Drug-related murders in Mexico are at “epidemic proportions,” the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) says in a new report.
In its National Drug Threat Assessment 2019 report, the DEA said that while narco killings “continue to reach epidemic proportions. . .there is little spillover violence in the United States” because U.S.-based members of Mexican drug cartels “generally refrain from inter-cartel violence to avoid law enforcement detection and scrutiny.”
However, acts of violence related to Mexican transnational criminal organizations (TCOs) do occur in parts of the United States, particularly along the southwest border, the federal agency said.
The DEA said that Mexican TCOs remain the greatest criminal drug threat to the United States, asserting that no other groups are currently positioned to challenge them.
Formerly headed by convicted trafficker Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, the Sinaloa Cartel maintains “the most expansive footprint” in the United States, while the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG) has become the second most dominant Mexican cartel over the past few years, the report said.
Among the six Mexican TCOs identified by the DEA as having the greatest drug trafficking impact on the United States are also the Beltrán Leyva organization, the Juárez Cartel, the Gulf Cartel and Los Zetas.
“Mexican TCOs continue to control lucrative smuggling corridors, primarily across the southwest border,” the DEA said, explaining that they move drugs into the United States in hidden compartments in cars and trucks, via subterranean tunnels, on freight trains and passenger buses and by using “mules” who cross into remote parts of the U.S.
To a lesser extent, cartels also use maritime vessels, ultralight aircraft and drones to get narcotics into the country, the agency said.
“. . . [Mexican cartels] continue to expand their criminal influence by engaging in business alliances with other TCOs, including independent TCOs, and work in conjunction with transnational gangs, U.S.-based street gangs, prison gangs, and Asian money laundering organizations,” the report said.
“Mexican TCOs export significant quantities of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, and fentanyl into the United States annually. . .[They] maintain drug distribution cells in designated cities across the United States that either report directly to TCO leaders in Mexico or indirectly through intermediaries.”
The DEA said that the criminal activity of Mexican cartels in the United States is mainly overseen by Mexican nationals or U.S. citizens of Mexican origin.
“U.S.-based TCO members of Mexican nationality enter the United States legally and illegally and often seek to conceal themselves within densely populated Mexican-American communities. Mexican TCO members operating in the United States can be traced back to leading cartel figures in Mexico, often through familial ties,” the report said.
The DEA said that the Sinaloa Cartel, now led by El Chapo’s sons in an alliance with veteran trafficker Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, has distribution hubs in U.S. cities that include Phoenix, Los Angeles, Denver, Atlanta and Chicago, while the CJNG is “one of the most powerful and fastest growing cartels” in both Mexico and the United States.
Headed by Nemesio “El Mencho” Oseguera Cervantes, who has a US $10 million price on his head, the CJNG smuggles illicit drugs into the United States by accessing various trafficking corridors along the southwest border including Tijuana, Juárez, and Nuevo Laredo,” the DEA said.
“CJNG’s rapid expansion of its drug trafficking activities is characterized by the willingness to engage in violent confrontations with Mexican government security forces and rival cartels. Like most major Mexican TCOs, CJNG is a poly-drug trafficking group, manufacturing and/or distributing large amounts of methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, and fentanyl. CJNG reportedly has presence in at least 24 of 32 Mexican states,” the report said.
Noting that all of the Beltrán Leyva brothers have been killed, the DEA said that splinter groups and remnants of their organization continue to operate in various parts of Mexico, including the states of Guerrero, Morelos, Nayarit and Sinaloa.
The two most prominent splinter groups, Los Rojos and Los Guerreros Unidos, operate independently “due in part to their role in the heroin trade,” the report said. Beltrán Leyva-affiliated splinter groups rely on “loose alliances” with the CJNG, the Juárez Cartel and Los Zetas for access to smuggling routes, the DEA said.
The federal agency said that the Juárez Cartel continues to influence drug consumer markets in El Paso, Denver, Chicago and Oklahoma City, while the Gulf Cartel holds key distribution hubs in Houston and Detroit.
Formed as an independent cartel in 2010 after breaking away from the Gulf Cartel, Los Zetas has lost significant influence in recent years due to “pressure from rival cartels, Mexican law enforcement, and internal conflicts,” the DEA said.
However, its members continue to “traffic methamphetamine, marijuana, cocaine, and heroin through key distribution hubs in Laredo, Dallas, and New Orleans.”
Mexico News Daily