Comments Off on Sinaloa cartel has branch in Chicago neighborhood – moving record amounts of Meth

CHICAGO — Chicago’s Little Village neighborhood is home to more than 500,000 residents of Mexican descent and is known for its food and festivals. But federal authorities say Little Village is also home to an American branch of the Sinaloa drug cartel.

Members of Mexico’s most powerful cartel are moving a record amount of heroin and methamphetamine from Little Village, according to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

“Chicago, with 100,000 gang members to put the dope on the street, is a logistical winner for the Sinaloa cartel,” said Jack Riley, the DEA’s special agent in charge in Chicago. “We have to operate now as if we’re on the Mexican border.”

It’s not just Chicago. Increasingly, as drug cartels have amassed more control and influence in Mexico, they have extended their reach deeper into the United States, establishing inroads across the Midwest and Southeast, according to American counternarcotics officials. An extensive distribution network supplies regions across the country.

The U.S. government has provided Mexico with surveillance equipment and other assistance under the $1.9 billion anti-drug Merida Initiative.

But critics say that north of the border, the federal government has barely put a dent in a sophisticated infrastructure that supports more than $20 billion a year in drug cash flowing back to Mexico.

“We pretend that the cartels don’t have an infrastructure in the U.S.,” said Fulton T. Armstrong, a former national intelligence officer for Latin America and ex-CIA officer. “But you don’t do a $20 billion a year business … with ad-hoc, part-time volunteers.”

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