Comments Off on Oakland Effect: Mexican cartels’ reach into California runs deep

And it is happening all across the United States, not just in California. We have to be aware and prepare …

There is increasing evidence that Mexican drug-trafficking cartels — DTOs, in the language of law enforcement — are forming closer ties with prison and street gangs in California, such as Nuestra Familia and its street affiliate, the Norteños. According to the 2010 National Drug Threat Assessment, this kind of cooperation has been going on in the Southwest border states of Texas, Arizona and New Mexico since about 2001, when federal funds were redirected toward counterterrorism efforts abroad.

According to the NDTA’s website, the reach and sophistication of the cartel-gang nexus has intensified since.

“Hispanic prison gangs such as Hermano de Pistoleros Latinos, or HPL, and Raza Unida operating in Southwest border states have increased their involvement in wholesale drug distribution activities through cooperative relationships with Mexican DTOs,” the report states.

The report’s authors say that some of this cooperation may just make good business sense. In Texas, for instance, the Chicago-based Latin Kings gang has been purchasing cocaine from Mexican drug cartels for between $16,000 and $18,000 per kilo, roughly a third cheaper than what it would pay if it bought from its normal suppliers in Chicago. The cost savings has also bolstered the ability of the cartels to maintain and even extend power as it fights off rivals and the Mexican army at home.

“To ensure a consistent profit stream from the wholesale drugs they purchase from Mexican DTOs, Hispanic prison gangs distribute drugs through street gangs that they largely, if not entirely, control. Through force or intimidation, Hispanic prison gangs exercise significant control over local gangs that distribute their drugs in the Southwest border region,” the NDTA report goes on.

“In Texas, such ties are definitely being solidified,” says Malcolm Beith, author of “The Last Narco,” a recent book about the drug trade in Mexico. Beith says another worry is the explosion of the methamphetamine business.

Meth production boomed in Mexico in the mid-1990s, but took a brief hit when the Mexican government banned ephedrine, the precursor to meth, in 2007. Since then, however, cartels have been importing ephedrine from Asia, and meth production has increased dramatically since 2003. The Sinaloa cartel, run by Chapo Guzman, controls the lion’s share of the burgeoning meth trade.

Each lab is thought to be producing several tons of high quality narcotic, worth millions of dollars on the American street. In the Los Baños raid earlier this month, detectives told me that the meth was between 94 and 99 percent pure, a mark of the Norteños skill at importing high-quality drugs, and keeping them pure for customers.

Beith, who spent several months investigating the drug war, says he has no direct knowledge of what is happening today in California. However, he says, his reporting did turn up evidence that “Mexican drug bosses are increasingly working on the ground in Central America and even former drug hot spots like Colombia, effectively running the show on foreign turf.”

That, says Beith, may indicate that increased cooperation in California may be part of a more global trend.

Since 2001, the true reach of the major Mexican cartels has been a subject of intense debate. Beith says he has come across former DEA officials who believe, for instance, that Chapo Guzman has direct contact with other organized crime bosses, and even perhaps terrorist organizations like Hezbollah, the Shiite extremist group in south Lebanon. Beith has never confirmed these allegations himself, and says there is scant evidence to support such claims.

What worries U.S. officials most is the possible spillover of violence from Mexico. Beith says these fears are overrated. “Mexico’s biggest problem is lack of law enforcement,” he says, “not the number of sociopaths here.”

These days, he points out, it costs around $35 to have someone killed in Sinaloa because the police are

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