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Fast and Furious


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It was 12 years ago this month that I began breaking a series of stories that ultimately exposed shocking U.S. government operations. Federal agents were secretly letting thousands of U.S. weapons be trafficked to Mexico’s drug cartels.

The stories largely centered on one of the operations code-named Fast and Furious. Many people on both sides of the border were killed by thugs using guns trafficked under the watch of U.S. agents. Among the dead: Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.

Now, a new international documentary series seeks to fill in a lot of blanks when it comes to the shocking, alleged U.S. role in the rise of Mexico’s famous drug kingpins.

Romain Bolzinger is director of Narco Circus.

Sharyl: Can you tell me what the concept was when you started working on the film, what your idea was?

Romain Bolzinger: The documentary series covers from 2,000 to today. And we understand that the strategy of the U.S. government in cooperation with the Mexican government was, you know, also a circus.

Narco Circus traces the U.S. partnership with the Mexican government and, yes, its most favored cartel, the Sinaloa cartel, under Mexican president Felipe Calderon.

Calderon was elected in 2006 and started a war against the cartels. But Bolzinger says the war was just a facade and led to the rise of infamous Sinaloa kingpin Chapo Guzman.

Bolzinger: The war was a circus at that time, because the government of Mexico was protecting the Sinaloa Cartel. And the war was against the enemies of the Sinaloa Cartel. So in the early 2000s, you know, Chapo Guzman is not a famous Narco trafficker. He's one trafficker among others. And with the help of the government, of the Mexican government first, he could grow a lot with help of the U.S. government also. And the most interesting part of that story is that Chapo Guzman was an informant of the DEA for 10 years. So the DEA helped Chapo to eliminate, to kill, or to arrest his competitors.

In 2014, some corroboration of the alleged U.S. role in the rise of Mexico’s Sinaloa Cartel was presented in the Chicago case against the son of a Sinaloa leader. He alleged that Fast and Furious was part of an agreement with the U.S. to finance and arm the Sinaloa Cartel. In exchange, the Sinaloa Cartel would provide the U.S. with information against rival cartels seen as more dangerous.

The son of the Sinaloa leader also claimed that U.S. agents gave him, Chapo Guzman, and other Sinaloa leaders "carte blanche" to "operate their drug business without interference," as long as they snitched on other cartels. In court documents, U.S. prosecutors admitted the U.S. had a signed cooperation agreement with a Sinaloa leader. And a DEA agent testified about working with Sinaloa leaders.

Meantime, the Sinaloa cartel has long smuggled most of the drugs trafficked to the Chicago area, priming the deadly, gang-related violence there.

It wouldn’t be the first time the U.S. had secret deals with cartel bosses. Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega was once on the CIA's payroll. And the U.S. allowed certain Colombian cartels to smuggle drugs into the U.S. as long as they helped in destroying more dangerous rivals.

Bolzinger: So is there a deal? Is there a free pass for the Sinaloa Cartel? Well, we'll never know. But at the end of the day, the DEA and the Mexican government helped to create a big monster, which become the Sinaloa Cartel, which is now very powerful, and it's almost impossible now to dismantle this organization.

Sharyl (on-camera): The documentary series is called "Narco Circus." It will be broadcast this coming fall on

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