An Argument for Redefining Drug Cartels As International Terrorist Groups

by | Nov 10, 2019 |

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With the recent senseless massacre of several members of the American LaBaron family including defenseless women and children, just seventy miles south of the Arizona border in the north Mexican State of Chihuahua⏤is it now time for the U.S. and other nations such as Mexico to redefine how we look at and deal with “terrorism” and terrorist organizations?
The U.S. Code of Federal Regulations defines “terrorism” as “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives” (28 C.F.R. Section 0.85).
Acts of terrorism are not only committed for political gain. Terrorism is also used to achieve social objectives. Social objectives would certainly include making illegal drugs available for human consumption; changing the social landscape by addicting people to dangerous drugs; creating mass drug addictions or creating a circumstance where governments legalize gateway drugs such as marijuana which are sold by transnational distributors of illegal drugs.

What if a transnational drug cartel’s desired “social” objective was to coerce, corrupt and/or intimidate political leaders to affect social change by allowing the cartels to operate their drug distribution networks unchallenged?

This is most certainly what is taking place in Mexico as witnessed by newly elected Mexican President Andres Manual Lopez Obrador’s anemic response to the slaughter of tens of thousands of Mexicans each year as a direct result of intentional cartel violence.
What is the factual extent of violence and terrorism committed by transnational organized crime cartels in Mexico?
A 2018 Congressional Research Service report documents that there have been approximately 150,000 intentional homicides committed by terrorist, organized crime drug cartels in Mexico alone since 2006. Each year approximately one-half of all of the tens of thousands of murders occurring in Mexico are committed by members of drug cartels. Less than seven major Mexican transnational drug cartels generate somewhere between $19 – $29 billion in profits through the sale of illegal drugs and human trafficking operations. That is quite an incentive for aggressively moving forward in expanding their operations internationally.
The major transnational drug cartels based in Mexico are identified as the Beltran-Leyva, Gulf, Jalisco-New Generation, Los Zetas, Sinaloa, Tijuana/Arellano Felix and Juarez cartels. Perhaps the most powerful of the Mexican cartels is the Sinaloa cartel, also known as the Guzman-Loera Organization, the Pacific Cartel, the Federation and the Blood Alliance. The cartel was formerly run by drug lord Joaquin Guzman, who now resides in a Supermax federal prison awaiting trial on multiple homicides and drug trafficking charges. It is believed that Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada García now runs the Sinaloa syndicate which is based in the Mexican State of Sinaloa. The Sinaloa cartel makes billions in trafficking illegal drugs to the U.S., Europe and Asia. They are also involved in human trafficking operations. 
The Jalisco-New Generation cartel operates mainly in western Mexico and controls the Tierra Caliente region. However, this extremely violent organization that is in competition with the Sinaloa cartel is rapidly expanding its operational influence across Mexico. The organization which is run by a former Mexican police officer known as “El Mencho,” is one of Mexico’s and the world’s most dominant transnational drug cartels, specializes in the distribution of synthetic drugs and methamphetamine. The New Generation has been described as the most aggressive of all of the cartels in Mexico and is responsible for the waves of violence presently terrorizing Tijuana, Juarez, Guanajuato and Mexico City as a direct result of fighting other cartels to expand its territories.
The Los Zetas cartel, founded by former members of Mexico’s military Special Forces initially built its empire throughout the Gulf of Mexico, in the southern states of Tabasco, Yucatán, Quintana Roo, and Chiapas, and in the Pacific Coast states of Guerrero, Oaxaca, and Michoacán, as well as in Mexico City by trafficking in drugs, but now has expanded into human trafficking operations.
The Gulf cartel operates in northeast Mexico around the State of Tamaulipas and traffics in heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine. However, the cartel is also known for engaging in widespread political corruption including bribing public officials.
Terrorist Drug Cartels Wage War Against the U.S. and Mexico Everyday
Mexico’s President Obrador has naively declined President Trump’s offer to assist his country in waging war against its murderous cartels; instead placating the terrorist organizations drug lords with a dangerous strategy of “hugs instead of bullets.” In response, the number of murders in the Second World nation rose to 33,341 last year, with over 40,000 people reported missing. This report comes from the University of San Diego (CA) based organization Justice in Mexico. The group’s report documents that approximately one-half of all of these homicides were cartel-related.
The Center for Disease Control has estimated that there were 70,200 deaths in the U.S. from illicit drugs and prescription opioids. Of those, 28,400 were directly attributed to illicit synthetic fentanyl which is smuggled into the country by transnational drug cartels, mostly from Mexico. The U.S. has experienced a two-fold increase in National Drug Overdose Deaths in the past ten years. To place this in perspective, each and every year since 2009, the United States loses the equivalent of two thirds of all military personnel killed in action during the fifteen year Vietnam War and nearly nine times the number all of our soldiers killed in the War on Terror since 2001. That’s each and every year! So please don’t tell anyone that drug cartels are not terrorist organizations.
How has Mexico done so far in waging its war on the drug cartels?
To be succinct, horribly; that’s how. Roughly 98% of all violent crimes including homicides go unsolved in Mexico. Vanda Felbab-Brown, a researcher from the Washington D.C. Brookings Institute states that this feeble clearance rate has been relatively consistent for the past fifteen years. This is despite the U.S. government having contributed over $300 million to projects designed to repair Mexico’s severely broken criminal justice system. Why is that?
Politicians, researchers, law enforcement experts and criminologists jointly state that there a number of reasons. Former Mexican Ambassador to the U.S. Arturo Sarukhán, attributes a weak Rule of Law in Mexico which he refers to as “Mexico’s Achilles heel,” as a root problem. Law enforcement professionals add to blame the very low standard of education, training and experience of Mexican police; many who can hardly read or write. There is just no way that uneducated police can ever hope to become professional investigators with the education and training necessary to property investigate crimes and bring criminals to justice.
Of major concern is Mexico’s and its political and judicial systems’ history of corruption which is a remnant of the country’s authoritarian one-party rule that extended back decades. It’s just difficult to build a new and reformed justice system atop a rickety foundation crumbling from corruption and incompetency.
Finally, it’s the intimidation and extreme violence of the transnational drugs cartels who terrorize politicians and police alike. Recently, cartel gunmen followed and assassinated one police officer who they had identified being involved in a recent attempt to arrest the son of imprisoned Sinaloa cartel drug lord Joaquin Guzman. The message was clear. If you fight us, we will find you and kill you and your family. That is the working definition of global terrorism.
What can our “war strategy” be?
First, “follow the money.” Remember Columbia and all the drug problems we had with them? Why don’t you hear about drug trafficking in Columbia anymore? Well, we followed the money and took it from them. 

Transactional drug cartels are all about two things: money and power. Without money to influence politicians and pay people to manufacture and transport drugs and smuggle people, they have no power. Take their money.

Next, make the Mexican economy better. That means passing the USMCA U.S., Mexico and Canadian Trade Bill. This bill which would give tens of thousands of jobs to Mexicans and give the country tens of billions of dollars yearly to energize the Mexican economy and its people. The bill has been languishing in our do-nothing Congress for over a year. 
Next, take the fight to the cartels. Declare war on them and fight them as you would fight any other terrorist organization like ISIS. The “Hugs not bullets” strategy is increasing, not decreasing the Mexican and American body count. 
Unwitting American politicians become purveyors of future cartel violence 
One of the ways that we can effectively wage war against these violent cartels who kill Americans and Mexicans is to deny them access into our country. When ignorant, uninformed political hacks push back against building The Wall; defunding and dissolving ICE and creating Sanctuary States and Cities; they become the unwitting partners of transnational terrorists who poison our families with drugs, massacre innocent families and traffic in human misery for profit. These politicians are no better than the Vichy French collaborating with the Nazis against their own people during World War II. This mindset must end, the wall must be built and Sanctuary Cities and States must be abolished if we are ever going to defeat these terrorist drug cartels.
Yes, transnational drug cartels are terrorists in every sense of the word. They must be fought with every means at our disposal: militarily, politically, economically and through our mutual justice systems. This war is multi-phasic and requires consensus and commitment. We need to be “all in” to win. The clock is ticking and Americans and Mexicans are dying every day while the cartels expand and profit. The question is, who is ready to step forward and do the right thing? 
For Further Insight:
https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics/overdose-death-rates
https://justiceinmexico.org/publications/reports/

Dr. Ron Martinelli

Ron Martinelli, Ph.D., CMI-V, is a nationally renowned forensic criminologist and retired police detective with the San Jose (CA) Police Department. Dr. Martinelli directs the nation’s only Forensic Death Investigations & Independent Review Team and is the author of the new book, “The Truth Behind the Black Lives Matter Movement and the War on Police.”

The Show: A Thread of Evidence deals with real crime stories, their victims, violators, cops, and forensic investigators who solve those crimes and bring the bad guys to justice. Go out onto the mean streets, visit the crime scenes and work in the forensic lab with your host nationally renowned forensic criminologist and investigator, DrRon Martinelli.

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