Posted tagged ‘Mexican cartels’

Mexican Drug Cartels Are ‘Greatest’ Criminal, Opioid Threats to U.S., Says DEA

October 26, 2017

Mexican Drug Cartels Are ‘Greatest’ Criminal, Opioid Threats to U.S., Says DEA, BreitbartIldefonso Ortiz and Brandon Darby, October 26, 2017

Breitbart Texas / Cartel Chronicles

The report does not seem to mention the complicity of Mexican officials at various levels of the government. As Breitbart Texas reported, two former governors of Tamaulipas are current fugitives of the U.S. Department of Justice on money laundering charges, while several other governors and politicos were outed as cartel surrogates. Current Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto was named by various news outlets in Mexico for receiving campaign money from Juarez Cartel operators, Breitbart Texas reported.

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Mexican drug cartels continue being the greatest criminal threat to America and are largely to blame for the current opioid crisis striking most of the nation, a new assessment by the U.S Drug Enforcement Administration revealed.

In their 2017 National Drug Threat Assessment, the agency claims that Mexican drug cartels remain unchallenged in their hold of the drug market in the U.S. and continue to expand their territory from the Southwest border into areas like New England. Once the drugs are crossed into the country, they are distributed by gangs managed or influenced by Mexican cartels. The DEA claims that the greatest drug threat to the city of Chicago comes from cartels since they control the flow of heroin, methamphetamines, marijuana, and cocaine without competition. Other areas that have seen a stronger influence by Mexican drug cartels include Pittsburgh and Indiana.

According to the DEA, in the past 10 years, the drug landscape has changed with the dramatic increase of opioids; the agency claims that drug poisoning deaths typically tied to overdose or to emerging drugs like fentanyl are spiking. In 2015, 140 died every day from drug poisoning, the report revealed.

One of the alarming admissions made in the assessment points to the Sinaloa Cartel having active cells and at least one leader operating in Phoenix, Arizona, to oversee the distribution of drugs. While drug cartels tend to avoid carrying out brazen acts of violence in the U.S. in order to not attract attention, violent cases have taken place in the country, the DEA claims. For the most part, cartels will hire out U.S.-based gangs to carry out other attacks and not draw attention.

The report does not seem to mention the complicity of Mexican officials at various levels of the government. As Breitbart Texas reported, two former governors of Tamaulipas are current fugitives of the U.S. Department of Justice on money laundering charges, while several other governors and politicos were outed as cartel surrogates. Current Mexican president Enrique Peña Nieto was named by various news outlets in Mexico for receiving campaign money from Juarez Cartel operators, Breitbart Texas reported.

The report identified six major drug cartels as being the ones with the most influence north of the border:

Sinaloa Cartel — Once led by the famed Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, the criminal organization is currently led by Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, El Chapo’s family, and Rafael Caro Quintero. The drug cartel is considered to be the one with the largest footprint in the U.S., where the criminal organization has established routes into Phoenix, Los Angeles, Denver, and Chicago.

Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion (CJNG) — An offshoot of the Sinaloa Cartel, the CJNG has rapidly become one of the most powerful cartels in Mexico. According to the DEA, CJNG’s rapid expansion is characterized by their willingness to engage in violent confrontations with Mexican Government security forces and rival cartels. The drug cartel operates in border cities in Chihuahua, Tamaulipas, and Baja California and has distribution hubs in the U.S. cities of Los Angeles, New York, and Atlanta.

Juarez Cartel — Based out of the Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, the criminal organization operates primarily through West Texas and New Mexico. It’s drug distributions hubs include El Paso, Denver, Chicago and Oklahoma City. A turf war between the Juarez and Sinaloa Cartels is to blame for the 2010 spike in murders in that city.

Gulf Cartel — Another of the older cartels in Mexico, the criminal organization operates primarily out of South Texas moving marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine to Houston, Detroit, and Atlanta. In South Texas, the Gulf Cartel coordinates with local gangs to not only handle local distribution, but also carry out attacks and assassinations against targets throughout the nation, the DEA revealed.

Los Zetas — An offshoot of the Gulf Cartel, the criminal organization crosses their drugs through the states of Coahuila and Tamaulipas to deliver them to Laredo, Dallas, New Orleans and Atlanta. The cartel underwent a series of schisms that led to the criminal organization’s diminished influence, but still maintains busy smuggling corridors.

Beltran Leyva Cartel — Another offshoot of the Sinaloa Cartel, the criminal organization operates in the Mexican states of Guerrero, Morelos, Nayarit, and Sinaloa and has working relationships with Juarez , Los Zetas, and CJNG to access smuggling corridors. The BLO runs distribution hubs in Phoenix, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Atlanta.

While the assessment identifies cartels as the biggest threat, the study provides a dark forecast where the criminal organizations will continue to expand their operations in the country.

It is anticipated that Mexican TCOs (drug cartels) will continue to grow in the United States through expansion of distribution networks and interaction with local criminal groups and gangs. This relationship will insulate Mexican TCOs from direct ties to street-level drug and money seizures and drug-related arrests made by U.S. law enforcement.”

Report: Cartel Human Smuggling Fees ‘Skyrocketed’ Under Trump

October 7, 2017

Report: Cartel Human Smuggling Fees ‘Skyrocketed’ Under Trump, BreitbartJohn Binder, October 7, 2017

AP File Photo: Eric Gay

“Market forces are at work — even in the illegal market of migrant smuggling,” Huennekens wrote. “Increased costs associated with crossing the border, and increased demand, have caused the price of hiring a smuggler to rise sharply. With current trends, if enforcement efforts on the border continue to increase then smugglers may find the cost of transferring migrants across the border too costly to justify. Likewise, migrants may be less likely to attempt a border crossing if they cannot afford the exorbitant fees associated with hiring a smuggler.”

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Smuggling illegal aliens across the U.S.-Mexico border is becoming increasingly expensive. A new report shows how the price of human smuggling has “skyrocketed” under President Trump’s immigration enforcement actions.

As Trump’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will soon review prototypes of border walls to construct along the southern border, the cost of human smuggling is becoming much greater, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“Now what you are seeing are people who are more desperate,” Co-Director of Princeton University’s Mexican Migration Project Douglas Massey told the Wall Street Journal. “You are paying more for more services. The cost of getting through the border without inspection has really skyrocketed.”

“As the price goes up, the number of people crossing goes down,” Massey said. “And as the price has gone up, the methods used have become more serious.”

The increase in human smuggling fees is a testament to ramped-up immigration strategies and border controls by DHS under Trump. A key tenant of his campaign was securing the U.S.-Mexico border to stop illegal immigration.

The Princeton researcher’s assertion that human smuggling is becoming more expensive at the southern border is backed up by two previous Breitbart Texas reports.

In one of the reports, Breitbart Texas detailed how a human smuggler openly told USA Today that with a border wall would come increased human smuggling fees, as a wall would make crossing the border much more difficult.

Additionally, DHS data reported by Breitbart Texas showed how human smuggling fees have almost doubled since 2001. In that year, the average cost of a human smuggler on the southern border was roughly $2,600 per illegal alien. Today, that figure has jumped to $3,500.

Center for Immigration Studies researcher Preston Huennekens noted in his analysis that with the growing cost of human smugglers, foreign nationals may be more deterred from entering illegally.

“Market forces are at work — even in the illegal market of migrant smuggling,” Huennekens wrote. “Increased costs associated with crossing the border, and increased demand, have caused the price of hiring a smuggler to rise sharply. With current trends, if enforcement efforts on the border continue to increase then smugglers may find the cost of transferring migrants across the border too costly to justify. Likewise, migrants may be less likely to attempt a border crossing if they cannot afford the exorbitant fees associated with hiring a smuggler.”

Drug Cartels Fuming at New U.S. Policy Screening 100% of Mexican Cargo Trucks

August 2, 2017

Drug Cartels Fuming at New U.S. Policy Screening 100% of Mexican Cargo Trucks, Judicial Watch, August 1, 2017

Approximately 471,000 trucks pass through the U.S-Mexico border monthly, according to figures published by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Frontline customs agents stationed along the southern border confirm that trucks containing “legitimate” goods are often used by sophisticated drug cartels to move cargo north. This is hardly surprising since most illegal drugs in the United States come from Mexico, according to the DEA, and Mexican traffickers remain the greatest threat to the United States.

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In a major shift from lax Obama-era regulations, the Trump administration is finally allowing customs officers to screen all cargo trucks entering the U.S. from Mexico and sources on both sides of the border tell Judicial Watch Mexican drug cartels are fuming. U.S. Customs and Border Protection is using X-ray technology and other non-intrusive tools to screen 100% of cargo trucks crossing the southern border after eight years of sporadic or random screening permitted under the Obama administration.

“We felt like we were the welcoming committee and not like we were guarding our borders,” said veteran U.S. Customs agent Patricia Cramer, who also serves as president of the Arizona chapter of the agency’s employee union. “The order was to facilitate traffic, not to stop any illegal drugs from entering the country,” Cramer added. “We want to enforce the law. That’s what we signed up for.” Cramer, a canine handler stationed at the Nogales port of entry in Arizona, said illicit drugs are pouring in through the southern border, especially massive quantities of fentanyl, an opioid painkiller that the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) says is more potent than morphine.

Approximately 471,000 trucks pass through the U.S-Mexico border monthly, according to figures published by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The busiest port of entry is in Laredo, Texas where 167,553 trucks enter the U.S. from Mexico monthly, followed by Otay Mesa in California (76,953), El Paso, Texas (58,913), Hidalgo, Texas (45,355) and Nogales with 29,439. Other busy ports include East Calexico, California (29,173), Brownsville, Texas (16,140) and Eagle Pass, Texas (12,952). Trucks bring in everything from auto parts to appliances, produce and livestock. In fact, a veteran Homeland Security official told Judicial Watch that cattle trucks passed without inspection during the Obama administration because Mexican farmers complained that the security screenings frightened their cows. “Our guys were livid that we were not allowed to check cattle,” the federal official said.

Frontline customs agents stationed along the southern border confirm that trucks containing “legitimate” goods are often used by sophisticated drug cartels to move cargo north. This is hardly surprising since most illegal drugs in the United States come from Mexico, according to the DEA, and Mexican traffickers remain the greatest threat to the United States. They’re classified as Transitional Criminal Organizations (TCOs) by the government and for years they’ve smuggled in enormous quantities of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and marijuana. Last year the Congressional Research Service (CRS), the nonpartisan agency that provides Congress with policy and legal analysis, published a disturbing report outlining how Mexican cartels move record quantities of drugs into the U.S. Because cartels move the drugs through the Southwest border, western states have become part of what’s known as the “heroin transit zone,” according to the CRS.

Federal law enforcement sources tell Judicial Watch Mexican cartels operate like efficient businesses that resort to “other more treacherous routes” when necessary, but driving through a port of entry in a cargo truck is a preferred method of moving drugs. Cartels station shifts of spotters with binoculars in Mexican hills near border checkpoints to determine the level of security screenings. “They know if we’re on the job, the level of screening that we’re conducting,” Cramer said. “The cartels watch us all the time.” Nogales is a favorite for cartel spotters because the U.S. checkpoint sits in a valley surrounded by hills on the Mexican side, where unobstructed views facilitate surveillance. “They see everything,” Cramer said. For years the cartel spotters saw that much of the cargo passing through the checkpoint was waved through, according to agents contacted by Judicial Watch.

BREAKING: Sessions Announces Illegal Aliens Who Illegally Re-Enter The U.S. Will Be Charged With a Felony

April 11, 2017

BREAKING: Sessions Announces Illegal Aliens Who Illegally Re-Enter The U.S. Will Be Charged With a Felony, Town HallKatie Pavlich, April 11, 2017

Speaking from the U.S.-Mexico border in Nogales, Arizona Tuesday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced major changes to Justice Department protocol when it comes to charging and prosecuting illegal aliens. 

“For those that continue to seek improper and illegal entry into this country, be forewarned:  This is a new era.  This is the Trump era.  The lawlessness, the abdication of the duty to enforce our immigration laws and the catch and release practices of old are over,” Sessions said.

Here are the details (bolding is mine): 

Starting today, federal prosecutors are now required to consider for prosecution all of the following offenses:

  • The transportation or harboring of aliens.  As you know too well, this is a booming business down here.  No more.  We are going to shut down and jail those who have been profiting off this lawlessness — people smuggling gang members across the border, helping convicted criminals re-enter this country and preying on those who don’t know how dangerous the journey can be.
  • Further, where an alien has unlawfully entered the country, which is a misdemeanor, that alien will now be charged with a felony if they unlawfully enter or attempt enter a second time and certain aggravating circumstances are present.
  • Also, aliens that illegally re-enter the country after prior removal will be referred for felony prosecution — and a priority will be given to such offenses, especially where indicators of gang affiliation, a risk to public safety or criminal history are present.
  • Fourth:  where possible, prosecutors are directed to charge criminal aliens with document fraud and aggravated identity theft — the latter carrying a two-year mandatory minimum sentence.

Further, Sessions said prosecuting those who assault federal law enforcement officers will be a priority.

“If someone dares to assault one of our folks in the line of duty, they will do federal time for it,” Sessions said.

The Attorney General also emphasized the administration’s focus on dismantling violent cartels and dangerous gangs inside America cities.

“When we talk about MS-13 and the cartels, what do we mean?  We mean criminal organizations that turn cities and suburbs into warzones, that rape and kill innocent citizens and who profit by smuggling poison and other human beings across our borders.  Depravity and violence are their calling cards, including brutal machete attacks and beheadings,” Sessions said. “With the President’s Executive Orders on Border Security, Transnational Criminal Organizations and Public Safety as our guideposts, we will execute a strategy that once again secures the border; apprehends and prosecutes those criminal aliens that threaten our public safety; takes the fight to gangs like MS-13 and Los Zetas; and makes dismantlement and destruction of the cartels a top priority.”

New Documentary ‘Clandestino’ Sheds Light on Sinaloa Cartel

March 11, 2017

New Documentary ‘Clandestino’ Sheds Light on Sinaloa Cartel, Insight Crime, Patrick Corcoran, March 8, 2017

(Trump is clearly a vile, Mexican-hating beast to try to close our borders and drive these wonderful Sinaloa Cartel people out of business or at least keep their stuff out.  The other Mexican cartels are probably just bringing in bibles. Right? Unfortunately, the long video is in Spanish. — DM)

Filmmaker Beriain (left) and one of his subjects

A new documentary provides a detailed look at the inner workings of Mexico‘s Sinaloa Cartel, from mules loaded down with sacks of marijuana to the methamphetamine cooks working on the outskirts of Culiacán.

Spanish journalist David Beriain spent weeks in northwest Mexico, documenting his interactions for the Discovery en Español show “Clandestino.” The result is three 45-minute episodes, which are available on Youtube, that take him from the capital of Sinaloa to just north of the US border, always in the company of his cameraman and one or more members of what has long been considered Mexico‘s most powerful criminal organization. (The full series is embedded below)

Beriain emphasizes at the outset of his documentary that some unnamed authority within the organization has blessed his project. Armed with that endorsement, he accompanies a seemingly endless stream of cartel members as they go about their jobs, and engages each of them in an interview lasting five or eight minutes. The subjests aren’t intimate friends with Jesus “El Mayo” Zambada or Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, though their jobs are demonstrably impacted by the recent attacks on the group’s leadership.

Beriain’s method as an interviewer is simple and effective: He asks each of the employees about what exactly they do, and then he asks them why they do it. Many of Beriain’s queries are quite basic: “What is that stick for?” he asks the keeper of a safe house at one point. He focuses a great deal on the sequences of their chores, and also on the consequences of the mistakes. This provides viewers with an extremely granular understanding of precisely what it entails to serve as the Sinaloa Cartel‘s armament technician, or as the cultivator of a heroin field, or as a torturer.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Narco Culture

“Clandestino” also shines when it tackles the moral compromises of working in the drug trade. Beriain does not shy away from asking people if they are personally responsible for harming others. He asks virtually all his interviewees how they feel about the uglier side of their trade, from beating people and risking their lives to profiting off of addiction and enabling murder.

The answers are often illustrative. Some recoil from the choices they’ve made, while others embrace their ability to inflict pain. At least two describe the Sinaloa Cartel in moralistic terms, as the one gang that refuses harm the civilian population. One of the most affecting portions of the film was a dirty cop, expressing some mixture of resignation and shame, explaining how he came to work for the group he’s theoretically paid to combat.

Virtually all of the members of the cartel point to money as their chief motivator. This line of questioning tends to lead to further disclosures about their pay scale. A woman charges $4,000 to fly with a half kilogram of heroin, contained in a tube hidden in her vagina, to Tijuana from points further south in Mexico. The leader of a team that drives a truck laden with drugs through the Tijuana border crossing receives $6,000. For the mule who carries loads of marijuana through the desert on foot, a trip that could last up to eight days, $2,000 awaits.

The data about salaries is just one of a series of unusually penetrating insights about the economics of the Sinaloa Cartel‘s operations revealed in “Clandestino.” Beriain observes early in the program that the gang’s privileged position derives from its control of the western half of the US border, similar to the way a legitimate company seeks to exploit its own unique assets, from productive oil fields to irreplaceable computer processors. Controlling access to the world’s largest drug market has made the Sinaloa Cartel the single most important gatekeeper in the world of organized crime.

Viewers also learn that the cartel operates as a sort of regulator for all manner of illegal activities. It fixes the retail and wholesale price for drugs within its territory, and it prohibits certain activities like extortion, kidnapping, and rape, we are told.

SEE ALSO: Sinaloa Cartel News and Profile

The Sinaloa Cartel is striking in its employees’ degree of specialization. Each member has one basic task: physically moving drugs across a single route, maintaining weapons, producing a single drug, guarding a safe house, picking up drugs in the United States, patrolling Culiacán in search of rival bands, or executing rivals. The members profess little awareness of other elements of the gangs’ operations, but all know their own work quite well.

The organization is in some senses like an assembly line stretching across the whole of northwestern Mexico. This makes it both extremely productive and extremely resilient. The individuals who appear in “Clandestino” are capable of moving hundreds of pounds a day of heroin, marijuana, and cocaine across the US border, something approaching industrial scale. They operate essentially in unison, forming one single organism.

But the gang is largely cellular in its operation, and attacking one part of the organism — for example, the gunmen in Culiacán — has little impact on another, like the specialists who prepare hidden compartments for cars.

Despite its many positive qualities, it is fair to lodge a few criticisms of “Clandestino.” The pulse-pounding music and the constant reminders of danger would not feel out of place in a low-budget thriller movie. And as effective as it is, Beriain’s formula in dealing with this succession of gangsters grows slightly redundant over the course of the two hours of filming. Moreover, while the breadth of the Sinaloa Cartel‘s portrayal is perhaps unprecedented, as characters, none of the people who appear before Beriain’s camera quite come alive. There is no one, for instance, who will etch themselves into viewers’ memories the way José Manuel Mireles did in “Cartel Land.”

Nevertheless, “Clandestino” is incisive, original, informative, and entertaining. It is among the most thorough cinematic treatments that one of the world’s most important criminal groups has ever received.

New Documentary ‘Clandestino’ Sheds Light on Sinaloa Cartel, Insight Crime, Patrick Corcoran, March 8, 2017

 

Hizballah’s Ongoing Threat to U.S. National Security

March 8, 2017

Hizballah’s Ongoing Threat to U.S. National Security, Investigative Project on Terrorism, March 7, 2017

Most analyses of Hizballah focus on the terrorist group’s intervention in Syria or its threat to Israel. But the Iranian-backed organization maintains a significant presence in and near the United States, threatening national security. Current American proposals to strengthen borders and immigration measures may be limited to address this important, yet poorly understood, threat.

A recent Al-Arabiya article examines Hizballah’s North American threat.

It has the expertise to build advanced tunnels on the southern U.S. border, enabling Hizballah terrorists and Mexican cartel operatives to infiltrate the United States. Relations between Iranian-backed proxies, including Hizballah, and Latin American drug cartels are well established. Mexican gang members learn from Hizballah’s combat experience and use of advanced weaponry. Hizballah, in turn, derives a significant portion of its finances from the drug trade and other illicit activities.

In recent years, security officials in southwestern states noticed a rise in tattoos featuring Hizballah’s insignia among imprisoned drug cartel operatives. This surprising trend indicates a strengthened relationship between the terrorist group and Mexican gang members. In line with its foreign policy, Iranian operatives infiltrating Latin America seek to convert individuals to adopt its extremist Shi’ite ideology. Over the years, pro Iranian websites have proliferated across Latin America, in an attempt to cultivate support for the Islamic Republic.

Powerful Latin American politicians also help Iran and Hizballah penetrate the region and threaten the United States. In February, CNN received a 2013 secret intelligence document from several Latin American countries demonstrating ties between Venezuelan Vice President Tarreck El Aissami and 173 Venezuelan identification cards and passports issued to people from the Middle East, including Hizballah operatives. El Aissami “took charge of issuing, granting visas and nationalizing citizens from different countries, especially Syrians, Lebanese, Jordanians, Iranians, and Iraqis,” the report shows.

Iranian and Hizballah operatives have cultivated and consolidated operating bases in South America, especially in the tri-border area (TBA) of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. With a large Muslim population featuring significant numbers of Hizballah sympathizers, the region is ripe for recruitment, arms smuggling and drug trafficking. Hizballah continues to exploit other Lebanese Shi’ite diaspora communities, including in the United States, to strengthen its presence worldwide.

In 2011, the United States disrupted a plot led by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in cooperation with a Mexican drug cartel to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Washington.

The problematic nexus between Iranian-backed operatives, including Hizballah, and Mexican drug cartels allows terrorists to earn big money to fuel their violent operations. These connections also enable Hizballah to make inroads into the United States through its porous border with Mexico.

American intelligence reports show that Hizballah maintains a significant network of sleeper cells in the United States. Though Hizballah has not conducted a major attack on U.S. soil, the group could decide to strike key American sites should U.S.-Iran relations deteriorate substantially. Preparations to combat Islamist terrorism broadly should strongly consider the nuanced and growing Hizballah threat to U.S. national security.

 

Why Mexico’s Governors Became A Prime Target of Criminal Groups

February 3, 2017

Why Mexico’s Governors Became A Prime Target of Criminal Groups, Insight Crime, Patrick Corcoran, January 31, 2017

(Please see also, Mexico’s President Cancels White House Visit After Trump Hits Cartels. — DM)

G23051125.JPG MÉXICO, D.F.-Conferencia-Moreira. El presidente nacional del PRI, Humberto Moreira durante conferencia de prensa la mañana de este lunes en la sede nacional de dicho instituto político. EGV. Foto: Agencia EL UNIVERSAL/Juan Boites.

MÉXICO, D.F.-Conferencia-Moreira. El presidente nacional del PRI, Humberto Moreira durante conferencia de prensa la mañana de este lunes en la sede nacional de dicho instituto político. EGV. Foto: Agencia EL UNIVERSAL/Juan Boites.

A growing stream of corruption allegations against governors in Mexico exemplifies how changes in the country’s political landscape have inadvertently served to expand these officials’ role in enabling organized crime.

As reported by InSight Crime and other sources, a reputed financial operator for the Zetas criminal group accused former Coahuila Gov. Humberto Moreira of accepting $2 million in monthly payments in exchange for allowing the gang to open hundreds of so-called “narcotiendas” (narco-stores) and giving them virtually free rein to operate throughout the state. As part of the bargain, the Zetas intimidated and attacked political and business enemies of Moreira, according to the testimony of the former Zetas member.

Moreira has denied the charges, and while they have not been verified, they do fit with the broader pattern of Moreira’s tenure at the head of the Coahuila state government, which lasted from 2005 to 2011. After having operated primarily as an offshoot of the Gulf Cartel in Tamaulipas, the Zetas took control of Coahuila in 2007 and 2008. In so doing, they initiated a campaign of kidnapping and extortion that had no local precedent and turned certain cities, such as Torreón, into virtual war zones. Rumors that Moreira was directly responsible for the Zetas‘ rise were rampant during his tenure, and since his exit, Moreira’s alleged ties to the criminal group have sparked multiple criminal investigations, including some convictions, against him and his subordinates in the United States.

The grim arc of Moreira’s career is not unusual. Two former governors of Tamaulipas, Tomás Yarrington and Eugenio Hernández, are facing indictments in the United States for allegedly aiding criminal groups. Former Veracruz Gov. Javier Duarte is a fugitive with a raft of corruption cases hanging over his heard, while his former counterpart from Sonora, Guillermo Padrés, turned himself in to Mexican authorities in November amid similar allegations.

InSight Crime Analysis

This confluence of stories on governors’ wrongdoing is not a coincidence, but rather a byproduct of a Mexican political system that concedes enormous and largely unchecked authority to the statehouse.

In the post-Mexican Revolution political system that dominated the 20th Century, while Mexican governors enjoyed a great deal of autonomy strictly within their domain, they operated at the orders of a near-omnipotent president. The power of the presidency provided an important check on their power. The multi-party system that emerged in the 1990s and 2000s brought the days of the all-powerful president to an end, but this opening had the unintended effect of vastly increasing the practical control that governors exercised.

If a gang secures the support of a single governor whose state controls a major port or a border crossing, it has likely guaranteed itself a major role in the national criminal landscape.

It is not a coincidence that one of the first examples of the so-called narco-governor essentially coincided with the end of the PRI’s monopoly on Mexican politics. Former Quintana Roo Governor Mario Villanueva went underground days before the end of his term in 1999, amid rampant rumors that, in exchange for bribes much like those Moreira is accused of receiving, he had given the Juarez Cartel of Amado Carrillo free use of his state. After being arrested in Mexico in 2001, Villanueva was later extradited to the United States. After serving a lengthy prison sentence, earlier this month Villanueva was returned to Mexico and subsequently arrested. He is reportedly awaiting another lengthy prison term.

Today, governors rather than presidents exercise practical control over their states’ congressional delegations. They often wield substantial influence over the municipal governments within their states as well, as mayors rely on them for budgetary transfers and for support in advancing their political futures.

This shift in the political landscape over the past two decades has made governors collectively the most important cohort in Mexican politics, frequently described as modern-day viceroys. Working as a unit, they are capable of scuttling a president’s agenda.

This has consequently turned them into an irresistible target for criminal groups looking for allies within government. The scope of governors’ authority makes it ideal for criminal groups to try to corrupt or otherwise co-opt them. If a gang secures the support of a single governor whose state controls a major port or a border crossing, it has likely guaranteed itself a major role in the national criminal landscape. The Familia Michoacana and the Knights Templar, for example, were largely concentrated in a single state, but that has been enough to make the gangs major players over the past decade.

A gang can leverage the support of a key governor in any number of ways. They can use his government as a sort of beachhead amid a territorial expansion, as the Zetas allegedly did. Most governors control large and relatively effective state police forces, which, when deployed at the service of a criminal group, can be extremely valuable allies.

Criminal groups can also use political support indirectly to lean on local governments. Governors can help gangs by pressuring prosecutors to limit prosecutions against their members, as many laws targeting organized crime are in the realm of state courts. As the chief interlocutors with the federal government, governors can also obstruct federal efforts to target one group or another.

From a criminal group’s perspective, governors are also more reachable than the president. The fact that they occupy a lower profile than the president makes dealing with governors far less risky. In addition, governors are not burdened with the prerogatives of statesmanship, from monetary policy to foreign relations, which limit time for focusing on law enforcement and security matters. Relative to presidents, governors are also more isolated from pressure from the US government to crack down on criminal groups.

This collective dynamic is behind the spate of cases like Moreira’s and Yarrington’s, among many others. Although much of the commentary on security issues in Mexico focuses on the goals and missteps of the presidency, a great deal of the government’s efforts are channeled through other offices. And as long as Mexican governors in key states are actively boosting the interests of powerful crime groups like the Zetas, there will be a limit to what federal policies can accomplish.