For the past few years, the full story surrounding the weapons that ended up in the hands of Mexican cartels was being lost in the national dialogue, not to mention the several deaths of innocent people across the border. The English-speaking mainstream media in the U.S. has focused its coverage of the Fast and Furious scandal around border patrol Brian Terry's death and the Washington cover-up. So, the Univision News investigative team dedicated the last four months to investigating and discovering several additional weapons involved in the Fast and Furious operation, and giving a voice to the families who have lost loved ones in the violence.
One of the investigative team's reporters, Mariana Atencio, walked us through all the research, reporting, traveling, and door-knocking that 8 reporters and producers did to prepare the TV special that aired on Univision on Sept. 30th, 2012. The investigations took place in Arizona, Washington D.C., Florida, Honduras, Puerto Rico, and Colombia. "The challenge was turning piles of documents into an entertaining comprehensive special," says Atencio. Ballistics exams were done to cross serial numbers of weapons found in Mexican crime scenes to those in the Fast and Furious operation. The team discovered an additional 57 weapons from Fast and Furious that were used by Mexican cartels.
Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Gerardo Reyes, directed the investigation and assigned the reporters and producers to different stories and cities. Reyes and producer Tomás Ocaña covered the Arizona straw purchasers involved with Fast and Furious by going door-to-door, following a list of addresses, most of which were fake. CorrespondentMaria Antonieta Collins and her producer, Casto Ocando, covered the human tragedies behind the agents that were killed. The two were able to get Federal Agent Victor Avila's twin sister for an interview, while she was on the phone with her brother.
Agent Avila survived a shoot-out by cartel members and is now in an undisclosed location. He hasn't spoken on camera before this interview. Reporter Tifani Roberts and her producer Vytenis Didziulis further investigated Brian Terry's death and the Washington cover-up. They spoke to Terry's mother and to ATF agent John Dodson about what he witnessed in Phoenix. They also interviewed William Newell, the special agent in charge of the Phoenix Field Division during the operation, "who claims his agents seized weapons when they were legally authorized to do so, and never purposefully let guns cross the border," reports Didziulis.
Mariana Atencio and her producer Margarita Rabin followed a Fast and Furious-type operation going on in Florida where guns were being shipped to Honduras, Puerto Rico, and Colombia. They got an interview with the principal ATF informant of the operation while he was in jail. "They kept telling him to 'keep selling the guns' while knowing that the guns were possibly ending up in the hands of criminal organizations in Latin America," Atencio reports.
The editing process was extensive. Atencio says, "We had to fit together and homogenize - if you will - the information that we found in Latin America, in Mexico, and here in the U.S."