Drug roots in America

Mexican Drug Cartels have expanded to more than 1,000 U.S. cities

Mexican drug traffickers, who since the 1990's have been the main source of illegal drugs in the U.S., have managed to penetrate the heart of the country and pose a major challenge to public safety, said some experts to Efe.

The fight against drug trafficking and organized crime was one of the topics that the U.S. President Barack Obama would cover in his visit to Mexico last week.

The expansion of Mexican drug cartels to more than a thousand cities in 2011, according to the Department of Justice, is an inevitable challenge for the U.S.

"Obviously those numbers are concerning. This is a security issue in places where previously they did not have to deal with, but we are in a much better position to share intelligence" and combating organized crime, said Jack Riley, head of the U.S. Agency Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in Chicago, Illinois.

"We have been able to fight against these Mexican criminal organizations by stopping the way that they operate, that has made a difference in the violence of street gangs" in Chicago there are more than 120,000 gang members, and that achievement is in part "from good intelligence data originating both at the border and in Mexico, " said Riley in a telephone interview.

Riley stressed that increased bilateral cooperation has allowed the impact of drug trafficking in the U.S. and "attack the command and control structures-in Mexico- that actually make the decisions, and I don't think we had that capacity five or six years."

The powerful Sinaloa cartel, led by the fugitive Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, has a strong presence in Chicago, where in February the Chicago Crime Commission identified him as "public enemy number one", a designation that once was given to the Italian mobster Al Capone.

Carl Meacham, director of the Americas Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that the presence of the Mexican "narcos" is not surprising, "because it always been known that for these transnational criminal networks to work, they need to have "agents" n Mexico and in the U.S."

"It is a global issue where Mexican drug traffickers are increasingly dominating this illegal business. They have even surpassed the Colombian cartels, and I would say that the increase in the transnational aspect is a major threat," added Meacham.

Authorities know of the presence of Mexican drug traffickers in states like Georgia, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Pennsylvania, where they seek to control the lucrative business routes.

For Meacham, the key is to thoroughly understand the new security strategy of the Mexican government, "not only because Mexicans are tired of this kind of sustained violence, but also because it is a problem that will require a long-term effort."

According to the government of Mexican President, Enrique Peña Nieto, there will be only one agency now in charge to work directly with U.S. authorities from now on. Rather than Mexican agencies work directly with their U.S. counterparts as like how they were doing it, binational efforts against organized crime will now be dealt with Mexico's Interior Ministry.

Although the U.S. Government is still expecting to see "how this will work out", the new approach should not affect the successful cooperation between the U.S. and Mexico in these conflicts, said Jack Riley.




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