An insatiable American appetite for drugs is feeding the violence in Mexico, where gangs are now arming themselves with the latest in high-tech weaponry.
Gen. Barry McCaffrey, the former U.S. drug czar, says that amid the escalating bloodshed, it’s not unusual to find Mexican thugs armed with, “sea-going submersibles, helicopters and modern transport aviation, automatic weapons, RPG’s, Anti-Tank 66 mm rockets, mines and booby traps, heavy machine guns, 50 cal sniper rifles, massive use of military hand grenades, and the most modern models of 40mm grenade machine guns.”
All of that firepower is being brought to bear to protect powerful Mexican drug-trafficking cartels that have tentacles snaking north into more than 295 American cities. According to the National Drug Threat Assessment for 2009 says that Mexican drug-trafficking organizations now “control most of the U.S. drug market.”
Mexico now produces an estimated eight metric tons of heroin a year and 10,000 metric tons of marijuana – nearly all of which goes to feed a hungry U.S. illicit drug market.
A recent report by McCaffrey points out that “90 percent of all U.S. cocaine transits Mexico” and Mexico is “the dominant source of methamphetamine production for the U.S.” Furthermore, McCaffrey’s snapshot shows the enormity of the business: the drug cartels earn more than $25 billion a year and “repatriate more than $10 billion a year in bulk cash into Mexico from the U.S.”
The gangs are reinvesting at least some of that cash in additional weapons and gear to assist them in their criminal activities. According to law enforcement officials on both sides of the border, the current criminal inventory includes cross border communication centers that use voice-over Internet Protocol; satellite technology; and high-frequency radios with encryption and rolling codes to communicate during cross-border operations.
According to the Wall Street Journal report, 6,616 people died in drug-trafficking violence in Mexico last year alone. For the first 22 days of 2009, the body count is already 354.
Despite President Felipe Calderón assault on organized crime in his country, traffickers have reacted only with more brutality and arsenals of weapons and technologies that outstrip that of the government. The latest twist in that brutality is beheadings. Last month, eight soldiers and a state police chief were found decapitated in the state of Guerrero, reports the Journal.
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