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Mexican Cartels: Criminal Operations Beyond Drugs

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

While law enforcement officers working the southern border with Mexico face hand grenades, 50 caliber machine guns and violent cartel members with no respect for authority, President Obama says the border is as secure as it has ever been.

“Despite a lot of breathless reports that have tagged places like El Paso as dangerous, violent crime in southwest border counties has dropped by a third. El Paso and other cities and towns along this border are consistently among the safest in the nation.” –President Obama May 10, 2011

The FBI Uniform Crime Report, data used by the Administration as a crime gauge, excludes documentation of kidnapping, extortion, home invasion and cartel on cartel violence. The Justice Department doesn’t have a definition of spill over violence and therefore cannot track violence occurring outside of documented crimes. Homeland Security has a similar problem.

“I don’t have exact stats on violence between cartel members,” Homeland Security Director of Counter Narcotics Enforcement Grayling Williams said during a hearing about drug cartel violence on Capitol Hill last week.

Rep. Michael McCaul, chairman of the House Oversight, Investigations and Management Subcommittee, doesn’t believe that Americans are getting a clear picture of what the rate of crime along the southern border really is, considering the types of crimes excluded under the definitions of crime in the FBI Uniform Crime Report. The Obama Administration and officials in Homeland Security can conveniently cite border cities as some of the safest in the world because the report is used to declare violence is not in the United States, just in Mexico.

“If you’re excluding all of these crimes, how can these statements be correct that there isn’t spill over violence in the United States,” Rep. McCaul asked during the hearing. “I just want an accurate assessment of the level of crime.”

Williams claimed that resources allocated to enforce the border through Homeland Security are working, but law enforcement officials on the ground aren’t seeing results while fighting ruthless cartels who use violence as a method of intimidation.

“While I am pleased we have added more resources to the border it is not secure. It has never been more violent than today,” McCaul said.

Zapata County Texas Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzales reiterated McCaul’s statement, saying he sees spill over violence everyday.

“We see almost on a daily basis spill over violence,” Gonzales said. “Politicians will disagree with me about spill over violence, but we have spill over violence.”

Gonzales added that cartel members are going to police officers homes in the United States to intimidate them and that deputy sheriffs are being shot at while cartel members are bringing drug loads through U.S. neighborhoods.

“In almost 10 years we have seen nothing but broken promises when it comes to protecting our nation,” Gonzales said. “There cannot be homeland security without border security.”

It is important to note that the federal government doesn’t respond to 911 calls. Sheriffs on the border are the first responders doing the job of the federal government without the help or cooperation from Homeland Security or Mexican authorities who are ridden with corruption.

So who are law enforcement agents really dealing with?

Since 2006, 34,000 people have been killed as cartel members freely assassinate innocent bystanders, journalists and high profile politicians within Mexico. They do it to send a message to law enforcement: Don’t question or try to control us because we will kill you.

“With the barbarism, Al Qaeda has nothing on these cartels,” Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety Col. Steven McCraw said.

“We have seen armed individuals coming into our country,” Gonzales said. “We see individuals coming into our country escorted by men armed with machine guns.”

And those armed men aren’t carrying their machine guns for show. According to the FBI, Cartel king pins have ordered gang members to confront U.S. law enforcement, armed with bullet proof vests, semi-automatic weapons and hand grenades in an organized crime ring that goes beyond drug running to include extortion, kidnappings and murder. Those orders are now being carried out.

In December 2010, Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was shot and killed in a part of Arizona run by drug cartels while confronting a group of bandits. Bandits are illegal immigrants who steal drugs from other illegal immigrants in the desert and then profit off of the stolen loads.

A few short months later, I.C.E. Agent Jaime Zapata was killed in northern Mexico while returning to the United States after a meeting in Mexico City when his vehicle was ambushed by unarmed by men wielding AK-47s. In September 2010, Mexican drug cartel pirates on Falcon Lake, which separates Texas and Mexico, killed American David Hartley. In October 2010, the Phoenix area experienced it’s first beheading. The list goes on.

“It’s getting more violent and more brazen, cartels are giving orders to confront us,” Gonzales said.

Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee Peter King (R-NY) and Rep. McCail have called on Congress to designate Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations so law enforcement can track finances more easily, which would give them the ability to cut off the flow of illegal money that fuels cartel operations. Williams refused to back calls to name cartels terrorist organizations but Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne, Sheriff Gonzales and Col. McCraw endorsed the designation.

But just because Mexican drug cartels aren’t categorized as terrorist organizations doesn’t mean members aren’t working with known terrorist groups in Mexico.

Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) noted Hezbollah has been blending in and setting up shop within drug organizations in Mexico for 15 to 20 years.

“We have a known terrorist organization operating in Mexico,” Duncan said.

One obvious indication of Hezbollah presence in Mexico are the advanced tunneling systems found regularly along the southern border; Hezbollah is a master at tunneling.

“This administration is not giving the American people a complete picture of security on our border with Mexico. It is not 'better now than it has ever been' and the data on spillover crimes and violence is deceiving and under-reported. Our state and local law enforcement on the front lines need help. Their firsthand accounts tell the real story of how we are outmanned, overpowered, and in danger of losing control of our own communities to narco-terrorists,” said McCaul. “We have failed the states, the federal government has.”

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