At Large

The Enemy Next Door

How much more evidence does the Administration need?

By 10.29.10

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The Mexican drug wars have become an old story. Media of all types have given extensive coverage to the battles between and among criminal gangs and federal police and military. Nonetheless, the Obama Administration has continued a policy of avoiding recognition of the danger of the open warfare that exists immediately south of the United States border with Mexico.

The federal and state governments of Mexico have reacted quickly to deny commentary that challenges their commitment to enforcing law and order in their jurisdictions. From Washington comes an active effort to counter any claims by local law enforcement in the Southwest that suggest any increase in trafficking in narcotics and human smuggling.

After organizing Department of Justice lawyers to bring the State of Arizona to court over their law attempting to enforce existing federal statutes on illegal immigration, the Obama White House has done everything it could to play to the politics of the Spanish-heritage population in the United States. This has included downplaying the power wielded by Mara Salvatrucha (MS 13) and the other Hispanic gangs in major cities throughout the U.S. and their organization in American prison societies.

The Administration's unwillingness to deploy major units of federalized National Guard troops to inhibit illegal border crossing was first thought to be some form of economy measure and/or turf conflict with the Department of Homeland Security. It has turned out, however, to be in response to Mexico's President Felipe Calderon's fear that a heavily armed U.S. border would be deemed by his political opponents as an indication of his government's weakness against American attempts to preempt Mexican sovereignty. Desirous of supporting Calderon, President Obama's domestic strategists found a device to once again create a seemingly logical decision out of a false premise.

Buttressed by the political elements of the American Hispanic community that do not want the Mexico/US border restricted in any form, the White House has chosen to pretend there actually is a lessening of Mexican drug-related action spilling over into the United States. This in spite of the fact the sheriff of Pinal County, Arizona, who is also president of the state's sheriffs association, has regularly reported continued and even increased traffic of armed smuggling teams through his and nearby counties.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) reported that they had deported a total of 24,950 convicted criminals from Arizona through July of 2010 out of 66,000 illegal immigrants sent back across the border. It appears a reasonable assumption that a substantial number of the nearly 25,000 deported criminals had drug connections.

Scott Stewart, who closely follows narcotics trafficking issues for the authoritative analysis service, Stratfor, reports there has been a "persistent rumor" that the Sinaloa cartel has had Mexican federal government protection. In the same manner the story has grown in acceptance that the Juarez cartel wanted American intervention in order to block the Sinaloa from extending its operations into Juarez territory. The Juarez operation has been badly hit by a combination of Sinaloa and Mexican military action. How coordinated this was has not been revealed, but the Juarez leadership believes the joint government/Sinaloa efforts against them have been obvious. Official figures of the Mexican authorities show over 9,000 drug battle deaths on all sides so far this year.

The contemporary history of the involvement of professional military and drug gangs is marked by the fact that the Los Zetas, now aligned with the Juarez and remnants of the Tijuana cartel, was originally created by deserters from the Mexican Army Special Forces Group. There are reports that the remnant of this original crew is now aided by Guatemala street gangs of MS-13 along with teams of ex-members of Guatemala Special Forces. Meanwhile the Sinaloa cartel has allied with La Familia Michoacana (LFM) and the Gulf cartel to form an umbrella group called the New Federation that aims to destroy the Los Zetas and take over the Juarez territories. Here is where the outreach into the U.S. becomes more clear.

The LFM of the New Federation made its entrée into the U.S. scene several years ago in Chicago. La Familia Michoacana had surfaced as drug traffickers in the U.S. matching Los Angeles-based MS-13 cooptees, Barrio Azteca (the American wing of the Mexican Azteca) and an eponymous group known as Mexican Mafia. The Drug Enforcement Agency tracked LFM connections to Dallas, Atlanta and on to major mid-western cities. The principal activity of LFM is in end use delivery. The New Federation's other participating cartels of Gulf and Sinaloa have their own extensive lines into the U.S.

The Mexican drug cartels have brought sophistication and financial power to their American operations that they now run as wholly owned subsidiaries. The war between the New Federation and the Zetas, Juarez, and Tijuana groups without a doubt spills over into the U.S. This violence exists in order to protect their respective distribution routes. Nonetheless, for obvious political reasons the Washington administration wants to underplay these connections and pretend that the drug wars of Mexico do not cross over into the U.S. and thus have no appreciable impact on the northern side of the border.

What further evidence does the Obama administration require to prove the need for a major commitment to border security -- and against human and narcotics trafficking?

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About the Author
George H. Wittman writes a weekly column on international affairs for The American Spectator online. He was the founding chairman of the National Institute for Public Policy.