Sunday, November 18, 2012

Transportation Networks lead to US Hubs for Mexican Cartels

Borderland Beat

A few miles west of downtown, past a terra-cotta-tiled gateway emblazoned with Bienvenidos, the smells and sights of Mexico spill onto 26th Street. The Mexican tricolor waves from brick storefronts. Vendors offer authentic churros, chorizo and tamales.
Chicago's Little Village neighborhood is home to more than 500,000 residents of Mexican descent and is known for its Cinco de Mayo festival and bustling Mexican Independence Day parade. But federal authorities say that Little Village is also home to something else: an American branch of the Mexican Sinaloa drug cartel.

Members of Mexicos most powerful cartel are selling a record amount of heroin and methamphetamine from Little Village, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration. From there, the drugs are moving onto the streets of south and west Chicago, where they are sold in assembly-line fashion in mostly African American neighborhoods.
Chicago, with 100,000 gang members to put drugs on the street, is a logistical winner for the Sinaloa cartel, Jack Riley, the DEAs special agent in charge of the Chicago field division, said after a tour through Little Village. We have to operate now as if were on the Mexican border. Its not just Chicago. Increasingly, as drug cartels have amassed more control and influence in Mexico, they have extended their reach deeper into the United States, establishing inroads across the Midwest and Southeast, according to American counternarcotics officials. An extensive distribution network supplies regions across the country, relying largely on regional hubs like this city, with ready markets off busy interstate highways.

One result: Seizures of heroin and methamphetamine have soared in recent years, according to federal statistics.

The U.S. government has provided Mexico with surveillance equipment, communication gear and other assistance under the $1.9 billion Merida Initiative, the anti-drug effort launched more than four years ago. But critics say that north of the border, the federal government has barely put a dent into a sophisticated infrastructure that supports more than $20 billion a year in drug cash flowing back to Mexico. 

The success of the Mexican cartels in building their massive drug distribution and marketing networks across the county is a reflection of the U.S. governments intelligence and operational failure in the war on drugs, said Fulton T. Armstrong, a former national intelligence officer for Latin America and ex-CIA officer. 

We pretend that the cartels dont have an infrastructure in the U.S., said Armstrong, also a former staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and now a senior fellow at American Universitys Center for Latin American and Latino Studies. But you dont do a $20 billion a year business . . . with ad-hoc, part-time volunteers. You use an established infrastructure to support the markets. How come were not attacking that infrastructure?

A reported 8.9 percent of Americans age 12 or older 22.6 million people are current users of illegal drugs, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services up from 6.2 percent in 1998. Demand for and the availability of illegal drugs is rising.
Charles Bowden, who has written several books about Mexico and drug trafficking, said policy failures have exacerbated the problems. The war on drugs is over, he said. There are more drugs in the U.S. of higher quality and at a lower price.

Of the seven Mexican organized crime groups that traffic drugs across the United States, the Sinaloa cartel dominates the business, selling most of the heroin, marijuana, methamphetamine and cocaine. One Mexican national-security expert estimated that the cartel moves a kilo of cocaine over the U.S. border about every 10 minutes.

The Sinaloa cartel, named after a Mexican Pacific coast state, is headed by Joaquin El Chapo Guzman, one of the worlds most brutal and sought-after drug lords.

Officials say the Sinaloa cartel typically sends its drugs across the border to distribution cells in cities such as Los Angeles. From there, dozens of operators including truck drivers who conceal the packages amid shipments of fruits, vegetables and other consumer goods bring the drugs east and north, unloading them at nondescript warehouses, condominiums and duplexes managed by the cartel. 
The DEA has estimated that Mexican drug trafficking organizations now operate in 1,286 American cities. That number, however, includes both major regional hubs such as Chicago, with direct links to large Mexican cartels, and scores of communities where smaller trafficking groups happen to be led by Mexican citizens who may have no operational connections. The DEA said it was not able to provide a full list of the 1,286 cities.

Besides Los Angeles and Chicago, Atlanta has emerged as a major distribution hub. The access to interstate highways and a growing Hispanic population allow cartel members to travel freely and blend into the general population, leading the organizations to bulk up operations.

In Atlanta, officials said, four rival cartels are battling for control: the Beltran Leyva; remnants of La Familia Michoacana; the Knights Templar, a splinter group of La Familia; and the Sinaloa.

Seizures of heroin in the city have increased 70 percent in the past two years and traffickers are selling a better quality of Mexican Brown heroin to many who are already addicted to pharmaceutical painkillers, said Harry S. Sommers, the DEAs special agent in charge of the Atlanta field division. The drug is now mostly being smoked or snorted, not injected by needle.

Theres not a significant difference between Oxycontin and heroin, Sommers said. Sometimes they give the heroin away at first and get people hooked on it. 

The increasing amount of heroin agents are seeing in Chicago and Atlanta is reflected nationwide, a ccording to the DEA. In the first nine months of this fiscal year, 1,394 kilograms of heroin were seized, compared with 487 kilos of heroin seized at the southwest border in fiscal year 2008 and 773 kilos in 2009. Heroin arrests nationwide are up, too. In the first nine months of this fiscal year, 3,350 people were arrested on heroin charges, compared with 2,510 in 2008.

Mexican meth
Officials say the cartels ability to infiltrate U.S. cities reflects calculated business decisions.
In recent years, U.S. officials have cracked down on American-made methamphetamine by passing federal and state laws to restrict the sale of the precursor chemicals used to manufacture it, particularly pseudoephedrine, a common over-the-counter decongestant for allergies and colds. 

The cartels have filled the void. Mexican-produced meth now accounts for 80 to 90 percent of the product sold in the United States, and it is swiftly moving into major urban hubs including Phoenix, Denver, St. Louis, Chicago and Atlanta, according to the DEA.

Federal agents have seized 7,574 kilos of methamphetamine at the southwest border in the first nine months of this fiscal year, compared with 2,237 kilos in 2008 and 3,064 in 2009.
We've seen a sudden increase of meth in Chicago in just the last several months, said Riley, the special agent in charge there. Until now, meth has been mostly a rural phenomenon. We havent seen this on the streets in large cities. Its an indication of the cartels seizing the market.

The Sinaloa cartel has both slashed the price and produced a purer form of meth that gives users a faster and longer-lasting high, Riley said. To get the methamphetamine on the streets, the cartel is using its existing distribution networks.

Experts say Mexican cartels have also been calculating in their use of violence. In Mexico, more than 60,000 people have been killed in the past six years in mass murders, beheadings and mutilations as the cartels have fought for control. 

Bowden, who spent years in Mexico writing about the violence, said its no accident U.S. cities havent seen the same levels of brutality. In the U.S., murder is bad for their drug business, he said. In Mexico, it is business.

A tenacious foe
Each time the federal government succeeds in prosecuting cartel members, the groups deploy new lieutenants to keep the drugs flowing north and the cash and U.S. guns going south into Mexico.

The DEA and other federal agencies say that they are making strides in combatting organized crime with new strike forces, composed of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. In Chicago, for example, the DEA-led strike force has worked with the FBI; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Chicago police; Immigration Customs and Enforcement; and other state and federal agencies to bring down traffickers. 

Officials also said large drug busts across the country have netted scores of dealers, thousands of kilos of drugs and tens of millions of dollars in cash. 

The Justice Department, in the meantime, is extraditing an increasing number of high-ranking cartel members to the United States for prosecution, including Jesús Vicente Zambada-Niebla, the son of Guzmans top partner in the Sinaloa cartel and a trafficker who officials say is the biggest Mexican drug kingpin to be prosecuted in a U.S. courtroom. 

Despite major drug seizures, Armstrong, the former national intelligence officer, said officials have not scored lasting gains.

Its because the U.S. government hasnt broken the system, Armstrong said. Theyve arrested dealers. But the distribution system and its network are alive and well.




24 comments:

  1. Finished the paper-now I have something else to read for the rest of today. I'd say could you make it any longer? But I know you and Vato can and do! Looks good-Thanks BB

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  2. The level of stupidity surrounding the politics of drugs is just mind numbing (i.e. no need to get stoned for that)!

    Wake up folks! It is the same drugs south of the border as those north of the border. THOSE ARE EXACTLY THE VERY SAME DRUGS!

    The mexicans cannot stop the flow of drugs on their side BUT SO CANT WE! Despite our police, prisons, DEA, FBI, blackhawks, billions of moolah spent etc. etc.

    Ask yourself if the worlds most advanced nation cannot stop the drugs crossing the border and making their way through the country to the end consumer, why should the mexicans be able to stop the drugs reaching the border? If corruption is need on their side for the drugs to reach the border, then the corruption must be EXACTLY the same on out side of the border.

    Or are our police, DEA, FBI etc dumber than the mexican counterparts. Are they worse equipped? Why cant we stop the drugs??? Do we even want to stop the drugs from flowing into the country???

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    1. 2:41 p.m. My point exactly. How many people have to die due to the mayham and violence perpetrated by the drug addicts and the gangs?? We might not have the extreme violence yet, except in Chicago where in some areas the kids can't even get to school safely but it's only a matter oc time. Our home in a ni e area has been robbed 3 times in a year, 17 pharmacies have been robbed and my husband was robbed at gunpoint. All by drug addicts and or gang members. So say the Houston police dept. It's not the extreme violence as those in Mexico but it's not safe here either. May God have mercy on all innocents in Mexico and the US.

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  3. Havana,excellent article. I read some of it on the Chicago DEA website. You filled in alot of the blanks. Living in Houston, I have seen firsthand the damage done by the cartels doing business with the local gangs.There are areas here no one goes to except dealers drug addicts or gang members. I agree with Mr. Riley on most things but may I add the DEA is sending alot more money to stop RX abuse than hard drugs. Given that more are overdosing on Rx drugs than all hard drugs combined.I have been in the medica field for 41 years. 85% of the rx drugs in the world area consumed in the US.Even with the legal changes made by the government haven't curtailed the deaths. We need to fix our own mess before the Mexican cartels take over the US. It saddens me the damage done by the cartels in Mexico and the US. STAY SAFE HAVANA, we need you to give the whole story, as well as all at BB. Many thanks from Houston.Also, between the DEA and ERIC HOLDER, we need major changes!

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    1. Yup, and people think marijuana is a gateway drug...no, your mom's Rx for xanex, oxy, or viccoden is. I have seen so many good kids die or get hooked on heroin because of perscription drugs. Have to do better to fight the "doc-in-a-box" places, it almost appears to me that the drug companies know that there's always going to be addicts and want to edge out the cartels from stealing their customers, how F'd would that be!?!

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  4. Havana what a great story! i have always said that the Cartels will naturally evolve to other drugs as thier main source of income, and when Marijuana comes fully legal the cartels will shift their market to these more dangerous drugs. I hope DD and Baggy read this story so they can understand what i meant. Cristero

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  5. Hey, I like Charles Bowden, I would like to propose he write an article for B Beat on Arizona and plazas on the other side and how residents have no idea how close they are to hell

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    1. I think they know which is why everyone has at least 2 guns in Arizona

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  6. I guess this gave me new information, I didn't have an hour ago, and not just for Mexico. I woke up. This story hit home. Thank you, Havana, that was tons of work and it is clearer now.

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  7. "We pretend that the cartels dont have an infrastructure in the U.S., said Armstrong, also a former staff member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and now a senior fellow at American Universitys Center for Latin American and Latino Studies. But you dont do a $20 billion a year business . . . with ad-hoc, part-time volunteers. You use an established infrastructure to support the markets. How come were not attacking that infrastructure?"

    This is not quite right, no its not volunteers but they are not members of the cartel , its more of an indepedenat contractor relationship than employee relationship. that is why it is impossible to take down because a strong centralized infrastructure doesnt exist

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  8. in chicago, its all about the votes. The alderman are all crooked, most of them have ties to gangs and thats their way of getting elected, votes from their boys. The mayor doesnt want to anger the community so anyone illegal in this country can commit a crime in chicago, and doesnt have to be afraid of being deported because the police cant notify ICE. There is going to come a point in time when in chicago, you will have the dope so out of control, bodies popping up all over the place that someone may want to do something about it, but it will be too late just like its too late for Mexico. One point in fact is that if you talk to any tax paying citizen, theminute they retire, they are ready to leave chicago, and the state, not only because of the crime but the taxes as well. The city of chicago is giving everything away to criminals, illegals especially. Chicago is even called the welcome city, because you can come and not worry about being deported. I have so much info about little village and the politicians and how they are involved, but too little time. if youre interested let me know and ill post to you and if you want to post on your blog,its up to you. We have a new narco city, state. CHICAGI ILLINOIS; WELCOME.

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    1. 7:46 p.. I enjoyed the honesty of your story. It was spot on. My son lives there for work and i read the Chicago papers. I figured the mayor was a piece of work. I constantly worry about my son, who doesn't live in the south or west but the crime is everywhere there now. Between Chicago and Houston, it is HELL already. LOVE to here more,knowledge is power. Thanks and keep safe. H-town.

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  9. I think maybe we better stop pretending. Though I don't think everyone is pretending about their infrastructure in the states. Look at all the damn maps. Not everyone is blind!

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    1. 8:29. I don't fully understand your post. All I go by is from where I live and where my kids live. It's a joke about the war on drugs, when the US IS MORE CONCERNED WITH PAIN MEDS THAN ANY ILLEGAL STREET DRUG. Sadly their priorities are soooo out of control. It's been a losing battle since Nixon started the war on drugs in the 70's, and I'm against all illegal drugs.

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  10. Corruption is not the only hinderance to effective law enforcement. Sloth, indifference, incompetence, ego, fear of liability, lack of communication, diversion, legal constraints and many other factors are at play. When you try to combat street wise 'players with college educated G-men, in a street hustle, you may come up short. When the college man feel that he is entitled to long lunches, home early on Friday, long weekends etc., he won't see the players that are moving product. We need agents that are trim, fit and hungry. Hire some of our returning veterans from the elite units.

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  11. to the second poster,because its not a military issue, its a personal freedom and health issue to say the least. but the pictue of the first map, the routes, they look like the talons of a dead bird, maybe its the chicken from their flag, maybe it got bit by the right snake...

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  12. The violence and mayhem come from the drugs being illegal, not from the drugs.

    Debate anyone?

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  13. so are you against the ones that are legal, which can be just as bad and addicting...

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  14. Get tired of hearing the murder is bad for business in america comment. Its america so law enforcement cant be bought as easy. People are raised different here, they wont put up with it. A blind eye wont be turned as often. People dont keep their head up in front of the media after a murder. Conveys of thug losers dont roam freely. Thats why its different.

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  15. Anonymous said...
    in chicago, its all about the votes. The alderman are all crooked, most of them have ties to gangs and thats their way of getting elected, votes from their boys. The mayor doesnt want to anger the community so anyone illegal in this country can commit a crime in chicago, and doesnt have to be afraid of being deported because the police cant notify ICE. There is going to come a point in time when in chicago, you will have the dope so out of control, bodies popping up all over the place that someone may want to do something about it, but it will be too late just like its too late for Mexico. One point in fact is that if you talk to any tax paying citizen, theminute they retire, they are ready to leave chicago, and the state, not only because of the crime but the taxes as well. The city of chicago is giving everything away to criminals, illegals especially. Chicago is even called the welcome city, because you can come and not worry about being deported. I have so much info about little village and the politicians and how they are involved, but too little time. if youre interested let me know and ill post to you and if you want to post on your blog,its up to you. We have a new narco city, state. CHICAGI ILLINOIS; WELCOME.

    I also live and work in this city Shitcago, You think corruption is bad in mexico, then take a hard look at this City (Jessie Jackson Jr and others in the higher ranks of office.)

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  16. nice read, too bad main street media and repubs and dems never really try and solve this quagmire we have made for our selves over last 20 15 years. Way to big to ever get this under control.
    RIP us of a, it was great while it lasted.

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  17. "You think corruption is bad in mexico, then take a hard look at this City (Jessie Jackson Jr and others in the higher ranks of office.)"
    Dude,we did it to ourselves.Now,make sure you are not a victim,even if you don't believe in them,get a gun and learn how to fire it.It is no mortal sin to kill,that is bullshit programming,i would kill a fucker in a minute if he tried to harm me or mine.
    I am one of the good folks by the way,a contributor,but for political correctness i aint gonna be no-ones victim.Good guys can kill just like the bad guys,its easy as pulling a trigger,you can do that can't you?

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  18. I think we miss the point. A majority of local law enforcement is directed at the street gang level where its focused because of the armed violence. The larger players can move in and out under the radar without any worry of enforcement. For instance just look at the junker trucks that roam freely through the alleyways of the city delivering large amounts of cocaine and currency. Do you as a resident ever take a second look or see police stop them? hiding in plain sight is the way to go.

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  19. hundreds of people have died in chicago in the last 2 years from mexican heroin. Mexicans are the dirtiest most gutless people on earth. Mexicans are freeloaders who do not care about anything but the US dollar. They are destroying america.Every town that they inhabit in the US becomes saturated with mexican heroin and methamphetimine. The solution is simple, the border patrol needs to shoot the next 10,000 people that illegaly cross the border. then we will see how many of these pathetic animals cross the border.

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