Illicit drug trafficking and human trafficking across our southern border have reached unprecedented levels. Violent criminal gangs directly connected to Mexican drug and extortion cartels kill and maim nearly 1,000 Mexican citizens every month -- a level of violence well beyond that experienced in Iraq or Afghanistan. The carnage is wrecking any hope for normal life or economic activity in Mexican society and prompting a new flood of desperate "refugees" across our border.
Last week, members of the vicious Los Zetas cartel firebombed a casino in Monterrey, Mexico's second-largest city. The attack incinerated 52 people inside the building. Mexican counter-narcotics officials say the attack was intended to "scare the casino's owners into making payments for protection." This week, more than 130 schools in Acapulco did not open because teachers have been threatened with "execution" by drug gangs if they show up at school without paying the cartelistas 50 percent of their salaries for protection.
But it's not just Mexico. Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Costa Rica in Central America are now under siege, as well. All of these countries are enduring a dramatic spike in violent crime -- particularly unsolved homicides and kidnappings -- and, of course, government corruption. In Honduras, the Sinaloa cartel perpetrates gruesome "extortion murders" to impress upon reluctant farmers and businessmen the "necessity of paying their protection tax."
Chuck Holton, my friend and fearless cameraman who has accompanied me on multiple trips to cover our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, has just returned from Guatemala, the scene of grisly violence against farmers who refuse to plant the "specialty crops" demanded by gun-wielding drug dealers. Holton said: "The Guatemalan government is struggling to mount a response against the infiltration of hyper-violent Mexican cartels that have moved into the northern reaches of the country, where they cultivate marijuana for export to the U.S. Often the drugs are shipped in Agency for International Development grain sacks in a truly surreal form of recycling."
The Obama administration, so proud of its "contingency planning" for Hurricane Irene, appears blind to the growing "drug storm" already overwhelming our southern neighbors. The U.S. Justice Department, paralyzed by allegations of complicity in allowing thousands of firearms to be "gunwalked" into Mexico, is busy trying to deflect blame for an "operation" gone terribly wrong. We can only hope that the O-Team looks south to the darkness on the horizon.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.