The US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) held a news conference in Chicago Wednesday to discuss its new plan to combat Mexican drug cartels.
DEA officials unveiled the plan alongside members of the Mexican government, US military, and local police in a striking representation of cooperation amid tensions related to Trump’s immigration and trade policies – including his efforts to build a border wall.
The plan calls to establish a new Chicago-based enforcement group to address international investigations of cartels and puts more emphasis on attacking cartels’ financial infrastructure.
As DEA special agent Brian McKnight points out, direct cooperation between Mexico and Chicago will make it easier to target all players in the drug network, regardless of which country they happen to be in. “From the local Chicago-based gangs to those who traffic in multi-ton quantities of heroin and fentanyl…to those cartel leaders poisoning the neighborhoods of Chicago.”
Mexico’s cartel network has been deemed a major factor in Chicago’s stubborn violence problem.
“We have a unique gang problem, and with that comes a unique violence problem with the guns associated with that,” says Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson. “We also know that cartels in Mexico are responsible for much of the illegal drugs that are finding their way to Chicago.”
So far this year, authorities in Chicago have confiscated roughly 300 kilograms of heroin. At the same time, the city has seen a nearly 50% increase in overdose deaths.
“To be crystal clear, the drugs are being manufactured in Mexico, and Mexican cartels control the routes into the United States for distribution,” continued Johnson.
On Tuesday, regional DEA Director Matthew Donahue told reporters that the US wants to rely more on changes in Mexico’s legal system designed to improve evidence gathering and to speed up prosecutions. The US will also do more to reduce the number of guns flowing into Mexico.
“The new game plan is…pick up the speed and arrest more people, faster,” said Donahue. “That’s what we’re really trying to push – the cooperation that we currently have with Mexico to be a little more efficient, a little bit more aggressive.”
The kingpin strategy will remain a key element in the fight against cartels, added Donahue. This strategy, which refers to the targeting of top cartel bosses, is controversial because success often leads to increased gang violence and the rise of new drug lords.
A good example here is the arrest of Sinaloa Cartel leader “El Chapo,” who was extradited to New York in 2017 to face trafficking charges. â€¨The takedown cut back on the amount of drugs the Sinaloa Cartel was able to send into the US, but it also facilitated the growth of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (CJNG).
Last year, a DEA report described CJNG as “one of the most powerful and fastest growing [cartels] in Mexico and the United States.” CJNG deals primarily in meth, which it distributes to American buyers from hubs in New York, LA, and Atlanta. CJNG is believed to be responsible for much of the illicit drug trade flowing into Chicago.
The DEA’s proposal is backed by Mexican President Andres Manual Lopez Obrador, who was elected in July after campaigning on promises to ease the drug war.
Editor’s note: Having been part of the drug war long ago, it seems to me this announcement to work with Mexico is a bit forced and way too optimistic. The narcos have essentially the ultimate “offer you can’t refuse” technique. Basically is “we will give you a million dollars or we will torture your family in front of you and then kill you.” I believe very little headway will be made against drug trafficking in Mexico without a great deal more pressure from the U.S. and a lot of blood shed by Mexican patriots.