The drug conflict in Mexico has been growing for years into a full-scale guerilla war, and now it has spilled into Texas. There are contradictory reports that the Los Zetas drug gang has taken over at least two ranches near Laredo, Texas, forcing law enforcement to ask for federal intervention. The drug lords have become increasingly brutal and effective, have ties to foreign terrorist groups and have even set off a car bomb. As the U.S. fights two campaigns overseas, a lack of border security is permitting an insurgency south of the border to threaten us at home.
On July 16, the U.S. Consulate in Nuevo Lavedo in Mexico issued a warning that there were “credible reports of widespread violence occurring now between narcotics trafficking organizations and the Mexican army in Nuevo Lavedo.” The Zetas, which have hired former military personnel including special forces, blocked off roads and threw grenades. All Americans in the area were told to stay inside.
The area has become a battlefield between the Gulf cartel and the Zetas. The intense fighting forced up to 90 businesses to close their doors out of fear for their safety. Around the same time, eight drug gang members died in a firefight between 60 criminals and 100 soldiers in the state of Chihuahua which “virtually shut down” a border city.
Hordes of blogs then began reporting that two ranches near Laredo, Texas had been seized. Examiner.com said that two anonymous sources at the Laredo Police Department confirmed the story and said a news blackout was being imposed. Last May, the FBI warned that the Los Zetas had obtained a ranch in Texas to train its operatives in attacking its U.S.-based rivals. However, the Loredo Police Department is denying the story.
This follows a dramatic escalation in the drug war when drug cartels used a car bomb for the first time in Ciudad Juarez. The bomb was so sophisticated that it was compared to the professionalism of Hezbollah. The attack was carried out by shooting a police officer and then alerting the authorities so that paramedics and law enforcement would arrive. The device was then detonated, killing four people.
Rep. Sue Myrick issued a prescient warning shortly before the attack. She called on the Department of Homeland Security to form a task force to investigate Hezbollah’s presence in Mexico after one of the terrorist group’s cells in Tijuana was broken up.
“[A] high-ranking Mexican Army officer, who asked not to be named for security reasons, states they believe Hezbollah may be training the Mexican drug cartels’ enforcers in the art of bomb making. This might lead to Israel-like car bombings of Mexican/USA border personnel or National Guard units in the border regions,” she wrote.
Less than a month later, her fear became true. The “Hezbollah-like” sophistication of the car bomb is shocking, but it should not be surprising. Experts have warned of such an alliance for years. In an article last month, the drug gangs’ ties to terrorist groups were explored in detail. The terrorist group named the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, often referred to as the FARC, is in business with the cartels. Michael Braun, a former Drug Enforcement Agency chief of operations, said that Hezbollah was using “the same criminal weapons smugglers, document traffickers and transportation experts as the drug cartels.” Humberto Fontova has also reported on the cartels’ ties to Cuban officials.
Over 25,000 people have died in Mexico’s drug war since the strife erupted into a war three and a half years ago, with the number of casualties increasing each year. The death toll in Ciudad Juarez has already surpassed the entire number for last year. The city now has more murders than Baghdad. Recently in Monterrey, a mass grave of over 50 people was discovered.
“The Mexican drug war is evolving into an open insurrection. The cartels are purchasing high-powered weapons all over the world. The edge in weaponry is shifting towards the cartels.” Larry Martines, the director of the Nevada Department of Homeland Security in 2007, told FrontPage.
“If the U.S.A. does not increase assistance via military resources, funding, advisors, plus most importantly, expanded intelligence gathering technology, we might very well end up with a Narco-Republic on our southern border….We do not have much time left,” he said.
The deteriorating security situation caused alarm at the Joint Forces Command last year, which warned that Mexico and Pakistan were the two countries most at risk of “rapid and sudden collapse.” Despite this warning, some officials tried to downplay the crisis. Last March, then-Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair said that “Mexico is in no danger of becoming a failed state.” Senator John Kerry said “I am troubled by suggestions from some quarters that Mexico is in imminent danger of becoming a failed state. Mexico is a functional democracy with a vibrant and open economy.”
The escalating drug war in Mexico makes it clear that the U.S. cannot be safe without adequate border security. The increasingly violent nature of the drug cartels, coupled with their ties to terrorist groups, make them a distinct threat to the homeland. Americans must force their elected officials to place a higher priority on protecting the nation than trying to score political points with the immigration issue.