DOJ: ‘Mexican-Based Trafficking Organizations Control Access to the U.S.–Mexico Border’

Edwin Mora | September 28, 2011 | 2:42pm EDT
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An old and new fence at the U.S.-Mexico border in San Miguel, Ariz. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franlin)

( - Mexican drug-trafficking organizations “control access to the U.S.-Mexico border” and the “smuggling routes across” it, “resulting in unprecedented levels of violence in Mexico” and allowing those drug trafficking organizations and their associates to “dominate the supply and wholesale distribution of most illicit drugs in the United States,” according to the Justice Department's newly published 2011 National Drug Threat Assessment.

“Mexican-based trafficking organizations control access to the U.S.–Mexico border, the primary gateway for moving the bulk of illicit drugs into the United States,” says the assessment published by DOJ’s National Drug Intelligence Center.

“The organizations control, simultaneously use, or are competing for control of various smuggling corridors that they use to regulate drug flow across the border,” says the assessment. “The value they attach to controlling border access is demonstrated by the ferocity with which several rival TCOs [transnational criminal organizations] fighting over control of key corridors, or ‘plazas.’”

The assessment predicts that Mexican drug traffickers will maintain dominance of the U.S. illicit drug market for years to come in part because of their “control of the smuggling routes across” the border.

“Major Mexican based TCOs and their associates are solidifying their dominance of the U.S. wholesale drug trade and will maintain their reign for the foreseeable future,” say the assessment. “The Mexican-based organizations’ preeminence derives from a competitive advantage based on several factors, including access to and control of smuggling routes across the U.S. Southwest Border and the capacity to produce (or obtain), transport, and distribute nearly every major illicit drug of abuse in the United States.

“These advantages are unlikely to change significantly in the short term, ensuring the dominance of Mexican-based TCOs for at least the next several years,” says the report.

The Mexican drug trafficking organizations do not operate only at or near the U.S. border, according to the assessment. Their operations have penetrated every corner of the country

“Mexican-based TCOs were operating in more than a thousand U.S. cities during 2009 and 2010,” says the assessment.

A table published in the assessment, for example, says that New England is one of the “primary regions” for “concentrated activity” by both the Sinaloa Cartel, which traffics in cocaine, heroin, marijuana, MDMA, and methamphetamines, and the Gulf Cartel, which specializes in cocaine and marijuana. The Great Lakes area is one of the “primary regions” for “concentrated activity” not only for Los Zetas, which deals in cocaine and marijuana, but also the Tijuana Cartel, which deals in cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine, and the Juarez Cartel, which deals in cocaine and marijuana.

“These organizations control much of the production, transportation, and wholesale distribution of illicit drugs destined for and in the United States,” says the assessment. “Currently, seven Mexican based TCOs (Sinaloa Cartel, Los Zetas, Gulf Cartel, Juárez Cartel, BLO, LFM, and Tijuana Cartel) are in a dynamic struggle for control of the lucrative smuggling corridors leading into the United States, resulting in unprecedented levels of violence in Mexico.”

The assessment predicts that cooperation between Mexican drug cartels and U.S. street gangs in both smuggling and distributing drugs will increase in the future.

“Collaboration between U.S. gangs and Mexican-based TCOs will continue to increase, facilitating wholesale drug trafficking into and within the United States,” says the assessment.

“Most collaboration occurs in cities along the U.S.– Mexico border, although some occurs in other regions of the country,” the assessment says. “Some U.S.-based gangs in the Southwest Border region also operate in Mexico, facilitating the smuggling of illicit drugs across the border. At least 15 U.S. gangs reportedly collaborated with Mexican TCOs during 2010, conspiring to traffic wholesale quantities of cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, and heroin in the United States.”

In April, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the U.S.-Mexico border is not “overrun or out of control” -- adding that those who make such claims are just trying to score political points.

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