In February, 2008, the Dallas Morning News reported that CIUDAD JUÁREZ, Mexico and Nuevo Laredo were competing for the title of bloodiest border city.
In the first two months of 2008, Juárez had 72 murders – most of them tied to the drug cartels. They are the result of a bloody fight for control of drug distribution routes to U.S. cities, including several cities in the State of Washington.
Every authority on the subject has been predicting that the violence is about to cross the border into the U.S. About the time that Mexican officials discovered eight bodies buried at a Juárez warehouse, an El Paso Times/News Channel 9 poll showed that 64 percent of El Paso residents feared that Juárez violence would spill into the U.S. The two cities, just across the Rio Grande from each other, have close cultural ties.
In Nuevo Laredo, the cartels have killed at least one journalist, a city council member and a police chief on the job just seven hours before he was gunned down. Additionally, the cartels had created a list of police officers marked for death. Many of the LEOs on the list have already been killed along with scores of other officers that were not on the list.
According to the Dallas Morning News articles, the Nuevo Laredo news media “self-censor” much of the news they report about the cartels because of fear that more journalists will be assassinated. “We’re reporting maybe 15 percent of what’s happening in our city,” said Alfredo Quijano, editor of the newspaper, whose building has received bomb threats. The newspaper issued a statement telling readers its reporters will stick to reporting “dead bodies and not investigations.”
“We’re seeing the importation of Nuevo Laredo-style violence being unleashed to take control of this important gateway,” said a senior U.S. law enforcement official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “The … magnitude, the brutality, the type of violence, this is what we now call Nuevo Laredo-style. It’s a proven strategy aimed at intimidating the public, law enforcement, the media.”
After killing two Juárez police officers the assassins left a note at a monument for fallen officers with the names of 17 others they want to kill. “For those who don’t believe it, we will do it,” the note said, followed by the names of the officers. Days later, four of those on the list were dead and a new list was left. In January and February of 2008 alone, 40 policemen left the force according to a spokesman for the Juárez Police.
Despite 30,000 soldiers deployed around Mexico to take on the cartels, journalists from Juarez take refuge in El Paso. Carlos Huerta, a reporter for Norte de Ciudad de Juárez newspaper left following death threats.
El Paso and cities like Phoenix are experiencing an increase in kidnappings. “It would be naïve to say nothing is happening,” said Mr. Almonte, who’s running for El Paso Sheriff. “We’re a border area, but we’re one area. Do Mexican cartels have a presence in El Paso? The answer is yes, absolutely yes.” Mr. Almonte stated that five suspected drug cartel members arrested in Juárez were from El Paso. Additionally, CNN reports that Phoenix has become the nation’s kidnapping capital, largely because of the cartels’ increasing presence there.
The Dallas Morning News reported that, during just one 48 hour period in 2008, a police commander was gunned down in Chihuahua City; at least four people were killed in different parts of Juárez; and three Juárez banks were robbed in one day.
Our American gun culture may be the best barrier to prevent such an epidemic of murder, kidnapping and robbery from surging across the border. According to a recent CNN story, “the cartel’s tentacles and those of its chief rival, the Gulf cartel, already reach across the border and into metropolitan areas such as Atlanta, Georgia; Chicago, Illinois; Seattle, Washington; St. Louis, Missouri; and Charlotte, North Carolina.”
In March, 2009, thirty-two-year-old Alfonso Ibanez-Martinez, a Mexican national operating near Tacoma, was convicted of conspiracy to distribute heroin. The Seattle DEA says Ibanez-Martinez has ties to the drug community in Michoacan, Mexico. Other major cartels like the Sinoloa and Tijuana also funnel drugs up I-5 into Seattle — a major distribution point before they head east to states like Wisconsin, Tennessee and North Carolina, according to King5.com.
CNN cited Drug Enforcement Administration Agent Joseph Arabit’s March, 2009 testimony before a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. “No other country in the world has a greater impact on the drug situation in the United States than Mexico does,” said Arabit, who heads the DEA’s office in this year’s border hot spot, El Paso, Texas. CNN’s map pinpointing drug traffic by cartel indicates that all the major Mexican cartels operate in and around Seattle and King County, including Renton, Federal Way & Bellevue. See where Mexican cartels are in the U.S.
The Justice Department’s National Drug Intelligence Center reported in December, 2008 that Mexican drug traffickers can be found in more than 230 U.S. cities.
So far, the U.S. has largely been spared the violence seen in Mexico, where the cartels’ running gun battles with police, the military and each other claimed about 6,500 lives last year. It was a sharp spike from the 2,600 deaths attributed to cartel violence in 2007. Once again, drug war casualties are mounting on the Mexican side at a record pace in 2009 — more than 1,000 during the first three months of the year, Arabit said. See who the key players are »
Law enforcement officials and analysts told CNN that “it is only a matter of time before innocent people on the U.S. side get caught in the cartel crossfire.”
Although the cartels previously tried to avoid direct confrontation with U.S. law enforcement, Sinaloa cartel leader Guzman’s instructed his soldiers to shoot-to-kill- U.S. law enforcement officials included according to Los Angeles Times sources and intelligence memos.
Stratfor, a Texas-based security consulting firm that helped to research Guzman and researches security risks, has been warning that the recent trend of cartel related kidnappings in Phoenix and Tucson will soon spread out to other localities within the U.S. and that the kidnapping business will not just continue targeting cartel members and their families.
It’s all about the highways that help move the drugs. Nuevo Laredo is close to the Interstate 35 corridor, and Juarez has easy access to I-10, a major east-west interstate, and I-25, which runs north to Denver, Colorado. Tijuana is also conveniently near I-10 and I-5, which heads north all the way to the Canadian border.
The violence involves beheadings, running gun battles and discoveries of mass graves and huge arms caches. Police and public officials have been gunned down in broad daylight. The cartels’ enforcers boldly display recruitment banners in the streets.
“The beheadings started at the same time the beheading videos started coming out of Iraq,” analyst Stewart said. “It was simple machismo. The Sinaloa guys started putting up videos on YouTube of them torturing Zetas.”
“From what we’ve seen, the Zetas have taken over the Gulf cartel,” analyst Stewart said. “In violent times, soldiers tend to rise to the top.” These soldiers are incredibly well-armed, police learned after a November raid that resulted in the arrest of top Zeta lieutenant Jaime “Hummer” Gonzalez Duran. It was the largest weapons seizure in Mexican history — 540 rifles, including AK-47s; 287 grenades; two rocket launchers; and 500,000 rounds of ammunition.
In February, 2009, the Obama administration engaged in an internal debate initiated by the Attorney General’s apparent effort to reinstate the Assault Weapons Ban in order to staunch the alleged flow of weapons from the U.S. into Mexico. Eric Holder, the United States Attorney General, and a long time advocate of banning guns altogether, and others including the President, seem to argue that weapons purchased legally by U.S. citizens are being smuggled into Mexico.
The problem is that fully automatic weapons are already illegal in the U.S. (outside very strict BATF controls). The reason a high percentage of weapons confiscated in Mexico can be traced back to the U.S. is because the United States is one of the few countries that is able to cooperate with such tracing efforts. The fact that less than 17 percent of weapons used by the cartels actually originate in the U.S. has been intentionally glossed over by dishonest statistics that have been manipulated by politicians on both sides of the border to justify making citizens in the U.S. as helpless as the citizens of Mexico.
The glaring fly in the Attorney General’s ointment is the fact that Mexico, already legislated to be a “gun-free” zone, is actually a cauldron of gun violence causing an unprecedented threat to seasoned LEOs and citizens on both sides of the border. Whatever, the level of violence in Mexico, the fact that violent armies of narcotistas may be surging across the border to your neighborhood is not a reason to restrict U.S. citizenry from access to weapons; it is a reason we should stick to our guns and demand that our government honor our right to protect ourselves and loved ones with as much firepower as we need to do the job!