American border towns have not seen anything remotely approaching the blood-stained carnage of some north Mexican cities where rival drug cartels are in a high-stakes war that killed over 6,000 people last year, but that may changed if the problems in Mexico spiral out of control. The links that U. S. gangs have with the Mexican cartels should be a concern. Gangs already control the distribution of the majority of illicit drugs in the streets of the U.S. The drug lords to the south can easily tap this ready-made criminal infrastructure for a range of nefarious purposes. And we better read the writing on the wall because it already has.
Gangs and their culture of violence, drugs and crime are one of America's pressing social ills, but in the borderlands the problem has an urgency. In the United States local gangs play a major role in the distribution of the drugs brought in from Mexico. It has been well documented that there is a significant cooperation between the drug cartels and the gangs in the US. are following established links with the cartels to expand their own business operations. Gang members will do what is profitable. Hardened gangs are carving out turf on the border and beyond as part of a scramble to make money from the tons of illegal drugs pouring north from Mexico each month.
Cross-border links between the cartels and gangs face one obstacle more formidable than the Rio Grande River:
The cartels will deal with the U.S. gangs on some levels but there are clear lines in the sand. Business stays in the family.
The gangs are a resource for the drug cartels but not their primary resource. The Mexican drug dealer is a very parochial individual. He will rather deal with a family member than someone just entering the business.
For example the Mexican drug lords will not entrust an American gang with the task of bringing large quantities of cash, the profits of their trade, back to Mexico.
But there are worrying signs of cross-border cooperation.
Last year U.S. District Court in El Paso, Texas, began hearing a case concerning members of a criminal enterprise that calls itself Barrio Azteca (BA). The group members faced numerous charges including drug trafficking and distribution, extortion, money laundering and murder.
The proceedings represented the first major trial involving BA, which operates in El Paso and West Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. The testimony revealed a lot about how this El Paso-based prison gang operates, and how it interfaces with Mexican drug cartel allies that supply its drugs.
Not all U.S. gangs that the Mexican cartels have allied with are the same. But examining how BA operates offered an insight into how other gangs — like the Latin Kings, the Texas Syndicate, the Sureños, outlaw motorcycle gangs, and transnational street gangs like MS-13 — operate in alliance with the cartels. This all shows that there is some sort of association between our local gangs and the Mexican cartels, to what extent remained unclear.
One thing that is clear though, the cartels are running a lot of drugs up through the borderland into the U.S. from Mexico and gangs are a source of distribution. In the next couple of posts we will explore the gangs in the U.S. and how they are inter-connected to the Mexican drug trade.
Walk the Beat of Gangland on the Borderland.