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Tuesday, October 5, 2021

El Paso, Texas: 'The Worst It's Ever been.' Retired El Paso DEA Leader Gives Somber View Of Drug Problem

"Sol Prendido" for Borderland Beat

The potential for another Mexican drug cartel war in Juárez is brewing. Fentanyl has become America's most dangerous drug and drug legalization could create a new generation of addicts.

That's the sobering view of the battle against drugs given by Kyle W. Williamson, who recently retired after 30 years with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, including serving as the head of the DEA's El Paso Division.

“It’s the worst it's ever been. There's no good news here. And the amount of methamphetamine and fentanyl coming in right now is unprecedented," Williamson said.

Fentanyl is fueling a national surge in overdoses. The DEA last week issued a rare national public safety alert warning of counterfeit pills containing lethal doses of the synthetic opioid.

Williamson spoke at length with the El Paso Times last week in his West Side office, where a desk and bookshelves sat empty waiting for the division's next special agent in charge.

Williamson, 55, started with the DEA in 1991 in a career that has taken him from the Texas border to Puerto Rico, Turkey and Afghanistan's opium poppy fields.

Since 2018, Williamson was the leader of the DEA’s El Paso Division, which stretches over West Texas from El Paso to Midland and covers all of New Mexico. His last day on the job was Thursday.

Top drug threats: Meth, fentanyl

The continuous fight against drug trafficking has evolved over the decades.

Mexican drug cartels, to meet changing U.S. demand, have largely shifted from marijuana and cocaine to methamphetamine and fentanyl, a dangerously powerful synthetic opioid.

Meth remains the biggest drug-threat in the El Paso region due to its sheer volume, and seizures are up 200%, Williamson said.

Fentanyl is the nation's top drug concern. The DEA warned that two out of every five counterfeit pills with fentanyl contain a potentially lethal dose. The fake pills are manufactured by drug cartels to look identical to prescription medications like Xanax, Vicodin, Percocet and Oxycontin. The DEA advised that the prescription medication should only be purchased legally from pharmacists.

"The only thing good that I've seen so far is that we are beginning to see a decrease in doctors prescribing opioids, and doctors are looking for other alternatives to manage and deal with pain," Williamson said.

Cartel war potential in Juárez 

The potential exists that Juárez could again become engulfed in another drug cartel war like it was a decade ago, Williamson warned.

The Juárez, Sinaloa and Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG), or the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, all operate in the Mexican border city, Williamson said.

DEA investigators believe that the remnants of the Juárez cartel have formed an alliance with CJNG, Williamson said.

"The chances of going back to a 2010-2011 situation over in Juárez, there is a good probability that that could happen because the violence is ticking up," Williamson said.

"We're seeing blue-on-blue violence over there — that means that your police may be choosing taking sides. So, that’s not a good thing."

Drug-related bloodshed has been a concern for years in Juárez, which has had more than 1,000 murders this year.

Williamson added that he would like to see the DEA and Mexico resume a relationship in which Mexican forces take action on U.S.-fed intelligence.

Opposes legalization of marijuana

The legalization of marijuana would lead to greater availability and more problems, Williamson said, saying he "absolutely" opposes drug legalization.

"I don’t want anybody to think that the drug war or what we’re doing is futile, because it’s not," Williamson said. "One of the reasons we’re in the situation that we are in today is the result of drugs that were legal, opioids, that were legal (and) over prescribed."

There will still be a black market for marijuana if it is legalized because it would be highly taxed, Williamson said, adding he also is concerned about marijuana use by minors leading to other drug use. The costs outweigh the benefits of legalization, he said.

“Marijuana is a gateway drug and people have to realize that when we talk about legalizing marijuana, again, we’re increasing that level of acceptability" of drug use, he said.

The "gateway drug" debate is one of several topics in the marijuana-legalization discussion. Legalization proponents say regulation of marijuana would lower crime, improve consumer safety and be a new source of tax revenue and argue that marijuana use might precede other drug use but doesn't lead to it.

'Mystique of the job'

Williamson grew up in the Albuquerque-area and near Houston. He was studying agriculture at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas, but switched majors after meeting a friend studying criminal justice.

After graduating with a degree in law enforcement and police science, he worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture before joining the DEA in 1991. He also has a master's degree in business administration.

Williamson said he was lured to the DEA by the "mystique of the job" during the time of the crack cocaine epidemic, Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar and the Miami drug wars.

He starting off working with the DEA in Austin and Eagle Pass, Texas, before getting the opportunity to work around the globe, including in Turkey and Afghanistan.

He was assistant special agent in charge in the El Paso Division from 2014 to 2015, then left to the Middle East region based out of Turkey before returning to El Paso as the special agent in charge in 2018. 

Why is El Paso's Star on the Mountain red?

On Friday, Williamson symbolically lighted El Paso's iconic Star on the Mountain in red lights for the month of October in recognition of the annual Red Ribbon drug-abuse prevention and other public safety campaigns.

After retirement, Williamson will stay in El Paso and plans to continue advocating for a drug-free society and against the legalization of drugs, he said.

“While there will be pundits and people out there who’ll disagree (about drug legalization) and they’ll take the small extreme things and make them big, but the reality is that drugs will destroy this country; it will destroy our society if we continue at the pace that we are (going)," Williamson said.

Three lessons learned from years in DEA

Retired El Paso Division Drug Enforcement Administration Special Agent in Charge Kyle W. Williamson said he takes three major lessons from his 30 years in the DEA. They are:

1. "I would say that for having traveled all over the world, America's the greatest country in the world by far hands down. We're still the greatest country in the world."

2. "You're only as good as the team of people that you're working with. Proverbs 27:17 says that 'iron sharpens iron.' One person builds up another and that's very true."

3. The El Paso community should be proud how well local, state and federal law enforcement work together, he said.

El Paso Times


  1. How many years of WoD?
    How many billions spent?
    How violent deaths (yes the illegality is the cause of the violence)?
    How many dead from ODs (yes the chance to OD is vastly higher with uncontrolled Street drugs)?

    Only when we TAKE ALL PROFITS OUT OF DRUGS will we have situation allowing for optimal harm reduction.

    1. Boy oh boy you got it wrong Mijo.
      Lol take profit out of drugs.
      You forgot they resort to other illegal money making like extortion, smuggling, sex trafficking, cargo theft of goods
      Wake up and smell the Roses.

  2. As the parasite sucks on his golden multi-million $$$ pensions. How many millions retired dea and MIC officials sucking on multi-million $$ pensions. Like the MIC forever wars on foreign lands the DEA is devoted to the forever war on drugs! No end, not winnable except for the DEA institution! IF YOU WANT TO DO DRUGS IT IS READILY AVAILABLE! SO< NO, legalizing will not increase drug addiction but it will decrease, gangs, murder, thefts, insurance rates and addiction by driving more $$$ to education, prevention and drug rehab! Hey, it has been proven in many other countries! No more big salaries and golden pensions for destructive and parasitic institutions like the DEA!

  3. “It’s the worst it's ever been. There's no good news here. And the amount of methamphetamine and fentanyl coming in right now is unprecedented," Williamson said.
    He's a failure and disgrace in his own words after 30 years of failure!

    1. You mis understand.
      He did alot in those 30 years, get it right.

  4. Replies
    1. I think he was in Tijuana went for Dental work, hope he made it back to San Diego.

  5. On going war, never ended, and there is no end
    Drugs, human trafficking, OH sorry I am not Politically Correct. Please don't spank me Mr. PRESIDENT. LET LIFE GO ON HERE ON THE Frontera.

  6. Mr. Williamson appreciate a job well done. Only way to beat these guys, is kill them. Jail time doesn't work
    U are dealing with the worst people in the world.

  7. He forgot to say...
    "Drugs will keep flowing because there is no such thing as war on drugs."


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