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Editorial: Mexican cartel operatives finding new home in U.S.

Apr. 04, 2013 @ 12:21 AM

Last month, Huntington police confiscated 70 grams of heroin when they did a search of a home on 6th Avenue.

One of those arrested admitted that he had come all the way from Detroit to sell those drugs in the Huntington area, but the heroin itself had traveled even further.

Some of the U.S. heroin supply comes from as far away as southeast or southwest Asia, but most of the volume originates in South America or Mexico. The same is true for cocaine and much of the nation's marijuana supply.

For many years, the cartels in drug-producing countries were content to make deals with American traffickers to smuggle drugs into the United States and distribute them through major American cities. That seems to have been the case in the recent heroin arrest in Huntington, with all six of the defendants apparently American citizens.

But authorities see some of that changing, and there are concerns it could bring more crime and violence to this country.

Mexican cartels are now sending their own people to live in the U.S. and take control of the whole chain of distribution, and thereby, maximize profits, according to a special report this week from The Associated Press. Chicago has been so affected that authorities there recently named Mexican drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman the city's "Public Enemy No. 1."

Authorities don't believe Guzman has ever set foot in Chicago, but his agents with the Sinaloa cartel are believed to supply most of the narcotics sold there, the AP reported. Cartel operatives also are surfacing in cases closer to home in cities such as Columbus and Louisville. In a few instances, heroin and marijuana investigations in the Huntington area have turned up Mexican nationals, as well.

Either through fear or loyalty, these operatives are tough to crack. A prosecutor in the Atlanta area said efforts to get suspected cartel members to cooperate with American authorities have been fruitless.

"They say, 'We are more scared of them (the cartels) than we are of you. We talk and they'll boil our family in acid,' " Danny Porter of Gwinnett County told the AP.

The great danger is that as the cartels become entrenched, it opens up the opportunity for these crime organizations to expand into other enterprises such as prostitution, kidnapping-and-extortion rackets and money laundering.

"It's probably the most serious threat the United States has faced from organized crime," said Jack Riley, head of the Drug Enforcement Administration's Chicago office. In Mexico, these groups are known for tremendous violence, including an estimated 50,000 killings.

There is debate among experts about the seriousness of this threat, with some saying the growth of cartel members in the U.S. is exaggerated. But just the cases that have surfaced so far show that local and federal law enforcement are likely facing a new type of immigration problem that will require more committed resources.



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