MEXICO CITY — US Customs and Border Protection has been surreptitiously flying Predator drones into Mexico for two years, helping Mexican authorities spy on suspected drug traffickers, the Associated Press has learned.
The border security agency’s surveillance flights, approved by Mexico but never announced by either nation, predate occasional flights into Mexico by the US Air Force’s $38 million Global Hawk drone that began last month.
Mexico’s National Security Council said in a statement yesterday that unmanned aircraft have flown over Mexico on specific occasions, mainly along the border with the United States, to gather information at the request of the Mexican government.
The flights greatly escalate the US 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 the operations respected Mexican law, civil, and human rights.