Mexican Cartels Remain Unrivaled in US Drug Market

Mexico City, Mexico (PanAm) – Mexican cartels have long surpassed Colombian organizations in drug-smuggling and distribution operations in the United States, and continue to dominate these illegal markets, according to the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Image Source: Richard Eriksson, Flickr, Creative Commons Commanding Officer Narcotics Division

Image Source: Richard Eriksson, Flickr, Creative Commons
Commanding Officer Narcotics Division

On November 4, the DEA released its 2015 Drug Threat Assessment, which provides a “comprehensive assessment of the threat posed to the United States by the trafficking and use of illicit drugs.” The report argues that Mexican cartels “pose the greatest criminal drug threat to the United States.”

While Colombian organizations continue to supply “wholesale quantities of cocaine and heroin,” they send the shipments to Mexican and Dominican groups, who then assume responsibility for further transportation and distribution in the United States.

DEA Acting Administrator Chuck Rosenberg says in the report that Mexican drug cartels have settled down in strategic regions of the United States to a create a vast network that facilitates the trade of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana across the country.

The DEA believes the most dangerous national and local gangs in the United States have forged alliances with Mexico’s organized-crime groups to secure a steady supply of drugs that they then distribute and sell all over the country.

The main Mexican criminal organizations operating inside the United States include theBeltrán-Leyva Cartel, Jalisco Nueva Generación (Jalisco New Generation Cartel), Gulf Cartel,Juárez Cartel, Familia Michoacana, Los Cabelleros Templarios (Knights Templar), Los Zetas, and the Sinaloa Cartel. These groups control drug trafficking across the southwestern US border and are moving to expand their share of the drug market, particularly in heroin, the report explains.

The Sinaloa Cartel, led by the fugitive Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, is the most active illegal-drug supplier in the country, according to the DEA. However, the agency notes that the Jalisco Nueva Generación “is quickly becoming one of the most powerful cartels in Mexico and in some cases rivals Sinaloa Cartel trafficking operations in Asia, Europe, and Oceania.”

“There are no other organizations at this time with the infrastructure and power to challenge Mexican cartels for control of the US drug market,” the report states. The DEA further notes that the Colombian FARC guerrilla has managed to forge alliances with the Sinaloa and Juárez cartels to expand the smuggling and distribution of cocaine in the western region of the United States.

Vulnerable Cities

The Sinaloa Cartel is the largest supplier of illegal drugs in the United States. DEA

The DEA claims that Miami has become the arrival destination of choice for heroin and cocaine shipments that come from South America through the Caribbean. Authorities say these shipments arrive hidden in airplanes, cargo ships, fishing boats, and even luxury yachts.

The report also highlights Boston, Massachusetts, as a distribution hub where many local criminal groups are increasingly dealing with, and receiving cocaine directly from, Mexican organizations based in Arizona, California, New Mexico, and Texas.

The DEA believes Mexican cartels pose the most significant threat in Chicago, Illinois, where these organizations continue to dominate the wholesale distribution of cocaine, methamphetamine, Mexico-produced marijuana, and heroin.

Similarly, Mexican cartels use the Los Angeles area as a strategic hub to facilitate the movement of drugs north and west and ship drug profits back to Mexico.

The report further claims that Mexican gangs are showing increasing interest in establishing distribution hubs in northeastern US cities, such as Philadelphia, as a way to bypass traditional hubs in the southeastern United States due to law enforcement pressure.

DEA Contradicts Mexican Government

Even though the Mexican government insists that no drug-related organized crime operates in Mexico City, the DEA report contends that at least five cartels are currently dealing in the Mexican capital: Sinaloa, Los Zetas, Beltrán-Leyva, Gulf, and a cell of the Caballeros Templarios.

The DEA’s statements echo the claims made in an article in the Wall Street Journal in September, which reported that the agency had detected the presence of the Gulf, Sinaloa, and Los Zetas cartels in Mexico City.

As for criminal activity in other Mexican states, the DEA says that the Jalisco Nueva Generación Cartel has become the country’s fastest growing criminal organization, expanding to Nayarit, Colima, Guerrero, Veracruz, and Michoacán.

Translated by Daniel Duarte.

Prepared by Sabrina Martín for PanAm Post.