is the third time a weapon from the Fast and Furious program has been found at a high-profile Mexican crime scene.
According to The Hill, ATF agents lost track of 1,400 of the roughly 2,000 weapons it allowed suspects to buy in Arizona with the intent of tracking them. Thirty-four of the weapons sold through Fast and Furious were .50-caliber rifles, and it has been reported that Guzman placed guards on hilltops to shoot down helicopters.
Fast and Furious casued a major fight between congressional Republicans and the administration during President Obama’s first term. Former Attorney General Eric Holder was held in contempt of Congress for refusing to turn over records about the program. This week, after more than three years of stonewalling by the Obama administration, a federal judge ruled that Obama cannot use executive privilege to keep the records from Congress.
Guzman was recaptured after escaping his cell at the Altiplano jail last July. After exchanging a series of romantic texts with actress Kate del Castillo which authorities were able to track, the billionaire cartel leader was tracked to a property in Los Mochis. Guzman is now facing extradition to the U.S. for trial and almost certain imprisonment, having escaped from Altiplano, Mexico’s most secure jail, twice before.
His lawyers are appealing the move, which could take months to complete. Meanwhile, Guzman is being regularly shifted between cells to hamper future escape attempts, while the prison itself is being guarded by tanks.