Drug Enforcement Agency officials in Arizona announced this week the successful completion of an extensive 15-month long narcotics trafficking investigation in the state, which has netted the arrests of 203 individuals connected to the powerful Sinaloa drug cartel. Through the investigation, DEA agents have seized $7.8 million dollars in cash, 44 guns and 1,200 pounds of marijuana, meth, cocaine and heroine, valued at over $12.5 million. Law enforcement officers first became aware of the drug ring when a street dealer arrested in 2010 was identified as working for the Sinaloa cartel. More arrests could still follow in connection with the investigation.
News of these 203 drug-related arrests comes just weeks after Customs and Border Patrol in Arizona announced the disappointing news that, despite a drop this year in overall arrests of suspected undocumented immigrants attempting to cross the border into this state, narcotics seizures in 2011 were at nearly a decade high. The 1.07 million pounds of marijuana seized by CBP agents this year in Arizona are evidence of the continuing resolve of smugglers attempting to bring drugs into the state, despite the buildup of agents, infrastructure and technology along the border.
Although Arizona has been relatively unscathed thus far by the drug-related violence some areas of Mexico are currently experiencing, there is increasing evidence that this may not be the case for long. In addition to the newly revealed proof of the presence of Sinaloa cartel members in the Phoenix area, there have been allegations that Mexican gangs could be recruiting members from north of the border as well. Law enforcement officers in Ambos Nogales have also reported a recent uptick in violence on both sides of the Arizona-Sonora border, and they argue that incidents of violence and gang activity are likely underreported.
Meanwhile, many argue that U.S. efforts to tackle the Mexican drug war have been at best woefully ineffective, and at worst counterproductive. In one particular now-infamous U.S. failure, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives officers allowed over 2,000 weapons to be smuggled out of Arizona and into the hands of Mexican criminals. These weapons have since turned up time and again at crime scenes in both the U.S. and Mexico.
It has become apparent that unilateral attempts by authorities in this country to combat the Mexican drug cartels are doing very little to slow down these groups’ activities. If there is to be any end in sight to the ongoing Mexican drug war, it will only come through the acknowledgment that this war is a binational phenomenon, fueled and participated in by individuals on both sides of the border. And, as it is a binational problem, any solution to it, must be binational as well, involving the cooperation of authorities working in the U.S. and Mexico.